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State of the church: A synthesis

Richard Gaillardetz has delivered a noteworthy summary and synthesis of where the Catholic church in the U.S. stands today. It's worth reading here.

About the Author

Peter Steinfels, co-founder of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture and a former editor of Commonweal, is the author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America.



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Very interesting.On paragraph particularly caught my interest. "First, we must acknowledge two inter-related types of authority. On the one hand, we can recognize what we can call a legal or de iure authority, that is, the authority that one possesses by virtue of office. A civic example of this would be the authority of a police officer who is legally authorized to pull you over when you've been speeding. The Catholic Church grants an analogous kind of authority to its priests and bishops in canon law. There is a genuine need for this kind of legal authority. However..."Why is there a need for this kind of legal authority? All I can think of are all the abuses of authority...

I know that the JPII generation's backlash against Vatican II wants more visible signs of religiosity. But I must confess that showy religion, theatrical religion, now provokes in me deep skepticism. I do not trust made- for-television holiness-- or these days, made for the blogosphere holiness. In that respect my response to John Paul II's theatrical style has been shaped by my response to the theatrical style of the Legion of Christ.

Peter, your point about switching Protestant denominations not being the same as switching away from Catholicism is exactly right. You can find the third and fourth generation Mass. Puritan thinkers downplaying those Protestant denominational differences even in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century .

This was written in Commonweal 20 years ago and is as true today and was then:"It is not so much the authority one questions in the Roman Catholic church as the lack of the qualities of good leadership, including respect for the persons involved, the efforts at persuasion, and the explanations to which associates and subordinates are entitled - in fact, the lack of ordinary good manners." Abigail McCarthy, Mending Catholic Manners/Of Several Minds. Commonweal, January 11, 1991.

Gaillardetz is wrong to speak of Catholic "exodus" according to the Pew researchers: quit churches at about the same rate; it's just that very few join our church.

This is a nice summary. However, the problem I have with speeches like this is that they are too long. Many good points are lost when so many are covered, no matter how relevant they all are. As for the constant talk about Vatican II causing the church to shrink because of the progressive interpretation, there is a strong argument that because of the reforms of Vatican II the church has not only increased in size but has not suffered the massive decline the Protestant churches have. This is brought out most strongly in the new intriguing book "The Spirit of Vatican II" by Professor and author Colleen McDannell. Written through the lens of American Catholic history and especially her own mother, Colleen gives us an authentic recounting of how so many solid Catholics embraced Vatican II. Not only that but she also shows how Catholics in this country have opposed their bishops when they felt he was overstepping. We need to discuss this book further.As for Gaillardetz, he did make many important points, albeit too many. But I love this one from him."If what we want is a transformation in the way authority is exercised in the church today, a good start would be to focus on calling forth as candidates to lay ministry, the diaconate, the priesthood, and perhaps especially the episcopate, those who actually possess a gift for pastoral leadership. "Now wouldn't that be fantastic?

It was not until Gaillardetz named it that I realized how shaped my norms and expectations of US Episcopal leadership were by those two pastorals of the 80s. As a 25 year old (and newly minted Jesuit Volunteer) I found them thrilling and a source of pride. Now, as one Bishop Tobin's Rhode Island flock I most decidedly acknowledge those times ain't coming back round these parts. I find Gaillardetz's admonitions to parishoners ("where must we go from here") to be modest and probably insufficient, since he is mostly calling for self-reform of the episcopacy. In our small, self selecting, marginalized parishes of nostalgic "vatican two types" and urban poor, it is getting mighty lonesome as we wait for that...

Christopher, are you in my parish? St Mary's on Broadway.

I believe that any group of people larger than about twelve and acting together in ways that significantly shape their lives over a number of years, from a tenants' organization to a political movement to a town to a nation, to say nothing of large numbers over many generations, need to have de jure authority of some sort. The forms of such de jure authority can vary a lot but if any important life-affecting decisions have to be made, de jure authority is required. I welcome some counter examples. Regarding "exodus" or "mass exodus," maybe the term is too strong, but I'm not convinced by John Allen's article, which reflects in my view his deep conviction that the church is by and large doing quite well (except maybe in public relations) and simply has to do it more of it, i.e., it's serving its existing members well but not reaching new ones; its losses are only the more or less inevitable ones experienced by all religious groups. Apart from the odd fact that Catholics should now accept as the rather low standard the patterns of a Protestantism it has always criticized for lacking staying power, I think that Lugo's and Smith's answers in the interview reflect a line of questioning that never, never takes up an important point: Are Catholic losses and the losses of individual Protestant denominations, taken separately, really the same thing? Or should we be comparing the losses of Catholicism overall with the losses of Protestantism overall? A great deal of the losses or gains among Protestant groups, taken separately, seem to reflect losses or gains to or from other Protestant groups. I believe that this is an old pattern in American religion. It has to do with the social class hierarchy that long existed among Protestant denominations; the more well-off and respectable you were, the more you went from being a Baptist to a Methodist to a Presbyterian. Nowadays it has even more to do with the disappearance of doctrinal or disciplinary distinctions among Protestant denominations. All of this means, for instance, that when a Methodist and Presbyterian married couple decide that both will go to the same church, although strictly speaking it registers as a loss for one denomination and a gain for the other, I don't think it is the same thing, certainly not by historical terms, as the Catholic partner in a mixed marriage becoming a Methodist or the Methodist partner converting to Catholicism. I know that's probably a rather Catholic-centric view of the matter. But without it, I think that comparisons between rates of losses and rates of retention are deceptive. Allen's interview contains some very good points. For example, that there is no single answer to this problem, and that a major area of concern should be adolescence and early adulthood. It might be complemented, however, with some of the findings of Robert Putnam and Chris Smith, which do not really support Allen's conclusion that "the Catholic church's struggles aren't really with pastoral care, but missionary muscle" and "Overall, Catholicism serves existing members fairly well, as measured by the share that chooses to stick around; what it doesn't do nearly as well is to evangelize." I would propose that the data about sticking around suggests the church is not serving existing members well AND it doesn't evangelize well either.

I blurbed the book "The Spirit of Vatican II" that Bill Mazzella mentions above. I thought it a very accessible history that makes an original contribution by weaving the story around the experience of Catholic women and especially of those in her own family. If I had any major reservations about the book it was that the story ended in too rosy fashion with her mother's fascinating and ultimately positive experiences. Now I read a profile of the author in yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune that ends with this: "While it was not part of her mothers story, McDannell talks about one of the other consequences of Vatican II: the hemorrhage of American Catholics out of the church.'Its ... indicative of Catholics thinking the church did not go far enough in making changes, in its attitude toward homosexuality, toward women in the priesthood, toward birth control,' McDannell says. 'For many people, they just got frustrated with that. The promise that we moved so far but not far enough.'"McDannell says she has stopped practicing her faith and now describes herself as a secular humanist."From the book's Acknowledgments, I learn that McDannell and her husband have a daughter. I wonder how that will work out.

Gaillardetz's historical survey goes over ground many of us have been over before, but it is presented well, and yes, refuting Weigel's version of the story is worthwhile. I was struck, though, by the latter section in which Gaillardetz offers advice to the laity who might want to respond to the obvious needs of a priesthood formed in seminaries offering a vision of their own role so exalted as to make it hard for them to listen and learn from ordinary Christians. His observation of this as a problem is right on the money, even if his suggestions about how to deal with it sound pretty hopeless. (Invite a priest to dinner? say encouraging things? make suggestions?)

It seems to me we need to distinguish two main kinds of dissatisfied Catholics. Many, many people have severe problems involving dogma and repressive church authority and hierarchical corruption. These "dissenters" are often made to feel unwelcome by self-proclaimed "orthodox" Catholics who even encourage them explicitly to leave the Church. Other people have problems primarily of practice (e.g., uninspiring sermons and liturgical forms, lack of spiritual guidance, lack of close feelings of community), Many of these join fundamentalist churches, though they sometimes have both sorts of problems. Solutions to the problems will be very different, I think, with the praxis problems being more amenable to solution.

Damn, Peter. I read everybody's blurb on the jacket but yours. I am disappointed by McDannell's descent into secular humanism. It does not take away from her great scholarship. Sometimes a little knowledge is dangerous. Or is it better to say that faith is a gift. She seems to be more on target when she describes herself as a confusing Catholic. Why she goes from Catholic to humanist is interesting. Why not Catholic to Christian? Although I value scholarship wherever it is objective, when there is a resultant lack of faith I suspect that the scholarship may be tainted by a need to justify one's decision rather than genuine searching. She seems to be in transition from my vantage point. While I acknowledge that many humanists lead better lives than many identified Christians, I believe that at least so far she has lost much.

Ann Olivier,In my experience there is a third main, and growing, group. After a Catholic upbringing, they just don't see the point of it, or of any faith practice. Often this happens in the late teens or twenties. We used to console ourselves with the belief, supported by some evidence, that these young people, after marriage and children, would return to Catholic practice. It does still happen, but less and less.

