Volume 3, Chapter
21 October 1979
IN his 21 October lecture,
cited on page 27, Dr. May made some very perceptive comments concerning
Pope John Paul II. The beginning of his pontificate has given traditional
Catholics grounds for considerable optimism, and this explains why
1979 could be termed legitimately a year of hope. But in his lecture
Dr. May sounded a note of caution, a warning which proved to be
only too prophetic. Dr. May warned that words must be matched by
deeds, and before the end of the year the condemnation of Hans Kung
and news of the forthcoming "Dutch Synod" in Rome gave
the impression that this was precisely what was about to happen.
But throughout the West entire national hierarchies ignored the
Pope, and failed to implement his directives. In his turn, the Pope
was unwilling to risk a confrontation with any national hierarchy,
perhaps through a fear of provoking a formal schism. This has meant
that his instructions in such matters as religious education or
the liturgy have had little if any impact at the parish level. Dr.
May's comments concerning Pope John Paul II are as follows:
The Role of the Pope
I turn, then, in first
place to the Pope. I need not mention that we allow no one to surpass
us in loyalty to the papacy. For us the Pope is always the Vicar
of Christ, who possesses primacy of jurisdiction over the whole
Church. We love the Pope and are devoted to him. We wish to do everything
that facilitates his office and helps him attain his desired ends.
But our devotion to the successors of Peter is not bovine servility,
but responsible service. We feel ourselves duty-bound to serve him
not only with our lips and in our heart, but also with our thought
of Paul VI was, as a whole and aside from a few decisions and deeds,
disastrous for the Catholic Church. He brought about and saw to
it that there advanced in the Church and succeeded to positions
of power those forces which paralyzed and undermined it. In all
of history I know of no Pope in whose reign such an unheard-of collapse
from purely internal causes was to be seen as under the pontificate
of Montini. Paul VI left his successors a frightful legacy: a Church
of Paul VI, Pope John Paul I, was received with a wave of enthusiasm.
The hopes of innumerable Catholics rose that he might end the increasingly
untenable conditions and usher in a turning point. These expectations
were not without foundation. Much could be expected of a Pope who
had subscribed to a newspaper such as Der Fels, who read it regularly,
agreed with most of what was contained in it and even cited some
of it. Whether Luciani would have been in a position to fulfill
all the expectations placed in him is, of course, difficult to judge.
He did not have to undergo the test; God determined it otherwise.
is Pope John Paul 11, for the first time in the history of the Church
a Pole and, for the first time in over 450 years, a non-Italian.
He, too, has been received with broad agreement in the Church and
in society. A comprehensive judgment of his tenure is not yet possible.
Immediately after his election he spoke words which disappointed
the supporters of a genuine renewal in the Church; I refer to the
three catchwords: New Rites, Collegiality, and Ecumenism. For the
supporters of a real renewal see the mischief in the Church as proceeding
from the things these words signify. Meanwhile, John Paul 11 has
said much, too, that is welcome. We are grateful for the defense
which he has made of the great heritage and values of the Church,
and we rejoice over the courage with which he stood up for Catholic
sexual morality and the celibate form of life for priests. But these
are for the time being only words. Paul VI spoke out too, but all
too seldom were the words followed by deeds. We all know that the
Church is no longer to be helped by speeches and appeals. What we
need today are deeds, decisive deeds proceeding from an iron will,
to save the Church.
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