Whatever became of “communio”?
“Communio” (def.) the organic life of the Church where the diversity of gifts—like the various parts of the body—work together in complementary ways to usher in God’s reign.
St. Paul described communio using these words:
As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)
Was this idyllic image not one of the primary images used by Second Vatican Council to describe the Church and its organic life?
- Neither “liberals” nor “conservatives.”
- Neither “ultra-liberals” nor “ultra-conservatives.”
- Neither “Tridentine” nor “post-Vatican II.”
Only the one People of God consisting of the Body of Christ and their gifts—diverse as they are—alive and at work with one another “transforming all things in Christ Jesus.”
After five decades, however, it appears that communio is out and hunkering down is in, at least according to the Reverend Richard McBrien who holds the Crowley-O’Brien Professor of Theology Chair and is now hunkering down at the University of Notre Dame. The nation’s Catholic universities and colleges, Fr. McBrien observes, are places “where the long arms of a bishop cannot reach.”
Not all bishops, mind you. Just those “ultra-conservatives”—the Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI appointees in the United States.
Unfortunately, it’s some ideological progressives who have made communio impossible. Following Vatican II, these progressives didn’t want, nor do they want, nor they never will want any conservative (forget the ultra-conservatives) intruding into their safe zone.
What these ideological progressives have always feared most is any conservative bishop—not just an ultra-conservative—having the audacity to challenge the their magisterium on what they have made their home turf.
That said, Fr. McBrien’s article in the National Catholic Reporter may provide an indication of a far more profound change: The pendulum is changing directions, potentially threatening the protections afforded Fr. McBrien and those ideological progressives for nearly five decades.
Yes, those new conservative prelates are emphasizing fidelity to Church teaching. That alone seems to be scaring the bejeezus out of Fr. McBrien and ideological progressives.
A formerly compliant national hierarchy—whose members generally allowed those progressives free reign to redefine Church teaching in their image and likeness—is becoming increasingly less compliant. Its members may even possess sufficient backbone at some point in the near future to extend their long arm into those institutions and hold the ideological progressives—like Fr. McBrien—accountable for their doctrinal errors…in exactly the same way the nuns are now being held accountable for their doctrinal errors.
Of course, Fr. McBrien’s hope is that Benedict XVI’s successor will adopt McBrien’s progressive vision for the Church and will undo the “terrible backlash” visited on the U.S. Church by those ultra-conservative appointees who “overemphasize the abortion issue” over “social justice.”
Short of that, what’s next? “Ideologically progressive professors at Catholic universities and colleges on the bus?”
The “signs of the times” indicate that something more may be transpiring than just the pendulum shifting direction: Communio with the Bishop of Rome is in.
The week after the NCR published Fr. McBrien’s article, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Carlo Maria Viganò, extended his long arm into the matter.
According to the Catholic News Agency, Archbishop Viganò told an audience at the University of Notre Dame that it is a “grave and major problem” when self-professed Catholic faculty at Catholic institutions are the sources of teachings that conflict with Church teaching on important policy issues rather than defend it. Professors at these institutions who do so, the Archbishop noted, are “allying with those forces that are pitted against the Church. These institutions hold themselves out to be “Catholic.” But, he observed:
This, my brothers and sisters, is a grave and major problem that challenges the first freedom of religious liberty and the higher purpose of the human person.
Maybe the signs of the times are signaling that time is running out for the ideological progressives and their project to deconstruct Catholic higher education. And Fr. McBrien is worried about it.
To read the NCR article, click on the following link:
To read the CNA article, click on the following link: