April 15, 2010

Saving the Papacy

It may be that the only way to save the papacy at this point is for the present pontiff to engage in the moral equivalent of the Gang nach Canossa undertaken in an earlier age towards his predecessor. It is a reversal of roles, but reversal is what repentance is all about.

If you don't know what the papacy needs saving from, check this out. It is more relevant now even than when written.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


June Butler said...

I don't see the Gang nach Canossa happening, Tobias- nor the moral equivalent.

I've already read the material at your link, and I have proof.

JCF said...

Interesting, Tobias: I hadn't heard of "Gang nach Canossa" (in my rushed MA at UTS, I only did Church History 101 and 103, skipping 102: The Middle Ages!).

In a more Anglo context, I'm reminded of . . . one of the Henrys, I think, making his penitential crawl after his men "rid him of that meddlesome priest", Becket?

Josef Ratzinger can stay in the Vatican, for all I care . . . just AFTER having tendered his resignation!

Anonymous said...

You and I will be long dead and forgotten and a Successor of Peter will continue to sit upon the papal throne.

"Saving the Papapcy." A little melodramatic today, are we?


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

G.M., sadly, I agree with your prognosis.

JCF, yes, Henry II came to mind as well.

Fr.M., I mean saving the moral authority of the papacy. Surely you are aware of the serious impact the current crisis is having, and it strikes at the heart of the institution: or are you too caught up in the tendency to minimize both the actual harm done, and the consequences of that harm on the reputation of the church -- the very thing the cover-ups were intended to preserve is now in peril! Seems to remind me of the warning about those who seek to save their lives losing them. And if you want melodrama, I think the screeches from the papal "protectors" qualify as grand opera buffa!

Leonard said...

"Saving the Papapcy." A little melodramatic today, are we?


Such a rare hardwood that heads are sometimes carved out of...truly it ought be endangered.

Deacon Charlie Perrin said...

In American politics the truism is and has been that the cover-up ends up doing far more damage than the crime itself.

I heard that yesterday the Pope stated that the Church was under attack by the forces of the world and that all Christians needed to repent.

Well, Holy Father, will you be the first in line or the last?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Amen, Leonardo. This is the problem with a position that one is beyond judgment. (Canon 1404)

Yes Deacon Charlie. It came to mind the other day, "What do Richard Nixon, Akio Toyoda, and Benedict XVI have in common?"

WSJM said...

Why should the papacy be saved at all? (Although I agree that its current trajectory would be a very sad way for it to go.) Oh, I certainly agree that the Diocese of Rome should have a bishop, and indeed that the Italian Catholic Church should have a primate. I would even concede that should the Universal Church ever be blessed with a truly ecumenical council, it would be okay if the Bishop of Rome got to hold the gavel. But what has the papacy done for the Church since Gregory sent Augustine to Canterbury? Hmm...let me think....

rick allen said...

In fact there has been much and almost continuous soul-searching, confession and repentence. Those things are good and necessary, but the problem is not one of doctrine (no one is advocating a return to ancient norms of “noble pederasty”), but of administration and effective policing.

The authority of the Bishop of Rome, for Catholics, has been set out with much detail in the last two ecumenical councils. The extent of his teaching and governing authority, however, says nothing about the effective competence of the court of Rome to govern an institution with more than a billion members (keep in mind that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles alone has roughly twice the number of members than the entire Episcopal Church). There has to be central leadership, but the implementation has to be local. The idea that a single eighty-three-year-old man can fix everything is to mistake the pontiff for the messiah.

As for the pope’s “moral authority,” most of those decrying that loss seem to me to be those for whom he never had any such authority in the first place. If he is guilty of what he is charged with, many will be disappointed, but few will leave. Our faith doesn’t turn on the purity or competence of our clergy. Though these offices are an integral part of the Church, and the Church the primary vehicle for the promulgation of the gospel, the Church’s message is not, “Be like the pope,” but “Follow Jesus.”

Brother David said...

"What do Richard Nixon, Akio Toyoda, and Benedict XVI have in common?"

