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Voices Online Edition
Advent/Christmas 2002
Volume XVII, No. 4

Whose Voice? Which Faith?
The Progression of a Revolt

 

by Sheila Gribben Liaugminas

Clarity is such a simple expectation. As events and issues unfold and impact lives, and generate critical public debate, we need to understand it all. We seek answers and expect clear explanations and options from those closest to the epicenter. Whatever the subject of the eruption, we need to hear from its authorities.

The series of crises in the Church has lacked clarity. And it has lacked clear authorities. And where there is a vacuum. Well, we have suffered an excess of obfuscation and a profusion of lay and clerical figures conversely rejecting and claiming authority. We must pick this apart much as the football referee untangles a pile of opposing bodies to determine who is truly in possession of the treasure.

In large part, the treasure in this tangle is authority itself. It is being chased, with attempted interceptions, for very, very large stakes. And this offensive is a long-sustained one, dating back to the 1960s. "1968: The Year the Church Fell Apart" is a chapter title in What Went Wrong with Vatican II, by Ralph McInerny, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame and noted Catholic writer. In this book, McInerny decided to "concentrate on the one issue that gives life to so many of the other controversies swirling around the Council and the Church today: the crisis of authority, which is the single most important force stirring up the choppy seas through which the Barque of Peter has been navigating since the close of Vatican II".

The crisis of authority, in McInerny's view, arose from the release of Humanae Vitae ("Of Human Life"), the encyclical of July 25, 1968 in which Pope Paul VI upheld and reaffirmed the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church of condemning artificial contraception. The encyclical was immediately confronted with a mounted "insurrection of theologians against the Magisterium". Why? It was "a bombshell" to all who expected that the pope's final pronouncement would lift the ban on birth control. Never mind that Pope John XXIII had stated at the opening of the Council that "Vatican II was called to reaffirm the teaching role of the Church in the world".

All dissent broke loose after Humanae Vitae appeared -- a rebellion led by theologians. The "countercultural" encyclical was used as a justification for dismantling the authority of the Church.

Which Spirit?
The Holy Spirit guarantees the truth and teachings of all Councils, as we know. But the oft-invoked "Spirit of Vatican II" quickly became the justification for "progressive" experimentation in the Church. Dissent became institutionalized and unrestrained when angry theologians around the world, and some clergy with them, attempted to establish an alternate Magisterium. They took this cause to their teaching positions at universities and seminaries, to powerful positions within the Church structure, and even to the public through the media.

"For thirty years", Professor McInerny observes, "the Catholic faithful have been confused and troubled by a single question: Where does authority in the Church really reside?" He states that dissenting theologians, by targeting the papacy itself, "assumed a novel view of the teaching role of the Church: the function of the pope is to promulgate and endorse the consensus of believers".

This is key to understanding dissent.

What was then a novel view grew into the strategy that has animated movements of dissent all these decades, fixed as it is on deconstructing the hierarchy of the Church and establishing a modernized, democratized version in its place. But as it has gone about the business of undoing Catholic universities, undermining the faith of students by redesigning religious education to suit the modern age, the movements of dissent have also been graying. Dissidents do not generate vocations, but they have ruined or damaged a good many. Dissenters do not pass on a faith that inspires the young to holiness or missionary zeal. Whole generations of Catholics who may have not even really learned their faith have left the Church.

The groups of agitators have tried to keep their message alive and "relevant" -- and they persist. Call to Action, Catholics for a Free Choice, Catholics Speak Out! and the Association for Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC) are only a few of the radical forces whose intent is to create a new American Catholic Church. ARCC has been pushing a militant reform package for more than 20 years, its centerpiece being its "Constitution of the Catholic Church", a sweeping blueprint for creating a new Church.

What they needed was a new voice, a new platform and some ignition to give it momentum in order to attract new recruits to their cause.

Then they got an opportunity they could not have orchestrated alone.

Wolves in the Sheepfold
When reports of priestly sex scandals broke last January, and then, horribly, multiplied, the levels of people's outrage equaled the depths of their confusion. This was -- and is -- a crisis of historic proportions; and with no clear authority and no straight answers. Pastors (including bishops) were caught unprepared, without clear direction of how to handle the crisis, the people, the media, even the priests involved. Some criticized the pope for what they felt was an inadequate response.

