Dr. Robert Moynihan has been the Editor-in-Chief of Inside the Vatican magazine since its foundation in the early 1990s. With editorial positions covering a wide range, it is certain that Dr. Moynihan has his finger on the pulse of Rome and Roman ecclesial politics, as well as an understanding of the Catholic landscape the world over. Building off of this extensive knowledge, yesterday he offered a preliminary program for the new pope; the idea being to see what areas of emphasis are most necessary to the Church’s mission, and what areas of growth the Church may see in coming years.
The problem is, Dr. Moynihan seems to take too human a view of this subject matter, and seems unwilling to focus on some of the root causes which have lead us to the immense crisis in which we find ourselves today. Below, interspersed with Moynihan’s points (Moynihan’s points in bold) is our commentary. Note, we have not included all of Dr. Moynihan’s points. His full article may be seen here.
(1) Man. The great problem of our time is the question of man. The scientific discoveries of recent decades, and the developing movement of transhumanism, require a rethinking of the Church’s anthropology. Therefore, place the question of man at the center of Catholic studies and theological research, and invite contributions from all men and women of good will in the effort to construct a viable anthropology for the new millennium.
Coming out of the gates, the problem is one of focus. Pope Leo XIII stated, “The world has heard enough of the so-called ‘rights of man.’ Let it hear something of the rights of God.” I understand very well that Moynihan is not discussing the rights of man, but in the post-conciliar age, we may say, “The world has heard enough about man. Let it hear something about God.” The anthropocentric approach taken by so many churchmen in the past 50 years has left nothing but disaster in its wake.
We see this clearly in the ill-defined “dignity of man.” To put it simply, man has a dignity which flows specifically from his relationship to God as his Creator. While acknowledging Moynihan’s desire to situate this “viable anthropology” in a question of Catholic understanding, it seems that it is time for man to understand His Creator, the Church’s consistent teachings concerning God, and the proper doctrine which flows from an understanding of God and His Attributes. Then, and only then, can we consider the question of man.
(2) The Curia. The Curia and the Church’s government should be dramatically restructured, but in order to make it work more effectively, not to render it impotent. Therefore, bring in lay professionals at all levels. Ordained and consecrated priests and bishops, and consecrated women religious, could have special oversight roles. Make Vigano Secretary of State.
The discussion of lay professionals entering “all levels” of the Curia and the Church’s government is, on the face of it, a sound recommendation. We have professionals who are successful in business, law, diplomacy, and more that would be able to bring their specific expertise to bear on the important work of the Church’s administrative requirements. But the soundness seems to end there. Obviously there may be certain places that require heavy lay-assistance, especially those dealing with secular law (the Vatican Bank comes to mind). But to argue that a restructuring is necessary in a dramatic way such that lay professionals should be brought in, “at all levels” is strange.
No one disputes that the Curia is in great need of reform, but would the system not work by focusing primarily on a reform of morals, keeping the curial structure in place, and using lay advisors only as needed? Does it not shock the world when numerous laymen are promoted to Pontifical Commission X or Y?
(4) Global banking support. Consider establishing a type of Church-linked bank or credit union system reaching every diocese in the world, with branches in every parish, to assist Church members to have access to capital for needed initiatives.
I won’t go into detail on this, but it is a fascinating idea, right? Stop for a moment and imagine that 50% of Catholics who currently have a loan with a secular banking organization are able to get it through the Church. Now, imagine that the interest rates are lower, since no one is in it to make a real profit. In the end, the Church’s financial position is strengthened, while at the same time the financial position of Catholics is strengthened (less interest payments, for example).
I recognize the crisis makes the question of the practical use of those funds potentially concerning, but no Catholic will argue that in healthy times the Church receiving additional funds, without anyone having to pay additional money is truly a win.
(8) Ecumenism. Make immediate peace with the Orthodox, and the Protestants, saying a “truce” now is needed in the face of the global secularizing agenda which wishes to eliminate, or even criminalize, Christian faith and traditional family values. Engage in common initiatives.
