Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 3, Chapter XXVIII

Priests in Politics

The Remnant- 16 May 1980

Pope John Paul II's recent order that priests must not hold public office reflects the Pope's strong convictions that political position and the priesthood are not compatible, according to reports from the Vatican.

The Pope has told associates that social or political activism is not a priest’s proper role, these sources said.

Last week, the Pope told priests in Kinshasa, Zaire, "to leave political responsibilities to those whose concern they are. You have another role, a magnificent role, you are leaders in another sector."

"Your domain of action, and it is vast, is that of faith and morals, " he added.

The Rev. Robert Drinan, an avowed pro-abortionist, who represents Massachusetts as a democrat in the House of Representatives, announced that he will not seek reelection after he received a directive from his superiors reflecting the Pope’s wish. Other American Catholic clergy have also been informed of the directive, and one of them, Fr. Robert J. Cornell, O.Praem, of DePere, Wisconsin, also dropped his candidancy after receiving the directive from his superiors.

The Pope’s opposition to social activism among priests also emerged recently in what the Washington Post of May 6th describes as "his lukewarm reactions to the murder of Salvador’s crusading Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. The Pontiff’s initial response to the March 24th assassination criticized the violence but was short on praises for the slain archbishop. His strongest words of appreciation for Romero came ten days after the assassination at a Vatican general audience.

The present Code of Canon Law, currently in process of revision, dates back to 1918 and rules out elective office without approval by the local bishop. The 1971 Bishops' Synod in Rome dealing with the priesthood also left it up to the local bishop to determine if secular activity in general served the mission of the Church and other Christians and was thus compatible with the priestly ministry.

The synod also decided that "leadership or active militancy on behalf of any political party is to be excluded by every priest unless in concrete and exceptional circumstances this is truly required by the good of the community and has received the consent of the bishop."

Over the years a number of priests have engaged in various sorts of political activity, with or without the approval of their bishops.

Since his election in October 1978, John Paul II has made it clear that he favors social reform but does not believe that in most cases priests should be leading or organising it.

In other words, the Pope's idea of activism is one that focuses on moral issues and rejects or avoids partisan entanglements.

The Pope first made his restrictive view of priests’ roles clear at Puebla, Mexico, in January 1979, when he told the members of religious orders "you are not social political leaders, or functionaries of a temporal power."

At that time he asked priests to remember that "temporal leadership can easily become a source of division while the priest should be a sign and factor of unity and brotherhood."

Meanwhile, however, there are priests and bishops all over Latin America who continue to be involved in partisan political questions, and whose activities have nowhere been curbed by the Vatican.

This is another instance where Pope John Paul II has made a correct decision, and in this case he achieved at least a limited degree of success in implementing it. It should be noted that the increasing political preoccupation of some clergy is the direct result of one of the most deplorable phenomena of the post-conciliar Church, a change of emphasis from the sacred to the profane, and from eternal life to life on earth. Thus, it is not surprising that when, eventually, a number of Nicaraguan priests were told to choose between exercising their priestly office or continuing with their political carers, that they opted for the latter. These poor men have clearly lost their sense of priority .They need our pity and our prayers, but, in a sense, they were doing no more than follow the logic of conciliar Catholicism.


Catholic Scholar faults Exegetes, Including Father Raymond Brown
The Remnant – 16 May 1980

"Biblical exegesis today seem to be in tension, if not in conflict, with established Christian teaching about Christ and His message, " writes Fr. Manuel Miguens in the Spring issue of Communio, International Catholic Review. Manuel Miguens ,O.F.M., is on the staff of the Institute for Advance Catholic Doctrine, St. John's University, New York.

According to Miguens, "Positions which once were considered doctrinally sound and supported by scholarly evidence now seem shaken or demolished by biblical criticism. Indeed there are so many new 'theories' making the rounds in biblical circles that no one seems sure anymore of anything, not even what has been newly built on the ruins of the past. It is fair to say that there are so many new biblical theories about things scriptural as there are new-comers on the stage of exegetical debate. The same thing is true of several seasoned exegetes.

Others, besides American and English commentators have made this observation . Indeed. German authors, who in many ways are the 'fathers' of biblical criticism, are the ones seemingly among the first to be skeptical about contemporary biblical methodology. Recently, for example, Peter Stuhlmacher, while acknowledging the historical knowledge gained from criticism, confesses that the critical method fathers a ‘really frightening insecurity and narrowness of perspective.’

Fr. Miguens continues: A good hard look at the exegetical process as it is being conducted today is especially necessary because biblical hypotheses are oftentimes presented as serious conclusions of scientific study, when in fact they are at best speculative theories. More ominous perhaps, is that unproved biblical hypotheses sometimes are accepted uncritically by systematic or moral theologians to raise doubts about the validity of the received faith of the Church.

"There are many ways in which a scripturist might approach a controlled study of contemporary exegesis. Many authors are practitioners of the exegetical method in the form it is being applied today, but none have achieved as much popularity and widespread acceptance as Fr.Raymond Brown."

Fr. Miguens singles out Fr. Brown for using the modem method of biblical criticism "in his own way," and cites chapter and verse wherein the method used by Fr.Brown, among others, is seriously open to criticism and may be in fact misleading people.

Meanwhile, however, Fr. Brown has been openly defended by none other than Cardinal Timothy Manning of Los Angeles (Tidings, 4 April 1980), who characterized local critics of Fr. Brown as "venomous," whilst Msgr. John F .Barry , Archdiocesan Director of Religious Education, urged Catholics "not to be misguided or disturbed by attacks on Fr. Brown, who has "long been recognized by the Church" as a " good and holy priest loyal to the Church."

One wonders when, if ever, Rome will step in and bring order out of chaos!


Chapter 27

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