The National Catholic Review

From Antonio Celso de Queirós, bishop emeritus of Catanduva, Sao Paulo, Brazil, via Mirada Global:

Those who lived the ecclesial atmosphere of the mid 20th century (prior to the Second Vatican Council) closely, can’t prevent feeling the current situation as similar. Then, as now, a mixture of perplexity and hope was a concern for many Christians. Only those who lived completely in another world didn’t sense that something big was about to happen. The announcement of the Ecumenical Council was received with a combination of surprise and fear. Surprise because of the announcement of something the Church wasn’t used to. Fear that an authoritarian gesture of the hierarchy could lead to the end of reflection and search. In time, the fear was overcome, all the more so facing the conciliar texts, especially the four big constitutions and the contemporary papal encyclicals: John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris, and the subsequent election of Paul VI. The Council was greeted positively and it developed a process of reflection in Latin America, which was facilitated by the Episcopal Conferences of Medellin, Puebla, somehow less in Santo Domingo and positively once more in Aparecida.


As from the ‘80s, the theological and pastoral thermometers started to show a decline in temperature, and the approach of an ecclesial winter was feared. Indeed, some theologians were showing some serious problems that hadn’t been addressed in depth by the Council. There are clear signs of compromise solutions in more than one document. However, few could forecast to what extent they would called upon to live and face processes. Summoning the Council did take far too long. A century and a half passed between Vatican Council I and II, a historical period of serious problems that made the Church fall out of the habit of acting according to its communitarian and synodal nature. To this we must add the fact that the Council gave the Roman Curia the responsibility of creating the roads to implement the conciliar dispositions. The Curia, as a bureaucratic institution, was not capable of rethinking the ecclesial organizations applying the innovative reflections of the Council. Any bureaucratic institution is more interested in its own survival and in increasing its own power than in reaching the objectives it was created for. This power increases tremendously when it is exerted as “pontifical secret”, and in the name of an authority that cannot be appealed and is infallible. Ecclesiastic centralism returned, leaving the bishops with very little power in their dioceses and the role of the Episcopal conferences. The power of the nuncios grew considerably and they practically became the mediator between the bishops and the pope. The concept of fidelity to the pope and to the ecclesial unity was understood within the tightness of passive submission. Prohibitions once more created mistrust; the atmosphere of pressure returned due to the silence imposed or assumed because of fear.

In Brazil, this difficult atmosphere severely affected the Episcopal Conference that had a tradition of fostering a liberating evangelization; of a struggle in favor of the poor, the indigenous people, the black population, a struggle that had even been recognized by society; of denouncing arbitrary arrests and tortures carried out by the military dictatorship. An important demonstration of that difficult atmosphere is the clear preference of the Curia for the spiritualist even fundamentalist movements. The new bishops were mostly chosen among those ranks, to the detriment of a complete generation of bishops who had proved their capacities, and were dedicated to overall pastoral programme. The participants –even lay ones- to international ecclesial events were picked from these movements. While there is conciliar opening, there are clear signs of regression in the liturgy, in a return to clericalism, in looking towards the inside of the ecclesial structure instead of the primacy of the announcement of the Kingdom.

 The Church nowadays is living problems that were not addressed during the Council, or weren’t so clear, such as:

- Christians have abandoned the practice of faith and don’t refer to it in their lives;

- the permanent growth of new Christian religious faiths; the absence or scarce number of young people in ecclesial communities;

- the need for the practical recognition of the mission of the particular churches in the inculturation of faith and in the ecclesial organization and the evangelization of large urban populations;

- the decrease in the number of applicants for priesthood and religious life in countries that had a long-standing Catholic tradition as well as in other countries, and the concomitant population increase;

- the need to redefine the ministries and their fields; the widening of the field of the ministry of permanent deaconship; the opening of ministries to priests that have abandoned ordained ministry;

- the reality of ecclesial communities that lack Eucharist because of the shortage of ordained ministers;

- the issue of a new kind of priests who are not necessarily celibate, alongside others that assume celibacy;

- feminine priesthood;

- the relativization, or the simple practical ignorance of certain rules of the teachings (Sunday mass, keeping Sunday as a day of worship, abstinence and fast…, individual and numerical confession of one’s sins as the only form of the sacrament of penance);

- the “quiet” disagreement of married couples that participate in the Church of the orientations of its teachings in relation to certain rules regarding conjugal morale, second marriages, responsible paternity, the use of condoms as a means of preventing AIDS.

Also available in Spanish.

Tim Reidy



Anne Chapman | 9/5/2011 - 9:18pm
Maria, you assume that I do not have faith in God.  And you are wrong. You seem to confuse the Roman Catholic church with God, seeing the them as essentially the same thing. They are not, and to treat the church as being God is an error that carries some risk with it.

I have faith in God.  The church is human, and I cannot place absolute faith in a human institution led by human beings. My faith is in God alone.

Why do you continue to ignore my request to move this conversation to a private forum using email?
Anne Chapman | 9/5/2011 - 11:00am
Maria, please let me say again - if you wish to discuss this, email me.  And please do not simply quote definitions and passages from various Catholic publications. I am thoroughly familiar with ALL that you post here. I had an excellent Roman Catholic education, including elementary school, undergraduate and graduate schools. Theology and philosophy were required subjects during all 4 years of undergrad, and I have also taken a couple of courses at the graduate school level, although these courses are not required for secular advanced degrees. In addition to formal education, I have spent pretty much all of my adult life in ''independent'' study - sometimes going back to original source documents so that I could try to figure out why Rome teaches what it does.  And that exercise was very enlightening. My ideas thus are the product of formal Roman Catholic education (many years of it), informal Catholic education (speakers, books, journals, parish adult ed etc), informal personal study of other traditions and other religions, and 60+ years of living.

 I am far more interested in learning about your thinking and why you think the way you do - without quoting dictionary definitions and catechisms (and Fr. John Harden, SJ).  I would also like to know if you have read and studied independently, outside of official Catholic writings and if so, how the ideas of not-official-Catholic sources of information and interpretation impact your thoughts. How does your own life experience impact your thinking. Those who cite the passage about the ''keys'' as their sole basis for believing that every idea of the pope comes directly from God are resting this faith in a highly fallible human being on a rather fragile foundation. Obviously there are at least one billion Christians in the world (many very highly educated) who do not share the Roman Catholic church's interpretations.  Have you ever been curious enough to seek out non-Catholic theologians to see how they interpret this passage?  God gave us all minds and consciences and expects us to use them. 

Unfortunately, the officials in Rome have always resisted reform. If they had simply accepted that there was a lot of truth in Luther's theses, perhaps christianity wouldn't have fractured. It took hundreds of years before Rome conceded that Luther was right on a lot of things. Perhaps if they had just worked with Luther and other reformers there would not have been a Protestant revolution.  Is the church facing a similar situation now?  Not a single big breach leading literally to warfare, but a quiet breach which has led to tens of millions of people baptized and raised Roman Catholic to simply leave the church - especially in Europe and N. America?  Is it not time for the powers in Rome to start listening instead of simply talking and decreeing?

But, if the laity are excluded from a future council, it would simply be a waste of time and money.

Juan Lino | 9/4/2011 - 11:01pm
Maria, I am obviously being unclear.
I wrote: The discussion between you and Maria goes to the heart of what it means to be a priest (i.e., what are it’s distinctive features) and you rightly point out that “sacrifice” in and of itself is not something that priests alone must do.  (If, however, Maria is alluding to the Mass, then that’s a different matter).  
What do I mean by “distinctive features” of the priesthood in the Church?  1) the power of consecrating and offering the body and blood of Christ in the Mass; and, 2) the power to remit and retain sins.  (And I am not using the word “power” in the worldly sense.)
If you have Fr. Hardon’s dictionary (the hardcover edition) take a look at page 438.
What did I mean that “sacrifice” in and of itself is not something that is confined to priests?  I mean that all baptized Christians, by virtue of their baptism, are called to join their sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ - I think this used to be called “offering it up”.  
I hope I’ve been clearer this time.
Juan Lino | 9/4/2011 - 3:39pm
Like Anne, I am taking a moment away from work I should be doing to peak at the blog and post a comment, but it will have to be brief because I really have some writing to do!
Anne, in comments #94 & #95 you raise some fascinating and thought-provoking points, particularly in #95 regarding loneliness.  Speaking from my own experience and study I do not think that Christ calls any of us are called to give up close, loving, intimate relationships although I agree that there much confusion about what that means.  In fact, it is my experience that the encounter with Christ made my humanity flourish!
I don’t know if it’s the latent Jansenism or Puritanism within our culture (or maybe their own formation as priests is the problem) but there is something that prevents priests from being men first and a priest second (I don’t have time to clarify that now - sorry).  I have been blessed with friendships with priests but there is always a wall that stands between us, and this really puzzles me.  Especially since I find that friendship with brothers and sisters that are on the journey is one of the greatest graces in my life.  Of course it helps that Christ brought me into a charism where friendship is considered a kind of “sacrament”.
The discussion between you and Maria goes to the heart of what it means to be a priest (i.e., what are it’s distinctive features) and you rightly point out that “sacrifice” in and of itself is not something that priests alone must do.  (If, however, Maria is alluding to the Mass, then that’s a different matter).
I just read Anne's latest comment (#100) but I must get back to my own work.  Remember me in your prayers asking Christ to help me write what He wants me to write.
Anne Chapman | 9/4/2011 - 3:26pm
Maria,  you ignore some realities of church history. Most of the apostles whom Jesus chose were married men. Although the church initially tried to impose celibacy in the 4th or so century, it wasn't actually mandated until hundreds of years later. The eastern rites of the church have a married priesthood. The new Ordinariate has married priests, and the Roman Catholic church also has married priests (because of ordaining married ministers and Anglican communion priests into the Roman Catholic priesthood).

