Well I was taking a blog break, but I couldn't help myself and checked the news headlines at Cath News. They had obviously noticed that I was taking a break as well...
I almost commented last week that Cath News seemed to have taken my advice and turned over a new leaf, adopting a more considered approach to the selection of its material.
Just as well I didn't, because today marks the return of the old Cath News, with a classic piece from dissenting nun, Sr Joan Chittister, advocate of, inter alia, women priestesses, via the National acatholic Reporter.
Her theme is the role of the laity in the Church, and what she describes as the 'ticking bomb' of Canon 212. Not everything she has to say is silly or wrong - but unfortunately it is so mixed up with outright with heresy as to disqualify it as "catholic".
Canon 212 - the laity's right to speak up not an invitation to dissent
Sr Joan has apparently just discovered (I guess dissenters don't often bother reading the Code of Canon Law of 1983!) Canon 212, which makes clear that the laity have a right and sometimes a duty to make known to their pastors their views. Unsurprisingly, she sees it as a potential boon to liberals.
First of all its not an unrestricted right to dissent.
The canon itself speaks of the right and duty being "in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position".
Secondly, it operates within the broader framework of the Code, which obliges Catholics to believe what the Church teaches!
And thirdly, Canon 223 provides that "Ecclesiastical authority is entitled to regulate, in view of the common good, the exercise of rights which are proper to Christ's faithful" - and that includes, in principle at least, public expressions of views under Canon 212 (and yes that does include blogs, forums such as acatholica, and websites such as cath news).
And Canon Law aside...
The more fundamental point of course is that its the conservative and traditional minded laity that have long since taken advantage of Canon 212 - witness the hundreds of blogs - not the rapidly declining members of the 'gaudium et spes' generation.
So let's take a quick look at Sr Joan's list of ten pieces of advice for a new priest.
1.Reread annually a summary of the second Vatican Council reforms.
No. If you must read about VII, read the actual documents, not some 'spirit of Vatican II' version of them (bring on Bishop Schneider's proposed Syllabus of Vatican II errors!). Better still, reread the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church each year for all of the Church's teaching over the centuries in an integrated up-to-date form.
2.Commit yourself to interfaith bridge building.
By all means reach out - and seek to convert - Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslims. After all, our faith is where truth and salvation lies, right? Yes, somehow I'm pretty sure that's not what she means...
3.Be open to a changing position of the church on gays and women.
Um no. Doctrine is doctrine. It can't be changed. Instead, let's work for the reassertion of the Church's traditional moral teachings on marriage, and encourage homosexuals to practice continence.
4.Learn more in the first four years of your priesthood than you did in the recent [seminary trainings].
Well probably true, depending on the seminary. Certainly some of the traditionalist ones seem to be rather vague on the actual practicalities of how to lead a parish and do all the things associated therewith; while the novus ordo ones frequently seem a little vague on doctrine and how to reenchant the liturgy...
5.Prepare your homilies with one hand on the Bible and the other on (with) the daily newspaper.
Actually I might agree with this one. Priests need to be out there equipping us to counter secularism and other problems in the world, not giving nebulous fluff sermons or collections of interesting quotes to illustrate esoteric points of theology. Of course the bible and news should only be starting points, some real substance that engages people is needed...
6.Work with people rather than imposing a top-down strategy.
In the end the priest has to make the final decision on many subjects. But St Benedict's advice to his abbots to listen carefully to the views of all in the monastery and visitors to it, even the most junior, before making a decision is well worth making your methodology. Transparency and accountability are norms of our culture which are not at all opposed to the hierarchical constitution of the Church, but rather than aid it.
7. Respect the role of the laity in an evolving Church.
Getting the balance right on this is not easy. Clericalism in its disease form is alive and well, albeit with different symptoms, in all parts of the Church in my view.
8. Build upon personal spirituality by a growing concern for social justice.
Forget social justice. Focus on practical charity and prayer instead, and leave the politics to the laity.
9. Store your seminary notes in an inaccessible place.
Well no. Unless your seminary courses were taught by liberals you will actually need to consult your notes from time to time. The priest is inevitably the expert in the parish, the person who does actually have to know the rules, theology and so forth!
10. Remember that an unquestioning “company man” in all professions, even the priesthood, sacrifices creative energy.
Yep. Given that so many bishops and priests are liberals still, or at least fellow travellers, the orthodox young priest needs to steel himself for the problems of coming from a different generation's perspective....
And now back to my attempted blog break...