Pope Francis: Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Pope WaveMany people around the world have begun talking about the so-called “Francis Effect”, which I suppose could best be described as the resurgence of interest and participation in the Catholic Church due to the influence of Pope Francis and his vision for the church.  Especially in Europe, church leaders have noted a demonstrable increase in church attendance, and certainly the Pope’s weekly Wednesday audiences have nearly trebled in size since his election.  Here in the United States, recent studies have not yet documented such a radical increase, although a lot of us serving in parishes have certainly seen a notable increase in interest and enthusiasm.  Last night, I saw first-hand the “Francis Effect” in action, right here at a bar on Fisherman’s Wharf on Monterey Bay.

“Theology on Tap” is a program that’s been around quite a while now across the country, and it’s proved a durable and popular way to Theology on Taptalk about the faith and to answer questions and concerns people have.  That has certainly been the case in the Diocese of Monterey, where for more than four years, Deacon Warren Hoy has been coordinating monthly meetings on topics ranging from a variety of social justice issues, to discussions on exorcisms, just war theory, and so on.  There is a solid core of attendees, and always fresh faces drawn by a particular topic.  In a conversation with Warren a month or so ago, he shared some frustration at finding a topic and speaker for the January gathering, and in desperation, he asked me to be the speaker.  “Talk about whatever you want to,” he said.  I suggested having a conversation about Pope Francis.  That was it.  No further details, no dramatic and sexy topic: just, “let’s talk about Pope Francis.”  That’s how the announcements went out.

Last night, there on the dock of the Bay, a record number of folks turned out.  Estimates ranged between 60-80 people, which for this area, is HUGE.  I have addressed this gathering before, and while there is always good interest, last night there was a palpable difference.  There was great energy and enthusiasm about the pope and what he’s trying to do.  We talked about the nature of reform in the Church, whether that applies to the Roman Curia itself, or just a reform in pastoral approaches.  Some folks came up later to tell me that they weren’t Catholic, but that they too found great hope in the Pope’s approach and were interested in finding out more about how they might get involved and perhaps even become Catholic!  The lifelong Catholics shared how wonderful it was to be focused on POSITIVE issues in the Church these days, and to have a sense of re-commitment to their own involvement in the Church.

So, cue Otis Redding: Sitting on the dock of the bay, here in Monterey, Pope Francis is having a profound effect.

And, as if to underscore that point: next month, a new Theology on Tap venue is opening up down the road in the Salinas.  The word is spreading.

CA583-Monterey Bay At Sunrise -leveled

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“Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way!”

Thomas Paine This famous quote, generally attributed to Thomas Paine, but used (and abused!) by many has inspired leaders for a long time.  “Leadership” and its exercise, especially in the Church, is something that concerns us all in one way or another.  Some years ago, I reflected on ecclesial leadership while working on my doctoral dissertation, which dealt with the theological and canonical issues related to governance and deacons.  Although my degree is in Theology, not Canon Law, there was no way to address this issue without consulting extensively with canonists, and, in particular, the late and great American canonist, Fr. James H. Provost.  Jim became a good friend before his death, and his loss is still being felt by all who knew him.  Provost

I recently came across some notes I made from an article Jim wrote entitled,“Canonical Reflection on Selected Issues in Diocesan Governance” (in The Ministry of Governance, James K. Mallett, ed.).  I offer the following list, taken and adapted from Jim’s article, as a reflection on traits essential to servant-leadership in the Church today.  Jim wrote them specifically for his fellow canon lawyers, but I believe they have relevance for all pastoral ministers.  The categories are Jim’s; the brief commentary is mine.

1)      Be always vigilant for the spiritual purpose.

As we serve the People of God, this vigilance should be at the forefront.  Regardless of the issue we are helping people with, what is the ultimate spiritual purpose behind it?  Without this focus, ministry might become little more than social work.  Obviously, this is not to suggest that social work is a bad thing!  For the minister, however, we go beyond that task.  As canon law itself reminds us, “The salvation of souls is the highest law” (salus animarum suprema lex).  Keeping this principle in mind will help us keep our priorities straight.