John P.==Yes, there are such young people. I wonder if the bitter squabbling they see in the Church is a reason not to return.

While Gaillardetz makes some worthwhile observations and suggestions, anybody alive in the 70s and 80s would have to acknowledge that Weigel offers a much more accurate description of what was going on in that period. Thank God that's behind us and we do have a new generation of brilliant young JPII priests with a true zeal for saving souls.

One of the things I took away from my RCIA experience was a deep appreciation for Gaillardetz's clarity and good sense; we were given a piece on Church teaching that (at the time) seemed to put teaching, tradition, conscience and obedience in perspective.I appreciated Gaillardetz's thoughts here, but, for me the crux of the piece is his "parable" of Michael and Marie--one superficially rejects Catholic teaching out of hand, and one considers it carefully, but arrives at the same conclusion. While he sees a difference between these two characters--even the Pope has said that it's "not nothing" when divorced and remarried couples continue to go to Mass but don't receive--both reject the teaching.In my view, the important bit of the picture Gaillardetz leaves out is where obedience and wrestling leave you in regard to the Church. If Michael dismisses Church teaching about artificial insemination, but circumstances never tempt him to sin by engaging in it, then he remains a Catholic in good standing. Marie's wrestling with tradition may imperfectly inform her conscience. For instance, she might decide to opt for artificial insemination, but with some caveats (e.g., her husband would be the only donor; she would not opt for in vitro fertilization or embryo implantation; etc. etc.), she ought no longer be a Catholic in good standing unless she can go and make a free and full confession of sorrow for her decision.One also wonders whether a priest, in good conscience, ought to baptize a child born of artificial insemination, if its parents, however much they've wrestled with the faith, have not been faithful nor sought absolution for their sin.

"Thank God thats behind us and we do have a new generation of brilliant young JPII priests with a true zeal for saving souls."Certainly, a lot of these youngsters seem very concerned with preventing the "wrong" people from approaching the Table. Whether this will save souls or simply result in a stronger faith by distilling away the impurities so that only the strongest spirits prevail remains to be seen.

Why do you think they're "brilliant"==or have a real zeal for saving souls? I've met a number of them that want to say the Latin mass without actually going to the trouble of learning Latin--something that never would have happened in the 1950s.

One of those brilliant JP2 priests had the privilege of celebrating Mass in Latin with JP2, who scolded him for his incompetence in the langauge. Undaunted, the brilliant young priest denounced his seminary for failing to teach him Latin. In contrast, seminarians in the 1960s entered the seminary with a good knowledge of Latin, due to years of study in high school.

My husband is a Baptist, where church organization is the polar opposite of the RCC. Basically, every church entity in every generation has to persuade a new generation of its importance in their lives. The result is an endless cycle of maturity and rebirth, sometimes in the same church building, sometimes in the auditorium of the nearby elementary school. It's exhausting and at its worst it descends into out and out pandering (which is almost never successful, BTW), or in models like Willow Creek (which Gaillardetz called "Cedar Creek"), that only survive by sheer size and scale of social outreach. Many of those have seriously cratered during the recession.However, as the years go by I do see the value of the congregationalist model -- the constant attention to God at work in life, the constant re-examination of Biblical sources (extremely helpful for new believers), and the constant need to ensure the relevance of church in life, or else, simply vanish. Instead of seeding new parishes to take advantage of demographic opportunities, we see the opposite, the closing and merging of parishes and all the trauma that goes along with it. In my oh so humble view, until the priest shortage is addressed nothing else can be, because the defensive crouch the church finds itself in is impossible to get out of when organizational decisions are motivated almost entirely by the reality that the church's hierarchy is disappearing from the ground up.

". . . JPII priests with a true zeal for saving souls."This is a contrast -- about the priests who do not have a true zeal etc.)For Lent I'm going to point out the insults -- the ones that help to keep people away from the Church.)

"In my oh so humble view, until the priest shortage is addressed"Hear, hear!!

It's no secret that one of the primary reasons that the Church, not only in the US but in Europe as well, is that the Second Vatican Council has never been fully or completely implemented. JPII, and now BXVI, have established and are implementing a 'restoration' of the pre-Vatican style of Church. This is not news to anyone who reads this blog regularly. This coming Advent, we will witness the latest effect of the Restoration when we are faced with a "new' translation that renders English in a Latin idiom. Administratively, the Restoration is being implemented with the choice of Bishops solely by the Vatican, with no real consultation with local Churches.The genuine theology and ecclesiology of Vatican II are what need to be implemented.But first they have to studied. The exciting theological thrust of Vatican II was based, to a large extend, on a movement that began in France and Germany called Ressourcement, a "return to the Sources", notably the Fathers of the Church who wrote during the first four centuries of the Church's history. The fruit of this Ressourcement is the the theology and ecclesiology of Vatican II: the Church is the People of God. What Ressourcement gave the modern Church a picture of what was essential in the Church in those early centuries, how the Christians in those celebrated Eucharist and the other Sacraments, howministry was understood and exercised.Much more is at stake in the contemporary Church than simply 'rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic'! There's an old saying, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it hasn't been tried!" I would add a corrolary: Vatican II has not been tried and found wanting; the real essence of it has not really been understood, let alone tried.,,.

"For Lent Im going to point out the insults the ones that help to keep people away from the Church."For Lent, I'm going to read everything Ann posts (not that I don't already ...)

Is j.a.m. one of the"orthodox" who wants to kick out "dissenters" and one of the problems?I thought Susan's comment to be quite germane and it made me think of Abp. Martin's addess at magdellan Colege abou tIreland, how demoralized the clergy are there and the issue of re-forming clergy WITH laity.Yesterday, our well liked(a "nice guy") JPII pastor reminded us in the homily of all the ills we're facing in the church because of "secular humanism."That kind of fortress mentality will keep drift or implosion or whatever going apace.Gaillardedtz mentions Catholic Common Ground, bu not its (I beleive deliberate) demise and Weigel crowing the Bernadin years are over.It seems to me tha sans the possibility of some of that late cardinal's vision, the continuing crisis will not abate here (or Ireland, or Australia, or on much of the continent.)

Let me be the first to alert the Commonweal blog that Charlie Sheen has become a verb. might recall that Charlie's father Martin Sheen, asked and was given permission to use Bishop's Sheen's name as a stage name. Martin Sheen's real name is Estevez. Now can we say that Bishop Sheen has been Sheened. Or have the faithful been sheened by a hierarchy who now is recruiting priests who are into empire and domination. Not to mention the complete elimination of masturbation. So there is a story somewhere in being Sheened. And it ain't your shoes.

"The bishops wisely drew on the Catholic natural law tradition, making arguments based not on divine revelation but on a form of ethical reasoning that was intelligible to all American citizens."How exactly does one make an argument that wisely draws on the Catholic Natural Law Tradition, while denying that the Catholic Natural Law Tradition is grounded in The Divinity and Unity of The Spirit of Love?

"How exactly does one make an argument that wisely draws on the Catholic Natural Law Tradition, while denying that the Catholic Natural Law Tradition is grounded in The Divinity and Unity of The Spirit of Love?"Nancy --Good question. The classic answer going all the way back to the Middle Ages is that human beings have the ability to generalize and reason from those generalizations. The discovery of natural law ethical principles is thus grounded on the common experience of mankind, just as scientific knowledge is available to all on the basis of non-religious experience. In other words, everyone -- atheists included -- can discover natural law ethics without relying on revelation.This is the reason, may Catholics think, that we can find agreement with people of other faiths or no faith at all when we are looking for principles upon which to ground our political life. In fact, that is exactly what happened with the invention of the American Constitution -- Thomas Jefferson was highly influenced by the natural law political philosopher JOhn Locke. So it simply isn't true that only people of faith can know what virtue is and be virtuous. This is the teaching of the Church and has been for over 700 years.You can disagree, but if that is the case, then I predict that Aquinas will win the argument. Yes, Thomas *also* drew on revelation, but at times he stuck to what we can know by unaided reason. See his many, many natural law arguments in the Summa theologica.

One of those brilliant JP2 priests had the privilege of celebrating Mass in Latin with JP2, who scolded him for his incompetence in the langauge. Undaunted, the brilliant young priest denounced his seminary for failing to teach him Latin. In contrast, seminarians in the 1960s entered the seminary with a good knowledge of Latin, due to years of study in high school.---------About fifteen years ago, I read the catalogs of courses offered at many/most American seminaries. Shocking to see how few offered Latin and Greek. (Can't remember if any offered Hebrew.) Many/most offered "English as a Second Language". That was shortly after Katarina Schuth's book on seminaries, theologates, etc., came out with the sad truth about the men who would be priests.True that the guys who entered in the good old days learned Latin in high school. Also in grade school. We went to Mass every morning, and with Latin and English side-by-side in the daily missal, and Engish in red under the Latin in the hymnal, it would have been impossible not to learn Latin. Funny how the "traditional" Catholics butcher the pronunciation, put the emPHAsis on the wrong syLABles, ham it up, etc.

