Friday, May 06, 2005

Luther: "Every man is born with a Pope in his belly"

In an article entitled "Do you have a Pope in your belly?" Al Kimel (Pontifications, May 6, 2005) offers a thoughtful and incisive review of liberal Catholic dissent against Church teaching and Papal authority. He analyzes responses to Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis ("On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone"), noting that the wording would seem to remove all doubt that this is a closed case, Roma locuta est, causa finita est:
Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.
He reviews the manner in which dissidents, despite the Responsum Ad Dubium issued by the CDF stating that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was indeed infallible, have still pushed for women's ordination, responding to Rome by parcing the "level of infallibility" involved in such a declaration, qualifying to death the Pope's authority. The attitude is aptly summarized by Kimel thus: "How little can I get away with believing and still be considered a card-carrying Christian?"--an attitude he aptly says might well be described as "the liberal Protestant disease." Never mind that it has infected a huge party of Catholics who want to be, as they put it, "more Catholic and less Roman"--which translates: "Ecclesia? Mater, si; Magistra, no!" or "We are the world, Rome; so get off our backs!" Kimel takes issue with "Progressive Catholic," a blogger whose recent offerings include "Is the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium Infallible?" and "Truth, Certainty, Infallibility, and Dissent." He revisits the 1870 declaration of Papal Infallibility and the frequent and misleading dissident cavil that the only doctrines that have been defined infallibly are the doctrines of Papal Infallibility and the Assumption of Mary. He cites Newman's views on the question. He takes on Charlie Curran's self-styled heroic dissent against the Roman Inquisition in his essay "A Place for Dissent."

By the way, on the question of the ordination of women, the best rebuttal and overall popular treatment of this issue, in my opinion, is still Peter Kreeft's essay, "Gender and the Will of God: The Issue of Priestesses is Ultimately an Issue of God." It will rankle, it will provoke, it will offend, but it will also draw a line in the sand that will difinitively clarify the sides on which the opponents stand on this issue. I highly recommend it.

In all of this, I'm reminded of what Fr. Augustin DiNoia once said in response to a question concerning infallibility following one of his presentations at the Aquinas-Luther Conference at Lenoir-Rhyne College. After some give and take on the question, which took that all-too-inevitable turn towards qualifying to death the "infallible" status of the doctrine, DiNoia responded: "Who cares if it's infallible; the question is whether it's true!" The question of infallibility, after all, is ultimately a question of authority, calling for faith that God's providence will prevent the Church from falling into error. A prior question, one that cannot be answered definitively without faith but which is open also to the dialectic of empirical testing, is whether what the Church has taught throughout her history is true and, concomitantly, whether her teaching record bears witness, at least circumstantially, to her claim of infallible divine guidance.

No comments: