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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fr. Charles Belmonte on the dissent of Fr. Joaquin Bernas

(UPDATE: For Fr. Belmonte's second response to Fr. Bernas, see this:  Fr. Charles Belmonte versus "The Dissenter" (Fr. Joaquin Bernas): Round 2!)

From Fr. Belmonte's Facebook page:

Conversing with a Dissenter

(Sept. 10, 2012)

Or where the Dissenter went off the road

To have a meaningful dialog, it should be on a level ground.

The Dissenter uses the Philippine Inquirer as his sounding board. The Bishop of the Diocese of Antipolo, writing under the stationery of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, had to pay to publish an ad in the newspapers. Is this a symmetric dialog?

The Dissenter voices his “opinion;” the Bishop reminds him of the definitive pronouncements of the Church. The Dissenter can change his points of view as he wishes; the Bishop can only be faithful to the Truth. The dialog the Dissenter proposes is flawed because there is no “symmetry.” 

These two individuals are not at the same level. The Bishop is a part of the Magisterium of the Church (when he declares united with the pope and the College of Bishops, which is the case, please, check the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the pronouncements of the pope). The Dissenter is not a part of the Magisterium. If he were a sound theologian, he should talk “within” the Church, not “against” the definitive pronouncements of the Church. The theologian’s work should be “ecclesial” not “purely rationalist,” without any reference to Revelation or to the guidance of the Church. Pope John Paul II reminds us:

“It is necessary truly to distinguish the attitude of some theologians who, with spirit of collaboration and of ecclesial communion, present their difficulties and questions, from the attitude of some others, who publicly oppose the Magisterium; this should be qualified as ‘dissent.’ While the first attitude contributes positively to maturing the reflection on the deposit of the faith, the second one tends to institute a kind of counter-Magisterium, formulating positions and alternative ways of behavior for the believers” (On the Authority of the Church in Doctrinal Questions, Nov. 24, 1995).

If he is priest, he should know that priests are collaborators of the bishops. They must be attuned to their bishop “like the strings of a sitar are tuned up to compose a symphony,” not really engaging their spiritual father in a cacophony of despondency, as if the bishop were the enemy. Thus, any dialog should be between a Bishop and a Priest. Unless, of course, the Dissenter wants to force the Bishop to give up his condition (the full expression of ministerial priesthood), so that he can engage him on even terms. But, I muse, should the Bishops give up his being a bishop? or should not rather the Dissenter give up his opposition and critique to the definitive pronouncements of the Church? 

There could be a real dialog, nevertheless, between a Bishop and a Dissenter when the latter has some objection to the explanation given of the truth, I guess. But in this case, the dialog should be realistic, not illusory. It would be realistic if it were a dialog between a Bishop and a theologian, not between two buddies. Bishop Reyes is not “your buddy,” I am afraid; he is more like a spiritual father. The Dissenter may as well have challenged him to a public boxing match in Araneta Coliseum with Manny Pacquiao as referee, to see what theological view is the right one. I am sure the Dissenter would have won. If so, would it mean that contraception was no longer “intrinsically evil”?

This dialog should be “indoors” not making the ordinary people take sides (pro-Bishop or pro-Dissenter; pro-Catholic or anti-Catholic). The Christian faithful should not be invited to be “against” the unequivocally announced Magisterium of the Church. Well, yes, unless someone has been baptized “in the name of the Dissenter” instead of “In the Name of the Father…”

What is a theological question or a misunderstood theological issue should not be brought to the public forum, presumably to solve the question by public vote. 

The root of the problem, as I see it, is a certain inability from the Dissenter to understand the essence of the Magisterium of the Church, rejecting what is expressed in the Code of Canon Law, number 749 #2 and Catechism of the Catholic Church 891 and 892. The Dissenter sticks to the reductionist theory that “only what has been declared ex-cathedra” should be fully accepted by a Catholic. The Bishop is reminding him of what is expressed in the law of the Catholic Church.

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