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Try a Little Tenderness

by Christopher A. Ferrara

Sexual scandal and open defiance of Church teaching have erupted all over the world. The Roman liturgy has become a laughingstock, even to pious Protestants who know a three-ring circus when they see one. We are in the midst of the worst crisis in the Church’s history. So what does Cardinal Ratzinger do but give an address in which he calls for more caring and compassion toward heterodox theologians.

Yes, according to CNS news service, Cardinal Ratzinger, while addressing a seminar at the Vatican, declared that "When a theologian appears to stray from a truth of the Catholic faith, his bishop must react with prudence, attempt to read the theologian's work in a positive light, and spend time personally discussing the issues with him…." How lovely. But how does one read "in a positive light" statements that "appear to stray from the truth of the Catholic faith?" The Church has traditionally judged statements on their face, regardless of the supposed subjective intentions of the author, because it is the statements that cause harm as they are written, and the unstated "true intention" of the author is of no help to those who are misled by the statements.

The Cardinal, who is no less than the very head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reportedly told new bishops from around the world that "many things can be clarified through a personal rapport’ with theologians. The closeness of the bishop helps reinforce the pastoral sensitivity and sense of responsibility of the theologian, while at the same time giving the bishop access to information about current theological debates." Ah yes, the bishops must have a "rapport" with suspect theologians and must show "sensitivity." For after all, the bishop needs to have the latest information on how the "current theological debates" are going. Good grief. And this is the man in charge of maintaining the doctrine of the faith for the entire Catholic Church!

I would like to know what "rapport" and "sensitivity" have to do with rectifying statements by theologians that "appear to stray from the truth of the Catholic faith?" What ever happened to the good old-fashioned remedies of retraction and recantation of errors and dubious propositions? How on earth can being "sensitive" toward a theologian correct the problems with his propositions? Words speak for themselves, do they not?

Here we see another example of the phenomenological approach to truth that has overtaken the Church over the past forty years. You see, if a bishop can just develop good feelings between himself and his wayward local theologians, then perhaps what they have actually written really isn’t so bad after all. The phenomenon of good feelings suffices to overcome any problem with the words they have written. That is, the truth is just a matter of feelings. If we can all just sit down and feel good about each other, then who cares what people actually say in the books and speeches?

Perhaps the Vatican should try this new sensitive and caring approach with Father Nicholas Gruner. Perhaps the bishops who have condemned him should take the time to get to know him, develop good feelings about him, and learn what he has to say about the "theological debates" over Fatima.

But then again, Father Gruner does not preach any errors against the Faith. He speaks the truth. Thus he is not entitled to kid glove treatment in the Bizzaro World of the post-conciliar "renewal", in which heretics are coddled while militant, manly priests hide their orthodoxy from their own bishops lest they be sent to an ecclesial Gulag. What madness this all is.