An old heretic surfaces with an old idea...

Yesterday it was reported that Leonardo Boff, an infamous, liberal, eccentric ex-priest, has claimed that Pope Francis may grant a special request by the Brazilian bishops to allow married priests to resume their priestly ministry.

It seems the idea is intended in some way to address the devastating shortage of vocations in that country; Brazil has 140 million Catholics, but only 1,800 priests, which Boff correctly assesses to be a “catastrophe”.

Of course, the idiot answer is to increase the liberal momentum that has caused this erosion. Perhaps a more intelligent approach might be to look to countries who benefit from better ratios in this regard as I have alluded to here and here.

Some of you might be scratching your heads as to who this Boff character is. Well, you can read the CDF's opinion of him for yourself here. But I have blogged before about him in the context of ecumenism

Fundamentally, the flaw in Boff’s thinking is the thesis he promotes that Jesus Christ could not have conceived of any Church, much less have founded one. Rather he suggests that the early Church was born of a response to institutionalisation and pressure resulting from the loss of eschatological tension towards the immediate coming of the kingdom.

The resultant ecclesiology supposes that a universal Catholic Church could not therefore have existed, but rather individual local Churches, with different ministers, theologies and praxis. This idea has the wrong point of departure however, according to Ratzinger who places the unifying centre of the Church firmly within the sacrament of the Last Supper. It is through this sacrament that
"all who profess to be Christians can become one with him in a totally new way, so that Paul could designate this communion as being one body with Christ, as the unity of one body in the Spirit."— cf. Ratzinger, J., The Ecclesiology of Lumen Gentium.
The implications of this reality are a Church not conceived of and established by men, but created by the Holy Spirit and brought forth through the reality of Pentecost. This Church is manifest in the profession of faith, the sacraments and apostolic succession, thus the council intended not to introduce a form of ecclesiological relativism, but to acknowledge what a living miracle is the Church, spread across the four corners of the earth and present throughout history, always fragile (as Ratzinger puts it: “the Holy Spirit has continuously created her since Pentecost, in spite of being faced with every human failing, and sustains her in her essential identity.”) and yet always with us.

Boff's thinking is part of a group within the Church I have always found disturbing. They tend to deny any supernatural or metaphysical dimension to the faith and go to great lengths to rationalise Catholic belief. In doing so I believe they succeed only in stripping it of much of it's beauty and potential. They also place themselves firmly within an unsolvable paradox which clings to a "faith" in which it no longer believes.

For many, the relaxation of the ages old discipline of celibacy appears a quick fix for the problems of declining Church and ageing clergy. Certainly the very idea of requiring perpetual celibacy from the clergy seems odd to today’s secular society. However it is certainly worth pointing out that all other major denominations allow married clergy, and most are having difficulty attracting new vocations. Moreover, relaxing standards with regard to ordination leads to its' own difficulties.

So back to the Polish model then, where the priest- laity ratio is fantastic. How did they do it? How do they maintain it? They don't try and water down the faith, they teach it, they live it, they extol its' value. If I were in charge, this is where I would be starting. It might be a long haul, but it demonstrably works and is true to the great commission.

Meanwhile, in an interview with a German newspaper, Boff has claimed he was consulted on Laudato Si and that Pope Francis 'is one of us'.


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