Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Priorities Askew?

Cardinal Schoenborn:

At a time when the Church should really be dealing with the crucial worries that face people today such as the financial crisis and unemployment, it is confronted with debates about a small group of people who refuse to recognise the Second Vatican Council, or at least crucial parts of it, who think the Pope and the Church are on the wrong path and who consider themselves as the true Catholic Church.

Wow. That totally undermines pretty much everything the Catholic Church teaches and upholds.


Andy Bodoh said...

We have to be careful, though, that we do not criticize unnecessarily. I am not totally familiar with the situation in Vienna, but I see nothing in this that cannot be taken well. The Church should be permitted to face the contemporary issues, like the financial crisis. It appears that Benedict will be addressing it in his forthcoming encyclical. As such, it is unfortunate that it is still badgered by dissentors from its doctrine. The fact that we spend so much time defending the Second Vatican Council is regrettable. I don't think this means that we shouldn't do so, but we can recognize that this is not the ideal situation.

bakerstreetrider said...

Saying that discussing the financial crisis is much more important than reconciling hundreds of thousands--maybe a million--souls, is pretty scary.

No matter how small a group is, the Church should try to bring them into communion with her.

Greek Orthodox reject the teachings of certain coucils. Does this mean they are not worth the Church's time? Lutherans, Calvinists, Presbyterians, Jews, Muslims...etc, do not accept certain teachings of the Church. Does this mean they are not worth trying to reconcile?

Schoenborn lately has been publically criticizing the pope, yet he thinks others who do the same are unimportant. Why?

Andy Bodoh said...

In this excerpt, the Cardinal neither encourages nor discourages dialogue with dissentors. It simply decribes the contemporary situation:

The Church should be dealing with contemporary global concerns.

The Church is confronted by debates about a (relatively) small group of dissentors.

There is no prioritizing in this statement. No "more important than" or "less important than". There is no statement that dissentors are not worth the time. Rather, there is a suggestion that these dissentors are causing more harm than they realize by their continued dissent. They are inhibitting the Church from addressing more serious errors.

Where is this excerpt taken from anyway?

bakerstreetrider said...

The question is, is the Church's main mission commentary on social events, or the salvation of souls through communion with her in the life of grace.

First of all, the pope is addressing economic problems in his forthcoming encyclical. Also, I think he has dealt with it in some of his audiences, though I would have to look that up. Criticizing him for not doing so is unfair, especially at a time when he is being criticized worldwide by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, in absolutely poisonous ways. It simply adds fuel to the already raging fire.

Second, according to the Church's identity, the first priority is not commentary of financial things, but things that pertain to doctrine, grace, and salvation. Financial crises only concern the Church insofar as they concern people and their journey towards God. Purely worldly affairs are definitely the Church's concern, but a secondary one. However, bringing dissenters into the order of grace is a primary duty of the Pope and the Church. Since the SSPX have made gestures showing they want reconciliation, the pope's duty is to respond.

I do not see how this statement can be read without seeing in it the idea that one is more important than the other.
I cannot imagine what would have happened if this had been said about Jews, liberal Protestants, or other groups.

"Rather, there is a suggestion that these dissentors are causing more harm than they realize by their continued dissent. They are inhibitting the Church from addressing more serious errors."

In answering this point, I think the fear is not that they are keeping the Church from addressing serious errors, but in addressing the SSPX, the serious errors of others will be addressed. Hence, the false dichotomy is given in the opinion that the pope should be dealing with something else entirely, instead of giving just as much importance to bringing about union among Christians. Divisions in the Church are the greatest scandal to the world.

It quotes Schoenborn's newsletter.

The author of the blog is liberal, and extremely well connected.

Andy Bodoh said...

This excerpt, taken in itself, is not a criticism of the Pope. The key verb in this section is "is confronted". The Church "is confronted" with debates about dissentors. That is no more a critique of the Pope than to say "The Pope is hit by the bad man."

In the broader context of the statement, as provided in the other blog, it seems that this comment questioned the prudence of lifting the excommunication on the SSPX bishop. The Cardinal seems to be saying, "Doing this at this time has generated debates about whether or not the Church cares about the holocaust. In effect it has marginalized the Church's voice in the public square just at a time She has the opportunity to speak out boldly in the of Justice and Charity in the face of greed and selfishness."

One might disagree with the Cardinal and even say that he is imprudent himself in making these comments. However, he is not denying the importance of dialoguing with dissentors. Nor is criticizing that the removal of the three excommunications. He is not criticizing the Pope's removal of the excommunication on doctrinal grounds. He is only saying that lifting this particular excommunication has caused foreseeable problems that is preventing the Church from making Her voice heard about another matter of grave concern.

Joe said...

