If you read in an earlier post Bishop Kevin Dowling's talk (given his home diocese of Rustenburg in South Africa) you may be interested in Fr. James Martin's reflections on the bishop's remarks. Here's a sampling of Martin's musings:
...We live in a church where almost any disagreement to almost any degree with almost any church leader on almost any topic is seen as dissent. And I'm not speaking about the essentials of the faith--those elements contained in the Creed--but about less essential topics. Even on those topics—say, the proper way to deal with politicians at odds with church teaching, new translations of the Mass, the best way for bishops to deal with complicated pastoral issues, and so on—the slightest whiff of disagreement is confused with disloyalty.
Certainly disagreement with any statements from Rome, even on non-dogmatic or non-doctrinal matters, is seen as close to heresy... Even for bishops! Kevin Dowling is, for Pete's sake, or for Christ's sake--and I mean that literally--a bishop. A teacher. A successor to the apostles. Not simply a branch manager of the Vatican's main office. Not some lowly functionary. Not a cog. But a teacher in his own right. And even he feels the "pressure to conform."
What does this engender? It engenders a fear-based church. It creates clergy and religious frightened of speaking out, terrified of reflecting on complicated questions, and nervous about proposing creative solutions to new problems. It leads to the laity, who have a hard enough time getting their voice heard, giving up. It causes the diminution of a thoughtful theological community. It muzzles what should be a vibrant, flourishing, provocative, innovative, challenging Catholic press. It empowers minuscule cadres of self-appointed watchdogs, whose malign voices are magnified by the blogosphere, and who, with little to no theological background, freely declare any sort of disagreement as tantamount to schism--and are listened to by those in authority. It creates fear.
Now, does this seem like what Jesus wanted to establish on earth? It doesn't to me. I thought he said "Fear not!" And I thought St. John said, “There is no fear in love." And "Perfect love casts out fear." But perfect fear casts out love, too...
(Read the whole of Martin's article over at America's In All Things.)
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