2)      Think with the Church.

As Pope Francis has recently reminded us, to “think with the Church” does not simply mean knowing the teachings of the Church, as important as that is, but to have a sense of what all members of the Church are thinking, and what their needs are.  In other words,  the Church — as People of God, Mystical Body of Christ and Temple of the Holy Spirit — is not simply the hierarchy, nor is the “mind of the Church” (mens ecclesiae) reducible to a collection of dogmas and doctrines: it involves active and caring listening to all, attempting to discern the will of God, and then acting accordingly.  In short, when we consider this maxim, Pope Francis would remind us, “Think with the WHOLE Church.”

3)      Serve if you would lead.

Anyone who has ever led others quickly realizes the profound truth that “a good leader is first a good follower.”  However, it is equally true that the best leadership style is a servant-leadership, one that cares for the people serving with the leader.  This is true, no matter what the venue.  After leaving the seminary after eight years, I joined the Navy and wound up serving on active duty for twenty-two years, first as an enlisted linguist, and then — for the bulk of my career — as an officer.  I served for many leaders, and had the privilege of serving in leadership as well: and the BEST leaders were always servant leaders.  Such a leader was always concerned first with the needs of those he or she is leading so that they are then free to carry out the mission, whatever that happens to be.  If this is true even in ways of life outside the Church, how much more profoundly is it true of those who serve in leadership in the Church.  Servant leaders put others first, dream dreams, have visions, and inspire others to greatness in the eyes of God.

4)      Use the power you have.

Power is not a bad word, despite the negative connotations often associated with it.  Power is the first of the divine attributes, and power is imparted to us through the sacraments.  Power is the ability to act, to serve, to provide care: all of this is good.  Often people, even those who serve in ministry, will bemoan the apparent fact that they “don’t have the power to change” something.  Still, all of us, through the grace of sacramental initiation and, for some, ordination, have a measure of “power” which must be used in service of others.  Instead of worrying about what we cannot do, we need to focus on what we can do!

servant-leadership-mountain2-e12788128583935)      Empower the Church.

Speaking of power, it is meant to be shared.  When Christ heals Peter’s mother-in-law, she immediately gets up to serve.  That’s a good lesson for us in ministry: We are called not only to help others, we are called to help them UP.  We are to give them the power they need to serve others and continue that mission.  Power is meant to be used and shared.

6)      Promote and protect rights.

The theology of the Church, as expressed through the law of the Church, focuses not only the responsibilities we have under the law, but on the rights we have: rights that come from God, and rights that are extended through the ministry and authority of the Church.  Jim’s advice here, to focus on rights, puts the correct emphasis on ministries.  The responsibilities we have flow from those rights: the responsibility for parents to be the prime educators of their children in faith, for example, flows first from their RIGHT to do so!  In other words, we are encouraged not only to react to our responsibilities but to act first out of our rights; to be ACTIVE, not merely REACTIVE.

7)      Consult when making decisions.

Fr. Provost was reminding canonists that the law often requires prior consultation in decision-making, but his advice is helpful to all of us.  The Church, from its earliest days, has valued collegiality, collaboration and consultation.  Consider, as just one example, the so-called “Council of Jerusalem” when Paul went up to Jerusalem to meet (confront?) the other leaders of the Church over the issue of Gentile converts.  After talking together, those early leaders wrote a letter to the converts which acknowledged their dependence on the Holy Spirit who then informed their decision.  Although we often hear from some folks that “the Church is not a democracy,” this is simply too simplistic and ignores the evidence of history, which suggests widespread models of collegiality and consultation, and we ignore that to our peril.

8)      Interpret the law as it is meant to be interpreted.

