Saturday, February 7, 2009

Benedict's Smaller, Purer Church as Incredible Shrinking Church: Paul Gorrell on Rehabilitation of Pius X

Clerical Whispers also links today to a piece yesterday by Paul Gorrell at Religion Dispatches. It's entitled "The Incredible Shrinking Catholic Church."

Gorrell focuses on the link between Benedict's belief in a smaller, purer church and his decision to rehabilitate Richard Williamson and the Society of St. Pius X. As I have done in my series on Benedict's smaller, purer church, Gorrell notes the irony of a move on the part of Benedict that welcomes an anti-Semitic, misogynistic homophobe, while millions of Catholics whose vision of church has been shaped by Vatican II are implicitly told that we are unwelcome:

All corrections to this controversy aside, what has been revealed in this story is Benedict’s vision of the Church as a “perfect society” that places orthodoxy as the primary requirement of membership. If the faithful are willing to give this unquestioning assent to papal rule, then filtering history through the lens of bigotry is not a problem for the Church.

But Benedict’s vision for the Church is a big problem for gay folks, women who seek equal rights, people who believe the expression of sexuality should not be restricted to marriage and procreation, those who embrace ecumenical dialogue, and people who believe in the primacy of conscience (a hallmark of post-Vatican II Catholic moral theology).

For Benedict, a Holocaust denier is welcome and these ecclesiastical outliers are not.

Ironically, by recognizing Williamson as a member of the Church in good standing, Benedict has made his flock much smaller.
If present trends continue, the smaller, purer church of John Paul II and Benedict XVI may be known primarily not for its conspicuous orthodoxy, but for its conspicuous lapses in the area of orthopraxis--for its betrayal of catholicity and its embrace of exclusivist prejudices, more than its retrieval of tradition.

For its failure to stress the sacramental nature of the church and the obligation of all church members to live in a welcoming, inclusive way that communicates God's all-inclusive, all-affirming love to the world . . . . Which happens to be what Catholicism claims to be all about in the word it uses to designate its brand of religion . . . .