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Is liberal Catholicism dead?

So asks Time magazine - quoting Commonweal to help make its point.

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).



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Hate to parse Van Biema's point, but there's a language problem here. He uses Progressive and Liberal as if they mean the same thing. Commonweal has often been called a liberal Catholic magazine, but not a progressive one--a distinction I maintain. Is it a distinction without a meaning? To those under 45?

Peggy, how do you define the difference?

Well, we could start with publications. CWL has been liberal; the NCR progressive though it started out a liberal newspaper under Bob Hoyt. Under most of my predecessors, I saw Commonweal as part of the mainstream, New Deal, Catholic coalition with a strong interest in culture and the arts, but focusing on political and economic issues. It also had a strong interest in foreign policy, especially Central and Latin America. Roughly speaking, 1968 and Humanae Vitae sent the NCR in a more "progressive" direction at least with regard to church matters. Though CWL too was critical of HV, I don't think it ever became the talisman of the rest of its coverage. CWL though critical of U.S. foreign policy thru Vietnam and the seventies never went radical and on some issues took a more critical stance toward parts of the Catholic Left. I think this stand more or less continued when I was editor and I would say (though Paul Baumann might want to weign in) that is still the case.CWL went after the Sex Abuse issues (which seems to be the turning point for Van Biema) but never cottoned to VOF, or at least, I never did. To generalize perhaps too much, liberal Catholics as represented at CWL seemed to me to reside more or less in the center or slightly to the left of it; progressive Catholics like Progressive politics generally were more politically and culturally to the Left. Does that raise the confusion to a higher level?

Margaret, just to clarify, it looks like you're saying that Commonweal has a politically/socially liberal bent, but that it is not progressive in that it isn't out to agitate for change within the church.I want to make sure I understand you correctly before I start running my mouth (as it were).Thanks.

The article goes wrong by interpreting the appreciation shown for Pope Benedict in political terms. The church is a different kind of entity. It's been shown time and again that Catholics can have great affection and respect for their pope while at the same time disagreeing with him on important matters. The study "American Catholics Today" estimated that no more than a third of "highly committed" American Catholics (and just 7 percent of all Catholics) agree with the church on all matters.If liberal Catholicism is dead, why are conservatives so angry? I think it is because the liberal understanding of authority in the church has been absorbed into the mainstream - even conservatives will assail the bishops when they disagree.

The Commonweal has just run an article by Fr. Thomas Reese that more than hints that there is much in the church's structure that could benefit from reform. Was the editorial decision to do this an instance of Progressivism? Liberalism? Conservatism? Or what? Anyone for historically grounded reformism? I guess that is not catchy enough.As for the Time article, it seems to me an attempt to sell a few magazines by raising an ill-defined question with a snappy title as follow up to the Pope's visit to the U.S.

Jean Raber: Feel free to "run your mouth"; it's among the best on the site. But no of course, Commonweal has always been interested in church reform. Others can characterize the degree of that interest, but I would say that through the Jadot bishops, the Bernardin-Weakland years, probably through the end of the nineties, there was a sense that reformers, albeit cautious ones, were running the bishops' conference and had the support of a good majority of the bishops. Many liberals with a sense of the pace that the church moved accepted that this was as good as it was going to get. Of course, it has now gotten worse.

Time and too many of us fall victim of nifty characterizations. But this article, as I see it is really overreaching. Cardinal Law altered Commonweal and Peggy Steinfels in my opinion. Could anyone imagine Peggy giving a speech on transparency to the American bishops before 2002? Before 2002 Commonweal scoffed at the conservative/liberal divide as not that important. Again it is complicated. Ted Hesburgh, arguably the most important person in American Civil rights in the 60's (and ending the cold war) was loudly criticized by Commonweal for being too tough on demonstrating students.And what Paul quoted above certainly shows that the Time article is superficial at best and more accurately a inane piece. Here is Paul's quotation again:"The study American Catholics Today estimated that no more than a third of highly committed American Catholics (and just 7 percent of all Catholics) agree with the church on all matters."

I think it is because the liberal understanding of authority in the church has been absorbed into the mainstream - even conservatives will assail the bishops when they disagree.I think that it is more of a case of democracy being so much of an ingrained aspect of ourselves that it is impossible to govern the church undemocratically. By democracy I mean the basic concept of 'consent of the governed'. If the governed do not consent to a teaching it is because consultation has been inadequate. Hence Humanae Vitae needs to be reformed. There are good underlying principles but it requires further consultation to reflect the truth.The bottom line is that the Church need not fear democracy at least in principle. Respect for due order needs to be observed for sure as does respect for the sacred ministry. The implications for Bishops (including the Bishop of Rome) is to understand the curent milieu and adapt accordingly. That is, in my view the definition of a progressive, one who can adapt quickly to changing contexts in order to advance justice and love. In the context of the church it means that there is a desire, among progressives, to respect the institution of the Church (however the current governors choose to define it) when it comes to matters of faith, piety and spirituality but on the level of collective and personal life there is a strong current of individualism that pervades postmodern consciousness. Progressives are comfortable in that new Catholic reality. Perhaps WFBs line was prophetic for both conservative and liberal when he famously quipped Mater si, Magistra no! Consequently, the Church must adapt its teaching much more subtly. Authority is the worst form of argument. I think Benedict understands this. Hans Kung (a liberal) said of his old friend that he is very sweet and very dangerous. I dont think he is dangerous but he is better at persuading than either the liberals (Kung, Rahner) or the conservatives (John Paul II).The Pope today is given the biggest religious microphone (since even the devil gets his due we have to congratulate those crafty Romans on their political acumen), Let's just pray that for him that he persuade according to the will of our Lord.