What a setting for reformers -- those, that is, with Church deconstruction on their minds. What a time to step up and gather those floundering sheep under the tent of reform! And what timing for a message of taking over the Church and setting up a new one, with lay leadership to direct it.

Thus, the emergence of a group called Voice of the Faithful (VOTF). Sounds good, right? Just what the people needed -- a voice for them, an outlet for their anger and sense of betrayal and desire for accountability. Finally, someone was taking charge and providing the means and direction to vent frustration and make a difference.

But this voice is not what it seems. The unsuspecting flock is being led astray.

The VOTF effort started in Boston, where this crisis erupted, and where the faithful were perhaps most vulnerable and angry and confused. It pitches itself as an organization offering support and direction to those who want true reform from these now-apparent decades of hidden scandals. One of the three goals listed in the group's mission statement is to "shape structural change within Church". Notice the revealing wording. It suggests the Church is an amorphous concept rather than the body and structure that Christ instituted more than two millennia ago.

In fact, VOTF embraces groups that have tried to undo the Magisterium, the hierarchical structure that Christ gave this Church, abolish her adherence to Sacred Tradition, and dismantle much of her doctrine -- groups that define the Catholic Church as a gathering of the people to break bread and be community. These rebellious groups have concrete agendas: women's ordination, married (i.e. non-celibate) priests, acceptance of contraception and abortion, a democratic structure of elected leaders (including the pope) with term limits. In short, a basically worldly organization run by laity "discerning the Spirit's intentions for today's society and times" (that, from a VOTF document titled "Discerning the Spirit: A Guide for Renewing and Restructuring the Catholic Church").

Such creative interpretations of the "the promptings of the Spirit" are dangerous.

Reading the Council Clearly
VOTF's call for restructuring the Church is a retread of the decades-long offensive by dissidents who like to quote Vatican II's Constitution on the Church in the modern world, Lumen Gentium, as grounds and justification for their presumptuous demands. But theirs is a highly selective reading. They quote the parts that refer to the gifts and witness of every lay person and their call to be active in the mission of the Church. A full reading of Lumen Gentium, however, reveals that the exhortation to such service and holiness is balanced clearly and unambiguously with the need to order it to the discipline of the Church structure -- the priests and bishops. The document contains the fullness of order and truth about rights and responsibilities on the part of all members of the Church.

A few examples reveal both the intention of the Council Fathers, as well as the ability of dissidents to select passages that work well for them, ignoring the context within which they are given their true -- and quite different -- meaning. With this in mind, imagine where their highlighter pens would fall on the following:

"All the laity, then, have the exalted duty of working for the ever greater spread of the divine plan of salvation to all men, of every epoch and all over the earth. Therefore may the way be clear for them to share diligently in the salvific work of the Church according to their ability and the needs of the times (LG no. 33).

"Like all Christians, the laity have the right to receive in abundance the help of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially that of the Word of God and the sacraments from the pastors. To the latter, the laity should disclose their needs and desires with that liberty and confidence which befits children of God and brothers of Christ. By reason of the knowledge, competence or pre-eminence which they have the laity are empowered -- indeed sometimes obliged -- to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church. If the occasion should arise this should be done through the institutions established by the Church for that purpose and always with truth, courage and prudence and with reverence and charity towards those who, by reason of their office, represent the person of Christ.

"Like all Christians, the laity should promptly accept in Christian obedience what is decided by the pastors who, as teachers and rulers of the Church, represent Christ. In this they will follow Christ's example who, by his obedience unto death, opened the blessed way of the liberty of the sons of God to all men" (LG no. 37).

Dissenters might not want to focus on their call to go out and "spread the divine plan of salvation over all the earth", since the more radical modernists want to be in the sanctuary presiding over the sacraments or making decisions in their own episcopal conferences. They may find the call to "disclose their needs and desires" to the pastors odious, since many of them see themselves as at least equal to such pastors. But if hearing of their "empowerment" (a favorite word) and "manifesting their opinion" appeals to them -- though not always with "reverence and charity" toward those who "represent the person of Christ" -- they have their own views of what constitutes "the good of the Church".

Who's In Charge?
VOTF's web site, in fact, makes abundant reference to the Second Vatican Council, and one would think that a good thing. But some of these references reflect a disturbing misunderstanding of the Council's mandate, a misunderstanding that dissident groups and individuals have made their primary purpose for existing, and on which they plan their agenda.