They all drive a Lexus?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Bill, good questions!

Rick, your characterization of recent history doesn't match my reading. Misrepresentation in an effort to avoid scandal is the issue. Either Benedict (as Ratzinger) was responsible or he wasn't. You can't hide that in a cloud of rhetoric about the size of the church. We're talking here of individual cases he signed off on. And in doing so apparently overrode the "local implementation" and appeal for laicization, specifically in order to protect the reputation of the church. And he wasn't 83 then.

As to the present: No one mistakes the pontiff for Messiah, but as long as he is considered the Messiah's Vicar, he has to take responsibility no matter how old he is -- or resign. Your excuses for his incapacity seem to suggest that course. And my original suggestion was that a true display of humility and admission of past errors on his own part would go far to rescuing the institution. So far we've heard denial, pleading limited authority (as you do), or efforts to turn this into an assault on the institution. Pathetic.

And as to moral authority, I meant his moral authority for those who did accept it. Obviously many don't, even within the RCC (which is why so many "cafeteria Catholics" just sigh and wish this would all go away. But it is with those who still looked to the church for moral leadership that it is losing out. Are your really unaware of the precipitous decline in the church, and how much this recent scandal has weakened an already largely fictive "leadership"? After all, many realize they can in fact follow Jesus without the pope!

Dahveed, perhaps they should have spent more time with Lexis?

dr.primrose said...

"keep in mind that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles alone has roughly twice the number of members than the entire Episcopal Church."

One of the recent interesting developments in religious newscoverage in Los Angeles is that the L.A. Times has pretty much stopped covering ordinations. The Roman archdiocesan and the Episocpal diocesan ordinations occur at about the same time. One year there was a big fanfare that the Roman archdiocese had a recent record of three new priests being ordained. That was followed by a picture of the ordination of 10 new priests from the Episcopal diocese.

Given the disparity in numbers -- 5 million versus 85 thousand -- the archdiocese should have been ordaining around 500-600 priests to be equivalent.

The rumor was that the archdiocese was grossly embarrassed and somehow pulled strings to get the Times to cut coverage. I doubt that rumor since the Times has pretty much gutted religious coverage in general.

But the numbers are nonetheless tellling.

Anonymous said...

"Either Benedict (as Ratzinger) was responsible or he wasn't."

Well, up to the canonical reforms earlier this decade Cardinal Ratzinger and CDF were not responsible for handling these types of cases. The transfer of these cases to CDF has been a godsend since Cardinal Ratzinger seems to have been the first Roman cardinal to realize the gravity of the situation.

Was Cardinal Ratzinger too much of a bureaucrat in maintaining Pope John Paul's no-laicization-until-age-40 rule in the 70s, 80s, and 90s? Clearly. Like most one-size-fits-all rules, it dealt with one scandal (the large number of requested laicizations from the Paul VI era) and overlooked another (clerical pederasty). It's all too clear that Rome didn't understand the quantitative level of clerical abuse until 2002.

Meanwhile, the number of convicted pedophile priests under the canonical authority of Archbishop Ratzinger/Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI who have been documented to have continued in active sacerdotal ministry with his knowledge and permission: zero. Amid the anger, the outrage, the shame, and the other forms of fury we practicing Catholics have over the revelations of clerical abuse and episcopal coverup, that number is why the calls for his resignation come from outside the Church rather than from the pews.


Doorman-Priest said...

Should we save the papacy?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Taking a moment from my round of meetings....

Fr. M., I hope you will notice that I am not among those calling for a resignation. I'm calling for a clear act of repentance, even if it takes the somewhat pusilanimous form of "I was only following orders." The issue at this point is no longer the pedophilia itself, or the refusal to laicize, but the now exposed half-truths from Benedict himself (or his spokespersons) that he was "unaware" -- documents he signed are now come to light, indicating he did follow the party line at the time, as a good obedient servant of the papacy. Had he admitted that when the issue first came up, I think he could have defused the later ire. As to your "zero" figure, that now has to be taken cum grano salis even if it is true, because past mendacity and coverups have undermined the capacity to trust that we now have "full disclosure." Each new small revelation thus gains amplified power, and the papacy suffers the death of a thousand paper-cuts, and trust -- which is a fundamental aspect of loyalty to the church these days -- is seriously debilitated. If you are unable to see this pattern, and the path along which it leads if not corrected, then you are part of the problem rather than the solution. However, it is your problem, not mine. In this particular crisis I am a mere spectator, not an umpire.

