to be discounted only after mature reflection

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Aug 01, 2006

"The committed Catholic cannot be satisfied that his conscience is properly formed and informed simply by pledging adherence to Vatican declarations," Fr Brennan said. "Authoritative church teaching is a privileged guide to be discounted only after mature reflection and prayerful discernment."

That's Australian Jesuit Fr. Frank Brennan, in a signally humorless address given last week in Melbourne (tip to Jeff Miller). The occasion of his lecture was a jubilee celebration to commemorate Jesuits Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier, and Peter Faber, none of whom would have tolerated Brennan's idea about when authoritative Church teaching may be "discounted" -- a notion the Society of Jesus formed itself to combat. Where St. Ignatius urged his companions to "set the world on fire," Fr. Brennan, like a crippled oiler trapped in a naval barrage, busies himself with putting out smoke.

Ironies are piled on irony. St. Francis Xavier was, after St. Paul, the archetypal missionary, traveling huge distances and baptising many thousands, all on the belief that the salvation of souls was at stake. In an age when nearly every heathen is deemed an Anonymous Christian and damnation has dropped out of the picture, there's no reason for the missionary to stir from his barcalounger in Amsterdam or New Rochelle or Leeds. 500 years after the birth of Xavier, his successors, after some bewildered scrabbling in their desk drawers, find they have no gift to offer the unredeemed world apart from some trite admonitions about the primacy of conscience and inclusive language.

The obvious (if unnamed) target of Brennan's petulance is Cardinal George Pell, whose teaching on conscience moves one toward the center of Church instead of away from her. It's a gutsy stance, and one young Catholics find considerably more attractive than the alternative, if Sydney's ordinations and seminary admissions are any indication. While the institutional legatees of Loyola, Xavier, and Faber may have assembled at the Melbourne jubilee, their true spiritual descendants are carrying on their work elsewhere.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: a son of Mary - Dec. 18, 2010 1:18 PM ET USA

    lemme guess, no habit except gambling....

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Dec. 11, 2010 1:07 PM ET USA

    Ouch, Parochus! Has it been a long week for you, too?

  • Posted by: parochus - Dec. 10, 2010 8:16 PM ET USA

    I guess the old girl had some expensive habits...