Number 8 bring us to the beginning of the real problems in Moynihan’s piece. We’ve heard this line trotted out over and over again: The common enemy we face (aggressive secular humanism) is so great that we must unite with Protestants and the Orthodox to present a united front. Setting aside the Orthodox for a moment, the problem is that Protestantism is the cause of the “global secularizing agenda” which we face. The non serviam of Luther sundered Church and State, leading ultimately to a deification of the state, and ultimately the destruction of the social order known as Christendom, with the final blow from Luther’s hammer falling on the casket of the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Hapsburgs in the 20th Century.
It is, apart from very specific practical actions, impossible to make a truce with Protestantism, which by its very nature seeks to destroy that which is Catholic. Even assuming it were possible, one only has to look at the various Protestant sects to see that not one of them agrees with the Church regarding traditional family values. This initiative is simply not possible.
(10) Inter-religious solidarity. Extend invitations to all Orthodox and Conservative Jews, to Muslims, to Hindus, to Buddhists, and all men and women of good will, to work with the Church, in hopes of supporting a just and free global order where the sacredness of God and his moral law is respected.
Not to sound like we’re beating a dead horse, but the same objections exist to this as to above, only on a greater level. Even with the Protestants, it would be very difficult, if even possible to say that we can come to some common conception of the sacredness of God, of His Moral Law, or of a “just and free global order.” When we get to this with Islam, whose understanding of the relationship of man to God is so drastically other than the Catholic understanding, the situation becomes infinitely more difficult. When you get to Buddhism, where the entire conception of being, of happiness, etc. is completely flipped on its head, the suggestion becomes impossible to understand.
Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum, in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eam. Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem, frustra vigilat qui custodit eam. “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.” Isn’t this really what is being proposed here? Everyone (including the Jews, Muslisms, Hindus, and Buddhists) would agree that there is no real conceivable way to build this “house” of a “just and free global order” in common.
Let the Christian remember: There is no help but from Christ, and there is no lasting peace and no lasting social structure which is not rooted in the Catholic Faith. To attempt any other solution is to pursue suicide as an option.
(11) Worship. Give greater support for the old liturgy (the extraordinary form of the Mass) globally, allowing, however, that form of the Mass to be translated also into the vernacular. On solemn occasions, especially funerals and high feast days, use Latin and Gregorian chant, worldwide.
This is obviously an initiative we can get behind. A greater presence of the traditional Mass in every country, in every diocese, in every parish, is necessary to truly restore a sense of the sacred, and to inculcate Catholics in the proper worship owed to God, so that the Father will have those who correctly worship Him, “in spirit and in truth.”
Why the insistence upon a global allowance for a vernacular translation? I presume here that Dr. Moynihan is not pushing this so that he may seek to undermine the traditional liturgy, but rather to make it more accessible to the average Catholic, and to minimize the opposition to it? As far as the sentiment goes, it is a noble one.
Still, hearkening back to our thoughts on Dr. Moynihan’s first recommendation, the liturgy is not for us primarily. It is, instead, Christ as priest, offering Himself as victim to the Eternal Father in order to repair the sins of men. In light of this truly mysterious action, it is good that there is something in the Mass that will always be incomprehensible to man. The use of a language not one’s own helps reinforce this. The use of a global language also helps reinforce one of the fruits of Christ’s Passion and Ressurection: The reversal of the curse of Babel. So, let us hope and pray that the next Holy Father not only promotes and supports the old liturgy, but himself offers this Mass of All Time.
The comments of Dr. Moynihan are no doubt given in good will and with a desire to serve Christ and His Church. The commentary on his suggestions are meant, not as an attack on him, but as a necessary beacon to show the great chasm that still exists between the Church’s traditional praxis and the thought and suggestions that even conservative Catholics make 50 years into the mess in which we find ourselves.
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"The prudent man considers things afar off, in so far as they tend to be a help or a hindrance to that which has to be done at the present time." - St. Thomas Aquinas