D-P: I don't think "we" can save it -- for that very reason. In the long run we might better ask if we can save the See of Canterbury!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. Tobias--

I see the problem of trust firsthand, truly firsthand, since I am a Northern California priest and we have the notorious case of the Oakland priest and his delayed laicization. In my parish, his specific case is a greater topic of conversation than the European scandals. That, I suppose, is a function of the ethnic makeup of my parish and the geographic proximity of his crimes.

In any case, my parishioners already had a low level of trust in their bishops based on the American revelations of abuse and coverup. Including the current Pope in their (the bishops) untrustworthy company hasn't been much of a stretch. Sad but true. And yet my parish thrives. Clearly, a distinction is made in the pews between the flawed men who lead us and the Catholic Faith itself.

One thing this has done, though, is change a preaching habit of mine. I like the Pope's books, and have quoted from them freely, but now that is a turnoff. I will use his ideas, but paraphrased and not attributed to him.

I'm with you on the need for a clear act of penance. Cynically, and with more than a little frustration, I don't expect to see it in this lifetime, but Purgatory awaits most of us, Pope, bishop, priest, and lay alike.


Counterlight said...

I don't see a repeat of Canossa with roles reversed ever happening. Popes are too proud.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Fr. Michael, for this. I empathize, as my experience of parish life is similar: the controversies in the stratosphere often have much less impact on the ground. God willing the parishes will survive and the storms will pass.

Counterlight, I can't remember where the line comes from, but "prisoner of the Vatican" seems to ring true. It is not just a personality issue, but a systematic or institutional problem that even a well-intentioned leader may find himself unable to work through. This is part of what I was getting at in the earlier appeal against "Imperium."

Anonymous said...

"Prisoner of the Vatican" is the claim made by the popes, starting with Pius IX and continuing until summer 1929 when Pius XI signed a deal with Mussolini, that the Italian state had no right to Rome (or the areas around Rome)but that a united Italy was a usurping power and that Catholics should come to Rome to "liberate" the Pope and give him "his" lands back, that God had given the popes these lands and that no pope could be truly independent unless he was also a temporal power, with army and navy and diplomats. Until the 1929 Lateran Treaty giving them Vatican City as their 'nation', the popes refused to leave the Vatican and claimed that they could not in good conscience leave until they had been "restored" to power and "their" former territories.
This view can still be seen on such internet sites such as "Roman Christendom" and Gerald Warner's column at "The Daily Telegraph".
There are even reenactment groups of soldiers (the papal zoaves)who claim that the action to keep the pope ruler of more than a fourth of Italy was a righteous cause.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks for the history lesson! I'd no idea it was of such relatively recent coinage. It sounds more like the episode in which the Pope Clement VII was surrounded by the troops of the Emperor Charles V!

JCF said...

Like most one-size-fits-all rules, it dealt with one scandal (the large number of requested laicizations from the Paul VI era) and overlooked another (clerical pederasty).

I find this statement GOBSMACKING: are laicizations and the sexual abuse of children EQUIVALENTS in your mind? A "scandal" for a "scandal"?!

I like the Pope's books, and have quoted from them freely, but now that is a turnoff. I will use his ideas, but paraphrased and not attributed to him.

I'm trying to imagine this, for myself: someone whose books I like, has behaved reprehensibly. Do I still quote the books? Do I still view my "liking" them as an "art for art's sake" kind of thing? [Do I go see---speaking of child-abuse---Roman Polanski's movies, for example? FWIW, no I do not.]