Under "Rights and Responsibilities", for example, VOTF states the following:

"Voice of the Faithful's call for lay participation in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church is based on the clear teachings of the Second Vatican Council, which provide a strong mandate for the laity to actively guide the Church as 'The People of God'. The wise and eloquent documents of Vatican II articulate the laity's right -- and indeed, responsibility -- to become active in the guidance of the Church".

Strong mandate for the laity to guide the Church? Responsibility to become active in the guidance of the Church? Wise and eloquent, indeed, are the documents of Vatican II. But their "clear teachings" are not the above. For purposes of utter clarity, we look at the documents themselves:

Lumen Gentium, The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, contains the following chapters: The Mystery of the Church, The People of God, The Church is Hierarchical, The Laity, The Call to Holiness, Religious, The Pilgrim Church, and Our Lady. It is all there, all origins and meanings of all roles and responsibilities for the entire Church.

"Also, in the building up of Christ's body there is engaged a diversity of members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to His own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives His different gifts for the welfare of the Church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:1-11). Among these gifts the primacy belongs to the grace of the apostles to whose authority the Spirit himself subjects even those who are endowed with charisms". (LG no. 7)

(Now read this one carefully.)

"Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ". (Some may wish to stop there, but read on) "The ministerial priest, by the sacred power that he has, forms and rules the priestly people; in the person of Christ he effects the Eucharistic sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people" (LG no. 10).

"Incorporated into the Church by Baptism, the faithful are appointed by their baptismal character to Christian religious worship; reborn as sons of God, they must profess before men the faith they have received from God through the Church. By the sacrament of Confirmation they are more perfectly bound to the Church and are endowed with the special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread the faith by word and deed" (LG no. 11).


The faithful are called to be witnesses spreading the faith, not governing and guiding the Church by some strong (and imagined) mandate.

"Fully incorporated into the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who -- by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and Communion -- are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops" (LG no. 14).


Those who profess to be mandated to "shape structural change within the Church", as VOTF lists as one of its stated goals, and yet profess dedication to the mandates of Vatican II, ought to read those mandates thoroughly. The Church has a visible structure, given her by Christ, "who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops".
Furthermore

"This sacred synod, following in the steps of the First Vatican Council, teaches and declares with it that Jesus Christ, the eternal pastor, set up the holy Church by entrusting the apostles with their mission as He Himself had been sent by the Father (cf. John. 20:21). He willed that their successors, the bishops namely, should be the shepherds in His Church until the end of the world. This teaching concerning the institution, the permanence, the nature and import of the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and his infallible teaching office, the sacred synod proposes anew to be firmly believed by all the faithful, and, proceeding undeviatingly with this same undertaking, it proposes to proclaim publicly and enunciate clearly the doctrine concerning bishops, successors of the apostles, who together with Peter's successor, the Vicar of Christ and the visible head of the whole Church, direct the house of the living God" (LG no. 18).

Is there anything ambiguous about that? The next paragraph expounds upon how Jesus Christ called together "those whom He willed" so that they would share in His power and "make all peoples His disciples and sanctify them and govern them and thus spread the Church. That divine mission, which was committed by Christ to the apostles, is destined to last until the end of the world. For that very reason the apostles were careful to appoint successors in this hierarchically constituted society" (LG nos. 19, 20).

Those who are angry with priests and bishops, and distrustful of a great number of them at this point, whether involved with VOTF or its various linkup groups or not, may not fully appreciate this wording. But there it is. And (only in times such as these would I say this) the entire body of bishops would do as well to follow all of the mandates of these documents, for responsibility and holiness, as the laity.

Fruits of Error
In all these years of dissent, but most especially in recent ones, the struggle for authority and power in this, or a newly conceived, Church has blurred a lot of lines, and the Holy Father has stepped in again and again to address and clarify the problems as they arose. Confusion is an enemy of the Faith, and Pope John Paul II has made repeated efforts to teach truth to those confused by errors.

On November 24, 1995, he addressed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about problems of recognition of the Magisterium's guiding role in the Church. "Today we must note a widespread misunderstanding of the meaning and role of the Church's Magisterium", he said. "This is at the root of the criticisms and protests regarding its pronouncements".

