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The new Catholic Common Ground

Liberal New York Times columnist Bill Keller and conservative Catholic League crusader Bill Donohue have found it -- in Wild Bill's latest book, "Why Catholicism Matters."As Keller (a self-described "collapsed Catholic," a nifty neological step beyond "lapsed" Catholic) puts it in his op-ed today about Bill D's thesis:

His [Donohue's] point: Quite frankly I believe, as Pope Benedict the XVIth said just before he became pope, that maybe a smaller church would be a better church.Much as I wish I could encourage the discontented, the Catholics of open minds and open hearts, to stay put and fight the good fight, this is a lost cause. Donohue is right. Summon your fortitude, and just go. If you are not getting the spiritual sustenance you need, if you are uneasy being part of an institution out of step with your conscience then go. The restive nuns who are planning a field trip to Rome for a bit of dialogue? Be assured, unless you plan to grovel, no one will be listening. Sisters, just go. Bill Donohue will hold the door for you.

So Bill and Bill have something in common with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has been running their ad telling Catholics "It's Time to Quit the Catholic Church." (Oh, and start sending your money to the FFRF instead...That ad space is expensive.)It is a truth universally acknowledged that opposite extremes will meet each other on the far side. This seems to be the case as well.I'll settle for that deeper, broader, more satisfying -- if crowded and complex and maddening -- Common Ground, thanks.


Commenting Guidelines

Bill Donohue is divorced? That surprises me.

He didn't say, "in effect, 'Do what I did leave the church or youre a troglodyte.'But YOU said, "do not hesitate to quit". Which is worse, the imaginary invitation or the real invitation?

Gerelyn, you wrote: "Those who feel uncomfortable in a country (or city) club that refuses to allow women to participate, that courts antisemites, that spends enormous amounts of time and money oppressing gays, etc., do not hesitate to quit." Either you are urging people to quit the church, or you are suggesting that you are comfortable in a club that does those things.I am not inviting anyone to leave the church. (You invite people to where you are, not to where you're not: I can no more "invite" people to leave the church than I can invite them to the North Pole.) I only urge you to be more careful about the implications of your own claims.

James Martin and Matthew Boudway,Acute, but brief comments. What about a further elaboration in editorials/op eds for "America" and "Commonweal?"That would be a welcome manifestation of Common Ground's ecclesial vision.

Our connection here is one reason we stay. I like what Jim Martin and Matthew wrote. While we disagree with much of what the officials say and do we realize we do need a structure that is in place. Really there have been many good things that have come through and out of the RCC. The book "Why I remain a Catholic" might be good for Keller and all of us to look at again.

Back to a couple of earlier posts.a) Did the Pope really say that the sex abuse phenomenon is a mystery? Of course in one sense he's absolutely right. Not, though, if he follows it with a Period Full Stop Next Question. The Lord presumably gave us intellects to deal with mysteries, to explain them and often -- at least if they are human rather than divine phenomena -- to demystify them. Think Hercule Poirot. I could suggest -- we all could -- all sorts of fruitful investigative possibilities to help Benedict and others understand this problem. Benedict may be "clueless," but there are plenty of clues in the scandal, and you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to find them. b) Is there anything "untrue" in Keller's piece? Not that I'm aware of, though I haven't looked that carefully. But is that the point? Example: I'm a historian by trade, and I promise that within five minutes I could come out with a piece in which everything I say is true, and justifying (say) the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It would probably take me a few minutes longer to justify Hitler's attack on Poland that launched WWII, again saying nothing untrue. But that's only because it's not my field. It's not the truth or the falsity of the facts that counts. It's the omissions and inclusions and arrangements that count.