This is a tricky one, but critical!  For those of us who are not lawyers, it might be tempting to “read the black” and assume we know precisely what it means!  Language, however, is symbol, and symbols always “contain” more than appears at first sight.  When serving in ministry, do we make the proper attempts to find out how specific laws are to be interpreted?  Consider point #1 again: How am I to interpret this law in light of the overall spiritual purpose of the situation?  I am not suggesting that we find ways around our laws; merely that they will need to be interpreted as the law itself expects.  For that, consultation may be required  (see #7)!

9)      Be generous.

One principle of the interpretation of Church law involves the very “generosity” of the law.  The law exists for the spiritual good of people, and that involves being as generous as possible with the benefits of the Church.  For example, do we seek out ways to provide the sacraments to people?  We saw this recently when Pope Francis baptized the infants in the Sistine Chapel, including a child of a couple not yet married in the eyes of the Church.  The situation of the parents, while of concern to us of course, need not cause us to be stingy with the benefits of baptism for the child as well as her parents.  All of us in ministry can think of countless other examples: we need to think with our arms open.

10)   Be consistent.

Every pastoral situation is unique, as we all know full well.  And yet, justice obliges us to be consistent in our interpretation and application of law, while still appreciating the unique demands of each situation.  I think the caution here also involves the dangers of parochialism or favoritism for some people, and a narrow interpretation for those we may not know — or like! — as well!  This gives us a needed balance of pastoral approach.  It also conveys a sense of positive predictability: we are trying to be even-handed with all because all are equal in the sight of God.

11)   Be timely.servantLeadershipLogo

Is this one ever important!  Remember, again, that Jim was writing this to fellow canon lawyers, reminding them that “justice delayed is justice denied.”  That applies across the whole spectrum of pastoral ministry.  Are we as responsive as we should be to the questions, requests, concerns that come our way, or do we procrastinate or even ignore certain things?  The people we serve have a right to a timely response, whatever their need is.  How do we feel when it seems someone is ignoring or discounting us and our concerns?

12)   Be forthright.

Many of us struggle with this one.  As ministers, we don’t want to hurt others.  Sometimes, however, we are the bearers of bad news or difficult decisions.  Jim’s reminder is that, despite the difficulties which we may encounter in doing so, we need to be honest and direct with those we serve.  This does not mean that we are insensitive or nasty about things; it simply means that we all have to be honest with each other.

I, for one, continue to struggle with these principles.  Still, they are a good “checklist” for servant-leadership, and can serve as a fine reflective tool when we’re on retreat, for example!  Perhaps it is better to say that they can form part of a ministerial examination of conscience as we grow in service to others.  There are times when each and every one of us is asked to “lead.”  At other times we are all called to “follow”, and still other times when we just need to “get out of the way”!

Francis washing feet

The Last Permanent Deacon (before Vatican II)

Just for fun. . .

Reginald Pole

Deacon Reginald Pole, who was Cardinal President for the First Session of the Council of Trent

Most people recognize that the diaconate enjoyed a “golden age” which ended in the 4th Century.  The transformation of the diaconate, including the decline of a diaconate permanently exercised began shortly after, although there are the famous exceptions usually given: the English Cardinal Reginald Pole, for example, or Francis of Assisi.  However, the last known “permanent” deacon prior to the Second Vatican Council was probably Italian jurist Teodolfo Mertel (1806-1899).

Kardinal_Mertel_5JS

Deacon Teodolfo Mertel, jurist and Cardinal-Prefect of the Roman Rota

Teodolfo studied in the seminary with the Capuchins, and in 1828, at the age of 22, the brilliant young lawyer received a joint doctorate in both civil and canon law from La Sapienza University in Rome.  By the time he was 25 he was serving as a lawyer for the Roman Curia.  He served in positions of increasing responsibility between 1831 till 1853, when he was assigned as Minister of the Interior and of Grace and Justice.