  If you read through old church documents you will see some that address how married priests and bishops should prepare for mass (for example, no sexual relations the night before) - if the church didn't have married priests and bishops, why these instructions?  If you read the history of the church you would also learn that one reason for the imposition of mandatory celibacy was pure economics - the church did not want property to be passed down to children, it wished to retain ownership. 

And some scholars question the assumption that Jesus never married. He was a teacher (a rabbi) in a culture where most people married in their early teens. By the age of 30, their own children would be grown, and many men were widowed by then because so many women died in childbirth.  Jesus never mentioned a wife nor children, but that alone does not ''prove'' that he never married - it was a cultural expectation. But, perhaps he didn't.  Does it matter? Not to me. It doesn't change who Jesus was nor his message.

The perpetual virginity of Mary is also a highly questionable conclusion.  The scriptures clearly and many times refer to Jesus's brothers and sisters. From what I have read, even though the RCC tries to claim that these words are used in a more general sense (family or cousins), experts say that these words mean exactly what they say - that different words were used to describe family or cousins.  Once again, it doesn't matter one bit to me. In fact, I rather like the idea that Mary and Joseph were a normal, loving married couple and that their love was blessed with more children.  I rather like that idea, because most people can relate far more to a normal married couple and family than to the one the Catholic church gives us , complete with an unnatural marital life and the subliminal message that sex, even loving marital sex, is a bit, well, dirty.

The letters attributed to St. Paul said a lot of things that were a bit off base (for example, he was quite wrong about saying that the end of the world and Christ's second coming would occur within his own lifetime!). And some of the letters attributed to Paul were not even written by Paul.  Maria, it would be a worthwhile use of your time to study and learn on your own, and not to take scripture literally.

I have no objection to young men who choose to become priests voluntarily embracing celibacy.  But, even the church itself admits it is only a discipline, and it is a discipine that could be changed. It would benefit the church if they did.  Perhaps having a few married men who were also fathers in chanceries would have had enough  basic common sense and 1st grade understanding of simple right and wrong to know that you didn't protect men who were raping and molesting children.  Raising priests in an all-male, celibate hothouse carries certain risks. Perhaps these risks should be minimized as much as possible.

It think it is long overdue to take this discussion offline. Maria, if you have more comments, and I am always happy to discuss, please click on my name and email me.

Anne Chapman | 9/4/2011 - 9:22am
Juan, I should explain a bi tmore - I don't think the biggest part of the challenge of celibacy is giving up sex, but giving up ever having a close, loving, intimate human relationship - the sexual relationship is the secondary (important, but secondary) part of the overall love relationship and supports that love relationship.  Apparently a lot of priests are lonely - they are surrounded by lots of people, but that doesn't take the place of a having a loving, one on one relationship.
Anne Chapman | 9/4/2011 - 12:05am
Yes, of course, lots of people break lots of vows.  And maybe ''forced'' isn't the right word, but the idea is that if they want to be priests, they have to bury any other calls they might have (such as for marriage and family). Tens of thousands of priests have left the priesthood in the last 30-40 years, most so that they could marry.  I will be frank here - others may disagree. Now that I've lived a few decades, I look back and realize that probably nobody who says marriage vows, however sincere, has a clue about what they are truly promising.  It's all very romantic, and fairy tailish, and happily ever after on the wedding day.  Few couples have a real clue about the kinds of challenges they will face as a married couple, and as parents - parenting is probably the hardest vocation out there, bar none. I thank God every day that somehow I lucked out in my choice of husband - because I was just as dumb as any other bride and he was just as dumb as any other groom. We have been married almost 40 years, happily most of the time (every marriage has stress now and then), and we have weathered many, many serious challenges, and I am so thankful because I love him now more deeply than ever. But, I know many who didn't make it and I don't judge them - it's not easy. And it's not easy for priests either, for different reasons but partly due to the same romanticism, idealism, and naivete.

 Young men are called to be priests, and part of the deal is that they have to vow celibacy. That may not really be a free choice (meaning chosen freely with full understanding of what that will mean to them during their lives - it's simply not possible to understand on their ordination day), but it's part of the requirements and they are full of enthusiasm and love of God and so agree to it - but it will be years before most of them truly understand the vow they made.  They are incubated in an all-male hothouse where they have little freedom, or exposure to ''real'' life, but do have a lot of support from their teachers and from their peers. So all is good. They all go to their ordinations filled with the same kind of love and enthusiasm as brides and grooms do on their wedding days, sincerely and honestly make lifetime vows even though, if one is honest about it,  they really have no idea yet about what they are really promising. Many of the challenges priests face, including in sticking to their vows, are discussed in Donald Cozzens' books, as well as others. Cozzens is a good read. 
Juan Lino | 9/3/2011 - 10:29pm
Ken - I understand and agree with what you wrote but I was talking about how I live the experience and I am single male.  And yes, since it's a discipline I'd have no problem with it being modifed to match what done's in the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church but that's not my call, or frankly, a big concern of mine.  However, IMHO, for practical reasons, I am not sure it's a good idea to change the discipline in the near future.

Anne - As Ken pointed out, priests in the Latin West follow the discipline of chastity and that shouldn't be news to any man on that track.  In fact, I have never seen someone holding a gun to the men's heads at any of the ordinations I've attended and I don't think you have either.  So I am not sure that "forced" is the right word. Considering the fact men are sinners, it's not surprising that men break their vows and that includes married men as well as priests.  Hmm... come to think of it, if the media is acurate then many married women break their vows too...hmmm. 
Anne Chapman | 9/3/2011 - 10:44am
Juan, the email will be better. Your view is of course the ideal. However, in reality for many who are forced to choose celibacy in order to follow their call by God to serve as priests, the reality is quite different.  It is estimated that a majority of priests at some time break their vows.  See you in email.
Juan Lino | 9/3/2011 - 9:53am
Some very interesting questions have been raised and I am looking forward to a very fruitful dialogue about them but I am not sure that this dialogue can take place in this medium.  
I don’t know if it’s because of the blog is a “form” that encourages a certain form of ranting / polemics / whatever we want to call it / but a common pattern in comments seems to be: 1) writer starts to address a point; 2) writer inserts a potshot against whatever doctrine / dogma / teaching / etc. / they don’t like; and then 3) possibly returns to the point.  And we all seem to be doing this to different degrees.
So since I want to actually explore the points we’ve raised, I am going to do it via e-mail starting with Michael (and Anne if she so desires) and anyone else.  If you want to participate, just click on my name and my email will appear.
I will, thus, stop commenting on this thread and conclude by saying that my understanding of the experience of celibacy / virginity / whatever word we use to communicate the experience / is not that I am giving up something but rather that I am affirming Someone (i.e., Christ).  If I approached it as a giving up of something it would be intolerable but since I see it as an act of my freedom whose meaning is “You, O Christ, are enough, my heart is satisfied completely by You because it rests in You” then the yoke is easy and the burden light.
Anne Chapman | 9/3/2011 - 2:36am
Juan, there are two points I want to address. First, you wrote ''...every time I decide to engage in marital relations with my wife using a condom there’s a risk that I may infect her and so I endanger her physical well-being. ...And so, it would appear that ... I may not necessarily be interested in her good and, quite possibly, I am behaving as if I am only interesting in satisfying my own selfishness. ''

