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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.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Can't wait to hear from the Keller/NYT haters.Unfortunately, the center has collapsed - saw a piece on CNN last night on how our toung continue to lose faith in God even.In the current divided turmoil, my guess is it wil get worse before it gets better (maybe far off?)

The NYT is making news today. Irish Central reports (6/18) "Maureen Dowd to receive Irish civic reception and honorary degree -- Irish Prime Minister to attend ceremony for New York Times writer". The National University of Ireland Galway will present the degree next week. No plans to protest the degree are reported, but reader comments are harsh.

Conservative American Catholics enjoy inveighing against liberal Catholics, so it would be a shame to take such enjoyment out of the lives of conservative American Catholics.However, liberal American Catholics who would prefer to see changes in the Roman Catholic Church should stand forewarned that Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic bishops do not plan to allow any significant changes to be made in the church's teachings or in church law. Pope has just informed of oh his personal incompetence. He should resign and find somebody who can deal with clergy sex abuse."It's a mystery?"That is the single most clueless comment I have ever heard about the clergy sex abuse crisis..

Something tells me Cardinal Dolan won't be getting many Irish accolades anytime soon, least not from his fellow bishops:

Vatican report critical of culture and ethos of Irish College in RomePATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs CorrespondentFri, Jun 15, 2012A REPORT carried out by the Archbishop of New York for Pope Benedict XVI, which expressed concern about the atmosphere, structure, staffing and guiding philosophy of the Irish College in Rome, contained significant errors of fact, Irelands four Catholic archbishops have said.

Congratulations to Maureen. (Her column yesterday was another great one.)And congratulations to Bill Keller for the excellent op-ed this morning. I wonder if those who dislike the NYT in general and Keller (and Dowd) in particular will be able to point to anything untrue in their pieces.(When I asked if there was anything untrue in the FFRF ads, Donohue quoted me in something he wrote, and Mollie, editor of Commonweal, quoted HIM and explained what I "would be the first to tell" him. Eeeuww. Creepy and creepier.) 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.

Post Keller/Donahue: a new coat of arms for the SArchdiocese of Ny with e legend "All hope abandon...."

Gerelyn, I didn't realize the Catholic Church was a country club! Now I'll never leave. I've always wanted to be in a country club but could never afford it, much less get past the social hurdles. Could someone send me a pink Lacoste shirt and point the way to the golf course?

Cant wait to hear from the Keller/NYT haters.I love the Times, but I could do without Bill Keller (and Maureen Dowd) writing about Catholicism. People like Keller never address the problem for "liberal" Catholics, which is that if they believe what Catholics believe, there is pretty much no place for them to go if they leave the Church. If they believe in Apostolic Succession, the Catholic Church (and the Eastern Orthodox Church) has the sacraments and other churches do not. If the sacraments (Eucharist, Reconciliation) and the Mass mean anything to them, then they are not going to get them anywhere else.Now, I can understand why some liberal Catholics might say to themselves that if the Church weres really what it claimed to be, there would not have been a mishandled sex-abuse crisis, that women would be treated better, and so on. So I can understand why some liberal Catholics would just lose their faith over issues that trouble them, and concluded thatmore important than the issues that trouble themthe Catholic Church simply cannot be the "one true Church" under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as claimed. For those people, it would not be "liberal issues" that would cause them to leave the Church. It would be a loss of faith in the "big things" that the Church teaches. If you are a liberal who believes the Church is fundamentally right, but is wrong on "liberal" issues, then I would think you have no choice but to stay and "fight the good fight." If you believe that women should be ordained, for example, you must believe there is something very significant about the priesthood. Why would you leave the Catholic Churchand the priesthoodbehind because you were angry that women could not be ordained? If women cannot be Catholic priests in the Church, they certainly can't be Catholic priests outside the Church.

David Gibson: News flash: You're not an ordained priest or a bishop, so you are not in the country club.

