Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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February 2, 2011

Adieu, Goodbye, So long - Vatican Council II

George Weigel in the current "First Things" writes about the transition from the collegial ethos of Chicago's Cardinal Bernardin - "seamless garment" "common ground" "collegiality" - to the "command and control" "highly centralized Church" of John Paul II. Weigel traces back these contradictory thrusts to the Council itself, where an old guard fought against the mind-opening and Church-opening mentality of the world's bishops gathered in Council. The new Vatican II voices won, at first. But as the Church in a second spring inspired its constituency with fresh energy and orientation, some few stresses and anxieties, that always accompany change, were seized upon by those, who felt they had lost a prized franchise, and used them to regain the turf that they felt had been lost.

Weigel, however well he described the transition from one mind-set to another, saw what was happening as quite appropriate as new stability marked the barque of Peter, while the anchors of the old culture halted progress under the new winds of change. Announcement of the pending beatification of John Paul II in May came like a victory shout at the end of a game!

John Paul indelibly marked his 1979 arrival in the US and one of his legacies at a gathering by silently ignoring the presence of Sister Teresa Kane, as she respectfully addressed him. In subsequent documents, John Paul would speak frequently of the "complementarity" of women's role, understood by many today as "different and unequal".

A curious phenomenon showed how JPII's actions reflected his attitude towards women and liberation theology. Bishop Sam Ruiz Garcia of Las Chiappas, Mexico - he died at 86 two weeks ago - was the champion of the disenfranchised Indians. They raised a violent rebellion against the government. Ruiz was charged with sympathy for the Zapatista rebels. But both sides selected him to mediate the conflict, which he successfully carried out. Ruiz attended all sessions of Vatican II and was influenced by it and by liberation theology, - "the preferential option for the poor" - which had captured the minds and efforts of many Latin-Americans. But, the hostility of Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope John Paul towards liberation theology was turned upon Ruiz. The pope in 1997 tried to persuade Ruiz to resign. Ruiz, strongly supported by the Mexican bishops and priests, refused. Ruiz had the Bible and catechetical materials translated into the Mayan language. He organized cooperatives of various kinds. He commissioned some 20,000 catechists to carry out a program of evangelization among the Mayans.In 2000, at the age of 75, Ruiz' required resignation was immediately accepted by John Paul.
[Google: Bishop Sam Ruiz for his remarkable story.]

Among Ruiz' legacies were some 400 married deacons, engaged in conducting communion services, baptisms, and marriages. Interestingly, when a deacon died, his wife frequently continued her husband's visits and services. A custom began to grow up. In 2002, John Paul's Vatican ordered Ruiz' successor, Bishop Arizmendi, to halt all deacon ordinations, reasoning that continuing them "would be equivalent to sustaining an ecclesiastical model alien to the life and traditions of the Church." As later with Sister Kane, the presence and service of women were lost on John Paul; but the words and counsels of the Gospels to the Mayan Indians were also lost!

It had been hoped that Vatican II, by its example and teaching of collegiality, would inspire more collegial activities of bishops. Paul VI had instituted the Synods of Bishops as a means to that end. But what may have been intended as a synod summary, became an "Exhortation" by JPII, a view of the synod through the lens of the pope. Pleas of some bishops in the Synod for Asia and the Synod for Oceania (both in 1998) to ordain married men, to insure availability of the Mass, were simply ignored. In the proceedings of the Synod for Asia, the propositions of the bishops were numbered and linked to the pope's responses. One proposition: the curia and the papal diplomatic service should be more international. JP II's response: the synod fathers expressed their gratitude for the fine work and help offered by the curia and the diplomatic service! Pardon me? A sharp conflict appeared when Japanese bishops insisted that liturgical books should be translated into Japanese in Japan under Japanese bishops and not by Japanese students in Rome.

JP II showed a pattern of expanding centralization of the papacy. In what has been perceived as an expansion of papal infallibility is "the magisterium of the pope", growing out of what had been "the magisterium of theologians". The International Commission for English in Liturgy, made up of appointees of bishops in English-speaking countries, had been at work for over a decade. In 2002, the composition of the ICEL was overturned and new members appointed. The Vatican had decided that a new philosophy of translation was to replace the philosophy of the existing appointees of the bishops. Benedict XVI in his 2010 visit to Britain, spoke of the collegiality of the English-speaking bishops in translation since 2002! Why did he not mention that the ICEL had existed for two decades before 2002, the year that JPII sacked the original ICEL and appointed a new one compliant to his wishes. Recently, Rome has announced the publication of the new English translation of the Roman missal and its imposition on the Church in the US. The USCCB unanimously accepted this imposition despite some harsh criticism by some bishops and English language experts. A clergy campaign, "Why Don't We Just Wait", and observe an experimental use of the new missal before its acceptance, was simply ignored.

Can as brilliant and prayerful a person as JPII fall into the trap of obscurantism? The word comes from the Latin "obscurans", meaning "darkening". It refers to the deliberate preventing of facts or full knowledge of some matter from becoming known. JPII is reported to have forbidden the discussion on serious levels of women's ordination or married priests and to have made these issues litmus tests in choosing bishops. Is this not a classic form of obscurantism?

Rome has been wary of a possible threat to its autonomy from a national body of US bishops, organized in 1919 as the National Catholic Welfare Conference, now the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. In 2002 (?), the Vatican ordered that only a unanimous vote of the USCCB will resolve an important issue, thus stripping it of an effective presence.

Finally, JPII has shown a rather total misunderstanding of the abuse crisis. After Cardinal Law was driven from Boston by his priests and people as poster boy for secret reassignment of miscreant priests, JPII assigned him to a prestigious church in Rome with a six figure annual income and maintained him on several Vatican commissions, including appointment and governance of bishops. JPII's failure to understand the crisis was further demonstrated in his April 2002 address in Rome to the US bishops, where he said "...the Church will help society to understand and deal
with the crisis...". This was said against the fact that it was the secular society -its press,trial lawyers, and district attorneys - that forced the Church to see and deal with its own problem!

JPII stopped the investigation of his friend, Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionnairies of Christ, later investigated by B16 and found living a double life of sexual excess.

Church tradition and law had historically required a time interval before canonization proceedings could be instituted. Fifty years had been a customary interval. JPII in 1983 established a five year period, with opportunity for waiver.
B16 provided the waiver to begin proceedings to canonize the pope who had preceeded him. Church? Old boys club?

Weigel in his article has seemed to have accurately signaled an end of an era, begun with Bernardin's and Vatican II's collegiality and terminated by, to use Roman, or perhaps, Germanic, imagery, a pope on horseback! JPII, with his forceful image and charismatic accomplishments, demonstrated a dramatic appetite for control and the expansion of his papal power, which hitherto have not been considered saintly characteristics.