Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Church, Our Mother and Mess

When a couple of years ago I read the account of Benedict XVI sitting down to dine with Hans Kung without consequence for the latter I was astounded. Kung is no ordinary dissident I knew, having kept up with his "theology" all these years (at least since 1974). It was the last thing I expected from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now become Benedict XVI.

Pluralism then in Christology? Ecclesiology? Not possible. But there it seemed to be. Maybe something is going on we are not aware of? Then a while later I recalled that Pope Pius XII not only did not excommunicate Teilhard de Chardin (every bit as heterodox in his own Omega Point way as Kung) he also facilitated in one way or another the careers of those who were most responsible for much dismal ambiguity at the time of the Second Vatican Council, and most certainly afterwards.

I can only conclude then that Popes make their decisions about such things for their own reasons, and must account to God alone for the same if the Church does not otherwise intervene. Otherwise I must 'throw out' Pius XII and other Popes too for similar inexplicable omissions---which would be preposterous. Yet decisions have consequences, foreseen or not. I don't think it is unfair to say that ours has been a time of crucifixion within the mystical body. Dissent, confusions, liturgical anarchy, ambiguity, toleration of evils, sometimes forms of traditionalist phariseeism...the litany is all well known, though accounted for in different ways.

As a layman it is hard to behold; I don't think our general direction as Church has been wise since the Council in many areas, across many lines, but what can we laymen do about it besides keep the Church's traditional theology and spirituality (the only great wisdom) in our own hearts, even as we urge corrections where needed to restore good fruits (von Hildebrand is amazing in his balance here), placing it all trustfully in God's hands, suffering patiently meanwhile with and for His scourged Church. No traditionalist bishop can substitute for the Church.

The Church is used to tempests, She was born in one: Judas, Pilate, the Temple, the Cross...

But meantime I am also grateful for some positive signs which revive hope: Summorum Pontificum, the Pro Multis change ordered for the vernacular translations of the 1969 missal; the official ongoing dialog Benedict has commenced with the Society of St. Pius X despite the great consternation of neo-modernists. The Church is our mother even when in her members she suffers from self-inflicted wounds; even when we see unnecessary bad fruits, unlike in those great ages when dangerous ambiguity was not tolerated.

Schism from the visible hierarchical Church (as defined at Vatican I) certainly is no answer; it only compounds and multiplies problems to say the least, just as sin itself does. I examined the extreme traditionalist "solutions" sympathetically (not that all 'trad' solutions are extreme by any means) but saw that they lead to preposterous conclusions (e.g., the ordinary means of grace is gone, annihilated), dead ends. I believe many of those traditionalists however were motivated by a desire to keep the Faith, even if the temptation to exaggeration was not always averted. The confusions created these groups, these groups did not create the confusions. At times even good men and women suffer vertigo in the tempests. ---Stephen Hand
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