Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

For the Pope - bad things, like deaths, seem to happen in threes. From SSPX to Linz and now Macial

traditionalist Catholics are prone to paranoia

- Damien Thompson, Holy Smoke

The Pope must be scratching his head right now and wanting to scream out the highest window in the Vatican's highest tower. As if the PR weren't bad enough because of the SSPX kerfuffle, and then the appointment of a Bishop who thinks that God punishes entire cities and populations because of their familiarity with homosexuals now one of the darker undercurrents has burst open yet another ecclesial wound with the revelations that not only was the founder of the Legionaries of Christ (and their lay arm Regnum Christie) an accused child molester but information has surfaced and been confirmed that he led a double life in which he sired two children and embezzled lots of money.

It would be easy for the Pontiff to just scream out that window before hammering it shut and closing the rest of the world out. Damien Thompson's seems apropos. But I would argue that despite the hype the world and the gates of hell will still not destroy the Church.

But still we should reflect on why our Church is stammering and sputtering over such terrible and scandalous events.

In reflecting on these three terrible events of the past few weeks it leads one to ask two very simple questions. How? And Why? Two analyses come to mind each dealing with one of the two more publicised outrages. That of SSPX and the other, with the LCs/RCs, and when considered together both perhaps get to the issue at heart.

The first was brought to my attention yesterday evening by a friend with whom I was e-mailing back and forth over the lesser of the three publicised incidents - that of the appointment of Bishop-elect Wagner to the See of Linz Austria.

I was lamenting over the fact that many conservative Catholics who may or may not know (or care for that matter) about his disturbing equivocations between Hurricane Katrina's destruction and New Orleans sinfulness for hosting a Gay Pride event were taking heart and hoisting the new Bishop for saying (amongst other things):
Those who dissent should consider whether it is not really they who are being divisive. [excellent!] I fail to see why I should portrayed as divisive when I step up in defence of the Church and align myself with the Pope. Something is not right there." [Right!]
(The colored text was used in the above linked post to WDTPRS, and the bold is his as well.) My friend pointed me to Amy Welborne's post on the implosion of the Legion of Christ for anecdotal context but without further elucidation because we were interrupted with the sad news that Mrs. Wellborn's husband had tragically and suddenly passed yesterday morning (Prayers and blessings for comfort and peace to her, her children, her family and friends).

From her post Way Truth and Life,
Movements of all kinds (including religious orders) are a constant source of renewal for the Church. But there are risks and problems associated with any movement, and it is the Church’s responsibility - and by “Church” I mean every one of us - to view movements with open eyes, to see the good, be wary of the bad and call the evil to task.

Secrecy, hero-worship, deification of individuals, reflexive dismissal of critics as wrong-headed or even of the devil, an untoward interest in money and appearance, manipulation of members, demeaning attitudes toward non-members, deceptive means…

She precedes this by saying that blanket statements for any group are woefully inadequate that there are many good people who are members of such organizations as LC and RC and follows up this assessment with anecdotal evidence. To note she says "It is wrong to derive the truth about the nature of something simply from anecdotes, but anecdotes can be telling." She then shares two very insightful anecdotes. As with movements the same could be said with ideologies (which of course usually gird movements but none the less) and it's just as important for us to not lump those who are ideologically to the right or left of us with those who are on the extremes and fringes ideologically.

I recount this not necessarily to be provocative in regards to the quote of Bishop Wagner, though it indeed helps illustrate a parallel, but for the larger picture of my own interpretation of how and why these three terrible events of the past few weeks should be wrecking so much havoc upon Holy Church. I also doubt that my interpretation of Amy's post was precisely the intent of my friend in recommending it to me - but we shall see, and at this point it's already inspired me in this endeavor.

This morning by my same friend sent me another article in an e-mail. It is the recently published outrage of Sandro Magister over the bungling of the SSPX debacle by the Vatican and in his opinion the blame lies with the curialists.

What I found to be relevant to the larger issue is what follows,

The question comes naturally: was all of this really inevitable, once the pope had decided to lift the excommunication of the Lefebvrist bishops? Or was the disaster produced by the errors and omissions of the men who are supposed to implement the pope's decisions? The facts point to the second hypothesis.

