Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Catholics vs. Provos

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jul 05, 2006

Some days ago Amy Welborn made reference to a Touchstone article wherein Austin Ruse gives an appreciative account of the development of the National Catholic Reporter's Vatican correspondent John Allen:

Allen has achieved something remarkable [Ruse says] and that is genuine dialogue among sometimes competing voices in the church. He has written often about the lamentable factions among the faithful, each with its own publications, conferences, sympathetic bishops, and so on. His observation is that these groups tend not to talk to each other, but to shout past each other.

Two comments. First, I agree with Ruse about Allen's virtues as a reporter, which are considerable. As Phil says, he's the best in the business.

Second. While there's no denying the "lamentable factions" in the Church, it doesn't seem to me that they "shout past each other." On both sides they -- or better, we -- manage to deliver most of our polemical letter-bombs to the right address. Nor is it a situation whereby the lack of trust can be removed by better communication. The more accurately each side learns the another's opinions, the clearer it is that its suspicions are merited.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger's document Dominus Iesus serves as a kind of shibboleth here, because it forces one to take a stand on the question of what the Roman Catholic Church is in herself: either she's dispensable or she ain't.

Lots of self-identified RCs believe that, for the time being, the Roman Catholic Church might be the best option out there, but they're quite willing to consider jumping ship if she deteriorates in respects they deem important or if a better option presents itself. In their writings they indicate that their membership is conditional and provisional. Yet this very "provisionality" puts them outside the Church proper in the eyes of their antagonists, who (when we're on our best behavior) can only treat the Provos as "courtesy Catholics" -- like civilian visitors at an army base, they may be assigned a military rank as a courteous fiction, but it's a fiction for all that.

Are we too eager to exclude, too quick to judge? Well, you make the call. In virtually every issue of the National Catholic Reporter there are classified ads touting some totally bogus schismatic cyber-church ("holy orders open to all!"), as cheerfully as if it were a summer cottage for rent. If the folks at the NCR don't take their own faith seriously enough to see the problem, on what basis are the rest of us supposed to take their faith seriously? When a married woman has put her virtue up for sale, one might condole with her husband, but to congratulate him on his marriage would be complicity in fraud.

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