The first point is your apparent assumption that the desire to have sexual relations is exclusive to the male and that he might be selfish  and would put his wife at risk, basically forcing himself on her.  However, marital love involves both spouses - women very often long for the intimacy and loving touch of marital sex - it is one reason so few women are interested in using NFP - at the very time in their cycle when their desire is greatest, they must abstain - unless they take advantage of the benefits of modern medical birth control methods. Which about 95% of Catholic wives do. NFP very often reduces sex to a mechanical act dependent on the calendar and thermometer and turns it into almost a utilitarian exercise, robbing the marriage of the beauty of a natural cycle of sexual relations.  The males who made this teaching often seem obsessed with sex - most likely because they have chosen a vocation that bans it. (It is fascinating to read some of the writings of the early desert fathers. There they were, huddled all alone in their caves or huts most of the time, except for occasional visits with the abbot or senior monk for counseling. Reading these passages is amazing, because many of these men did nothing but think about sex day and night - and expended huge amounts of effort trying not to, but trying not to just made it worse - for twenty or thirty years. Now, what was gained by that? Too much time alone in the desert.)  It's very possible that the men in Rome are much the same - they probably fight their natural and normal desires for many years (even though distracted at least by having to do something besides weave baskets in their lonely huts), they assume that all males are preoccupied by lust as they themselves may be (because what they experience as celibates is lust, and they don't understand that most men want to make love with their wives because they love their wives and vice versa - the celibates don't understand this because it's not something they have experienced). They seem not to know anything about the fact that women also desire to have sexual relations and can be very lonely if unable to for too long a time due to separation or illness or whatever. A lifetime of that would not appeal to most couples who are in love. The celibates' understanding of marital love is purely cerebral and academic and reflects their almost total lack of understanding of the role marital lovemaking plays in sacramental marriage.  So, to get back to the issue at hand - if one partner is HIV positive, it is the couple's decision to make as far as the risk-reward balance - and most probably make it in consultation with their doctors who can advise them on the relative risks, ways to increase the reliability of condom use etc. 

The other point I want to make has to do with the AIDS pandemic in Africa. I will talk about that tomorrow.
Juan Lino | 9/2/2011 - 11:56pm
Perhaps you did not see it Michael, but I wrote: Setting aside the moral issues for the moment...

Regarding the points you raise in your latest comment, and the previous one, I plan to answer them on the weekend.

Michael Barberi | 9/2/2011 - 7:59pm

According to the Church, an HIV-infected husband that uses a condom to protect his spouse from this deadly disease while expressing conjugal love, violates the aptness of creation (the male sperm must be deposited in its proper place for procreation through an act of sexual intercourse). It also violates Humanae Vitae. Some theoligans even assert that condom sex is nothing more than mutual masturbation. Therefore, the issue of security is not the reason that seriodiscordant couples cannot use a condom.

There are two issues about security and responsibility; namely voluntary consent and reasonable precaution. Few HIV infected husbands force sex on their spouse. Any forced sex is morally illicit regardless if one is infected or not. Also, while a condom is not 100% effective, some couples use a double condom. I am not an expert on security and understand the dilemma. However, the issue of security and responsiblity is a different issue.

From a seriodiscordant couple's point of view, the issues arer:

1. The survivability of a young marriage under the forced-injunction of life-long imposed celibacy.

2. The reasonability of the injunction based on Sacerdotalis caelibatus which describes celibacy as a "special spiritual gift" not given to everyone.  Also Veritatis Spendor also highlights the unsustainabilty of celibacy by purely human endeavor. A man becomes capable of celibacy only by virtue of a gift received. It is a gift by God given to relatively few individuals. Celibacy without freedom or election is simply coercion.

3. Celibacy cannot be implemented by warrant of authority alone, nor just adopted at will, even by those storngly motivated to do so. How can God find any joy in couples living sexually-expressionless lives of reluctant loneliness and isolation?

4. The Church denies seriodiscordant couples a life-long expression of physical sexual expression, regardless of circumstances. In other words, if there was a 100% effective method of security, the Church would still condemn condom sex in these situations!! 

The issue is with the doctrine.
Juan Lino | 9/2/2011 - 4:01pm
Thanks for the paper, I really look forward to reading it this weekend.
Regarding your post and what you wrote about Fr. Rhonheimer: “He believes that an HIV infected spouse that uses a condom to prevent giving his wife this deadly disease is morally licit.”
Two quick comments.
First, I’ve downloaded and plan to read On the Use of Condoms to Prevent Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome — a debate between Rev. Benedict Guevin, O.S.B., and Rev. Martin Rhonheimer
My second comment is more human and related to the example I used, which was not meant to be a diversionary tactic but an example of how theory trickles down to the real world, at least in my own experience. 
It’s my understanding that condoms are not 100% effective in preventing the transmission of HIV (while abstinence is 100% effective). 
Ok, so let’s say I have HIV and I am married.  Setting aside the moral issues for the moment, it seems to me that every time I decide to engage in marital relations with my wife using a condom there’s a risk that I may infect her and so I endanger her physical well-being. 
So the first question I would ask myself is: “am I acting responsibly?” or better, “is her good my primary concern?”  I would ask myself this because it seems to me that I am playing Russian Roulette with my wife every time I have sex with her because condoms do not completely reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to my wife. 
And so, it would appear that objectively speaking I may not necessarily be interested in her good and, quite possibly, I am behaving as if I am only interesting in satisfying my own selfishness. 
And, of course, it is reasonable to conclude that reality is inviting me to tweak my vocational path by abstaining from engaging in marital acts with my wife.  So would an invitation to set aside this aspect of my marriage be a bad thing?
I am interested in exploring this with whoever wants to (especially those who are married) but I propose we do it via e-mail since this is not really related to this post.
Anne Chapman | 9/4/2011 - 12:52pm
Maria, sacrifice is also part of the true nature of the vocations of marriage and parenthood and even of the single state.  I think that married priests and ministers (Orthodox, Anglican etc) probably understand the nature of the ''sacrifice'' of their priesthood at a whole different, more complex, more nuanced and deeper level than do many (not all - this is not a blanket judgment but a generalization) celibate priests.  Celibate priests accept one kind of sacrifice, but it is not necessarily one that gives them access to a fuller, deeper, lived understanding of the human condition. They live at arms length from many of the tragedies and heartaches and struggle that weigh down the human spirit - they understand, but only at a head level, not a heart level. So many are not really very good at their pastoral duties and many are even visibly uncomfortable with them - especially those who are more reflective and grasp that their understanding is purely academic - they may feel inadequate but probably do a better job than those who don't even understand that they really don't understand! Increasingly it is deacons, married men, who are pastoring the people as they try to work their way through the challenges they face and hang on to their Christian faith at the same time.

 When I started going to an Episcopal church on Sundays I was continuously amazed by how much better - how much more meaningful - the homiles were.  The parish has two priests - male and female. John is in his 60s. He is highly educated, and very broadly read.  He is very prayerful, a seeker and very contemplative. To be honest, I would say he is the ''holiest'' priest I personally have ever known. Since he is not a Roman Catholic priest he is free to inquire, and his openness to fresh insights and understandings is inspiring. He seldom gives a forgettable homily and few drift off to sleep with their eyes open in this congregation. (This morning was a perfect example - it was about reconciliation, based of course, on the gospel - Matt 18, 15-20). I have heard homilies on this passage my entire life. His gave an insight I had never before heard, and caused the whole congregation to squirm a bit as we thought about the meaning in a whole new light.) He married as a young man, and raised three children. He supported his wife and family through the long difficult course of his wife's cancer and death. As a widower in his 50s, he supported his children and other family members with their grief while dealing with his own. After several years, he remarried and became a step-father also.  When he gives a homily about marriage and family, he speaks from deep and complex experience.  And he did all of this while also supporting his parishoners - not just through liturgy and sacraments and routine church matters. While grieving his own wife's death, he would also support those in his congregation who were grieving or close to despair about something in their lives, in their families.  His pastoral duties never stopped, but his lived understanding of the lives of his parishoners gives him a depth and compassion absent in too many celibate priests.  He knows the joys and the sorrows, the ups and the downs, the sacrifices of marriage and parenting and also makes great sacrifices for his vocation as a priest. Celibacy isn't one of them, but it seems in many ways to have made him a better priest than many who are celibate.

 Our woman priest is also wonderful. She is in her late 40s, a single mother through divorce. Her failed marriage caused her much grief and heartache and pushed her into deep and painful reflection about whether or not she should give up her ministry. In fact she did, for several years while she sought God's will for her. She has not remarried. Thanks be to God, she did not give up her priesthood.  She has a lived insight as a woman that totally escapes male priests - even many married male priests. One homily she preached was on Mary's visit to Elizabeth after learning that she would bear a son - a young girl, single, holding on to hope and faith and trust.  Susan spoke as a woman - she spoke as a mother. Her homily was so powerful - because it reflected a lived understanding and empathy for both Mary and Elizabeth that no celibate male priest can ever experience.

Our priests create a very wholistic and healthy combination - yin and yang, mars and venus, male and female together - made in the image of God.  This is a wholistic balance totally lacking in the Roman Catholic church, and it hurts the church (the people) in countless ways. And it is totally unnecessary.

