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Pope John XXIII - Conservative

As a professed member of the Third Order Secular of the Franciscans, I know that we tend to have a reputation of being "liberal". Our current Rule, which was approved by Pope Paul VI in 1978, is definitely a post-Vatican II document. But we see our Rule in particular and Vatican II in general as conforming to the 800 year oldideals of our Franciscan order. In this context Vatican II seems to us to have been a deeply conservative event.Could John XXIII and Paul VI have carried off Vatican II if they hadn't been conservative? Their stated intention seems to have been to take the Church back to its authentic origins in the face of a crisis that society had already been going through for several hundred years and which seemed to have reached a head in the middle of the 20th Century. To the Council's opponents on the Right (who were and are not convervative, but reactionary) Vatican II did look radical at the time and looks even more radical when seen through semi-opaque rose colored glasses of the 1950's. As the secularization of society has continued; as the traditional family and community has broken down even further from where itwas when the Council began there are some who even seem to claim that Vatican II itself was the problem and that it destroyed a world ofself-contained believers who were in the world, but not of it.From a Franciscan point of view that we ourselves are under the mandate that Christ gave Francis to "Repair My House", the current rise of reaction in the Church and its dance with the political Right seems nothing less than a radical innovation and a betrayal of the basic conservative nature of the Church. This radical innovation, which seems to some of my fraternal brothers and sisters as amounting to a split in the Church, is very troubling to them. I am troubled too, but optimistic. These reactions have happened before. And they have always failed. The political Right is no less secularizing than the political Left. Circling the wagons to create and defenda Cult of Purity denies a basic truth that the Church is, in fact, both in the world and of it. The grapes of reaction have always withered on the vine.

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The history of the Church is a history of continued renewal and change, all in the belief of faith seeking understanding. The difference between debates and arguments in the Church before the 20th century were largely hidden from the mostly uneducated laity. What changed in the 20th century is critical to an understanding of the profound division within the Church today:1. Before Vatican II, most theologians were male, celibate and clergy. After Vatican II, most theologians are married, lay people and mostly female.2. Before Vatican II, most lay people were largely uneducated. After Vatican II, most lay people are largely educated, with many having college and graduate degrees.3. Before Vatican II, there was a debate between neo-Thomists and Ressourcment theologians that, in part, prevented Thomism to be fully embraced as the moral theology of the Church, or at least a major underpinning of its ethics. Today, there is a renewal of Thomism, especially with the publication of Vertitatis Spendor (VS) in particularly VS 78 defining a moral act and the proximate end of a deliberate decision et al.....referring to S.T. I-II, 18.6. Unfortunately, S.T. I-II 18.6 never mentioned a "proximate end". S.T. I-II q. 1, a. 3, ad. 3 does mention a proximate end, but the example given refers to killing a person. It can be morally good, to safe-guard one's life, or immoral if done because of vengeance. Therefore, within the Church today there is much disagreement about VS 78 and exactly what Thomas said. 4. There is an obvious division between the word, as doctrine, and the deed, as in pastoral practices. The silent pulpit regarding contraception, sin, confession and reception of the Eucharist re-enforces the non-reception of Humanae Vitae and ignores what amounts to a sacrilege (reception of the Eucharist without absolution for a sin committed). Bishops do nothing to correct this behavior because they fear the consequences, even lower Mass attendance and significantly lower contributions. This undermines the teaching authority of the Magisterium. Yet, the Church will spend millions of dollars fighting the U.S. Government over freedom of religion, especially the contraceptive mandate. The bishops demonstrate their courage in standing up for the truth and the sanctity of its doctrines, but where is this same courage in saving the millions of Catholics from committing a sacrilege because they practice contraception and receive the Eucharist each week? A contradiction in principle? 5. Today, we find religious and organized clergy demonstrating against certain teachings of the Church or in allowing different views on these teachings to dominant leadership conferences (e.g., The Austrian Priest's Initiative and the LCWR crisis). This has not happen in the pre-conciliar Church that I am aware of. So, what are we to say about modernity? Is the evil in the world infecting clergy, religious and lay members in significant numbers, while the Church is handicapped in offering an intelligible and convincing moral theory in defense of its many sexual ethical teachings? Or is the Holy Spirit blowing through all the members of the Church and telling us something?

