BY Jim Cosgrove
September 22, 1996 Issue | Posted 10/9/97 at 2:00 PM
Mark Shea's column in the Aug. 25 issue (ldquo;The Strengths and Weaknesses of ‘Called to be Catholic’”) was a blockbuster. Starting from my agreement with him that Chicago's Cardinal Joseph Bernardin's “Common Ground” plan was positive but unworkable, I found myself, after reading it a second time, in agreement that “polarity” is the problem.
According to Shea, Cardinal Bernardin implies there should be “an open invitation to view all parties in the conversation (whether the magisterium or those who urge dissent) as equally legitimate ‘voices’ who ‘have something to say’ and are, in their own way, 'speaking in the Spirit’ to the Church.” To reserve judgment on one another and to withhold evaluating ideas in initial discussions is, indeed, an ideal way to start a dialogue process. To restrict what can be discussed beforehand-and even to restrict who can discuss it-would surely increase the polarization that is so obvious nowadays.
Where is our trust that the Spirit will prevail? And anyway, wouldn't the dialogue Cardinal Bernardin is talking about be the very opportunity to find out just how much we must worry-if worry we must? Marriage Encounter teaches us that dialogue makes for a good (re-) start to a relationship but it doesn't mean we that have to give up our positions. In fact we can be-should be-steadfast and open at the same time. Haven't we experienced that listening to others especially allows them to be more honest and open to us? What greater opportunity for us to speak the orthodox truth?
Orthodox Catholics are concerned. Shea and Cardinal Hickey and Boston's Bernard Cardinal Law made this abundantly clear. But maybe we don't need to be the ones to determine the adequacy of others opinions. We don't have to determine, before the discussion, the fullness of their truth. Right now, we are being asked only to talk to them, to find out just how “full” they believe their truth to be. We perhaps shouldn't be as sure about what we think they believe, as we must be about what we believe. I, for one, am truly interested in knowing how they see things.
In Shea's very civil openness, he has actually taken a bold step forward into the dialogue itself, by stating clearly his position and wondering about that of his dialogue partners. Now, God willing, the fullness of the words of our Lord, echoed appropriately in the words of our Pope, may be brought a step closer to realization: “May they all be one.”
Gabriel Meyer's interesting front page presentation on Archbishop John Quinn (ldquo;Prelate Gives Old Debate Another Spin,” Aug. 11) gave me additional information on the prelate. The NCCB on which Archbishop Quinn served as president, was created after Vatican II with the specific purpose, it appears of enhancing the power and autonomy of American bishops at the expense of Vatican influence, and orthodoxy, ultimately.
Archbishop Quinn's criticism of the Curia's power is an indirect attack on papal power. The prelate prefers to have divorce, birth control, women's ordination, appointment of bishops, priestly celibacy, etc. put up for grabs rather than consider them already dogmatically defined. Yet, there is no group that can insure vital infallibility, whether they be priests, bishops or nuns. The power of binding and loosing was given to Peter only.
Priests or prelates who pretend loyalty to the chief shepherd and then privately advise the flock to use their own consciences to decide moral issues-such as on contraception and abortion-are hirelings. A shepherd protects and nourishes his flock, admonishing the sinner, instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful. The hireling exploits the flock for his own purposes, while plotting to subvert the sheepfold.
In 1907, Pope St. Pius X wrote an encyclical on modernists, who seem to pop up in each generation. These enemies of the cross, both clerical and lay, are animated by a false zeal for the Church. Armed with new and deceitful arts, these partisans of error present themselves as reformers. False teaching and the trivialization of the Mass and Eucharist have caused 20 million Catholics to leave the Church in past decades. Reportedly only 35 percent of Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Sex education, never taught in Catholic school curricula until the second half of this century, has done irreparable spiritual harm to many children.
A few years ago there was a voter initiative (601) in Washington state to limit the growth in state spending. The three bishops in the state were publicly opposed to this initiative and even went so far as to use Church funds in their opposition. Their reason was that it would constrain money for the poor and they made dire predictions. The initiative passed, the dire consequences did not come to pass and the taxpayers were much better off.
Now we have welfare reform. The bishops across the country are now making their dire predictions. Forty years ago, the poor amounted to 15 percent of the population. After spending $5 trillion, the poor today are 16 percent of the population. We lost the “War on Poverty.” It's time for a new battle plan. State, local and federal spending have been growing at twice the inflation rate and, if not curbed soon, the poverty rate will be 30 percent. Currently more than 50 percent of the money appropriated for social programs is used to administer the programs which means that the needy are getting less than 50 percent of the money we taxpayers are spending for their benefit. If a charity operated at that rate it would be closed down. What is the Church leadership's plan for welfare reform and to save the country?
Cle Elum, Washington
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