Tuesday, 8 March 2011

*****updated - Bishop Power wrote to the Pope: but what did he say?!***

The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that Bishop Patrick Power, Auxiliary of Canberra-Goulburn, wrote to the Pope late last year on the parlous state of the Catholic Church in Australia.

So what did he actually say - priestesses?

The article however has little content on what he actually said. 

But given his public statements made around the same time, one can assume that it was primarily a plea to consider allowing married priests to return to ministry and a paean to priestesses.


According to the article, he is 'concerned' over the lack of a bishop for Wilcannia-Forbes. 

I'm not quite sure why he should see that as his problem, rather than that of either the priests and people of that diocese, the Nuntio or of the relevant Metropolitan (which is by the way is Sydney, not Canberra) for example.

But in any case, the article fails to mention that the Pope actually appointed an apostolic administrator for that diocese (Bishop Manning) back in December.

Priestly morale

Apparently the bishop is also 'deeply concerned about the health and morale' of Canberra's priests: ''I am not saying the morale in the diocese is not good but it is tested when priests are doing a whole lot more than really they should be asked to be doing.  ''That there are so few doing a brilliant job puts a great deal of pressure on everyone.''

The bishop will turn 70 next year: " 'I am thinking seriously of retirement when I turn 70.'' (Bishops and priests normally retire at 75.)"

Hmmm, isn't there something of a contradiction in talking about the high workload of the priests of the diocese and then suggesting that you plan to opt out early?

Those horrible conservatives

Oh and his other pet peeve is apparently conservative catholics who have the nerve to write to Rome in defense of their rights under canon law. 

The SMH reports the predictable praise of the spirit of Vatican II and 'disappointment' at the current pressure to implement what it actually said in continuity with tradition (and test some of its pastoral and theological propositions for consistency with tradition), rather than what liberals would like it to say.

The SMH goes on to report that: "He attributes in part the crisis in Australia to undermining of the church by conservative Catholics reporting to Rome on more liberal developments."

And then he has the gall to whinge that he hasn't had a reply yet!

Early retirement?

Bishops who publicly tout their erroneous opinions and even go so far as to put them in writing to the Vatican are really just asking for an invitation to retire, as I am sure Bishop Power is well aware.  So what is it about the Gaudium et Spes generation that makes them engage in this kind of this kind of 'look at me I'm so brave in dissenting' behaviour (don't answer I think we all know)?

The sad thing is that even if he does retire (as he should be allowed to do in my view if he can't support the Church's teachings - if only there were still some strict monastery to which he could be sent to live a life of penance!) he will no doubt continue to enjoy financial support from the Church (ie from my collection contributions) whose teachings he rejects.

Adopt a....

Over at Acts of Apostasy blog, Larry has set up an 'adopt a priestess' scheme, to pray for the conversion of women who have purported to undergo ordination (do go and sign up).  I'm tempted to suggest we should do something similar for problem bishops around the world, although of course we all have a duty to pray for our own bishops in any case (yes even, perhaps especially, when they hold erroneous opinions).

Still, please do pray especially for the conversion of Bishop Power.

*** And pray also for all of those commenting over at aCath News, including a Tasmanian religious sister, someone advocating the ordination of women,...and one 'Terry Fitz of South Brisbane'.  Hmmm, Haven't I heard that name somewhere before?

**** And for a better balance of comments, see Canberra Times.  And Fr Z has also picked up the story.

*****The bishop has put out a statement on March 10 to clarify that his proposed retirement is not connected to his letter to the Pope.  He also reaffirmed his commitment to the arguments he put here (and a genuine thanks Cath News, nice contextualisation!).


Anonymous said...

Whilst you raise some key issues here, one thing is very clear. A bishop has the right to write to the Holy Father on any matter that he deems fit and proper and needful. All bishops in the Church (over 5000 now) make ad limina visits to Rome as required by canon law to report on their dioceses. But in the intervening years they are also subject to the loyalty to the Holy See and the Vicar of Christ. Should a bishop wish to raise serious matters on faith and morals or other matters he has a duty to do so with the Holy Father and even if people may disagree with +Power, the fact and reality is he is an auxiliary bishop of Canberra, where the incumbent archbishop has not sought his removal or amything close to that.
Yes Power is radical, some would say, outside the bounds of the Church. But he is a bishop in line to the apostolic Church and as such has full powers of the priesthood.
I think we need to be very careful when attacking bishops as it creates a genuine view of disunity within the fabirc of the Church.
Many bishops are great, many good and also some are bad and should never have been consecrated (as recent episcopal episodes in Europe and the USA have shown). Bu the fact is while a bishop is in office in good standing, he has the right to be accorded respect and obedience according to the Gospel.
That Power has nevr been given his own diocese is a matter between him and the vatican and God !
We don't always get the bishops we want or deserve. Also, we sometimes get bishops we should never get.
Semper fidelis.

Kate said...

SF - I do in principle agree that bishops should be accorded respect.

But there is a point when anyone, whatever their position, loses any right to it.

I agree that a bishop can right to the Pope about anything he likes just as you or I can. Whether the Pope takes any notice of those views though, is another matter!

But the situation changes if a bishop goes public with said views.

The appearance of disunity is being caused by the bishop himself (and assorted other liberal priests and bishops) going to the media, not by the responses of faithful catholics demanding that our bishops actually show some unity with Peter, at least in the public domain!

It is, in my view, a continuing scandal that Bishop Power remains in an official position given his ongoing series of unretracted dissenting public statements.

And those who could and should act but continue to fail to do so have clearly not learnt the lessons of the abuse scandal.

But all this is nothing new in the Church.

The Holy Father has, on a number of occasions compared the current era to the period just after the Council of Nicaea, when virtually every bishop in the world was actually an Arian heretic. They were all in 'good standing' in the way you are defining it too...