"Conservative American Catholics enjoy inveighing against liberal Catholics, so it would be a shame to take such enjoyment out of the lives of conservative American Catholics."Exactly! We're sour enough all by ourselves - don't take away one of our few pleasures. Besides, think how much harder it would be to warn our children against sin and heresy if we lose all our exemplars. We'd have to start throwing stones at Protestants again. Not to mention, who would teach in our schools and institutions of higher learning, or staff our parishes, or direct or choirs, or ...

(Bishops always go first class. Ever notice that? Just like Jesus.)

Can I ask abut Pope Benedict's comment about "a smaller, purer church'? I've often heard references to it. I had thought it meant that while there might be fewer Catholics, those of us who remain are here, not out of custom or fear of going to hell or something, but we're here because we want to be. I never assumed it meant we had to pass some more rigid doctrinal litmus test. What was the context in which the Pope made that statement?

Amen, Jim P...I'd add that the conservative "dream" of the smaller but purer church seems to consist of a large fantasy that it would be easier to control, more unified. I think perusing no small number of conservative Catholic websites, not mention the whole SSPX drama, should disabuse anyone of such a notion. Fractious, schismatic, dissenting, disputatious folks they are. Much like the rest of us.

To demonstrate decisively that the Catholic Church is not a country club (if the lack of a golf course doesn't establish it beyond reasonable doubt), visit the bathroom of any Catholic church. Country club washrooms have so many after-shaves, hair products, skin creams, and unknown emollients and unguents spread out that there is barely enough room left to do one's business. Every Catholic church bathroom I've ever patronized treats toilet tissue, hand towels, deoderizers and heat as optional extras.

Irene, it's a consistent thread of thought running through Benedict/Ratzinger's thought that the church is entering a "wintertime" rather than a "springtime" (as JP2 would have it) and that there will be a paring away down to the mustard seed of more devout, orthodox Catholics who would provide the seedbed for a future renewal of a more authentic Catholicism. Sort of the Catholic version of a post-apocalyptic scenario, like "The Beach." As pope, Ratzinger has toned it down a bit, which is natural given his new role. But it is still there. I actually agree with him to some degree, in that I think places like Bose and Taize and other communities of faith will provide a kind of lamp to light the way forward, if the institutional church doesn't get with the program. Ratzinger also refers to different levels of participation in the church (per Augustine, I believe), content to have some members remain members but on the margins. In reality, I think you wind up driving the margins out completely. But I think Ratzinger sees this "smaller" church as about who controls the levers of power and authority in the church -- who gets to say what is what -- whereas the other "petite eglise" is about witness, which also has a certain authority.

Thank you, David

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 amPosted by Joseph A. Komonchak

And, thank you, Other David, that thread you linked to generated some very strong comments.

Two very different visions of Church are on a collision course at present. Read the new interview with Sr Pat Farrell, LCWR president, published today on NCRs website:

Rather than a collision course, perhaps a further path of alienation

"liberal Catholics" stay because we are what makes the Church catholic. The "smaller, purer Church" advocates want to drive out those who disagree while we want to welcome people in. The "border guards" want to define people out while we want people who will offer forgiveness. We have already had the smaller purer church, when Jesus and his mother lived without sin. That mustard seed has grown into a big bush with all kinds of birds flitting in, out and about.

"Conservative American Catholics enjoy inveighing against liberal Catholics, so it would be a shame to take such enjoyment out of the lives of conservative American Catholics."That image rings a vague bell, somewhere ... I almost think I ran across it somewhere else recently, before I prepared this past weekend's homily, touting the Fortnight for Freedom.

Sorry, in the previous comment, I meant to highlight this quote of Jim McK's: "That mustard seed has grown into a big bush with all kinds of birds flitting in, out and about." Somehow, my paste went awry.

"its a consistent thread of thought running through Benedict/Ratzingers thought that the church is entering a wintertime rather than a springtime (as JP2 would have it) and that there will be a paring away down to the mustard seed of more devout, orthodox Catholics who would provide the seedbed for a future renewal of a more authentic Catholicism."Perhaps a Eurocentric view of things, no?

