Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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Theology Prof: Vatican's "Shock and Awe" Campaign against U.S. Nuns Just the Beginning

There have been grumblings of discontent and ire focused on the Vatican recently because of the Holy See's actions involving American nuns. Unsurprisingly, there's been a great deal of hyperbole and bombast published in the predictable publications. But nothing comes close to the broadside published in the National Catholic Reporter by a former Maryknoll Provincial and current Associate Professor of Theology at Scranton University. Father John Sivalon, M. M., sees Rome's actions concerning the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) as a "shock and awe" campaign that is but a prelude to an “all-out assault" against any theology or interpretation of the Second Vatican Council that Rome doesn't support. Father Sivalon says that the "major assault" will begin in October with the opening of the Synod of Bishops on the "New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith." While the Holy Father calls 2012 the "Year of Faith," Father Sivalon sees it as the “year of the assault.” Cue the impending doom music. Fr. Sivalon, it would appear, isn't comfortable with much of the nomenclature coming out of the Vatican. The Vatican, for example, uses the term "Hermeneutic (Interpretation) of Rupture" to describe certain theological tendencies that go against Church teaching. Father Sivalon writes that what the Vatican regards as a "hermeneutic of discontinuity" is really a "heremeneutic of mission." And when the Pope refers to a "hermeneutic of renewal," Father Sivalon renames it a "hermeneutic of retrenchment."
The hermeneutic of retrenchment…sees in the documents of Vatican II the restatement of ossified doctrines in language that can be understood by the modern world. The hermeneutic of retrenchment regards tradition as a wall which functions to deter erroneous understandings. It also tends to see the modern context of the world negatively, often assigning to it labels such as secularism, relativism or pluralism. As Benedict says, "whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society..." The hermeneutic of retrenchment, hence, longs for the past; for an idealized age of Christendom. Thus, the action against LCWR and the other actions against loyal voices of faithful Christians open to discerning God's wisdom in modern culture, should be seen as initial forays of shock and awe to soften the strongest areas of resistance, before the actual onslaught begins. That major assault is scheduled for October of 2012, with the opening of the Synod of Bishops on the "New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith." The first working paper (Lineamenta) for this synod clearly sets forth the target of "New Evangelization." The target is plainly modern culture. According to the document the modern world is epitomized by a culture of relativism, which it says has even seeped into Christian life and ecclesial communities. The authors claim that its serious "anthropological implications are a questioning of basic human experiences for example the relation between a man and a woman as well as the meaning of reproduction and death itself." Associated with this phenomenon, the document states, is the tremendous mixing of cultures resulting in "forms of corruption, the erosion of the fundamental references to life, the undermining of the values for which we exert ourselves and the deterioration of the very human ties we use to identify ourselves and give meaning to our lives." Benedict in other places has labeled this pluralism; thus completing his trilogy of the demonic: secularism, relativism and pluralism, as he dreams of a reestablished, romanticized culture of Medieval Europe.
Sivalon tells his readers that, if they thought the Vatican's actions against the "loyal voices of faithful Christians open to discerning God's wisdom in modern culture" of the LCWR were extreme, they haven't seen anything yet. This was only an "initial foray of shock and awe to soften the strongest areas of resistance, before the actual onslaught begins." According to Father Sivalon, we have entered a new phase in the history of the Church:
As modern Catholics celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, we have entered into a new chapter of [C]hurch history. The Council that was declared to open the windows is now being reinterpreted as closed shutters, protecting the Church from the gale force winds of a world searching for spiritual authenticity. While said to be a time of renewal, the "Year of Faith" is really dedicated to the idolatry of doctrine, power and hierarchy. The sisters in their communal service to the Church and world, who not only take a vow of poverty but actually live that vow without privilege, status or accumulation of wealth are a vivid and prophetic contrast to the inauthenticity of the call to retrenchment masquerading as renewal.

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