Father Edward L. Beck, a Passionist Priest, and a contributor to ABC, wrote a column for ABC in which he calls for Vatican III. I think the article is worth a fisking.
April 2, 2010 —Surely this was originally intended for April 1?
As Christians begin their celebration of the Easter season, the Catholic church seems stuck in Good Friday. No Father, the Catholic Church is always “stuck” in Easter. Just when some would like to turn their attention to the profound mysteries of their faith, they are instead mystified by yet another round of horrendous sex abuse storiesmaking headlines. Yeah, totally by accident, and too bad Father doesn’t spend time mentioning how spurious this piece of tripe by the New York Times was.
Most Catholics in the United States were convinced that the issue of sexual abuse by priests had been adequately dealt with after the last go round more than eight years ago. I do not think this is the case. Most Catholics in this country are still fuming about predator priests and the bishops who protected them. Many are also outraged by the ambulance chasing attorneys and the suspicion that some of the victims are merely cashing in on flimsy evidence. There is still a lot of outrage about this whole mess. In many ways, it has been. U.S. bishops adopted strict policies of zero-tolerance after the abuse scandal exploded in 2002. Bishops are now required to comply with state laws for reporting abuse and to cooperate fully with authorities. For the most part the stories once again generating news in the United States concern old cases and the previous negligence of bishops to deal effectively and justly with the crisis. New to the controversy has been the suggestion by some that the Pope himself bears responsibility for lapses. Actually such accusations have been flying around for years. They have gotten nowhere because they lack substance.
The recent reports indicate this is not — and never has been — a distinctly American church problem. I doubt if many Catholics in this country thought that it was. The European Catholic Church is now experiencing what the U.S. Catholic Church did nearly a decade ago. Once reports from Pope Benedict’s native Germany emerged that boys had been abused in a church-run school there, hundreds more from other European countries came forward admitting that they too had been victims of abuse decades ago. We have not heard the last of these stories. Africa and Latin America have yet to weigh in, but they will. Reports from those parts of the world will eventually emerge to increase the dismay of those who expected more diligence and, indeed, holiness, from religious institutions.
What is readily observable from the avalanche of reports is that the sexual abuse of minors is a systemic, worldwide problem. But it is not exclusively a Catholic or ecclesial one. True. It cuts across all faiths, institutions and family systems. Presently, however, it is the Catholic church in the spotlight, so it must take the lead in dealing with this issue in a transparent, effective and ultimately transformative way. Though its halo has been dimmed by past negligence, if only the scandal of the criminal protection afforded by bishops to predator priests had been limited to mere negligence the church can still be a beacon of light to lead the way if it now proceeds with haste and unwavering conviction. We might start by ordaining only those who believe what the Church teaches when it comes to sexual morality. We must also understand that a fair number of the people who attack the Church on this issue are motivated much more by raw hatred of the Church than concern for the victims. The evil from our ranks must be excised, but let us not assume we will receive plaudits from the World for doing so.
So then, what is the best way for the church to move forward? Dramatic failure requires a dramatic solution. Nothing gets the attention of the church and, perhaps the world, like a Vatican Council. Here we get to the purpose behind this article. The last one, of course, ended more than 45 years ago in 1965. While some would maintain that we have yet to fully execute the decrees of that Council, the world and the church have changed dramatically in the interim. When has the World not been changing? As to Vatican II, all the turmoil in the Church since that Council should cause us to hesitate before calling the next one. The current crisis in the church can serve as the impetus for once again calling together the worldwide church community in pursuit of modernization, reform and spiritual integration for a new time and world. Always be alarmed when anyone proposes a radical step for the sake of vague terms like modernization, reform and spiritual integration.
What issues might this Council address? The death of the Faith in Europe? Rampant immorality? The failure of the Novus Ordo Mass to inspire many Catholics? Many to be sure, but chief among them could be the current crisis confronting the priesthood. Homosexuality? Lack of fidelity to their vows? A desire for a life of ease? Certainly the issue of sexual abuse and the devastating toll it has taken in the church might be examined and addressed definitively, once and for all. In addition, while pedophilia and the sexual abuse of minors and priestly celibacy are not organically related, the abuse crisis has once again raised the issue of the necessity and relevancy of mandatory celibacy for diocesan priests. How long has celibacy been bugging you Father? Wasn’t that particular requirement spelled out clearly enough for you when you were ordained? The majority of Catholics and priests want an open discussion about this issue, but up to this point, that has not been permitted. Rubbish. This ” issue” isn’t even on the radarscope for most priests and laity.