It DOES come down to repentance (which I don't believe can be real w/o the amendment-of-life that includes resignation from any position of power-over. "Sexual abuse" is more about the ABUSE, power-over, than sex, per se). IF Ratzinger repents, then I could---IF I liked his books in the first place! (truthfully, I haven't read any. I own at least one book by JP2, but I haven't read it, either)---appreciate them on their own terms. Without such repentance, then they're just too much "fruit of a poisonous tree".

Anonymous said...

No, Clement VII wasn't a prisoner in the Vatican under Charles V; he was barricaded inside Castel Sant'Angelo (the former mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian turned into a small fortress)with cardinals, bishops and nuns begging to be hauled up by ropes to escape the Spanish and German soldiers looting, raping and killing.
He was much more truly a prisoner (i.e., if he'd gone outside, he'd have been taking his life in his hands)but he wasn't in the Vatican. Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV and Pius XI (until 1929) were pretty much self-declared prisoners; they were doing it as a publicity stunt-like the archbishop of York cutting up his collar or camping out in a tent inside his cathedral.

Anonymous said...

"Prisoner of the Vatican" is the name of a book on mid-19th century/early 20th century Italian history by a Brown University professor who's also written about Edgardo Mortara, the jewish boy baptized by a catholic servant and subsequently taken away from his family by the Inquisition under Pius IX while Pius IX still had all 'his' territories.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

JCF, I think you are reading more into Fr M's statement than he said or intended. Both matters were scandalous, from a papal perspective, and I think it fair to say the Vatican did not realize the scope of the pedophilia scandal. That is not to say, scope or no scope, that it was trivial -- just that they mistakenly thought they'd dealt with it appropriately.

Also on quoting his books. It seems ad hominem to attack an author on all grounds simply because of some real failings in his life. I can agree with a thesis or an argument or a statement without approving of the life or morals of the speaker. I think the Vatican made a number of serious mistakes in handling this situation. But I do not reject everything the Vatican has done.

Anonymous, thanks; I did know that it was in the Castel -- not the Vatican proper -- that Clement found himself besieged; what I didn't know about was the ironic self-designation by Pio Nono and his successors. I was using the phrase in an entirely third way, to suggest how it is that leaders become captivated by the very institutions they lead. As to York, I quite agree: I winced at news of the tent.

JCF said...

I must disagree, Tobias. I think the high rate of laicizations may be seen as unfortunate, or perhaps even tragic. But "scandalous"? No. [And certainly not an equivalent scandal w/ child abuse! :-0]

It seems ad hominem to attack an author on all grounds simply because of some real failings in his life. I can agree with a thesis or an argument or a statement without approving of the life or morals of the speaker.

OK, I was probably overly broad. Still, absent repentance, I would have great difficulty citing a notorious sinner on the subject, say, of ethics! "Do what he says, not what he did"? To me, that just wouldn't work in a homily. (IMO)

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

JCF, its the "equivalence" I think you are misreading into Fr. M.'s comment. As I read him, he is saying that the Vatican was so caught up in what to them was a scandalous situation (whether we think it so or not isn't the issue) that they very seriously "misunderestimated" the extent and seriousness of the pedophilia. If they had laicized all the clergy seeking it, it _would_ have been a scandal to the church, (I can see the headlines now: Church looses hoards of clergy!) and they were seeking to _avoid_ scandal by covering up what they thought were a few isolated cases of serious clergy misconduct. In the long run laicization across the board would probably have been bad press in the short run, and good press in the long! Hence my ref to "losing your life by saving it."

I agree with your other point, though: I'd not cite an adulterous ethicist on the meaning of the vows of marriage (though I know of just such a one -- in whose shoes I would not want to be on the day of judgment as I know I'll have enough to answer for on my own!). But citing Pope Benedict XVI on, say, liturgy, seems o.k.

But you've reminded me of an incident from my high school debating years --- and yes, we had microphones in those days too! My debating coach was critical of a judge at a debate who "called out" a debator for quoting Nixon (this was in 1964), saying, "Don't quote Nixon. He lost." My coach said the fact that Nixon lost didn't render everything he said wrong, and it was a punchy quote that made a good point.