Ugh. I thought that that was a ridiculous column by Mr. Keller. It's about the most poorly argued piece on the Catholic church I've seen this year. (And that's saying a lot.) Yes, the church is rife with sinful people. I'm one of them. But Mr. Keller is intelligent enough to know that it has always been filled with sinners--since the time of St. Peter. And yes, there are times when you disagree with one or another official statement, or even times when you feel like you are being forced out. Keller should also know that even some of the saints experienced that. (St. Mary MacKillop was excommunicated; St. Ignatius was thrown into jail by the Inquisition; and St. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by ecclesiastical authorities to name but a few). But chief among other wrongheaded comments (like the absurd implication that many Catholic sisters are sticking around for the wrong reasons: Does it make sense that sisters who took a vow of poverty would be afraid of poverty?) is the notion that there is out there, somewhere, a perfect church that will meet all of your needs. Yet the search for a perfect church, free of sinners and wrongdoing, and fully in accord with your own way of doing things, is one without end. It is also a fairly one-sided argument. Also, overlooked completely is the idea that the church may need you. Overall, though, my baptism is all the sign I need that I'm called to be in the church. Really, though, it was a snotty article about an important topic. You would hope that an op-ed would help people in some way and I cannot imagine too many people benefiting from his kind of analysis.

Sory I missed your homily touting a Fortnight For Feedom, Jim; I'm sure I'd have been bemused.

I think Alex Pareene's "Hack List" writeup last year said pretty much all there is to say about Bill Keller's worth as an opinion columnist. Keller is only right, though, when he says "Bill Donohue will hold the door for you." It may be the most toxic thing about Donohue's work as defender of the church, as well as the most revealing -- his eagerness to identify threats from within.

But, The NUT editoralizes that the church is hurting children by blocking SOL legislation and cowing the NY governor.Donahue fires back.Keller fires back.The Sandusky trial rapidly goes on, showing institutional ineptitude,The Lynn trial drags on.The vatican conrinues its outrage about media leaks.And, of course, we have religious liberty and the Fortnight For Freedom.Keler and Donahue mightb e better off on a desert island together, but where is the hope for the common grounders?

I wrote a critical letter to the editor right away saying that I am currently hanging in there with the institution, even though I admiore Jim Callan, who is an old freind, and Corpus Christi is a wonderful commmunity. My only ongoing different point oif view from you, Father Jim, is your tone that to leave is somehow not keeping with one's baptismal calling and/or that the Church may need you. That leaves aside too easily (though I don't think you mean it that way) the personal pain and sense of call of nurturance provided in other communities. "Converts" don't just happen into Catholicsm, right? The Spirit blows where she will... and that may weel be apart from the Roman experience at this point for one's mental and spiritual health, right? I "stay" -- for now -- but it's not because the RC Church needs me. I've been more or less told that...

I enjoy watching the rants of Catholic League President, Bill Donohue aka the Catholic Archie Bunker, especially seeing his eyes light up with delight when the name, Maureen Dowd, comes up. I think he is sweet on her.

Interesting that Bill Donohue doesn't write everything that goes out from the Catholic League. Here's another name on a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe about "wayward sisters"

In her June 12 op-ed column Sisters of strength, Farah Stockman attributes the decline of American nuns to the lack of respect by the church hierarchy. This is patently false. The Catholic Church has long held the yeomans work of religious sisters in high esteem. What the Vatican has done recently is to put in motion a way to help reel in the wayward sisters who have mistaken their vows as one of social work. To deem this as a war on nuns is to misrepresent the issue.If such a war is being conducted, how is it that there is no end to the sisters who welcome the Vaticans statement as a way to help their fellow sisters? How is it that the more conservative orders are overwhelmingly receiving the lions share of new vocations? Indeed, there is no war against nuns in the Catholic Church, but this doesnt stop those whose agenda blinds them.Jeff FieldDirector of communicationsCatholic LeagueNew York

Two oxymorons:Pure CatholicismSmall CatholicismA caveat to those who love the "pure and small" idea: the religious authorities who desired to see Jesus dead also wanted a "purer" (smaller?) "church. Sinners need not apply. To the arrogant, self-assured and smug: the doors are always open. Jesus wouldn't be welcome, either, apparently.