Keller dreams of a plentitude of Spiritus Christi communities. He forgets that the folks who populate the one he attended are, in the main, getting a bit long in the tooth. As they die off, there doesn't seem to be enough attachment to "progressive" Catholicism in the generations coming thereafter to foster these little SC communities. I never cease to be amazed at the number of "ex-RCs" that I meet. They (we?) are legion, and they (we) are not all over 50 by any stretch of the imagination! A few of us pretend that we are "Roaming Catholics" but, in reality, we have walked away. The sad part about those relatively few progressive RC parishes is that the members tend to ignore the corruption and authoritarianism of the larger church to which they still remain attached. That used to be called "enabling" or "co-dependency" when I was in my younger years. Old shoes may be very comfortable, but they are not good to use on a long, strenous journey. For that you need strong, supportive shoes that carry you to the end, not restrict the trip.-- Benedict/Ratzingers thought that the church is entering a wintertime rather than a springtime -- There seems to be a very conscious effort on the part of the episcopacy to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.

" -- being Catholic is a daily challenge from those in authority to ones very identity and even existence. Only the strongest Christians survive that."Or could it be that the laziest Christians continue to tolerate that?

To Lisa, I appreciate your comments. I am not at all upset by Keller's column. He is something of an adolescent when it comes to commenting on the church, but it doesn't trouble me. First, there are a number of grieving Catholics out here. Not all of them are baby-boomers. None of my many children are hateful or indifferent to the church. They are torn, uneasy, disillusioned instead. We had two grandbabies born last august and september. They will be baptized together this august. I did not talk to my children about this, in fact, I carefully avoided the subject. We knew this had to be their decision without guilting them from our side. We still have not questioned them about their decision. But something my son, the new father said to me a while back stayed with me and when he did, I knew they would be baptized. In a phone conversation one day, he out of nowhere mentioned that a colleague of his said, "you know we've been Catholics since before we were born." Obviously, this is not a perfect reason to baptize your babies. But they feel the pull - custom, culture, family, good memories of their participation in the church and Catholic school when they were growing up, and pride in all the good that church members do, but I know they also feel that something has changed radically. And they are not comfortable with this hamhanded, authoritarian style that has presented itself in the actions, edicts and condemnations coming from the Vatican. It is all so sad and so unnecessary. So, we grieve and stay and believe that the Holy Spirit is doing her work in the world and in the church. Not to be a downer, but I think those of us commenting on this site will have passed on before any change will appear.

Nicholas, I agree wiyou 100%"Not, though, if he follows it with a Period Full Stop Next Question. The Lord presumably gave us intellects to deal with mysteries, to explain them and often at least if they are human rather than divine phenomena to demystify them. Think Hercule Poirot. I could suggest we all could all sorts of fruitful investigative possibilities to help Benedict and others understand this problem. Benedict may be clueless, but there are plenty of clues in the scandal, and you dont have to be Sherlock Holmes to find them."And yet, he remains clueless. This is incompetence.

-- If you are a believing Catholic (it seems to me), then you believe the Catholic Church is the one true Church, and as disturbing as you find all the things you dont like about the Church, that simply cant outweigh the fact that it is the one true Church. --It would be interesting to determine how many practicing Catholics in this day and age believe the RCC to be the "one true church."

That is a really bizarre op-ed. Aren't op-ed contributors supposed to have some subject matter expertise?

Here is an excerpt from the singular Andrew Greeley from the book "Why I remain a Catholic. Ill never stop being Catholic, despite the fact that many of the current leaders of the institutional church are corrupt thugs, from the parish right up to the Vatican. The word "still" might be construed as suggesting that we who remain in the Church are somehow a declining minority. In fact 85% of those who were raised Catholics are "still" Catholics. It is those who depart who are the exception. Moreover the departure rate has not changed in the last thirty five years, despite the enormous turbulence which has shaken the Church since the end of the Second Vatican Council. If the idiots who are running things (most notably bishops and we priests) have not driven the lay folk out with thirty five years of insensitivity and stupidity, then I suspect that they will never drive them out."_

In one parish in the NY Archdiocese there is a family of twelve children from the age of twenty to 40 who steadfastly attend the Eucharist every Sunday. Sadly, the father and mother who inculcated Catholic principles into this exemplary family do not attend any more because of their anger over the sexual abuse by clergy and religious.