Anyway, I'm unlikely to quote Benedict very much, as there is little upon which I agree with him; and where I do I think others have said it better than he...

Anonymous said...


Let me see if I can answer your concerns. I think the crux of the issue with regards to Oakland's abusive priest is failing to distinguish between suspension and laicization. There is no reason as a non-RC why you would know this and since press accounts (and the RCC) seem to be unable to accurately describe what these are to the public the resulting confusion and outrage is not surprising.

Suspension is done at the diocesan level. The priest loses his faculties to conduct priestly ministry and is not to present himself in public as a priest in good standing. But since he still remains under the promise of obedience to his bishop, additional conditions can be added, such as no interaction with youth, no wearing of clerical dress, etc. Rome does not get involved with suspensions unless the cleric initiates canonical proceedings to overturn the suspension.

(to be continued)


Anonymous said...

To be laicized is to release the priest of his obligations as a cleric (save for celibacy, which requires a separate dispensation). This would include the promise of obedience to his bishop and the requirement of daily praying of the Liturgy of the Hours. The Oakland priest requested the laicization, not the diocese.

Thus there is nothing a laicization would have done to protect youth any more than a suspension with the added codicil regarding youth.

The flaw in the ointment, of course, is that an erring priest may choose not to obey the suspension, and the abuse be covered up from oversight from the civil authorities. But these issues are completely independent of whether Rome grants a laicization or not.

(one more segment to go on the scandal of priest laicizations)


Anonymous said...

As for the scandal of priests being laicized. Although I am not familiar with the Anglican/Episcopalian theology of orders, I suspect that the idea of a TEC priest leaving the priesthood to pursue other goals in life is not as scandalous to the faithful of TEC as an RCC priest doing the same. The idea of Holy Orders being an ontological change and a vocation to be followed for life is deeply ingrained in the Catholic faithful. There was, in fact, grave scandal in the 70s and 80s at the large number of priests (and nuns) abandoning their vocations by the tens of thousands in the US and Europe. I was too young to experience the scandal firsthand but know plenty of older Catholics who were (and are) shocked by the exodus. In fact, at one parish I served the founding pastor left priestly ministry and married, causing hurt that lasts to this day, nearly 40 years later.

I knew that Pope John Paul II had reversed Paul VI's policy of blanket dispensations but until the recent exposes did not know the details of his policy-- that is, the informal "no laicization under 40" rule, which exists nowhere in our canon law.

What I fault Cardinal Ratzinger for, in this specific instance, is looking at the request, not thinking "this man will never be allowed back into priestly ministry," and pushing for the laicization as an exception to John Paul's general rule. Instead, he was the bureaucrat. But the young Catholics of Oakland were neither safer nor more at risk because of Cardinal Ratzinger's decision.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Father Michael,

Thanks for the further elucidation, which I hope will be of help for anyone who does not understand the distinctions.

As to the question of Orders, the theology and the canonical regulation is almost identical for The Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church, although the language is different, as are the procedures and some of the particulars (our clergy, sadly, are not required to say the Office even when they are ordained -- much to our common detriment, I believe. Regular clergy, such as myself say the office as part of our Rule).

Our canons are quite strict -- for instance, clergy are not to engage in secular business without the permission of the bishop, and if they persist in doing so are required to show cause as to why they should not be "removed from the ministry" -- the canons throughout attempting to make clear the distinction between Order (which is permanent) and Ministry (which can be curtailed or restricted) runs through the canons. We don't use the term faculty but tend to use more cumbersome phrases such as "authority to exercise the ministry of..." but it amounts to the same thing.