The decree revoking the excommunication bears the signature of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the congregation for bishops. Another cardinal, Darío Castrillón Hoyos, is the president of the pontifical commission "Ecclesia Dei," which, ever since its creation in 1988, has dealt with the followers of Lefebvre. Both of these cardinals have said that they were taken by surprise, after the fact, by the interview with Bishop Williamson, and that they were never aware that he was a Holocaust denier. But wasn't it the primary responsibility of these two cardinals to carry out an
in-depth examination of Williamson's personal profile, and of the three other bishops? The fact that they did not do so seems inexcusable. Such an examination wasn't even difficult. Williamson has never concealed his distaste for Judaism. He has publicly defended the authenticity of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." In 1989, in Canada, he risked being taken to court for praising the books written by Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel. After September 11, 2001, he supported conspiracy theories to explain the collapse of the Twin Towers. Just a click on Google would have turned up all of this background material.

Another serious lapse concerned the pontifical council for the promotion of Christian unity. Reversing the schism with the Lefebvrists is logically part of its competencies, which also include relations between the Church and Judaism. But the cardinal who heads the council, Walter Kasper, says that he was kept out of the deliberations: this is all the more surprising in that the issuing of the decree lifting the excommunication took place during the annual week of prayer for Christian unity, and a few days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day. That's not all.

The media release of the decision also seems to have been entirely negligent. The Vatican press office limited itself, on Saturday, January 24, to distributing the text of the decree, in spite of the fact that the news had already leaked out a few days earlier, and a fiery controversy was already growing around the statements denying the Holocaust made by Williamson.

There is an illuminating comparison to be made. The previous day, on January 23, the same press office had organized, with great pomp, the launching of the Vatican channel on YouTube. And a few days later, on January 29, it announced, again with a great deployment of persons and resources, an international conference on Galileo Galilei, scheduled for the end of May. In each case, the objective was to transmit the authentic meaning of the initiative to the media. But nothing of the sort was done for the decree concerning the Lefebvrist bishops. And yet all of the elements necessary for an appropriate announcement were there. Even the timing was right. The week of prayer for Christian unity was underway; Holocaust remembrance day was just
around the corner; in Italy just a few days earlier, on January 17, there had been the day for dialogue between Catholics and Jews. Cardinal Kasper, the leading curia official in both areas, would have been the ideal person to present the decree, situate it within the persistent situation of schism, explain the purpose of lifting the excommunication, and summarize the points on which the Lefebvrists were being asked to reconsider their positions, from full acceptance of Vatican Council II to the overcoming of their anti-Judaism. As for Williamson, it would not have been difficult to clearly delineate his situation: if he were to remain firm on his aberrant ideas denying the Holocaust, he would exclude himself from the pope's gesture of "mercy."

And yet, if nothing of this was done, it was not the fault of the Vatican press office and its director, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, but of the offices of the curia from which they receive their orders.

These offices of the curia converge in the secretariat of state.

and then the conclusion,
Bertone [the Vatican Secretary of State] does most of his work not inside the walls of the Vatican, but on the outside, in an endless round of conferences, celebrations, inaugurations. His visits abroad are as frequents and as packed with meetings and speeches as those of a John Paul II in vigorous health: he was in Mexico from January 15-19, and is now visiting Spain. As a result, all of the work that the offices of the secretariat of state dedicate to his external activities leaves that much less work available for the pope. ...

Bertone's personal devotion to Benedict XVI is beyond all doubt. Not so that of the other curia officials, who continue to have free rein. It is possible that some of them deliberately oppose this pontificate. It is certain that most of them simply do not understand it, do not measure up to it.
So how then does this all tie together, from a quote of Wagner on what it means to dissent to an assessment on movements to curial crisis?

One could argue that this is what happens when a leader surrounds themselves with people who simply say 'yes,' and even more damning by surrounding themselves with people who presume to know the leader better than the leader his or herself and feel complacent or comfortable enough to say 'yes,' without hesitation, clarification or question while advancing an agenda that pales to the original intent and which may be entirely their own. Sycophant is a word that comes to mine, though is admittedly rather harsh.

