Friday, March 27, 2009

Continuing discussion on Catholic dissidence, Archbishop Burke and Randall Terry

In my post, Archbishop Burke was duped by Randall Terry on purpose of interivew, a comment was dropped in by Stan Williams, PhD, and we are engaged in a little friendly blog-debate about the issue. I think it's a good dialogue and worth pulling out, because it highlights that solid, loyal Catholics can disagree on some things and maintain charity. I also do this here so I can add links and because my response is too long for the combox.

Before continuing, you might want to see that original post of mine in the opening link to get context - with comments, then drop into a post Stan made at Crossing Nineveh, to get his feedback: Archbishop Burke Chastises Randall Terry


Point well taken about St. Paul. To go along with your examples, I would say that some of the Church Fathers got into people's faces to defend the faith, as well. Honestly, this does give me pause at times, so I will continue to reflect on it.

A bishop wants to isolate the sick lamb so that the sickness does not spread to others. If he goes nuclear on the sick lamb, he scatters the flock in such a way as to lose more sheep than if he had used a less nuclear approach. I think this is often a bishop's dilemma. He wants to correct the situation, but bring along as many of the lambs as possible. I think mistakes have been made and false-charity crept in. However, as a body, I think they are learning.

There is a new generation of bishops, better formed, who have the mind of the Church. This itself will bring about interesting growth within the USCCB and I look forward to what they will bring us years down the road when their numbers increase. The focus has seemed to be on the individual dissenter and their self-esteem. That focus is now shifting in a big way towards the scandalization of other Catholics (the illness spreading from one sheep to many).

I see a boldness growing in the body of bishops that is promising, but we didn't get here overnight and it won't change overnight. One thing I learned from the writings of W. Edwards Deming years ago, was that sweeping change isn't nearly as effective as incremental change. God is a great engineer and if we look back in history, we will see that He works in decades and centuries, not days, weeks, or months.

Let's get back to that combox dialogue

First, in response to your second comment in the link at top...

I think we may agree on the following points:

1) People - including priests and bishops have been engaged in a kind of false charity, whereby admonishent, correction, discpline, etc, is avoided on the basis that it might hurt someone's feeling or their self esteem. You and I probably agree that priests and bishops need to be concerned more with the salvation of those under their care, moreso than their self esteem.

2) There are dissidents, such as the priest you mention, who will try to justify things which are foreign to our faith. When such people given a platform at a parish, diocese, Catholic university, or Catholic newspaper, many people are led into scandal, most especialy today with the uncatechized and ill-catechized. Equally damaging is when things are being advanced by these people which clearly fly in the face of clear and constant teachings of the Church, and are met only with silence by priests and bishops.

3) I agree that the more than 30,000 Protestant denominations stemmed from someone disagreeing with the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago and starting their own thing. It all started with that first "protest", and multiplied exponentially as others split away, many from the first, second and third generation protestant denominations.

4) Going back to Canon 915 as mentioned in your first comment, we both agree that Canon 915 ought to be applied. I would go a step further and would suggest that there are cases that warrant a pronouncement of excommunication, when someone rejects dogma/doctrine and is obstinately leading others into scandal despite adequate pastoral intervention by their pastor and bishop.

Second: I struggle with your argument in the following ways:

1) If I see a child stealing a loaf of bread, I can judge his actions and call it stealing. This is not being judgmental, but simply stating a fact. But, I would fall into rash judgment if I said that the child's motivation was purely due to greed. Perhaps he stole the bread because he is living on the street and has not had anything to eat. It would still be wrong, but God has the authority to mitigate such things, which is why judgment of such things is left to him.

I feel the same way when looking at the actions (or inactions) of otherwise orthodox bishops (we will suspend discussion of dissident bishops in this post), who have not been more proactive in using Canon 915, public statements and other disciplinary actions. I can certainly make an observation that a particular action has not taken place, but I cannot judge the motivation of any bishop, attributing inaction to cowardice. Could this be a factor for some? It's possible. But, I don't know that. I can't know that. I leave that to God because He knows their heart.

