Benedict's Defining Test

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 21, 2006

Fr. Richard Neuhaus has a must-read article in the current First Things titled "The Truce of 2005?" that makes a compelling argument that the Vatican's Instruction on homosexual seminarians will bring onto the pontificate of Benedict XVI what Humanae vitae forced onto that of Paul VI: a defining test.

In both cases, Neuhaus points out, there is widespread institutional dissent to contend with. He says this dissent is characterized by "a quality of dissimulation," of which he finds the Society of Jesus a preeminent, though not unique, example:

There is, for instance, a mix of candor, defiance, and evasion in a December 8 letter sent by the provincial, Father Robert Scullin, S.J., to the members of the Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus. He writes: "The instruction's call to affective maturity as a necessary condition for a healthy celibate priesthood and religious life affirms the long-standing goal of our formation program -- both initial and continuing. All of us must continue to work toward an integrated affective sexual maturity if we wish to be of greater service to the Church and civil society. We continue to invite all qualified young men of either orientation who desire to lead a celibate chaste religious life to consider joining us on our mission. We welcome them and are proud to have them among us."

In short, and the instruction notwithstanding, the Society of Jesus will continue to do what it has been doing. (The reference to "either orientation," with its implicit exclusion of the bisexual and transsexual, is somewhat surprising.) The above provincial is very displeased, however, by a member of the province who "outed" himself as gay in the Detroit Free Press. Father Thomas J. O'Brien, S.J., criticizes the teaching that homosexuality is objectively disordered. "There is plentiful evidence that this is not true," he writes. "Lesbian sisters and gay brothers and priests have, indeed, been models of relating to people -- especially to the disenfranchised and excluded of society." Of the instruction he says, "This document reveals a fundamentally disordered view of gender and sexual orientation." Affirming the invaluable contributions made by homosexual, bisexual, transgendered, and transsexual persons, Fr. O'Brien concludes: "Thankfully, God is greater than any religion or any church."

Referring to Fr. O'Brien's public statement, Fr. Scullin, his provincial, writes: "I can appreciate the distress that led him to speak out. Yet we are first members of an apostolic body, and so personal actions, however compelling we feel them to be, have consequences for all our brothers and all our works." Fr. Scullin therefore asks that "no Jesuit take any controversial public step without prior, direct consultation with the provincial." Fr. Scullin in no way suggests that he disagrees with Fr. O'Brien's rejection of church teaching, only that it should be kept within the family, so to speak. As he puts it, "This is our way of proceeding." It is a way of proceeding that candidly says (at least within the family) that the instruction will be ignored, while asking Jesuits to be publicly discreet about their repudiation of the Church's teaching on sexuality.

Bang on target. Yet Neuhaus is too tactful to point out that Fr. O'Brien is in a much stronger position than his superior. For O'Brien can retort with perfect justice to Fr. Scullin, "Excuse me. If prior, direct consultation with responsible ecclesiastics is called for, please show me the permission you received from the Papal Nuncio, or the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, for your 'welcome to gays' letter. When I'm convinced you're clearing your policy with the Holy See, then I'll believe you're more interested in apostolic obedience than damage control." As Neuhaus says, "There is a smell of mendacity surrounding much of the response to the instruction."

But the problem of dissent, and timidity in the face of dissent, is broader than the Jesuits. Neuhaus writes further, "Among those who greatly admired Cardinal Ratzinger and were elated by his election as pope, there is a palpable uneasiness." He refers specifically to Benedict's appointment of Levada to the CDF and of the less-than-encouraging Niederauer as Archbishop of San Francisco. Will this pope have the stomach to face the tough decisions yet to be made?

In 1968 [i.e.,in the wake of Humanae vitae], an effort was made to hold accountable those who are solemnly vowed to the service of the Church. And then Rome caved. We are still living with the unhappy consequences of the Truce of 1968. Of course the Church will survive. We have Our Lord's promise on that. But no one who cares about this pontificate and the integrity of the Church's ministry can contemplate with equanimity the consequences of a Truce of 2005.

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 21, 2006 11:11 PM ET USA

    The prior Popes, specifically Pope John Paul II and Pope Paul VI, refused to confront the Jesuit rot. Pope Benedict can no longer ignore SJ corruption. Pope Pius XII saw the beginnings of this poison in 1958 and called them on it in a very pointed address but he died shortly after. He quoted Clement XIII's famous: Aut sint ut sunt aut non sint. Bascially he told them be what you are supposed to be and have been or cease to exist.By the way where is the General of the Jesuits? He's MIA.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 21, 2006 3:50 PM ET USA

    I fully agree with comments by "benedictusoblatus", and of course with the original post by Uncle Di and Father Neuhaus. Unfortunately, all of them are right, all the way...

  • Posted by: - Jan. 21, 2006 3:05 PM ET USA

    I we wish to win the Spiritual 21st century battle of Lepanto, in which souls actually hang in the balance, then the time for a truce is past. If not, then kindly pass along a note to Cardinal Mahoney congratulating him on his next Religious Ed conference in Anaheim, California, his lovely altar girls, his brilliant lay pastoral associates, his shiny cathedral, and his grape juice and glass tumbler liturgies. St Alphonsus Liguori pray for us.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 21, 2006 1:41 PM ET USA

    Sending an unclear message at this time is an invitation to dissent. Issuing the document but sending a pro gay agenda bishop to Sodom by the Bay was certainly a mixed message. Take note, dear Holy Father, people want canonization for John 23 and JPII but not for Paul VI. Please no truce.....our morale is slipping.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 21, 2006 11:29 AM ET USA

    The Society of Jesus has done great work in the past 400+ years. Perhaps it is time to retire their flag. Jesus remains, yesterday, today and forever. His "society" is only important when it works to bring souls to Him. Once renowned for their special vow of obedience to the pope, now they are conspicuous in their disregard and contempt. This is not a new problem - perusal of Malachi Martin's book "The Jesuits" makes that clear. Corruption is a sign of death, and the dead need to be buried.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 21, 2006 11:20 AM ET USA

    "And then Rome caved." A supernatural war with eternal consequences has raged since the Fall of Man. The ultimate victory by Christ is already assured, but there is no guarantee how many of us will be saved. Even St. Paul worked out his salvation with fear and trembling. Rome has all the weapons it needs to prosecute this war successfully. It needs to focus its energies on saving and sanctifying souls rather than the priorities of glad-handing social workers.