Ratzinger to Fumone. Burke to Campo De' Fiori. Someone is 'getting bent out of shape'
By Marco Tosatti
Reading three news articles yesterday makes me think that someone is really “getting bent out of shape” and we are entering now a perilous phase of decline: those who don’t agree with the boss – off with their heads! An unprecedented populist degeneration in the life of the modern Church. I sincerely hope I’m wrong: I’m not just saying this, I really hope so. However we have signs that are anything but comforting.
The crux of the matter, it seems to me, is once again the Pope’s non-response (a year has now gone by) to the five questions asked by the four Cardinals on the controversial points of the Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. Questions made in a spirit of obedience, following the classical procedure of the Church, i.e. asking the Pontiff and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a clarification. Two months after the questions had been made, when the Cardinals discovered that the Pontiff had no intention of responding, they made the questions public. These regard everyone and in substance can be reduced to one only: is it licit, in mortal sin and with no change to one’s life habits, to receive Holy Communion?
We don’t know the reason for the Pope’s non-response. We seem to recall that a certain Jesuit close to him had said that the reason was the fact that the questions were of an ideological nature. Forgive me, but this sounds a bit weak. It is the task of authorities to clarify their thoughts: and in doing so it will make clear whether a question is useless or has some point. In the Church, especially, is an authority which doesn’t respond fulfilling its duties?
Instead of a response, there sparked never-ending attacks against the four Cardinals, and against anyone who shared their perplexity. We don’t wish to believe, as we have heard, that the Pontiff had encouraged or given “the green light” for his followers to do this. However, there is no doubt that the only one of the four who still holds an office – Raymond Leo Burke, Patron of the Order of Malta – has entered and is still in, the firing range. As regards Malta you can find a summary here. Perhaps in fact it was Burke’s parrhesia that was so irritating.
And so we come to the first of yesterday’s three episodes: the disconcerting personal attack by Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga on Cardinal Burke is unprecedented. Maradiaga in an interview-style book, written along with his Salesian confrere Antonio Carriero entitled “Only the Gospel is Revolutionary”, with regard to the Dubia, writes about Burke in the preface: “The Cardinal who sustains this, is a disillusioned man, inasmuch as he wanted power and lost it. He thought he was the highest authority in the United States”. And he adds: “He is not the Magisterium: the Holy Father is the Magisterium, and it is he who teaches the entire Church. The other just states his own ideas, and they deserve no further comment. These are the words of a poor man.” This is precisely the point though: he is asking for a clarification on the Magisterium which has not yet been given. However for Maradiaga, the Pope’s great sponsor, this is an insignificant detail and he also lashes out at a not-well-defined “Catholic right-wing” which wants “power and not truth. If they say they find some “heresy” in Francis’ words, they are greatly mistaken, since they think like men and not as the Lord wills.”
The virulence of the words is staggering. Where have the dialogue and mercy gone?
Now we come to the second episode, which is also significant. Its protagonist is a certain Andrea Grillo, layman, Professor of Theology at St. Anselm’s. Grillo would be – according to what we are told – in the never –officially-announced and officially unknown to the Prefect of Divine Worship (i.e. the authority that should deal with this issue) commission to study if and how to create a Mass in which Catholics and Protestants can participate together. This is a problem of no small consequence, seeing as the significance of the Eucharist is understood completely differently [in the two parts].
The Prefect of Divine Worship is the African Cardinal Robert Sarah, appointed by the Pontiff, and for reasons of reform, he had to move him from where he had been, i.e. Cor Unum. In the afterword of his book soon to be issued, Benedict XVI said that with Cardinal Sarah, the liturgy was in good hands. This doesn’t appear to us to be a scandalous affirmation; it is only for those who hate Sarah.
This Andrea Grillo, whom we don’t have the misfortune of knowing personally, let it all loose: “We need to consider well the rarity of the situation. A Pope abdicates the exercise of his Petrine Office. The procedure of succession is opened and his successor is elected. Normally this occurs “mortis causa”. When the reason is not the death of the predecessor, but the “resignation” thereof, this fact for the institution opens up a delicate case of possible conflict of authorities which should have been surmounted by the predecessor’s “consignment of silence”, and who, in the preface wherein he praises Cardinal Sarah’s accomplishments, cites a text by St Ignatius of Antioch saying: “It is better to remain in silence.” If he not only speaks, but even praises a Prefect who has created continuous embarrassment to the Church and his successor, a perilous conflict opens up, which would require more prudent behavior and more responsible words. In future, norms which regulate the predecessor’s “institutional death” in a clearer and more certain way should be envisaged and the full authority of the successor, in the case of resignations”.
Along with other unpleasant and disrespectful things, Grillo also said: “There cannot be cohabitation. This is now completely evident. As is evident that the white garments, the loquacity and the residence, must be regulated in detail. The Emeritus Bishop must depart the Vatican and be silent forever. Only under these conditions it is possible to give shape to a real ‘succession’. The intentions of discretion and humility have been manifestly broken, in an almost scandalous way. I find it truly disconcerting that the Emeritus Bishop of Rome praises Francis for an appointment that he knows well he had strongly influenced in bringing about. To me this seems to be the most serious datum, a sign of clericalism and would say also of a certain hypocrisy”.
The solution we can suggest is that of Fumone, the castle in Ciociara where Celestine of Morrone ended his days! We know well at least one of the owners, and if necessary we can act as mediators! Joking aside, what is scandalous is this thuggery shown by the champions of the new course. [It is] malice on such a scale that someone at Santa Marta should perhaps be worried about it.
To conclude, we arrive at the third episode: the Pontiff’s words at Santa Marta. He was addressing the problem of pagans wanting to become Christians, and the discussion of this problem among the Apostles. The Pontiff describes the situation like this: “the group of Apostles who want to discuss the problem and others who go about creating problems, dividing, dividing the Church, they say that what the Apostles are preaching is not what Jesus said - that it is not the truth.”
In the end an agreement is reached and the pagans can enter [the Church] without physical circumcision. The Pontiff affirms that “it is the Church’s duty to clarify doctrine” (Oh oh! The Dubia? Editor’s note!) until “what Jesus said in the Gospels is understood well - and is the Spirit of the Gospels”.
“But there have always been those [type of] people, who, with no office, go about troubling the Christian community with talk that throws souls into confusion: This one who said that is heretical, the one who says you cannot say that, this no, the doctrine of the Church is this… And they are fanatics of things that are unclear, like those fanatics who went about sowing discord to divide the Christian community. And this is the problem: when the doctrine of the Church – which comes from the Gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit - because Jesus said: ‘He will teach you and will remind you what I have taught’ -, that doctrine becomes ideology. This is the great error of these people. “
Let’s play a little game: in which of the two groups cited by the Pontiff would Maradiaga and Grillo be placed? And if the fanatics speculate on things that are unclear, why not clarify them, when one is asked about them, and so cut off ambiguity at the roots?