Now live on the website, the new issue of Commonweal.
Among the highlights:
Kathleen Sprows Cummings on the “torturous” path to sainthood of Native American Kateri Tekakwitha, a process that took more than a century and that offers an “illuminating glimpse into American Catholic history”:
U.S. Catholics attributed their lack of a patron to a dearth not of holiness but of influence. They argued that the “modern” process of canonization, implemented in the seventeenth century, disadvantaged those Catholics living on the church’s periphery, far from its center of wealth and power. “Without monarchs or wealthy communities to undertake the long and often expensive investigations demanded at Rome,” one American Catholic grumbled, it was little wonder that no one north of the Rio Grande had ever even been proposed for canonization. One American priest, Rev. Edward McSweeny, suggested that the Vatican appoint a special group of cardinals to glorify the “hidden saints” of countries whose people were too poor to sponsor a cause.
There was no such simple remedy for the second obstacle U.S. Catholics saw thwarting them in their search for a native saint: anti-Catholicism in their own country. In seeking to elevate one of their own to the altars, North American Catholics would have to contend not only with a daunting and costly process but also with a Protestant supremacy that held them in contempt. Many outspoken anti-Catholics reserved special scorn for sainthood and viewed the prospect of an “American saint” as a travesty. In 1841, the politician and Presbyterian minister Robert Breckinridge had “beseech[ed] God” that “no American papist may ever be corrupt, debased, and infamous enough during his life, to be esteemed by Rome worthy of being a saint in her calendar after his death.”
And indeed, the 1884 petition on behalf of Tekakwitha set off warning bells in some Protestant circles. Recognizing that the United States was now a step closer to a canonized saint, the editors of the Methodist Review warned that if Catholic immigration continued apace, American Protestants would soon have to tolerate not only the canonization of “an inconspicuous Indian maiden” but also an abundance of U.S. saints drawn from among “the present superstitious masses of our country—[Catholics] of Irish or Italian extraction.”
Read it all here (subscription required).
Also, Matthew Ashley reviews Jacques Dupuis Faces the Inquisition, which “documents the travails and the courage of the late Jacques Dupuis, the Jesuit priest and theologian whose work on what he called ‘a Christian theology of religious pluralism’ drew scrutiny from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during the last decade of his life.” From the review:
…Dupuis’ approach to a theology of religious pluralism, while deemed insufficiently radical by many seminarians and theologians in India, was viewed in Rome as going too far. This negative reaction, first signaled by a 1992 book review of Jesus Christ at the Encounter of World Religions in Civiltà Cattolica, culminated in an investigation of Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism by the CDF that began in June 1998; three months later, Dupuis received a notification that his book contained “grave errors and doctrinal ambiguities on doctrines of divine and Catholic faith.” …
In response to the notification Dupuis composed and submitted almost two-hundred pages of text; seven months later, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger responded that Dupuis’ answers were considered inadequate “for preserving the doctrine of Catholic faith free from errors.” More questions were posed, which Dupuis answered with another sixty pages. There followed many months of silence; then, in September 2000, Dupuis was summoned to the offices of the CDF, where he was asked to sign a draft of a notification that asserted propositions to be affirmed and errors to be rejected—errors imputed to his book without quotations or page references. The signed notification would have been published simultaneously with the CDF’s own statement on the relationship between Christianity and other religions, Dominus Iesus. … The apparent goal was a potent one-two punch intended to warn off theologians, such as Michael Amaladoss, Peter Phan, and Paul Knitter, who went further than Dupuis was willing to go.
Dupuis found himself unable to sign. While he could agree to the positive statements he was required to affirm (noting, however, that they required further interpretation—with the implication that in so doing one could arrive at his theology) he noted that the alleged errors “either misrepresented what I wrote or interpreted it in a way that went against my intention and meaning.” The meeting ended in an impasse. A second draft, sent in December, stated its charges somewhat more temperately, downgrading “grave errors and ambiguities” to “grave ambiguities” and “ambiguous formulations or insufficient explanations” that could lead the reader into “erroneous opinions.” Reluctantly Dupuis agreed to sign, but included an explanation that his signature indicated he would later “have to take into account the text of the declaration Dominus Iesus and of the notification.” The CDF would have none of that, and when the signed notification was published in L’Osservatore Romano it included an additional paragraph that Dupuis never saw, specifying that in signing “the author committed himself to assent to the stated theses, and in his future theological activity and publications, to hold the doctrinal contents indicated in the notification.” Observing the difference between “take into account” and “assent” and “hold,” Dupuis reflected, in typically understated fashion, that this procedure was “of course, questionable.”
You can read the whole thing here (subscription required).
Also posted today, E. J. Dionne Jr. on how dissatisfaction and the erosion of engagement suggest there may be something “especially flawed” with our democracy:
Citizen dissatisfaction is hardly surprising in the wake of a deeply damaging economic downturn. That doesn’t make the challenge any less daunting. We should consider whether democracy itself is in danger of being discredited. Politicians might usefully disentangle themselves from their day-to-day power struggles long enough to take seriously their responsibility to a noble idea and the systems that undergird it.
Read the whole thing here.