Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Common Courtesy Between Bishops....."

There is an interesting parallel in official statements released by two different diocesan bishops over other bishops crossing a line of "common courtesy".  It's a matter of prudence and tradition (as in small "t") when a bishop is going to make any kind of public appearance in another diocese to contact the other bishop well enough in advance to provide for a response. 

A common practice in recent years among those of a more dissident bent (we don't like to use words like liberal/conservative here), is to wait until an event is booked with people, THEN notify the diocesan bishop.  This puts the bishop of the diocese in a rather difficult position, and perhaps more often than not, the request quietly slips through affirmatively, lest a whole lot of people end up embarassed.  Some bishops, however, are starting to take a different view on that, and are acting accordingly.

Here are excerpts from two different diocesan bishops, who regretted having to inform the faithful, that his uninvited brother's visit wasn't, or wouldn't be, in any way helpful.  Let's look at the relevant wording first, then we'll look at who the words belong to, and the circumstances involved:

The first:

There is a common courtesy usually observed between bishops whereby when one bishop wishes to enter into another bishop’s diocese to minister or make a public speech or appearance, he informs the local bishop ahead of time and seeks his approval. Only on October 9 did I receive any communication from Bishop [soon to be named], after this situation had already become public
The second:
But with regard to public appearances outside their own diocese there also exists a certain etiquette in the Church: when a bishop or cardinal who intends to come to another diocese to appear publicly, he firstly informs the local bishop, which is prudent and encouraged by the Church. I hold that this ecclesiastical prudence and traditional norm of the Church should especially be applied in this case.

It sounds fair right?  Imagine Joe Bag-of-Donuts waltzing into the house next door and telling the kids it's ok for them to have as many donuts as they want in one sitting, when their own parents have told them that they may each have one donut on any given day.  The donuts in themselves may be tasty and good, but the parents want to teach their children moderation, and have health concerns over the fat content in donuts.  These folks would have every right to notify the uninvited guest who offered unwelcome advice, that he was "unhelpful" at best, and caused certain harms.  In fact, he may be shown the door with a tone that is a little less than delicate.

The first case is that of Bishop Alexander K. Sample of the Diocese of Marquette who felt he had no choice but to make public what was private between himself and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton.  He learned very late in the game that +Gumbleton was to appear.  He said he did not cancel the appearance because of the group sponsoring the event, or on account of the talk scheduled to be given by the bishop.  Rather, Bishop Sample knew there would be no way to avoid discussion (especially during Q&A) of matters for which Bishop Gumbleton is well known to dissent from clear and consistent Catholic teaching.  Read Bishop Sample's statement from October of last year to get full context.

The second case deals with Cardinal Schonborn's recent toe-stepping routine in Medjugorje.  Prudence and church tradition would have dictated that the Cardinal first contact Bishop Peric for permission to make a public appearance during his "private" pilgrimage.  A truly "private" pilgrimage, would have had him at the back of the crowd, or at least not making himself the center of attention.  Read Bishop Peric's reaction to Cardinal Schonborn's visit.  No matter how many ways Cardinal Schonborn attempts to justify his actions, what he did was like going through a red light.  He may have made it through the intersection, but he left a wreck behind him. 

Is he justified to point to other bishops and cardinals who have gone on "private pilgrimage" to Medjugorje? Let's put it this way.....those largely went without notice - as they should, and did not undergo the very predictable exploitation that would happen with a Cardinal who happens to be a member of the CDF, as well. However, there is also the case of the Papal Household Preacher, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, who upon learning that permission was not secured from the local bishop for him to preach at a retreat for priests in Medjugorje, wrote to Bishop Peric just a month before the event:
“My principle is not to preach, especially not to the clergy, without the permission of the local bishop”.

That was a proper response and, at the same time, acknowledges the authority of the local bishop to make such decisions. We can give the benefit of the doubt to Fr. Cantalamessa that perhaps miscommunications bewtween his office and those sponsoring the retreat, caused the late request.

The greatest fruit of Cardinal Schonborn's visit to Medjugorje, was to deepen the division and disunity in the Church over the alleged apparitions.   His attempt to argue from an angle of "sensus fidelium" (sense of the faithful) falls terribly flat because when it has been applied in the past, it was aligned with truths already with the Church (or at least, revealed nothing contrary to those truths).  Dissidents, however, take a different view of sensus fidelium, confusing it with the notion of democracy.  They use it in an effort to try to get the Church to change her teachings on things she is not authorized to change.  If 80% of the Catholics believed abortion was justified, could the church then permit abortion on the basis of "sense of the faithful"? No.  Because it is not aligned with the simple truth that abortion is murder.

Cardinal Schonborn,  having written the Catechism of the Catholic Church (under the watchful eye of Cardinal Ratzinger), surely would be interested to know of some things which contradict Church teaching with regards to the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje....

Have you heard that the Medjugorje movement, based on words of the "gospa" herself, has changed when the birth of Mary is celebrated?  That's right.  It's no longer celebrated with the Church, 9 months after her conception on December 8th.

Have you heard that the "gospa" spoke heresy?

From Part 1 of the Bishop's 3 part statement of September 26, 2009

A grave theological error. In spite of Vlasic, who was illicitly at Medjugorje, a notorious theological heresy showed up, which he had already written down in the Chronicle, 6 May 1982, getting it sincerely from the "seers":

"This evening the young people posed a theological question and received the answer. Are people in heaven present with their souls, or with the soul and the body? - they asked. They are present with the soul and with the body - that was their answer."

In light of these things,  isn't it about time that people start looking closer at the words of Bishop Peric? 

Further Reading:

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