ad dubium

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 22, 2008

The Vatican Secretary of State has issued a two-sentence statement concerning the interpretation of the 2005 Instruction on the non-admission of homosexual persons to Holy Orders. In response to "numerous requests for clarification," the Holy See made clear what was clear from the outset, that the force of the prohibitions extends to seminaries operated by religious orders, mission territorities, and Eastern rite Churches.

Two or three years from now, in all probability, the Vatican will issue a further clarification affirming that the Instruction remains valid for Capricorns, redheads, and Edmonton Oilers fans. No one is fooled here. These are not good-faith doubts sent Romewards by genuinely perplexed ecclesiastics. The game is to stall implementation of unwelcome directives by finding textual ambiguities and feigning bewilderment, in the hope that, by the time the Church's cumbersome machinery of response has produced its answer, Pope Benedict will be dead and replaced by a man with a more enlightened view of the issues.

It's no secret that the old line religious orders are the most fervid dissenters from the ban on homosexuals, and their superiors comprise a kind of Shadow Cabinet within the Church: hostile to the policy of the Holy See but outwardly deferential to its authority -- and, most importantly, incubating in their ranks a parallel government and parallel apparat through which the "alternative" policies are discreetly advanced. The Shadow Cabinet's own term for this genial subversion is Creative Fidelity, and any housewife whose husband protests he was "creatively faithful" to her during his Las Vegas business jaunt will be able to gauge the degree to which the Pope is reassured by the euphemism.

Nor is the Vatican faultless as to its own responsibilities in the matter. Remember the much-ballyhooed "new and serious" Apostolic Visitation of U.S. seminaries launched in response to the clergy abuse crisis? The results of the investigation seem to have vanished into the ether. Those in charge managed to steer it to its conclusion without risk to any sitting bishop, and lay interest in reform has waned to the point where the findings can be safely entombed in a file cabinet until a new generation of prelates replaces those who were implicated. To put it in the (curial favorite) future perfect tense: face will have been saved.

In sum, it looks as if we're still stuck with the post-Conciliar truce: the Holy See holds fast, at least on paper, to the vera doctrina, while the clergy follows its own inclinations, pausing, when thwarted, to ponder what the meaning of "is" is. The faithful -- watching the gap widen between Roman teaching and the convictions of the men Rome provides as their ministers -- are presented with a distasteful choice between docility and orthodoxy. Those who wish to be sure of a welcome will decide that neither matters very much.

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  • Posted by: - May. 22, 2008 10:01 PM ET USA

    We may all be surprised. My read on the Pope is that he is as tenacious as a bulldog. He is going slow, but methodically and incrimentally in the right direction on many things. Perhaps he believes that going for the throat early on would do more harm than good....but that does not mean he will back down. At some point there may be a showdown and my money is on the Pope to win. Better as they say to win the war than focus on just individual battles.

  • Posted by: - May. 22, 2008 8:41 PM ET USA

    The observation that the "old line" resists this statement from the Holy See concerns me more than almost anything I have read or studied. That there would exist, or be allowed to exist a "closet" society within the Church whose actions were at best a thinly veiled deception and at worst a hidden insurrection only shows how insidious are the workings of the enemies of true Christian faith and practice. I fear more troubling times are ahead for the Church. I pray she can withstand them!

  • Posted by: - May. 22, 2008 5:58 PM ET USA

    The Bishops in the USA will conform their seminary admissions policy and their ordination requirements to follow this edict to the exact same extent they followed the 1961 Vatican warning on the same subject. That is to say they will do the F and F procedure - File and Forget. They wouldn't obey in the good old days of 1961. So what are the chances in 2008 they will obey on an issue so close to their hearts? They will F & F.

  • Posted by: - May. 22, 2008 10:08 AM ET USA

    Unfortunately what Diogenes says is all too true. Paper is issued. Nothing else happens and the Holy See does bear some of the blame here. A theological interpretation was noted by Cardinal Dias quoting the Servant of God JP II:"We are today before the greatest combat that mankind has ever seen. I do not believe that the Christian community has completely understood it. We are today before the final struggle between the Church and the Anti-Church, between the Gospel and the Anti-Gospel."

  • Posted by: - May. 22, 2008 7:58 AM ET USA

    The last paragraph hits the nail on the head: "...the men Rome provides as their ministers...". If the sexual abuse crisis, the tacit complicity with pro-abortion politicians, and the ready acceptance of homosexuality among the clergy can be laid at the feet of the episcopate, then the root questions are how bishops are chosen, and, when chosen, disciplined. Without a "counter reformation" focusing on bishops, the present cycle of episcopal neglect is predictable and probable.

  • Posted by: - May. 22, 2008 7:22 AM ET USA

    As for the visitation of seminaries, remember this is Rome we are talking about. The process was complete only three years ago. That is the equivalent of 3 days in "American time." Americans want things done by the end of the week. Italians in general (and Romans in particular) hope things are done by the end of the century. Seriously, the goal seems to be to have the reports complied and released before the decade is over (another 1.5 years.)