Although he received first tonsure in 1843 and the minor orders shortly thereafter, he did not proceed further at that time.  At the consistory of 15 March 1858, Mertel was made a Cardinal by Pope Pius IX.  On the same day he was appointed President of the Supreme Council for Internal Affairs of the State, and on the next day, 16 March 1858, the pope ordained him a deacon at Castelgandolfo.   Cardinal Mertel served in several other major assignments and participated in the First Vatican Council (1869-1870).  He continued in various positions, eventually serving as Prefect of the Tribunal of the Signature of Justice from 1877 until his death in 1899.  He participated in the conclave of 1878 which elected Pope Leo XIII; he served as Protodeacon of the Mass of Coronation and placed the triple tiara on the new pope’s head.

A well-known story from his time observed that, when the Prefect wished to go to Mass, he had to take one of his priest-staff members along to say the Mass.

In his later years, due to illness, he returned to his hometown, where he died 11 July 1899, at the age of 93.

We deacons do not need to be made Cardinals.  However, we should always strive to find new and creative ways to serve God and God’s people!

Priest to Deacon: “Being a deacon is not a REAL vocation.”

laying on of handsFrom the inbox comes a note from a very concerned brother deacon.  A priest recently told him that there was no real sacramental significance to being a deacon, unlike the ordinations of presbyters or bishops, which change a person at the very core of their being.  As another deacon once remarked to me after a Conference, a priest once told him that “being a deacon is not a REAL vocation, like being a priest or a religious.”  I have heard both of these observations before, and want to reassure my brother deacons that, contrary to the mistaken opinions of some of the priests involved (and others, of course): being a deacon IS a real vocation, and our ordination is just as “sacramentally effective and significant” as any other ordination to the other orders that make up the Sacrament of Holy Orders!

What’s going on here?  Why is there such confusion about this?  Let me suggest a few answers.  Perhaps this could be part of a conversation and ongoing formation offered to our seminarians and priests (and it wouldn’t hurt for deacons and lay folks to remember it, too!).

1) A “theology of the diaconate” is only just now being developed.  This may seem surprising, but when you think about it, it makes sense.  For about a millennium or so, “being ordained” was usually summed up in (reduced to?)  reflections on “being a priest.”  That was the order that mattered the most, since this was the order (of presbyters) who “confected the Eucharist”, and all other orders were preliminary to, and led to, the presbyterate.  For quite a while, even being a bishop was understood primarily through the lens of the priesthood, with the responsibilities of being a bishop understood primarily as a matter of jurisdiction, not sacramental significance.  This point of view was overturned at the Second Vatican Council, which restored a more ancient understanding of Orders, first by reclaiming the more ancient theological understandings of the episcopate (see Lumen gentium, ##18-27), returning the diaconate to an order to be exercised permanently, and by authorizing the restructuring of the entire Sacrament of Holy Orders; Pope Paul VI implemented those decisions between 1967 (when he adjusted canon law to permit the ordination of “permanent” deacons) and 1972 (when he suppressed, in the Latin Church, first tonsure, the minor orders of porter, lector, exorcist and acolyte, and the subdiaconate; he concurrently authorized LAY ministries of lector and acolyte, no longer to be ordinations, but lay institutions).  This means, vis-a-vis the diaconate, that for the first time in more than a millennium, a person could be ordained to a major and permanent order of the ministry (the diaconate) without eventually seeking ordination to the presbyterate.  Therefore, given the large scale absence of “permanent” deacons for so long, there was no proper theology of the diaconate-qua-diaconate.

The Holy See recognized this in a 1998 document from the Congregation for Catholic Education (#3):Ratio et Directorium

The almost total disappearance of the permanent diaconate from the Church of the West for more than a millennium has certainly made it more difficult to understand the profound reality of this ministry. However, it cannot be said for that reason that the theology of the diaconate has no authoritative points of reference, completely at the mercy of different theological opinions. There are points of reference, and they are very clear, even if they need to be developed and deepened.

So, what are these “points of reference” offered by the Holy See?