Nicholas Clifford, here's what the Pope said. He suggested a partial answer:

Thankfulness and joy at such a great history of faith and love have recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care. Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, towards God, instead of bearing witness to his goodness, they abused people and undermined the credibility of the Churchs message. How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lords body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way? It remains a mystery.Yet evidently, their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ: it had become merely a matter of habit. The work of the Council was really meant to overcome this form of Christianity and to rediscover the faith as a deep personal friendship with the goodness of Jesus Christ.

Nice quotation from Greeley on staying in the Church despite it all. Every year, sometime between Epiphany and Easter, I re-read the Divine Comedy (in English, I'm afraid, with only an occasional foray into the Italian). And I think to myself that if Dante could stick it, what with villainous popes (e.g., Boniface VIII, Clement V and the like), corrupt cardinals, and overweeningly proud bishops feathering their own nests, I can probably stick it too. As Dante points out, unlike the lean and ascetic Peter and Paul, the episcopacy of his day was suffering from a self-imposed obesity problem. And no Michelle Obama to tell them about healthy eating (not that they'd have listened).

Benedict may be clueless,There is a basic misunderstanding here. The Pope means the scandal is a mystery in the sense of the Mysterium Iniquitatis . Only God and, perhaps, the Shadow, know what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Benedict is getting at a concept much deeper than what you understand of him. Or do you already know why people do the horrible things they do?

I don't think it's a misunderstanding, I'm afraid. Of course the mysterium iniquitatis lies at the bottom of all this, as it does with the actions of murderers. thieves, and embezzlers, among others. But human reason (in the form of a consulting detective, or perhaps Lamont Cranston) can give you lots of good advice on how to prevent thieves, embezzlers, murderers and others from getting the chance for their dark deeds, and how to try to keep temptation out of their way. I do not expect the Pope or anyone else to solve the mystery of evil; but I do expect someone in his position to examine what went wrong and in what ways it might be prevented in the future. Setting up a charter for the protection of children is one measure; making sure it is enforced (as apparently it was not in Philadelphia) is another way. But such steps are only the beginning, and do not begin to deal, for instance, with a kind of clericist culture that permits, and perhaps even encourages evil (like telling people to be quiet about the wrongs done to them and their children). Even a simple step like banning the wearing of the capa magna might help to lower pretensions and their dangers. (I see that Cardinal Burke wore his in a recent visit to the Brompton Oratory). But then, I admit, it's difficult to legislate good taste.

"David Nickol:What was the context in which the Pope made that statement? Irene, There is a thread from October 2010 that raises the question whether he made the statement at all, or whether other things he said are appropriately summarized by a description he never used himself. A smaller but purer Church? October 21, 2010, 9:07 am Posted by Joseph A. Komonchak[Note: I'm reposting this because it apparently was lost in cyberspace enroute. If not, forgive the redundance.] Then-Cardinal Ratzinger referred to this smaller church in several interviews with Peter Seewald that were published as books, e.g., SALT OF THE EARTH. But "purer" doesn't seem appropriate terminology for what he has in mind; if anything, this future Church would be much more inclusive than the current model. Here's what he told Seewald in GOD AND THE WORLD:"First of all: Is the Church really going to get smaller? When I said that, I was reproached from all sides for pessimism. And nowadays nothing seems less tolerated than what people call pessimism -- and which is often in fact just realism. Meanwhile, most people admit that at the present stage of things in Europe the number of baptized Christians is simply dwindling. In a city like Magdeburn, only 8 percent of the people are still Christians -- and mark you, that's all kinds of Christians, put together. Such statistical findings show the existence of trends that are indisputable. In that sense, the extent to which church and society are seen as synonymous in some cultural areas, with us in Germany, for instance, will diminish. We simply have to face up to this...The Church of the first three centuries was a small Church and nevertheless was not a sectarian community. On the contrary, she was not partitioned off; rather, she saw herself as responsible for the poor, for the sick, for everyone. All those who sought a faith in one God, who sought a promise, found their place in her...Here people who didn't feel able to identify with Christianity completely could, as it were, attach themselves to the Church, so as to see whether they would take the step of joining her. This consciousness of not being a closed club, but of always being open to everyone and everything, is an inseparable part of the Church. And it is precisely with the shrinking of Christian congregations we are experiencing that we shall have to consider looking for openness along the lines of such types of affiliation, of being able to associate oneself.I have nothing against it, then, if people who all year long never visit a church go there at least on Christmas Night or New Year's Eve or on special occasions, because this is another way of belonging to the blessing of the sacred, to the light. There have to be various forms of participation and association; the Church has to be inwardly open."

