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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

"Fearful politcos and bishops read her columns first and then call their mothers for consolation."Bill, is that a fact or just enamored speculation? I'm not much interested in Dowd's resume, or her age (or her birth month -- you're evidently quite a fan), and I doubt she'd want anyone to respect her work just because she's sixty. (The popes and most of the bishops are well over sixty and that's never kept you from expressing your ardent disapproval of them.) The fact is, I can't remember Dowd ever straying an inch from the beltway consensus, or going after anyone most of her readers could be expected to admire. It doesn't take courage or wisdom or great journalistic skill to ridicule those the smart set already despises. Nor is she uniquely good at giving voice to the NYT's pensee unique. Gail Collins does it with more wit, twice the verve, and much less easy scorn.

Maureen's columns on Sandusky have been good. This morning's is about Sandusky's wife, "Sarge": Jim Jenkins' letter to the editor was good, too!

While I think we've wandered a bit off topic - yes, Ms. Dowd and Matthew can both be too"harsh", I want to point out Fr. Martin again who not only is not too harsh, but has a great sense of humor, andnow is "official chaplai" of the Laurence O"Dponnell show .America's" In All Things" blog has his on air (he's with the nuns on a bus tour) interview - and better, his subsequent off air conversation that was recorded.The latter is most germane to the topic here - it urges adult Catholicism with lots of interplay in the various factors and especially the Holy spirit!The problem with Keller vs. Donahue or whatever is are they leading us to a choice of puerility or quit.BTW, I think Maureen Dowd expresses (even if hatshly) what lots of mature Catholics think -part of(as someone said) that big smelly Church!

Matthew,Dowd rails against violence towards women, the Empire Church, Bill Clinton, W. Bush, Arnold S, Obama, evangleicas.....How all of these constitute the Smart Set is news and perhaps the mystery that BXVi is looking for. Perhaps you found it in a app somewhere. Again I notice your abundance of evidence. As far as age...You are showing a serious lack of humor.

Maureen has a sense of humor, too. If you notice the reading material in her lap in the Irish Central photo, it's not likely to be her usual fare nor is it the NYT. It can only be a subtle message with one purpose -- to catch Bill Donohue's attention and stimulate more of his entertaining effluvium after he has finished figuring out how to respond to Bill Keller's agreeing with him.

Bill, Dowd may be brilliant but she is of the moment, in that she reflects a mostly transient kind of wisdom. I mean, she is usually dead on and I am sure that takes observational skills and savvy that most people don't have. But that's what I meant about her being shallow in the long run. I think that she has gotten better over the last few years, but maybe that's only because I find that I agree with her more recently. Anyway, what I am trying to get across is that you read Dowd (more so than Keller) to take stock of where you stand in relation to the national consensus on a given subject, usually political or church-related in her case. If you really, really agree with her, chances are, you are well within the mainstream, and if you don't, chances are good that your views are outlier.

Hi, Barbara:It's all "of the moment". That's what journalism means. Today's news, tomorrow's fishwrap.They're all dust now: Addison and Steele, William Allen White, Finley Peter Dunne, Heywood Broun, etc., etc., etc. Maureen has lasted a LONG time by any standard, certainly by journalism's. And, I don't see how agreeing or disagreeing with her has anything to do with the mainstream. I couldn't stand her MEAN columns about the GREAT President Clinton, but he was re-elected, so who was out of the mainstream? The majority who voted for him, or the minority who agreed with Dowd? I can see why those who support the bishops, Sandusky, et al., don't like her. But I don't think those who do like her are trying to find where they "stand in relation to the national consensus on a given subject". I would give her readers more credit than that.

Dowd is particularly adept, I think, at sensing, and then coasting her thoughts on, the prevailing winds of sentiment. Whatever you want to call it, she does something different from the other Times columnists. It's capturing the momentary zeitgeist that she excels at. It's really hard to deduce her "true" sentiments in a way that it is not with other columnists. (Well, I do think that she is most true when she writes about the Church, but I think a lot of her political columns are not what I would call her "own" principled views.)

Yes, I see what you mean. She's bound by the form, etc. Just as Will Rogers wouldn't drop his persona, change the length of his columns, etc., Maureen cannot suddenly write a dissertation or a sonnet instead of what she's paid and expected to produce.Agree that her religion columns really ring true. And I hope that some of her political columns are not as heartfelt. (The ones about the Clintons.)

I sometimes wonder if Dowd is afraid to take too clear of a stand on matters so that if she is "wrong" she never has to actually admit it ("hey, I was only joking!"). I realize the joke-y tone is intentional, but Gail Collins, for instance, is also a smart aleck and you have no doubt how she stands on what she is writing about after reading her column.

I still think the issue here was not Maureen Dowd -folks have had their say, but it's about how people look at the Church in the face of the highly attenuated ISTM Common Ground catholics.Despite Fr. Martin's good efforts, he is often pilloried by commentators for his less than (they think) orthodox views.Where are the real spokespersons for centrism today in the Church or are many cowed by the comand/control m.o. in operation? Or are they really afraid of the big Church?