|Curt Stoller commented on BISHOPS OF THE UNITED STATES, LISTEN UP!
Dr. Edward Peters, who holds the Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and who in 2010 was named a Referenary of the Apostolic Signatura by Pope Benedict XVI was very impressed with the book, “The Courage to be Catholic,” by George Weigel, a Catholic layman [who was awarded the ‘Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice,’ the highest medal that can be awarded to any layman by a Pope. ] But Dr. Peters felt that Weigel’s otherwise admirable book left out the entire “canon law” dimension of the liberal crisis that wrecked havoc on the Catholic Church during the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s:
“He [Weigel] does not convey effectively that the ‘failure’ to follow canon law for decades was in large part what got us into this mess. . . I don’t know what else to say. If people are going to break the law, and other people with responsibility to enforce the law, don’t do so, we see the failure, not of law, but of those who are supposed to follow it. [Canonlaw.info].
The Catholic culture of dissent that followed Humanae Vitae is now the status quo in the Catholic Church in the United States. The first test of the dissenters was in the Archdiocese of Washington where 19 priests who opposed official church teaching were disciplined by Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle. Fear of schism prompted the Congregation of the Clergy led by John Cardinal Wright to throw Cardinal O’Boyle to the wolves. Cardinal Wright didn’t want discipline. He wanted the whole thing to go away quietly without a public retraction from the dissenters or even a requirement that they publicly affirm the moral truths of Humanae Vitae. No public retraction? No serious discipline for disobedience?
This was all that was needed to encourage and embolden the soft and easy Catholic dissenters who were already firmly entrenched in Catholic universities by the tenure system. Word spread quickly that so long as Rome feared open schism, there would be no consequences for disobedience and disloyalty to the Church. None or at most, a slapped wrist. Orthodox Catholic students at Catholic universities were put on notice: either become a zealous dissenter yourself or face a bleak academic future. Scholarships, publishing opportunities, hiring and tenure all depended on whether a student could openly take a Papal Encyclical and throw it in the garbage. First an encyclical. Then Denzinger. Then the Gospel itself.
Anti-nomianism [a term created by Martin Luther!] became the order of the day. Everything remotely legalistic was to be stripped from Catholicism and this included the morality and harsh sayings of Jesus Himself. Catholicism was to be nothing more than a form of superficial civility, understanding and compassion. “I’m OK. You’re OK. We’re all OK.” Jesus was seen as rendering the Law obsolete and not just the ritual laws of the Torah, but even the moral laws. Jesus was seen as rendered law itself obsolete. The idea that Jesus took the moral law and deepened it and sharpened it and demanded perfection from His followers was explained away through antinomian biblical scholarship [a la Rudolph Bultmann.]
Individual bishops, pressured by the inappropriate corporate consensus system of the NCCB and the USCCB caved into liberal groupthink. Note well: A copy of “Robert’s Rules of Order” is not laid on a bishop’s neck during the rite of episcopal ordination. The Gospel of Jesus, not liberalism is the yoke that Bishops are to carry. A bishop is given a ring at his ordination. This is not some meaningless rite. It is a wedding ring uniting the Bishop to his flock. It is not like a secret ring that gets one past the doorkeeper of the USCCB “club.”
The laity too were eager to embrace Lite Christianity. There is plenty of guilt to go around.
Law is not some troublesome thing that God lays upon us out of caprice. Law is medicinal. Telling a person to drink water and eat and get plenty of sleep. These are laws. Are they oppressive? Is telling someone not to drink antifreeze an imposition and an outrage?? God’s laws are not some external burden placed upon us. They are what keep us spiritually alive. This is perhaps an issue that should be explored by serious catechists. The anti-nomianism that produced decades of soft and cozy Catholic Lite catechisms filled with pictures of butterflies and sunflowers . . . that anti-nomianism has got to go!
The schism Pope Paul VI feared did not go away and disappear. It just went underground.
As the saying goes: “If you keep the law, the law will keep you.”