That in my view is why Re and Hoyos failed in the task on Williamson. That's why they didn't include Kasper because they knew he would potentially intervene or ask questions.

That is why Wagner can say such hateful, sinful things about the deaths and horror of Hurricane Katrina and say it's caused by the city's welcoming of the LGBT community, and then be hailed as a hero by a vociferous minority that would appear to have hijacked the majority. This culture is the cancer that so ate away at the heart of the Legion of Christ that has them currently headless and without direction and corporately questioning their existence and charismatic purpose.

The Magister and many within the vociferous and empowered minority don't place the blame on such blithe obedience, but instead, surreptitiously, on an invisible "other". For them it's a curia that is full of intrigue (true I'm sure) and the nameless and faceless who "deliberately oppose this pontificate. It is certain that most of them simply do not understand it, do not measure up to it."

If magister reread his own statements that he'd only just written prior to this conclusion he'd realise that that those who "deliberately oppose this pontificate" don't belong in his assessment and only feeds the paranoia that is so rampant on the so called "ideological right." It's Hoyos and Re who's failure to include Kasper, and theirs alone who failed to investigate Williamson who do not understand this pontificate. It is Bishop Williamson who does not regard the evolution of Catholic Social Teaching and the consequences of Vatican II who do not understand it. It is the Maciels of the church that abuse, and their lieutenants deceive and who cover it all up that don't understand it.
In the case of Re and Hoyos, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. If that's the case then these characters probably didn't run anything past Bertone the devoted yet flighty (literally) Secretary of State. In their zeal for the old ways and to please the boss, (because they presume to know the boss) they fail and fit into that category of those who simply don't measure up. It's the Wagners who believe that peddling hate and passing it off as the love of God because it's 'the truth that needs to be heard' according to their interpretation of the magisterium who fail to measure up to this pontificate. It's the Maciels in their hollowed perfection and devotion who do not measure up.

Ultimately though, it's a failure of his Holiness himself (and to a significant degree to his predecessor JPII). He after all promoted the likes of Hoyos and Re to be partners within his movement and philosophy of the hermeneutic of continuity. It is his Holiness and his Predecessor who for years protected and preferred the Legion of Christ while aware of the rumors and allegations. It is his Holiness himself who approved or ostensibly appointed Wagner the Auxiliary Bishop of Linz for the noble and hard task of correcting a diocese that was in fact unhealthy and had gone too far - despite his arrogance and outrageous comments and beliefs regarding sexual morality and the wrath of God, and the nature of God's wrath (no pun intended).

But the Pope, despite the devotion of his yes men, is only a Human. He makes mistakes and like other folks, mistakes are amplified when they're made in concert with the opinions and thoughts of those around us. I'm also reminded of something very key that Amy said right after the text quoted above that has empowered that selective vociferous minority, but more importantly gives motive to these unfortunate mistakes.

There is another message for church leaders, including pastors and bishops here. Let’s be frank.

What is the appeal of Regnum Christi and its apostolates in the United States? The appeal may be negative in some ways, but those I have met who have been drawn to it are thirsting for solid faith content. They know that their children live in a challenging world and have no confidence in what passes for catechesis in the parish or even in many Catholic schools to equip them for that world. They do not see these programs or liturgies seriously oriented toward bringing those participating into a deep, committed relationship with Christ.

So something substantive appears…it appeals.

Take note.

And believe it or not this is the majority of practicing American Catholics. They are looking and thirsting for solid faith content. They're looking for a faith content that gives rise to a Catholic identity. It's why folks of my generation feel uncomfortable and don't necessarily get liturgical dancing or the bizarre rituals of the ideological left, while at the same time are just as uncomfortable and disconnected from the latin and lace, and rigid rituals of the ideological right. The Pope understands that, it's the point of the hermeneutic of continuity elucidated by this pontificate.

But hey, maybe I'm just being presumptuous.

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