NFTU: Dr. J. J. Overbeck said of the course of Roman ‘Catholicism’: “The poisonous seed is sown, what may the plant, the full grown plant be?” Of course, over an hundred years later we see what has become of it.
La Civilta Cattolica has published an essay by its deputy editor, Father Giancarlo Pani, which seeks to reopen the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood. This journal, published by the Jesuits but vetted by the Vatican Secretariat of State, has long been a means of communicating lines of thought which reigning popes consider important. Therefore, the kindest way to describe this particular article is “peculiar”. It is, in fact, peculiar in at least three serious ways: politically, administratively, and theologically.
When I say “politically peculiar”, I am applying the idea of political correctness to the Church. The question here is what sort of “political atmosphere” prevails in the Vatican under Pope Francis. What viewpoints do the subtle clues of the powerful indicate are open for discussion, and what viewpoints are discouraged to the point of exiling those who articulate them? We already know, for example, that it is considered very good form to lament the “rigidity” of all who choose to emphasize that adherence to Catholic doctrine and moral teaching is required of us by Jesus Christ.
This consideration of the “political atmosphere” is relevant to La Civilta Cattolica because of its unique status. Since its establishment in Rome in 1850, the journal has served as a kind of unofficial voice of the Holy See. It is the only periodical in the world for which each issue is examined and revised as needed by Vatican personnel, and each issue must be approved prior to publication. At the very least, then, the current understanding within the Vatican is that challenging established Catholic teaching is not frowned upon. Such challenges are not the kind of thing that gets a writer into trouble.