This entry is entirely based upon my reading of the National Catholic reporter for April 2012. Acknowledging a large amount of plagiarism, I think several subjects are worthy of thought. At the risk of offending my fellow Catholics once again, here they are with my thoughts:

One article dealt with retired Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson who was an invited speaker in Chicago. During his talk he said the major fault of the church regarding the clergy sex abuse scandal is that it "refuses to look at any teaching, law, practice or even attitude of the church itself as in any way Bernard lawcontributing" to the crises. Robinson has been a source of controversy since 2002 when he called for Pope John Paul II to commission a church wide study of clerical sexual abuse of minors. Robinson was criticized by his fellow bishops in Australia who objected to his 2008 lecture tour in the United States to speak on these subjects. Cardinal Roger Mahony, then Archbishop of Los Angeles, denied Robinson permission to speak in that archdiocese.

Among the other aspects of Catholic culture that Robinson said contributed to the abuse crises are mandatory celibacy for priests, a "mystique" some attach to priest as being "above other human beings," and a "creeping infallibility" of papal decrees that is used to protect "all teachings… in which a significant amount of papal energy and prestige had been invested." As to infallibility Robinson said “I'll go overboard here. I believe infallibility has to go. This is my personal belief. I believe that it is an impossible burden to carry. I could give up many rights and still live a good life. The one right I cannot give up is my right to be wrong. We need that. Every individual does. Every community does. And every church does."

I have on several occasions posted my personal views on the teaching of papal infallibility and my personal objection to the position taken by the Vatican about it. That position is the claim an individual pope, acting apart from the bishops has the power to declare a teaching free of all error and morally binding on all Catholics. Not only that, we have seen an increasing tendency to imply that certain papal announcements carry some kind of infallibility when they do not conform to their own requirements for such a proclamation. See:

Robinson also said "the pope and the bishops have lost credibility, and it is only the people of God who can restore it to them. If the church is to move forward these painful lessons must be learned, for this is an issue on which to we leave out the people of God has been positively suicidal." So long as Rome and the pope continue to treat the rest of the Catholic world as subjects whose role it is to obey without question and without discussion or involvement the Church will continue to experience a decline in vocations, membership and credibility."

As an indication of an aspect of this problem, there was a research study about why Catholics left the church recently. The researchers suggested new ways in which the church can approach Catholics who are dissatisfied. One of their key recommendations was for pastors, bishops and other church officials to respond to questioning or angry Catholics with constructive dialogue rather than a simple reiteration of church rules or policies. The same can be said of the Vatican. For example, see the following report from the paper about the way in which a cardinal from Austria handled a problem.

The paper reported about the actions of Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna Austria. Twenty six year-old Floridian Stangl was overwhelmingly elected to a parish council. However, Strangl was in a long term homosexual partnership. As a result, the pastor intervened and asked him to resign as well as to not receive the Eucharist. The Cardinal, learning about this said he asked himself the question, “What would Jesus do?” and  decided to invite him and his partner to lunch to discuss the situation. Afterwards he said that he was impressed by Stangl’s “faithful disposition, his humility and the way in which he lives his commitment to service.” After thinking about this and praying over it, he recommended that the archdiocese should rework the rules regarding Pastoral elections and their restrictions. He said "there are many parish counselors whose lifestyle does not fully conform to the ideals of the church. In view of the life witness that each of them gives taken as a whole, and their commitment to attempt to live a life of faith, the Church rejoices in their efforts." 

It's my belief that one can extend Christian charity without condoning actions one believes are immoral. Christ's mission was not to the righteous. It was to the sinners of the world. He encompassed everyone in his mission and excluded no one. Shouldn't the Church's mission be the same?

 In other news the paper reported that Anna Maria College, a small Catholic college in Massachusetts, rescinded its invitation to Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Edward M Kennedy, to receive an honorary degree and be commencement speaker this May. They did so at the request of Bishop Robert McManus. The Bishop acted because of Kennedy's positions on pro-choice and the sanctity of marriage. Kennedy responded," I am a lifelong Catholic and my faith is very important to me. I am not a public official. I hold no public office nor am I a candidate for public office. I have not met Bishop McManus nor has he been willing to meet with me to discuss his objections. He has not consulted with my pastor to learn more about me or my faith, yet by objecting to my appearance at Anna Marie College he has made a judgment about my worthiness as a Catholic. This is a sad day for me and even sadder one for the church I love."

Why can't we listen to people of credibility even if we don't agree with their moral position. It can be done without it  appearing the college endorsed her views. We live in a pluralistic society and it's time Church officials recognized this is America, not some closed religious society.

So, that's my rant for the day which I'm sure will offend some, but isn't civil, rational discussion a constitutional privilege and the American way?


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