'especially seeing his eyes light up with delight when the name, Maureen Dowd, comes up. I think he is sweet on her.'Even as a divorced/angry/ranting man, Donohue should not be eyeing good looking women. (-;

I wonder if Bill Keller (or Bill Donahue, for that matter) has read Dorothy Day's The Long Loneliness. "I loved the Church for Christ made visible," she wrote. "Not for itself, because it was so often a scandal to me." Later on in her life, she wrote a letter to Gordon Zahn that "as a convert, I never expected much of the bishops. In all history popes and bishops and father abbots seem to have been blind and power-loving and greedy. I never expected leadership from them. It is the saints that keep appearing all thru history who keep things going. What I do expect is the bread of life and down thru the ages there is that continuity." Dorothy Day, pray for us.

It is a straw man to say that disaffected Roman Catholics are looking for a church free of sinners, just as it is inaccurate to say that only the RCC can trace its roots back through apostolic succession. To stay or not, I think, revolves much more around whether you belonged to a cohort (with baby boomers probably being the last generational cohort) where a sizable majority of Catholics you knew formed an emotional attachment with the church, through Catholic school, service in local parishes, CCD sports leagues and the like. So my mother was part of such a cohort, I was too, but less so, and my children? Not at all. They aren't even baptized. It doesn't mean they would never become Catholic, but being Catholic in their world will be much more like being any other form of Christian -- a matter of informed choice, not upbringing. That's what has changed, although you would not know it by talking to most conservative or liberal Catholics. Ask yourself how many liberal Catholics defend their choice to stay in terms of not having the church of their birth or their beloved church or their sense of family or community being taken away from them -- that's what I'm talking about.

I wonder if we should approach the musical question "should I stay or should I go?" (thanks, Clash,) with the same hermeneutic that we might use to evaluate spiritual practices generally. Am I more loving inside the Church or outside it? Am I kinder, more cognizant of the needs of others and myself? Do I love God better here or not here? We are, after all, commanded to love as well as we can. For some, the grinding pain of sticking around becomes spiritually toxic, and leaving can be liberation for love. For others, the "fighting the good fight" is spiritually growthful overall, despite the cost in pain. I'm arguing for a stance of Ignatian availability. One listens closely for where and how God calls us, standing "as with one foot raised" (as Ignatius put it,) ready to dig in or to "shake the dust from your feet," (as Jesus put it.) And to truly trust God, praying always for the grace of good discernment, means that tomorrow or next week or next year the answer might be different.

Lisa, one thing I'd add to your comment is to discern where one might go...As a convert and as someone who covers the entire religious waterfront, I am perhaps more sensitive to currents elsewhere, but it's important to realize that if one is going to be "religious" in any sensing of belonging (something I support heart and soul) then one is always going to find these problems to one degree or another. I have witnessed and reported on the ugliest disputes among Unitarians and Quakers and of course Episcopalians and Baptists. There is no perfect community, alas, and the splendid isolation of personal spirituality is an increasingly popular choice, but one that I think has truly serious shortcomings for the individual and the wider community. That said, there can always be good reasons to move elsewhere. When asked why I converted my rimshot answer is because I am a straight white male -- the Catholic Church is the perfect place for me! My point, of course, is that for a woman or homosexual or person of color, quite often, being Catholic is a daily challenge from those in authority to one's very identity and even existence. Only the strongest Christians survive that.

NYT paradigm in action:1) identify neglected problem (dissenters need charity so they can leave more easily)2) propose "just love" solution (throw money)3) get someone else to pay for it (rich, fat Cardinals)4) feel good (the NYT choir resounds - what a bold pundit)

Good one, Lisa. ----------- Book suggestion: $7.19 for Kindle. Short and sweet. Flying in the Face of Tradition, by Louis DeThomasis, FSC.

"because I am a straight white male ' so am I, so to survive, and be nourished I gather with the 'Other' in a Franciscan community.

Abe Rosenthal was a great editor (better than Keller) who turned into a bad columnist afterward. I don't know which journalist decided editors can be columnists and vice versa, but the skill sets are entirely different, and the result of acting on that belief always disappoints someone.Having noted that, let me add that if I could quit something, before the Catholic Church it would be the drone-firing, gun-toting, Jamie Dimon-coddling, executive privilege-abusing, sensartion-of-the-day seeking, slander e-mailing, congressionally bloviating, McConnell-coddling, lobbyist-bought (and a lot of other things) gummint of these here United States.