Actually Bill I think Charlie Sheen might or could represent a form of radical individualism. In an interview he stated that he had been around the corridors of treatment and therapy for the last 20 years. He had an epiphany like moment and argues that he is now in possession of remarkable clarity and creativity. He now eschews all association with AA, therapy, etc. arguing that it does not work.Interestingly he argues that the one size fits all model of treatment augers for failure for 90 percent of people.Is he in a hypomanic phase or has he been transformed through grace to be free of alcohol and drugs? He carries around updated urine and blood samples. (yes i know that there is questionable morality...the "goddesses" and all that).The parallel point here is that institutional mental health and addiction is facing similar challenges that institutional Christianity is facing.

PSI read that his father prays the rosary daily........let's see what happens...maybe those intercessions will now bear a fruit and maybe that kind of piety has more value than we might think.

Thanks, Peter! Bravo Richard - I think we should elect him pope by acclamation.

Mr. Steinfels,I think you make a good point about the fact that leaving Catholicism is different than leaving Protestantism, especially historically.But, I wonder if that is actually a change that is happening now. In another words, post-Vatican II, post Kennedy's election, Catholics became part of accepted Christian mainstream in the U.S. Catholicism appears to be more like Protestantism, and has just become another denomination in the U.S. If this is so, it is still a serious problem since the Catholic Church is not just another denomination. Perhaps that is really the more significant change than whether or not there is a mass exodus.

Ann, no doubt, Thomas Jefferson was aware that our unalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness has been endowed to us from our Creator, not John Locke.That being said, If it is true that, according to St.Thomas Aquinas, "Eternal Law is the decree of God that governs all Creation and that Natural Law is the human participation in The Eternal Law, then in the inherent natural order of The Law, Natural Law must be grounded in Eternal Law, which is The Divine Law, to begin with.According to The Catechism of The Catholic Church, (H/T also to wiki) "Sexual intercourse ouside of Marriage is contrary to its purpose. The conjugal act aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and one soul, since the Marriage bond is the sign of the Love between God and Humanity."Those who claim that we can be People of God without being in Communion with Him, are simply mistaken. We cannot be in Communion with God if we do not abide in His Word.Regarding the importance of Communion, The Eucharist and the Unity of His Church

. . . JPII priests with a true zeal for saving souls.I hate (actually, I relish doing so) to point out that neither the Catholic Church nor her priests can save souls. Souls are saved by Jesus Christ. Period.

Nancy --You seem to think Jefferson was a Christian. He wasn't. He was a Deist. He respected Jesus as a moral teacher, but he thought Jesus was just another man. A great teacher, but another mere human being.You also seem to think that if someone doesn't believe in Jesus as God our Savior he will go to Hell. But that it not the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Not now, anyway. Vatican II made that crystal clear. And even if a person chooses to turn his back on Jesus, that doesn't mean that he can't know what is a virtuous human life in relation to other people. In other words, you can discover your rights and duties to others and live an upright life without believing in God.Yes, ultimately the natural law is grounded in divine law. But not everyone knows that. Yes, there have been some Catholics -- nuns and priests and maybe bishops -- who in my own lifetime taught that if you weren't a Catholic/Christian you would surely go to Hell, but I certainly wasn't taught that as a child (b. 1930), and I know very few people who were. There were a few who were taught that in a Christian Brothers school here.There is also a strange phenomenon in the U. S. -- some Catholic Americans believe what Protestants believe although they weren't taught Protestant theology. I have even known some Catholic women who were convinced that at their own marriage ceremony they promised to obey their husbands. But it's Protestant wives who promise that (or used to), but it it not part of the Catholic ceremony. Weird.

Ann, F.Y.I., Although it is a great mystery, we are taught to trust in Divine Providence. The Church has always taught that outside of The Body of Christ, there will be no Salvation: am reminded of the good thief who converted at the hour of his death.

"... no doubt, Thomas Jefferson was aware that our unalienable Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness has been endowed to us from our Creator, not John Locke."I don't think Thomas Jefferson was aware of any unalienable Right to Liberty, given that he had slaves. Since his notions about libert extended only to white males, I wonder to what extent he might have extended the right to life and happiness to all.Moreover, the Church has not always perfectly interpreted these unalienable rights. It was not always apparent to all Catholics in every age that slavery was a vile institution. While the Church never condoned slavery, I don't know of any Southern Catholics who were excommunicated for holding slaves. (Ann, correct me if I'm wrong.)

As to dissention and how to avoid it within His Church, I am reminded of Jude 16..."But you, beloved, remember the words spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord, Jesus Christ, for they told you, 'In the last time there will be scoffers who will live according to their own godless desires.' These are the ones who cause division; they live on their own natural plain, devoid of The Spirit. But you, beloved, build yourself up in your most Holy Faith; pray in The Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the Love of God and wait for the Mercy of our Lord, Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. On those who waver, have mercy; save others by snatching them out of the fire; on others have mercy with fear, abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh."According to Jude, we should all strive for that zeal to help each other get to Heaven and thus participate in the saving of souls.

"I dont know of any Southern Catholics who were excommunicated for holding slaves."Not antebellum, but in 1962 (long before Selma) the Archbishop of New Orleans excommunicated Catholic politicians who obstinately refused to integrate parochial schools.

"in 1962 (long before Selma)"D'oh. That should have been "in 1962 (before Selma and before Vatican II)..."

I dont think Thomas Jefferson was aware of any unalienable Right to LibertyIs this a trick question, or are you really claiming TJ was unaware of the immortal words he himself bequeathed us? Would love to hear the mental gymnastics behind that (not really).And no, the slave-holding Jesuits were not excommunicated. Nor was the father of Georgetown University's founder, who owned a few dozen slaves, one of whom became his common law wife and bore him three priest sons.

Georgetown University was founded in 1789 by John Carroll, first bishop and then first archbishop of Baltimore. Father Patrick Healy,SJ, referred to above, was president of Georgetown in the 1880s.

I think we've strayed from the topic of the problems Gailardetz noted.Let me make two points about that:1)authoruty - it's clear that there needs to be authority of some sort as Peter well noted.What's problematic is the rules and regs have become"sacred" canpns, the policy makers almost all canonists, and the impact has been to preseve that kind of authority at all costs. What is lost is the pastoral balance that Gailardetz talks about as charismatic and the lack of communication being heard up the line.What this says is there is a systemic governance problem,2)which leads to the second point about priests coming along.They are being trained, I posit, in the same poor goveranace approach that some noted here.I would have a given a few shekels to be a fly on the wall of Abp. Dolan's "visitation" of the Irish seminaries and what his message was.It strikes me that Gaillardetz, in reacting to Weigel, was saying that the triumpahal(ism) call there was more like Nero fiddling while Rome burns. iMO what we'll get is the impoverished "distinct" Catholicism of today.

Not antebellum, but in 1962 (long before Selma) the Archbishop of New Orleans excommunicated Catholic politicians who obstinately refused to integrate parochial schools.P Flanagan, Archbishop Rummel excommunicate three Catholic politicians who were defying his authority by attempting to put roadblocks in the way of his effort to integrate the Catholic schools in his diocese. He did not excommunicate them because of their views. He excommunicated them for interfering with his own actions as archbishop. It was a good and proper thing he did, but he was not in the forefront of the civil rights movement. Brown v Board of Education was decided in 1954. The New Orleans public schools integrated two years earlier than the Catholic schools.

David N, given the unfortunate propensity on this blog to preemptively condemn each and every action by the "hierarchs" of the Church as greedy, corrupt, power-hungry and self-interested, I'm not surprised you can do no more than toss a few crumbs toward the memory of Archbishop Rummel.As for "their views" and "their actions", current pro-abortion Catholic politicians are not only opposed to Church teachings in their views, but very concretely in their actions, in their votes supporting, funding and expanding abortion. They should be no less liable to denial of Communion - much less excommunication - than the Catholic politicians who opposed desegregation through their actions.

I agree with Claire: why is it "clear" that there is a need for de jure authority within the church, and what does that even mean? Most of the examples given by Peter are not in and of themselves "legal" except in the sense that they are contractual in nature, e.g., association membership. Even under that standard, the church does not possess "legal" authority. Excommunication is a symbolic exercise -- just as, basically, membership in the Church is a symbolic exercise as far as the law cares. I think there are a lot of people who would agree with Peter that de jure authority is necessary, without thinking through that the church does not function as a de jure institution -- it doesn't even have a contract with its members -- and I only say this because to call for a "de jure" solution in an enterprise without any claim to de jure authority is likely to result in even more of the bluster on display we see in actions such as threats of excommunication, which is to say, completely useless and looking at the problem from a wholly irrelevant angle.