In his 2002 Holy Thursday Letter OT Priests, JPII brought up the mysterious iniquitatis

At this time too, as priests we are personally and profoundly afflicted by the sins of some of our brothers who have betrayed the grace of Ordination in succumbing even to the most grievous forms of the mysterium iniquitatis at work in the world. Grave scandal is caused, with the result that a dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity and often with heroic self-sacrifice. As the Church shows her concern for the victims and strives to respond in truth and justice to each of these painful situations, all of us conscious of human weakness, but trusting in the healing power of divine grace are called to embrace the mysterium Crucis and to commit ourselves more fully to the search for holiness. We must beg God in his Providence to prompt a whole-hearted reawakening of those ideals of total self-giving to Christ which are the very foundation of the priestly ministry.

That letter gave more emphasis to the scandal than to the harm done to the abused children. I think we have moved ahead on that point in he past ten years and now are willing to talk more openly in official statements about our sorrow for the terrible harm done to the abused. However, official statements still focus on the individual priests and religious who did these things and we still do not have the strength to acknowledge the harm done by bishops and others who did not protect the children in their care.

Best image of the present state of the Church: a big, smelly circus tent. Lots of room for conservatives, progressives, kooks, quirks, etc. I think an unexamined undercurrent in the "pure, small" church idea is a need for security in something/someone other than Christ Jesus. It's the perennial temptation to idolatry, and a restorationist papacy (like the present one and the last one) can force the church very close to the brink of that grave sin. But it doesn't work----by God's great mercy it CAN'T work. It can scandalize and damage (not with impunity, in an ultimate sense!), but it cannot prevail.

Sorry, iPad problems: In his 2002 Holy Thursday Letter to Priests, JPII brought up the mysterium iniquitatis

Mark doesn't read the quote, saying:"There is a basic misunderstanding here. The Pope means the scandal is a mystery in the sense of the Mysterium Iniquitatis . Only God and, perhaps, the Shadow, know what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Benedict is getting at a concept much deeper than what you understand of him.Or do you already know why people do the horrible things they do?"Here is the Pope's full quote:"How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord's body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way?" said the pope, referring to the abusive clergy."It remains a mystery."Let me introduce the Pope to the concept of "Original Sin." Now, for the past 20 years he and his predecessor have advanced so far in their understanding of human sexuality and criminal activity that all he can do is call it a "mystery?"Mark, I have no doubt that I or any other decent law abiding Catholic can do a better job that the last two Popes. The USCCB actually formed a group of such law abiding Catholics. Justice Burke and Frank Keating were two members. Their advice was ignored. It is only a mystery to me why two Popes abandoned their flock so completely.

I like Robert Imbelli's idea of some further explication of these POV. Also, would be intersting to get the median and average ages of all who contribute here and similar sites.I have no illusions about any particular faith commuity being perfect. God knows Corpus Christi isn't and the book of its origin is worth reading. Still, I like what I see it DOES, how it prays and celebrates, some folks I know who are part of thaat community, and its relationship with others...That's what attracts me and many of Catholic sensibility. And also what keeps me in my RC parish at present.

