Friday, May 20, 2011

For the Record

Peter is being ripped to sheds over the Morris affair.

Both Peters: the Editor and the Sheopherd.

The following is an aCatholica comentary on the editorial published in this week's Record [in black] (the Catholic newspaper for the Archdiocese of Perth) with my own [comments] and emphases.

The removal by Pope Benedict of Bishop William Morris from the diocese that had been placed into his care for the Catholic faith in 1993 has been major news throughout the Catholic world over the last fortnight.

An irony here is that nobody -- either from supporters or detractors -- is sucked in by any suggestion that this was a voluntary process or, as officially stated, an 'early retirement'. This was an offer he couldn't refuse. [Three things. 1) That's not what irony is. 2) I think you'll find that "The Holy Father removed Bishop William M. Morris from the pastoral care of the diocese of Toowoomba, Australia." (VIS news, May 2nd).  3) You're making it sound as though he didn't have any choice in the matter at all; he had lots.]

While the removal was almost unprecedented in Australia, it not-so-surprisingly illuminated fault lines within the Church which all reasonably well-informed observers have known about for decades. To use somewhat technical language, the fault-line is sometimes described as the one which runs between the hermeneutic of continuity on the one hand and a mentality which can be described, on the other, as a hermeneutic of discontinuity. [Guess who holds which.]

Good to set these things out from the get-go just in case the reader might be inclined to think that any concerns about the 'removal' [removal not 'removal'] are reasonable. [What? I'm not sure how this comment and paragraph go together...]

At the end of the day, however, the issue under debate was the simple fact that in the Catholic Church every Bishop, a successor to the apostles, is obliged by sacred oath to teach what the Catholic Church teaches - period. [As Fr Z is prone to saying, 'Do I hear an 'Amen!'?']

The hermeneutic of continuity is an outlook which sees the history of the Church from Christ up until now as an organic and constantly developing unity which takes into account the person and teachings of Christ, Scripture, two millennia of Catholic faith and practice and the defined body of teaching called the magisterium. It accepts as a matter of faith that some things can’t change, no matter what the popular view such as, for example, the belief in Christ’s divinity.

Again, setting out the territory. What's to come is to be seen as important as the belief in Christ's divinity. [Not quite what Peter said. It seems more to be a reference to earlier, more famous herisies.]

Such things are, in effect, the constellations in the night sky by which the ordinary Catholic man or woman can safely navigate because they do not change position. [Safely because the Church holds "the totality or fullness of the means of salvation," (Ad Gentes 6) "she proclaims the fullness of the faith" (CCC 868)]
The hermeneutic of discontinuity, conversely, is more a mentality that tends to regard much of the Church prior to the Second Vatican Council as somehow deficient and which seeks to obscure, change or reverse some or much Church teaching, not excluding the dogmatically defined magisterium, usually in matters to do with the sanctity of human life and gender, but also extending to issues such as ecclesiology, liturgy, and in specific instances such as the ordination of women. [A good definition, imo.] It usually seeks to do so in accord with moral relativism and the values predominantly to be found in popular culture. It often confuses the individual sinfulness or failings of members of the Church throughout history with the actual faith of the Church.

Ah! Moral Relativism! Will we see how this much used rhetorical weapon applies here? [Oh noes! That phrase that they always use!! People might start thinking they use it for a reason; quick let's use a rhetorical question with the word rhetorical in it! (This is irony.)]

One mentality is informed by two millennia of constant belief and practice, often heroically witnessed to by martyrdom, the other by the mass media and the fashionable theories that abound in our culture.

Such a withering critique! Does it have anything to do with this issue? [Yes. Everything.]

On the side of the essential unity of Church belief and teaching from Christ up until the present is Pope Benedict; on the side of changing Church teaching and practice to suit some values of majority opinion, sadly, was Bishop Morris.

Note, just in case you missed it, 'majority opinion' is used in a perjorative sense. Did you pick that up? [What's that? Peter the Editor thinks that being Catholic involves sideing with the Pope? How terrible!!]

The arguments surrounding the dismissal of Bishop Morris are therefore also about ecclesiology, which is to say they are about the Church: among these being questions such as what is the Church, who constitutes it, who has authority to define what are the essential beliefs which distinguish Christianity, especially Catholicism, from other beliefs and philosophies and who, if anyone, has the power to change Church teaching? This is why the arguments surrounding the dismissal of Bishop Morris are fundamental in nature; they are neither irrelevant nor obscure. They also have direct consequences for Catholic youth, for Catholic marriages, and for Catholic family life.

Stretch that bow, editor! Why not include climate change for good measure! [Because what Bsp Morris wrote had very little to do with climate change and a lot to do with "Catholic youth ... Catholic marriages, and ...Catholic family life."]

Although he is undoubtedly a good man and shares much in common with fellow members of the Church, Bishop Morris’ first problem was that he didn’t understand that. [Evidence that this is a charitable piece on Peter's part.]
The problem for Bishop Morris, in the end, was that given the two positions he had to make a choice - his way or the Catholic Church way.

Popularly depicted as 'my way or the highway'. [Yup. But better said as "How about you reconsider your position on these topics; your current position is quite contrary to what Christ has taught us and therefore not inline with your role. If you continue in this manner, you may be liable for false advertising."]

