Sunday, April 18, 2010

Horizontal Reform

Tony Cicariello—who is on the Theology and Peace board— sent me a copy of Hans Kung’s open letter to Pope Benedict XVI, printed in the Irish Times last Friday (4/16, available at

Kung is the lion of Catholic liberalism, author of significant theological work, including rapprochement between the Catholic tradition and Protestant faith. In his letter he states that he and Joseph Ratzinger (now the pope) were the youngest theologians at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and are now the oldest actively working. He says the Roman Catholic church is in the worst credibility crisis since the Reformation and the present pope is very largely accountable. In particular he holds Ratzinger institutionally and personally responsible for engineering the global cover-up of child rape perpetrated by priests. He ends by calling for reform, and especially that the RC bishops should summon an ecumenical council to deal with the crisis.

It’s so telling that a theological voice dating from fifty years back is calling for a council. How can it possibly happen? Not only is the episcopal college full of Vatican placemen but the necessary theological groundwork is just not there. Where today are the Rahners, the de Lubacs, the Congars, the John Courtney Murrays?

At the same time, the revolution today is not in theology as such: it is carried in and by the information world.

This is a completely different human system that the one the Vatican knows and is shaped by. The Vatican is all about the control of meaning through a vertical information system. But today information and meaning are transferred across a horizontal surface which has no allegiance to traditional vertical operations.

In this world not only is the Vatican at a loss, but much more positively Christian meaning can arise anywhere, and does. It is irrepressible. In this kind of world RC reform is going to happen locally, and communicate itself across a horizontal surface.

It’s high time members of the RC tradition began to grow a para-Catholic church, locally based, emergent, welcoming, vitalized by mimetic anthropology and transformational faith. Then the episcopacy would sit up and take notice. And then ultimately it might be possible to have a truly profound and generative ecumenical council. Let’s see, San Francisco I ?

But in the meantime why not try T&P 3, in Chicago 25-27 May!

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