Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Spirit Denied; The Church On Trial

   In the next few days, I will present my view of Vatican II's teaching on the sensus fidelium, the whole church's ongoing, discerning response to God's self-communication, presence and intentions--a teaching that if implemented, would permit the Spirit to fly freely throughout the church.  This post is an introduction to my upcoming Vatican II entries.

   In the Philadelphia trial of Msgr. William Lynn, who is charged with permitting priests to continue to abuse and rape children, the prosecutor has repeatedly accused Lynn of lying.  Lynn has answered that he did not lie, at least not purposely.  So he did lie, but he did not lie.  To me this shows that he is a divided person.  There is Lynn, the priest and pastor, who discerned and welcomed the Spirit and did the Christ-like work of caring for his parishioners.  This Lynn would not lie to protect priest abusers and rapists.  And there is Lynn, the church functionary, who obeyed his superiors.  This Lynn did lie.  This Lynn denied the Spirit and compromised his human integrity, thus becoming less a man and less a priest.  Yet he was considered a good man and a good priest by the church officials who told him to lie.  Even today, he is considered a good man and priest by church officials.  That's because in the church system, stifling or denying the Spirit and dehumanizing yourself by obeying an immoral order is more important than lying.  And Lynn obeyed the system.

   St. Iraneus famously said that the glory of God is people fully alive.  To be fully alive, 21st century Catholics, we must clearly understand that we are dealing with self-divided church leaders who are operating in a spiritually corrupt authority system.  Bishops and Cardinals may try their best to operate in the Spirit and with full human integrity; they may want to truly listen to priests, religious and theologians, and truly respect the faith of the laity.  Priests may want to be closer to the people they serve.  Seminaries may want to teach the best theology.  But when the chips are down, they all, like Msgr. Lynn, will shut themselves down, deny the Spirit and obey the system.

   Certainly we need priests, bishops and a pope.  But we do not need the present authority system,with its clerical culture of privileged, isolated officials.  This system cannot be fixed; it must be replaced.  Many Vatican officials and their followers around the world are resisting implementing Vatican II's teaching on the sensus fidelium because it will change the system.  It will help us find ways to create a 21st century church and faith that lets the Spirit fly free with God's creative, healing and world-transforming love.  In my upcoming Vatican II diary entries I will point to ways we can implement the sensus fidelium.


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