Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Exchange Part 2: Dr. Gaillardetz's Response

Columnist needs open mind

Posted: 10/1/07

Patrick Beeman's recent column, "Parishioner Policy" (9/27/07), was devoted to his obvious distaste for a certain form of Roman Catholicism in which Catholics and even Catholic priests adapt official liturgical prayers and challenge official teachings. His inclination to show respect for the traditions and beliefs of his religion are laudable, but it is unfortunate that he believes his rather rigid view of Catholicism should be foisted upon others as the only kind of Catholicism appropriate to "pious sensibilities."

Most Catholics should agree that arbitrary adaptation of liturgical texts generally ought to be avoided. However, many are led to this practice because they are frustrated by the unwillingness of church leadership to take seriously the concerns of respected liturgical scholars and many rank and file Catholics regarding not only the adequate translation of liturgical texts but the forced implementation of liturgical legislation that seems heavy-handed and misguided. I am reminded of Pope Paul VI's admonition to those who appealed to the sanctity of the Tridentine rite in their resistance to liturgical reform: "the liturgy was made for the people, not the people for the liturgy." I have to believe that the Gracious Mystery who sustains the cosmos in love is far less offended by the random change of a pronoun than is Mr. Beeman.

In like manner, one might be more sympathetic to Mr. Beeman's concerns regarding priests who show arrogant disregard for official church teaching if he did not rely so much on caricature. Only someone innocent of history could ask the question: "If you set yourself against the pope, don't you become your own pontiff?" Such revered Catholic figures as St. Catherine of Siena and St. Bernard of Clairveaux found it necessary to criticize the popes of their time. Is there no place in Mr. Beeman's vision of Catholicism, for responsible and respectful conversation that allows for criticism and disagreement? Disagreement does not necessarily mean disobedience. It is worth noting that within Roman Catholicism not all church teaching and discipline have the same authoritative status and, therefore, do not require the same response from believers.

Finally, I would invite Mr. Beeman to reflect on the intellectual traditions of Catholicism that have encouraged inquiry, debate,and even disagreement in humble service of the quest for truth. He might wish to recall that Pope John Paul II conferred the cardinal's hat on at least two theologians (Yves Congar and Henri de Lubac) who in previous decades had been silenced for having the temerity to call for church reform and who challenged certain elements of then-official teaching. Appearances to the contrary, the narrow-mindedness of church leadership in the Galileo Affair, the arrogant intolerance of the inquisition and the anti-modernist purges of the early 20th century were, over the course of 2,000 years, the exception more than the rule. Unfortunately, if knowledge of church history teaches us anything, it is that in every age, past and present, righteous indignation is never in short supply.

Richard R. Gaillardetz, Ph.D.

Murray/Bacik Professor of Catholic Studies

University of Toledo
© Copyright 2008 Independent Collegian

1 comment:

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