It may be helpful to recall that, for the first millennium of the church, clergy were permitted to marry. False. Pope Siricius in 385 decreed celibacy for the clergy. Priests who already were married were to observe continence with their wives. These same regulations are noted in various Church councils of the period. Restrictions to that freedom were enacted due mainly to socio-political concerns that church property was being passed on to children and family members of priests. Completely untrue, although it is a familiar mantra of the opponents of celibacy. A good examination of the actual historical development of celibacy in the Church is here. While the church also spiritualized the virtue of celibacy and implied its “higher calling” status, it was not originally considered constitutive of priesthood.
Today there is also the unusual and sometimes resented occurrence of priests from the Episcopal tradition being permitted to transfer to Roman Catholicism as priests with wives and families in tact. That does little to help the morale of a defeated celibate clergy who must sometimes then minister side by side with married priests who have more rights and privileges than the celibate ones do. Ah, so it is all the fault of those new priests coming over from the sinking Episcopal ship!
A Vatican Council could address this issue in an open forum. While the church indeed changes slowly, one thousand years of a celibate priesthood may be enough time now to reevaluate its value and relevancy. “Relevancy”, oh what follies have been committed for the sake of that word! Of course, any change would not affect priests in religious orders who take vows and live in community, and it need not affect all diocesan priests. Big of you Father! If the rules were ever modified, some priests might still choose to be celibate “for the sake of the kingdom,” and for the sake of an undivided devotion to an absorbing and full time ministry. But celibacy would then be a free choice. It is a free choice now Father. For now, it remains a necessary and sometimes resented discipline if one is to function as a Roman Catholic priest. If it is resented Father, then I think that would be an excellent indication that a man does not have the calling to be a priest.
Many feel that other issues should also be addressed if a new Vatican Council was ever convened. Women priests, sexual ethics, inter-religious dialogue, globalization and ecology are but some of the topics that get mentioned. What a boring list of the ever present litany of the Catholic Left. Ordain women, dump Church teaching on sexual morality, blend in with the mainline Protestants, follow the left wing issue du jour and go green. Father, there is a church that embraces all the stances you favor. It is dying, but if you hurry an Episcopalian “priesthood” can be yours. Above all people seem to desire an open dialogue, simply to be able to talk about these issues in an adult forum where their life experience and hard-earned wisdom is acknowledged as a indispensable element in the establishment of church law and doctrine. Hate to break it to you Father, but the teachings of the Church are not up for majority vote, and if they were I suspect you would not like many of the results. This would mean that more than Red Hats gather for such a Council. The laity would need to be more than window dressing this time. They would rather be respected as serious deliberators who help the ecclesiastical hierarchy to shape a new and spirit-filled vision. That this would contradict 2000 years of how the Church has determined doctrine means less than nothing to you doesn’t it Father?
The metaphor often used for Vatican II is that of a window having been opened so that the fresh wind of a new Spirit could blow through. Considering the results of the Council one would be hard pressed to find a metaphor that in retrospect has proved more inapt. Many feel the air in the room has once again grown stale and even a bit rancid. We agree on that point if little else Father. Is it time to once again open the ecclesial portals for a new and mighty wind to blow through? No Father. I think it is rather a time for mass repentance in the Church and a return to the Catholic Faith by clergy and laity alike.
The Easter Season that we currently celebrate will end in seven weeks with the feast of Pentecost, the day commemorating the advent of the strong and mighty wind of the Holy Spirit filling the house where the disciples were and thus ushering in a new and courageous church. For many stuck in Good Friday the hope and dream of a new Pentecost might be realized if the church can once again allow that Spirit to lead it into a new and promising future. Interesting how Catholic Leftists always attempt to enlist the Holy Spirit on their side. I assume that since the words of the Father and the Son in the Bible are so much against their agenda that leaves them with the third member of the Trinity by default! After all, Easter proclaims that new life is possible no matter how dark the tomb may appear to be. What Easter actually proclaims is the Resurrection of Christ, something taught by the Church for 2000 years to an often hostile and ever-changing World. Father might wish to consider how the Church managed to do that before he asks the Church to abandon and reshape doctrines wholesale.