I'm not leaving. I did leave, for a good long while, and now that I'm back I find my life is greatly enriched by the liturgy, the sacraments, structured prayer through retreats, the work of the Church's wealth of great spiritual writers, and a parish community. If the Church wishes to excommunicate me because I favor women's ordination and am not exercised about gay marriage, I guess it will have to do so.And I have to say this: I'd rather face my God as a supporter of women's ordination or gay marriage than as an commenter who trolls the Internet (like I've seen occasionally here, and even more frequently elsewhere) telling those who aren't Good Catholics like these commenters perceive themselves to be that they should leave the Church. Hasn't it occurred to the people who engage in this sort of "reverse evangelization" that they might be engaging in far graver spiritual misconduct than those they criticize for expressing doubts or reservations in an Internet comment or two? Apparently not. It's a big blind spot -- a beam, one might say.

The "mystery" lies in a closed, clerical culture inhabited by men submerged, sometimes from childhood, in that same culture, which exists parallel to, but ultimately removed, from the lives of the people they serve. They protect and defend one another above all else, and name each other saints when they die. That's pretty harsh, I know, but then so is the sex abuse of children. So were the crimes covered up all over the world, including in Ireland where clerical culture was so profoundly and naively revered only the "mystery" made reverence impossible to sustain.The Church has gone through some dark transitions in its long history, and these times are surely transitional. Unfortunately, if the past is any indication of what to expect, we're not going to know what comes of this until...well, let's see, now, I'd guess about 200 years after we're dead.

The mystery -- The Pope spoke in English to ordinary Irish and others, not to a theology seminar. If he had trouble understanding English as he wrote of having with Bishop Morris, there should be language help around Rome for making a video. The Pope noted that abusers undermine the credibility of the Church's message. He then declared a mystery based on his observing the fact that abusers receive the Eucharist and Sacrament of penance and they abuse. If one accepts his assertion that the Church's message in fact lacks credibility, at least to some, abuse associated with receiving Sacraments should be no mystery or even a surprise; it is natural behavior typical of a small subset of the clerical population discussed for papal edification since at least the time of Peter Damian (1050). Benedict notably ignored the undermined credibility of involved people other than abusers -- himself, his previous nuncio in ireland, the Prelate of All Ireland, and Irish bishops, including those who offered abuse-related resignations which the Pope did not consider. The Papal Legate Cdl. Ouellet did recognize these others: We learned too that the response of some church authorities to these crimes was often inadequate and inefficient in stopping the crimes, in spite of clear indications in the code of canon law. The mystery is whatever happened in such legalists to common sense and loving your neighbor.

In what other religiously-oriented blogsite can one find a passing reference to Lamont Cranston? Maybe there is a shred of hope for Roman Catholicism after all.

The message of Pope Benedict to the Eucharistic Congress positions him as a spiritual leader who tries to inspire his people by theological reflections. He reminds me of the queen of England, and perhaps that suggests a model for the structure of the church: in the same way that the queen of England leads her people by words and example, the pope is to be the spiritual leader of the Church by word and example. In the same way that the governance of the UK is left to competent elected officials, the governance of the Church ought to be taken from the dysfunctional papal offices and given to a democratic structure of competent people who take effective action.

Since Mark Proska first raised the Shadow, and I was the one who identified him as Lamont Cranston, and since David Pasinski has suggested we reveal our ages, I'm 81. That's why I know who LC is (not to mention his sidekick, the "lovely Margot Lane.")For an introduction and to listen try:, if you're an academic theologian, no doubt there's material for a learned article therein.

What an interesting thread and ranging opinions - not so sure how "acute" they are.I started off posting here about Bill Keller and the NYT - I think reactions against him may be too harsh (though I agree on "immature" view of Catholicism) but reacting to Bill Donahue has real merits.One major issue here is the notion of who is a "real Catholic" and Donahue's approach calls forus to find a far bigger Church as some have noted here.Fr. Martin is surely right that that bigger Church has been around for a long time.He and many good priests(if you read this Father, please especially thank the good SJs for their work at St,. Al's in keeping a glimmer of hope in the Egan downsized Church of Central Harlem) and religious keep on making the Church a place of experiencing the Gospel, but, also as noted many of these are a graying group.OTOH, Barbnara has a point to make as well in how different today's world of Church is.So how we frame this issue will I think vary depending on how we look at it if only in terms of personal experience and perhaps maybe parochially.In big cities such as New York where Church shopping is comparatively easy, one can find glimmers of hope more easily.But, I'd suggest the nub of the issue is prospective because no matter what BXVI said ,the prospect of a more Donahue like Church looms ahead.Young people are losing their faith more and more in that prospect!Maybe the Irish are right about Dowd when many have drifted even away from the basics in the face of visitations command/control. but to find real ways to not only keep up hope but to broaden the real picture.I don't think it's enough today just to say we're all sinners (even Bil D., Mark, since he's divotced) but how to make the big Church a relity for all the margin people at risk including intellectuals on the margin.