"Bishops do nothing to correct this behavior because they fear the consequences, even lower Mass attendance and significantly lower contributions. This undermines the teaching authority of the Magisterium. Yet, the Church will spend millions of dollars fighting the U.S. Government over freedom of religion, especially the contraceptive mandate. The bishops demonstrate their courage in standing up for the truth and the sanctity of its doctrines, but where is this same courage in saving the millions of Catholics from committing a sacrilege because they practice contraception and receive the Eucharist each week? A contradiction in principle?"I am interested in your statement "the teaching authority of the Magisterium". Do you mean teaching authority (which appears to have failed; as most Catholics are not getting the lesson) or do you mean simply the authority (which has also failed, but is a failure of a different sort?) In the first case, the bishops have not made an adequate case and one could argue that they need to make a better one. This "might" have undermined their authority but could their authority have also been undermined by their simple demand that (in the end) they be obeyed?It could be that the Church has handicapped itself in offering an intelligible and convincing moral theory of its many sexual teachings (and other teachings in fact); it is handicapped in the sense that it isn't taking seriously its need to create convincing and intelligible moral theory which, after all, is about human flourishing.

unagidon - "prepare for the worst; hope for the best". The history of the church supports your points but it is interesting that the current pope has launched his own *reform of the reform* with or without continuity (depending upon who is providing the interpretation). Have seen those such as Fr. Komonchak who appear to argue that B16 is being taken out of context in this new *hermeneutical debatge* and then others such as David Gibson who cite various papal pronouncements over the last four years as marking a change in direction.Historians have typically stated that it takes about 100 years for a council's directives to be integrated into the life of the church. Taking Trent as an example, 50 years after Trent, there was an explosion of religious orders - Sulpician, Olier, Berulle, Vincent dePaul, delaSalle, etc. A number of these orders *re-evangelized* catholic regions such as France using the Trentan reforms which the French hierarchy had resisted and not implemented. Strange but now 50 years after Vatican II and we have a former peritus; now pope; who appears to be bent on *restoration* as opposed to development, reform, change and justifying it by *fabricating* his own interpretation and hermeneutic to justify his personal opinions. How does one reject the accepted five volume school of Bologna Vatican II history based upon what? Look at the past 15 years in terms of turning back ecumenism, liturgy, ecclesiology, suppression of theologians; stance on celibacy, role of women, homosexuality, birth control, etc. even in terms of allowing discussion, outreach to missions for the sake of supporting the new found papal personality cult; restrengthening the curia; overcentralization of Rome; and coming up with a new papal category of *definitive* teachings.Mr. Barberi - you make a number of statements that are historically inaccurate:- *silent pulpit*.....you continue the meme that the church only speaks thru a pope. Vatican II's directives included collegiality, subsidiarity, conferences of bishops making decisions - all of these components make up the proper definition of *magisterium* - in fact, you can add to my list above that *magisterium* per Ratzinger is now acted on in a very narrow sense- contraception - reality, Paul VI did not allow this to be discussed at Vatican II. Your comments about HV, sin, etc. reveal a one-sided view of church tradition and practice-movements such as the Austrian Priest Initiative have happened throughout history. Why no mention of SSPX after VII? What about the *Old Catholic church* after Vatican I?- your Thomism vs. whatever - not sure where you came up with that but it doesn't reflect the theologians who participated at Vatican II (you do realize that many of the Vatican II experts had been silenced, condemned but the previous hierarchy and its crusade against modernism, biblical research, theological development, etc. Many of them were neo-Thomists and ressourcement was a method that they used along with other methods)- LCWR - there are many sides to this narrative. Your *absolute* comment indicates a misunderstanding of what is going on; in fact, it supports a narrow understanding that any curial/papal pronouncement is the only way to go. - modernity - your comment is *ultramondane* at best.....Vatican II was about the signs of the times and incarnational theology - we start with the reality that the church is both in and of the world; we start with the experience that grace builds on nature. - modernity; like the word secular is all too often defined negatively. They are just neutral words that signify *modern* times and *secular* times. Next, we'll hear how the bad ole 1960s and its sexual revolution created all of our problems.Yes, the Holy Spirit is blowing through all members of the church and may be telling us something today via LCWR, Austrian, Irish, German priests' groups; the abuse scandal which is, at heart, a sin and failure of the hierarchy, curia, and successive popes (in a narrow sense).