A.  First of all we must consider the diaconate, like every other Christian identity, from within the Church which is understood as a mystery of Trinitarian communion in missionary tension. This is a necessary, even if not the first, reference in the definition of the identity of every ordained minister insofar as its full truth consists in being a specific participation in and representation of the ministry of Christ. This is why the deacon receives the laying on of hands and is sustained by a specific sacramental grace which inserts him into the sacrament of Orders.

B. The diaconate is conferred through a special outpouring of the Spirit (ordination), which brings about in the one who receives it a specific conformation to Christ, Lord and servant of all. Quoting a text of the Constitutiones Ecclesiae Aegypticae, Lumen gentium (n. 29) defines the laying on of hands on the deacon as being not “ad sacerdotium sed ad ministerium”,(6) that is, not for the celebration of the eucharist, but for service. This indication, together with the admonition of Saint Polycarp, also taken up again by Lumen gentium, n. 29,(7) outlines the specific theological identity of the deacon: as a participation in the one ecclesiastical ministry, he is a specific sacramental sign, in the Church, of Christ the servant. His role is to “express the needs and desires of the Christian communities” and to be “a driving force for service, or diakonia”, which is an essential part of the mission of the Church.

C.  The matter of diaconal ordination is the laying on of the hands of the Bishop; the form is constituted by the words of the prayer of ordination, which is expressed in the three moments of anamnesis, epiclesis and intercession. . . .  [NOTE: The matter and form of the diaconate, presbyterate and episcopate were clarified and promulgated by Pope Pius XII in his 1947 Sacramentum Ordinis.   One would hope that by now this document would have found its way into seminary curricula! ]

holyorders2D. Insofar as it is a grade of holy orders, the diaconate imprints a character and communicates a specific sacramental grace. The diaconal character is the configurative and distinguishing sign indelibly impressed in the soul, which configures the one ordained to Christ, who made himself the deacon or servant of all. It brings with it a specific sacramental grace, which is strength, vigor specialis, a gift for living the new reality wrought by the sacrament. “With regard to deacons, ‘strengthened by sacramental grace they are dedicated to the People of God, in conjunction with the bishop and his body of priests, in the service (diakonia) of the liturgy, of the Gospel and of works of charity’”.  Just as in all sacraments which imprint character, grace has a permanent virtuality [The Latin original has: Sicut in omnibus sacramentis characterem imprimentibus, gratia permanentem virtualem vim continet]. It flowers again and again in the same measure in which it is received and accepted again and again in faith.

E. In the exercise of their power, deacons, since they share in a lower grade of ecclesiastical ministry, necessarily depend on the Bishops, who have the fullness of the sacrament of orders. In addition, they are placed in a special relationship with the priests, in communion with whom they are called to serve the People of God.

F. From the point of view of discipline, with diaconal ordination, the deacon is incardinated into a particular Church or personal prelature to whose service he has been admitted, or else, as a cleric, into a religious institute of consecrated life or a clerical society of apostolic life.(13) Incardination does not represent something which is more or less accidental, but is characteristically a constant bond of service to a concrete portion of the People of God. This entails ecclesial membership at the juridical, affective and spiritual level and the obligation of ministerial service.

jpii2.  If this were not enough to demonstrate the proper character of a vocation to the diaconate, consider the words of soon-to-be Saint John Paul II, who offered a series of catecheses on the diaconate in 1993.  He observed with great clarity a theme he would make several times during his papacy:

The exercise of the diaconal ministry—like that of other ministries in the Church—requires per se of all deacons, celibate or married, a spiritual attitude of total dedication.  Although in certain cases it is necessary to make the ministry of the diaconate compatible with other obligations, to think of oneself and to act in practice as a ‘part-time deacon’ would make no sense. The deacon is not a part-time employee or ecclesiastical official, but a minister of the Church. His is not a profession, but a mission!  

So, why does any confusion persist on this matter?  Let me offer a couple of suggestions.