2) On dealing with dissidents, I have already stated where we agree and perhaps this is just an expansion of that. Dissidents ought to be dealt with and not pampered where they lead many others into scandal. If you look through the examples below, you will see that while I don't agree with certain tactics, I don't believe in bishops sitting back making like a wall-flower while the wolves carry the sheep away. It's a matter of how it is dealt with. Each of these actions taken by bishops has undoubtedly been labeled as "uncharitable" by those on the other side of the issue, and perhaps a few bystanders who don't really know any better:

I have been a proponent of the approach taken by Bishop Martino in Scranton in his handling of Misericordia Univeristy, the St. Patrick's Day Parade, and with Senator Robert Casey. Some would say he is being mean and hurting people's feelings. I say, it's a bishop doing his job. I have supported Bishop Morlino's recent firing of a lay pastoral associate. I know there are people in Madison, Wisconsin who think the bishop is being uncharitable. What they don't understand is that he is showing the greatest charity to those who would be subjected to "strange teachings". And, I liked the approach taken by Bishop Allen Vigneron, while still in Oakland when faced with an unexpected survey on priestly celibacy by the dissident group, Call to Action (after the fact). Note how carefully Vigneron walks the line of charity, balanced with firm clarity on Church teaching (and made it public as promptly as he could). In one last example, I highly support the approach taken by Bishop Jamie Soto, then co-adjutor of Sacramento, who accepted an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a parish-sponsored homosexual event, only to use it for a teaching moment.

I do not consider these "in your face" or uncharitable. Rather, they are firmly, and with great charity, teaching the faith and upholding it, without blinking.

3) With regards to the 30,000+ protestant denominations stemming from bishops not standing up for the faith, I would ask how many priests and bishops were martyred during the reformation? I like history now, but for whatever reason, didn't much pay attention in my school years, unfortunately.

4) With Canon 915, let me put it this way: I won't assume cowardice on the part of any bishop for reasons stated above - it crosses the line into judging their motivation which my conscience tells me is wrong. They are, for the most part, united in that pro-choice Catholic pols should not present themselves for Communion. Where they are divided is on just how to apply Canon 915. All of the calls, emails, letters and protests will not change a bishop's mind, if in his conscience he feels he understands Canon 915 and has come to a different conclusion than another bishop. Make no mistake: There is one Holy Spirit acting on the consciences of all bishops. Hence, I believe that there cannot be varied interpretations of such a thing. Jabs, potshots, and not-talking will not get them closer to what God wants. They must pray and continue to work together. We must pray with them.

As for Randall Terry, I stand by my original post. I found it highly unusual for a Vatican official to authorize such a video-event in the manner presented by Mr. Terry. Something seemed "off" and my senses were right. I was suspicious of it initially and said nothing, holding my breath hoping it wouldn't implode. Not long ago - as a prelude to Terry's press conference, when we heard that Vatican officials were "entertaining the removal" of certain archbishops, the alarm bells went off. I believe damage was done by this stunt. Where rich, fraternal dialogue should be taking place, a wall has just gone up, thanks to Randall's "clever" trick on Archbishop Burke. The ends do not justify the means. I still say it was an injustice not only to Burke, but to Wuerl, Loverde and others who came under the spotlight through certain questions. I wondered if that dig went right over Abp Burke's head.

It is my hope that Archbishops Raymond Burke, Donald Wuerl and others would meet - privately, spend some time in prayer together, and then discuss Canon 915 over some coffee, Jameson, scotch, cigars and anything else that might help. Perhaps they could set up a chimney and puff some of that stogie smoke outside to let the rest of us know, we have unity on Canon 915.

Truly people, if you want to help the bishops, turn to prayer. Go to adoration on their behalf; pray Rosaries for them, offer up your Mass intentions and daily sacrifices. The graces will come to them. Recall that Our Lord pointed out some demons can only be taken out with prayer.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!