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Church as Mystery

The Rev. Hermann Pottmeyer, in his article Primacy in Communion (6/3), offers an interesting but strange argument about the Petrine office. First, his contention that the (Roman) Curia insists that the present scope of Roman jurisdiction is divinely willed simply is not true. In the 12 years I worked in the Curia, I never came across any one position that the Curia held, as if it were a monolith. It simply is not helpful to demonize brothers and sisters of the household of the faith.

Second, and more important, is the odd argument that appeals to the mutual interiority between universal and particular church but then goes on to rehearse a familiar litany that deals not with interiority but with issues of jurisdiction and legislation and decrees, which of themselves do not represent the interiority of the church. Indeed the six points that follow all are arguments against the current organization, seeking limits to be placed on the exercise of jurisdiction by the Petrine ministry. All of these have been (to my mind unsuccessfully) presented before by those who favor, not a renewal of interiority, but a kind of democratization of church praxis and decentralization of power to local churches and various committees. While Pottmeyer recognizes that this is more than an organizational task, he certainly seems to be fixated on just that.

Pottmeyer’s presentation of the church as mystery is a much more promising approach to deepening our understanding.

(Most Rev.) William Murphy

Auxiliary Bishop of Boston

Brighton, Mass.

 

ICEL and Ecumenism

Much, if not most of the progress in liturgical renewal that has been made in the last several decades by Protestant churches and communions was materially assisted and shaped by the extraordinary renewal and reform of the Roman Rite. This happened largely through the work done by ICEL, textually and ecumenically. Without ICEL’s creativity and mediatorial presence, we would all be in a much different situation today. That is a measure of the seriousness with which we Protestants take the proposed re-ordering of the structures and agenda of ICEL (5/13).

One of the most fruitful and influential effects of this ecumenical collaboration has been the production by the Consultation on Common Texts (C.C.T.) in 1983 of Common Lectionary and its revision of 1992. This decades-long work was directly dependent on the Roman Ordo Lectionum. In 1994 the English Language Liturgical Consultation (E.L.L.C.) approached the Congregation for Worship to seek permission for the use and study of the Revised Common Lectionary by Roman Catholic dioceses and institutions. To date nothing has been heard in response.

More recently, C.C.T. has committed considerable resources and time to the preparation of proposed opening prayers that would relate to the biblical content of the Revised Common Lectionary. Obviously this is yet another project parallel to that of ICEL’s apparently disputed collection of opening prayers for Mass. Clearly C.C.T./E.L.L.C. have a large interest in this issue and its outcome, which bears directly on our own publishing plans. Likewise the Psalms and Canticles, as recently translated by ICEL (Chicago, Liturgy Training Publications, 1994), have also become, to our dismay, a matter of contention. More than one biblical scholar known to us has pronounced these texts to be the finest English renditions of the Hebrew and Greek texts that they have seen in recent years.

Finally, at the recent biannual meeting of the C.C.T. in New York City, May 8-9, 2000 (the membership being drawn by official appointment from some 25 churches or ecclesial associations in the United States and Canada), there was no participation by ICEL, for the first time since I joined C.C.T. in 1970. Nor was the Canadian Conference of Bishops represented, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was represented for a period of only two hours during the two-day meeting. All those bodies were well represented at the previous meeting of C.C.T. in December 1999. It is surely not overly alarmist to notice an ominous pattern in the making.

Horace T. Allen, Jr.

Professor of Worship

Boston University School of Theology

Boston, Mass.

 

Accountability

Re Are We Killing Our Priests? (4/29): A good place to start would be for the bishops to take away from the pastor the responsibility to manage the parish and place the responsibility instead in a lay person appointed by and accountable to the bishop, not the pastor. Parish managers would be trained and supervised by the bishop’s office. When they need assistance in resolving problems, they would look to the bishop’s office, not to the pastor. I am confident that in almost every parish there are lay people with management expertise that equals or exceeds the management expertise of the pastor. Under this system, bishops will be making the best use of everyone’s talents, training and experience.

