Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: "Double Canonization Doesn't Lead to Recognizing Diversity but to Neutralizing Both Options"

The following snippet is from a statement issued by the Spanish Asociación de Teólogas y Teólogos Juan XXIII at the end of May, re: the double canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. At the Iglesia Descalza site, Rebel Girl has helpfully provided an English translation:

The double canonization doesn't lead to recognizing diversity but to neutralizing both options, thus favoring the ecclesial status quo. 

And if both options are neutralized, what remains is, as the theologians making this statement perceptively note, the ecclesial status quo. In which power remains, as it always has been, despite the promise of Vatican II, firmly and totally in the hands of the clerical elite who ultimately own and control everything in the Catholic church . . . .

So that the very neutralization of the conflicting options represented by the papacies of John XXIII and John Paul II becomes part of a larger scheme to reassert the power of the church's clerical elite even as it appears, in the eyes of many Catholics, to wane — since the one thing that remains constant as the conflicting options represented by two very different popes is that the clerical caste of the church still owns the church, institutionally speaking.

It owns everything within Catholic institutions, and the attack on the Leadership Conference of Religious Women only underscores this fact, by proving us to that the church's clerical elite is perfectly willing to assert its ownership of the institutions founded and nurtured by religious women over the centuries, when those women seek to assert any effective control over their lives and institutions.

The Spanish theologians finish off the preceding statement about how the recent double canonizations favor the ecclesial status quo by advising Pope Francis, "We think you have to choose one model of church and who represents it if you don't want to favor, at least indirectly, the relativism that Benedict XVI tried so much to combat."

That's advice that puts me in mind of the venerable, if vulgar, American adage, "Shit or get off the pot." The problem posed by such adages, though, is that sometimes it's actually to the advantage of the person controlling a situation, an institution, or a pot to remain firmly on the pot, while playing both sides against the middle and engaging in impression management to make things appear, well, different from how they actually are.

I suspect increasing numbers of Catholics who previously had hope for Francis's papacy wonder if this is precisely where we've been led under the current pope. It's rather a dismal place to find ourselves, as the church (that is, the church that is the church and is not encapsulated in its clerical caste) continues falling apart around our ears while we're told that everything's looking up.

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