Some of us have long questioned the virtues of Cath News, Australia's 'Catholic' media clipping service (see the recent piece over at Cooees, and some of my previous rants!). It consistently puts a negative slant on things Catholic that bids to outdo that of the secular media. But today they have really outdone themselves. Consider this item summary I just received in my inbox, coupled with that picture:
Opinion - A looming showdown
Just as Mary MacKillop for many years was rejected by the Church for daring to question the authority of her bishop, Brisbane's St Mary's church is reflecting the true face of a caring society. Why shouldn't the Vatican close the Roman Catholic parish of St Mary's and excommunicate its priests? - Alison Cotes, The Courier Mail"
Thanks Cath News for repeating this outrageous comparison without qualification, together with claims such as that if Jesus came by today, he too would be threatened with excommunication.
There is a point in letting us know about media coverage such as this. But surely it could be framed in a way that let's us know that this is not the position of the Church!
The orthodox perspective...
Personally, I think Cath News should construct its own summaries of the articles it links to, giving an appropriate slant. But if it wanted to avoid using its own words, one approach might have been to include some text from this piece by Archbishop Coleridge in the latest edition of the Voice, the archdiocesan newsletter of Canberra-Goulburn, which argues that:
"It suggested that relevance for the Catholic Church would mean abandonment of the Church's doctrine and discipline such as we have seen at St Mary's over a period of time and in defiance of both episcopal and papal authority.
Yet if history teaches anything, it teaches that true irrelevance for the Catholic Church lies in the way of abandonment of the Church's doctrine and discipline, and that true relevance lies in the way of faithfulness to that doctrine and discipline for the sake of the mission of the Church.
For a pope or bishop to see it in any other way would be dereliction of duty, since it is the God given task of the Pope and the bishops to safeguard and promote the unity of the universal Church by encouraging an ever deeper faithfulness to the doctrine and discipline of the Church for the sake of mission. [An excellent point which is why so many of us wonder why Archbishop Bathersby has been so slow to take decisive action...]
To suggest that "Rome" is bullying the Archbishop of Brisbane and St Mary's Parish into submission is nonsense. If excommunication does come in Brisbane (which God forbid), it will come not as some hamfisted act of tyranny by "Rome", but as the sorrowful recognition that a community has placed itself outside the communion of the Church by open and persistent defiance of the Church's doctrine and discipline and a refusal to engage in any real dialogue.
Excommunication would declare that the path chosen by St Mary's Parish and its leaders is not the path of true relevance but the path of true irrelevance. To see a community like St Mary's as somehow pointing the way into the future or as somehow embodying what was taught by the Second Vatican Council is to misunderstand not only the Council but also the future that God has in mind and how the Church might get there." [Nice to see a direct rebuttal of his Auxiliary's (Bishop Patrick Power), comments on the subject.]
Archbishop Coleridge goes on to provide some helpful comments on the 'hermaneutic of rupture' vs the hermaneutic of continuity in relation to Vatican II, and on the rationale and earliest precedents for excommunication.
His conclusion is one Cath News might do well to take to heart:
"In the end, communities like St Mary's and those who support them, fail to recognise the difference between a bandwagon and a hearse. With the best of good intentions - and no-one is attributing any of this to malice - they jump gleefully on the bandwagon of a certain relevance and inclusiveness without realising that what looks like a bandwagon into the brave, new world of the future is in fact a hearse leading to a dead end that they do not see coming.
Such confusions do not help, and it is the task of the Pope and the bishops [and, one might add, their instrumentalities such as Cath News] to speak with one voice in pointing the way beyond them."