On another website, someone posted a comment that the Church has betrayed the youth (poor catechesis, etc.). Then someone, like myself a bit older with upbringing in the pre-Vatican II Church and enlightenment with Vatican II, posted a comment that we are the ones who have been betrayed. I so agree.

It would seem that, currently, one might consider Mr. Clifford to be something of a nerd, being a square's square. As for me, I will soon be playing with a full deck. And when I am, watch out!

Im somewhat amused that James Martin renders Bill Kellers NY Times op-ed piece this week as apparently NOT UP to his rigorous Jesuit standards for analytical discourse about the state of ecclesiology these days. [Above: 6/18/2012 1:09 PM]Leaving the all-too-nice things aside Bill Keller wrote about the odious reactionary Catholic megaphone William Donohue, Keller has it essentially correct.Keller aptly describes himself, and frankly the vast majority of us, as collapsed Catholics: Traumatized by the slow-motion implosion of the Catholic Church under the weight of sex abuse scandal and corruption of the hierarchs. If the Catholic Church envisioned by John XXIII, arguably the greatest apostle since Peter and Paul, is to even survive the 21st century, Catholics need to understand that that church is surely dead smothered in its crib by hierarchs like Ratzinger. We Catholics need to let go, and get on with a proper funeral and burial. And begin to take the first faltering baby steps in a very long journey toward a Peoples Church.Abandoned and betrayed by our shepherds [as evidenced by Ratzingers strategy of a smaller but purer church], Catholics for sure will struggle to keep their faith alive for future generations. In his op-ed, Keller cites one of the many oasis communities that are beginning to organically spring-up from among the People giving hope and solace to Catholics as they wander in their modern day spiritual desert.As my sainted-sixth grade teacher, Sister Mary Adelaide, would often remind us after our daily reading from the documents of Vatican II: Christianity is not for sissies.

Bob Nunz,I only identified two comments as being "acute."However, I fully endorse the sentiment you expressed above:"The NUT editoralizes [sic]"!

I found James Martin's comment strange, too, particularly the question about nuns being afraid of poverty.They have good reasons to be afraid of poverty, as anyone knows who has read the histories of women's congregations or observed nuns in parishes in days of yore. (Old-timers like me will remember the food drives when kids brought cans of food for the sisters. Spinach, mostly. Whatever was the least desirable thing in the pantry.)They gave their lives to the church. No pay. No social security. None of the perqs priests (even/especially those in religious orders) take for granted/expect/demand. Now they're investigated, probed, insulted, derided, accused, threatened, et cetera. Sickening.

Re Fr. Martins's question (6/18 109pm)"Does it make sense that sisters who took a vow of poverty would be afraid of poverty?" The answer is yes when the local cardinal will fight to keep control of the sisters' assets. Cdl O'Malley's recent compliment to religious women amidst the LCWR turmoil, I think we have nothing but affection for them, can take on a different, literal meaning when his actions are considered.