However, I think you are accurate in your assessment that Episcopalians in general are less scandalized when a priest voluntarily renounces his ministry than Roman Catholics are. I think we are about equally scandalized when it comes to the case of a priest being deposed or laicized for cause. And the graver the offense, the greater the scandal. Here in New York there was a recent tawdry episode of a priest charged with misappropriation of funds, and it was all over the papers. We also have had our share of sexual misconduct scandals over the years. Due to the practical differences in which the priesthood is understood in our respective churches, however, it is "easier" for a bishop to depose an Episcopal priest. What I mean is that while Roman Catholic clergy have made a personal dedication to a manner of life, and are under a greater authority in terms of where they serve, Episcopal clergy likely find it easier to transition into secular life, and even within the church are more like "free agents" in terms of their appointment and ministry. I realize I'm painting with a broad brush, which may seem to make more of these differences than is real; but I think Roman Catholic bishops in general probably feel a greater responsibility to and for the cleric, then do Episcopal bishops. As a practical matter, an Episcopal bishop cannot effectively say, "Father Joe got into trouble at St. Swithin's, so we'll move him to St. Peter's." The instances in which bishops can do that are few and far between -- so the option to suspend or depose (= suspend or laicize) becomes the norm.

On the main topic, there was an interesting report on NPR /BBC world news this morning about the state of things in Germany. It seems there has been a threefold growth in the number of people requesting "deregistration" from the church tax in recent months, and the poll revealed most of them to be Roman Catholic.

June Butler said...

Fr Michael, you say:

There was, in fact, grave scandal in the 70s and 80s at the large number of priests (and nuns) abandoning their vocations by the tens of thousands in the US and Europe. I was too young to experience the scandal firsthand but know plenty of older Catholics who were (and are) shocked by the exodus.

What good is gained by refusing laicization to priests (and nuns) who no longer want to serve as priests and nuns? What about the scandal when priests (and nuns) who wanted to marry and waited years to be laicized, and some finally went ahead and married because they got tired of waiting, and then the laicization came through?

Erika Baker said...

in Germany church tax is levied automatically as a part of income tax until you formally leave the church.
You are either registered as Catholic or as Protestant and it has nothing to do with whether you actually have a faith or go to church.

I suspect that many of those now deregistering are not really practicing Catholics.
That's not to say that it isn't bad for the RC church to see these people leave, but it may not accurately reflect how practicing Catholics feel about the Papacy.

Anonymous said...

Dear Grandmere Mimi:

Ultimately, you will have to ask John Paul II in the next life as it was his policy.

I will take a stab at it though, knowing several priests who left the priesthood in the era and then returned to ministry. Most of them in retrospect described their decision-making as rash judgment, an improper response to the spiritual crisis they were facing at the time. It makes sense to me that the Pope could see that Paul VI's laxity was encouraging such rash judgments and the age 40 rule was put in as a brake, mandating a time for discernment or at least easing the return to priestly ministry once the crisis was passed. It is a lot easier to return a priest to ministry if he's on an indefinite leave of absence than it is to "unlaicize" him. That is actually the norm in the US: everybody RC diocese I know of has priests on indefinite leave as opposed to beginning laicization proceedings. Those usually start if the priest wishes to get married.

Another possibility for delayed laicizations could have to do teaching the Church, priests, and religious a lesson: priestly and religious promises/vows are sacred and meant for life. To be removed from these freely-chosen vows is not to be treated lightly.

Both of the above scenarios are merely my conjecture. I've never read any account detailing JP2's reasoning.

Lastly, what about the scandal of priests and religious marrying invalidly, without being granted their dispensations? That's an easy one. Fornication has existed since Original Sin. While priests and religious are put on pedestals, I think most Catholics of any era, at least by anecdote, have heard of priests/religious cheating on their vows. IMHO falling by lust is more understandable than throwing away a sacred vocation.


Anonymous said...

Tobias, touching on your analyis of the differences between the RC and Episcopal practices, I have seen in some of the coverage of the sex abuse scandal how the RCC expects bishops to be a father to their priests, which includes a responsibilty to help them when they do wrong and to not immediately "toss one's wayward son" out. This creates a different dynamic than the relationship between TEC bishops and the priests of a diocese.