Celibacy is a gift - and a valuable one for the church when embraced by the few truly called to it. However, it might be better if it were freely chosen rather than imposed as part of becoming a priest and accepted because the desire to be a priest is so strong, and often without true understanding. Perhaps young men could choose between joining an order that has celibacy as part of its charism, and diocesan priests would have the option of voluntary celibacy.
KEN LOVASIK | 9/3/2011 - 3:59pm
There is a valid distinction, Juan, which the Church has always recognized between the vow of chastity taken by vowed religious - priests, brothers, and sisters - and the discipline of celibacy that is required of all men ordained to the priesthood.

What you are describing in your last post is a beautiful and touching description of the vow of chastity that religious men and women willingly embrace in the spirit in which you describe it.

The discipline of celibacy in the Western Catholic Church is an obligation which a man takes on when he is ordained to the transitional Diaconate with the intention of seeking Prieslty Ordination.  It is this discipline of celibacy, often accepted as a requirement for Ordination but not necessarily willingly embraced like the vow of chastitity, that is at issue.  There has been talk for the past 50 years of a desire to see this discipline changed.
Juan Lino | 9/1/2011 - 4:59pm
I have dinner plans tonight and so I won't be able to carefully read and reflect on your posts until tomorrow or the weekend especially because they raise some very good points/questions.

Michael - yes, I would very much like to read the paper so please send it to me via email.

Anne and Steve - I skimmed your comments and beg your indulgence as I think about what you wrote and try to come up with a response.

Blessings to all.

Michael Barberi | 9/1/2011 - 3:53pm

I spent two years, 24/7, under the mentorship two prominent theologians, a traditionalist and a reviisionsist, representing both end of the theological spectrum. I wrote an essay called "The True Orign of Humanae Vitae and the Impact on Moral Absolutes, AIDS and Complex Ethical Cases". I would be happy to send you a confidential email with attachment so you can read a thorough analysis of this teaching. A blog is not the forum to explain in precise terms the meaning of "legitimate philosophical and theological arguments". Suffice it to say that it is not based on a knee-jerk reaction, an uninformed conscience, or ignorance about moral theology, etc. So, let me know if you would like to read it.

About 3-4 years ago I was having in communciation with Janet Smith, the so-called U.S. expert on Humanae Vitae, and wanted to prove her wrong on at least one point she raised. She asserted that "if only Catholics would take the time to read HV and understand the foundation of natural family planning, and the Church's position, they would understand and embrace this teaching". Clearly, few Catholics have read HV. However, that does not mean they don't understand, what the Church is teaching. We all know how the Church educates the laityl. Most Catholics get their knowledge from Church bulletins, articles and their parish priest. Unfortunately, as of 2002, 40% of priests in the U.S. believe contraception is seldom or never a sin. 

Over many years, I have sharpened my skills in moral theology and have more than 30 years of practical experience as a senior vice president in a major healtcare corporation with responsibilities covering bioethics, business and professional ethics. I, like many Catholics, satisfied myself that I can stand before God and tell him exactly why I disagree with HV.

With due respect Juan, I don't believe you grasp the larger picture, unintentionally perhaps. I am puzzled why you cast doubt on counter-agruments by raising issues that are at best peripheral. For example, the CCC is written, reviewed and approved by the heirarchy. It says what the Church wants it to say. To be clear, not everything in the CCC is wrong. This blog has been about "certain" teachings and this does not imply that those that disagree with certain teachings are cafeteria Catholics. Frankly, the Church has been picking and choosing the teachings of Augustine, Aquinas and others to fit certain doctrines for centuries.

Take Martin Rhonhiemer. Martin Rhonheimer has been part of JP2's inner circle for decades and is a close adviser to B16. He is a prominent philosopher by training and a defender of tradition. However, his action theory and interpretation of both Aquinas and HV has been giving the community of traditionalist theologians nightmares. He believes that an HIV infected spouse that uses a condom to pervent giving his wife this deadly disease is morally licit. He also believes that the sin of contraception is a sin against the choice of virtue of chastity. I won't go into the details, but you can read his books "The Ethics of Procreation", "The Perspective of the Acting Person" and the "Perspecitve of Morality", and judge for yourself. My POINT is that Martin Rhonheimer has a right to his opinion and one can argue he has a "legitimate philosophical and theological justification" for his theory and beliefs....evfaithful assent, but the convictions of our minds, hearts and soulsen if many in the heirarchy and theological community disagree with him and some of his theory contradicts Church teachings.

As for authority, it is impossible to separate the issue of authority from the issue of the content and meaning of what is presented as authoritative. When authority affirms a revelation of truth, it must “ring true” to our deepest capacity for truth, goodness and reason. It must not demand blind faithful assent, but the convictions of our minds, hearts and souls. This does not mean that the informed conscience of the individual cannot err, but neither does it mean that the theology of the Papal Magisterium is always infallible and the absolute moral truth. It also does not mean that Catholics should embrace relativism or individualism or pick and choose the doctrines that fit their personal and relational circumstances.
Stephen SCHEWE | 9/1/2011 - 3:30pm
I see Anne and I were writing at the same time; pardon the redundancies...
Stephen SCHEWE | 9/1/2011 - 3:26pm
Hi Juan:

Anne is being polite when she describes the provenance of the last edition of the Catechism. As with the restaffing of ICEL and the organizing of Vox Clara to change course on the translation of the Sacramentary/Roman Missal, the authors of the current edition of the Catechism used ecclesiastical power to reinforce the restoration of pre-Vatican II norms.  It's an educational and political tool formed by a conservative editorial slant, and as such it fits well with the rest of the "reform of the reform."

Your question about determining when the Holy Spirit is present in the Church is on point and, unless you are ultramontane, a difficult one.  Matthew 7:15-20 talks about discerning the goodness or corruption of something by its fruits.  There's also a long tradition in the Church of a well-deliberated consensus being a sign of the Holy Spirit; you can see examples of this in Acts in the debates between Peter, Paul and James as they try to come to a mutual understanding on idol meat and on conversion of the Gentiles.  Finding the presence of the Spirit by working towards consensus is (I think) the theological basis for the concept of the sensus fidelium. It's also the reason that an Ecumenical Council with all the bishops acting together is considered to be a higher teaching authority than the Pope.  Without presuming to speak for her, I don't think Anne believes that the Holy Spirit can't speak through men, but that we might be able to hear and discern what the Spirit is saying more clearly when it comes from men and women.

What fruits do you see in the restoration, or if you prefer, the hermaneutic of continuity with pre-Vatican II values, Juan?  Those who argue for the restoration will often assert that the corruption we see around us comes from the reform, rather than the reaction to it.  But one thing's certain:  there's nothing like consensus, at least not if you count the people who have been voting with their feet, or the 300 priests in Austria who have been making news in the last month.  I saw a directory for my last Catholic parish yesterday. Since I have the numbers from when I was on the parish council nine years ago, I can tell you that membership since then, in what was a growing, thriving parish in the suburbs of Minneapolis, is down 25-35%.  From conversations with other priests and lay ministers I know in the Twin Cities, that's not unusual.  If you assume these are all people of good will and that it's difficult for most adult Catholics to leave the Church, there are an even larger number still in the pews who are upset about what's going on, but reacting by disengaging in place rather than actively leaving.  In my opinion, this unrest cannot all be laid at the feet of ineffective catechizing.  It is the Spirit that is stirring up the unrest.  But we are not yet at consensus about that, either.
Anne Chapman | 9/1/2011 - 2:52pm
Juan, it is not possible to ''know'' what words are the words of the Holy Spirit and which aren't, since the HS does't write letters or catechisms or consent to be interviewed on CNN.  Just as it's not possible to know without a shadow of a doubt whether the scriptures captured the exact words, events etc of Jesus's life and teachings since there weren't any reporters or cameras on the scene, and they weren't written until decades after his death. (those who read scriptures as their sole foundation for belief much have an interesting time reconciling the multiple contradictions found in the NT).  So people must use their God-given minds and consciences  When I read official papal letters, the catechism, etc, one thing I consider is whether or not this is the product of the thinking and insights and lived wisdom of the whole church - who wrote it?  When John Paul II presumed to dictate to women about women, I wasn't a bit surprised by some of the stuff that he wrote, that he honestly believed, but which did not reflect much comprehension of the real lives and understandings of real women. Instead, it reflected the understanding of a clouded, idealized and romanticized vision he had held since he was a lonely, motherless child. So I ask myself about these documents - on what did they base it? Usually, as with the catechism, they base it on their own earlier writings or the writings of some other earlier pope etc. Generally these things are written by celibate men in Rome, men who do not live in the world inhabited by the 1.1 billion they presume to instruct; few, if any, of whom have consulted THE church (read Newman's piece again - ''On Consulting the Faithful on Matters of Doctrine').

