Back from the dead! It has been a busy time. I am about to fly to Australia (in a few hours actually) to sneak in some holiday before taking up a new role in the monastery, that of bursar. If the new job does not kill me I suppose it will make me stronger. But there has been so little time to read, let alone write.
The Cardinal McCarrick affair is growing louder in the media. Christopher Altieri raises a point that merits pushing further: the failure is not just McCarrick’s but that of the American bishops as a body. How could no other bishop not have known? And knowing, how could they have kept silence? The denials just do not ring true. For many they may be true but such is the deficit the Catholic hierarchy suffers at the moment that few will believe them. After all, in England we had a similar case, that of Bishop Conry and his long-standing relationship with a mistress. It was very well known in ecclesiastical circles, even from his days in Rome apparently. Yet he was promoted anyway. Did any bishop protest at the time? The Conry case has one essential difference: his sin was with a woman, so a collective sigh of relief that it was not a minor encouraged silence.
The recent flurry of words and concern over the motu proprio has involved reflection on the curia, bishops’ conferences and collegiality. To no one’s surprise, I have some strong views about them all. So, in order that the wrong impression is not gleaned by the uninitiated reader, a word of clarification is timely.
Recently I made use of Frank Sheed to suggest that the cloud of papal silence over the Amoris Laetitia crisis, and in particular the dubia of i quattro cardinali, might perhaps carry with it a silver lining. In a nutshell, Sheed explained that papal infallibility can be secured by the Holy Spirit in a positive way, definitive teaching for example such as that on Our Lady’s assumption, or in a negative way, in that even the most scandalous of popes were preserved from teaching error ex cathedra. In that case, their silence was at least silver, if not golden. So too now, papal silence might not be as bad as we think.
For we do well to remember that the papacy does not exhaust the teaching authority of the Church. Historically popes have not been doctrinally very active, save as courts of final appeal. The dubia were presented to Pope Francis precisely in his capacity as the final and magisterial arbiter of doctrinal contention. It would be wonderful if he answered them by reaffirming the teaching of Christ.
There is a quiet media frenzy afoot about the snap decision of Pope Francis not to meet with his cardinals before this weekend’s consistory in Rome. The decision is being attributed to the letter to the pope of i Quattro Cardinali seeking definitive clarification of several points of confusion arising from the papal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, that resulted from the Synod on the Family, and which he seems steadfastly to be refusing to answer.
Pope Francis’ decision is not in itself earth-shattering. Benedict XVI opted out of such a meeting once, and he would hardly have been the first to do so. It may be for other reasons entirely. After all, he is not meeting only the four cardinals involved, but the whole college of cardinals. It would seem quite an overreaction to snub the 97% of cardinals on account of the 3%. Continue reading “The Two-Edged Sword of Collegiality”→