If the Church "is confronted", as he said, why is it so confronted? The implication--very clear to those in Austria and who are familiar with the recent actions of the Cardinal (for these statements do not exist in a vacuum)--is that the pope brought about this confrontation by his actions. It was his bishop's conference that has held an emergency meeting due to the sudden crisis in the Church caused by the Pope's appointment of Fr. Wagner to the diocese of Linz and the Pope's remission of the four excommunications.

Note that nowhere in the quotation does he bring up the holocaust controversy--rather, he is speaking of the theological underpinnings behind the whole affair.

It is clearly a criticism, and a deep one.

bakerstreetrider said...

Perhaps by changing the context, the meaning will become more clear.

"At a time when the Church should really be dealing with the crucial worries that face people today such as the financial crisis and unemployment, it is confronted with debates from a small group of conservatives protesting pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving Communion because they refuse to recognise Canon Law, or at least crucial parts of it, they think the Pope and the Church are on the wrong path and consider themselves as the true Catholic Church."

Describing financial worries as crucial, with discussion of them obligatory, and contrasting it with a small group of protesters definitely implies a hierarchy on the order of importance.

On this point we will have to agree to disagree, as usual Andy. :-) I think time will clear up this issue and His Eminence's intentions more than anything else. I am very confused. I always regarded him as a strong supporter of Catholicism, but lately things that have been going on are confusing at best, scandalous at worst. Either way, he definitely needs our prayers.

Andy Bodoh said...

The only reason I argue the point is because I think it important not to condemn a member of the hierarchy out of our love for the Pope as long as there is a more favorable interpretation of the situation available.

In this situation, there is no reason to suspect that the Cardinal opposes three of the four dispensations of excommunication. He seems to oppose the one on purdential grounds, not on doctrinal grounds. From all that I have seen, the same goes for his opposition to Bishop Wagner. It was a objection on prudential grounds. One might find it an imprudent objection, but it is not a rejection of Church doctrine.

I think your abortion/communion characterization of situation is unfaithful to the original. In the abortion/communion argument, some faithful Catholics are arguing in favor of a strict application of the rule, while other faithful Catholics are arguing that such a strict application is imprudent. The original comment instead seems to contemplate secular criticisms the fact that the Church is not punishing someone who has denied what secular world considers to be the greatest attrocity in history.

The secular world will probably use these issues with Bishop Wagner and Bishop Williamson to (wrongfully) discredit the true and valuable message that Benedict wants to give to the world. One does not dissent from doctrine when one says that the Pope should not have appointed this man or handled a renunciation of an excommunication in this way. On such things the Pope is not infallible. These are questions of prudence, not of doctrine.

Ottaviani said...

The Church should be dealing with contemporary global concerns.

Correct me if I am wrong but I seem to remember Christ telling the Apostles something rather different.

Cardinal Schoenborn has only made this statement because he is afraid of what the proposed discussions with the SSPX will bring about. The Austrian church is perfectly happy with the status quo and does not what to face up to the fact that the Council may have been a failure in some respects. The whole Wagne-Linz affair (a great example of the Josephite heresy according to some Catholic commentators) shows that the Austrian church is basically at odds with the Pope.

Me wonders where the real schism is...

bakerstreetrider said...

"I think your abortion/communion characterization of situation is unfaithful to the original. In the abortion/communion argument, some faithful Catholics are arguing in favor of a strict application of the rule, while other faithful Catholics are arguing that such a strict application is imprudent."

Faithful Catholics arguing in favor of a strict application:
Pope Benedict, Archbishop Burke, Bishop Martino, and many other practicing Catholics.

Faithful Catholics arguing against:
Pelosi, Biden, Kerry, etc.
And, the bishops who fall in this camp are acting in disobedience to Rome.


I'm not condemning C. Schoenborn; I have no authority to do so, but I am worried. When a Cardinal leads a bishop's conference in direct defiance of the Pope's lawful jurisdiction, I get worried for the souls in the diocese, and also upset for Pope Benedict's sake. Time will more, but the methods used in that situation were not only imprudent, but very disrespectful and disobedient.

I think more doctrinal differences will come out in time between those who are right now criticizing or outright slamming Pope Benedict's action. The German bishops conference has already refused to dialogue with anyone from the SSPX because they have reservations about a few parts of Vatican II, though they will easily debate with anyone else who disagrees with Church doctrine in its entirety. What bishops and cardinals are being swept into is a much larger battle, a battle that concerns the culture of life. If issues can be worked out with the SSPX and Rome (which I think they definitely can--the actual points of disagreement are few and most are not doctrinal), the Church will have hundreds of thousands of laity coming into full communion who are extremely moral in regards to ethics. This is the last thing progressive "Catholics" who wish to modernize the Church's teachings on morals want. Sadly, Bishop Williamson created a red herring with a very silly comment.
We will just have to wait and see.

healthily sanguine said...