He distinguished between questioning theologians and defiant laity, referring to "the public stance of opposition to the Magisterium, which is described as 'dissent'". Pope John Paul II was concerned that dissent "tends to set up a kind of counter-Magisterium, presenting believers with alternative positions and forms of behavior".

He declared that it is "not possible to overlook one of the decisive aspects that lies at the base of the malaise and uneasiness in certain parts of the ecclesiastical world: it is a question of the way authority is conceived. In the case of the Magisterium, authority is not exercised only when the charism of infallibility is involved; its exercise has a wider field, which is required by the appropriate defense of the revealed deposit. For a community based essentially on shared adherence to the Word of God and on the resulting certainty of living in the truth, authority for determining the content to be believed and professed is something that cannot be renounced".

But it continues to be, with virtually no consequences. And this has been the case since the sweeping rejection of Humanae Vitae in 1968. That, of course, led to the promiscuity and divorce, immorality and abortion that Paul VI had predicted if the contraceptive mentality was let loose.

As noted Catholic writer Michael Novak has stated, "The much acclaimed 'Church of Vatican II', the Church of 'the progressives', energized since 1965 by dissent and rebellion against many traditions and teachings of the Church, and intent upon foisting on the Church a new morality of sex and marriage and birth and priesthood, has made an awful botch of things. Never has the Catholic Church in America been so shamed, humiliated, and mortified before the whole world. The 'new morality' of the New Breed has turned into a disgrace" ("Something Good is Coming", National Review Online, April 23, 2002).

In the name of a new "airy and future Church", Novak expounds, "all sorts of opinions and actions and policies were countenanced as 'forward-looking' that in other ages would have been seen as wanderings far from authentic faith. This was the climate within which the 'deviancy' that brought on the current scandals prospered, undetected, undeterred. The sins that have brought us low were abetted by a culture of rebellion, pride, and moral superiority, among those who thought themselves more intelligent, more able, more in tune with human progress, open, experimental, and brave. They despised the merely traditional, observant, and orthodox, whom they considered closed-minded, rigid, and intransigent. They turned away from the tried and true asceticism and paths of holiness of the past".

Which makes VOTF's criticism of the hierarchical Church all the more audacious. The VOTF web site implores sympathizers to "give expression" to their "justifiable anger". "Let us embrace the survivors of abuse and personally commit to righting wrongs and ensuring that justice is done", their statement reads.

Where does one begin?
"It is no accident that the bulk of the abuse cases recently reported took place between the mid-1960s and the late 1980s, a period in which a culture of dissent took root in American seminaries, theology faculties and church bureaucracies and in which clerical discipline broke down", says columnist and papal biographer George Weigel.

"There can be no question that this culture of dissent contributed massively to a breakdown of discipline, which in turn contributed to a serious outbreak of clerical sexual abuse. Men who adopted habits of intellectual self-deception in the seminary -- pretending to accept Church teachings that they really didn't believe and had no intention of teaching -- are more likely to lead lives of self-deception in their sexual conduct. This is, at bottom, a crisis of fidelity. It will not be resolved by the Church adopting a 'Catholic Lite' strategy -- abandoning priestly celibacy, dumbing down Catholic sexual ethics -- as progressive joy riders on the crisis are suggesting. Catholic Lite helped cause the crisis. The path to genuine reform is for the Church to become more Catholic, not less" ("Catholic Lite Won't Heal These Wounds", Los Angeles Times online edition, April 26, 2002).

Rome Continues to Speak
But the threat of these groups, of which VOTF is presently the most visible and vocal, is that they are gathering a lot of support from confused Catholics who don't know what they're getting into -- who don't know that behind professed "faithfulness", the group seeks to dismantle the Church systematically -- in part by broadening the definition of "ministry" to claim rights for the laity that conflict with Church teachings.

The Holy See's 1997 Instruction "On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest" addressed the growing problem of blurring the distinction between the ordained priesthood and the role of the laity. It was the work of eight different Vatican offices (dicasteries) and approved by the Holy Father.

"The priority of the task of the New Evangelization, which involves all the People of God, requires that, today in particular, in addition to a 'special activism' on the part of priests, there be also a full recovery of the awareness of the secular nature of the mission of the laity", this Instruction asserts. (§9)

It exhorts the faithful to explore effective and active ways to carry out the Church's mission "in areas of culture, in the arts and theater, scientific research, labor, means of communication, politics, and the economy, etc." (§10); but it points out that "there exists a more restricted area namely, the sacred ministry of the clergy. In this ministry the lay faithful, men or women and non-ordained members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, are called to assist". (§11)

Notice it said assist, not lead, or guide, or replace.

