My take on Brother Ratzinger's resignation is quite different from my Roman classmate's, Brother Komonchak*. The resignation is not some change in the concept of the papacy, but a calculated move to better preserve the conservative values that Brother Ratzinger along with Brother Wojtala have cultivated for so long and astutely. *1960-1964, North American College, Gregorian U., Vat II- The only reason this bit of trivia is important is that I'm a dissenter on the side of sexualities, married priests, women priests, and in general church governance according to what I understood was the gist of Vat.II ecclesiology.
This is not a judgment of the man's soul. It is an acknowledgement of his sincerity and dedication to the mission of the church as he sees it. But my purpose is to throw out the pastoral challenges that seethe in the souls of many of us who also believe Brother Ratzinger's beliefs are harmful. It is a call to move away from medieval rigidity in dealing with dissent, for the better of the church. No more silence, no more excommunication, removal from jobs and ministries--to avoid repeating the Galileo stories over and over.
I am one of those ordained priests who early on considered that the church needed priests experienced in creating family. I had faithfully lived as a celibate for 13+ years and gave myself wholly to the service of the church universal. I followed obediently all of the rules and envisioned the goals set in place for priests. Vat. II gave me impetus to follow my conscience.
When I was volunteering as a new priest from Vermont in the inner city of Boston (1967), it became clear to me that the people there, abandoned by the church for the suburbs, deserved priests experienced in establishing and nurturing families in the ghetto. I told my bishop I believed that the church needed married priests. Instead of entering into any discussion, my support for health care and retirement was immediatey withdrawn. I later requested permission to marry and continue on with my ministry. The Vatican refused me permission to marry and "laicized" me against my will. Throw in excommunication. They acted more quickly and resolutely than with the priest pedophiles. This approach to pastoral needs was not what I had envisioned in seminary. To cancel in this manner the whole meaning of the priesthood for a rigid/unspeakable commitment to "Holy Orders" as incompatible with women and sexuality---this to me was the same as the violent, anti-Chrisitian medieval solutions to dissent. I have continued to faithfully live my marriage for 43 years with 3 children and 3 grandchildren.
Recently in the mammoth morass of intrigue around sexual abuse by priests I read explanations about "laicization", that in the '70's Brother Wojtala along with Brother Ratzinger and the curial "experts" questioned our maturity--asking to marry-- and vulnerability to the seductions of sex. The possibility that committing oneself to solemn marriage would be far more demanding than living celibacy never could enter into any discussion because of who governs the discussions.
To save time I'll just throw in just one more factor in understanding Brother Ratzinger's resignation--homosexuality. It has become clear to me since 2000 that I have "same-gender orientation" (SGO). I remain in my hetero marriage. This has now become a personal, deep agony compelling me in my old age to work for change regarding SGO. The total, deadly silence imposed with the threat of loss of jobs, ministries, excommunications constitutes one of the most crying needs for compassion and openness that we think of when a soul is in torture.
What will it take for a 21st century model to handle dissent to come to rescue people like me from suicide, murder, mental illness? I have proposed a "Galileo Reconciliation Commission" that would work out protocols for accepting a bonafide dissent agenda. Both or all sides would be free to work on resolutions. But above all everyone would commit to doing the "least harm", or "no harm" at all. Under such a commission Brother Ratzinger's compulsion to wipe out homosexuality as one of the greatest evils of our time could not allow him to make his repeated worldwide proclamations.
So Brother Ratzinger and, let us not be fooled, the legions of people who conceive of religion as he does, realizes that now that he and Brother Wojtala have populated the majority of the college of cardinals pretty well, it's better that he move over and do all he can to promote the selection of a pope who will deal with people like me, people whom he accuses of fomenting disunity rather than calling for a reconciliation process. The persecution will carry on.
For a better discussion of my point chec out "Ideological Clone" by John Bingham and Nick Squires
Check my blogsite at LEAST HARM
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I have already commented on my classmate's (Joseph Komonchak - '60-64 in Rome, Vat. II et) article in Commonweal. Might as well repeat the gist of my view here. My take on Brother Ratzinger's resignation is that he is not being humble, but calculating and conservative as ever. Before becoming senile, he has retired to watch his--and Brother Wojtala's--well entrenched agenda move smoothly to the next generation of the traditional Catholic church--a conservative hierarchy and legions of faithful who want it this way.
Yeah, people like me--married priest, and now activist LGBT-- were no match for the conservatives who took over Vat. II. But we are to a great extent to blame ourselves because we either left the church or allowed the medieval church tactics--threats of, and actual excommunications--to sideline us into groups we call "Catholic" but in reality are not. We haven't been able to populate the seminaries to get our people into the hierarchy.
Today on Amy Goodman Matthew Fox gave another--more valid in my opinion--view of Brother Ratzinger's retirement. His book "The Pope's War: Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved". It's true just as any conservative method calls for that in the last 50 years and two popes--the adulation of Brother Wojtala, the admiration of the intellectual Brother Ratzinger--there is the very clear, unfailing, hardline "war". Brother Fox talks about what these folks have done is effectively create a schism with their banning of the likes of Fox and 70+ others and the silencing orders about any dissent.
Yeah, the church shouldn't be the Pope. But it is and will continue to be. Collegiality is no more than an empty formality down to the parish councils. The billion member, largest church in the world will be very active (150,000 people in St. Peter's Square!!!) under this model for a long time to come. I'm getting no takers for my proposal for a new way to deal with dissent, a Galileo Reconciliation Commission, that would keep the likes of me and Brother Fox in the church, take away the penalties and pain of the hard nose opposition, and come around to the Truth more quickly with less persecution. But this will require hard, direct-action pressure, not the wonderful, but outsider, work that has won the day for LGBT people without the Catholics. We need numbers/public pressure in person to bring moral persuasion to convince the opposition to give us our proper space.