As ever, there’s plenty going on in the world of religion that might merit a bit of coverage here. I expect the more intellectually inclined readers wouldn’t mind a reflection on B16′s lecture on Duns Scotus, but, while Duns is quite interesting, I’m not going to do that. I expect the more satirically inclined readers wouldn’t mind a skit on the promised “liturgical entertainment” for the Papal Mass at Hyde Park, which sounds absolutely ghastly, but all I have to say on that matter is that Mgr Andy Summersgill has obviously been spending far too much time watching Britain’s Got Talent – either that or he’s been on holiday in Austria. No, let’s take a different tack.
What I want to do is reflect a little on the appointment of Cardinal Marc Ouellet as the new prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, why it matters, and perhaps illustrate a thing or two along the way.
Firstly, there’s a general political issue which is nicely brought out by John Allen, in that B16 has confirmed his tendency to give big Curia jobs to theologians rather than diplomats; Ouellet, a distinguished theology professor before becoming primate of Canada, replacing the Curial lifer Giovanni Battista Re, who has been at the Vatican since 1963, draws a line under this. Perhaps more to the point is the Pontiff filling the most important jobs with people who share his view of the road forward – the strengthening of a deeper and richer Catholic identity as a counterpoint to the secular world, which is the concept that ties together both the liturgical reform and the various crackdowns on internal corruption. The big names in the Curia – Bertone at State, Levada at the CDF, Ouellet at the CfB, Kurt Koch at Christian Unity, Fisichella at the spanking new Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation – are far from being identikit, but all are basically hermeneutic-of-continuity men.
In the current Tablet, that reliable bellwether, Rome correspondent Bobbie Mickens, explains:
…Ouellet spent most of his priesthood as a professor and rector in Sulpician seminaries in Canada and Colombia. In Rome, he earned a licentiate in philosophy at the University of St Thomas (Angelicum) and a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the Gregorian University. He is considered an expert on the writings of the late theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, with whom Fr Joseph Ratzinger founded the theological journal Communio.Bobbie, of course, says this like it’s a bad thing. You can almost see the hot tears streaming down his wee face. This may get even worse for Bobbie – rumour has it that Ouellet is of the opinion that, in the Extraordinary Form, Communion should be received kneeling and on the tongue.
So why does this appointment matter so much, and why were so many hierarchs having conniptions at the rumour that Australian strongman George Pell would get the job? Let’s backpedal slightly, and go into one of our crash courses on how ecclesiastical politics works, in terms of bishops and their hiring and firing...