"[Rummel] was not in the forefront of the civil rights movement. Brown v Board of Education was decided in 1954."No dog in this hunt for me, but according to Wikipedia,"In 1953, he [Rummel] issued 'Blessed Are the Peacemakers', the pastoral letter that officially ordered the end to segregation in the entire Archdiocese: [5] 'Ever mindful, therefore, of the basic truth that our Colored Catholic brethren share with us the same spiritual life and destiny, the same membership in the Mystical Body of Christ, the same dependence upon the Word of God, the participation in the Sacraments, especially the Most Holy Eucharist, the same need of moral and social encouragement, let there be no further discrimination or segregation in the pews, at the Communion rail, at the confessional and in parish meetings, just as there will be no segregation in the kingdom of heaven.' Rummel, Most Reverend Joseph Francis. 'Blessed Are the Peacemakers.' Pastoral letter 15. 1953."

I should add (having accidentally hit the "submit" button before I intended to) that the Wikipedia article also confirms David's facts. My point was just that there is some evidence that Rummel's heart was in the right place on this, whatever the complexities of his relationships with various church and state bodies.

It is true that any community requires a de jure authority structure.However, the raging debate around Catholic ecclesiology concerns the extent to which the current juridical composition of the Church (i.e. Bishops and bishops alone tasked with governing) is of Divine origin.It appears that Lumen Gentium argues that it is. And then there is the thorny issue of the Petrine ministry.There is no reason, in my mind, for example that Congregations within the Vatican such as congregations for the laity, need to be headed by a Cardinal. A lay person or religious should be able to exercise authority in these congregations.

Nancy,I followed the link you offered, and found this:Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.LG 16Is that what you were trying to say?

Im not surprised you can do no more than toss a few crumbs toward the memory of Archbishop Rummel.P Flanagan and Mark Preece, He seems to have been a good man, but he wanted to avoid conflict, and hence he moved slowly on the matter of integrating the Catholic schools under his authority. He was also not in good health, which may have accounted for his less-than-aggressive efforts, and John Cody, who was assisting him at the time, probably deserves some of the credit for finally integrating the schools. People are always using Archbishop Rummell as an example of what the Catholic Church did for the civil rights movement, and I think it is perfectly appropriate to point out that he was not in the forefront of the civil rights movement. As I have pointed out before, the short biography on the web site of Archbishop Rummel High School mentions the 1953 pastoral letter, but it doesn't mention anything about the events surrounding the actual integration of the schools in 1962.

George,I agree in substance, but your language is a little off. Cardinals are advisors to the Pope, so the heads of certain offices by that fact have to be Cardinals, since they have their authority from the Pope and would be his advisor on that subject.Cardinals do not have to be bishops, something John XXIII decreed. Nor do they have to be priests, something that goes back to the 1917 code of Canon Law. The last lay cardinal was a Secretary of State under Leo XIII or Pius X, just over 100 years ago.

As I was reading Gaillardetz's piece, I was thinking, 'this is almost a reply to Weigel's recent article', - and then I read that it is exactly that :-)Gaillardetz points to bishops that have been discussed extensively here, such as Olmsted and Tobin, as examplars of the more confrontational style, in contrast to the more measured and pastoral (or, as some would claim, accommodationist) approach exemplified by Cardinal Bernardin. Weigel's thesis is that Bernardin and his approach were dominant during that era. Can the same be said about the approach exemplified by Olmsted and Tobin? Gaillardetz states that they are not outliers. Perhaps they're not outliers - but I'm not certain they're typical, either. I would argue that their aggressive tactics make them atypical.

Nancy --You have shifted from saying the Church has always taught that to go to Heaven one must believe in the Lord and be a Christian/Catholic to appealing to LG, which clearly says one doesn't have to be either a Catholic or Christian to make it to Heaven.Which is it that you believe -- must one believe in Christ and that the RCC is His one and only Church or not? What do you think the Church teaches now? What do you think it has taught in the past? You seem to change your beliefs from hour to hour depending on which Church document your're reading.

"Archbishop Rummel excommunicate three Catholic politicians who were defying his authority by attempting to put roadblocks in the way of his effort to integrate the Catholic schools in his diocese. He did not excommunicate them because of their views. He excommunicated them for interfering with his own actions as archbishop. It was a good and proper thing he did, but he was not in the forefront of the civil rights movement. Brown"Bob N. --What??? Archbishop Rummel not in the forefront of the civil rights movement? He started condemning segregation as soon as he got off the train in 1935. You didn't go to Mass in my parish and hear his long-winded letters on Sunday about the evils of segregation and the gross unfairness of the segregation laws and mores of the South of the time. He was literally hated by some people at first, but people grew to respect him greatly, even segregationists, many of whom changed their minds and hearts because of his powerful and relentless teaching on the subject.The people he excommunicated were not all politicians. One was a housewife, Mrs. Gaillot (sp?). You're probably thinking of Leander Perez, the truly horrid and powerful segregationist politician, one of the worst in the South. He later returned to the Church.

Did I say anything about Rummel?What?I am offering a critique of the governace system in the Church today. That doesn't mean as Mr Flanagan straw mans that every hierach is greedy corrupt, etc.I think the system is unable to deal with the crisis at hand (Gaillardetz's word and Abp. Martin's words) and tends to repopulatei ts policy makers with medioctriites who are driven by a curial canonical perspective, and that means more than Olmstead, Toibin, Morlino, etc.

"one doesnt have to be either a Catholic or Christian to make it to Heaven."Exactly right. This is the teaching of the Church. Yet in some mysterious way fully known only to God, all are saved through Christ. Karl Rahner posited the concept of the "anonymous Christian" to provide some theological foundation for this teaching.

"Did I say anything about Rummel?"Indeed, Ann, it was David Nickol (@ 12:03PM) who claimed that Rummel was not at the forefront of the civil rights movement, not Bob Nunz.

Let me suggest one facet of the "State of the Church" in the U. S. today that I think has more than minor relevance.I do not have the sense that all that many adult Catholics, whether lay or clergy, have a deep appreciation for the riches of Christianity, especially the riches of Scripture and the liturgical rites. Among those who regularly practice our faith,here seems to be some sort of easy assent to credal propositions, Church rules, some attention to devotions like the rosary, Ash Wednesday, Advent wreaths, etc., but not much thought about the depth of meaning of the life and work of Jesus and of the profound reflections on that work that have fleshed out the story of our Redemption.As I see things, our present culture is one that has little stamina for reflection, for mulling over the relevance of the riches of Catholicism for our lives. Our culture stresses the busy search for novelties, for what is new in fashion, business, technology, etc. There is precious support, even within families, for conversations about what it is to be Catholic, about how Catholicism addresses the challenges of living with one another, etc. In other words, there is little room for the kind of silence needed for us to absorb just what Jesus has initiated for us.So it strikes me that it is very hard to break through this curtain of noise and engage with one another in the work of building up a mature Christian community. For this reason I'm not sanguine about the prospects either for responsible lay participation in the Church or for all this "new evangelization" that is proposed. I don't see a path to engaging in the kind of talk with one another, clergy and laity alike, that responsible participation demands.In my own limited experience, besides some of you, my fellow bloggers, there are only a few widely scattered people with whom I can converse in depth about what it means to be a Christian today. At the moment, and for some years now, there is no priest, much less bishop, that I feel is interested in such conversations. I fear that my experience is all too typical. I re3ally do hope that I 'm wrong about all this.In my case, I'm very fortunate both that my wife shares much of my concerns and that she is sufficiently different from me that it is always interesting and bracing to talk with her.In spite of all this, I do believe that it is right and good for me to stick with the Church, to support it financially, and to gripe about it. Karl Rahner's and Yves Congar's thoughts and examples are great sources of consolation.

More about Archbishop Rummel --True, he didn't integrate the Catholic schools before the public ones (which integrated only because of orders from federal court). But that was in the '60s. Archbishop Rummel had been preaching against segregation since 1935, and he took small but significant steps along the way to end segregation in the Church. For instance, he integrated the seminary and supported the Catholic Committee of the South, an organization of clergy and lay people to further racial justice. Most important, he supported the "red priests" such as Frs. John Twomey, S. J. and Vincent O'Connell, S.M, and others who spoke out in no uncertain terms from the pulpits and in organizations and ordinary conversations. He supported the founding of St. Augustine High School for black boys. (There was already one for girls.). And he supported the teachers in the seminary who taught that segregation was immoral and that social justice was a Christian necessity. Such actions had cumulative effect. The young people, especially, (including the young priests) were receptive of the new teaching. For instance, none of my friends were segregationists by the time they graduated from college in the 50s, and many of their parents had changed too. When the Catholic schools were integrated a couple of years after the public ones. It was done without incident. Compare that to the screaming mobs at the public school integration.Why the delay in integrating the schools? Most people seem to think it was simply because he was old (in his 80's) and very frail physically and blind, and he just didn't have the energy to begin. I wonder too how much the decision was his and how much was Bishop Cody's, then his auxiliary. Certainly, the effects of such a decision were unpredictable. At any rate, nobody here had any doubt where his heart was and what his teaching -- and that of Rome -- was. Rome backed the excommunications. He had made the teachings clear over a period of 30 years. True, the explicit, legal ground for excommunication was their opposition to his *decision* to integrate (his right to make the decision, as I remember it), not his explicit *teaching* about segregation. But it was clear that it wasn't the decision they cared about, it was the integration they care about. (Talk bout splitting hairs!!!) The schools were integrated without incident, but the radical segregationists, including some Catholics, continued their raucous drumbeat against integration by forming the awful White Citizens Councils. These were primarily political in nature, but the war was over.

