In an astonishing outburst, an International Roman Catholic movement has issued a series of direct, public warnings to Pope Benedict before his journey to the United States. We summarise them largely in their own words.
We are Church is a world-wide reform movement within the Roman-Catholic Church. It tells Benedict that in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on April 18 "the Pope should do better than he did in Auschwitz (about Jews, May 2006), in Regensburg (about Islam, September 2006) and in Brazil (about indigenous people, May 2007)".
They insist that, "When the Pope talks about human rights and justice at the United Nations he will have to explain why he started an appeasement policy towards China and why he uninvited the Dalai Lama a few months ago".
"FACING PRESSING QUESTIONS"
"If he really wants to be a good pastor of his flock he must address the dramatic priest shortage," they say, adding that, "By maintaining compulsory celibacy - which cannot be founded on biblical grounds and is now questioned all over the world - the Pope denies the canonical right of the faithful to have the Sunday Eucharist guaranteed (can. 213 CIC)," because it is deterring men from becoming priests.
Then, "The Pope has to make clear that the policy of zero tolerance after the paedophile scandals of recent years will be forceful," adding, "We need much more transparency and accountability instead of maintaining a policy of secrecy and silence".
"A CRITICAL APPRAISAL"
We Are Church complains, "According to Benedict XVI, all societies, all cultures, and almost all religions are required to conform to the values which, as spiritual leader of the whole world, he proposes. The overall picture, only lightly disguised, is that of the reintroduction of a societas christiana guided by the Roman Catholic Church." The deplorable consequences are as follows, according to We Are Church:
"(1) Only the negative aspects of the phenomenon of secularisation are perceived." "The message of the Vatican Council II contrasts with this: The Church and Catholics can learn from the world, not only teach it". "The message coming from Rome is often one of fear, of pessimism, of critical verdicts."
"(2) A stricter adherence to conservative theological orientation in the teaching of Benedict XVI has led both to increased doctrinal rigidity and the re-emergence of an hierarchical and authoritarian structure of and in the Church." We Are Church says that the proofs include:
- the choice, except on rare occasions, of "conservative" bishops at the head of the dioceses and the central offices of the Roman Curia;
- the reintroduction of the Tridentine Rite [Mass] "with the hasty and unfortunate correction of the prayer for the Jews on Good Friday whose consequences will not fail to create more problems than those they clumsily attempted to resolve";
- the resumption of "persecutions" of theologians (particularly Jon Sobrino);
- the unfortunate references to Islam in the Regensburg address;
- the absence of any penitential attitude as far as the recognition of the sins committed by the sons and daughters of the Church is concerned;
- the repetition of the positions contained in Dominus Iesus [which states that Protestants ‘churches' are not true churches but ‘ecclesial bodies']
- the permanent ‘stonewalling' of serious and increasingly urgent problems (including the role of the Bishop of Rome and that of the collegiate status of local bishops' conferences).
- The strongly interventionist policy in the Italian political situation.
(3) The appeal to the Second Vatican Council is, generally speaking, entirely ritual. In the Address to the Roman Curia dated 22nd December 2005, the position of Benedict XVI was very clearly expressed. "Since then all the ecclesiastic circles hostile to change have used that speech as a rallying point. They conceive of a monolithic, self-sufficient Church, and distrust the rich varieties of ways and feelings through which the relationship between the individual, the community and God manifests itself in the world."
(4) The conflict with Western secularised and relativist societies take up much of Benedict XVI's attention, and result in a Eurocentric Social Teaching, while the serious and dramatic problems of the North/South relations in the world etc are considered less relevant.
(5) The obsessive affirmation of the centrality of the Roman Church has led ecumenism up a blind alley and caused Rome to reaffirm that churches associated with Protestant reform are "not churches in the real sense". Despite a few polite phrases, Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia regard the historic Reformed Churches as not really "salvageable", while the doors are being opened (despite the insurmountable difference of opinion over the pontificate) to the orthodox churches, which, like Rome, are lined up against modernity.