3.  The sacramental question of HOW the deacon participates in the one Sacrament of Holy Orders has developed since the release of the documents on the diaconate in 1998.  Following some initial changes to the Latin editio typica of the Catechism of the Catholic Church back in 1994, Pope Benedict in 2009 issued motu proprio Omnium et Mentem.  In this document, canon law (specifically cc. 1008 and 1009) was changed to reflect that only presbyters and bishops act in persona Christi Capitis (“in the person of Christ, the Head of the Church”), while deacons serve in a ministry of word, sacrament and charity.  This distinction, however, does not — and should not — be taken to suggest that deacons are no less ORDAINED into sacred ministry (which is the point of the canons on this point!) or that our ordination is no less sacramentally significant.  The canons simply reflect a theological position that there are two modalities of participation in the ONE Sacrament of Holy Orders. [Here’s an interesting side note: the change to canon law only affected the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church; the Code of Canons for the Eastern Catholic Churches does not use the language of in persona Christi Capitis, so the distinction did not need to be made there.]

4.  I think that, since the Council, there has been legitimate concern on the part of many presbyters that the specific nature of the presbyterate has been under assault.  One bishop who participated in all four sessions of the Council as a young bishop, once remarked to me that he considered it a great shortcoming of the Council that they did not spend more time on the nature of the priesthood itself.  “After all,” this bishop said, “We spent considerable time talking about the sacramental nature of the episcopate, and we developed wonderful texts on the nature and role of the laity.  We even renewed the diaconate!  But we did not take into proper account the profound impact all of that would have on the presbyterate itself.”  As a result, many of the functions which had become part of the presbyterate prior to the Council now began to be disbursed to other ministers, both lay and, now, deacons.  This means that there is a certain concern that the presbyterate itself is being somehow “eroded” as others assume their own rightful and legitimate places in ministry, both within the Church and in the world.

But the bottom line remains:vocation

Deacons are ordained, and are permanently changed in the core of our being by that ordination (what we used to call in days gone by as “ontologically changed”).  We are always and everywhere full-time ministers, as St. John Paul II so passionately proclaimed, even when that ministry occurs outside the normal institutional structures of the Church.  During those same catecheses in 1993, John Paul II also reminded people that “a deeply felt need in the decision to re-establish the permanent diaconate was and is that of greater and more direct presence of Church ministers in the various spheres of the family, work, school, etc., in addition to existing pastoral structures.”  The diaconate is a sacrament and a proper vocation.  It is perhaps also a useful reminder to many of our sisters and brothers that we are all gifted with many “proper vocations” — calls from God! — in our lifetimes.  Our baptisms themselves constitute our primal vocation, before all others, for example!  Some of us are called to religious life, some are called to matrimony, some are called to Orders, and some of us are called to several of these at the same time!  Our God is a most generous God, and attempts to characterize one vocation over against another is to deny that divine generosity and to misunderstand the nature of vocation in the first place.

Now,  let us all go out and serve one another!

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Join Our Team: Super Vinny, Kicking Cancer

Stay Calm and Team VinnyOur grandson, Vinny, who just turned five last week, is about to start chemotherapy.  He had brain surgery just before Christmas to remove a large tumor from his brain, and now he’s moving to the next phase.  His Mom, our daughter Laura, has started a Facebook group to support hiPirate Vinnym, and our other daughter, Jennifer, created the wonderful “poster” for him!

If you want to join and add your own prayers to the group, please check out the Team Super Vinny page here!

When Cardinals Dance

Cardinal_RodriguezSome folks in the blogosphere were upset recently when Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and ArchbishopMuller-255x283moderator of the Pope’s “Gang of Eight” board of cardinal-advisors, publicly took to task soon-to-be Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).  In an interview with a German newspaper, Cardinal Rodriguez referred to recent comments by the Prefect which were directed to German bishops pushing for more openness to finding possible pastoral approaches for people who have divorced and remarried without annulments.  While the German bishops are open to finding ways to permit people in this situation to receive the Sacraments (especially Communion), the Prefect has essentially closed the door on such a possibility.  Cardinal Rodriguez responded, referring to Archbishop Mueller: “He’s a German – yes, I have to say it – and above all he’s a professor, a German theology professor. In his mentality there is only true or false. But I say: The world, my brother, the world is not like that. You should be a little flexible, if you hear other voices, so as not to only hear them and say, no, here is the wall.”  Rodriguez Maradiaga, of course, is a Salesian and was himself a professor, with earned doctorates in philosophy, theology and moral theology; he also holds graduate certificates in clinical psychology and psychotherapy.