"It must be remembered that 'collaboration with' does not, in fact, mean 'substitution for'". (§12)

Remember this the next time you hear "collaborative ministry". This important distinction between lay and ordained is made strongly in the 1988 Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici:

"When necessity and expediency in the Church require it, the pastors, according to established norms from universal law, can entrust to the lay faithful certain offices and roles that are connected to their pastoral ministry but do not require the character of Orders. However, the exercise of such tasks does not make the lay faithful pastors: in fact, a person is not a minister simply in performing a task, but through sacramental ordination. The task exercised in virtue of supply takes its legitimacy formally and immediately from the official deputation given by the pastors, as well as from its concrete exercise under the guidance of ecclesiastical authority". (CL no. 23)

The lay faithful may be recruited for extraordinary ministry "in situations of emergency and chronic necessity".

Pope John Paul II recognized "a too-indiscriminate use of the word 'ministry'", and stressed that pastors must "guard against a facile yet abusive recourse to a presumed 'situation of emergency' or to 'supply by necessity', where objectively this does not exist or where alternative possibilities could exist through better pastoral planning". (CL no. 23, emphasis added)

In an address to bishops on September 23, 2002, the pope repeats his warning against "clericalizing the laity": "[I]n the years following the Council the confusion of functions in regard to the priestly ministry and role of the laity was arbitrarily extended". One of the key points the Holy Father made in this address was that members "of the diocesan pastoral or parish council have only a consultative vote and, for this reason, may not be considered deliberative".

Perhaps he expressly had in mind those who want to transform the Catholic Church into a "democratic" community -- governed by themselves.

The Voice of Our Shepherds
The pope needs the bishops to first be in union with him, and then to speak truth boldly. And all who have pastoral charge over the lay faithful to do the same. It is their duty. It is required. It is badly needed. And it needs to cease being rare. How refreshing, how indeed stunning, it can be to hear the ringing truth spoken eloquently, lovingly, but firmly from the pulpit.

Monsignor Eugene Clark, pastor of Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York, gave such a homily last April -- and it is still circulating among the faithful who are hungry for strong leadership and pastoral direction. Monsignor Clark said that one of the influences that brought about the present crisis is the culture of today. "Not even the Weimar culture of Germany of the 1920s and 1930s, thoroughly degenerate, touched the whole of society and its children as does our electronic media", he said. "Every vice is a popular option, every day. [The morally failed priests] became victims with millions of Americans to a celebrated promiscuity that has made our country one of the most immoral in the world".

While many of us have been led by the promptings of the media, we have simultaneously lacked the clear moral voices of those who would lead by teaching and by example.

In What Went Wrong With Vatican II, Ralph McInerny writes, "In their final report, the bishops [at the 1985 Synod] agreed that accurate knowledge and application of the Council, both its letter and its spirit, were lacking - and were imperative. The Church's very nature had become obscured and had to be made clear again to the faithful. The Church, they pointed out, is a mystery, and they lamented the tendency to see it as just another organization".

Noting that the young, especially, regarded the Church as a pure institution, the bishops -- in grand understatement -- asked if they had maybe been somewhat responsible for this: "Have we not perhaps favored this opinion in them by speaking too much of the renewal of the Church's external structures and too little of God and of Christ? From time to time there has also been a lack of the discernment of spirits, with the failure to correctly distinguish between a legitimate openness of the Council to the world and the acceptance of a secularized world's mentality and order of values".

The bishops, McInerny notes, intended at this point "to get the Council back, letter and spirit, and go on from there". But he then asks some hard but obvious questions:

"Would those who had been the cause of much of the confusion now welcome this effort to get things back on the right track? Would bishops truly act as masters and teachers of the Faith in their dioceses? Would steps be taken to counter the worldwide assault by dissenting theologians on the Magisterium, and to undo the consequent disruption and distortion of Catholic moral teaching?
"The answer to all of these questions, by and large, was no. It still is. Today it is the rare bishop who is in charge of the bureaucracy that has metastasized around him. Too many bishops are surrounded by bureaucracies that bear the stamp of dissident theology".