Very interesting. One of my first instincts is to go on Google and pull up more instances of Schoenborn's disobedience--but Andy really does have a point. What good comes in criticizing Schoenborn? What would Pope Benedict himself say? By painting him as a "liberal dissenter," what do we gain? Well, if it's true, then it's detraction. If it's false, it's slander. As I've blogged about before, just because someone is a public figure and even an authority in the Church does not mean we can speak about him however we wish.

Emily, I know you will reply that you were not saying anything directly negative about his Eminence but about his statements. That is completely fair. However, you also have to be aware how discussions such as these can devolve into personal attacks. It's an oversimplification, but a lot of times a person can be identified with his errors, whether doctrinal or pastoral, in a demeaning way. In fact, I almost wish you would just call Schoenborn a heretic (not that he is one), because there's something so refreshing and straightforward about saying "this is heresy"! On the other hand, when you start to get in discussions about how a leader isn't leading as he should, or subjects of that (moral) nature, they can very easily provide groundwork (even on a subconscious level) for rash judgment.

Joe said...

Just a consideration...

There have been extremely strong attacks against the pope in recent weeks. These attacks--excluding the media attacks--seem to be centered in Germany and Austria. The German attacks are mostly verbal (examples are easily to be seen); the Austrian attacks are mostly in action (though, also in words: see the Episcopal conference's statement).

In Austria the objective facts are these:

1) The Pope lifts the excommunications.
2) The Pope appoints Fr. Wagner as coadjutor bishop of Linz.
3) The Episcopal Conference calls for a crisis meeting because of points 1 and 2.
4) Very inappropriate and anti-papal Gallicanesque statements are made by the Bishop's conference, with the signatures of Schonborn, et al.
5) Fr. Wagner appeals for dispensation from his nomination--and admits he is acting under duress.

Now, if the Austrian region was in good shape, it might be reasonable to suppose that there are prudential concerns underlying everything and that this is all a bruhaha over nothing. However, the Austrian region is a pit of heterodoxy and heteropraxis. Just look at Cardinal Schonborn's own liturgies for proof of this. The Cathedral of his archdiocese has even given out blessings to gay partners on Valentine's Day. The stuff that happens with approbation in this region is so crazy that one could not make it up--and it is all in public, available for all to see. Fr. Wagner's nomination was so feared because he was one of the few staunchly orthodox priests in the region. He told things as they are. In response to his nomination, groups of priests simply announced that they would not accept him as a bishop. Episcopal pressure was exerted, and Fr. Wagner's hand was forced.

It is not detraction to bring these things to light. When the pope is attacked by someone, the very act of defending him from the attacks of another shines a certain bad light on the attacker. It must be so. It is not anyone's desire to speak ill of a certain cardinal, but if the pope is attacked, one must rally to him. In this case it is an either or--either the Pope is right or Cardinal Schonborn is right. The pope has publicly defended his actions before the Universal Church as integral to his mission as Successor of St. Peter. If someone attacks him for thus exercising his mission, again, we must rally to him. Charity, loyalty, and justice all demand this.

bakerstreetrider said...

If the Cardinal had made this statement privately, then I would be guilty of detraction.
However, since he made it in his nation-wide paper, I fail to see how bringing it up is anything of the sort. He chose to issue it, and I'm sure he said it for a reason. Perhaps though, you do not think we should take the public comments of our pastors seriously?

Calling Schoenborn a heretic, as you suggest, would be calumny or slander, because I have no definite evidence. I am unclear how this would be a superior route to take. Perhaps you could explain?

Reasons I brought it up:
1. Because the man obviously needs prayers.
2. Because the Austria situation has me very worried, since the actions taken there seem to be on a schismatic trajectory. Perhaps, though, you don't think it is the business of other members of the Mystical Body if an entire country is heading that direction? Perhaps you think it has nothing to do with us, or our spiritual lives, or the spiritual lives of future generations? If this is the case, I suggest you read a basic Catholic history book. The conclusion of this, of course, reverts back to point 1. He needs prayers, as does the country.

3. We are living in a time when the entire world is attacking the Pope, the Pope's rightful authority, and personal reputation. To say this is not the case is to be in a situation of clinical denial, or ignorance of world events. Someone who I thought (and I don't think I was alone in this) was a staunch defender of Catholicism is now one of the leading figures in this war against the pope, in a publicly documented way, not according to rumor or hearsay or omission, but actively, by his own pastoral words and actions. I love the Pope, and am obliged to defend his reputation against attacks. Making the few good Catholics who read this blog aware of this, primarily for the purposes of point 1, but also for the sake of Catholics being informed of world events, is not a bad thing.

How many times have you prayed for Schoenborn and Austria in the past few months? Now, with this knowledge, how many times will you pray for him in the coming few months?
If the answer to the two questions is quite different, there is the reason why this should be posted.