I didn't get any comments, so I'm republishing an edited version of it in smaller parts in the hope that this might garner more engagement. So please do jump in and comment, both on the first part of the series and this second one!
Yesterday I suggested the first of five principles I wanted to propose was this: It is not being 'judgmental' to condemn public sin and scandal!
But that needs to go hand in hand with the second principle, viz We must all listen with openness, humility to paternal and fraternal correction.
And for its application, let's consider first the example of the ongoing debate over the Vatican's condemnation of theological errors on the part of the US Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).
Failure to teach is a sin
No pope has ever been condemned for heresy.
But one or two have been condemned for 'failure to teach', that is failure to correct errors that they should have.
In the light of the last fifty years or so, maybe one or two more Popes, and surely many bishops will find themselves retrospectively held to account on that front, either here on earth or when they face judgment!
The admonitions of Our Lord to the Pharisees and others, as well as the lives of the saints, particularly those stubborn bishops such as St Athanasius, illustrate, I think, that the duty to teach remains whether or not the people want to hear!
The virtue of obedience
Nonetheless, the other side of the story is that we do all have a duty to listen with docility, and to obey the proper teaching of the hierarchy within thier proper limits. Not, of course, to the point of accepting error. But sometimes even where it seems that they are are clearly wrong on pastoral matters!
It is sad therefore, to see so much ongoing resistance in the Church today to any role at all on the part of the hierarchy when it comes to the correction of error.
I'm not suggesting we have to adopt blind, jump off a cliff if they say so, type obedience.
Just how much obedience is owed depends on the issue, the circumstances, who is demanding it, and who we are.
Resistance to authority
Still, on the face of it, religious have a special duty to obedience by virtue of their public vows endorsed by the Church, modelling it for the rest of us.
Yet the Jesuit Eureka Street, for example, ran a piece that basically argued that since in the past the Vatican had once been nasty to some nuns, and an Australian bishop had once been nasty to a visiting nun, it therefore follows that all interventions of the hierarchy in relation to nuns will be bad. Riiight....
And then there is the letter of solidarity sent by Catholic Religious Australia sent to their US Sisters.
Please pray for the US Bishops charged with reforming the sisters. This debate is only just beginning, but it is important.
A prophetic voice on the destruction of religious life post-Vatican II
And do go and read the interesting piece by Sandro Magister on the despicable treatment by his confreres of theologian Jean Daniélou SJ. The reason his works have been consigned to oblivion, according to Magister, is a 1972 interview he gave in which he said, inter alia:
"I think that there is now a very grave crisis of religious life, and that one should not speak of renewal, but rather of decadence...The evangelical counsels are no longer considered as consecrations to God, but are seen in a sociological and psychological perspective. We are concerned about not presenting a bourgeois facade, but on the individual level poverty is not practiced. The group dynamic replaces religious obedience; with the pretext of reacting against formalism, all regularity of the life of prayer is abandoned and the first consequence of this state of confusion is the disappearance of vocations, because young people require a serious formation. And moreover there are the numerous and scandalous desertions of religious who renege on the pact that bound them to the Christian people....
The essential source of this crisis is a false interpretation of Vatican II. The directives of the Council were very clear: a greater fidelity of religious men and women to the demands of the Gospel expressed in the constitutions of each institute, and at the same time an adaptation of the modalities of these constitutions to the conditions of modern life. The institutes that are faithful to these directives are seeing true renewal, and have vocations. But in many cases the directives of Vatican II have been replaced with erroneous ideologies put into circulation by magazines, by conferences, by theologians. And among these errors can be mentioned:
- Secularization. Vatican II declared that human values must be taken seriously. It never said that we should enter into a secularized world in the sense that the religious dimension would no longer be present in society, and it is in the name of a false secularization that men and women are renouncing their habits, abandoning their works in order to take their places in secular institutions, substituting social and political activities for the worship of God. And this goes against the grain, among other things, with respect to the need for spirituality that is being manifested in today's world.
- A false conception of freedom that brings with it the devaluing of the constitutions and rules and exalts spontaneity and improvisation. This is all the more absurd in that Western society is currently suffering from the absence of a discipline of freedom. The restoration of firm rules is one of the necessities of religious life.
- An erroneous conception of the changing of man and of the Church. Even if these change, the constitutive elements of man and of the Church are permanent, and bringing into question the constitutive elements of the constitutions of the religious orders is a fundamental error. ..."
Hmm, must hunt down some of his work - I'm not a great fan of the nouvelle theologie, but he sounds promising...
The traditionalist problem
I've drawn attention above to the liberal problem, but the same issue applies equally, I think to traditionalists.
Having rightly resisted outright errors, attempts to suppress legitimate devotions, and above all to suppress the traditional liturgy, it can I think, be hard for many traditionalists to judge properly when it is appropriate to submit to the hierarchy.
I'm not saying we shouldn't assert our proper rights to the patrimony of the Church, far from it.
Still, where the hierarchy properly exercizes its teaching and ruling function, let's be open to it, and encourage and pray for others to be likewise.
The debate going on within the SSPX at the moment springs immediately to mind in this context....