Were it not so tragic, the irony of it would be hilarious. Now, when even the Kremlin has learned that closed authoritarian systems are inherently self-destructive, we have the spectacle of the Vatican telling the American bishops to silence dissent and impose authority. The Pope is badly served by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Silencing Father Charles Curran and others will not stifle the spirit of an honest search for truth.
The Dutch, American, and other Catholics, who no longer believe that an authoritarian church is either good theology or good institutional policy, are moving toward a critical moment in history. The choice is becoming clear; either the Vatican makes the same courageous and essential leap as did Mikhail Gorbachev and his supporters into glasnost and an open and democratic structure, or those committed to freedom and equal human dignity will move on into the 21st Century and leave behind a pathetic remnant church stuck in the pathology of the dictatorship of a bygone era.
A great evil was begun when Augustine used the civil power of the state to silence those who saw a different truth than he saw. Coerced conformity is an insult to the spirit of Christ and to God’s children today.
Pope John and Vatican II were a breath of fresh and holy air. May they be revived before it is too late.