What??? Archbishop Rummel not in the forefront of the civil rights movement? Ann,I can find no evidence here or here that Archbishop Rummel was in the forefront of the civil rights movement. It appears that segregated seating in parishes was not officially banned until the early 1950s:

The official position of the archdiocese was that segregation was immoral and contrary to justice; but Archbishop Joseph F. Rummel was a gradualist in regard to change. In 1950 the archdiocese had drawn up a policy statement doing away with segregated seating in the churches, directing priests not to refuse the sacraments or sacramentals to any black Catholic, but still urging black Catholics to frequent the black parishes. While Loyola University slowly began accepting blacks into its law school in 1952 (beginning with Norman Francis, who today is president of Xavier University), the Sisters of the Sacred Heart desegregated their college in 1953. That same year, in a pastoral letter entitled Blessed Are the Peacemakers, Rummel announced the end of racial segregation within the archdiocese. But the archdiocese, although it supported the Supreme Court decision, did not formally implement a policy of integration in its parochial school system until 1956. When it did, there was a storm of protest from white parishioners. [Emphasis added]It is sad that Catholic institutions of higher learning were ever segregated at all. The same is true of entire parishes and of seating within "white" churches:
In one particularly infamous episode in 1959 -- eight years after segregated seating had been nominally banned -- parishioners of St. Joseph the Worker Church in Marrero badly beat two black youths who, for a second time, sat themselves in the front pews for Sunday Mass.Moreover, Poch said, Rummel deeply valued harmony. He wanted change -- even if radical -- to come organically. The more vigorous secular civil rights approach of taking it to the streets "just wasn't in his vocabulary."

He did not make any move to integrate the Catholic schools until 1955. He did not actually integrate them until 1962, two years after the New Orleans public schools were integrated. It is not necessarily to condemn his gradualist approach to say that he was not in the forefront of the civil rights movement. He certainly did take a clear stand on racial matters. He did the right things, but he did not do them aggressively.

Coding error above! The paragraph beginning "It is sad . . . " is my own. The next two paragraphs are a quote, and the final two paragraphs are again my own.

David Nickol's stubborn refusal to acknowledge Archbishop Rummel's actions is a clear case in point regarding the almost comical obsession with condemning the institutional church that is found on this blog. Even in the instance of a Catholic Archbishop EXCOMMUNICATING SEGREGATIONISTS BACK IN 1962, the most that can be pulled from his teeth is "He did the right things, but he did not do them aggressively."Such commentary is beyond self-parody at this point.Thanks, Ann, for your informed, first-person defense of this great Archbishop.

Anne - would just add that Rummel's actions were unique in terms of the catholic church in the south and elsewhere especially given the times. (rather than comparing to public or other legal steps)Also, the frequently referenced three folks needs to take into consideration these people and their situation. All three were heavily involved in St. Bernard Parish politics and the political powers/families that controlled St. Bernard. The story is much more complicated and nuanced if you are familiar with the political history of St. Benard Parish and provides a different light on the subject and highlights the "brave" steps that Rummel took.

jam, my point requires no mental gymnastics to overtax your brain. Jefferson, as a slave holder, did not extend the "unalienable right" of liberty to slaves, whatever he may have written or however literally we construe his words today.

David Nickols stubborn refusal to acknowledge Archbishop Rummels actions is a clear case in point regarding the almost comical obsession with condemning the institutional church that is found on this blog. P Flanagan,I acknowledge his actions. Ann and I seem to be in substantial agreement about what Archbishop Rummel did and did not do. Where we differ is whether or not his actions put him "in the forefront of the civil rights movement." I don't think so. How in the world that constitutes "condemning the institutional church" is beyond me. I will repeat what I said above, however. It is sad that Catholic schools and seminaries and parishes were ever segregated at all.Here's a fascinating contemporary story in Time Magazine about Archbishop Rummel. An excerpt:

Rummel applauded the 1954 Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation in public schools, and began to nudge his reluctant flock toward accepting segregation as "morally wrong and sinful." He eliminated "whites only" pews in New Orleans' churches in 1953, and two years later shut down a church whose white parishioners objected to the assignment of a Negro priest. Yet, despite the example of Joseph Cardinal Ritter, who began to integrate Catholic education in St. Louis in 1947, Rummel made no real effort to bring his own parochial schools into compliance.For one reason, racism runs stronger in New Orleans than in St. Louis. For another, Rummel's health has long been failing: besides suffering from glaucoma, he nearly died in 1960 of pneumonia, after a fall in which he broke an arm and a leg. But now New Orleans' public schools have been integrated, in token fashion, for more than a year, and last month Rummel ordered that the city's Catholic schools, which enroll almost half of New Orleans' white students, be completely desegregated in September. Privately, many Catholics credit Rummel's stiff stand to the influence of brisk new CoAdjutor Archbishop John Patrick Cody, 54, formerly of Kan sas City, who recently returned to New Orleans from a visit with Pope John.

Why no praise for Joseph Cardinal Ritter and Archbishop Cody?

Such commentary is beyond self-parody at this point.P Flanagan,Does this actually make any sense? It seems to upset you very much to be disagreed with.

"It seems to upset you very much to be disagreed with."Not at all, else why would I post at this dissent-permeated blog?What upsets me, in a cumulative fashion, is the unrelenting attack on the institutional church that spews from this blog day after day after day. Never a positive word is heard regarding the leadership of the Church. Your comment just reached the point of parody when you attempted to disparage or at least minimize the actions of an Archbishop who went so far in support of civil rights as to excommunicate segregationists. No doubt you were speaking in the context of "being at the forefront of the civil rights movement" in comparison to MLK or whoever. But your seemingly instinctive, knee-jerk reaction to refute any hint of commendation for Archbishop Rummel is nothing less than pathetic.

But your seemingly instinctive, knee-jerk reaction to refute any hint of commendation for Archbishop Rummel is nothing less than pathetic.P Flanagan,It is hardly a knee-jerk reaction. It's been about three years since the topic of Archbishop Rummel's excommunications came up here. Every time he is mentioned, I do a little more research, and I still maintain my position. He excommunicated people who were directly challenging his authority. Had I been there at the time, I certainly would have applauded his actions. But I don't believe anyone has ever, or would ever, want him to be canonized as the patron saint of the civil rights movement. I am old enough to remember a great deal of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and I don't remember the Catholic Church being that much of a player. I went to Catholic school, and throughout grade school and high school, I had one and only one black classmate. I think it was third grade. I don't ever recall seeing a black person in the parish school or church I went to from about 1955 on. I don't remember any sermons being preached about racism (although that could be a faulty memory). As best I recall, the topic of race was avoided altogether in church.

Ann, since it is through Him, with Him, and in Him that His Church exists, one cannot enter into His Kingdom without being part of The Body of Christ. F.Y.I.- (H/T-Rick Garnett, Mirror Of Justice)

PF said: "Not at all, else why would I post at this dissent-permeated blog?"Because, dear brother in Christ, you, like the rest of us, seem to believe this:Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and religious matters, too. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person, even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions. God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts; for that reason he forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.Gaudium et Spes, n. 28 And this ---There is always a temptation for church authorities to try to use their power to stamp out dissent. The effort is rarely successful, because dissent simply seeks another forum, where it may become even more virulent. To the extent that the suppression is successful, it may also do harm. It inhibits good theology from performing its critical task, and it is detrimental to the atmosphere of freedom in the church. The acceptance of true doctrine should not be a matter of blind conformity, as though truth could be imposed by decree. The church, as a society that respects the freedom of the human conscience, must avoid procedures that savor of intellectual tyranny.Where dissent is kept within the bounds I have indicated, it is not fatal to the church as a community of faith and witness. If it does occur, it will be limited, reluctant, and respectful.Avery Dulles

I have told this story here before, but it remains a very powerful one for me.In the mid-1940s an Oblate Sister of Providence (a marvelous African-American community founded in Baltimore in 1829 largely because African-American women weren't welcome in existing religious communities), newly-assigned to Washington, presented herself for Communion (in full traditional habit) only to be told by the priest to go to the back of the line.Most religious communities of men and women as well as many diocesan presbyterates had no, or very few, African-American members well into the 20th century, with the notable exception of the Josephite Fathers and Brothers (SSJ) and the Society of the Divine Word (SVD).By the 1920s, the cause of inter-racial justice was being promoted in the large urban centers, especially New York and Chicago. There were the Catholic Inter-racial Council and activists such as John LaFarge, SJ. But the support of the episcopate was, with few exceptions, muted.In 1947, Archbishop Elmer Joseph Ritter integrated the Catholic schools in St. Louis. The following year, Archbishop Patrick Aloysius O'Boyle did the same in Washington (including several counties in southern Maryland). When some senior pastors resisted him, he re-assigned them.By the mid-1960s the Catholic Church became increasingly vocal in favor of racial justice, but it was well behind other Christian, Jewish, and non-denominational bodies.In this period the very activist Washington priest Father Geno Baroni marched in several demonstrations in the South along with a number of priests and Sisters. His picture at one of these demonstrations appeared prominently in newspapers across the country. He was in suit and collar, but didn't wear a hat. Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles called Archbishop O'Boyle,his friend and New York seminary classmate, and decried the presence of priests in such activities. "And," he fumed, "he wasn't wearing a hat." Father Baroni received a summons to appear at Archbishop' O'Boyle's office. He expected a strong dressing down. The archbishop sternly told him of his episcopal colleague's catalogue of complaints. At the end of the recital, Baroni asked, "Well, Your Excellency, what do you want me to do?" In his brusque manner, the archbishop replied: "Next time, Geno, wear a hat!"