Also, in the RCC, non-order priests generally spend their entire career is the same diocese, which creates a different dynamic than in TEC, where priest frequently move from diocese to diocese to take a new calling.

David C

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear Erika,
Yes, I understand the German system. One of our diocesan staff, now departed this life, was a German national, and spoke to me once about the process.
But the news story this morning interviewed a number of the people "deregistering" and they were all doing it in protest or dismay. Of course, that's where the selectiveness of the press comes in, and I by no means reject entirely the charge that the press can choose to heighten selected aspects of the story!

Fr. M., thanks again for the further words. I completely agree about the seriousness of removal from vows. It is a very serious step, and those who simply ignored their vows and did as they pleased are hardly examples for the church or for the world.

David C., I agree entirely. One of the most difficult aspects of the TEC canons is that once a charge is made against a priest a bishop essentially has to stop any possible pastoral ministry to him or her. I think that is a broken system which reduces the episcopate to a kind of senior executive rather than a pastor. Of course, the failing a more intimate and personal connection between an RC priest and his bishop leads to likely errs to much on the other side, and likely explains, as you suggest, some of the problems that arose in seeing a criminal as a "wayward son" and finding it difficult to report him to the civil authorities.

June Butler said...

Another possibility for delayed laicizations could have to do teaching the Church, priests, and religious a lesson: priestly and religious promises/vows are sacred and meant for life. To be removed from these freely-chosen vows is not to be treated lightly.

Fr Michael, I'm not sure about the teaching a lesson part, because that has a punitive ring to it, but I agree with your final sentence in the quote that vows are not to be taken lightly. But how long must the priest wait? A year? Two years? Surely, no more than that. And yet priests waited longer.

And the blanket rule to delay laicization until the age of 40 in all cases, doesn't make sense to me. It seems to me that individual cases should be handled each on its own merits, or else the priest is in somewhat of a hostage situation.

If a priest is not laicized within a reasonable period (two years) and undertakes to marry in a civil ceremony, I would not label his sexual relations with his legal wife fornication.

I understand that the rules are not your rules, Fr Michael, and that you may not agree with the rules, and I thank you for your patience in addressing my questions and comments.

I was a member of the Roman Catholic Church for 60 years until the news of child abuse and cover-up broke in my diocese. It was the cover-up that broke the camel's back for me. There is much that I loved in the RCC and much that I still love, and it was difficult decision and a wrench when I chose to leave. I take no pleasure in the present crisis in the church. On the contrary, I am greatly saddened by it.

Anonymous said...

Why would Germans tolerate being taxed by the government for an organization to which they don't really belong? Doesn't that lead to their clergy being lazy? If they get paid automatically, they don't care who shows up or what their opinions are.
Having the government be the collector and distributor of money violates the separation of church and state.

MarkBrunson said...

Who cares about the papacy?

I mean really. It long ago gave up it's authority for a mess of pottage. Why this idolatrous need for "historical sees" as focal points? If it stays it stays, if it dies it dies. Might just as well wring your hands over the loss of the original IHOP.

Erika Baker said...

I'm sure these people deregistered in protest and despair. You would have to feel strongly if you went to the administrative trouble of deregistering.
It still doesn't answer the question of how many of these people were practicing Catholics. Many simply remain on the roll because they agree with the stabilising function of the church in society, or because they want to support the social activities of the church - in Germany churches run hospitals, nursing homes etc, all worthwhile things that even nominal Christians would agree to finance.

But your question was whether the Papacy can be saved and for that, I think the relevant RC members are those who attend church and who have a genuine faith.

The sheer number of people leaving the church at the moment is no clear indicator.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Anonymous, please identify yourself in the future. As to the "separation" that is an American idea (also found in some other countries, such as France) but by no means universal. In much of Europe the church is state supported and/or regulated.

Mark, in a way it is like the institution of the classical concert hall. It will survive if enough people want it to. Which is, I think, Erika's point as well. My point is that a certain critical minimum will be required, and in many places the figures are down so low that it will not be possible to maintain much of a presence or authority. My suggestion is that when the focus is turned to service rather than control, looking to the real strengths and capacities for helping others, there will be greater support and a brighter futures. This goes for TEC and the CoE as well!

