A New Council, an Old Yearning
For years talk has circulated about another Council to even further modernize the post-conciliar church. Yet blind-conservatives hold out hope that everything will 'work out fine in the end.' Even with the retirement of progressivist Cardinal Martini, the main advocate of a new council, don't think the situation will shift to a better path.
A few weeks before he celebrated his 75th birthday, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Archbishop of Milan, announced that he will retire due to his revelation to the public that he has Parkinson's disease. With his retirement, a strong voice for the progressivist movement leaves a void...or does it? Many believe he will be just as influential in retirement as he has been until now. His influence has deep roots in progressivist circles and it brings to mind an article I wrote a few years ago.
Atila Sinke Guimarães
Indeed, it was a few years ago that a friend arrived in Los Angeles at 2 a.m. on a "red-eye special" night flight. Since I was still not accustomed to the highways here at that time, I thought it more prudent to allow plenty of time for error. Fortunately I had no problems. Thus I found myself at the airport at a quarter to one in the morning. I had an hour and fifteen minute wait before I would have the pleasure of seeing my friend. The airport lobby was almost empty. The janitors moved the groups of seats back and forth, vacuuming, cleaning, polishing. After I had established a "cordiale entente" between their indispensable work and my own need for a seat, I went to the reading material I had brought with me. It was the Bulletin Adista, an intelligent publication from Rome that keeps me informed on the more daring and up-to-date news in Catholic progressivism.
Among other news, I read that a meeting of the World Congress of Married Priests took place in Atlanta, Georgia (July 28-August 1, 1999). Emory University hosted the event that gathered together 330 participants from 17 countries around the world. The meeting produced a final document that had some especially interesting demands. I offer the excerpt to my reader:
"In the spirit of the first Council of Jerusalem and of Vatican Council II and in response to the signs of the times, the participants of this meeting are asking for a radical change in the exercise of pastoral leadership. We are making an appeal to the Pope to renounce the practice of naming the Bishops and to restore this to the local communities … And we are requesting the convocation of a universal council of all the Christian confessions in order to review themes such as the primacy, infallibility, collegiality, the ministry, sexuality, social and ecclesial justice, just as the secretary general of the World Council of Churches [Konrad Raiser] has also recently requested." (Adista, September 20, 1999)
I thought to myself: Is this the same request for a panreligious council that the Protestant pastor Konrad Raiser made some time ago and that I commented on in my work "Quo vadis, Petre?" I remember that I also quoted the yearnings of Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens for a new council in Jerusalem or the Vatican, as well as statements of Archbishop John Quinn. Therefore, the plea from the Congress of Married Priests seemed an updated re-run of the same progressivist picture. It also raised a suspicion in me that those who control the "master plan" of religious politics were launching another "trial balloon" to test the reactions of Catholic public opinion and see if it were ready to "swallow" a council of this nature. I was thinking about this when the airplane of my friend arrived punctually at 2 a.m. I welcomed my friend and returned to my apartment still thinking about the matter.
The October 8 edition of the National Catholic Reporter featured an interview with Cardinal Franz König. The reader will recall that König, the former Cardinal of Vienna, can be defined as the protagonist of three principal actions:
1. He was the first harbinger of Ostpolitik, and had already been in contact with communist governments before Vatican II officially inaugurated this policy.
2. Along with this title - collaborator with the communists - he was the anti-Mindszenty symbol. In effect, the heroic Primate of Hungary had been held voluntarily under house arrest in the North American Embassy in Budapest since 1956, in order to protest the communist take-over of his Country. It was König who went to Cardinal Mindszenty in the name of Paul VI to prohibit him from leaving the Embassy to enter the streets of Budapest for a new and spectacular protest that he was planning against communism. On that occasion, Mindszenty was "invited" to move to Rome where he remained enclosed in a tower. After some months, he left the tower unexpectedly and returned to Vienna to exert his influence on the Hungarian world from there as best he could. Shortly after, Cardinal Mindszenty died.
3. In the conclave that met after the death of Pope John Paul I, it was König who proposed as candidate the Cardinal of Krakow, Karol Woytyla, and worked to gain the votes necessary for his election.
A few years ago, the same König, (now 97) still as lucid as ever, told the press that for the next Pope "the most important issue will be to find someone who will decentralize the government of the Church." The reporter asked, "Where would he start?" The Cardinal responded: "Bishops' Conferences should have more responsibility." We are facing the same demand made by the Congress of Married Priests: to reform the pontifical primacy, and to stimulate the collegiality of Bishops.
The repetition of the same request - this time not made by radical grassroots progressivists but by a highly qualified dignitary like König - added a new dimension and timeliness to the proposal.
After this, I received yet another two confirmations in the same sense. One came from the extreme radical left - the We Are Church (WAC) movement. The other came from the official ecclesiastical left - Cardinal Martini.
A dispatch from the Catholic World News Service about WAC and the European Synod that was taking place at the Vatican reported the event. The reader could see the more interesting parts:
"The international movement of Catholic dissidents entitled We Are Church has organized a 'shadow synod' in Rome during the month of October, calling for radical changes in Church teaching and discipline, and protesting the 'exclusion of the laity' from the European Synod. We Are Church has brought 120 participants to Santa Severa, just outside Rome, for a conference designed to encourage 'bold reforms in the structures of the Church and of the decisions which cause suffering for a number of Christians.' Among the 'reforms' put forward by We Are Church was the establishment of a permanent 'synod of the churches' to govern Catholicism as a 'permanent council' whose powers would be 'not only consultative but decisive.'"
A more egalitarian and more "collegial" structure in the Church is the foundation of the demands of WAC. The notion of a "permanent council" obviously supposes the prior realization of a new council. We are again seeing the same picture as the one presented by the Married Priests, Cardinal Suenens, Archbishop Quinn and pastor Raiser.
Cardinal Martini, Archbishop of Milan, well known for his progressivist positions, added his voice to the choir. Catholic World News Service reported:
"Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan told the Synod of European bishops that the Church should look for 'newer and more extensive experiences of collegiality.' Cardinal Martini said that bishops should work closely together to confront contemporary problems …. The Italian newspaper, 'Il Messaggero,' in its October 8 edition, reported that Cardinal Martini was actually making a 'surprise request' for a new Church council. 'Il Messaggero' …. said, the subtle message of Cardinal Martini's intervention was an 'unequivocal' demand for a new council of the world's bishops."
From the experience I have in the analysis of ecclesiastical affairs, it seems to me that when there are two highly qualified Cardinals - König and Martini - speaking in the same sense, very probably there is a plan that is prepared to be executed. In addition to this, when the same idea is corroborated by the "demands" of two radical movements, it seems that an attempt is being made to "sound out" Catholic public opinion in order to, very possibly, convoke the desired council. Even with their ages, these two Prelates still have an enormous amount of influence amongst the progressivists.
The facts appear to speak strongly in favor of the veracity of this hypothesis. Even more so when one considers the events that have transpired since I wrote the aforementioned article. It seems that the persons who really direct the Church are still preparing some great surprise. If the hypothesis for another council is true, the only thing that would still remain to be decided would be in which city the panreligious council would take place: the Vatican or Jerusalem? Given the lack of outrage from the Catholic public after the most recent bizarre events in Assisi, what is there to stop the progressivist advance?
For past columns by Atila, see Archives of On the BattleLine
Monday, February 18, 2002
volume 13, no. 31
STANDING WITH THE CHURCH MILITANT
ON THE BATTLELINE