"What upsets me, in a cumulative fashion, is the unrelenting attack on the institutional church that spews from this blog day after day after day. Never a positive word is heard regarding the leadership of the Church.""Unrelenting"? "Spews"? "Day after day"? "Never"?Let's take February as a representative month on the blog:Portlandia--a light piece about the city of PortlandNew issue on lineState pension fundsPic of the day (no idea)Gingrich (two reports unflattering to his concerns about the moral tone of the country)Israel (three reports)Update on Kermit Gosnell's abortion "clinic" with kudos to Catholic investigator who shut down the place"Of Gods and Men" movie reviewBudget cutsEvents in Madison, Wisc. (two stories)Pro-lifers and Obama (defending the president's move to restore rights of conscience)Piece on "virtue theory" which mentions scandals involving Fr. Euteneur and Planned ParenthoodRepublicans quashing a database on the CPSCReport on Catholic D.A. who broke abuse scandal in PhiladelphiaPiece lauding Cardinal O'Malley and Bishop Martin washing the feet of sex abuse victims"Costly grace" re Cardinal NewmanBishop Fellay in talks with the VaticanChocolate Easter eggs with religious messagesUprisings in Middle East (two reports)Piece on numbers of churches offering old rite Latin Mass

Woops, hit "submit" before I got from end to middle of February (likely a divine poke to get to the POINT already!). Which is this:Yes, there are pieces unflattering to some Church leaders (but none who don't deserve unflattering). There are also stories that are laudatory about Church leaders past and present. MOST of the pieces are not about the Church proper, but about politics, foreign affairs, and the arts. I don't see evidence of daily, unrelenting Church bashing. Do some participants here have axes to grind? Yes, indeedy! But no one has ever, to my knowledge prevented Mr. Flanagan from grinding his own axe, or hacking at the blog with it, even when he makes such overstatements as the one above.

Jimmy Mac, you seem to have omitted a critical portion of the Dulles article you cite:"According to the bishops, dissent may be legitimate provided that three conditions are observed. (1) One must have striven seriously to attach positive value to the teaching in question and to appropriate it personally. (2) One must seriously ponder whether one has the theological expertise to disagree responsibly with ecclesiastical authority. (3) One must examine one's conscience for possible conceit, presumptuousness, or selfishness."Can those at CommonWeal who constantly attack the institutional church honestly say they have met these conditions for legitimate dissent? It rarely seems to me that even one of them is met in many of the comment attacks.Jean Raber, it is not necessarily the posts themselves but rather the comment thread connected with them in which the Usual Suspects revile the Catholic Church.

"But no one has ever, to my knowledge prevented Mr. Flanagan from grinding his own axe, or hacking at the blog with it, even when he makes such overstatements as the one above."Not sure if or how often I have expressed my appreciation for the open debate here. Perhaps, like McCarraher, I thought it obvious insofar as I continue to read and comment.The only prevention is occasionally from Gallicho, but I suppose that is his role as hall monitor, er moderator. Now and then one or two of the other Powers That Be will peremptorily announce that I have now had my say. But overall, very tolerant. Thank you.

Mr. Flanagan, are you perhaps conflating criticism and dissent? Criticism of SOME Church leaders (who have committed crimes, fraud, and cover-ups) deserve to be outed. Dissent from Church teaching? That's a serious charge. Yes, there are people here who doubt some Church teachings, and are quite blunt about it. But I have never seen anything on here that dissents from or denies Church teaching.Are questions raised? Is there probing? Yes, but these are generally done by people with the bona fides in theology to do so. The Powers That Be have told me I've gone too far a time or two, so I hope you aren't all hurt about that. Bless them, they just tell you to stow it insteading of calling your mom, like the assistant high school principal used to do when I was smoking in the parking lot or rearranging the labels on the geology teacher's mineral collection.OK, I'm off now (before Grant can get out his clipboard).

Not to mention there would be no division in The Church without those who dissent from the teachings of The Church, to begin with.

Mr. Flanagan has presented a caricature of the comments and commentators on this blog. Jean Raber is right to distinguish between dissent and critical thinking. If every criticism of the hierarchy is dissent then the Church is really in trouble. Catholic social teaching has always encouraged challenges to unjust abuses of authority. When the hierarchy understands that such abuse is not only outside the Church but within it as well, it will be well served by the people of God. Nancy, Division in the Church is caused not only by dissent. It is also caused by abuses of authority that promotes exclusiveness, injustice, subjugation, and repression.

Rewrite:Nancy,Division in the Church is not only caused by what you understand to be dissent. It is also caused by abuses of authority that promote exclusiveness, injustice, subjugation, and repression.It is late.

David N. ==Archbishop Rummel was at the forefront of the civil rights movement in the 1930's. This was probably due to his experience as a parish priest in Harlem in NYC. He had a great sympathy for the injustices the black people had suffered. That he did not act aggressively in the 1960's when he was 84 years old and frail does not cancel out his actions in the deep South in the previous 30 years, nor does it cancel out his later opposition to such racists as Perez, whom he excommunicated. There was a bishop in ATlanta who also spoke out later, but it was APb. Rummel who led.I don't think you young people realize what it cost to speak out publicly --and alone -- in the South in those times. For a long time he was literally hated by many, many Catholics and non-Catholics as well because he was having an influence on many non-Catholics. (I should add that the Jews thought highly of him.) But he challenged them often, publicly, and loud. Please note that you didn't find the other Christian leaders joining him very conspicuously until Martin Luther King, who, of course, was the giant of the civil rights movement. No, the Apb. wasn't an activist in today's sense. But he was a voice crying in the wilderness, a prophet, if you will. As such I think he deserves to be called a major leader.By the way, I doubt that it was an accident that at the gathering of the bishops for Vatican II Apb. Rummel was the first of the arriving bishops to be received by Pope John XXIII.

David N. --The evidence you offer to dispute my claim about Apb. Rummel is basically only about the integration of the Catholic schools in the '50s. It largely ignores his actions in the 30 years prior to that. It merely mentions very generally that he had earlier led the integration of the schools, and it points out that his 1953 letter was *one* of his letters condemning segregation. Believe me, he started writing such letters which were read in all the churches on Sundays when I was a child. I was there, David, I was there.The fact is that for 30 years before the integration of the schools he changed the minds and hearts of many, many people, both Catholic and non-Catholic. Perhaps you really did have to be here to appreciate what he accomplished. Testament to that fact is that, unlike so many other school integration processes in the South, the Catholic schools here (which schooled half the kids in the city) were integrated with no ugly incidents at all. He, more than anyone, was responsible for that.

Ann, appreciate your look back at ABP Rummel. I clearly recall, as a non-Catholic kid, seeing nuns and priests marching with Martin Luther King. There was a PBS special, "Sisters of Selma," some years ago. The nuns were told by their bishop not to march. But they noted the bishop hadn't said anything about providing coffee and sandwiches, praying with marchers the night before, and setting up first-aid stations and helping organizer transport to black hospitals (white hospitals and ambulances would not help black marchers). Rep. John Lewis was helped by those sisters. (Happy Mardi Gras to you! Raber is going out to the Roma Bakery in Lansing to get some paczkis. Mrs. Castriciano fills them with sweetened ricotta instead of jelly. I expect to have a heart attack on the spot, but it'll be worth it.)"Jean Raber is right ..."Really, why must anything else be said? :-)

Alan, at this moment, it is late. Certainly those who have abused their authority are part of the group who dissent from the teachings of His Church and thus have abused the teaching of His Church. Any genuine eclusiveness, injustice, subjugation and repression in His Church would be the result of dissention. This does not change the fact that from The Beginning, regardless of our race or ancestry, we have been created by God in His Image, equal as persons while being complementary as male and female, to live in an ordered, relationship of Love, while being called to The Perfect Communion Of Love, simultaneously. We are, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, priests and nuns...called to live out our vocation in communion with God. This Divine Truth regarding the dignity of the human person, found within our inherent ordered nature as male and female, is not a matter of opinion, and thus must be respected. What is needed at this late hour is fidelity to Christ through Prayer, Penance and Reparation for our sins.

