The Roman Catholic tragedy

Hi Folks,

This last Easter Sunday, the Toronto Star published an opinion piece from Ted Schmidt. After reading it, I felt very strongly in replying to it. I submitted my reply to the Star, but for either editorial reasons it was never printed. So I am posting it here.

Here is Ted Schmidt’s article:
thestar.com/opinion/article/789262–the-roman-catholic-tragedy

Here is my reply:
Ted’s account of history of post Vatican II is surprisingly appalling to have found print because it is more grounded on urban legends than it is on facts. Far from being opposed to Vatican II, both Pope John –Paul II & Pope Benedict XVI were architects of the Second Vatican Council. It is however the faulty implementation of Vatican II that followed the council that these Pontiffs have been concerned about.

After the council, Bishops around the world were basically given carte-blanche on implementing changes. This combined with the cultural revolutions of the 60s and 70s created the perfect environment for chaos and confusion to enter the Church. Ted speaks of a “democratization of the church” that Vatican II called for, but interestingly enough there is no mention of this in the council documents. Perhaps this important concept was “in the spirit of Vatican II” that no one bothered to document at the council?

Democracy is a tool for governing. The Church’s primary role is not to govern, but to proclaim and teach the Truth (Matthew 20:28) and to preserve and defend the Truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Democracy is a lousy tool for doing this because you are always one PR campaign away from the Truth being redefined to the current fad. I find it interesting that Ted references the Anglican Church as model. I highly respect Anglicans, but this Church is currently tearing itself apart in trying to “keep up with the times” in its teachings. Recent studies have shown that churches who try to “keep up with the times” in their teachings have incurred the most dramatic hits in membership in the last few decades.

It’s interesting that Ted quotes a sentence from the Good Pope John XXIII to try to portray him as a relativist while conveniently omitting his very next Sentence. Here is what Pope John XXIII said on October 11, 1962: ‘Today the Spouse of Christ prefers to use the medicine of mercy rather than severity. She considers that she meets the needs of the present age by showing the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations’. After Pope John XXIII died, Pope Paul VI continued proclaiming the Truth in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae where he condemned abortion and contraception (Paragraph 14). In protecting the Truth, there have been forgiving Popes and some that have applied a more hard line. Neither strategy is perfect, but Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have tried to strike a balance. Those in positions of teaching authority in the Church publicly dissenting on Church teachings have all been asked to reconsider, but those who continued in their dissent have been removed from Catholic institutions. Ted favours Pope Leo XIII who was not afraid of appointing Bishops who disagreed with him, but there is a big difference between personally disagreeing with a Pope on Church discipline such as mandatory priestly celibacy and publicly dissenting on official Church teachings such as abortion or the doctrine of the Trinity. Even Pope Leo XIII never appointed Bishops who publicly dissented on official Church teachings. The Church is in the business of protecting Truth and not in the business of sowing confusion. In deed there are some that will leave the Church over disagreement of teachings, but this was so even when Jesus was preaching (John 6:66).

Ted tells us that Vatican II was to make Baptism the central Sacrament. While I would argue that Baptism is an important and necessary Sacrament, the 2000 year old teaching of the Catholic Church is that the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our Faith. This was re-affirmed by Vatican II in Lumen Gentium Chapter II Paragraph 11: “Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life, they offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer themselves along with It”. The Sacrament of Baptism did not change at Vatican II. The power of the Holy Spirit has always been available to everyone who has gone through the Waters of Baptism before, during and after the Second Vatican Council. Ted is correct in affirming Deacons, Priests and Bishops who receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders are servants. Jesus himself instructed the apostles to practice humility when He washed the Apostles’ feet at the last supper. Thus the highest title of the Pope is the servant of the Servants of God. However, our Bishops and Priests do us no service in bending or breaking the Truth.

Ted is correct in saying that Vatican II was to bring about a “renewal” and to re-engage the laity. Pope John XXIII was truly visionary in calling this council because the world was in the middle of a huge revolution in communication. Pope John Paul II followed the direction of Vatican II in calling for a new evangelization. The church made the Mass available in people’s vernacular language as well as Latin. Lay-lead apostolates have been springing forth taking advantage of new Media: Catholic Answers, Virtue Media, Catholic s Come Home, etc. The laity has become more engaged in supporting parishes, evangelization and charity today more than ever.

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As Ted used the Priest Sex Abuse scandal to introduce his opinion, I will conclude my letter with it. The physical, mental and sexual abuse endured by young victims from Priests is truly appalling. The situation only becomes truly sickening when Bishops in authority failed in their responsibility and re-circulated these predators. A great Trust has been broken and there is a lot of pain that remains. In the US where the scandal became widely known 8 years ago, there has been some good progress made. Across all US dioceses, intense child protection education and measures have been put in place. In 2009, six allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy were made in all the US by children under the age of 18 according to a Georgetown University study. Sexual abuse of children remains a societal problem in circumstances where adults in position of authority over children can escape accountability (e.g. sexual abuse of children by close family members and in public schools remains rampant). I sincerely hope that Canadian and European Dioceses will adopt similar reforms that were implemented in the US. While some media allegations do not have firm evidence basis, the legitimate journalistic pressures applied to the Church are hewing it and making it stronger in the end.

Happy Easter Season and feast of divine mercy!

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