In the case of the ''new'' catechism, there was a lot going on politically in Rome, with tugs of war between those who wanted the church to retreat to the imperial model of most of its history (John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger being the leadership of this movement), and those still hoping to implement the wisdom of Vatican II - the catechism was one instrument developed for use by the restorationists in that war. Of course the restorationists won, and continue to win - for now. But have they really ''won''?  Tens of millions of Catholics have walked away in the last 33 years, in Europe, in the Americas, in Latin America even. The governments of even strongly Catholic countries totally ignore Rome.  If they truly want to make an impact, they better start listening, so they can figure out the deeper reasons for this, instead of simply blaming capitalism or materialism, or individualism or the Gather Hymnal and the St. Louis Jesuits or any of their other favorite whipping boys.  Maybe they are winning some battles, but are they losing the war by trying to retreat to the past instead of figuring out how to lead in a complex and confusing 21st century? I don't think that going backwards to an earlier century is the best way to move forward through history, and since I do believe the HS guides the church throughout history (but the HS whispers, rather than shouts) I have faith that eventually the search for truth will lead even those men in Rome to realize that only an honest openness to the whole church will allow the church to become a sorely needed light for the world.

 The Holy Spirit speaks through the whole church. No single individual can claim that he or she perfectly understands the voice of the Spirit. No group of clerics together can claim that either. It would be messy and complicated to consult the whole church - including the laity. And since the Curia and others in Rome regard the laity with undisguised contempt as ''simple' faithful'', ''sheep'' etc, they tend not to consult because in their condescending ''wisdom'', they know it all! They silence and discipline and censor all of those who have the courage to ask the questions that need asking, and who posit new understanding and honestly try to look for truth! And so, without the insights and understanding that could be obtained by listening to THE church, including all those theologians they consider to be a curse, instead of only a tiny part of it (the handful in the clerical class who write these things), it's not really possible to have any real confidence that what this tiny group of men come up with is actually the work of the Holy Spirit. The history of the church has demonstrated that reality many times. That's why the church should give up on the emphasis on ''must believe'' this or else!  They should offer their understandings as being the 'best'' they  understand right at this moment of time, but they should have the humility to say that while  the members of the church should seriously study these documents and pray and reflect, they are not ''heretics'' if they dissent from them.  The PTB have often backed themselves into a corner because of their rigid absolutism, and then, since there is no humility at work in this, they cling and cling, even when they are wrong.  As some pundits have noted, eventually they ''develop'' the teaching and state, ''As the Church has always taught....'' 

Leaning on ''tradition''  is OK, but leaning on ''Tradition'' as being the primary reason to continue to put forth a teaching is a bit foolish, don't you think?  If so, we would still all be required to assent to the teaching that the earth is the center of the universe, and the sun revolves around the earth. That was the ''traditional'' teaching for 1700 years. And if one disagreed, a heresy trial and perhaps the stake would be the consequences.  The church would still be authorizing witchhunts (literal ones), and would still be affirming that slavery is moral and in accord with natural law (as it did for 2,000 years).  Etc, Etc.  Tradition is fine, and should be taken into consideration, but this amorphous thing that the church calls Tradition is not infallible and certainly should not be the primary justiciation for ''must believe'' dogma or doctrine.

OK, Juan, that's it. I really, really have to stop posting! I use these discussions to help me sort through my own thoughts, but realize that my thoughts really are not of much interest or import to others.  These are only my personal ideas, ideas which, as I have said before, have evolved slowly throughout my life. I don't claim to be infallible, but  I don't think the pope is either!  Another heresy.  Sigh. I don't say think that anyone needs to agree with me - they must consult their own consciences as I do! I'm just still wrestling with mine as to whether or not I should permanently join the tens of millions of ''former' Catholics.  The pope doesn't want people like me, nor do people like Brett, or most of the neo-conservatives in the church these days!  They are always very warmly and with the best intentions, I'm sure, inviting us to leave.  The church of today is not the church I knew 30 or 40 years ago.  So maybe I'll make it official this year and leave the Roman Catholic church forever.
Anne Chapman | 9/1/2011 - 12:50pm
Juan, I was hoping some other posters might answer your question about the Catechism.  They haven't, and I have been posting too much lately.  However, I will give you a short answer - it is simply my personal perception, but I know that it is shared by many. The catechism is a decent reference book, a starting point but not an end point. It is most useful as a starting point for tracing the roots of the teachings, even though that can be complex and time-consumng, especially since so much of the catechism refers back to documents of the church itself (''This is right, because this is what we said was right hundreds of years ago!'' You see the pitfalls in that, I assume). It's important to trace the roots of teachings and read the original documents, unfiltered through the Vatican. Most adult Catholics really didn't pay the slightest bit of attention to the ''new'' catechism when it was published (why new?  Have the ''truths''  changed?  Never mind.) but others clearly remember when, why, and by whom the new catechism was written - or at least under whose supervision.

Basically, many see the catechism as being more the work of men who included it as part of their efforts to return the church to a pre-Vatican II mindset than the work of the Holy Spirit.  And since it is the work of men it is no more unifying than many other papal documents that have been issued since the late 1960s, especially those issued during the last ~32+ years.

Michael Barberi | 8/31/2011 - 10:48pm

I can tell you for certain that the practices of Catholics regarding all forms of birth control does not vary that much between the categories of more developed and less developed countries. For example, the percent of female married women worldwide that use natural family planning is only 3%, and this percentage is the same for the categories mentioned. There are differences by country.

With respect to abortion, the incidence in less develoed countries is significantly greater than in more developed countries.

There are many reasons for these phenomena and capitalism does not correlate very well as a significant factor.

Michael Barberi | 8/31/2011 - 7:59pm
These previous comments by my fellow blogger attest to the truth that there is little concensus about the Theology of the Magisterium, World View and Ethical Method.
These issues divide theologians, the Church hierarchy, laity and priests.

There is disagreement over the ethics of Thomas Aquinas. You cannot apply Aquinas to voluntary human acts, like contraception, and ipso facto conclude that it is immoral (as Veritatis Spendor tried to do to justify Humanae Vitae), without invoking the two moral absolutes described in Humanae Vitae.  The Church refuses to address when a moral absolute is in tension with ethical context, human reason, experience and virtue. They simply ignore the dilemma of complex ethical cases. Where is the mercy and compassion for seriodiscordant couples where the HIV infected husband must practice celibacy and never use a codom. Does this not threathen a young couples's marriage? What about the suffering of a woman with 3 children whose life is threatened by another pregnancy and who is prohibited from taking the pill or a sterilizating operation? What is more important to God, that every marital act have a procreative meaning, or the safeguarding of one's life?

There is disagreement on certain teachings based on World View: Classicism versu Historicism. The Church will defend Tradition as the absolute moral truth and revisionsits will challenge "some" teachings based on both new knowledge and the collective and evolving wisdom of Christianity.

There is disagreement over the Theology of the Magisterium. Many Church theologians with expertise in Canon Law, such as Ladislas Orsy an Francis Sullivan, S.J., have argued (IMO convincingly) that JP2 extended Magisterial authority when he issued his 1998 Motu Proprio Ad tuendam fidem, imposing a new category of teaching called "definitive", explained as not infallible but irreformable. This had the effect of transferred "doubtful things" to the field of "necessary things" where no question must be raised anymore about their unchangable nature. If JP2 followed the politics of Pius IX in forcing through his Infallibilty Doctrine, there would be chaos in the Church today. What traditonalist theologian or bishop would assert that Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors was the absolute moral truth? 

In past times, there was no large group who challenged authority. The laity were mostly illiterate, were inhibited from publically speaking against authority or about permitted sexual expression. Sex was for procreation, sex during mentrual periods was a mortal sin, sex during pregnancy was forbidden and sex had only one licit position. When the banking system of Europe evolved in the 15th and 16th centuries, the largest banking institution lobbied from reform of the Usury Doctrine....successfully. By comparison, the pressure to reform the doctrine of usury versus sexual issues was like an elephant to a mouse. So much for what was clearly written in Scripture as Divine Law (usury).

Juan: There are legitmate philosophical and theological reasons, consistent with the Catholic religion, to disagree with some teachings, and remain a faithful Catholic.
KEN LOVASIK | 8/31/2011 - 1:19pm
"Ken, this is not about me personally, it is about the revealed truths and dogma of the Church; 2000 years of collective understanding of the mystery of God. I claim nothing for myself, and others are much more well read on the topic."

Sorry, Brett:  it is about you.  It's about your arrogance and lack of respect for others.
You are not the Magisterium of the Church.  The Holy Father, who has the right to speak in the name of the whole Church is firm, but he is never arrogant or insulting to others.  There's a way to disagree - and in the Pope's case, not yours, to correct others - will respecting the human dignity and intelligence of those who disagree or who may be in error.  The shoe fits:  wear it.

