In an article in the Tidings by Father Richard P. McBrien.
I published an article almost 13 years ago in America magazine (8/22/92) entitled, "Conflict in the Church: Redefining the Center." I may be presumptuous in saying so, but I believe that the article is even more relevant today.
It began with a reference to a familiar Scholastic axiom that truth is found in the middle, somewhere between two extremes. Many Catholics in the middle-aged and senior generations heard that axiom frequently repeated in their seminary, college and university classes, where they were admonished to always look for truth and virtue in the center, while avoiding the extremes.
Well it doesn’t mater how many times this axiom was muttered it is pretty much without value. As Dietrich Von Hildebrand use to say is that truth does not lie between two extremes it transcends them. Sometimes the truth is both extremely radical and surprising. The measure of whether something is true is not the measure of its extremity but the measure of the fact that it indeed is true. If we use the example of women’s ordination we could state that at one pole it is not possible and the other pole that it is. So what would be the centrist position between yes and no? To take a firm stance on maybe? Have you ever heard of a martyr described as a great centrist or perhaps St. Paul described that way?
The center that we should seek is the center of God’s will.
In a later interview with an Italian journalist in 1989, John Paul II returned to the topic of polarization, insisting that his many trips around the world were designed in part to prevent a "confrontation" between the two wings of the church.
Significantly, the pope identified the right wing with the schismatic (and subsequently excommunicated) Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and those who are "afraid of change as represented by the council." On the left wing he placed those who "already hoped for a Third Vatican Council or who are guilty of reducing everything to the particular [that is, local] church."
It is funny reading Fr. McBrien using the word schismatic as if it was something bad.
Canon Law #751 says "Schism is the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him."
After all he was one of the signers of Fr. Curran’s letter that dissented from Pope’s Paul VI encyclical Humunae Vitae when the Pope clearly reiterated the Church’s teaching that contraception is sinful. Submitting to the Holy Father only on issues you agree with is not submission. And of course he doesn’t mention the case of Fr. Tissa Belasuriya who was also excommunicated (though later reconciled) for his heterodox views. In the latest This Rock magazine they have an excellent article on Fr. McBrien, if you don’t already subscribe (and you really should) you will have to wait three months till it is released on the internet.
The pope offered no examples of left-wing Catholics, but if the late Archbishop Lefebvre and his followers constitute the right wing of the Church, would that not mean that Opus Dei, the Legionaries of Christ, Crisis, Communio and First Things magazines, as well as most of the bishops appointed and/or promoted by John Paul II occupy the center?
And if such individuals, groups, and publications are in the center of the Catholic Church, it would also follow that the late Cardinals Joseph Bernardin and John Dearden and such bishops as John Quinn and the late James Malone — all former presidents of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — as well as the Catholic Theological Society of America, the drafters and supporters of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ pastoral letters on peace and the economy, and Commonweal and America magazines are left-wing and, therefore, out of the Catholic mainstream.
Again the use of center of the Church is worthless is on one side you put schismatic dissenters and on the other end you have progressive dissenter who are virtually in schism. The only true parallel is that between the left and right wings of a bird lies its heart and its the living breathing heart of the Church that we need to be in. Though fathers assertion that by this definition that some bishops and America and Commonweal magazine our out of the Catholic mainstream is true.
Some genuine centrists are more liberal than conservative. Others are more conservative than liberal. But both centrist groups — the center-left and the center-right — are basically supportive of Vatican II. They understand and accept its main teachings as the council’s majority understood those teachings, and they embrace the shift in understanding the nature and mission of the church which the council brought about.
Catholics of the center-left and the center-right differ only on the pace of change and the details of implementation. The center-left, for example, favors a much quicker time-line for a change in the discipline of clerical celibacy and in the church’s official stance on the ordination of women.
Catholics of the center-right (which includes the shrinking band of so-called moderate bishops, many of whom were appointed by Pope Paul VI) prefer a more cautious course, stressing continuity more than change, while not opposing the two.
This real Catholic center needs to be re-claimed.
Again those who are pushing for women’s ordination are not just left of center they are advocates of heresy. What needs to be reclaimed is adherence to Catholic truth and not positions based on political leanings. It is our belief on the truth of the Church that should influence our political decisions and not the other way around.