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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