George Weigel proposes that, as a remedy, we need Apostles. "[E]ighty years after Max Weber dissected the character of bureaucracies, it should be clear that the typical bureaucratic cast of mind -- which emphasized efficient management and damage-control, and almost always prefers amelioration to necessary confrontation -- can be in serious tension with the bishop's duty to teach, govern, and sanctify".

Saint Augustine exhorted bishops and all who have guard over the flock to take that duty most seriously, to be watchful guides for them, and fully aware of the gravity of their role. "The straying sheep you have not recalled; the lost sheep you have not sought", he admonished in his sermon On Pastors, recalling Ezekiel chapter 34:

"The sheep moreover are insolent. The shepherd seeks out the straying sheep, but because they have wandered away and are lost they say that they are not ours. 'If I am straying', he says, 'if I am lost, why do you want me?' You are straying, that is why I wish to recall you. You have been lost, I wish to find you. 'But I wish to stray,' he says; 'I wish to be lost'".

(Sound familiar? Think Call to Action, We Are Church, Association for Rights of Catholics in the Church, Voice of the Faithful.)

"So you wish to stray and be lost? How much better that I do not also wish this. Certainly, I dare say, I am unwelcome. But I listen to the Apostle who says: Preach the word; insist upon it, welcome and unwelcome. However unwelcome, I dare to say: 'You wish to stray, you wish to be lost; but I do not want this'. For the one whom I fear does not wish this. Shall I fear you rather than Him? Remember, we must all present ourselves before the judgment seat of Christ".

That may come as a surprise to those who have followed the progressives' revisionist religion passed off as the "new catechesis".

A few years ago, Chicago Cardinal Francis George called the attempt at radical restructuring of the Church "an exhausted project". However, resuscitated by the present crisis, it threatens again - disguised as something new, "faithful" and (dangerously) of the same mind as the Church.

These "new" voices are not faithful to the Catholic Church, or to Tradition, or to the Magisterium. Yet, Voice of the Faithful's official position statement claims that "[w]e must have a deeper understanding of our faith and the way the institutional Church operates. We must study canon law. We must read and discuss Vatican II. We must understand our history in order to chart our future". VOTF even provides links on its web site to the "Code of Canon Law" and the documents of the Council.

Good. We agree with them on this point. Too few Catholics -- even faithful Catholics -- have actually read the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Knowledge of the Council and understanding of Church teachings will deepen faith -- and, it is to be hoped, awaken a greater love for the Truth that is embodied in the Catholic Church. On this hope, Michael Novak observes:

"There is coming an awakening of a great love for orthodoxy, for fidelity, for clinging to the whole truth as it was handed down to us. There is also arising, justifiably, a certain hard-won contempt for the learned doctors whose pride led them to try to sell us a bill of goods for, lo, so many decades now. To what a miserable state have they reduced their lower regions of the Church. The good and solid things of the Tradition have proved more reliable than they. By far".

But, as Ralph McInerny points out, "the solution to the crisis of authority does not lie in arguments alone":

"Arguments require for their effectiveness that the addressees have ears with which to hear. What is needed today is not a refutation of the bad arguments of the dissenters, but a change of heart".

Good pastors can change hearts. (Can there be any question now of where authority and responsibility lies?) And faithful pastors must reach those hearts - now as in the past.

Saint Augustine's exhortation to all pastors is especially timely in the present crisis in the Church:

"I shall recall the straying; I shall seek the lost. Whether they wish it or not, I shall do it. And should the brambles of the forests tear at me when I seek them, I shall force myself through all straits; I shall pull down all hedges. So far as the God whom I fear grants me the strength, I shall search everywhere.
"All shepherds should therefore be one in the one Good Shepherd. All should speak with the one voice of the one Shepherd, so that the sheep may hear and follow their shepherd; not this or that shepherd, but the one Shepherd. All should speak with one voice in Christ, not with different voices. The sheep should hear this voice, a voice purified from all schism, freed from all heresy, and so follow their shepherd, who says: My sheep hear my voice and follow me".

Clear enough?

The future of the Church depends more than ever upon the faithfulness of our shepherds, who follow the one Shepherd. Faithful Catholics will listen for His Voice.


Sheila Gribben Liaugminas is a Chicago journalist and a member of the editorial board of Voices. She is married and the mother of two sons.


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