BY DAVID TIMBS
The Apostle Paul did not labour alone in the Gospel. In his letters he goes to extraordinary lengths to acknowledge and affirm those many women and men from all walks of life who were indispensable to his Mission in the service of Jesus Christ.
These were his co-workers.
Paul deeply valued those who joined him in the Gospel mission and, above all, he loved them for the generous self-investment they made in building up the Community. The ties that bound him and his co-workers were their common Baptism and a passionate commitment to Christ and his message.
What Paul could not abide or tolerate were fellow Christians who dissembled, played the game of rivalry, who scandalised the communities he served and thereby obstructed the Gospel. Among these were the ‘Dogs’ – the mutilators of the flesh and ‘false brothers’, the ‘Super Apostles’ and the legalistic Judaisers of the James Party. Last and certainly not least was Cephas. His weak backsliding nearly destroyed the Galatian community. For that Paul withstood him to his face.
These biblical memories, embedded in the Tradition, are important for us all to keep alive as we recall that…
Something curiously similar took place in Munich in late 1979. Karl Rahner SJ had supported a distinguished theologian, Johann Baptist Metz, for a university professorship in that city. Despite his nomination being accepted, the Archbishop, Card Ratzinger, vetoed Metz’s appointment. Rahner responded robustly in his ‘I protest’ open letter to Ratzinger, his old Vatican II colleague, in the Suddeutscher Zeitung,
Twenty five years ago the Holy Office in Rome forbade me to write anything further on the subject of concelebration. That was a senseless, unscientific manipulation by church bureaucrats. I judge your action against Metz to be of the same category.
So great were the personal and theological divides that Rahner and Ratzinger were never reconciled.
Ratzinger’s unease with some theologies embedded in Conciliar documents can be traced to his unhappiness with the ecclesial notion of the People of God. It had too much of a democratic populist ring about it. For him, it threatened to relativise and jeopardise the absolute authority of the Petrine office. This key element adopted by Vatican II, however, would be quietly diluted by ‘authentic catechesis’ and even publicly dismissed a few years ago by one of our own Bishops as ‘old hat.’ It was not always so.
At the Council Yves Congar OP was astounded at the progressive young theolgians Rahner and Ratzinger for daring to propose a model of Conciliarist ecclesiology which would more clearly define papal authority in terms of the College of Bishops acting together with the Pope and the whole Church in the exercise of the Magisterium. In other words, the College of Bishops would never again be a mere Papal rubber stamp but a fellowship of co-workers.
A pivotal moment for Ratzinger was in 1968 when widespread social unrest in Europe personally shocked and unnerved him. The Tubingen experience, it seems, drove him further into his Augustinian dualistic view of reality – God’s world and the oppositional sphere of godlessness. This ideology of the clash is also a foundational element in the Germanic psyche.
This concept of a theological and spiritual War of the Worlds has shaped the character of Ratzinger post 1968 to Benedict XVI of the present. He has regressed from being a Vatican II thinker with the Church to being a Pope who believes in a besieged smaller, purer Church of the docile, simple little people needing to be governed by Diktat.
Tight, centralised control and command via Curial managers, inhabiting a gated, exotic world of their own and energetically resisting demystification of any kind, continue to keep us all well and truly in regimented order. We all belong to ‘the legion of the watched.’
The pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI have marked what John O’Malley SJ of Georgetown University calls the Papalisation of theology and church. Bishops, theologians and laity have been effectively muted and marginalised. This is a regressive cultural shift away from Vatican II,
From commands to invitation, from laws to ideals, from definition to mystery, from threats to persuasion, from coercion to conscience, from monologue to dialogue, from ruling to serving, from withdrawn to integrated, from vertical to horizontal, from exclusion to inclusion, from hostility to friendship, from rivalry to partnership, from suspicion to trust…from fault finding to appreciation…from behaviour modification to appropriation. (Robert McClory, “Hermeneutics as Weapon”, National Catholic Reporter 26/08/11)
We might well ask, ‘where is the Continuity now? Or has selective amnesia become the active principle of the Reform’s new hermeneutic? As we look forward to the Years of Grace and Faith there may even be, at some stage, a return to a permanent year of Joy and Hope
David Timbs blogs from Albion, Victoria.
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