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August 22, 1998     Arkansas Catholic
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August 22, 1998

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CATHOLIC August 32, 1998 Page 11 ~"~:~: :. ~ ~: ~ ~ :~: :.: ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: :~:~::;::~:~:: : :::::::~ : :::~ ;: :~;~::::::,,:::~ :~:::::::~::~;s/;:: ~a~::~:~:~:.,:...::~-~.m~,~o.~:,.~ ~:~ ~ ~.. ,,, ~ .~; ............. . .......................... ,, ....................................................................................... ~ .................................. 9 N EWPO N ' I The only thing that n'ill "end dissent from /. authoritative Church teachings is a change "those who think their vision of the ChurcVh I antl Christian life is the correct one and that the ] lPe's is antiquated and false," writes William IpaY, professor of moral theology at the John ],atfl II Institute in Washington. He and Jesuit ]rather Thomas P. Rausch were asked whether ] ~e apostolic letter titled ~Fo Defend the Faith ] mat Pope John Paul II issued this summer will rb dissent. For different reasons, both think /that is unlikely. Father Rausch, a theologian at William May Fr.Thom~P. Rausch, SJ ] yola Marymount University in Los Angeles, ----------- l ites that while the magisterium, "remains one accustomed to an educational process that ] theChurch s greatest strengths, the newdocu- presupposes discussion, argument and niaiby "Americans demonstration." Some mav find the approach By Father d Thomas P. Rausch, SJ ology degrees, the locus for theo- process that presupposes discus- Pope John Paul II's ap- stolic letter "to Defend curb dissent over teaching? I doubt it. have been too many theologians and in the Catholic Church the time not so long ago threatened penalties could those who "dissent" or to question teachings neither divinely re- nor clearly established as proclaimed. no longer as they used to be. Vatican Council II, most theology was done in by clerics -- men un- of religious obedience piscopal au- he 1950s, theologians such Yves Congar, Henri de Marie-Dominique Chenu, Teilhard de Chardin and John Courtney all religious-order mem- disciplined -- silenced, to write on certain top- dismissed from academic Similarly, in the late '70s a number of priests and ~Were investigated or dis- the years since the seen significant shifts. PeOple began earning the- logical reflection began to shift from seminaries. Today the majority of Catholic theologians are lay men and women, much less subject to eccle- siastical authority. Unlike Fathers Hans Kung and Charles Curran, who taught on pontifical or eccle- siastical faculties, they teach at semi-autonomous Catholic univer- sities and graduate schools not directly under the local bishop's control, despite continuing efforts of Rome to require these theolo- gians to obtain a canonical man- date. Others teach at non-Catho- lic institutions. Theology's professionalization means that Catholic theologians, lay and clerical or religious, are not going to cease discussing Roman teachings they do not understand as belonging to the substance of the faith simply be- cause of the threat of penalties. Second, the apostolic letter, which will be read as an effort to cut off debate on widely discussed questions without broad consulta- tion, thus simply on the basis of authority, attempts to reinforce a way of teaching quite uncongenial to American culture. It reflects a European and par- ticularly Roman approach to edu- cation appealing primarily to the authority of the teacher, but will have litde influence on Americans accustomed to an educational sion, argument and demonstra- tion. Americans don't like being told they can't discuss controver- sial questions. Finally, the sorry fact is that a majority of Catholics don't pay much attention to the magisterium. For the vast majority of American Catholics, the magisterium already has a credibility problem. The latest survey on young Catholics, done by William Dinges of The Catholic University of America and his associates, indi- cates a weakening institutional sense of Catholic identity. Various commentators have noted that U.S. Catholics pay little attention to the Church's offcial teaching on sexuality. Nor have the major- ity been convinced by official ar- guments against a married clergy or women's ordination. The magisterium remains one of the Catholic Church's greatest strengths. It allows the Church to reinterpret and occasionally cor- rect its tradition when faced with new questions, as happened at Vatican II on the question of sal- vation "outside the church." Thus, it would be sad to see its credibility further weakened by too many documents and decrees based simply on authority rather than careful consultation of bish- ops, theologians and the faithful, which enables the magisterium to truly speak for the Church. 