Saturday, July 14, 2012

Reasonable Expectations

IMAGE: Kathleen Riley, left, and Alison Carroll, right resigned as teachers at Saint Ann's Sunday School. (Tracy A Woodward/The Washington Post. Used without permission or shame.)

These two women were just featured in the Washington Post. It is one thing to be a fool, but to be proud of making the papers for it -- well, that is a major piece of work.

Kathleen Riley knows her beliefs on the male-only priesthood and contraception put her at odds with leaders of her church. But as a fifth-generation Catholic who went to a Catholic school and grew up to teach in one, Riley feels the faith deeply woven through her ... Last month, Riley joined at least four other Sunday school teachers and resigned from her post at St. Ann’s parish after a letter arrived at her home requiring her — and all teachers in the Arlington Catholic Diocese — to submit “of will and intellect” to all of the teachings of church leaders.

“I’m just shocked, I can’t believe they’re asking me to sign this,” said Riley, who said she may keep her own children out of the parish education program in the fall. “The bishops are human, and sometimes their judgment is not God’s judgment. We always have to be vigilant about that. The Holy Spirit gives us the responsibility to look into our own consciences.”

Thankfully, the Post has made provision for other voices in this matter. It is not always so generous. Even so, we are obliged to illustrate just what it is that has everyone in an uproar, namely the requirement to sign this:


I, _______________________________________, with firm faith believe and profess each and every thing that is contained in the Symbol of Faith, namely:

I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.

I also firmly accept and hold each and every thing definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.


Signed under oath before the undersigned on

(month)___________ (day)____ (year)________

Pastor/Parochial Vicar

Of course, the complaints are typical: 1) What about my conscience? 2) Why do I owe my bishop my "submission of will and intellect"? 3) Why weren't we consulted? 4) Why weren't we given a warning? 5) Why are the requirements so "technical"? (No kidding, someone called them that.)

We are here to provide the answers to these complaints, one at a time.

1) Conscience

Yes, the Church does hold esteem for the "internal forum," man's inner voice, his conscience. Man is what Thomas Aquinas called "a reasoning animal." He is an animal who knows, and who knows that he knows. When the Second Vatican Council upheld the role of man's conscience, the Council Fathers were not introducing a novelty. What has happened, unfortunately, is that people tend to leave out the rest of what the Council said. They tend to elevate that which binds one's inner self (the subjective) to the detriment of that which is intended to give it direction (the objective). It comes down to this; let your conscience be your guide, but let the Church guide your conscience, as Christ intended for Her. This is illustrated in one of the comments that accompany the article.

7/13/2012 7:48 PM EDT

As a former DRE with 10 years experience administering religious ed programs in the Arlington Diocese, I heartily applaud the Bishop's efforts to invite people to commit to the Magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church before embarking on the role of catechist ...

There were numerous occasions in my own experience as a DRE in which I had to deal with angry parents who complained that their children were not being taught the Faith correctly. Upon researching these matters with all parties involved, it was most often the case that the teacher was giving the class personal opinions rather than Church teachings. Opinions need to be checked at the door; no matter what the catechist believes personally, they are there to teach the facts of the Faith to their students--anything else does everyone a disservice ...

So, what of the rights of the children, not to mention the parents of those children? Are they reasonable to expect to be told what the Church teaches, as opposed to what somebody thinks they should be teaching?

This is what can happen when the place of conscience -- what it is, and what it is not -- is misunderstood. A person's opinion is presented as though it is fact, and is ironically challenged by one who is dismissed for "just an opinion." Even those who object to a Church teaching have a right to know what it is to which they are objecting. When fact and opinion are blurred, this right is denied, and the person is dealt with unjustly, without even knowing it, never mind wanting to know.

So then, Ms Riley is not just "at odds with leaders of her church," she is at odds with the Church, period. She has disqualified herself from teaching about what the Church believes, by her own admission. (And making quite a show of it, one might add.)

2) Submission of Will and Intellect

Critics of the oath are quick to point out, not so much to the oath itself, but that they "adhere with religious submission of will and intellect" to the bishops. They assume that one is expected to agree with every prudential judgment they make, even the bad ones (like criminal background checks on account of scandals for which the laity, in large part, are not at all responsible, but have the opportunity to pay for). But this is not about their personal opinions, or their personal ... anything! The Pope of Rome, and his bishops in communion with him, constitute a "magisterium," a teaching authority. It is the authority of their office to which one submits, not the persons themselves, and the Most Reverend Bishop of Arlington is one of that number. All members of the faithful are required to submit to the ordinary teaching authority of the Church, whether they teach about it, or simply live it out.

If your Sunday school teacher cannot do that, there is a bigger problem than his or her fitness to teach the Faith, and until that's all worked out ...

3) Consultation

"Why weren't we consulted?" This is the rallying cry of a generation of aging flower children who don't get their way. They say they want the chance to "dialogue," but it is generally a ruse. Such exercises are an excuse to delay the inevitable, to bog things down in committee, in the hope that one might have one's way, or failing that, have the matter in question forgotten. Such is an old trick of bureaucracies everywhere. Most progressives in positions of authority in the Church, where clerics or laics, whether at parish or diocesan level, are in no mood to negotiate with anyone once they are in charge. Besides, if a matter is settled, as are the teachings of the Church are, through what Christ has handed down to His Church, there is nothing to negotiate.

4) Fair Warning

There is never a good time to give someone bad news. You can break it to them as gently as one will, but at the end of the day, bad news is bad news. The need for a "warning" presumes the need to prepare, to reflect upon a decision. Should it not occur to a catechist that he or she be prepared to defend that which he or she teaches, inasmuch as he or she is bound to believe in that which he or she teaches? In the event that such poses a moral conundrum for the catechist, why is he or she teaching it?

In which case, the warning is there at the offset.

5) Degree of Difficulty

Finally, what about that really "technical" language for which "the people of God" cry out in the wilderness demanding an explanation? What is it that could possibly be above and beyond the comprehension, of what numerous progressive Catholic periodicals are always telling us, is the most astute and well-informed generation of laity in the Church's two millennia of history? Why, nothing more than the text of the Nicene Creed, that which is sung or recited every Sunday, by Catholics of all Rites of the Church. For over forty years, that Creed has been proclaimed in the language of the people in the Roman Mass. The very least that can be said, is that most of us have had enough time to mull it over.

Including two aggressively naive women who think this is all about them.

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