Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rome: Reforming Backwards--As Usual

With so many other beckoning subjects available, I'm brought up short with the news that the Roman pontiff, Benedict XVI, has reinstated four bishops who had previously been excommunicated from the Catholic church. As a progressive Catholic, this sort of thing just makes me crazy. This is the last thing the Church needs, although I increasingly wonder if this is not just sort of the thing the present Catholic church welcomes. That is to say, the rightward drift of the church has carried it to the point where something like this won't upset most Catholics.

Why had the four reinstated bishops been booted out in the first place? Because they were what is known in the church as schismatics, breakaways, mavericks. These guys had all been ordained by a far-right kook bishop by the name of Marcel LeFebvre, the director of a group of a whole collection of right wing kooks called the Society of Pius X. Lefebvre and his society refused to accept the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, period. Basically he wanted to go back to the post-Trent church, the church shaped by a 16th century council called to oppose everything Protestant. Totally a creature of the Reformation, Trent was a reactionary council. Essentially what it did was deny the validity or even the right-to-exist of any theological position other than Rome's. LeFebvre was so far to the right that even a hidebound theological conservative the likes of Pope John Paul II could not abide him and excommunicated him and condemned his organization.

So it's acolytes of this guy LeFebvre, who went to his eternal reward in 1991, who are being admitted once more into the ranks of the Catholic clergy. One of these guys, a wing nut named Richard Williamson, recently went on record as saying that historical evidence "is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed." Say what? Yes, you heard me correctly. He's a holocaust-denier. I wonder what historial evidence this idiot has in mind. The same guy also says that 9/11 was the product of the U.S. government which needed a pretext to go to war in Afghanistan. Oh yeah, let's let this moron back in the church so he can spread his view around. And his friends, whom I would hardly expect hold views any more palatable or rational.

As you might expect, this latest bow from Rome to the so-called "traditionalists" in the Church--bring back Latin! bring back no meat on Fridays! bring back Father knows all the answers! down with religious freedom! down with ecumenical understanding of other faith expressions! down with all the Vatican II reforms that transformed the Catholic church into an organization attuned to modern life!--has considerably hampered Catholic-Jewish dialogue. And "hampered" probably putting it mildly.

Why do I care? Because I'm a Catholic who has found the Church increasingly hostile to the reforms that kept me in the Church to begin with. The present pope has given several signs that he finds the presence of these odious people in the church congenial to his own views. Most discouraging, to say the least. I have told my wife several times that this may be the church I was born into, but I doubt if will be the one I die in.

Update: There's been quite a bit of storm raised about this issue. Here's one of many.
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