Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Canon 212 and constructive criticism

Throughout the Church's long history, God has used the laity - the People of God - to keep clerics on the straight and narrow path through constructive criticism. During his long and important pontificate, Pope John Paul II of happy memory regularly reminded the Church of this fact and often spoke of the right of the laity to engage in such constructive criticism.

The fact that the Church allows (and even encourages) constructive criticism is easily proven. The Code of Canon Law (specifically Canon 212) states that:

"The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at time the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons."

Notice, however, the important qualifier at the end of this passage: ..."with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons." This point is missed by some. For example, a woman who writes a Catholic Blog covering issues in and around the Archdiocese of Boston seems to have forgotten this. On a regular basis this woman is critical of nearly everything Archbishop O'Malley (just appointed a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI) does. In the process, she refers to His Eminence as "Sean" and many of the priests within the Archdiocese by their first or last names and omits the title "Reverend" or "Father."

The saints often engaged in constructive criticism when there was a real need for such criticism. However, they were never disrespectful toward their pastors within the Church. Saint Catherine of Sienna was one such saint. While she fought against the vice of homosexuality within the ranks of the clergy in her own day (and spoke out on many other legitimate issues), not once did she refer to Pope, Cardinal or Bishop by their first name and criticize nearly everything they said or did. To put it simply, they knew their place. They understood that reverence was due to their pastors even when they disagreed with those pastors on certain points and pastoral practices.

Getting back to that woman who refers to His Eminence Sean O'Malley as "Sean" and whose criticism is often far from being constructive. Referring to her Blog and the little movement she seems to have inspired, she often writes "This is not a cult." One has to wonder why she feels the need to post this disclaimer on a regular basis. Perhaps her conscience is rebelling at her own tactics.

It is very easy to succumb to delusions of grandeur as a Catholic who engages in criticism of the Church and her hierarchy. This is why all such criticism should be constructive and should demonstrate a reverence toward pastors. Once a Catholic begins to believe in his or her own importance (and this usually results from a lack of humility and an insufficient prayer life), he or she begins to believe that he or she is on a special "mission" to correct the Church's hierarchy on nearly every point and that the Church's pastors are not as "deserving" of respect as the Church's teaching and Canon Law would tell us. This attitude is often accompanied by wild and exaggerated claims by the person who has succumbed to pride and a distorted view of reality which are designed to impress others and to build a cult of personality around themselves. The woman referred to above asserts that some 20,000 readers view her Blog every month.

It is important to pray everyday for the Holy Spirit's seven gifts. If we do, He will breathe His Holy Fire into us and fill us with the fortitude we need to engage in constructive criticism and the Cardinal virtue of prudence to do so with due reverence toward pastors and with a view toward promoting the common good.

Until next time,
God love you
Paul Anthony Melanson


Anonymous said...

Paul....beautifully put. The Church needs to remain open to constructive criticism. It is the same with individuals. When we start to think that we have "all the answers" or that the Church "couldn't survive" without our detailed analysis of nearly every issue under the sun, we are puffed up with ourselves and need to return to the path of humility and penance.

DominiSumus said...

Criticism in the proper form can be a good thing, however what I hear on the radio and in print is nothing but an attack.

I agree with your post.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the post as well. domini is right in saying that there is too much negativity in the print and electronic media. The need to remain positive and to keep criticism constructive is a necessity if we are to maintain community.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Thank you domini and dave for your thoughts. I too agree with domini when she says that there is too much "attacking" taking place within the media - both secular and Church-related.

It is easy to demonize others. Much more difficult to consider the points they raise. Of course, occasionally it is necessary to attack fraudulent ideas, teachings and concepts when these are in opposition to the Magisterial teaching. But St. Augustine's rule should be our norm: "Kill the error, love the one who errs."

God love you both,

Anonymous said...

The blogger Paul is referring to wrote these words on Saturday, February 25, 2006:

"The article goes on to skewer Lennon because he applied the doctrine - a perfect example of how promoting Sean (who is at odds when on the rare occasion Lennon tries to discipline with the Magisterium) affects righteous actions.

Did you notice how the Globe is running PR for Sean now?

All of a sudden, their all friends."

And this:

"You men who call yourselves holy - go pay your respects so the Boston Globe can run a picture of all you and Sean and hold it up to the Holy See.."

Even when she is making a valid point, her tactics are suspect and her attitude profoundly unChrist-like.

One also has to wonder just what she means by "You men who call yourselves holy"? Why are only men referred to in that statement? One can easily get the impression that she is anti-male.

Anonymous said...

Carol McKinley, the unbalanced individual Paul was referring to, has called John Ansley (a devoted husband, father and cradle Catholic who is loyal to the Magisterium) a "local lunatic" because he privately expressed concerns about her erratic behavior and the fact that she may have hijacked Paul's former Blog The Ultramontane.

In a recent post, Ms. McKinley once again show us who the real "lunatic" might be:

"No clause in canon 212 exempts the words, deeds, policies, or omissions of a pope himself from such criticism. Moreover, by affirming the right of the faithful "to make their views known to others of Christ’s faithful" as well as to the Church’s pastors, this canon makes clear that public as well as private criticism can be legitimate.

This isn't a cult."

As Paul has demonstrated so well, constructive criticism which shows reverence for the Church's pastors may indeed be legitimate. But not the psychotic ramblings of a woman who has made herself a substitute magisterium.

Ms. McKinley has attacked Archbishop O'Malley's office. She writes, "If they are putting forward O'Malley as legitimate, knowing what we know (and I know the Pope does) then the whole thing is a lie and I have no idea whatsoever what else they have or are continuing to lie about. The theft of our religion, the children being violated, the corruption is being operated right out of the Papal office."

Carol McKinley is a woman who regularly attacks the office of Archbishop O'Malley and is now even attacking the Papal office.

I would urge faithful Catholics to avoid this woman, her blog, and anyone who is associated with her.

Thank you,
Marie Tremblay

DominiSumus said...

Wow Marie, I have not run into her blog yet. She sounds like a very bitter person.

I will be praying for her conversion.

Anonymous said...

She sure is ds. But there is more than bitterness. There is a level of pride which is satanic.

Marie Cecile said...

Dear Paul,

God seeks us in all who we encounter daily. Logically we should have reverence for all since we are all made in His image. Unfortunately it does not happen. When we go to Church it is for Jesus whom we worship not the one in His stead, he merits reverence for acting in His place while bringing us ever closer to our Lord. Just as we revere our Pope, for he is the closest human alive that is next to Jesus as one whom the keys were given to act in His stead. In my humble opinion.

God love you,
Marie Cecile

PS Thank you for sharing your pictures with us, and your smile too. :)

Anonymous said...

Carol McKinley is well-known for her ugly rhetoric and slander of those she disagrees with. And her disrespect toward the Papal office and toward Archbishop (just appointed Cardinal) O'Malley, is uncharitable at best.

Anonymous said...

It would seem that McKinley is at it again. In her latest post at "Magisterial Fidelity," she refers to Cardinal Mahoney as "baloney Mahony." Now, I am not a fan of His Eminence by any stretch of the imagination, but the lack of reverence for pastors which McKinley regularly exhibits is appalling.

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