Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Notes on the Magisterium

By Carol Larsen

The Archdiocese is taking note of CCCR. In the July 21 issue of the Catholic Spirit we are given valuable free publicity, and also a warning in the name of the “universal Roman Catholic Church.” It directs all of the faithful to believe and abide by the “magisterial teachings” of the Church. (By the way, “Magisterial teachings” is a redundancy, since the meaning of the Latin word for teacher is magister).

Church history is replete with examples of church teachings which have been overturned by science. The most egregious example, perhaps: the church taught for centuries that the Earth was the center of the universe and threatened Galileo with severe penalties for believing the evidence of science and his own eyes.

In more mundane matters, we were told for ages that eating meat on Fridays was a mortal sin.

We were told that divorce was forbidden, but if you could convince some board to give you an annulment, you could marry again with the blessing of the Church. If not, you were barred from the sacraments, whether you remarried or not, according to many bishops and pastors, though not all. This inconsistency has pretty much made a laughing stock of our beloved church in the eyes of our Protestant brethren. It's not hard to see why.

Many of us had communal penance in our parishes for a decade or more: now we are told that we must return again to the confessional box. So, which was was right, according to the magisterium?

The word “magisterium” has a foreign and intimidating aura about it. It frightens the easily cowed into doing, or not doing, things out of fear of their souls being lost. However, the American Catholic has, in large numbers, overcome that fear with common sense — in the matter of birth control, for instance. We lag behind in our use of artificial contraception by 2% as compared to our Protestant brethren. In fact, many of our Protestant brethren used to be Catholics, due in large part to the unreasonable strain put on their marriages by the doctrine that “every sexual act must be open to new life.” This doctrine is in direct opposition, in my view, to the good of the planet, and cannot much longer stand. The Church will soon come under attack if it continues to insist on this dangerous philosophical stand. It is surprising that the United Nations has not come out against it more forcefully in view of the population growth, particularly in Africa and South America. The doctrine is no longer tenable in the modern world, although sexual restraint is still a moral virtue, easier for some than for others.

Of course, the Archbishop is also concerned that we are interested in seeing to it that women are allowed to be accepted as pastors and priests in our parishes. Many women have already been ordained validly but in secret by certain bishops. Yet they are not allowed to serve in traditional priestly roles. The reason usually given against women priests has to do with the fact that all the Apostles were male. This is no more than an excuse to maintain male dominance. Consider the type of life that the Apostles were required to lead in order to spread the Gospel two thousand years ago, and you will see that a women in those days would have had a hard time surviving the rigors of life on the road, not to mention that women's roles were very restricted, as they still are in many third-world countries today. In the developed world today, however, we have women leading several democracies. Would you like to explain to them why they are not fit to lead?

If our priests were allowed to marry, the stand of the Church on the foregoing issues of human life would be dead in the water, as the intellectualism that permeates so much of church doctrine in these matters would be largely replaced with humanity, understanding, compassion and common sense. Many Catholics do not realize that, for the first 1000 years after Christ, priests were indeed allowed to marry. The reason that changed had little to do with spirituality and a lot to do with money and property, which the Church did not want to pass into the hands of wives and children of priests after they died.

These are some of the issues that worry the Archbishop and which he would prefer not to be brought up for discussion. We are instructed to “shun any contrary doctrines” and embrace fully the doctrines of the magisterium. We are to have no part in the way the church is governed. Apparently it is none of our business. This attitude is in direct conflict with Vatican II, which states that we have a right and a duty to help guide our church in the right path. The saints — including clerics, nuns, and members of the laity — have always done this through the centuries. It is not always “top down,” and Vatican II was quite emphatic about this principle, although it has been degraded to a large degree by subsequent Popes since the beloved John XXIII, who wanted to “open the windows” and let fresh air in!

We must help that spirit to succeed, for the love of the Church, which is us! We need to reclaim the spirit of Jesus and urge our leaders to do the same for the sake of life on this planet and, as we hope, in the next world as well. The Lord would expect no less of us. Courage!

Click here to register for Synod 2011.

See also the previous PCV posts:
"All Voices Must Be Heard": A Response to Archbishop Nienstedt
Archbishop Nienstedt's July 18 Letter
Talking About Disconnects: One Response to Archbishop Nienstedt
The Consensus of the Faithful as the Voice of the Infallible Church
Acclaimed Church Historian Marvin O'Connell to Discuss Cardinal Newman
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission
Richard Gaillardetz on the Need to "Wrestle with the Tradition"
Nicholas Lash on Dissent and Disagreement
Communicating With Leadership
It's Critical That Catholics Find Their Voice
Let Our Voices Be Heard!

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