Jean -I didn't know other groups celebrated Fat Tuesday, but I checked Wikipedia for paczkis and discovered differently. It explains why my German-Irish grandmother used to cook a kind of German donut on Mardi Gras (the only thing she knew how to cook!), and they were wonderful. They were like the holes of regular donuts. Would anybody out there have a recipe? I long for them every Mardi Gras, I think you could call them -- and paczkis -- a meme.

I think it's useless to argue with PF who has his own intransigent(purblind) idea of Catholicism and the Church.And Nancy - is "dissention" a meme?I thought the question here was how, constructively, in the crisis Gailardetz talks about to move the Church forward, if possible, as it continues to slide backward.I say if possible, because maybe the crisis or implosion or whatever must needs fester more ofr some positive reimaging to happen.

This "synthesis" forgot to factor in the utter lack of faith that many Catholics have in their hierarchy because we have been betrayed by them. Moral authority? I think not. In my own diocese a priest who is an embezzaler has been shifted from parish to parish. The bishop keeps trying to find smaller and smaller parishes where the "temtation" is not as great. And let us not forget the cancer of sexual abuse and cover-up. When will the institutional Church make an examination of conscience, confess to the real sins of arrogance and beg for forgiveness.

Peter Steinfels, of NY Times and Commonweal fame, spoke at Newman Hall, Berkeley CA, my home parish, last night (3/7/11). His talk was entitled, What kind of Catholic church do you choose for the 21st Century?Delivered in a rapid-fire NYer cadence that my ear long ago lost most of its ability to track, Steinfels outlined an ambitious agenda for us Christians vs. the lions in our modern day Roman colosseum. Steinfels talk was mostly a survey of his book, A People Adrift, with a little added spice from John Allen, Vatican observer for NCR, where Steinfels identifies the issues before us.Frankly, I came away wanting more. I wanted, I needed to hear a prominent Catholic with a big megaphone expose the elephant hiding under the carpet over in the corner of the chapel.Susanne Hayes (@3/8 1:36 PM post) really nails it for me.Steinfels did not mention once in his entire hour-long presentation on the contours and shape of the future church that Catholics will have to build that future having been betrayed and abandoned by the very men who are supposed to shepherd and lead us.Under the present hierarchys watch, millions upon millions of American Catholics have walked away from the faith of their birth. And it doesnt look like they will be coming back any time soon, if ever.If anything that revelations over the last decade of priestly sexual abuse have taught us, it is that we Catholics are now led by the world oldest, all-male, feudal oligarchy who have compromised their ordination and corrupted their high office by their complicity in the rape and sodomy of children by priests and religious.This week, there are fresh reports out of Philadelphia of priests and bishops who have twisted themselves into lying knots of deception, obfuscation and moral turpitude.I wanted to hear from Steinfels a recognition that an inexorable evolution toward a peoples church has already begun with the evidence all around us.I would amend Peter Steinfels necessary agenda for the 21 century American church with these prerequisites:First, Catholics must find clever and cunning ways to defund the hierarchs. Over decades, we can prevail. It wont be easy. The hierarchs have salted away literally billions of dollars to pay for their lawyers and public relations media consultants. Once the people have control over the gold, the hierarchs hearts and minds will follow.Secondly, Catholics must be resolute in not encouraging their sons to the priesthood, or their daughters to religious service for that matter, until the priesthood from parish to pope is reformed and renewed.The actuarial time clock is ticking for the hierarchs. As painful as it will be to watch, Catholics must let their priests as a group die-off without replenishment.The fewer the priests and bishops, the more opportunity there will be for real, meaningful change. Dont be fazed by the increasingly more bizarre and outrageous behavior, more huffing and puffin, we are likely to see emanating from the clerics it just means that we are closer to our goal.Like first century Christians, we must begin the long journey down this long and winding road at the very beginning: this is a revolution and evolution that can only begin in each parish community.

More on Lesley-Anne Knight, Caritas International and Cor unum and how the all male fuedal oligarchy" to borrow Jim's phrase handled the matter at Americs'a "In All things' Today. So much for Roman smoothness when the "distinctive Catholic" meme rules the day.Oh well......

Jim J. ==Yes, the highly structured Church of today is largely a disaster, but I don't think that swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction is the solution. A church with amorphous structure would be no better than Protestantism which continues to fracture.What we need is a structure that somehow includes checks and balances. There are no checks on the power of popes today. The office is that of an absolute monarch, so small wonder that it attracts people who want to be absolute monarchs.The problem is to structure the church with a top leader (I think tradition calls for a pope in non uncertain terms) in such a way that the office of pope is much less attractive to the power-greedy, arrogant clerics. Surely, the college of bishops should have a primary function as a check on papal power, but just how could that work? I would suggest that for starters the pomp of the papacy be totally eliminated, and that popes be required to at least have their homes in ordinary housing. And they should have limited salaries. Further, like English Prime Ministers they should regularly be questioned by the bishops and in public. Maybe even the press conferences should be required twice or three times a year.The non-accountable popinjay emperor has got to go.However, unless and until the bishops get the guts to talk back to Rome -- and en masse -- I don't see any reform coming. There is more hope from the Asiatic bishops than the Western and African ones, I think, But there aren't that many Asian bishops to start with, and possibly won't be for a couple of hundred years. Remember, the "Dark Ages" lasted several hundred years. It could happen again.

Jim J. ==Here's an example of why I don't think that shifting the power downwards to the masses of people would necessarily lead to better judgment.Today is Mardi Gras in New Orleans. This afternoon we're under both a tornado watch and a flood watch. Not far north of the city they're expecting rains of 11 inches PER HOUR. Yet the party continues here. The streets are full, and the parades go on.There has to be a balance of power, checks and balances.

"Surely, the college of bishops should have a primary function as a check on papal power, but just how could that work?"The college of Cardinals exercises it formally when it elects a pope.It happens all the time in the Vatican via bureaucratic operating and cunning.The pope himself will hopefully show modesty and restraint.The Holy Spirit will never abandon us.That's about it, I think.

"The Holy Spirit will never abandon us."If you are referencing Mt 28:20, know that we are not being promised that God will keep things the way we think they should be just because we think the status quo is God's will.Read Isa 55:8-9.

Jim P. ---The Cardinals are just a few of the bishops. Theologically they aren't some sort of super-bishop, though they're treated like they are. All the bishops worldwide are the successors of the Apostles. But wasn't it Cardinal Bernardin who said that the Vatican treated bishops like altar boys? It's theologically outrageous that a few bishops should order their brother bishops around. It's also outrageous that the bishops let themselves be bossed like that. But weak men who need to be told what to do are the sort of men who get to be bishops, with a few exceptions, and the latter are the ones who get to be cardinals.Maybe the cardinal position should be totally abolished, and the bureaucrats at the Vatican should be just that -- people without major policy making functions. Maybe there should be regional associations of bishops who, among other things, elect the bishops who will elect the popes. And definitely, I think, the people and lower clergy should be part of the process of naming their own bishops.Or something like that.

The highly structured church of today - and, for that matter, throughout history - has simply foisted the mistake that unity = uniformity. This is no great discovery on my part; it has been stated over and over and over again through the history of the church.John XXIII put it succinctly: Notice everything. Overlook much. Improve a little. I guess that is an update of what is attributed to St. Augustine, but also alleged to be the words of the 17th century Abp of Split: In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.However, in the main, all of this is sacrificed on the altar of control and power. Just ask the Eastern Rite Catholics if that is not true! Give the new Ordinariate a couple of years under the thumb of the Vatican and we'll see how enthusiastic they are to be part of Holy Mother Church!"Contemporary [Catholic] bishops are painfully learning that they can either function hierarchically or they can exercise healthy authority but that they cannot do both.Hierarchies are designed for the exercise of power, that is, for authoritarian control. They depend on structures rather than human relationships.Bishops who have been trained to relate structurally through their roles and the rules of hierarchy and who have been conditioned to manage rather than expose themselves to the risks of human relationships find it almost impossible to exercise their authority effectively in an institution that insists that they exercise it as impersonal control. " Eugene Kennedy, The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality.

I'll give you aging hippies this much: you never give up.