Anne Chapman | 8/31/2011 - 12:53pm
Juan, I will look for your email. Since you are young, you probably don't realize that the concept/term ''magisterium'' was not in common usage until relatively recently. It was raised to prominence by John Paul II/Cardinal Ratzinger, apparently as part of a general strategy to increase and further centralize power in Rome, and to further set aside the authority of the sensus fidelium affirmed by Vatican II.  Your comment about ''theological assertions'' seems to disregard the reality that the ''teachings of the magisterium'' are normally the product of the work of theologians. However, as we all know, theologians do not always agree.  The men in Rome can simply choose to silence theologians who challenge their ideas and incorporate the work only of those theologians who validate the conclusions held by those in the Curia-, something that John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger were/are very prone to doing. These two popes especially were/are not fond of theologians who think ''outside the box'' - so to speak. When you think about it, it could be rather spiritually dangerous in some ways to literally believe oneself to be God's infallible spokesman on earth.

There have been more silencings, more Vatican notices about 'error'',  removals of licenses for theology etc. during the last 32+ years than any comparable earlier period of modern history. Silencing is an odd course to take for those who claim to be seeking the truth. It's especially interesting how they go about it - the accused is never permitted to know who the accuser is, he/she is not given the right to defend  ideas, requests to come to Rome and talk directly to inquisitors are usually denied.  Even Cardinal Newman heard nothing ever, even after the nine or so years when he was silenced and under investigation. It's all done in secrecy. Of course, the CDF was previously known as the Inquisition and since some people might mistrust the tactics of the Inquisition (I wonder why?), they changed the name. 

 Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of fear involved in these attempts to suppress thought. A much better course would be to toss ideas on the table and invite theologians of all schools of thought to openly explore the questions, perhaps coming together periodically for face to face discussions.  It should be an open process, so that the laity can also contribute in some way, because our lived wisdom is very different from that of a celibate male whose entire life is pretty much devoted to academic endeavours. The lived understandings of the working of God in our lives can be perceived quite differently - by women and by men, by parents and by non-parents, by single people and by married people, by clerics and by women religious. God works and speaks through ALL of us - so shutting out our voices is not a good idea if one is honestly seeking fuller understanding in the quest for truth. It should be made explicitly clear also that no theologian will be punished for honestly and openly offering his/her thoughts and ideas and questions (assuming of course that female theologians would be included - unfortunately not something that we can ssume in the case of the current power structure in Rome. After all, women are ''different'' than men. Keep them barefoot and pregnant? After all, that's basically all they are ''good'' for according to Aquinas and Augustine - and John Paul II once you dig under the mountains of flowery Vaticanese that weigh down his writings).  If the early christian community had suppresed ideas the way Rome does now, it's possible that some of the ''dogma'' now in the creed would not be in the creed.  And just become something was codifed in the 4th century in the creed also does not mean that it's not useful to re-examine and consider deeper interpretations in light of centuries of human experience.

Of course, just like the idea of a new and open council, an open process for theological research and discussion is not going to happen. 

Peace and understanding!
Juan Lino | 8/31/2011 - 11:29am
Wow, a lot has happened since my last peak at the blog!  I’ll work backwards.
Steve (355) - I had never heard of “Goodwin’s law” and so I had to look it up!!  Thanks for giving me the opportunity to learn something new.  Now that I know what it is, I am actually intrigued by your proposal!  ; )
Anne (#54) – I was actually going to ask you what you meant when you used that phrase “all-encompassing reality” but you’ve already answered my question when you replied to Brett.  The more we dialogue the more I wonder if we seem to be at odds because you often favor “apophatic theology” while I favor “cataphatic theology” – both valid ways to discuss God.   One danger I find though, is that some use apophatic theology as a kind of eraser against assertions that God has certain attributes ascribed to Himself (this is the phrase used in Wiki).
I have found, and you probably have too, that the word “God” does not necessarily mean “Tri-personal God, or Trinity, etc. to everyone, including fellow Christians, and so I don’t assume that people mean that when they use the word “God.”
Ok, my friend, let me try to clarify my “youth-speak”, because what I am trying to say obviously needs to be articulated in a clearer way.  While it certainty is true that the Gospels are invaluable, I have found that one can reduce Christ to a figure of the past, a figure solely trapped in the past, by unconsciously affirming that the Word became text.  But the Christian claim is that “Christ is risen” and so He is a new and permanent factor in reality, a Presence that remains with us until the end of the world.  So for me the question of how God entered (and enters) into the world has been answered; and so, I believe the vital question is, where can I encounter Him now?  And I believe that that encounter must have the same features (not necessarily the form) that it had for those mentioned in the Gospels – e.g., an encounter with Someone outside of me that magnetizes all my being, etc.  Hmm… I fear that this is going to be too long a response and so I will send you a long e-mail, ok?
Regarding what you said about theologians…well, the only say that I will say is that I do see that some people seem to believe that "theologian assertions" carry the same weight as "the Magisterium".
Ken (#53) – well said and good advice for all of us.
Michael Barberi | 8/30/2011 - 11:29pm
Ann and others:

I will not debate some comments about loyality and obedience to the Vicar of Christ, regardless some teachings are in tension with practice reason and human experience. Those who have a strong faith in everyt papal utterance, will never be persuaded by another point of view. The few proclaim they are being faithful while the wide majority of the laity and theologians, and a significant percentage of priests and bishops, are somehow mislead by the secular culture.

As Ann has pointed out, the Vatican sets the rules and has demonstrated no tendency for openiness, dialog or debate. Ditto of the living experiences of most Catholics. They refuse to clarify the ambiguity and contradiction of some doctrines.

As Catholics we have given up on reform. When we have whole nations protesting for change, Libia, Egypt, etc, but Catholics will never form picket line in front of St. Peters. They simply will ignore certain teachings and go on living a spiritual filled life as best they can. It is a tragedy.

American magazine and other publications provide an outlet for our frustration. Who is listening?  Not the Vatican.  I have no answers, but my prayers, hope and continued efforts to make a small contribution and move the conversation forward. I can't say I have been successful, but my conscience has not lost the fight yet. At least there is comfort in the wisdom of my fellow bloggers. I do appreciate the dialog, but where does it go from here?
Anonymous | 8/30/2011 - 7:35pm

The Vicar of Christ is Christ's representative here on earth. The Bishop of Rome is St. Peter's successor.  ("Feed my sheep"). Did St. Paul not submit himself to St. Peter, as did all of the apostles? Christ established the Church and he established the priesthood, for men. The Pope has authority to govern. No council can be called without him. He is what binds us together.

A good question to ask onself might be, for example: does the pope subscribe to abortion, fornication, adultery and female priests? If the answer is no then as a Roman Catholic I do not have license to invent another Gospel which I deem better to my liking. Our inability to assent to the teachings of the Church, together with public dissent, certainly creates division. At what point does one honestly have to admit to oneself: no, I am not a Roman Catholic , because I cannot, or will not, assent to the teachings of the Church? 
Anne Chapman | 8/30/2011 - 6:43pm
Maria - to add to your post. Even if you refuse to give your loyalty unquestioningly to a man, no matter what his title, you are a Roman Catholic. But the more important thing to remember is that first you are a''Christian'' - a follower of Christ.

The litmus test for all followers of Christ is their loyalty to God and the gospel of Jesus - not their loyalty to men and institutions. (Misplaced loyalty and a vow of obedience to the pope is one reason that tens of thousands of children were molested and raped by priests even after the bishops and the pope knew about it. They kept silent, protected the priests and the ''reputation'' of the institution because they unfortunately gave their first loyalty to men instead of to God.)

 Many who put their loyalty to God ahead of their loyalty to the human being called pope have suffered for it. Some have only been ''silenced,'' but some were imprisoned.  Joan of Arc, judged by the church to be guilty of heresy, was turned over to the civil authorities by the church to be burned at the stake - and the church also denied her request to receive communion before her execution.  But fortunately her faith was in God and not first in men, and this sustained her,

 How interesting that some of these notorious dissenters and heretics came to be called ''saints.'' Others were never ''exonerated'' while they lived, and they never knew that their dissenting ideas were eventually incorporated into church documents (including those of Newman in the documents of Vatican II).  How tragic it would have been for the church had they given their loyalty first to a man rather than to God.
Anonymous | 8/30/2011 - 6:10pm
Mary:  RE # 21 "It's time to acknowledge that we're all Cafeteria Catholics".

Not me, Mary!

