Back to it
I've been very quite for a while, but two articles in the Canberra times today made me want to get back into the blogging action. Actually, it was a little bizzarre, two opinon pieces, side by side, which said almost exactly the same thing. The pint of these articles was that Vatican II had tried to decentralise the church but that the newly late Pope had been guilty of recentralising.
Firstly, a lot of nonsense is talked about Vatican II, while it is true that the council did place greater stress on the roles of the individual bishops and on the colective authority of the bishops united with the Pope, it also inisted on some very "centralist" notions, such as the duty of all the bishops and all the faithful to believe the teachings of the pope.
Secondly, while John Paul II did (and it feels so weird to think of him in the pat tense) strongly insist upon papal teaching authority, he also enacted the new code of cannon law which entrenches the roles of the national bishops confrences. In all John Paul II's reign, was a single liberal bishop removed from his see, or even disciplined in any substantial way?
One of the articles complains that "nuns were told to go back to wearing habbits and theologians were told to be docile." Well even if the late Holy Father did tell nuns to go back to wearing habbits (he may have done, although I can't remember when) he certainly did nothing to make them do so.
As for theologians, well, it's certainly true that catholic theologians, most of whom are catholic priests and therefore have taken solemn oaths to deffend and uphold catholic teaching, were told that they would actually (what a radical concept!) be expected to keep their oaths. But the question then becomes, what happened to those who didn't comply? For all the talk of Papal investigations and heresy trials, the fact remains that not one liberal theologian was excommunicated during the entire reign of John Paul II.
Lets take an example, Hans Kung, a (now retired) catholic priest from Switzland who is frequently held up as an example of a victim of vatican persecution. In the late 1970s Kung was proffessor of catholic theology at the university of Basel and his books were widely read in theological colleges (both catholic and protestant) around the world. In 1979 the vatican ruled that a number of his books taught things clearly contrary to the catholic faith and Kung was asked to recant. When he refused to do so, it was declared that he could no longer be a teacher of catholic theology. So, Kung resigned as proffessor of catholic theology, the university at which he worked then created the new position of proffessor of ecumenical theolgy, to which it appointed Kung and Kung continued teaching essentailly the same material to the same students. Meanwhile, he remained a catholic priest in good standing and his books continued to be taught in catholic seminaries and sold in catholic bookstores (as they still are to this day, last time I walked into the catholic bookstore in Canberra, his latest book was on prominent display).
So much for John Paul the authoritarian.