Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Is the Pope Catholic? Who cares!?

 Fr. Anthony Chadwick recently responded to De Mattei's missive on Post-Institutional Catholicism.

Mattei writes: "Now Trump is out of the picture and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who gave voice to American Anti-Bergolianism,  is weaker, while Pope Francis’s position has been reinforced and the new President, Biden, no longer has an enemy but an ally. Therefore Francis’s recent declarations are not surprising and though they might herald new condemnations for his internal opponents, they also raise many questions."

Gonna be as forthright at I can, there are things I've missed about the Roman Church since entering the Orthodox Church....the borderline obsessive compulsive fixation on the Pope is not one of them. I read that paragraph, and, not to offend, was glad to be gone. 

He goes on: "By these affirmations we have the impression that according to Pope Francis, those who criticize the Second Vatican Council put themselves outside the Church. However, today the criticisms about the Second Vatican Council do not come from an obstinate minority of traditionalists, but from a growing sphere of Catholics, who have recognized the catastrophic consequences of Vatican II." 

If one is honest, the jury is still out on the importance of Vatican II, long term, to the Roman Church's survival. Whether or not that means there is something intrinsically defective about that council is still undetermined. Three dominant narratives have framed Vatican II : forced continuity (Conservatives); formally authorized secularization to religious institutions and theological propositions (Liberals); and demonstrable discontinuity, with a helping of latent apocalypticism (Traditionalists). There is an emerging movement. The Traditionalist narrative has a certain amount of momentum - there are, as De Mattei notes, more voices questioning the events of the 50s through the end result of the 70s. As with many Traditionalist initiatives, there are questions of how well the historical evidence and grasped and the consequences thereof. Specifically, is there an adequate understanding that a) Vatican II was the product of Pre-Vatican II Catholicism, a Catholicism that was, in many respects, going from strength to strength, and b) no one foresaw the societal developments that would explode with the late 60s and early 70s as a generational rejection of Western society in the 1950s. Until these two points are given sufficient weight, it would seem any discussion of the merits or failures of Vatican II is relatively immature.

He goes on: “Post-institutionalism”, however, is a dead end not only for the progressives, but also for the conservatives and traditionalists. As long as the critics of the Second Vatican Council respect, in form and substance, the Church’s hierarchy, their condemnation cannot go beyond a mediatic chiding.  For a canonical censure the logical prerequisites are missing, even before those of a juridical nature. It would be a different case with those wanting to assume an extra-institutional position, by inciting open revolt against the ecclesiastic hierarchy. In this case, it would not be difficult to find the pretexts for a condemnation, which, despite being limited canonically to the act of disobedience, on the mediatic level, it would be falsely extended to all the opponents of the Second Vatican Council.

The reason we must respect the institutional dimension of the Church is not political, but supernatural. It is legitimate, on certain occasions, to correct filially the men of the Church, including the Pope, but in the Mystical Body of Christ, the soul cannot be separated from the body; the spiritual element cannot be separated from the juridical aspect, the invisible from the visible. This is the profound but life-giving mystery of the Catholic Church."

And there it is...nail on the head. If you want to maintain Roman ecclesiology as it has developed since Vatican I, you run into an ecclesiological dead end. Doubtless De Mattei would disagree with me, but I think he illustrates the point nicely. 

Far more interesting was Fr. Chadwick's own response: "In his criticism of post-institutionalism (if anyone would use such a label to identify themselves), Mattei makes a distinction between those who are keeping their heads below the parapet and those in “open revolt”. So post-institutionalism is a dead end… Fine by me, since I am neither pre, post or institutionalist. My own world is so far away from that polarised world in America that is now influencing the media and popular culture over here in Europe.

I belong to an institutional church as a priest, but one that is anchored in Anglicanism. Most of us ordinary folk are far from the authoritarian culture of Rome since the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the days of the three popes strutting around Europe like some caricature from Palmar de Troya! It is legitimate to aspire to a different form of Catholicism, something like the vision of Western Orthodoxy, a more spiritual than political Old Catholicism and Anglican Catholicism. We can unite body and soul without getting into the kind of cognitive dissonance associated with the modern Papacy, the Vatican Bank, paedophile clergy, big money and favours gained from American presidents."

Any rational reader not bound by the emotional and psychological demands of maintaining Roman ecclesiology would likely come to a similar conclusion. The absurdity of the whole situation is getting old. But like most institutions, the Roman Church won't drop kick the modern papacy until it has exhausted every other option - to the detriment of its body of faithful. 

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