When he addressed the Anglican Lambeth Conference this summer, the Vatican’s Cardinal Walter Kasper noted that the Catholic church could learn from the way Anglicans “debate, listen to each other and produce decisions that come from within and are not imposed from above.”
The Cardinal went on to say that ecumenical relations between the Catholic and Anglican churches had been harmed because of the latter’s ordination of women priests, consecration of women bishops and because of its wavering on the morality of homosexual activity.
On the above issues – women priests and bishops and the condemnation of homosexual activity – it is alleged that the Catholic church is quite clear. But this is clarity that is imposed from above and is at odds with what many Catholics really believe. Many Catholics find the exclusion of women from decision-making and the exercise of power in the Church intolerable, and the description of homosexual activity as “disordered” offensive.
That the leadership of women and the complexities of sex could be definitively clarified by some all-male elite (most of them septuagarians) is thought by many Catholics to be simply incredible. These are good, faithful Catholics, deeply committed to the Gospel affirmation of each human being.
They do not wish to be labelled “dissenters”. They are happy to toast the Pope and even wave a banner in St. Peter’s Square but, when it comes to finding guidance through the thicket of the secular world, they have often, with some sadness, given up on the clarities “imposed from above.”
In this way authority in the Church is undermined, not so much through dissent, but through the refusal of those in authority (the male celibate septuagarians in Rome) to allow open debate, to listen, and produce decisions that come from within.
Father Peter Cornwell is a priest in good standing in London, England. He writes of this problem: “Instead of rather smugly parading our doubtful certainties, we Catholics should respond to the problems of the Anglican Community by saluting the courage of its leaders in struggling to stay together while openly facing issues that the Catholic Church has tried to sweep under the rug.”
Do you agree?