"... you have been for me and continue to be a real model of hope".
Fr. Thomas Rosica, addressing ex-priest/dissident theologian, Professor Gregory Baum.
Professor Gregory Baum
The words quoted above are from the Witness video interview that aired October 11, 2012 on Salt and Light Television (Canada's "Catholic channel of hope"). This post is about the truth. Albeit it involves persons - for truth is actualized via the person - but it is not an ad hominem attack. Nor should it be construed as such. It is, to adopt a quote from Msgr. Vincent Foy, "a search for the truth" about the identity of S+ L. It is to ask questions about a public interview, which, as a result, has resulted in confusion and scandal; a serious questioning of the Catholic identity of S + L.
“What is taught by the Church on contraception is not one of the matters that may be freely disputed by theologians. To teach the contrary is the equivalent to leading the conscience of spouses into error”.
A little background. Back in the late 1960s, then Fr. Gregory Baum (having achieved some fame as a peritus at the Council) achieved far greater public notice in Canada with his opposition to Humanae vitae. Fr. Baum was amongst a number of well-known Canadian theologians who rebelled against the Pope with regard to Catholic morality (c.f. Foy, 1997). Msgr. Vincent Foy would eventually refer to the former priest as an "arch-dissenter" (Foy, p.33, 1997), a man who had inflicted incalculable harm on the Church in Canada, particularly as a theological advisor to the dissenting Winnipeg Statement. Regarding the 1968 attack and undermining of Humanae vitae, Msgr. Foy wrote: 'other signs of impending rebellion came from various dissident groups and from Fr. Gregory Baum, writing on August 1 in the Toronto Globe and Mail that "Catholics may follow their consciences" and that the Church could well be mistaken as it was not a case of infallible teaching' (Foy, pp.12-13). The rebellion continued in the Church since the issuance of the encyclical. Indeed, given wide spread dissent, the opposition of dissident theologians, the silence of priests in preaching and teaching on the sacredness of the marital act and the illicitness of contraception, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith once again, in 1988, issued a statement on its evils. It is beyond this post to discuss Professor Baum's view of the Church, or his constantly evolving theology with respect to what is faith (immanentism), the authority of the Church, women as "priests" etc. It is enough to know that he was and remains a dissident in matters of faith and morals.
"Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church"?
Much has been, and will continue to be written and discussed on the internet about the S+L interview. Fr. Rosica, in an attempt to quell the rising chorus of criticism, responded in a blog by critiquing Mr. Michael Voris. The blog entry was a serious miscalculation as it raised more questions without answering any (the combox being closed after a strong reaction against the Rosica-Baum interview). The fact is, the controversy is not about ex-Fr. Baum's being a peritus, nor is it - contrary to what Fr. Rosica may write - about Mr. Voris. It is about what actually was said in the interview. Fr. Rosica did, in fact, admit this: "Let those who have eyes and ears to see and hear view the entire interview and not base judgments on others’ interpretation and distortion of my WITNESS interview with Professor Baum". We agree totally. As such, keeping in mind Professor Baum's long history of dissent (e.g. Dominus Jesus), and with the mind of the Church, let us review a number of gravely disturbing statements made in this interview.
At the commencement of the interview, Fr. Rosica addressed him as follows:
At the commencement of the interview, Fr. Rosica addressed him as follows:
"I've certainly admired very much your theology, your writings; but also your love of the Church, your love of Christ, and you help to keep alive - not only the spirit of the Second Vatican Council - but the authentic teaching of the Council".
After a brief discussion of contemporary Catholicism and the rise of a return to orthodoxy, Fr. Rosica commented:
"... many of those who are on the front lines - the crusaders - of the orthodoxy today (I would call it a pseudo-orthodoxy) are among the most unhappy and sad and angry ..."
Developing from the discussion on the point of orthodoxy, Baum said:
"I don't think that we need this enormous unanimity about everything in the Church... I think we are united in the Creed; we're united in the kind of vision that we have of the world, and we work together. But this kind of unanimity - you know - elements, doctrines that are quite removed from the Scriptures - I don't really think this is such a good formula".
As the interview concluded - after having heard Professor Baum speak negatively about unity in the Faith [which is nothing but liberal-protestantism]; after Baum had just stated that the Church teaches doctrines not found in Sacred Scripture [ again, classical protestantism !!], Fr. Rosica addressed Baum thus:
"... you remain a faithful, deeply devoted Catholic; you love Jesus, the Church, the Eucharist".
What are we to make of all this? On the surface, this interview seems to portray Fr. Rosica as a man who leads with his emotions, not his intellect. While it is true that Pope Benedict can maintain a friendly relationship with Hans Kung, he is, nevertheless, aware of the theological differences between them. Fr. Rosica obviously has some positive feelings for Gregory Baum with whom he is a personal friend, and there is nothing wrong with that. Could it be that he seems to be incapable of separating his feelings from the intellectual content of Baum's position? Might Fr. Rosica actually disapprove of Professor Baum's dissident theology? Or, does the problem with the interview go deeper?
Might it be Fr. Rosica approves of Baum's theology (or aspects of it)? Might it be Fr. Rosica's position that it is possible to believe that the Church teaches doctrines "removed from Scriptures" and yet be a "faithful, deeply devout Catholic"? If so, such a position is contrary to the teachings of the Church (c.f. commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem). With his concluding remarks (as quoted above) is Fr. Rosica implying that one may be a faithful Catholic yet hold the views that Professor Baum does? Let us be quite honest: this is the thought that many will be left with. Others may - at best - be utterly confused. Fr. Rosica has yet to explain himself. He has yet to explain how a dissenter from the Faith can be a "real model of hope" for a Catholic - indeed, for a Catholic priest. The Church is our Mother and Teacher, to reject Her is to reject Christ.
"...anyone who rejects propositions which are to be held definitively sets himself against the teaching of the Catholic Church." Ad Tuandem Fidem
This then begs the question: can Salt and Light continue to claim to be a "Catholic channel of hope", rooted in the teachings of the Church...? Tragically, unless Fr. Rosica explains himself, the answer is no.
The Witness "Team"
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: The moral norms of Humanae vitae and pastoral duty
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Ad Tuendam Fidem
Foy, V. (1997). Did Pope Paul VI approve the Winnipeg Statement? A search for the truth. Life Ethics Information Centre, Toronto.
Peters, E, N. (1998). A canonical look at Ad Tuendam Fidem