Rome v. the faithful

Rome v. the faithful

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.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
7 comments
  • “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 just remember, Vatican II had NOTHING to do with the problems we’re seeing.  NOTHING!

  • And, fortunately, Mother Nature has a built-in deadline for us all

    There’s an effecting cleansing mechanism that has been working for 2000 years now. It is called the funeral rite.

  • A Jakarta nun who is both a devoted catholic and a devoted muslim??????

    Sounds to me like she’s neither.

    Wonder who’s keeping her bills up?  Probably us.  We always get stuck.

  • Although Robert Blair Kaiser has chosen to make the Notre Dame University Archives the repository of his papers (16 linear feet of them!), nonetheless I do not believe he is on the faculty there.  R. Scott Appleby is, however.  On Kaiser and his peculiar book, I blogged under the title “The Old Schism Trail” in early April.  As I noted there, I think the views he expresses are widely held among older Catholics in certain parts of the country—e.g., the Northeast.

  • Get this howler!  Professor Appleby claims that Cdl. Ratzinger…

    ”…ruthlessly silenced theologians who departed from his own precise but narrow interpretation of Catholic orthodoxy. He was coolly efficient, not only in squelching dissent but also in coaxing John Paul to restrain his generous embrace of other religions.”

    I don’t get Appleby: he wants to be the Martin Marty of his generation, but he loses credibility when he puts out such fact-free claims as the above.

    If Cdl. Ratzinger had been efficient at muzzling heretics, CDF’s document list on the Vatican web site would show a lot more disciplinary actions by now.  As it stands, the list doesn’t reach twenty cases: not even one per year.  If that’s efficiency, it’s by some Roman standard that seems glacier-like to the rest of us.  Each of those cases took years of patient inquiry, study, and written dialogue before CDF reached any public conclusions. 

    And Appleby’s on weak ground when he claims Cdl. Ratzinger changed Pope John Paul’s relation to other religions.  Here’s a quick list of some memorable interreligious events in the last papacy:

    January 1986: first Assisi “Day of Prayer for Peace”

    1986: Pope visits Rome synagogue.

    May 1999: Pope kisses Koran during visit of Iraqi Catholics and Muslims.

    March 2000: Pope prays at “Wailing” Wall in Jerusalem, visits Yad Vashem.

    August 2000: “Dominus Jesus” appears.

    May 2001: Pope visits mosque in Damascus.

    January 2002: Second Assisi meeting

    Where’s the big change, Professor?  Pope John Paul’s interfaith activity after Dominus Jesus seems to be about the same as it was before.

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