Was browsing Google News and found this little tidbit. Apparently Archbishop Weakland, formerly of Milwaukee, has written a memoir defending his ministry work which was focused on the democratization of the Church. So telling is this quote from the article…
Weakland’s affinity for monasticism’s collaborative style, which resisted autocratic rule, conditioned him to embrace the Second Vatican Council’s redefinition of the church in non-hierarchical terms as the “people of God.” The new vision proposed “shared authority” between hierarchy and laity.
For decades, as he writes in detail, he carried that banner against the gathering forces of opposition that sought to retain the old top-down chain of command that demanded unquestioned loyalty to Rome.
Whereas the centralizing forces, led most forcefully by Pope John Paul II, insisted on what Weakland calls the “military” structure of total conformity, his view of the church, drawn from Vatican II, is mixed rule, as in the sharing of responsibilities between the federal government and the states in America.
Somehow liberals, Catholic and secular, tend to read things into documents that are not there. Secular liberals read rights like abortion into the US Constitution. Catholic liberals read things like a remake of the Church into a democracy into the documents of Vatican II. They seem to do it the same way by seizing on a single line, phrase or concept and extrapolating them to the place they wanted to arrive at in the first place.
It’s just like bad apologists who cherry-pick verses from the Bible and base their own warped theology on that single verse which happens to allow a misinterpretation when taken out of context.
Weakland does it here by taking the phrase “people of God” and seeing that as a total break with the past. He takes it to mean that the Church is now supposed to be a democracy and that the laity does more and the clergy does less. To a degree, that is true. The laity has been called upon to do more in the Church and the clergy needs to help them do that. But it does NOT mean that the “reins of power” have been transferred to the laity.
It seems that the main reason Weakland and others like him do this, is so they can change something that they have personal issues with. It’s no different than Henry the VIII really. Don’t like something? Change it. Doesn’t matter if it should or could be changed. I want it and I want it now. Sure we could have married priests. But should we? As for women doing more in the Church… Good Lord! What else can they do besides be ordained? They are already the vast majority of the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and Lectors and parish council members at my parish and most I have visited. What we really need is for MEN to do more in the Church.
If the Church were to do what people like Weakland want, we would quickly fracture into a hundred churches and then 500 and then 1000 and it would never end. What has maintained the unity of the Catholic Church (schism with the Orthodox Churches notwithstanding) has been the authority of Rome. While we may be able to let the local dioceses determine things more than they used to because communications are now instantaneous between Rome and the rest of the world, thereby providing a check against a wayward bishop, that doesn’t mean that we have been given self-rule as if we are Canada or Australia trying to cut the apron-strings to Britannia.
Day to day governance of “the people of God” has ALWAYS been at the local level practically speaking. Historically, the pastor of a parish was the man in charge until he got called on the carpet before his Bishop. Same with the Bishop and his diocese. What got them in trouble then as today is the teaching of practices and doctrine that are contrary to the Deposit of Faith left to us by Jesus Christ. Often the proposed changes in disciplines lead to a weakening in the understanding of the doctrines of the Church. For instance, when the tabernacles are removed from the santuary or a priest refers to the purification of the vessels as “doing the dishes” (absolutely true story, I was there), what does that do to the people of God’s understanding of the Real Presence?
Letting local parishes have greater control over their parish tends to lead to the situation in St. Louis with St. Stanislaus. Or a local parish where it was once quoted to me “everyone there is a deacon”. When the Church says to do things a certain way, there is a reason. Unfortunately, the majority of folks weren’t taught those reasons after Vatican II, so that the “Spirit of Vatican II” could blow the Church in a different direction than intended by the actual texts.
As Pope Benedict said, the Council must be read in context with the prior Councils and Papal documents. It is not a break from the past, but a continuance of it.