Speaking of coercion

The pope reminds his hostages flock that if he wanted their opinion he would ask for it.

In a rare public rebuke, Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday (April 5) denounced a call for optional celibacy and women’s ordination that was issued by a group of Austrian priests, saying true reform will not come as a result of open dissent.

How will it come then? As a result of obstinate resistance by a tiny body of priests?

The Austrian group launched an “Appeal to Disobedience” last year, asking for an end of compulsory celibacy for priests, the ordination of women and allowing divorced people to receive Communion. The group says it has the support of 400 priests, or around 10 percent of Austria’s clergy, and similar initiatives have taken root in other European countries, including France, Ireland and Germany.

In his Holy Thursday homily in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope took the unusual step of directly responding to the critics.

“We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the church up to date,” he said. “But is disobedience really a way to do this?”

It’s more likely to do it than obedience is, wouldn’t you say?



  1. 'Tis Himself says

    We should remember that Benny Ratzi runs the Catholic Church on the “one man, one vote” principle. He’s the man and he has the vote.* As an autocratic ruler, believing he is literally appointed by god, Benny isn’t interested in what the hoi polloi wants or thinks.

    *This is shamelessly stolen from Terry Pratchett.

  2. says

    I don’t remember that line from Pratchett, although its obvious to whom it refers to. Vetinari is actually more likeable than Ratzinger.

    What I expect will happen is, as soon as it becomes untenable for the Catholic church to hold on to its position, they will receive a divine revelation for change, as did the Mormons on the issue of polygamy.

  3. godlesspanther says

    So — The Pope would gladly welcome changes in the church — just as long as nothing changes in the church?

    I guess you have to wear a funny hat for that to make sense.

  4. Felix says

    Being “motivated by concern for the church” is like respecting religion, or culture – ignoring the needs of actual human beings.

  5. Tim Harris says

    Read Newman on people who rock the boat (of the RC church) and on how the Church somehow finally makes up or changes its mind, somehow by itself and without any actually human agency, about something – and those who rock the boat are merely being untimely and in fact work against the desirable change that they advocate but whose time has not come, a time that only the Church in its mysterious way can discern… It is very educational (reading Newman on this, I mean), and at the same time amusing as well as horrifying (particularly when you think of those people who were silenced or perhaps burnt to death for advocating in an untimely way reforms that were subsequently made). Reading Michael Oakeshott on the women’s vote and the suffragettes induces much the same feelings.

  6. stonyground says

    The Catholic Church does seem to have a strange kind of power over its members. They seem to have totally swallowed the line that all those other churches are heretical. Otherwise they would take the obvious route of moving to a church that more closely matched their beliefs, the Methodist Church would seem a fairly obvious choice.

  7. Grendels Dad says

    I saw Andrew Sullivan on TV just yesterday waffling on about how the Pope isn’t really in charge. Some variation on a ‘divine sense’ that lets cafeteria Catholics pick which parts are worth following and which can be ignored.

    He didn’t say how to resolve conflicts when people’s senses contradicted each other, and Maher didn‘t press him on it, unfortunately.

    After listing the things Sullivan, and other American Catholics, disagree with, Maher asked why he didn’t just leave the church. His answer: Because I believe in its teachings.

    The compartmentalization is strong in that one.

  8. christophburschka says

    Cynically: If they allowed women and priests with families, the profession might be less pervaded by child abusers. Can’t have that.

    Realistically: The Catholic church is between a rock and a hard place here. If they induce reform from the top down, they look inconsistent and lose authority; if they allow reform from the bottom up, they look weak and lose authority. It’s basically win-win.

  9. says

    True. They’re busy demonstrating how authoritarian and dogma-driven they are, which is bad for them and good for us.

    But at the same time – the spectacle of their authoritarianism is still stomach-turning.

  10. Stewart says

    Out of curiosity, I asked my wife, without giving her the tiniest hint as to context, what she thought of the expression “the radicalism of obedience.” She thought it was hilarious and her first guess as to source was Monty Python.

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