Heartbreaking. I hope everyone will read both articles. (I hope Matthew will start a new thread about it.)No one (that I noticed) in this big long thread mentioned Keller's final paragraph:I suggest that any long-serving nun who has come to find church teachings incompatible with her conscience should be offered a generous severance. We could call these acts of charity Dolan Grants. Surely a church that offers a lifeline to men who brought disgrace on the institution can offer a living stipend to women who brought it honor at great sacrifice. </iFat chance.

b) Is there anything untrue in Kellers piece?After spending the first half of the column giving an unflattering description of Donohue, the key paragraph is "in 1993, Donohue could be dismissed as a conservative blowhard [...]. But the official church has moved far enough to the right that Donohue now speaks for its mainstream. " After that he takes Donohue's opinions and comments ("Shut up and go") as if they were the church hierarchy's and the Curia's opinions. That is untrue.He ends by praising a breakaway church and quoting a religious sister who joined it, to show that leaving is feasible.

The thing about Maureen Dowd (in particular) as well as a few other NYT columnists is that they REFLECT a certain kind of consensus as much as they constitute the independent thinking of the author. Keller doesn't have to be right, the point isn't to agree or disagree, the point is, it tells you that these sentiments are becoming mainstream in public perception of the Catholic Church to the point that it can be said without offending too many people. I have often thought that Dowd's particular genius is to distill what was already swirling around in people's heads and to sharply articulate what they had been coming around to thinking for themselves. She is shallow in the long run, but profound in the here and now.

I'm a former Catholic, Gen X (b.1967). I remember fondly Donahue and his ilk suggesting I leave if I dared to vote for Kerry back in 2004. So I did. And I don't regret it. I have become a far happier person as a result of no longer having to butt my head against an attitude and policies of gender complementarianism that never made any sense to me. And no, I never wanted to be a priest, but not being directly affected by an unjust exclusion, doesn't mean I can't have some solidarity with those who are. And before all and sundry accuse me of being uncatechized, there is a difference between not knowing what the Catholic church teaches and not believing what the Catholic church teaches. I am well aware of its teachings. I just disagree.I've found far more peace, and the ability to just accept people as they are, as a Reform Jew than I ever had as a Catholic. So yes, I am in that 10% of Gen X catholics who converted to another religion (hey! We didn't all become Wiccans and Buddhists).

I really think it is presumptious to call Maureen Dowd shallow. As I see it she is a brilliant women who studies well and has more courage than most. Granted she may be too acerbic at times. So was Erasmus. I think the burden is on those who say she is shallow to prove it.

Erasmus, Bill? Really?

Erasmus, yes, knew how to get his digs in just as Maureen Dowd. In Julius Excluded, a play that he never admitted having written but is attributed to him, Julius Ii is at the pearly gates and St. Peter will not let hm in.JULIUS: What's left of me that's any good at all if you take away my money, strip me of my power, deprive me of my usury, forbid my pleasures, and even destroy my life? PETER: You might as well say Christ was wretched when he, who had been at the peak of all things, was made a mockery before men. In poverty and painful labor, in fasts and deprivation he passed his entire life, and then died the most shameful of deaths. JULIUS: He may find people to praise his example, but not to follow it, not in these days anyway.

I'm not disputing Erasmus's genius, Helen, or his wit. But knowing how to get digs in does not make one a modern-day Erasmus, and what else does Dowd know? How to channel popular contempt and flatter her readers' prejudices? How to dish up D.C. gossip with a stale dollop of conventional wisdom? She comforts the comfortable.

Wow, harsh, even by your standards, Matthew. (Sometimes I think the Dowd-bashers are jealous.)

Matthew Boudway:Au contraire. Maureen Dowd Afflicts the comfortable and drives people like Bill Donohue crazy, who, as I said before, I think is "sweet" on her.

Matthew, you will have to support your opinion with facts. Otherwise it can be as gratuitously denied as you gratuitously offer. In fact she has made too many people uncomfortable. Fearful politicos and bishops read her columns first and then call their mothers for consolation. She has a marvelous resume which got her where she is today. Few articles are as informative, creative and really brilliant as hers. Very few people can write as well as she. At any rate, she turned sixty this January. Show some respect.

This tangent brings to mind the "attractive, articulate, intelligent" laywoman matter Cdl. Dolan spoke highly of in Hicksville in March. The challenge for him seems to be finding them on his side of the fence.

the attractive, articulate, intelligent laywomanWould that be Helen M. Alvar?