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 Volume 1.24  This View’s Guest Column July 22, 2002 

Even the Devil Can Quote Vatican II Documents for His Purposes
    Karl Schudt    

Rev. Richard P. McBrien has an article in Tidings on the Voice of the Faithful. McBrien argues that VOTF is a good thing, as it fulfills the supposed goals of Vatican II to have the laity take part in Church governance. In fact, he says “the hopes of Vatican II will never be fulfilled without the direct and meaningful involvement of laity in the life and mission of the Catholic Church.” By “meaningful" one should understand that McBrien means for the laity to be in charge of the bishops; in other words, for the laity to take on the role of ruling.

Fr. McBrien then quotes some documents of Vatican II to support his case, which is good. Most often, people will cite the amorphous “Spirit of Vatican II” without giving sources. However, McBrien quotes these documents in misleading ways. He points out the parts of the documents that call for the laity to participate actively in the sanctifying mission of the Church, but leaves out the parts that specify the obligations of the laity.

For example, he quotes the Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, n. 10, which says that “the laity have an active part to play in the life and activity of the Church.” (McBrien doesn’t capitalize “church,” as it should be. Perhaps he is talking about some other church than the Catholic Church?) But McBrien leaves out quotes such as n. 24: “But no enterprise must lay claim to the name ‘Catholic’ if it has not the approval of legitimate ecclesiastical authority.”

McBrien quotes the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, n. 31, on how the laity is also charged with the threefold mission of Christ to teach, rule, and sanctify. But he leaves out n. 37 on the obedience that the laity is the show: “Like all Christians, the laity should promptly accept in Christian obedience what is decided by the pastors who, as teachers and rulers of the Church, represent Christ. In this they will follow Christ’s example who, by his obedience unto death, opened the blessed way of liberty of the sons of God to all men.” So obedience is a holy duty for the laity, by which we imitate Christ, who perfectly obeyed the saving will of God the Father.

Finally, McBrien quotes the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, n. 9, on the duty of parish priests to listen to their parishioners and to strive to collaborate with them. But he leaves out the part on the obligations of the laity to their priests: “They should treat them with filial love as being their fathers and pastors.”

One must be very careful whenever one encounters Fr. Richard McBrien. He is very skilled at making himself seem to be just another faithful priest, but he is no such thing. He uses every opportunity available to him (and they are many, as he is always on the television screen) to tear down the Mystical Body of Christ and replace it with the Elected Body of Man. But we must always remember that the Church is not a democracy, but rather is a monarchy with Christ as the King. We have the current hierarchical structure, as unwieldy and difficult as it may be, because Christ set it up that way.

The apostles (sinners all) were entrusted with the role of governing the Church in order to safeguard the precious truths handed on to them by Jesus. If we undergo the kind of structural change supported by McBrien and intimated by the mission statement of VOTF, “Keep the faith, change the church,” we will not keep the faith. The faith only comes to us by the Church. If we change the Church, making it more democratic or responsive to the modern age, we run the risk of losing our faith.

Summa Contra Mundum
July 19, 2002

© Karl Schudt 2002. Used with permission.

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 Volume 1.24 This View’s Guest Column July 22, 2002 

The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”