The litmus test for all Roman Catholics, in the end, is a person's loyalty to the Vicar of Christ. Am I able to submit my will in obedience to the truth of the teachings of the Church ? If I am not, if I refuse, am I still able to call myself Catholic?
Juan Lino | 8/30/2011 - 5:28pm
Dear all, reflecting on the article Tim cited, and the comments posted above to date, what immediately comes to mind for me is what Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2009: In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Not just any god, but the God who spoke on Sinai; to that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses "to the end" (cf. Jn 13:1) – in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.”
Perhaps some of my fellow Christians in the “America blog” community were part of a more unified Church (at least on the surface) but my experience since becoming a Christian has been that we are a community constantly at war - a war between the usual players who are generally much older than I am. 
This, however, does not disturb me that much because judging from the letters of St. Paul and Church history, it’s been this way from the beginning, and probably will be forever because we are always sinners in constant need of conversion.
Antonio Celso de Queirós, Michael (#35), and Brendan offer some interesting suggestions but others, I believe, have severe “catechetical” deficiencies and thus deviate from what Christ has revealed though His Church. 
I do want to posit a question though – not to start another battle – but out of a sincere desire to know.  I see the Catechism (and the Compendium and YouCat) as wonderful gifts from the Holy Spirit to clear up the confusion in which we find ourselves but few seem to see those gifts as a point of unity (i.e., a possible solution) that all Catholic Christians can rally around. 
I’d like to know why that is? 
Anne Chapman | 8/30/2011 - 5:24pm
Oh, Brett. LOL! Again you misunderstand me, attribute to me statements I did not actually make, and then judge me on those statements that I didn't actually make. You did not ask what I mean by my use of the words''injustice and immorality'' today, right? I was not talking about a return to the church's tradition-based support of slavery as being ''moral and in accord with natural law.'' I think even those currently defining teachings in the church would have more sense than to try to revive that particular ''traditional'' teaching of the church. They kept that one up for almost 2000 years,  though, so I guess it's not reasonable to hope that they will give up their ''tradition'' of injustice towards women without a fight to the death. Perhaps your assumptions are simply a matter of, hmmm, hyperbole? You assume things about what I write, and then you assume things about me based on when I was born. But really, what you are doing is simply using my post as a launching pad for you to restate your views, including your apparently visceral dislike of Vatican II and the ''Vatican II generation.'' Since you have made your blanket judgments already, and have assured us most sincerely that your generation has all the answers, there is really no need to continue to even try to talk, is there?  Peace!

Michael B, while all that you say is valid and of great interest to laity, and perhaps to many priests at the lower levels of the church's career ladder (and to theologians - that much maligned class in the church these days) it is doubtful that these proposals would be of any interest to the men in charge. How is it to happen in the real world of this particular church in this particular time in history? Those in the hierarchy who make all the rules and define all the teachings in the absence of the sensus fidelium, have clearly shown that they have no interest whatsoever in learning from the insights and spiritual understanding of the laity - no matter how many positive ideas or solutions might be found there.  They honor Newman, but only because they like trumpeting the fact that this famous Anglican priest became a Roman Catholic priest - but they ignore the wisdom found in his ideas and writings, especially on the sensus fidelium and conscience.

Openness and inclusiveness are not hallmarks of the Roman church.  John XXIII tried at least a bit to do this - but after his death, the church simply retreated to its old ways.  Many commentators have observed that it is unlikely that the Curia will ever again let a Roncalli assume the papacy - they made a mistake once and they will redouble efforts in future conclaves to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Michael Barberi | 8/30/2011 - 4:20pm
I am not naive or idealogically minded to believe that an ephiphany will happen ipso facto if  another Council is convened, but I would like to offer some postive reflections.

1. We all know how divided the Church is today over many issues ranging form negative injunctions concerning conjugal love to an outdated and dysfunctional ecclesiology. However, there are many traditionalist and revisionist theologians that have offered solutions. If we give up on the Spirit of God to lead us to the truth, because of entrenched positions, a centralization of power and authority that only listens to itself, then we may as well start a new Church or join another one. I am not ready to give up and think many of you feel the same way. Instead of offering up all the barriers to reform, why not work and support all appropriate efforts for reform. Consider the following.

Many of us believe that there are two camps within the Church, Rome and those that support Rome, and everyone else. Each side remains intransigent. There is some truth in this statement, however, many prominent theologians and bishops have offered solutions but they need a big push my the laity.

> In an essay written in 1986 entitled "How To Deal with Theological Dissent", Germain Grisez, a most orthodox traditionalist, suggested a new Magisterial Process in order to achieve solidarity. Grisez recommended that a special Synod of Bishops be convened with defined objectives and effective procedures including a plenary session that the pope would convene if one judgment is not reached in discerning the truth. I encourage all to read Grisez's article. What I would add to Grisez's suggestions is that the laity be involved in such a Synod of Bishops and some additionals procedures concering debate. Nothing ever came of these suggestions, because there was no process for the faithful to be involved, nor was there enough theologians and bishops behing this suggestion. I fault JP2 of that.  Nevertheless, we must not give up because the voices of reform are more powerful and determined today than ever before. Read on.

> In 2006, James Keenan, S.J. of Boston College, started a cross-cultural conference of Roman Catholic Ethicists to help bridge the divide within the theological community over our most pressing issues inclusive of Church teachings. This World-wide Congress of R.C. Ethicists meets every 4 years, and has met twice in 2006 and 2010. A few Cardinals and influencial Bishops are always invited. Some have complained that this effort is too timid and not critical enough. However, all believe the direction is positive and will bear fruit.

If we are to expect reform, we need dialog and debate involving an appropriate cross-section of the laity, theologians, bishops, the pope and the Roman Curia. If a special Council or Snod of Bishops are convened, it must have clear and agree-upon objectives, a process that is rigorous, open and inclusive, and where poliitical agendas are realistically minimized. This may not happen in our lifetime. However, the article by Tim Reidy points us in the right direction.

I don't have an answer to these issues, but giving up is not an option, nor is repeative rhetoric without collective action. Our backs are to the wall with only one way out. Perhaps that is what we need. What we need is positive ideas and solutions, not more complaints.
KEN LOVASIK | 8/30/2011 - 3:13pm
Amen, Anne, Amen!
Thomas Piatak | 8/30/2011 - 8:12am
Here is what happens to a church that enacts all the liberal reforms-democratic governance, no curia in Rome, women priests, active homosexual priests, approval of contraception and divorce:

Leaving aside the debate over what has happened in the Catholic Church since Vatican II, don't Catholic progressives realize that liberal Protestantism is in decline everywhere?  (And that the forms of Christianity that are growing in the Third World tend to take the Bible literally and focus on individual salvation, not social justice?)  Why would they want to make the Church more like the liberal Protestant denominations that are dwindling?
Livia Fiordelisi | 8/29/2011 - 8:59pm
Brendan, I like your ideas but question your premise that ordained priests are called to a greater sacrifice. I firmly believe that being a faithful spouse and responsible parent is also a total sacrifice in its own way, and can be a greater sacrifice depending on how the commitment is lived out. Celibacy and obedience can degenerate into selfishness and unhealthy dependency.
Stephen SCHEWE | 8/29/2011 - 6:31pm
Brendan, you have interesting ideas that must grow from a sense that something is missing for you in today's church.  I'm not all that familiar with conciliar history, but at least for Vatican II there was a development of liturgical reform and doctrine that started in the 1930s (with people like Virgil Michel) to address the sense that changes were needed; Vatican II didn't jump into being from nothing.  Other councils have reacted to the times (e.g., Trent) by reasserting tradition, but is a council really necessary to do that?  The conservatives are firmly in control and are implementing their program; the only reason for them to convene a council would be to get their approach endorsed by a higher level of teaching authority, and I'm not sure that would address the concerns of those disaffected with or leaving the church.  The current Pope would never convene a council under anything like Jim McCrea's inclusive framework.  So despite the growing pressures and conflicts, it's hard for me to imagine anything happening for at least 50 years. It's significant to me that the cri de coeur above was written by a retired bishop; when there's a groundswell of active bishops around the world saying they can't teach and govern because of the church's internal contradictions, perhaps then.  In the meantime, we can pray for another John XXIII to come along.
Brendan McGrath | 8/29/2011 - 6:13pm
To add a bit more to my previous post - I know that what I was suggesting in number 8 on my list is not ideal.  It goes against the idea that a person gives up his (her?) life to become a priest; it's a calling that radically changes everything; etc.  But does it necessarily have to be that way?  Could there be two categories made (I'm not sure what the terms woud be), perhaps something like the different "grades" or whatever of exorcist, acolyte, whatever - i.e., priests who are "full-time ministers" (but let's find a more ancient-sounding name than that) and priests who are "part-time ministers" (again, find a more ancient-sounding name)?

We don't require deacons to sacrifice everything - would it be possible to have a category of priests who aren't called to sacrifice everything either?  But like the East, we would only draw bishops from those who are celibate, who are "full-time" (oh someone please find some Greek- or Latin-derived term for that quickly), etc.?

Jim Brunner | 8/29/2011 - 6:00pm
I agree that it's probably time for another council. I do notice that the article mentions that it's been a century and a half since the last council. It's been 48 years, since Vatican II and it was roughly 73 years between Vatican I and Vatican II.
Anonymous | 8/29/2011 - 5:22pm

I would suggest that you check out to read what the Pope is saying daily.  If you follow him you will quickly see that there won't be a Vatican III anytime soon.

