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Vatican’s magnanimity should be more inclusive

We’re all for the big-tent, inclusive version of the church, but the Vatican’s magnanimity in this regard is clearly out of balance.

In an ecclesial landscape already crowded with right-wing groups such as Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ, groups that enjoy special favor at the highest levels of the church, the Vatican wants to anoint one more. Apparently a move is afoot to welcome back the followers of the late schismatic French Archbishop Marcel Lefevbre (see story page 3).

The mission of some in this papacy -- to roll back as many of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council as possible -- was never clearer than in the pursuit of Lefevbre. Pope John Paul II demonstrated patience in the extreme with Lefevbre in the 1980s, as the renegade bishop went about setting up his parallel church, ordaining priests for his movement and condemning every council initiative. It was only when he finally ordained four bishops in 1988 that he was excommunicated.

Some of Lefevbre’s priests decided to return to the church, and special provisions were made for them with the creation of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. The fraternity is the largest of a number of special groups created for traditionalists who want to retain ties to the church.

Now the word is out that the Vatican is negotiating to make special provision for those still outside the church in Lefevbre’s Society of St. Pius X.

Please, no more personal prelatures or special societies of those gathered around the mission to return the church to a romanticized notion of an era that never existed in the first place.

Certainly, give no more special considerations to reactionaries and new clerical cults until the same extreme generosity is shown to more progressive groups and ministers, thinkers and theologians who have been marginalized by this papacy even as they jumped through all of its disciplinary hoops, trying in all good faith to remain in the fold.

National Catholic Reporter, March 30, 2001