LisaTerrific advice... I will share with others...David... also helpful and so very true - no utopian commiunities Patrick... great analysisGerelyn.. read that review and will order"In His will is our peace." Dante"Heart's desire and circumstances come together to define a path. The way of possibility and necessity turnolut to be one and the same." slight paraphrase rom "Dunne's "Reason's of theh Heart..."

. . . just as it is inaccurate to say that only the RCC can trace its roots back through apostolic succession.Barbara,I didn't say only the Catholic Church is the only church with unbroken apostolic succession. I said if you believe what Catholics believe, then you believe only Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox (and undoubtedly a group or two that I don't know of, since this is one of those things I have trouble keeping in my head) descended directly from Jesus and the apostles.The point is that if you are a believing Catholic, it seems to me difficult to justify leaving the Church because of the abuse scandal, the treatment of women, the teachings on contraception, the treatment of gays, and so on. 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 don't like about the Church, that simply can't outweigh the fact that it is the "one true Church." If parish life and Sunday mass aren't "nourishing," go to mass on Saturday and find a "nourishing" group to spend Sunday with. It seems to me you don't quit the "one true Church" because you disagree on peripheral issues, no matter how deeply you feel about them.

"Sory I missed your homily touting a Fortnight For Feedom, Jim; Im sure Id have been bemused."Hey, Bob - I meant my tongue to be planted in cheek in that comment, but I tripped so badly on it that my tongue ended up ... well, never mind where. In fact, I really did preach this past weekend, but in an appalling example of tunnel vision, I stuck to the appointed lectionary texts and tried to connect them to Father's Day.As it happens, we did have a presentation directly after mass, by a speaker from - drumroll, please - the Thomas More Society. Didn't catch it, though, so nothing to report from me.

Amen, Fr. Martin.It is one thing for a person to say that either his conscience or his intellectual integrity required him to leave the church. (One would expect -- and maybe even hope -- that a person who has left the church would have something like this to say.) It is another thing for a "collapsed Catholic" to say, in effect, "Do what I did -- leave the church -- or you're a troglodyte."And it is still another thing to echo that sentiment here, and to do so on the assumption that nobody at dotCommonweal will mind very much if you describe the Church as "a club that refuses to allow women to participate, that courts antisemites, that spends enormous amounts of time and money oppressing gays." That list of casual put-downs might make even Maureen Dowd blush. By all means, Gerelyn, do not hesitate to quit, but if the church is all that you say it is -- and no more -- then you should not just quit but put it behind you; it has already wasted enough of your time. It makes sense for Catholics of every kind, including those who dissent, to spend time following every excruciating detail of these ecclesial controversies. But it makes very little sense to declare that sensible, decent people can no longer have anything to do with this backwards institution and then go on talking about this institution's inner life as if you had a stake in it.

Matthew B.. I concur

Matthew, why would put quotation marks around something Keller said "in effect", i.e., in YOUR imagination? (Any places left at your table at the Chelsea Piers event? I'm trying my best to scrape up the $2500 to eat dinner with you.)

Because that's the way you punctuate a sentence like that. You may not accept my characterization of Keller's position (I almost called it an argument!), but please don't pretend the quotation marks are misleading.

I stay for now but its not because the RC Church needs me.Ultimately the Roman Catholic Church needs everyone, I think. The question is, in what position are we most helpful for our Church? I am watching the negotiations of the Vatican with the SSPX and wondering if it will provide a model showing how to influence the Church from the outside. They handled tensions by going into schism. But they seem to be viewed with great sympathy and attention, and, with the publication of the motu proprio, have already had an impact. On the other hand, the people who do, with difficulty, stay inside the church while voicing their reservations, are more or less ignored. It makes me wonder if, strategically, the SSPX are not more effective agents of change. Is it conceivable that the best way to serve our Church might be, not to stay in formal communion, but to organize a schismatic group??

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?

"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?

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