"If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts"
Anonymous | 8/29/2011 - 4:13pm
One other comment on the reason for the trends of decline of faith etc.

The author assumes that it is orthodox Catholicism in the liturgy and sexual ethics that accounts for a dearth in religious vocations (as though the orders themselves have nothing to do with it?) or a high Catholic laity involvement in some sexual sin is justification enough to change the teaching (as though adultery or serial sex abuse would, if sufficiently practiced by the "unfaithful" necessarily lead the Church to do a 180 and say "oh yeah, it's OK now, go for it"??

Please explain why the Church or any group ought to radically alter their self-understanding and rules on these premises.

More than half the citizens in most US states don't vote. Does this mean the very system of electing representatives ought to be dropped....or does it mean we ought to do a better job getting out the vote?

Take the widespread evil (I'm told) of "patriarchy" whereby untold hundreds of millions of men regularly repress and oppress women. If contraception on the part of Catholic women is taken as evidence of "the Holy Spirit guiding the Church in truth" then why isn't the widespread practice of patriarchy not a similar "obvious" sign of the times and eternal command of God?

In other words, if democracy or sheer numbers of adherants' doing something at odds with any official teaching is reason enough for any group to change the teaching.... why doesn't this work both ways?

I'd hazard a guess that it's because most people agree that some things ought not be left to majority opinion or vote because some times or most of the times the mob or majority can't be trusted to get it right. But how do we know unless there is some authority that exists apart from democracy on which we can judge the demos?
And that gets us back to the Catholic understanding of authority vested in the Magisterium of the Pope and bishops in union with him and not in whatever happens to be popular or common among any given population.

Anonymous | 8/29/2011 - 4:01pm
Ah so a new council will inevitably allow the Church to adopt radically secular understandings of sexual morality, governance, socio-economic favored positions and an overthrow of those currently "in power" to rise up those currently "not in power" will it? Just because, of course.

Funny, but I always thought the point of Catholicism was holiness of life that is defined by individual believers leaving their sinful ways and habits and taking on the mind and habit of Christ, in communio with all believers who came before rather than jettisoning all those who came before while adopting whatever passes for wisdom and convenience in our current pop culture. Silly me, caring about communio with Christ and Christians of all times rather than popularity and convenience only in my time!

Here's the thing though.... none of the laundry list of hoped for "reforms" show the slightest bit of signs or evidence of helping non-Catholic Christians advance in holiness of life or booming congregations or dramatic improvements in the lot of the poor, marginalized, etc. the world over. Liberation theology has not helped the urban or rural poor escape poverty into the middle class. It has not fundamentally improved their chances of escaping tyranny. Or helped them grow in holiness of life.
Liberal theology justifying secular sexual mores in religious life and lay practice has not produced a flowering of Episcopalians or contracepting Anglicans. Female priestesses have not led to a boom of evangelization to Christianity anywhere but has led many out of Christianity. So if your "reforms" have zero evidence in the real world of doing what the Church exists to do... why place hope in a council of bishops assembling at the call of a Pope to advance such ideas overnight?

Or do you think there's no difference between any spirit and the Holy Spirit and hence no discernment required (or prudent) between any idea and the right idea?
ed gleason | 8/29/2011 - 3:11pm
David & Joe , You guys ought to help us get to your positions of everthing in the Church is just ducky.. a positive contribution please..
Anonymous | 8/29/2011 - 2:57pm
I am getting tired of reading these old, worn-out views.
Thomas Piatak | 9/2/2011 - 8:20am

You are right:  Catholic losses are always discussed in a vacuum.  I inserted a pertinent link in my comment number 22.

Here is another link with a similar story, from just a few days ago:

The bottom line is that liberal Protestant denominations that have democratic (or more democratic) governance, no curia in Rome, married, women, and active homosexual clergy, and no prohibitions on contraception and divorce are losing members more rapidly than the Catholic Church in developed countries and are not growing as fast as the Catholic Church is in the developing world. 
Anne Chapman | 9/1/2011 - 7:30pm
Maria, thank you for your kind thoughts. However, your concerns about my ''problems'' are misplaced, so don't overworry it. We do agree on one thing, and that is the importance of the heart in our relationship with God - as the fox told the little prince - it is only with the heart that one can see rightly - what is essential is invisible to the eye!

Michael, I would also like to read your paper - could you also send it to me? I haven't checked email for a couple of weeks because I actually have a lot to do right now (family and work obligations) and have spent so much time on America the last few days that I am getting nothing else done. But, this weekend I will read (and I know there is email from you too, Juan)

Steve, thank you for sharing your exerience and insights. You are familiar with a number of situations that I am not (Vox Clara for example).  One thing that has intriqued me about the ''decline'' of the church after Vatican II is that is was pretty mild (in terms of # of seminarians, # of Catholics who regularly go to mass etc), but accelerated dramatically after John Paul II took over.  It seems that if the backward stance he and Ratzinger initiated was really the ''right'' direction, the ''decline'' would not have grown to the level we see now, 33 years later. You mentioned looking at the fruits - it seems that the fruits produced by the restorationists over the last 3+ decades have not produced a very good harvest. Tens of millions left the church during that same time period. Catholicism is virtually moribund in many European countries (such as France), and in very bad shape in several others, including Spain and especially Ireland. 

The data on the CARA web site tell quite an interesting story.
Juan Lino | 9/1/2011 - 1:39pm
If I am reading what you wrote correctly in #74 Anne, you are asserting that the CCC is NOT the work of the Holy Spirit because the “men” (i.e., the bishops and their advisors in the world that reviewed the document thoughout the many years it took to compile) who put it together are trying to return the Church to a pre-Vatican II mindset – is that right?
Well, can’t I equally assert that the Holy Spirit is NOT with those “men” (whether laity or not) and “women” (whether laity or not) that believe in a “hermeneutic of rupture” - which I am defining as “the broad principle of interpretation which dismisses tradition and opts instead for the latest ideas, as if by the very fact of coming later in time, these ideas must be superior.”  
And I assert what I assert based on my experience. 
That therefore leads to the question, how does one determine that the Holy Spirit is present in the Church?  Is His presence (the one Christ promised) an objective fact promised by an Other or is it a subjective determination that you and I make based on whatever criterion we favor at the moment?
Juan Lino | 9/1/2011 - 10:57am
Anne – have you read the late Cardinal Avery Dulles’ book “Magisterium”?  I highly recommend it.  It’s available through Ignatius Press.
Michael (#69) – You wrote: “There are legitimate philosophical and theological reasons, consistent with the Catholic religion, to disagree with some teachings, and remain a faithful Catholic.”  On the surface, it would seem that you are asserting something that I could agree with, but, I can’t say that at this point because I need to understand how you define the words “legitimate”, “consistent”, and “faithful.” 
The problem, it seems to me, is what is the criterion one uses for judgment.  So, while it is vital to define how we are each using the words we are using, let me give you a concrete personal example regarding pelvic acts because you bring up pelvic acts in your third paragraph. 
I am a man and I am attracted to men.  I claim to follow Christ and I use my freedom to adhere to what He has revealed to us though His Church.  And His Church teaches that it would be a sin for me (or anyone else) to engage in homosexual acts.  Now some friends I know argue, from a variety of what they consider legitimate philosophical and theological reasons, that the Church is wrong and that I should disregard that teaching.  Well, should I?
Now some answer, “follow your conscience” (in the confessional and out) as if conscience was an infallible “oracle” that one can use to erase the teachings of Christ.  Others answer, “well everyone has a Cross and they must pick it up every day and follow Christ”.  I ask, “which response takes into account, as a criterion of judgment, the totality of what Christ has revealed to us through His body.” 
In one of my earlier comments I asked: “I do want to posit a question though – not to start another battle – but out of a sincere desire to know.  I see the Catechism (and the Compendium and YouCat) as wonderful gifts from the Holy Spirit to clear up the confusion in which we find ourselves but few seem to see those gifts as a point of unity (i.e., a possible solution) that all Catholic Christians can rally around. I’d like to know why that is?”
I guess that’s a question that my fellow bloggers are not interested in answering, and I can’t understand why.  Yes, arguing about styles of thought is fun but we seem to disregard the importance of the virtue of obedience (and I am using it in the Benedictine sense).
I’ll end with a quote from an early article - Loyalty and Dissent: After Vatican II - that the Late Cardinal Dulles wrote: On the other hand, there are limits to the amount of dissent that the church, consistently with its nature, can admit. Innovators will have to make it clear— as not all of them do — that they are profoundly committed to the church they wish to reform. Their dissent must be modest, loyal, kind and constructive; otherwise it would not even be Christian. The dissenter must admit his own fallibility and the overriding claims of God’s revelation as it comes to expression, in a variety of styles, within the whole body of the church.