Michael J. Barberi says that "the Church will spend millions of dollars fighting the U.S. Government over freedom of religion, especially the contraceptive mandate."Really?How many millions of dollars will the Church spend fighting the government over freedom of religion?And where are all those millions of dollars coming from?

" The bishops demonstrate their courage in standing up for the truth and the sanctity of its doctrines, but where is this same courage in saving the millions of Catholics from committing a sacrilege because they practice contraception and receive the Eucharist each week? A contradiction in principle?"Michael, you begin by giving useful background for Vatican II and Thomistic moral theology. Then you end by writing something like the above. Your question here makes sense with the inconsistency of the bishops but your jump to stating that there is widespread sacrilege is a stretch and assumes evil in the widespread reception of the Eucharist. Unless you are playing on words here to show the bishop's illogic. You must know that auricular confession was not practised before the 7th century and that it was not made mandatory until the Lateran Council in the 12th century. Unagidon, The church has always been split, as you note, and seeking accord on the gospel is a constant struggle within the church as Paul's letters show. The problem with the hierarachy is that it has irresponsibly pretended that it had it all and that apostolic succession is more important than the beatitudes. In his opening letter to the Council John XXIII noted that one of the reasons there was hope for reform was that the secular influence was not as domineering as in previous 17 centuries, when king, princes etc. had much say in appointment of popes and bishops and church doctrine. You are right in implying that liberals sometimes act more conservative while conservative sometimes act more liberal. At the same time much of the times those labels are not helpful. The opposition to those who abuse power is not unlike that of the times of Jesus when Jesus upraided the leaders for their abuse of their calling. The bishops have in past centuries had secular authorities imprison or kill those who differed with them. So people conformed outwardly out of fear. Today they no longer have those weapons. So the opposition cannot be muffled. The bishops have rarely had moral authority so they used the "sanctity" of their office to demand obedience. As Catholics have finally abandoned the feudal obeisance, bishops no longer be effective. Especially after the turpitude of the last thirty years.Paul has urged Christians to rejoice always because Christ is risen. Joy will be distant as long as people think that it lies in the aggrandizement of popes and bishops or apostolic succession.

What a confusing essay. You fail to mention those "conservatives" (i.e. the liberal good ones) who, after the Council, became increasingly distressed at its interpretation. This includes, of course, Paul himself. And once "good" conservative liberals like Wojytla and Ratzinger. They started out as critics of "reactionaries" like Ottaviani, and later Lefebrvre, and yet now they are the ones "circling the wagons". And who are your targets in the "political Right" precisely?

What a confusing essay.

I can see why you are confused. You didnt read the article. I didnt say anything about liberals (good or otherwise).Vatican II was about evangelism, ecumenism, and the role of the laity in the Church. Have you seen any pope rolling any of this back?Vatican II wasnt about birth control, clerical celibacy, the ordination of women, or anything like that. Anyone who wants to conflate the two is simply wrong.The followers of Ottaviani and Lefebrvre are still reactionaries. So are bishops who want to roll back Vatican II as though it were a source of all of these controversies that are bothering them. And, to your question, so are bishops who align themselves with radical nationalist reactionary political parties such as the Republicans have become.

unagidon: You say, "You didn't read the article. I didn't say anything about liberals (good or other wise)."So Jeff Landry "didn't read the article" because he didn't agree to go along with your stipulated definitions of terms, but had the audacity to introduce a term that you had not used. What a ridiculous reply!Your stipulated definitions of terms are open to question. In effect, Jeff Landry is challenging your definitions of terms.

So Jeff Landry didnt read the article because he didnt agree to go along with your stipulated definitions of terms, but had the audacity to introduce a term that you had not used. What a ridiculous reply!

