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A MEMO TO ROME: HAS TIME COME TO RESPOND MUCH MORE QUICKLY TO CRISES?
Has the Vatican moved swiftly enough on matters that threaten it?
If we had to send a memo to the Pope, we would, with greatest respect, urge a quicker response to certain trends (and news stories).
The Church is the world's most venerable institution. It is the only one that has survived since the time of Jesus. There is no coincidence there. It has survived due to its faithfulness and wisdom.
It does not rush into things. Nor should it.
But in the age of TV and e-mail, has the time come to adjust the reaction time?
There is the issue of clergy abuse. That had been indicated since the 1980s, and perhaps even earlier, but has only been tackled recently. Meanwhile, great damage was done to the Church's reputation. In 1956, one priest who was charged with rehabilitating abuse priests flew to Rome warning urgently of an impending scandal.
There are the seminaries. An apostolic visitation was completed for them last year, but by this time they had produced a generation of questionable vocations, including many who were caught in abuse. Could this have been noticed sooner?
While the seminary review did not come up with a laundry list of transgressions (at least not publicly), it has hopefully put schools on notice. A similar visitation is under way in the nation's convents -- where liberal and New Age concepts have flourished, again, for decades.
Most recently, an umbrella group of nuns in Maryland was targeted for a "doctrinal assessment."
That came about due to the reported failure of nuns to follow Church teachings on male priesthood, homosexuality, and salvation through the Church.
They belong to Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which once encompassed some 1,500 leaders of the nation's 63,000 nuns -- and as long ago as 1979 made headlines when its leader publicly begged John Paul II to ordain women.
More startlingly, the group took out full-page ads in The New York Times -- in 1984 and 1986 -- declaring that there is more than one legitimate Catholic position on abortion.
There are the Catholic "colleges": many, even most, have long veered from Catholicism. While the current hullabaloo is over Notre Dame granting an honorary degree to a pro-choice politician (President Barack Obama), as far back as the early 1970s, schools like Fordham University in New York City, which is Jesuit, allowed in speakers such as a famous "yippie" who puffed on a marijuana cigarette while he spoke in the student center.
Catholic students have long been immersed in the existential philosophy of atheists like Nietzsche while there is hardly a mention of the Blessed Mother.
The result: not only malformed Catholic students, but a schism between cultural Catholics and ones who actually practice the faith.
For example, a group of nuns who still want to wear their habits had to break from the aforementioned liberal faction.
Is Pope Benedict moving to correct much of this?
There are good signs. Several days ago, Bishop Leonard Blair, recently picked by the Vatican to investigate the nuns' organization, banned a workshop on gay and lesbian ministry scheduled to start May 1 at the Sisters of St. Francis campus in Tiffin, Ohio.
Bravo to Rome.
Bravo to the bishops who are bucking non-Catholic Catholic universities.
In fact, if the current trend continues, Pope Benedict XVI may one day be remembered for purging the Church as well as restoring parts of the liturgy.
He is beginning to push back at an extremely strong tide and if he succeeds will have brought orthodoxy back in more ways than simply opening up the Latin Rite. In addition to looking at seminaries and convents, he has touched another root cause of Church decline when he has urged priests to avoid worldliness (as he did again Monday).
The crisis of priestly worldliness can be tied to denial of Adoration, resistance to Mary, theological overload, and introduction of music that is less than elevating.
More such action is necessary. There can be no compromise with a society that in too many ways has turned dark. Priests must be constantly schooled against the error of modernism (perhaps their greatest temptation).
We appreciate why Rome moves slowly: it is a prudent, circumspect institution. Indeed, we would not argue with an institution to which we pledge total obedience.
Too often, however, it is unfairly attacked and does not respond in a manner that neutralizes negative headlines.
It's understandable that an institution so old and so geared to responding in terms of centuries would have to reorient. Think of it: the average saint takes more than a century for the Church to canonize. We appreciate this ancient patience (and wisdom).
But we are in a new time of electronic forms of communication, and (with all deepest respect), we believe the Vatican must begin to respond far more quickly, as its enemies attack at the speed of the internet.
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