Erika Baker said...

you would "tolerate" being paying church tax if you believe that the church has a valuable function in society even if you don't share all its beliefs or do not count yourself as a highly active Christian.
Paying taxes, i.e. remaining at least a nominal member of the church, also entitles you to be baptised and married in church and to have a Christian funeral. In a country where social convention, history and culture are predominantely shaped by Christianity that's an important consideration.

Also, the charitable sector is different and the two official churches (Roman Catholic and Lutheran Protestant)do a lot of what is done by private organisations in other countries. Paying taxes to the church is almost considered as charitable giving and people who deregister often use the funds they save to sponsor other charities.

Because of that, there is a huge discrepancy between the number of nominal Christians and practicing Christians.

rick allen said...

"Who cares about the papacy?"

We papists, mostly. It is an important office. This is how the second Vatican council put it:

"Jesus Christ, the eternal Shepherd, established His holy Church, having sent forth the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father; and He willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world. And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion."

So the office is an important one to us, whether conducted well or ill.

Some others recognize a legitimate Petrine office, while denying the prerogatives exercised by the existing see. Others still disclaim Rome entirely while recognizing the value of a different primatial see. Whether these tendencies are natural promptings of the faith or corruptions remains a matter of active controversy.

Toby, you yourself remarked upthread that, "many realize they can in fact follow Jesus without the pope!" Of course they can. The question is whether we, who have been brought to Jesus by the institution Jesus founded, have some responsibility toward that institution, for those who come after us. It is surely not right for us to dismiss it, after it has preserved, over the centuries, the gospels, the apostolic preaching, the fathers and doctors of earlier ages and made those riches available to us.

That the papacy, for all its faults, has held in unity an institution of such antiquity and cultural diversity suggests some value in a world where so many other "canons" and commonalities are being dispersed.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

For some unknown reason -- and I assume a temporary one -- Rick's last comment shows up in the 'Post a Comment' pop-up window but not on the main screen.

In any case, he raises the issue of the various values of the papacy. I would suggest it has some real value, even though I do not impute to it any such primacy as a "first see" or "patriarchy of the West" or any such. But that does not mean that those who are part of the RCC under its own self-understanding (i.e., those in communion with the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him) do not have a right so to organize themselves. That this sort of structure meets their needs, just as the lack of such a structure meets the needs of, say, Southern Baptists, or the existence of a very different structure meets the institutional needs of Episcopalians -- is simply a fact. I make no absolute value judgment as to which is the better system, but I do know which one I prefer, which is why I am where I am.

Erika Baker said...

I particularly like Rick's point that the importance of the Papacy is not necessarily dependend on the actions of the respective incumbent. Many liberal Catholics I know (and I know that Rick is not one of them) also share this view and it helps them to remain in the church.

We non-Catholics understand this thinking too, because we don't throw the whole concept of Church overboard because we don't happen to like a particular Bishop or Archbishop. And the Americans in particular should understand it because they're largely holding fast to the idea of an Anglican Communion despite everything the current ABC throws at them.

MarkBrunson said...

The papacy has no importance outside the diocese of Rome, or should not. You want interdependence, stop watering it down with nonsense about this magic man or that holy big daddy - everyone is interdependent and not held together by an overinflated upper-level manager.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Mark, this is obviously a case of value systems rather than absolute realities. The papacy is valuable to those who value it. Even some Anglicans are willing to grant a kind of spiritual leadership or authority of the papacy -- obviously I am not among them. But I recognize that those who wish to commit themselves to the authority of the papacy had every right to do so. What I find incredible, and absolutely reject as a thesis, is that the institution of the Roman Catholic Church, including the papacy, has a divine origin -- at least any more than any other earthly institution. "The Church founded by Christ" is not contiguous with The Roman Catholic Church.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

I meant, coterminous. My morning coffee has not quite kicked in yet.