Pope Benedict’s firm chastisement of a group of dissenting priests during a Holy Week homily has been described by some commentators as a return of “God’s Rottweiler” — the image the Pope had when he was in charge of defending Church doctrine.
But although it is rare for the Pope to make such an explicit statement, his views on the matter are neither new nor surprising but rather consistent with his teaching as Pontiff.
|Pope Benedict XVI washes the foot of an unidentified priest during the Holy Thursday rite of the washing of feet.
During a liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday, the Pope singled out a group of European priests who have issued a summons to disobedience. The summons included a call for an end to priestly celibacy, and for women’s ordination which was categorically ruled out by Blessed Pope John Paul II.
Although he didn’t name them explicitly, Benedict XVI was alluding to a group of 300 Austrian priests, belonging to the Austrian Priest’s Initiative, who have pledged to take part in a "Call to Disobedience."
The Pope posed the question whether disobedience is a path of renewal for the Church. “Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?,” he asked.
He answered by stressing that Jesus’s concern was for “true obedience, as opposed to human caprice.” True renewal of the Church and a “new fruitfulness,” he added, “requires the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love.”
His words, delivered on Holy Thursday, a day traditionally dedicated to priests as it marks the day when Jesus first instituted the priesthood and the Eucharist, were fitting. They also revealed how concerned the Pope is that priests remain obedient to the Church’s teaching at a time when radical liberal forces are trying to pull the Church in another direction, not only in Austria but also other countries including the United States and Ireland.
Further, the Pope’s concerns are to be expected: he is, in short, fulfilling his role as universal pastor of the Catholic Church in trying to keep its flock united.
Yet his concerns are already well known among many Catholics. Prior to Thursday’s homily, he clearly explained his views on women’s ordination and priestly celibacy in “Light of the World,” the 2010 book of interviews he had with German journalist Peter Seewald.
“John Paul II’s formulation is very important,” he said. “The church has “no authority” to ordain women.” He added that this teaching is not something “we ourselves have produced. It is how he [Jesus] constituted the church.”
Stressing that following this teaching is a crucial act of obedience, he said it is important “precisely for the church to show that we are not a regime based on arbitrary rule.”
“We cannot do what we want,” the Pope said. “Rather, the Lord has a will for us, a will to which we adhere, even though doing so is arduous and difficult in this culture and civilization.”
Benedict also sees the push towards accepting these secular values as a form of tyranny over the Catholic Church, or as he sees it: intolerance dressed up as tolerance.
“When, for example, in the name of non-discrimination, people try to force the Catholic Church to change her position on homosexuality or the ordination of women, then that means that she is no longer allowed to live out her own identity,” he said in the same interview. “Instead an abstract, negative religion is being made into a tyrannical standard that everyone must follow.”
He said this can seem to be freedom for the sole reason that it is liberation from the previous situation, but in reality this development “increasingly leads to an intolerant claim of a new religion.”
“In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished,” he added. “This is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason — so-called Western reason — claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom.”
The Pope, who takes this threat very seriously, also stressed that “no one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the “new religion” as though it alone were
definitive and obligatory for all mankind,” he said.
The matter is made even more serious when this “new religion” is being promoted by priests. The question many Catholics are therefore asking is why these pastors are still allowed to remain in the Church.
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek, and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.
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