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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 29, 2018: In response to the Italian Archbishop Carlo Vigano's 7,000-word open letter about Pope Francis and disgraced American Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (released on August 26, 2018), I published my OEN commentary titled "What Did Pope Francis Know About Cardinal McCarrick -- And When Did He Know It?" (dated August 26, 2018):
Since the original release of Vigano's open letter, and since the publication of my OEN commentary, Archbishop Vigano has released online certain documents to clarify what he claims are false charges made against him:
As I said in my OEN commentary, I do not think that Pope Francis should resign, because the church does not need to have two resigned popes at the same time. However, I do think that Pope Francis should respond to the charges about a McCarrick coverup.
But is Vigano's open letter little more than a tempest in a teapot? Apart from Vigano's sensationalistic call for Pope Francis to resign, why should non-Catholic Americans care about Vigano's allegations? At the very least, non-Catholic Americans can learn something more about their American Catholic neighbors and certain tendencies in the American Catholic subculture.
Arguably the most important allegation in Archbishop Vigano's letter is not that Pope Francis knew about disgraced Cardinal McCarrick's sexual abuse of seminarians (i.e., not minors), but that a lot of other important Catholic authorities knew of McCarrick's abuses. Yes, of course, Vigano's allegation about Pope Francis knowing about this is important. But consider the importance of what he alleges other church authorities knew about McCarrick's abuses.
As a thought experiment, let's try to imagine how Catholic traditionalists today such as the Italian Archbishop Vigano, the Vatican's former top diplomat to the U.S., emerged historically. Like American Catholic traditionalists today, other Catholic traditionalists tend to feel under siege. But let's start with American Catholic traditionalists.
On the one hand, they feel under siege because of the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade in 1973. From the time of that ruling in 1973 onward, the American Catholic bishops and their priests have incited anti-abortion zealotry among practicing Catholics -- and certain American Protestants have jumped on their bandwagon of anti-abortion zealotry. As the top Vatican diplomat in the U.S., Vigano helped promote bishops known to be cultural warriors. But the election of Pope Francis in 2013 signaled a shift away from the culture-warrior orientation.
But the culture-warrior orientation had dominated most 20th-century bishops and priests and practicing Catholics before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) in the Roman Catholic Church. Then for a short interlude after the Council (roughly 1965 to 1973), the culture-warrior orientation went into remission, so to speak. However, the culture-warrior orientation was then renewed in the U.S. after the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 -- but with a few casualties due to Vatican II -- collateral damage, as it were. The collateral damage, figuratively speaking, included the downgrading of Thomism from its earlier pre-eminence in the 20th century.
However, not only American Catholic traditionalists today but also Catholic traditionalists in the Vatican today still feel under siege because of the shift in the Roman Catholic Church signaled by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). At the time of Vatican II, Karol Wojtyla (later JP2) and Joseph Ratzinger (later B16) were "liberals" -- that is, within the context of the Roman Catholic Church, they held certain theological positions that departed from the theological positions advanced, say, by the First Vatican Council in the 19th century and 19th-century popes. However, Vatican II released unexpected energies among practicing Catholics worldwide. The yeast of practicing Catholics became yeasty in the estimate of Wojtyla/JP2. Consequently, he had Ratzinger/B16 reign in the yeasty practicing Catholics.
For an account of their combined reign of terror, figuratively speaking, over yeasty practicing Catholics, see Matthew Fox's book The Pope's War: Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can be Saved (New York: Sterling Ethos, 2011).
In the American Jesuit philosopher and theologian John Courtney Murray's posthumously published book Bridging the Sacred and the Secular, edited by J. Leon Hooper, S.J. (Georgetown University Press, 1994), Murray weaponizes the Canadian Jesuit philosopher and theologian Bernard Lonergan's terminology about the transition in Catholic theological thought from a classicist worldview to historical-mindedness (see esp. pages 187-199, 209-221, 334-341). But both Murray and Lonergan were steeped in Thomism. And yet they emerged as champions of the transition from a classicist worldview in Roman Catholic philosophical and theological thought to historical-mindedness. Consequently, they did not emerge from Vatican II with any notable resentment about the downgrading of Thomism.
Now, Murray's own historical studies of certain official papal teachings played a significant role in the passage of Vatican II's Declaration on Religious Freedom. Other historical studies by certain other theologians played a significant role in certain other positions taken by the bishops who voted in Vatican II.
In theory, not just bishops and their theological advisers but practicing Catholics around the world could have read the publications of those key theologians, provided they knew the various languages in which their historical investigations were published. However, my impression is that only professional theologians, not ordinary practicing Catholics, read the historical investigations of those key theologians. Consequently, not many ordinary practicing Catholics were prepared to receive the documents of Vatican II. Even many ordained priests who had studied theology as part of their training for the priesthood were prepared to receive the documents of Vatican II.
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