Oh those dastardly Romans repressing the plucky grassroots Catholics trying to “adapt their faith to a complex world.” At least that seems to be the premise of both Robert Blair Kaiser’s new book “A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future,” as well as the Washington Post review by R. Scott Appleby.
Kaiser (and Appleby) highlight those in-the-trenches Catholics who are doing their very best to “inculturate” the Church, by which they really mean water down the Church’s teachings in a syncretist approach to other religions.
A Jakarta nun who describes herself as both a devout Catholic and a devout Muslim; a Sri Lankan Jesuit whose Asian-inflected theology of Christ and the Church has little room for the ancient dogmatic formulas preserved by Rome; the president of a Benedictine college in Manila who has no qualms about celebrating Mass without a priest—these are among the representatives of what Kaiser terms “the people’s Church.” Inspired by Vatican II, the worldwide council of bishops that met in Rome from 1962 to 1965, the people’s Church is global Catholicism’s great hope for the future. But formidable opposition to the growth of this Church exists in the seemingly unlikeliest of places: the Holy See of Rome.
It’s a far-fetched plot worthy of Dan Brown. It’s also completely false. He proposes the same, old “Church of Vatican II,” an entity that doesn’t exist because there is no break between past and present. The Church is the same Bride of Christ and Vatican II did not change that one whit. What did happen is that a coterie of people who wish the Church to be what She is not have imagined a “spirit of Vatican II” in which all of their cherished dreams are true.
While the sensus fidelium, an upwelling of belief by the faithful as a whole, is a source for development of doctrine and discipline, by definition authentic sensus fidelium cannot be in opposition to the teaching of the Pope and the college of bishops in union with him. Thus Kaiser’s whole thesis is ultimately flawed.
In the end, though, it’s the same old 40-year-old mush warmed over and served again while playing off the now-debunked misconception of Pope Benedict as “God’s Rottweiler.” But they’ll keep serving it while there are aging Boomers willing to slop it down.