Two reports seen upon the ether in the last 24 hours have made for depressing reading. The first, and most alarming, is the report of a letter signed by one third of German speaking, Catholic professors of theology. Protect the Pope has perhaps the most pertinent comment on this. Laodicea's reaction - I am left speechless - probably reflects my own, though the comments to that post also make instructive reading.
One can perhaps see this as an example of crisis of faith as far as those engaged in the Catholic theological enterprise are concerned, a crisis of the faith of theologians. But, if the comments to Laodicea's post are an indication, and the likely support for the said theologicans that one would find if one conducted a straw poll in an average parish this weekend, then we also have a crisis of catechesis among the ordinary faithful.
The second report, which appears less alarming, is that of the call by priests in Ireland for their bishops to "delay by five years" (in real terms, stop) the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal. A Catholic Herald report covers this, though the comments to it are not all helpful. What is worrying about this report is the grounds that it appears to give for opposing the new translation, grounds which seem to reflect the same sort of agenda that underlies the German memorandum. Worth noting on this second report, though, that the call by the said priests for the bishops to begin consultation passes over in silence the years of drafting and consultation that have gone in to preparing the new translation ...
I do not have exceptional political experience, though I do have some. And that experience leads me to recognise that letters with multiple signatures are not taken that seriously by politicians who receive them. When someone signs a letter that has been hawked round and put in front of them to sign, it does not always mean very much. Sometimes they haven't even read it before they have signed it (my political experience does include a rather spectacular example of this, though I suspect that university professors would have the intelligence to read something before signing it). Similarly, membership organisations might well adopt a policy on the basis of the views of their active membership without it necessarily representing the views of all their subscribing membership. So one should perhaps not give the two reports more weight than they really have.
The establishing of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in England, and the prospect of Ordinariate's in Australia and Canada, does, I think, contribute two useful contexts. The first is that it is the Catechism of the Catholic Church that is given as the measure, the rule of faith, for those members of the Church of England who join the Catholic Church in membership of an Ordinariate. This is, of course, a rule of faith that extends throughout the Catholic Church, and is presented precisely as such in the Apostolic Constituion Fidei Depositum that accompanied the publication of the Catechism. Used to judge the letter of the German theologians I expect that it will readily show that to be the dissent that it is.
The catechetical and theological crisis though arises because of the lack of the sense of the Catechism, or of similar teaching, as being authoritative for members of the Catholic Church. We need a restoration of the sense of a rule of faith handed down in the Church - not in an authoritative and fideistic manner, but after the manner of obedient acceptance in faith, hope and charity. The Ordinariate can highlight this for us.
But, if the Ordinariates do allow for married priests, albeit with qualification, and a slightly more synodical style of governance, I do think it is legitimate to ask the question: why cannot this also be allowed in the more common diocesan structures? Unfortunately, the German theologians have mixed this question with clear dissent.