Only Vatican can change the Catholic Church

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On Friday, POLSIS’s Gëzim AlpionLecturer in Sociology, was interviewed by the Slovakian newspaper PRAVDA on recent developments in the Vatican. While there is no English translation of the newspaper article, the editor Andrej Matisak has uploaded details of those he interviewed on his blog.  Gëzim’s contribution is reproduced here:

Andrej Matisak: We have seen some strong actions by the Holy See in the recent past. The papacy reprimanded American nuns for their book on sexuality and there was very strong aftermath of the Vati–leaks scandal. How can one read this? Is this a push for more centralization of power in the Church, a demonstration of power maybe? Or is it more a coincidence and nothing special happens [sic]?

Gëzim Alpion: I take it you are referring to Sr Margaret A. Farley’s book ‘Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics’. The Holy See’s reaction towards this publication is hardly surprising given that the author apparently ‘preaches’ a kind of morality which is not compatible with the orthodox version of Christianity ‘copyrighted’ and fiercely defended by the Vatican. The Vatican’s reaction in this case is of interest because it reveals once again this institution’s uneasy relationship with certain communities of American nuns, whose numbers have reduced drastically since the mid 1960s partly because of what American nuns perceive as the Vatican’s unwillingness to mend some of its ‘misogynistic’ views and failure to engage with them in a constructive way. American nuns have traditionally been more vocal in their ‘dissent’. The Church needs perhaps to engage more with its female missionaries especially in view of the fact that its 800,000 nuns outnumber priests by two to one. Whether the Church can afford for much longer to ‘castigate’ any Catholic, including nuns, as ‘outsiders’ because they express unorthodox views remains to be seen. As for the Vati-leaks, one wonders if secular institutions would have reacted much differently in similar situations.

Andrej Matisak: Joseph Ratzinger was considered very conservative even before he became Benedict XVI. But what about the Church? Do you think that Catholic Church is becoming more liberal and maybe that worries the Vatican and propels the action?

Gëzim Alpion: The Vatican IS the Catholic Church. This institution is always run by conservatives whose main challenge remains the handling of the Church’s uneasy relationship with modernity. The greatest reforming popes have been conservatives at heart. In this respect, Pope Benedict XVI is hardly any different from his ‘revolutionary’ predecessor, John Paul II. If, indeed, the Church becomes more ‘liberal’, for any liberalizing attempt to have a chance of success it must emanate from within and have the full support of the Vatican. When it comes to the fundamental tenets of the Catholic faith, however, as in the past, they remain beyond reforming.

Andrej Matisak: Pope named German Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A strong conservative, Muller is however being connected with the theology of liberation, which was strongly criticised by both John Paul II. and Benedict. How can you explain this?

Gëzim Alpion: While the Church has distanced itself from liberation theology, this institution cannot do without the poor and any leading Church figure with an interest in their condition cannot be bad for the Vatican. No matter how ‘open-minded’ and as such ‘problematic’ Archbishop Müller is to his critics, they have no reasons to fear him. After all, Müller and Ratzinger have been close to each other before the later became a pontiff. Whatever differences they may have, the current Pope and the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are committed to promoting the unity of Christ. Müller’s appointment is perhaps a timely compromise.


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