Now that the London Olympics are over, we can focus again on the Vatican games. Three LCWR comments from this past week still echo in my head…the voices of Burke, Campbell, and Appleby.

“How in the world can these consecrated religious who have professed to follow Christ more closely . . . be opposed to what the Vicar of Christ is asking? This is a contradiction,” Cardinal Raymond Burke, leader of the Vatican’s Supreme Court, told Catholic TV station EWTN. “If it can’t be reformed, then it doesn’t have a right to continue.”


Cardinal Burke

“They’re saying it’s only about doctrine. But for us, the dialogue is about reflecting on our lives out of Gospel. Theology in our view is about exploration and discovery. They think that’s wrong. It’s like cutting the heart out of who we are,” said Sister Simone Campbell, a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington who this summer led nuns on a well-publicized tour called “Nuns on the Bus.”


Sister Campbell

“Both sides in the standoff speak of ‘dialogue,’ but they seem to mean different things,” said R. Scott Appleby, a historian at Notre Dame. Leading bishops “understand dialogue as a conversation about how best to implement the pope’s vision of religious life and witness. The sisters mean an open-ended give-and-take that is more of a mutual discernment of where the Spirit is leading the Church at a given moment in history.”


Professor Appleby


And a Greenleaf reflection about the term “Vicar of Christ.” The term has a long and problematic history. In the third century, in the epistles of Tertullian the term meant the Holy Spirit. Later it meant pastors of parishes. When the papacy became a powerful monarchy in the later Middle Ages, it was adopted by popes as a self-descriptive term for their authoritative power. Currently the
Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that all bishops are vicars of Christ……..

Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 asked that the term be used to describe him. The 2012 edition of the Annuario Pontificio (the official Vatican directory of the world’s bishops) gives “Vicar of Jesus Christ” as the second official title of the Pope, the first being “Bishop of Rome.”

Jesus of course never knew the term. In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus says:
“I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me.”

So in fact we are all branches…..or all vicars. Hmmmmm ….

Then Cardinal Burke would have to say: “Sister Campbell is vicar of Christ on earth.”

4 thoughts on “Contemporary Catholic Voices

  1. “If it can’t be reformed, then it doesn’t have a right to continue.”

    What delightful irony!
    Especially when illustrated with the outfit and a hat even Bella Abzug wouldn’t have worn.
    The other day a friend asked me what a “cappa magna” was, and the first thing that came to mind was, “Do you remember Princess Diana’s wedding dress in 1981 with the long train? Picture that in scarlet red!”

  2. Love the lady in the matching wrap and hat. Did she wear matching gloves and pumps? And such a pretty lace dress just peeking out so coquetishly! I wonder where she shops?

  3. The hierarchs probably do favor self-discovery, discovery, exploration and reflection about doctrine, but limit the privilege to themselves. The rest of us, it appears, are limited in their minds and hearts to “pray, pay and obey”.
    For the most part, the rest of us disagree with said limitation/s. Hence, the conflict. Conflict, charitable conflict, can be enlightening. Without charity, we’ve got a fight on our hands. Good News: I experienced charitable conflict yesterday when the retired priest who was the Celebrant consented to eliminating the dragon from the first reading on the Feast of the Assumption. That reading had given me nightmares when I was pregnant. So glad to be without it.

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