The problem for the Church was how to handle a Bishop well down the road in effectively promoting what might now reasonably be called heresy in his diocese.

Just as 'moral relativism', thrown in without justification, it's an odds-on certainty in this sort of writing that you can always count on 'heresy'.[I want to comment about how this sentence doesn't even make sense, but I won't. Instead, I'll assume that you mean that the use of the terms 'moral relativism' and 'heresy' are both and equally unjustified. 'Moral relativism' fits so unbelievably well that ... you don't believe it. 'Heresy' fits IFF (if and only if) Bsp Morris said or taught against anything difinitavely defined by the Church. He did, at least implicitly, on at least one occasion. (See link to the Pastoral Letter below.)]  No one, who has has any recognisable authority in the church, has suggested +Morris preached heresy, but why let that stop you? You're on a roll, there are certain things you have to say, certain nuts that need sledgehammers. [This is irony.]

As The Australian’s columnist Christopher Pearson (also a convert to Catholicism) wrote shortly after the story broke, Bishop Morris had already sown consternation in his diocese with his 2006 pastoral letter. [Again, see below for this.] Seeking comment on how to respond to a shortage of priestly vocations in the diocese of Toowoomba, the Bishop canvassed possibilities including the ordination of women priests and recognising the validity of Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders. [It's funny how there were almost no vocations to the priesthood while he had the 'pastoral care' of the the diocese.] He did this although he should have known that the Church had already definitively ruled these out.

'Canvassed possibilities'!? [Yup. vexilla regis has the full original Pastoral Letter from 2006 here.]

In 1994, Pope John Paul II declared authoritatively as the Vicar of Christ in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that the Church had no power to ordain women priests. A year later, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the future Pope Benedict XVI, clarified John Paul II’s teaching as 'to be held definitively as belonging to the deposit of faith.'

Like 'Christ's divinity' you mean? [What are you saying about Our Lord's divinity? Why 'Christ's divinity' and not Christ's divinity? Because, yeah, pretty much "likeChrist's divinity" in that it's not going to be changed.]  So now we not only have 'creeping infallibility' but 'anticipatory infallibility'? [Kate at Australia Incognita has a good exposition of the notion of 'creeping infalibility' here. As for 'anticipatory infallibility,' I'm not even sure what that's supposed to mean, given the broad meaning of the former phrase.]

Official Church teachings and various statements on the validity or otherwise of the Orders of other Christian denominations are numerous, date back centuries and were, in some instances, reaffirmed by the CDF (under the future Pope Benedict XVI) as recently as 1998 as definitive. To suppose that such teachings could be dropped or changed by the Church was never anything more than mere fantasy. [As the Chaplain at NDFreo said today "Ah, come one! You think you can change the Great Holy Mother Church? You must be dreaming!] And whether critics were in a majority or a minority in the diocese of Toowoomba is immaterial. The truth of the Gospel never depends on numbers.

Which is why a phrase like 'sown consternation in his diocese' needs no evidence let alone counter-evidence. [Even if it was only sworn in the mind and heart of one of his sheep, it is too much. (Cf. Mt 18:6, Mk 9:42, Lk 17:2)]

Bishop Morris has been portrayed (not surprisingly) by organisations such as the National Council of Priests of Australia as the innocent and unjustly treated victim of a dogmatic, pharisaical mindset under Pope Benedict and Rome (the usual conspiracy theory in the NCPA world of billabong theology where no fresh water appears to have flowed in since 1968).

Never underestimate the power of parenthesis! [They are really handy for adding information to your sentence that is not needed (but can be helpful by means of clarification.)] [Again, this is irony.]

But as reported in this edition of The Record he was actually treated with the utmost delicacy, discretion and respect by two Popes and three Vatican dicasteries. He was given more than ten years to resolve the issues and, remaining immovable, still stubbornly resisted repeated requests for his resignation.

How do you know that? Where's the record? How can you verify such speculation about how he was treated and how he responded? You can't. You (like the rest of us) just 'assume' and 'speculate' in a way that satisfies what you thought all along.[Have you even done any reading about the issue? There's plenty of information about it out there. *See UPDATE at the bottom of this post.] In the best of Western democratic tradtiions that is far from good enough. [It's a good thing that the Church is not a democarcy, isn't it?]

One other problem seems to have eluded Bishop Morris. Catholic spouses and families everywhere face an unprecedented onslaught against their faith, their values and their children from a modern anti-culture predicated on the idea that there are really no more moral rules and no real consequences: one should do whatever one wants.

AKA the dreaded 'moral relativism' in another name. [Yup.]

As the simple people of faith ...

Do you believe this? [Don't you?]

... do their best to lead the at-times difficult Christian life of fidelity to Jesus and everything He taught, they do not need bishops who will obscure the way or who become obstacles to the heroic vocation of Christian marriage and family. In fact, they are, sadly, better off without them. One might say that they need a Bishop who can be a rock. One of the two Bishops at the heart of this controversy is undoubtedly that.

Who was the other guy? I guess that's a secret too. [Hardly, 'the other guy' is the successor to Peter, the Rock.]

UPDATE (kinda): The Record has stories here and here which outline some of the sources of info that they have. Also, seriously, just read around a bit.


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