A Pure Distillation of 1970s Catholicism
The Catholic Thing
SUNDAY, AUGUST 28, 2016
Fr. Robert P. Imbelli asks: Is Jesus just one among the prophets, as liberals see Him, or is He the eternal Word, Light of the Nations, our Savior?
I vividly remember my graduate studies at Yale, in the heady and tumultuous days immediately following the Second Vatican Council. A number of young Catholics, priests, religious, and lay people embarked upon doctoral studies in theology in a non-Catholic university – one of the countless post-Conciliar innovations.
One of my professors, a committed Lutheran, with great respect for the Catholic tradition, issued a friendly caution. He said (in words to this effect): “I pray that the Catholic Church is not destined to repeat in twenty years the same mistakes it took us Protestants 200 years to make.” He was referring, of course, to Liberal Protestantism, whose nadir was masterfully summed up by H. Richard Niebuhr, for three decades a Yale professor: “a God without wrath brought man without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”
Julian the Apostate burns the relics of John the Baptist (Legend of the Relics of St. John the Baptist) by Geertgen Tot sint Jans, c. 1490
A recent article in The National Catholic Reporter brought these memories flooding back. The author, Jim Purcell, was ordained in 1965, the year the Council ended, and resigned from ordained ministry in 1972. He went on to work in Catholic Charities and as a vice president at Santa Clara University. He’s currently a member of NCR’s board.
Purcell calls for “a redistribution of power and authority” in the Catholic Church – “power” and “authority” seemingly indistinguishable, despite the scene of Jesus before Pilate, where Pilate’s power is ultimately futile before the truth of Jesus’ authority. (Jn. 19:11)
Aside from the predictable call for the ordination of women, Purcell aims at a deeper “revolution.” This would entail disconnecting the roles of priest and pastor, so that one, either woman or man, could be the canonical pastor of a parish without being a priest, thus striking “clericalism” (that dread foe!) a mortal blow.