Bishop Curry in ‘America’
From “The Best and Worst of Times,” by Bishop Thomas J. Curry, an auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in the November 20 issue of America:
parish life, I find little evidence of the supposedly polarized church.
The pastoral conflicts that occupy me center on personnel, personality
conflicts and differences about programs, but not on ideological
issues. My experience of polarization arises from the disparity between
pastoral life and most of the Catholic commentary I read, which is
filled with a sense of failure, negativity and pessimism. Typically,
this views the time since the Second Vatican Council as one of missed
chances and restlessness in a dysfunctional church. Pastoral ministry
over the past four years has brought me an awareness of the unfolding
of the mystery of the people of God being guided in the most difficult
circumstances. By contrast, the dominant images from Catholic
commentary of the same period that have impressed themselves on my mind
are those of an infantilized people (The Liberation of the Laity, by Paul Lakeland), at sea (A People Adrift,
by Peter Steinfels), on a burning platform (a panelist at a Leadership
Roundtable on Church Management conference appropriated the metaphor
from Jack Welch of General Electric and applied it to the church).
Philip Jenkins, in The New Anti-Catholicism,
has pointed out that some Catholic commentators (specifically Maureen
Dowd, James Carroll, Eugene Kennedy, Anna Quindlen, Garry Wills and
Richard Sipe) write with the ferocity of the most ardent
anti-Catholics. Other Catholic writers, however, while they avoid such
invective, have actually subscribed to the anti-Catholic paradigm. This
held that Catholics could not be true Americans and that they had been
reduced by the bishops to ciphers incapable of independent thought. The
dominant academic interpretation of American Catholic history, one that
portrays the role for Catholic laity as limited to “pray, pay and
obey,” is itself a recycling of the anti-Catholic interpretation of
Catholicism that prevailed in the 19th and 20th centuries.
insularity of Catholic commentators renders them largely incapable of
locating Catholicism, past or present, within the larger American
context. Samuel P. Huntington in Who Are We? (2004), dealing
with national identity (in its review The New Yorker referred to it as
the “new nativism”), was certainly not writing from a Catholic
perspective. Yet he knew so little of Catholicism that he recommended
Hispanic immigrants become evangelical Protestants to assimilate into
America! Even had he been interested, he would have been hardpressed to
find a guide to the role that Catholicism—the largest single religious
group in the United States since 1850—has played in the development of
American culture or society.
Philip Hamburger’s Separation of Church and State
(2002), the most significant statement on American church-state
relations since the writings of John Courtney Murray, S.J., was
reviewed sparingly and received little notice in Catholic academia.
Although his enormously well-researched book argued exhaustively that
the phrase “separation of church and state” owed its prominence
primarily to anti-Catholic sentiment, Hamburger did not even make it
into the index of the two-volume report of the extensive three-year
project American Catholics in the Public Square (2004).
It’s a wide-ranging, unwieldy piece, of which much can be said, but I’d like to get people reading it first. Click here to view the whole thing.