The introduction of the term "liberal" isn't an argument. He can be audacious all he wants. But if he is going to challenge my definition of terms, he is going to have to make an argument. Is he arguing that the popes since John XXIII were "conservative"? That was my argument. Is he arguing that I am arguing that they were really liberal even though I am arguing that they were really conservative? To make myself clear, I think that Vatican II was well in line with what the founders of the Franciscan movement were up to 800 years ago. I am arguing that that makes them "conservative", because the Franciscan movement has been fully orthodox these 800 years. I am also arguing that none of the popes since Vatican II have come out and reversed what Vatican II said about the role of the laity, ecumenism, and evangelism. If some modern reactionaries want to attack Vatican II in some self perceived role of "conservative," fine. But they are wrong.

2. Before Vatican II, most lay people were largely uneducated. After Vatican II, most lay people are largely educated, with many having college and graduate degrees.This comment is believed ubiquitously in the US. But I question its veracity on two levels. First, its a very US/Western Europe centric view of the world and unsupported by actual data. Only about 30% of the US population over 25 has graduated from college. Second, and perhaps more importantly, even among the college educated group, very few graduates have taken even one college level course in theology, philosophy, or related subject. Most have little knowledge of Catholic belief and teachings. So we have a group of laity who are overly confident of their knowledge, when in fact, most are seriously deficient.

If the thread has anything to do with good Poe John XXIII, how you label him and the arguments above show how the Church has split (for the worst) since and now we have a PR man frpm Fox News, etc.But I think John XXIIII modeled a leader who was both open minded and pastoral -not someone who gets ahead in the CDF model Church of today begun under JPII.I think Bruce's coment on the state of educated catholics, to borrow a phrase 'superficial."They well understand the drift backwards and hence the many losses we have to that smaller Church to come.

"Your stipulated definitions of terms are open to question. In effect, Jeff Landry is challenging your definitions of terms."As I appreciate it, the original piece is about the current "polarization" in the Church, which you are asserting is largely the result of efforts of " the current rise of reaction in the Church and its dance with the political Right". Over-and-against these "reactionaries" you set the "good conservatives" - like John and Paul, and presumably the Church Fathers who attended the Council and thwarted the efforts of Ottaviani, etc.), who brought the Church forward to a new moment. True, you don't use the word "liberal", it was a term I introduced in trying to make sense of your post. But it was you who used the terms "left" and "right", so I don't it's not that far out of bounds. What makes the essay confusing is that this version of the history of the Council is vastly over-simplified. What my comment was intended to raise is the fact that many of the "good" conservatives (in your view) almost immediately began to question many of the interpretations of the Council. These include the 3 most recent popes. It also included leading theologians like de Lubac, M.D. Chenu, Congar, and to some extent, even Rahner. So it seems to me you cannot set them over and against the "reactionaries". The history is a lot more muddled; in their view, it wasn't and isn't just a matter of "circling the wagons" but reforming what they interpret to be misguided. THAT is also a rather conservative notion. And aren't there some "reactionaries" on the left as well?Finally, this over-simplified history gets grafted on to your political analysis. I would just say (as a card-carrying member of both the "Political right" and the "radical nationalist reactionary political" party) that what some of us have the temerity to think we're doing is contributing to the common good in ways we think appropriate rather than "circling the wagons." Kind of like John and Paul thought the conservative thing to do was trim back the undergrowth in the Church to reveal the Church's true mission - which as you correctly say is not and has not been repudiated. On that we can agree.

I guess a shorter version of my response is that what some of us would-be "reactionaries" understand our commitments - both eccelsial and political - to be flowering on the same vine as conservatives like John and Paul rather than engaging in an effort to circle the wagons in the name purity, and that the complicated history of the Council validates that understanding.

Mark -please dont call other people superficial glass houses you know.Hey Bob,I just saw your above quote on another thread and found it amusing....