It is, of course, most interesting when two public figures debate publicly!  However, a quick review of various media finds that many people were highly incensed by the Cardinal’s public criticism of the Prefect of the CDF, finding it unseemly in the extreme.  However, I would suggest that this is not unusual at all in the Church’s tradition; in fact, we have a venerable history of battling heavyweights.  Let me just cite a few examples.

Paul confronting PeterLet’s start with two guys named Paul and Cephas (the fisherman who later got the new name of Peter).  While they made up  later, St. Paul doesn’t sugarcoat his own public and heated disagreement with Peter over the issue of the evangelization of non-Jewish converts to Christianity.  Consider just Galatians 2: 11-13

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned;  for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

In the verses prior to these, Paul made several references about the “acknowledged leaders” of the Jerusalem church — including Peter, James and John — and at one point adds, “what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality”.

Here’s another example, drawn from the early days of the Second Vatican Council.  There has always been tension for centuries between the world’s diocesan bishops and the Roman Curia.  This was certainly in evidence during the antepreparatory and preparatory phases leading up to the Council, as preliminary draft documents were crafted and prepared for eventual debate during the Council.  But perhaps nowhere was this tension for evident than in the dramatic confrontation on November 8, 1963, when Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne confronted Cardinal Ottaviani over the conduct of the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), of which Ottaviani was Prefect. Cardinal Frings [whose theological advisor was a young theologian named Joseph Ratzinger] criticized the Holy Office, “whose methods and behavior do not conform to the modern era and are a source of scandal to the world.”  Archbishop Thomas Connolly of Seattle wrote to his archdiocesan newspaper that:Ratzinger with Frings

It all started more or less on Friday when Joseph Cardinal Frings, the Archbishop of Cologne, took the floor and flayed the Congregation of the Holy Office, declaring its procedures unjust, unfair, and completely out of harmony with modern times. He called for a complete revision of its status and its rights and privileges, saying that it was grossly unfair for the Holy Office to accuse, condemn, and judge any individual without having the opportunity of defending himself at a hearing. He declared further that the number of bishops in the curia should be reduced and many of the posts taken over by laymen. He minced no words in his denunciation.

ottavianiHe was immediately challenged by Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, secretary [now, Prefect] of the Holy Office. To use the parlance of the prize ring, the Cardinal had been taking it on the chin so often during the past few weeks that he had reached the limit of his patience. He picked himself up off the canvas; he lashed out at all his critics, swinging freely right and left. In a voice shaking with emotion and pent-up anger, he declared that criticisms of the Holy Office were criticisms of the Pope himself, that the German Cardinal’s words were spoken out of ignorance, if not worse. . . . It was the hottest exchange yet but of course, such things are to be expected for this council is not a sodality meeting.

And then there was the running public debate concerning the relationship of the universal Church to the diocesan Churches between then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Cardinal Walter Kasper.  The pair exchanged a series of articles which raised point and counterpoint on this critical issue.  Far from simply an academic exchange between theologians, the debate raised issues of episcopal authority between bishop and the Roman curia.  Kasper, basing his arguments on his experiences as diocesan bishop, continued the “Frings critique” of curial procedure.Kasper

Here’s my point, and it’s the same one made by Pope St. John XXIII during his opening address to the Second Vatican Council.  Following his criticism of the “prophets of gloom”, he concluded that “Everything, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the Church.”  Those who find the Rodriguez Maradiaga-Mueller exchange problematic should probably calm down and appreciate the fact that our church has a venerable history of public disagreements that will ultimately lead to positive results.

We seek unity in faith, not uniformity.