9 Only if dissenters realize they are mistaken, Church is right By William May have committed themselves to Iwish that the Holy Father's letter would "curb" dissent. However, when I consider the issue realistically, I do not think it will. I wish it would because dis- sent from the Church s authori- tative teaching seriously harms the unity of the Church and encourages Catholics to think they can set aside the teachings of the Church if they think that they have good reasons to do so --- and all of us are pretty good at thinking of good rea- sons to do what we want to do. But this is a very mistaken --- and perilous -- understanding of what Catholic faith entails. This is not the place to pur- sue this matter, but I wanted to get it off my chest. I do not think that the pope's letter will "curb" dissent for several reasons. First, he has spent a good amount of energy and effort during his almost 20 years as Peter's successor attempting to bring an end to dissent within the Church, particularly through such powerful and elo- quent articulations of what Catholic faith requires as his apostolic exhortations on the family, on penance and recon- ciliation, and his encyclicals "I'he Splendor of Truth" and "The Gospel of Life." He also has sought to end dissent by appointing as bish- ops men who gave promise of being firm in the faith and cou- rageous -- and I think that on the whole they are. But despite these efforts dis- sent flourishes. The basic rea- son, I believe, is that those who promote dissent have made commitments (and in their own hearts are convinced these com- mitments are required of them) that, so long as they persist, nurture dissent; Basically, they a vision of the Church incom- patible with that of Pope John Paul II and those who, like me, believe he is speaking in the name of Christ. Dissenters are convinced that their understanding of what Vatican Council II was about, particularly with regard to the Church's structure, is correct. They are committed to the view, which they have expressed many times, that it is beyond the com- petence of Church teaching au- thority to propose any specific moral norm infallibly (e.g. the norm that it is always wrong to fornicate or kill people intention- ally). Yet this is what John Paul II -- following, I must say, the teaching set forth at Vatican Council II in its Dogmatic Con- stitution on the Church -- firmly teaches. Thus the funda- mental commitments shaping the lives of dissenters and their understanding of the Church differ profoundly from the fun- damental commitments of John Paul II and those who follow his leadership. But apostolic letters, canon laws and so forth cannot change the commitments around which people organize their lives. Thus, this apostolic letter, by itself, will not end dissent. The only thing that will end ("curb") dissent is a change in the hearts and minds of those who think their vision of the Church and Christian life is the correct one and that the pope's is antiquated and false. "To Defend the Faith"--- along with numerous other ini- tiatives by John Paul II -- may help some of those committed to the vision central to the ide- ology of dissent to realize how profoundly mistaken they are, leading them to change their basic commitments. I pray it does. lC SC are exc Catholic school stu- dents returning to classes we have to remem- .importance of our 35 m our diocese. laity have taken on the educating about 8,000 our elementary and SChools. These schools are examples in our state to many schools children aren't learning They are relatively and produce ' of the students. part, go earn college degrees. these positive aspects we cannot be tricked elieving that our schools are an oasis in our society. Catholic schools will be faced with challenges and all Catho- lics must be willing to support them. Here are a few examples, Especially in our small towns, the parish's Catholic school must be supported by ev- eryone. It is costly to run elemen- tary schools. Teachers are hired knowing that they will not make as much as their counterparts in public schools, but they sacrifice to work in a Christian environ- ment. Computer technology is expensive but necessary for Catholic students to master. All parishioners not just par- ents --- should think they have a stake in the success of their par- ishes' schools. That means adults should financially support and offer their talents to the princi- pal. Maybe you can teach a class and open students' eyes to a new subjecL In light of these financial concerns, our schools must not cave into financial backers or the wishes of non-Catholic parents. While our schools primarily edu- cate Catholic students, non- Catholic students are welcomed when space allows. Parents of these students should not expect the Catholic schools to change the requirements for their child, such as not attending religion class, because they worship in enges to another church. Pastors and principals should make it clear their schools teaches Catholic values and ideas. If parents don't like those ideas, they can take their children to another school. 121 Despite the terrible school shooting in Jonesboro, schools are generally safe places. Catho- lic schools should not be exces- sively worried about shootings oc- curring in their schools. Accord- ing to the Justice Policy Institute, gun violence in 1998 is lower than it was five years ago. The more important question, they said, for schools and parents to address is gun violence in gen- eral and what students are doing after school when they have no supervision. While thousands of Catho- lic students have the opportu- nity to attend parochial schools, thousands more attend public schools by choice or because no parish school is available in their town. A report from the National Commission on Excel- lence in Education detailed "mediocrity" in public schools, including low-test scores and examples of students who can- not read or perform basic math. Any problem in the public school systems should be of con- cern to Catholics as a public policy issue affecting many of our Catholic students.