Most lay Catholics have enough education these days, no matter what the discipline, level or source, to recognize nonsense, suspect allegations and what the Brits call "bumfodder" when they see and hear it.They have enough recent church and personal history under their belts to disbelieve that, in all cases, times and events, "Father knows best." He didn't in the bad old days and he doesn't now.This bit of wisdom bears repeating:If the heart of the church structure is obeying down the hierarchical chain, then its soul is accountability up the chain. You cant demand the former without the latter. Obedience to bishops goes hand in hand with accountability. If our pope wants the bishops --- to regain any kind of authority, he needs to set up a way to make them accountable.Claire January 20th, 2010 at 8:43 pm http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=6377#comments

Bruce -- "Second, and perhaps more importantly, even among the college educated group, very few graduates have taken even one college level course in theology, philosophy, or related subject. Most have little knowledge of Catholic belief and teachings. So we have a group of laity who are overly confident of their knowledge, when in fact, most are seriously deficient."I believe a more accurate description is that prior to Vatican II, few of the laity knew any theology but almost all could profess the tenets of the creeds from memory. In the post-Vatican II era, you have a bimodal distribution. Many, perhaps most, Catholics have less of a grasp on the dogma and care less about it, while you have an increasing number who are well educated in the history, liturgy, theology of the Church and care passionately about it.

Who, me? "[our pope] needs to set up..."?That comment dates from before Pope Benedict's "last effort" letter to the Irish about sexual abuse, advocating "decisive action, complete honesty and transparency" (how I grew attached to those words!)- and his subsequent inaction and silence on the subject. That was before questions came up about his handling of Fr Hullerman during his time in Munich, questions which he dealt with by keeping silent while Fr Gruber took the blame, sort of. That was before I gave up on him as the strong leader who would be needed to govern the church.I don't agree with Claire Jan 2010's last sentence. She was overly optimistic about our church governance. It is past time talking about what our pope ought to do. It's time for lay people to act.

while you have an increasing number who are well educated in the history, liturgy, theology of the Church and care passionately about it.Juliana,I'm sure there is an increasing number, but I highly doubt its even 5% of the professed Catholics. And if you dont know the Catechism, how can you comment knowledgeably about the Church teachings. Thats like saying I've studied the history of all the mathematicians, but I dont know anything about the actual math.

