Last Friday, Cathnews carried two American opinion pieces side by side, which perfectly demonstrate the chasm between the right and left hemispheres of the sensus fidelium in the US.
In A ‘Different Benedict is Here’: Benedict XVI and the New Missionary Age, Deacon Keith Fournier writes on Catholic Online:
Pope Benedict XVI participated in the Second Vatican Council. He not only understands the authentic teaching of that Council but has led the way in its proper implementation in many areas of life, both within the Church and in her mission to the contemporary age. He also understands the way that the Council was hijacked in some circles, disregarded in others and misinterpreted in still others. However, his is a voice calling for a dynamically orthodox and faithful Catholic Christian faith, practice, worship and life that does not want to move us back but forward and toward….
Some attempted to misuse this prophetic insight to paint him as rejecting the modern world and somehow seeking to “turn the clock back”. That was nonsense. What he rejects is the emptiness of what is called “modernity” and “post modernity”. What he proposes is a path to authentic progress; a road leading not to the past, but to a future of hope. Authentic liberation can only be brought about through a new missionary age and a Rebirth of the Church. The Gospel – as taught by and lived in its fullness within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – is the only saving truth that redeems and brings about human flourishing, true freedom and authentic cultural recovery.
Contrast that with the rant (I am sorry if that seems pejorative, but read it for yourself and tell me if that is not the right word for the tone of the piece) of the other piece, an editorial from the National Catholic Reporter, Nostalgia is not a path to the future:
It has been an open secret that powerful forces in the church’s leadership have strongly opposed the reforms set in motion by the Second Vatican Council and have worked quietly yet assiduously during the past 40 years to roll back what has been accomplished. … Then along came Cardinal Franc Rodé, head of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who has vaulted to notoriety as the person overseeing the investigation of U.S. women religious. He is quoted in this issue, from a talk he gave in September 2008, as blaming the problems of Vatican II on a misguided “hermeneutic” or interpretation, which he calls “a hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity.”…
What would he have us return to? Would he want to go back to the days when the church condemned separation of church and state? Would he want us to return to a condemnation of religious liberty? Maybe his objection is to Nostra Aetate, the document on church relations with non-Christian religions. Perhaps he would want us to return to the days of open hostility toward Jews in our prayers and sermons. Or does he feel that modernity and ecumenism have so infected the church that we should return to those days when Catholics were prohibited from attending the funerals of friends if held in a Protestant church, or when we were barred from attending a non-Catholic college without the permission of the local bishop? Does he want a return to the 19th-century papal condemnation of freedom of conscience?
Or is he upset that most do not prefer, as he does, dressing up in the trappings of royalty, the yards of silk in the cappa magna, the canopies and throne chairs and all the rest — being attended by his minions, younger priests in lacy surplices, birettas and old-fashioned vestments encrusted with gold thread and jewels — all the while speaking in a dead language, facing a wall, his back to the people?
All of this was the preconciliar church. Which elements does he want restored?
Or possibly he regrets the fact that laypeople have wide access these days not only to the scriptures but also to the documents of Vatican II, and thus can say with authority that his version of church, dependent on a thin culture of nostalgia, holds no promise of the future.
Against that culture, the people of God can say convincingly that our worldwide church, in elaborate deliberation, has decided to go forward, not backward, and that the authors of that change wrote compellingly of the need for new and more inclusive ways of conducting ourselves as 21st-century Catholics.
It is obvious that some Catholics’ idea of “moving forward” is diametrically opposite to some others.
But I also find it completely astounding that these two documents about exactly the same thing (how the Church is “moving forward”) could be about such two different things.
Deacon Fournier says that Benedict’s great push forward is an undertaking of “an extraordinary mission of Church Unity”. He points to Benedict’s actions aimed at restoring unity with the SSPX, the Anglican dissdents and, above all, the Orthodox. (He could have pointed to Benedict’s track record with the Protestants too – he single handedly saved the Joint Declaration from the dustbins of history 10 years ago).
He also points to Benedict’s conviction that the Church has a mission to rescue the West from cultural devastation, saying that for him, there is “no Plan B”, the Church is “the only hope for the whole world because she continues the redemptive mission of her head, Jesus Christ.”. “Authentic liberation can only be brought about through a new missionary age and a Rebirth of the Church.”
Contrast that with the NCR editor’s rant against Cardinal Rode (his straw man for this exercise – he could have picked on a bigger target, namely the bloke who originally gave us the phrase “a hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity”) accusing him of opposing the separation of church and state, ecumenism, religious liberty, interreligious dialogue and freedom of conscience. But as if to demonstrate and prove how infantile and calumnious these claims are, the editor concludes with the claim that whole reason the members of the Benedictine Curia wish to “turn the clock back” is so that they can “dress up in the trappings of royalty…being attended by…minions…in lacy surplices…speaking a dead language facing a wall,…back to the people.”
These two op ed pieces, representing two completely opposed points of view competing in the Western Church today, are in mortal combat for the claim to be the authentic “sensus fidelium”. I personally believe that the only point of view that has a right to such a claim is that which boldly embraces the mission of the Church to move forward in the unity of faith, authentically proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ to the world.