Anonymous said...

Touche to a degree. But:
1. Every priest promises his Ordinary obedience and respect at ordination. The laity too should show respect to an ordinary or an auxiliary unless he is judged a heretic and/or removed from office.
2. Could you please state all the occasions that BXVI has referred to the present era as resembling the period after the Council of Nicea?
I doubt that you could bring forth the 'number of occasions' but would like to see the actual evidence.
I can see no reference in his Wednesday audiences of late.
And he certainly did not do so this morning at General Audience.
I will watch closely the Mass about to start at Santa Sabina.

Kate said...

1. Even if respect is owed, it does not mean never criticise or call to account, quite the contrary. If we actually think it is important we should speak out.

2. I didn't suggest the Pope made the comparison every time he opened his mouth!

But for the first occasion (as Pontiff), go back to his speech to the curia: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2005/december/documents/hf_ben_xvi_spe_20051222_roman-curia_en.html.

He used it again earlier this year, but I'm not going to hunt down every occasion. Here is an extract:

"The last event of this year on which I wish to reflect here is the celebration of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council 40 years ago. This memory prompts the question: What has been the result of the Council? Was it well received? What, in the acceptance of the Council, was good and what was inadequate or mistaken? What still remains to be done? No one can deny that in vast areas of the Church the implementation of the Council has been somewhat difficult, even without wishing to apply to what occurred in these years the description that St Basil, the great Doctor of the Church, made of the Church's situation after the Council of Nicea: he compares her situation to a naval battle in the darkness of the storm, saying among other things: "The raucous shouting of those who through disagreement rise up against one another, the incomprehensible chatter, the confused din of uninterrupted clamouring, has now filled almost the whole of the Church, falsifying through excess or failure the right doctrine of the faith..." (De Spiritu Sancto, XXX, 77; PG 32, 213 A; SCh 17 ff., p. 524).

We do not want to apply precisely this dramatic description to the situation of the post-conciliar period, yet something from all that occurred is nevertheless reflected in it. The question arises: Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult?

Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or - as we would say today - on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application...On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call "a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture"; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the "hermeneutic of reform", of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God."

I'd also highly recommend Blessed Cardinal Newman's writing on the subject.

3. Is the bishop a heretic? Well is publicly stated views are, on a number of fronts, certainly erroneous, and whereas a layperson might claim ignorance and simply need to have the error pointed out before he could be said to be a heretic, pretty hard to argue that a bishop is in the same position.

And if he has recanted (as opposed to simply agreeing not to repeat his previous comments), then it should be made public given the public scandal his remarks over the years have caused.

4. Do we have to stay silent and accepting until someone in an official position acts even when someone acts in a way that is manifestly counter to orthodoxy and orthpraxis?

In an ideal world, we could just wait knowing that suitable action would be taken.

Unfortunately we live in a world where manifest heretics have, over the last fifty years, continued to hold episcopal and other appointments, abusers have continued to abuse their parishioners, and few bishops take issues such as liturgical abuse seriously. But we shouldn't either actively or by our silence be complicit in these crimes.

Anonymous said...

I have read your points BUT you also need to be aware of:
1. You have acknowledged yourself that it is an sssumption on what +Power wrote to the Holy Father. The letter has not been published and if he so chooses, Power can advise on what he wrote. So perhaps you should sit bakc and await what was in the letter, if it is revealed.
2. Your latest reply mentions Newman and 'heresy' and then goes on to mention 'manifest heretics'.
Now that is highly flammible labguage in this context. We are only talking about an auxiliary bishop who allegedly is calling for married priests and who is concerned about a diocesethat has no bishop as its Ordinary presently. He is allegedly also saying he may step down at 70. These issues have nothing to do with heresy whatsoever.
[And I am no defended of Power. He is his own defender]
3. And lastly, +Coleridge is the boss of his diocese. He has not said Power is a heretic or called for his departure and also Coleridge's predecessor did not and has not. Also the Episcopal conference has not down so.
So I think it best to calm down and look very carefully at these issues for what they are.
Also look elsewhere to South America where bishops speak out on issues of the day etc and realise they have a right and duty to do so, without throwing the heretic tag at them. e.g. Helder Camara, Romero and others.
Balanced and fair and careful would be a better course to take.
Well, that's my view from the parapat.

Kate said...

As for the content of the bishop's letter, he has reaffirmed that it reflects his previous public comments. And I'm particularly thinking in mentioning the dread 'h' word, I'm thinking of his public comments reported in an opinion piece in the Canberra Times in support of the ordination of women, allluded to in his Eureak Street piece of last year.

I've defended the use of the word no one wnats to use on this blog previously; I've puzzled over the reasons for inaction over the last several decades. But the times are changing....

Anonymous said...

Well if (and I don't know) he has said he supports women's ordination as priests, I would disagree totally as would BXVI and +Coleridge for sure. But it's not heretical. It's just stupid for him to say it within the context of being a Catholic bishop. Maybe he is just naive on this matter?
If so, the he needs to get out a bit more often and have a dialogue with others who disagree with him.
But he hasn't been sacked, resigned, thrown out etc..yet.
I venture to say that if he steps down at 70 he may have far more to say. Loose bishops tend to be loose canons but don't have a huge following.
Kung (whilst not a bishop) has been doing so for decades within the Church.

Kate said...

Sorry SF but to stubbornly hold that women can be ordained is indeed heretical. This is not a matter of pastoral discipline, but a doctrine, formally defined by Pope John Paul II and backed up by canon law.

And just naive! Give me a break...

A little light reading:

1. The bishop's position: http://www.catholica.com.au/gc1/pp/002_pp_210807.php

2. The Church's position: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_22051994_ordinatio-sacerdotalis_en.html