Bill deHass:I believe you misread what I said. If so, I will take responsibility for it. Let me clarify.1. The term 'silent pulpit' was not use to demonstrate that the Church only speaks through the pope. Far from it. I understand Magisterium but my point was that the point of contact between the Church and laity is the local parish and the pulpit is used as a communicating bench. One rarely finds any communication from the pulpit or from weekly bulletins about sin, conscience, confession and the requirements of Eucharistic reception, especially when it comes to contraception. Bishops and priests know very well that most Catholics in child bearing years practice contraception and many stand in line each week to receive the Eucharist. Therefore, there is a disconnection and contradiction between the word (doctrine) and deed (pastoral practices). On other blog, a women gave a great example. She told bloggers of her parish priest who told parishioners not to stand in line to receive the Eucharist unless the sin of contraception was confessed and absolution received. This continued almost every week. What happened? Most parishioners starting to attend a near-by parish, and contribution significantly decreased as well as Mass attendance. It was the talk of the entire neighborhood for most of the year. No one mentioned these requirements in the neighboring parish because they fully knew the issue and the consequences. Contraception. I fail to understand your point. I never said Humanae Vitae was part of Vatican II. Everyone knows that decision was relegated to a papal commission. This was the watershed event that changed sexual ethics for the next 44 years with a new principle, HV 12. No pope, bishop or theologian ever wrote about or mentioned that the marital act had two meanings that could not be separated, except for Bishop Karol Wojtyla in 1960. Therefore, this was NOT a constant teaching of the church. Perhaps I missed your point. Nothing was as divisive in the Church than the debates that followed HV and this was a huge issue in the post-Vatican II Church.Thomism: My discussion of Veritatis Spendor (VS) was an example of post-Vatican II theology. I never mentioned, nor implied that it was part of Vatican II. I was discussing pre and post Vatican II theology. VS 78 is what JP II used to try to defend HV by using Aquinas to demonstrate that the act (contraception by example) was based on the proximate end, not the agent's end. This started a new debate, the so-called post-VS debate in defense of HV. I made this point as an example of the major changes in the Church after Vatican II. VS represented another papal encyclical that was controversial in that it is disputed whether VS 78 was truly what Thomas said or meant about the morality of voluntary human action.LCWR: Let's see what will happen. I believe the Roman Curia boxed themselves into this dilemma. I fully understand what is going on and do not assert that a CDF or papal decision is the only way out. However, the CDF tying to enforce the results of its investigation of the LCWR, and I don't believe the LCWR will be going along with it.Modernity: I don't disagree with you. I don't know what your point is. Perhaps you are reading too much into what I wrote. Perhaps I could have been clearer. Nevertheless, I do agree with you that the Holy Spirit is telling us something given all that has been happening since Vatical II.Bill Mazzella:There is much confusion and seeming contradiction when it comes to sin, confession, Eucharistic Reception with respect to contraception. I don't believe that there is widespread evil as in committing a sacrilege as my example implies. I was making the point that if the Church proclaims a teaching as divine law, it should be ensuring that Catholics fully understand the teaching and the consequences of disagreement. If you believe in the doctrine of contraception and in the Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life, the Church indeed requires Catholics to confess contraception as a sin before receiving the Eucharist. This document offers confessors the "principle of graduation" for habitual sinners (contraception) but no one confesses this as a sin and those that do have no firm purpose of amendment. It is a dead letter. My point is that the authority of an informed conscience does apply here, but the Church says that the evil still exists (contraception) but the guilt may be mitigated based on circumstances. However, the Vatican, especially JP II never admitted that...in fact, in VS he believed that the individual conscience should be able to grasp what the Magisterium says is the truth. In other words, when the Church says something is the truth the Catholic conscience must grasp it because it is the truth. The Church rarely wants to enter into this type of discussion, and the laity are the ones left with the dilemma and their informed consciences. They have already spoken, so to speak. But the Church demonstrates little courage to proclaim and fully explicate from the pulpit or other frequent communications the real truth about sin, confession, conscience, and Eucharistic reception, when it comes to contraception.The USCCB has hired lawyers to defend itself from the Obama mandate based on Freedom of Religion. This will cost millions and that is my estimate. Of course, if the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate or the law itself, then this will become a moot point. My point was that the Church is willing to spend millions of dollars here, but they won't spend a dime on communications for Catholics about what I just explained above. The answer should be obvious, but then again that might be just my opinion.

Just one question: Whatever made you think that Paul VI was a conservative? His record before and after his election as Pope would seem to be counter to this.

Letitia:I don't know if Paul VI was liberal when it came to social ethics. However, he was certainly conservative when it came to sexual ethics.Consider the important years:1964-1968 (the years of the Pontifical Birth Control Commission and the next 2 years), Paul VI wanted to follow tradition and Cardinal Ottaviani (the prefect of the Holy See) and the 4 members of the PBCC who opposed the Majority Report, formed groups that would eventually help Paul VI formulate the encyclical Humanae Vitae. In 1966, Archbishop Wojtyla started his own commission in Krakow to study the PBCC reports. It was Wojtyla's commission's conclusions, sent to Paul VI in February 1968 that helped Paul VI write Humanae Vitae, especially the central principle HV 12 the so-called inseparability principle. This was a novum and not a constant teaching of the Church, but it supported tradition. Given the divisive aftermath following the publication of HV, Paul VI never issued another encyclical.

Speaking of who is a "conservative" pope and who not, today the Italian paper La Stampa has an article about Benedict's new "open curia". It also call it a "less conservative" one. It seems La Stampa is trying hard to avoid characterizing Benedict as becoming somewhat liberal. So it goes.http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/homepage/I also just read an article by George Weigel who now is talking about the pre-Vatican II "conservative Catholics" and the new post-V II "evangelical Catholics. Well, I do agree that we need some new terminology. "Liberal" can mean almost anything.

J23 was probably "personally" a conservative. After all, isn't that the job of bishops to "conserve" the best of the past? He never could have risen to the rank of cardinal then pope without the support of darkest reactionaries in the Vatican curia.That still doesn't diminish the fact that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit ultimately Angelo Roncalli became arguably the greatest apostle since Peter and Paul mostly because he was a true genius of the human heart.