Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bishop O'Kelly attacks Vatican intervention on US nuns

Catholic Religious Australia, the peak body for our mostly extremely liberal religious orders, held its national conference a few weeks back. 

One of the speeches that mysteriously didn't get any publicity (indeed it is not even on the Bishop's website; I was alerted to it by the 'V2 Catholics' site) was that of Bishop Gregory O'Kelly SJ of Port Pirie.

Yet the speech was surely newsworthy, for the bishop used his address to the Conference to attack the Vatican action on the US Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

 Poor wronged LCWR sisters!

In his speech, Bishop O'Kelly compares the action of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in relation to the LCWR to the Northern Territory Intervention, something repeatedly condemned by our bishops.  The Bishop says:

"The intervention by which an Archbishop has been placed as a referral point for the LCWR is a very disappointing gesture, one scarcely showing trust. "

He then proceeds to attack the approach taken by Cardinal Rode, the former Prefect of the Congregation for Religious.

It really is deeply dissapointing to see one of our bishops egging on the dissenters.

On charism and correction 

Bishop O'Kelly also goes on to claim for the LCWR something I would have thought appropriate for individual religious orders, but hardly for an umbrella organisation, namely its own 'charism':
We also know, not only from the Northern Territory, but from the story of various Religious Orders that intervention has rarely been the appropriate response to a situation, when someone outside the charism is placed in charge of a group with a different charism."

What a load of rubbish!

It is easy to provide, as the bishop goes on to do, a list of cases where interventions from the outside have been unfair, badly motivated, or simply failed.

But have there never been justified interventions?  I can think of a few!  Not to mention a few reversals of such decisions that the Church has surely lived to regret...

The duty to intervene

Indeed, the supervisory role of bishops and the Vatican is as old as Western religious life.  Consider for example the instructions on the subject of the election of an abbot contained in the Rule of St Benedict:

"But if (which God forbid) the whole community should agree to choose a person who acquiesces in its vices, and if these somehow come to the knowledge of the local bishop and neighbouring abbots or christians, let them foil this conspiracy of the wicked and set a worthy steward over God's house.  Let them be sure that they will receive a good reward, if they do this with a pure intention and out of zeal for God, just as, on the contrary, they will incur sin, if they neglect to intervene." (RB 64)

False Prophets?

Perhaps the most disturbing part of Bishop O'Kelly's talk though is the long paean to the 'prophetic' ministry of religious, "particularly directed towards those who have not heard the Gospel; those who are at the margins of the Church or society; those who have been denied their dignity; those who are voiceless and powerless; those weak in faith or alienated from it; those whose values are undermined by contemporary culture; those whose needs are greater than they can bear”.

You know, if that was what modern religious life was actually about, the Vatican wouldn't have needed to intervene.

But what this actually seems to mean in practice is not preaching the Gospel to those who have not heard it, but political agitation on their behalf.  Indeed, not preaching the Gospel even to themselves but rather exploring new Age eco-spirituality syncretism.  Not practical charity directed at the spiritual and other needs of the needy, because they have virtually abandoned all those traditional apostolates, but political action for 'social justice'.

There are some curious contradictions in Bishop O'Kelly's arguments.  He attacks, for example, the wearing of distinctive clerical dress.  But then later notes that for some strange reason, religious women living in cities have become virtually invisible (the lack of a habit to identify them perhaps?).

I'm a prophet; you're a right-wing restorationist ratbag?!

Sad, too, to read the snide attacks on 'restorationism' and the alleged 'new found glee' in the 'publications of the right' at the 'revival of former externals'.

The bishop also tosses in the standard lines about how clericalism used to be rife, concentrating all of the power in the hands of the clergy, and making the laity 'passive and subservient'.

Yet his own diocese's website is hardly a model of transparency and accountability...


Anonymous said...

Just a reminder of the judgment that Bishop O'Kelly wants to affirm - keynote speaker at the LCWR National Conference. http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/why-liberal-nuns-are-dying-off/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-liberal-nuns-are-dying-off

With all the terrifying implications of Matt 23:13 would Prof. William Cavanaugh help? http://www.facebook.com/notes/martin-g-snigg/myth-of-civil-society-as-freespace-cavanaugh/10151141035881407

"Benedictine – practices, ritual was never imagined as a distinct activity seperate from a complete programme of Christian discipline and discipleship. .. 'discipline (intellectual and social) would abandon religious space, letting 'belief', 'conscience' and 'sensibility' take its place.' This does not mean, however, that discipline has disappeared, only that it is now administered by the state, . .the Church has been essentially transformed into a semi-private voluntary association."

"Religion is detached from its specific locus in disciplined ecclesial practices so that it may be compatible with the modern Christian's subjection to the disciplines of the state."

".. the public has reduced the Church to its own terms. Citizenship has displaced discipleship as the Church's public key. .. The flows of power from Church to public are reversed, threatening to flood the Church itself."

Kate Edwards said...

Anon - Please give yourself a moniker! And preferably a source for your long list of ?unconnected quotes - and preferably explain why either Mr Snigg's paper and the assorted quotes you profer are relevant to the discussion...

Anonymous said...

Those who are supposed to have the time and temperament to become spiritual masters and deeply knowledgeable of the Catholic tradition, are adapting to a world 'the world hates you' that they think is an authentic translation to engage the absolutely dominant liberal tradition - but actually keep others out of the church and 'do not enter the Kingdom themselves' - they are become the scribes and pharisees Jesus warned about. Their house is desolate.

Prof. Cavanaugh shows that because secularism owns the concept of 'religion' much of the church has allowed itself to be subjected to the state's religio, rather than the loosing and binding of Christ's church.

Prelates and religious really do think they are 'speaking truth to power'! by challenging the discipline of the Church which overwhelmingly receives applause from secularists, and adopting the practices of the state's liberal tradition.

It is a good rule of thumb for discerning a vocation to avoid those religious orders unashamedly or implicitly giving assent to CRA's work.

-Martin Snigg

Terry said...

As an aside, this raises the issue of, how can the same selection process select Bishop O'Kelly and Bishop Kennedy as bishops, since they are like chalk and cheese.

A Canberra Observer said...

I guess he is 'living the dream' ...