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A telling record of fearful authority

About-face on liturgical language

Rome reverses translation principles spawned by Vatican II
NCR, Jan. 14

Bishop shuts down women’s series
NCR, March 17

And so it went, on one level at least, the first quarter of the Jubilee Year. While the church was trying to engage the world in lofty understanding of the Christian mission in the world, in global justice concerns, in debt forgiveness and human rights, internally, the march to exclude, to squelch thought and creativity, continued.

Certainly Catholic Christians around the world continued to do marvelous work, and many of their stories appeared on our pages. NCR will continue to chronicle that walk of faith, often taken these days under increasingly difficult circumstances. It is in that walk of faith -- undertaken by countless ministers, lay and clerical, men and women, among the poor and marginalized, teachers of our children, among those who see the gift of faith best used in a broad embrace of humankind, without regard for gender or sexual preference -- that we see the greatest hope for the future of the church.

Vatican wants inclusive translation pulled
NCR, April 7

Gramick on conscience in Lincoln

I forbid you from speaking in this diocese’ -- Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz
, May 5

These paths lead to Rome

Six cardinals who got to the curia by supporting right-wing governments in Latin America, opposing liberation theology
NCR, June 2

Some would argue that the real church is those very people who are spreading the word and works around the world, in the most unlikely places and in the most creative ways. They would say that the stream of disciplinary pronouncements from Rome represents a tiny portion of the church and should be kept in perspective. Making much of what Vatican players say and do merely legitimizes their misuse of authority and power.

Others would argue that ordinary Catholics remain largely unaffected by Roman machinations.

It is hardly a secret, however, that what is being taught in theology classes has been affected by the specter of theologians, well-known and obscure, being hauled in before the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and censured. We know that educators are doing things differently or avoiding topics altogether. They tell us, quietly, that they are.

Nor would the above analysis be of comfort to those stuck with bishops like Bruskewitz, admittedly an extreme even among extremists, or to the countless church workers who increasingly are monitored by self-appointed orthodoxy police. Those at the top have created an atmosphere that allows the most reactionary forces within the church to run roughshod.

Chair will not have famed theologian’s name

Schillebeeckx called in for clarification
, June 30

Rome targets another Jesuit

His book about Jesus avoids traditional formulas, won praise
NCR, Aug. 11

Some would argue that the record stacks up to a too simply dualistic view of things, someone referred to it as “Manichaean reporting.” It is, indeed, discomfiting to look down the record and understand that this church has come to such a crimped and stingy sense of itself and, by connection, of Christianity itself.

But it is disingenuous to want to somehow make nobler than it is the struggle for simple power, the raw tug in two different directions, that is at the heart of the matter.

The record shows in stark terms who is rewarded and who punished these days.

Weave in all the complexities -- the competing strains and forces that have shaped the church in the modern era -- and it still is difficult to get beyond the fact that what is happening today more often than not contradicts the spirit of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) as that council was expressed in documents, as the church had begun to live its understanding of that council, and as those present during its sessions best understood it.

Interfaith monologue

Other religions ‘gravely deficient,’ Vatican says
, Sept. 15

Democratic bumper stickers raise ire of priest in Arlington

35-year parishioner told she has ‘no business’ receiving Communion because of party affiliation
, Nov. 24

Pittsburgh bows out of major education meeting

If Sr. Joan Chittister is speaking, teachers can’t go, priest says
NCR, Dec. 22

Well, you get the idea of how silly things can become. These episodes are not the product of a church with an inspiring vision. They are the trickle down of a suspicious bureaucracy working out of fear and determined to keep change at bay. We will continue to keep the record as a kind of compass, convinced that fear will not win in the end, and aware that not too long ago we were inspired to a far healthier understanding of ourselves as a people of God.

Pope John XXIII, who called the Second Vatican Council, the reforms of which some seem to be furiously running from these days, had these words posted over the door of a study long before he became pope: Pastor et Pater (Shepherd and Father). They were, according to biographer Peter Hebblethwaite, “a reminder of how his authority should be exercised.” How desperately that reminder is needed in Rome today.

National Catholic Reporter, January 5, 2001