Monday, May 16, 2005

The Church of Silence

I need to preface this post by stating that I am not a Catholic. I'm married to a Catholic, who does not practice, and have several close family members who practice faithfully. So I do not speak as a lay person, but I do have insight.

That said, what happened on Friday to Fr. Tom Reese was wrong.

The fact that it broke on Friday, a slow news day in front of a slow news weekend, was undoubtedly an optimistic effort to shove the whole mess under the collective Vatican rug before Monday, when something fresher would be certain to capture the media's alleged attention.

Father Tom is, or rather was, the seven year editor of America magazine, a leading publication regarding Catholic thought and opinion. The degree in which his peers hold him in respect is commanding. Here's a few quotes:

“Father Tom is no loose cannon and no flaming liberal or radical, but a trusted and knowledgeable expert on a broad range of Catholic issues. In his job at America magazine he has proved himself as a moderate and extremely fair-minded editor who has taken meticulous care to balance any articles on controversial topics with perspectives from all different viewpoints. That always included a clear representation of the church’s teaching on any given issue. That, nonetheless, he is being forced out for providing that kind of forum for intelligent debate on issues of concern to American Catholics today sends a chilling message." -- Meinrad Scherer-Emunds , U.S. Catholic Magazine

Reese is an exemplary Christian, a model priest and a Jesuit in the best of that order’s tradition of robust thought and dedicated scholarship. A political scientist by training, he has written some of the most authoritative and objective studies of the hierarchy yet published. -- National Catholic Reporter, editorial

Reese, professionals across the spectrum say, is a moderate and mild man. No raging anarchist, no raving heretic. He is a thoughtful man, a fair man and a competent one. He is a scholar and writer, a person who examines a subject from multiple perspectives so that others can do the same. He provides the background ideas people need to come to clear, firm conclusions of their own. He is, in other words, a good journalist. -- Sister Joan Chittister

Over the past five years, Fr. Tom Reese oversaw articles published on some touchy subjects including condoms, gay priests, perceived foot dragging over theological discipline, pro-choice American politicians, and Dominus Iesus (a 2000 Vatican document by then-Cardinal Ratzinger that clarified the Church's position as the one true Christian Church, causing controversy among non-Catholic Christian denominations and Jews, and slowing forward progress made towards these groups). The America magazine articles opened dialogue and referred to church teachings in the discussion of these topics, many of them complex or emotionally complicated.

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the group responsible for the ultimate removal of Father Tom, after applying pressure for five years. The Congregation during that time was headed up by Cardinal Ratzinger. In 2002 the Congregation proposed a three member censor board for the magazine, a control device that was rigorously debated against by the magazine. Reese ultimately resigned May 6, 2005 when faced with the choice of leaving or accepting a censor board.

Discussion regarding Ratzinger's (now Pope Benedict XVI) involvement is ongoing, but without credible evidence I am not ready to render an opinion.

I am, however, ready to ask some questions.

What, exactly, is the Church afraid of? Is an informed laity a threat? Is it a consensus that if these issues are removed from the public forum, they will no longer be discussed? Is that really realistic? Is quashing conversation going to attract and keep young people in the Church? Do they believe a muzzle is a tool for teaching or understand it is simply for control?

I believe that asking questions of ourselves and of our beliefs is how we strip our defenses, admit our vulnerabilities and achieve humility in our individual quest for spirituality. Defining and releasing our baggage is part of finding faith. It's hard as hell to do.

Practitioners of Catholicism must do it in increasing silence. A door to faith, in the form of intellectual discovery, has slammed shut.


At May 16, 2005 9:18 PM, Blogger windspike said...

The Vatican has a very large and lumpy carpet, and it hasn't been cleaned underneath for centuries.

Should they be released, the ghosts, gobblins, skeletons, and the like collected therein would terrify us all into oblivion, I am sure.

At May 17, 2005 6:04 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

I think it important for us to remember that, bottom line, the Vatican is first and foremost, a powerful political entity - above and beyond a religious one, and that the pope is a political leader. Even the eating of fish on Friday is about an historical order from the Vatican to do so in order to save a failing fishing industry - and has nothing to do with those two loaves of bread and the fish of biblical report. So this is not surprising...I think it is simply a beginning of the goings on we can expect from Ben 16.

At May 17, 2005 9:01 AM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

The Catholic Church's problem is this: they have tried for the last two centuries to shore up their member sworld wide and in doing so had to accept many beliefs that didn't fit their bill. Now, they are trying to maintain their base but enforce their bill at the same time. It's not easy and people like Father Reese are merely getting caught in the cross-fire as the Church struggles to find it's image. They need to try harder before they lose their purpose.

At May 17, 2005 9:24 PM, Blogger Sally said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At May 17, 2005 9:31 PM, Blogger Sally said...

Doesn't it feel like debate even if it is fair and balanced, is being stifled?

At May 18, 2005 7:51 AM, Blogger Lina Maria said...

This is exactly what I was afraid of when I found out that the most likely pope would be Ratzinger. I am willing to give him a chance, but so far I am not impressed. His plans seem very clear. He wants to turn the clock back in time and get rid of vatican II.

At May 18, 2005 5:15 PM, Blogger Jet said...

Blogger ate my previous comment, one which struck that perfect balance between other's comments and furthering the debate. SIGH...

Sally, that's precisely it. If vigorous intellectual exchange is vital to spiritual discovery, why remove it from play?

Windspike and frstlyml, that carpet is indeed troubling, in as much as it represents the all too human side of organized religion. A single human fault may not merit much notice, but times that by a multitude, and the holes really start to show. There are some very good, truly pious people in the church, but not all of them.

