Limits of Catholic Cardinal's free expresson

Could (in real world terms) a US Cardinal tell the Pope, point blank, in blunt terms that the was out of touch and needed to get a clue and still keep his position as Cardinal?

As in most hierarchical organizations, it would pretty much depend on how Cardinal Hypothetical went about it–basicaly, how noisy he was about it.

Think of the Church as a large and somewhat rigid corporation. In most any corporation, speaking generally, I’m comfortable laying good money that there’s some oft-vicious infighting and disagreements in the upper ranks (I bet being a fly on the wall in some of the HP and/or Compaq closed board meetings in the past year or so would be…interesting). However, that infighting is not going to be openly displayed for the stock employees (the laity, in the strained analogy here).

Card. Hypothetical can probably express a great deal of conflict for the Pope–in non-noisy, closed-meeting ways, and maintain good job-security. If, however, he starts voicing that conflict, say in sermons to his flock (department), you don’t need writing on a wall to see disciplinary action of some sort coming down the pike.

Too many variables.

What issue?
How polite?
Personal attack? Political attack? Theological attack?

If a cardinal demanded that the pope change his opinion on doctrine, the cardinal might find himself sent off on a retreat to ponder the error of his ways.

Cardinals do tell the pope that he is wrong on issues every once in a while.

The reason that most people are not aware of this is that there is a very clear official language that is used within the hierarchy (not much different than the diplomatic language in which a “strong protest” means one thing and a “serious objection” means something quite different). Guys who get to be cardinal have been long coached in this language and they are unlikely to step outside the protocols of that language to make a point.

(For one thing, the guys who choose to speak more bluntly tend to not get promoted above auxiliary bishop or get their own diocese.

There are different ways to punish church leaders. When Archbishop John Deardon publicly supported a number of the Vatican II reforms, the politicians in Rome simply put him at the bottom of the list for getting assistance. At a time when the New York and Chicago had been divided into multiple diocese so that Detroit had almost the largest number of Catholics in any diocese, they left Deardon with only two auxiliary bishops (when the other diocese had four or more), and made him wait an additional 10 years to be elevated to cardinal. As soon as he retired, Detroit got three more bishops and his successor, the conservative Szoka, was elevated to Cardinal immediately.)

Consequently, the players in the crimson robes tend to have had all their rebellion extracted before they got to the top. As I noted, there are periodic challenges to Vatican decisions, but they are couched in terms of the utmost respect, with no bold pronouncements of disagreement.

Well that sounds painful. So when the Catholic Church possibly needs to change from whence is to come the bold and fearless leadership necessary to push for new ways of thinking?

Well, there are those who say that the church never does change.

Actually, change goes on all the time. Vatican II happened because after 400 years of retrenchment (and massive philosophical movements in the secular world), a lot of people had spent sixty years or so considering different views of the church. One of them became John XXIII, who was not looking to start a revolution, but simply to clarify the expression of the church’s beliefs in the mid-20th century. The ideals of Trent no longer adequately expressed the role of the Church in a world dominated by republican governments, racism, the conflict between capitalism and socialism, and the vast changes in philosophical and scientific thought subsequent to the Enlightenment and John XXIII wanted a council to restate that role. Once the council had made its declarations, the various factions in the church then began to wrangle over the interpretations of those declarations. That continues today with the more conservative wing currently holding more power.

Now there are other factors coming into play. The church was very successful in its missionary activity through the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries at the same time that much of Europe began to become disaffected by religion. Consequently, we are liable to be looking at the last generation of the European-dominated church. However much the current hierarchy selects “conservative” successors, those successors will undoubtedly think differently than the current crew. (The discussions may not take the form of “liberal” or “progressive” vs “conservative” ideas, but the ideas and attitudes will be based on assumptions that differ from the current ones as more African, Asian, and South American leaders make it into the hierarchy.)

It may be another couple of hundred years before there is another General Council that appears as revolutionary as Vatican II, but the church will continue to change.

This was made clear to me when I read the Pope’s book Crossing The Threshold of Hope. Every point was based on one or another of the “position papers” promulgated by the Church over the centuries. It was then that I realized that the Pope and the College of Cardinals colectively and individually aren’t free. They are tightly constrained by the 2000 year precedent that forms their philosphy.

My impression is the the Pope is “first among equals” and neither he nor any other cardinal can step outside the constraints of the doctrine, whatever it happens to be.

It appears Roger Mahoney is planning to do just that.

[Ricki Lake]
Go Roger…Go Roger…Go Roger… :wink:
[/Ricki Lake}

There’s another one : naming a bishop “bishop in partibus”, which means he’s still bishop but of a place where there isn’t a diocese anymore (usually some town which used to be christian under the roman empire). Either it’s a way to elevate to the rank of Bishop some administrator of the Curia who has no intent to actually governing a diocese, either at the contrary, it a way to strip a “dissenting” bishop of any responsability he could have. I believe a bishop, being considered a successor of the apostoles, can’t loose his dignity (or whatever it is called) hence it’s a way around.

Outside of the following case, I have never heard of the technicality described by clairobscur being employed. I would be interested if there are more examples.

A catholic page on this topic also notes