Jimmy Mac ==In Charles Taylor's new book, Dilemmas and Connections, he also makes the point that unity is not the same thing as uniformity, and Catholicism has too often confused the two. Says he,"Redemption happens through Incarnation, the weaving of God's life into human lives, but these human lives are different, plural, irreducible into each other. Redemption-Incarnation brings reconciliation, a kind of oneness. This is the oneness of diverse beings who come to see that they cannot attain wholeness alone, that their complementarity is essential, rather than of beings who come to accept that they are identical. Or perhaps we might put it: complementarity and identity will both be part of our ultimate oneness. Our great historical temptation has been to forget the complementarity, to go straight for the sameness, making as many people as possible into 'Good Catholics" -- and in the process failing of catholicity, because failing wholeness; unity bought at the price of suppressing something of the diversity in the humanity that God created; unity of the part masquerading as the whole. It is universality without wholeness, and so not true Catholicism." (p. 168)There's a fine selection from the book in the 2-25-11 Commonweal, entitled "Religion is Not the Problem". It's mainly about religious diversity in a modern state.f

Jimmy Mac, I didn't know you and I (and countless others) are "aging hippies". I'm sure Eugene Kennedy would be bemused at the attribution.At least it's a nicer straw man than Flangan's haters of the hierarchy meme.

In response mostly to Ann Olivier and Jim Pauwels:How's this for an "aging Hippie"???The Beatles once sang:You say you'll change the constitution Well, you know We all want to change your head You tell me it's the institution Well, you know You better free you mind instead (Revolution, 1968)Looking for bishops, cardinals and popes to lead the way is like asking for "blood from a stone." You have to free yourselves from the Roman dream of life. Their days are over. The clerics are a dying caste of spiritual oligarchs - that is real lesson from the sexual abuse scandal. Jesus had a special condemnation for these kinds of religious leaders in the Catholic hierarchy: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitened sepulchres which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanliness."That about say's it all, doesn't?PS: Ann, you diminish your argument when you compare the Catholic Church to Mardi Gras revelers. Besides, Mardi Gras was originated as a festival just to flaunt disrespect and ridicule for the clerical overlords in the Middle Ages. You and I, and all Catholics, need to be the check and balance on the hierarchy! Catholic men and women need step up and to take matters into our own hands. Or, there will be no Catholic Church in near future!PSS: Jim Pauwels, if you take refuge in false hopes like the "Holy Spirit will never abandoned us," then you have never encountered a grown man or woman who was raped and sodomized by a priest when they were just a child, and now can't even walk through the front doors of a church without initiating a full blown panic attack. In a sense, the whole church is suffering from a form of Post-traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD)!

Jim J. --I sympathize with a lot you say, but you need to learn some more history. History is more complex than you seem to think it is.By the way, I'm not a hippie. I'm 80 years old and of a pre-hippie era. Your people categories need refining.

Sorry, j.a.m., but I am an "aged (I've been aging too long) never-was-a-hippie"! I spent my time in the Air Force during the Summer of Love and they didn't cotton to hippie flyboys. By the time I got out of the AF and had the chance to grow my sideburns, I was 30. Gosh, I'm even a pre-boomer! (God is good in that respect.)

@ Ann Olivier:What history do I need to learn? Learning from my mistakes has been a life long pursuit. After all, what is past is prologue.I don't know what you mean regarding the "complexity" remark? Most of my deconstructionist approach is rooted in the writings of Derrida and Foucault. If you are referring to "point of view," then I suppose I could agree that history is a matter of "the eye of the beholder." But remember, Shakespeare was talking about "Beauty" in its original reference.

Derrida and Foucault???? AWWWWKKKK!!! That explains it.Since you don't trust what others write and rely on your own limited, short-in-time experience, you have mistaken Jimmy Mac and me for hippies. But we were there, and that's not what we are. Trust us. You can learn at least the outlines of the past, if not the details. One bit of advice: never take French intellectuals too seriously :-)

I'm wondering still wondering what "j.a.m." thinks we "aging hippies" should be giving up. Sounds like the kind of cryptic remark someone makes when he's run out of ideas but wants to leave with the last word.FWIW to the younger folks on here, most hippies were leftist poseurs who were happy to live the life of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll as long as Daddy was paying for tuition, dope, cool leather jackets, and the Pill. Most are now very nice people who kept their fashion sense, regularly attend a tastefully appointed church, and work as corporate lawyers or GOP state representatives. We poor radicals had to fuel ourselves on the cheap highs--black coffee, cigs, and outrage. We wrote screeds for the alternative student press (I can still smell that mimeograph ink!) and then took our coffee, cigs and outrage to work as public defenders or nonprofits. We never did develop any sartorial skills, so we're fairly easy to spot.

Jean --Nice discrimination of two sub-sets of the young of the 60's. That's what I meant about Jim J. needing more people categories. The 60s weren't simple either.

@ Ann Olivier:Wait just a minute, Olivier. You may be derisive of my response to your lame questions and propositions all you want but the only thing it "explains" is the shortcomings in your own argumentation. I was only trying to situate my historical comments.I'm very comfortable with anyone who wants to label me an "aging hippie" (I'm certainly old enough!) because that usually means, for my perspective, human values have been acted upon through out one's life with consistency. I would never apologize for that.The peace, love and rock'n roll were pretty good. The drugs, not so good. And what kind of code are you speaking in with things like: my "[needing] more people categories"??? What is that suppose to mean?The blather you usually spew out on this blog demonstrates that many times your lips (or more precisely, your keyboard and cursor) are usually moving long before you get your brain in gear. If "French intellectuals" are not up to your standards, please for the sake of the rest of us, just choose some kind of intellectual discipline to give some structure to the formless void of your arguments.Oh BTW Ann, as Robin Williams once famously said, "if you can remember the 60's, you really weren't there!"

"The blather you usually spew out on this blog demonstrates that many times your lips (or more precisely, your keyboard and cursor) are usually moving long before you get your brain in gear."This goes beyond the usual snark, snide, and stupid (all of which are allowed to an extent), and into the realm of ad hominem prohibited by the ground rules.

Jim J. Not nice. I am opposed to comment removal on principle, and I am an anarchist by character, so I won't appeal to any rules, but you don't need rules for that: you should know better (especially as a Catholic -- who has a vocation to become a saint --, and especially at the start of Lent!)Ann: on behalf of dotcommonweal participants: sorry. Most of us out here enjoy your comments very much. Don't let that one annoy you.

@ Claire:I forgot it was Lent! Mea culpa to all.

"The peace, love and rockn roll were pretty good. The drugs, not so good."JIm J --There's a good example of your inaccurate grasp of history -- even the history you lived through. The 60s were *anything* but peaceful. Remember Viet Nam and the turmoil over it at home????There's no "code" involved in "people categories". I meant just what the ordinary meanings of "people" and "categories" mean. Together they just mean concepts of kinds of people. You apparently had too few concepts of the young people of the 60s to see the big differences in the young Americans of the 60s whom Jean described.Robin Williams is a smart aleck, not a sage, and that remark is pretty pitiful. It reminds me of Mick Jagger -- he had a contract with a publisher to write his memoirs and to finish the work in two years. His brain was so drug=fried he couldn't remember enough to write the book.Complexity, Jim, complexity.

@ Ann Olivier:Oh, dear! Ann, you of all people really shouldn't be commenting on other people's "grasp of history," and by implication, their grasp of reality. You see, back in that philosophy lecture on French deconstructionists you must have inadvertently missed, it would have been explained to you that all reality is a social construction.Ann, you may have missed this, but it was us "hippies" who actually were the ones who proposed that "peace and love" was the anecdote for "Viet Nam and the turmoil over it at home." It was folks like Johnson, McNamara, Nixon and Kissenger who tried to napalm and "saturation bomb" the Vietnamese and Cambodians "back to the stoneage," ordered the National Guard to fire on students at Kent State, sabotaged the peace talks in Paris for the fiction of "peace through strength." Is that your recollection of history, too?However unwittingly, you actually prove that comedic genius Robin Williams is also an on-target social critic. I guess it was just one of those strange, peculiar ideas about speaking the truth that Robin Williams picked-up at that decidedly counter-cultural Juilliard School he attended.Only a brig of the first magnitude would dismiss "Mork from the planet Ork" out-of-hand as "pitiful."As for Sir Michael Philip "Mick" Jagger, London School of Economics grad, I'm so glad he has spent his life singing to us about "(I Can't Get No)Satisfaction" instead of his original career choice of politician (a Conservative, at that?). I'm sure that long after any of us on this blog are pushing up daisies, Sir Mick through his music will remain an influential cultural icon to literally millions around the globe.Do I detect a special disgust from you, Ann, for folks with addictive behaviors??? Not very Christian, don't you think?Lest we forget because we have taken this big turn away in the opposite direction: this blog discussion was started by Peter Steinfels regarding the Richard Gailliardetz's article in NCR. Finally got through reading the whole thing. I'm still of the opinion that the present state of the church is much worse than Gailliardetz portrays: As I stated in my original post, we need a fundamental, complete, comprehensive reform and renewal of the Catholic priesthood from priest to pope.How's my "Complexity" doing there, Ann?

Jim, knock it off or find another blog.

You're right, Grant.

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