Lina, I wrote on your blog that I too was willing to give Ratzinger an opportunity before forming an opinion. But I find this, so newly into his papacy, troubling. This smacks of an old vendetta, rather than inspired leadership. I sincerly hope that I'm wrong, but I will continue to watch carefully.

At May 18, 2005 5:53 PM, Blogger ~Betsy said...

I too was worried about Ratzinger becoming the new Pope because of his hard line stance against all things not Catholic. We need a fresh perspective and new ideas to keep the faithful as such, and Ratzinger is not the one to do it. The more people cry out for moderation, consideration and equal exchange of ideas, the tighter and more turned in to themselves our Catholic leaders become. The lumpy rug has become a mountain of obfuscation. Thank God for people like Sister Chittister!

At May 22, 2005 8:11 PM, Blogger 1138 said...

This is the same institution that ran the Inquisitions for over 400 years, just beneath the skin they are ready to do it again.

At May 26, 2005 3:01 AM, Blogger Steve O said...

I'm reporting all of you to the morality police! This can not go on! I say be quiet!

Maybe they are afraid that if people talk then some how they loose control and power?

At October 30, 2005 3:08 PM, Blogger Patrick said...



Ad Jesum Per Mariam

Greetings in the Holy Spirit of Truth who enlightens all who desire to know the truth and adhere to it!

Finally, by the grace of God, the compilation of the Catholic Tract: “101 Heresies of Antipope Benedict XVI” has been completed. The tract follows the similar method employed by this same orthodox Catholic author in exposing the infamous damned warlock and heresiarch Karl Wojtyla that was published under the title “101 Heresies of Antipope John Paul II”:

Nevertheless, it can never be forgotten that these errors are certainly condemned forever under divine anathema since they are contrary to that apostolic and divine doctrine once preached and received in sacred tradition (cf. Galatians 1: 8). Hence, anyone ascribing to these errors is not Catholic nor has the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church. For, as Leo X infallibly declared:

"And since truth cannot contradict truth, we define that every statement contrary to the enlightened truth of the faith is totally false and we strictly forbid teaching otherwise to be permitted. We decree that all those who cling to erroneous statements of this kind, thus sowing heresies which are wholly condemned, should be avoided in every way and punished as detestable and odious heretics and infidels who are undermining the catholic faith." (Pope Leo X, Bull Apostolici Regiminis, 19 December 1513, with the submission of the Fifth Lateran General Council, Session VIII, Tanner, Norman P. (ed.), Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, (London: Sheed & Ward, 1990), Volume 1, pp. 605-606).

Thus through the syllabus that we have painstakingly compiled with all the necessary scholarship and documentation concerning true Catholic doctrine and the misfortunate heretical tenets of Joseph Ratzinger, anyone with right reason will clearly see that such a man is not the legitimate successor of St. Peter, but an usurper of the Apostolic Chair, an antipope, and a heresiarch of the Modernist Sect.

We sincerely pray that Joseph Ratzinger and his Modernist sectarians will realize their heresies, abjure, do public penance, and make amends to all the damnable evils they have caused. For the Lord of Mercies will not turn away from a true contrite heart proven by unwavering orthodoxy and the zeal to do His Will in all moral acts. We also pray for Divine Providence to more abundantly aid the Church Militant in fulfilling their Christian duties during this unprecedented persecution of the Apostolic See, which has remained publicly vacant (Sede Vacante) since the death of His Holiness, Pope Pius XII in October of 1958. For the great majority of so-called "Catholics" are in communion with this Great Apostasy of Modernism, and for this they have all incurred the divine anathema from Almighty God and His Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

The following hyperlink will direct you to my web site wherein the online text of the "101 Heresies of Antipope Benedict XVI" has been publicized for the Greater Glory of God and the salvation of souls:

In conclusion, we must bear in mind the declaration of Pope St. Martin I at the Lateran Council held in Rome concerning the duty of all to declare the perpetual divine anathema to any innovator of divine dogmas and sacred tradition:

"If anyone according to the wicked heretics in any manner whatsoever, by any word whatsoever, or at any time or place whatsoever illicitly removing the bounds which the holy Fathers of the Catholic Church have rather firmly established (Prov. 22:28), that is, the five holy and universal Synods, in order rashly to seek for novelties and expositions of another faith; or books, or letters, or writings, or subscriptions, or false testimonies, or synods, or records of deeds, or vain ordinations unknown to ecclesiastical rule; or unsuitable and irrational tenures of place; and briefly, if it is customary for the most impious heretics to do anything else, (if anyone) through diabolical operation crookedly and cunningly acts contrary to the pious preachings of the orthodox (teachers) of the Catholic Church, that is to say, its paternal and synodal proclamations, to the destruction of the most sincere confession of the Lord our God, and persists without repentance until the end impiously doing these things, let such a person be condemned forever, and let all the people say: so be it, so be it [Psalms 105:48]." (Pope St. Martin I, The Lateran Council, 649, Canon 20, Denzinger, Rev. Henry (ed.), Enchiridion symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum, (Barcelona: Editorial Herder, 27th ed., 1951), n. 274. )

We pray that this tract will invigorate souls unto the conversion to the Holy Will of God, which they may ever follow unto their eternal salvation. We ask that each one of you pass this letter and link along to as many souls in need of this firm testimony of Catholic Truth, outside of which no one is able to attain eternal salvation nor the remission of sins. Finally, may Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary help spread these saving truths expounded in the Catholic Tract, so that She may rightly exterminate all these heresies of the Modernists, as She is the Immaculate Crusher of All Heresies and the Mediatrix of All Graces. This we pray. Amen. So Be It. God Alone!

I remain sincerely yours in Jesus Christ Crucified,

Patrick John Pollock


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