To protect the pastor from parishioners’ complaints about parish management, bishops must make it clear to all that the role of the pastor and other priests assigned to the parish shall be that of administering the sacraments, teaching the message of the Gospels and counseling parishioners and that the pastor is not responsible for, and has no accountability for, managing the parish.

Roger L. Gambatese

Davis, Calif.

 

Understanding Comparison

Patricia Kossmann’s Of Many Things column (5/27) was very special. What an understanding of Cardinal O’Connor she had. Thanks so much for letting others know...as well as for the comparison with Archbishop Sheen.

(Most Rev.) James F. McCarthy

Auxiliary Bishop of New York

Shrub Oak, N.Y.

Comments

John F. Kenney | 1/21/2007 - 3:46pm
Bishop William Murphy’s letter (7/1) regarding the article by the Rev. Hermann Pottmeyer (6/3) encourages me to hope that the bishop may expand upon his concerns with a longer, positive presentation. Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B., has done so in America on other occasions, and the former archbishop of San Francisco, John Quinn, has done so in book form. I realize that the Letters section, limited spatially as it is, allows the Boston auxiliary only to highlight his opposing argument. He did not, therefore, expose it sufficiently to scholarly and pastoral critique.

A chivalrous defense of the Roman curialists was based on “the 12 years I worked in the Curia.” In this I commend him, but he is far too modest. He has spent many years in Rome: his undergraduate studies at the North American College, his post-graduate studies and doctorate in theology there. He also modestly omits the fact that he is the present vicar-general of a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. One can’t help but think that he is defending “Rome” more than “the church.” (The Boston Catholic Directory, 2000, further shows him as the contact for “Information and Ordering of Papal Blessings.”)

Many would like him to develop the deep structure of his criticism of the “mutual interiority” argument of Father Pottmeyer, instead of simply fortifying his criticism with strategic adjectives like “odd” and “interesting but strange.” He may not directly intend it, but he does seem to demean the canon law elements by referring disparagingly to “issues of jurisdiction and legislation and decrees.” But I would be willing to say that many canonists are as concerned for the “mutual interiority” argument as is the bishop. They, too, love the church. While they may have to concentrate on external aspects, they have not fallen into the theologically false dichotomy of a spiritual versus a juridical church.

Inspired and guided by the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” of the Second Vatican Council, they too recognize the church as the “mysterium sacrum.”

John F. Kenney | 1/21/2007 - 3:46pm
Bishop William Murphy’s letter (7/1) regarding the article by the Rev. Hermann Pottmeyer (6/3) encourages me to hope that the bishop may expand upon his concerns with a longer, positive presentation. Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B., has done so in America on other occasions, and the former archbishop of San Francisco, John Quinn, has done so in book form. I realize that the Letters section, limited spatially as it is, allows the Boston auxiliary only to highlight his opposing argument. He did not, therefore, expose it sufficiently to scholarly and pastoral critique.

A chivalrous defense of the Roman curialists was based on “the 12 years I worked in the Curia.” In this I commend him, but he is far too modest. He has spent many years in Rome: his undergraduate studies at the North American College, his post-graduate studies and doctorate in theology there. He also modestly omits the fact that he is the present vicar-general of a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. One can’t help but think that he is defending “Rome” more than “the church.” (The Boston Catholic Directory, 2000, further shows him as the contact for “Information and Ordering of Papal Blessings.”)

Many would like him to develop the deep structure of his criticism of the “mutual interiority” argument of Father Pottmeyer, instead of simply fortifying his criticism with strategic adjectives like “odd” and “interesting but strange.” He may not directly intend it, but he does seem to demean the canon law elements by referring disparagingly to “issues of jurisdiction and legislation and decrees.” But I would be willing to say that many canonists are as concerned for the “mutual interiority” argument as is the bishop. They, too, love the church. While they may have to concentrate on external aspects, they have not fallen into the theologically false dichotomy of a spiritual versus a juridical church.

Inspired and guided by the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” of the Second Vatican Council, they too recognize the church as the “mysterium sacrum.”

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