Catholic World News blogger "Diogenes" has bravely declared liberal Catholicism a "lifeless dummy." wonder what a society man like Uncle Di would do with his time were he to get his wish.

"Cheesy singing act"?For the record: the St. Louis Jesuits were not "an act"; primarily were a group of composers, not singers; saw their work, not so much as being the bards for a church political party, as giving of their considerable talents to the church as a whole, faithfully contributing to the great work of liturgical reform; and composed some durable, memorable, respected, life-changing music. I had a difficult time taking the piece seriously after reading that characterization.Regarding the larger point: pretty sure EJ Dionne said, a decade or so ago, "We're all liberals now". That seems right to me. Also FWIW - so long as the Gospel is proclaimed, it will be a touchstone for the church by which to measure injustice, both within the church and without. Work for justice in the church won't stop because of a change of generations.

I remember that Peter Steinfels made a similar effort to distinguish between "liberal Catholicism" and the "Catholic left" in his famous debate with Cardinal George. One of the points that Peter made there is that it has been difficult for the former to adequately distinguish itself from the latter. The result of this, of course, is that "liberal Catholicism" gets criticized for positions that its adherents may not actually hold.I would say, though, that this puts at least some of the onus on self-described "liberal Catholics" to draw firmer boundaries around the project. While I think that it's true that CWL has taken, as Peggy puts it, a more critical stance toward the Catholic left, I don't think that criticism has ever been as pointed as, for example, that offered by The New Republic in dealing with the left wing of the Democratic Party. During the 1980s, TNR was often as trenchant in its criticisms of the Left as it was of the New Right (in some cases, quite frankly, it was more trenchant, particularly on issues of foreign policy).I remember thinking of this comparison during the controversy over the "ordinations" of Catholic women in Germany and the United States. CWL may well have offered some criticisms of these actions, but I don't recall them being particularly strong. Had the editors of the 1980s TNR been running CWL, I can guarantee that the response would have been blistering, as the magazine rarely missed an opportunity to make its differences with the Left clear. They drew a lot of criticism for this approach at the time, but in retrospect they were correct in understanding what it would take for the general public to take liberalism seriously again as a political movement.Does a similar choice face liberal Catholicism? It well may.

I am uncertain what conservative means or liberal [echoing perhaps Gilbert & Sullivan about English babies being born "little Liberals or little Conservatyves"], but I found relevant this quotation from the TIMES [London] of 21 August 1914] on the death of Pius X:"To the downright plain sense of the Pope, the desperate efforts of men who had explained away the content of historical Christianity to present themselves as orthodox Roman Catholics were simply disingenuous".

I would hardly count the TNR as my standard here. It was once a liberal magazine. It became a neocon magazine, and now???? Walking home from Fordham this evening the aforesaid Peter Steinfels reminded me that a big distinction he drew between CWL and NCR was that NCR became pacifist. CWL did not. Grant would do us all a favor by giving access to the George/Steinfels debate in Chicago, some years back on George's claim that Catholic liberalism was dead (said from a pulpit!) and Peter's counter-claim at a gathering with George at LU (Chicago) that it was not. Judge John Noonan, journalist E.J. Dionne and historian and irenicist John McGreevy offered their various views. I am of the view that Louis Hartz got it right umpteen million year ago in "The Liberal Tradition in America," a book that said everyone in the U.S. is a liberal of varying degrees (especially the conservatives in contrast to European conservatism).

What are the issues that are at stake? Biblical studies and the relevance of the historico-cultural studies to Biblical interpretation? Whence evil? What does it mean to say that Jesus is both God and man? Why did God create at all? Why create so many who could never have heard of either the Jews or the Christians? Is the Church first and foremost for the world or not? I wrestle with these questions and respect those who do also. But many clergymen apparently do not. Why should I pay much attention to their talk that shows no grasp of the implications of what they are saying?Does the attitude I evince here make me liberal? Progressive? Just cranky? Does avoiding wrestling with questions like these make one a conservative? If so, then we really have entered the world of Pickwickian language.

Historically, to be a liberal is to come down on the side of personal freedom and against extensive regulation, and to insist on the right of the governed to have a voice in who governs them. In this sense I think most, perhaps almost all, American are liberals, and the American government is an experiment in liberalism. But freedom cannot be unlimited. It generates conflicts of interest and people differ not so much about whether there should be freedom but about how it needs to be limited so that all can share the benefits.

If I am on the right track above, one might expect a Liberal Catholic to be one who brings the came values to bear on church affairs as a liberal does in political ones generally. A Liberal Catholic would want to minimize restrictive regulation, encourage the free exhange of ideas, and believe that the laity should have a voice in the choice of bishops and pastors. In the 19th and for some part of the 20th century the papacy strongly opposed political liberalism. I think it still opposes the application of liberal principles to church affairs. The question is why? One wonders what Benedict XVI makes of Fr. Reese's suggestions for reform.

Only Grant has the "power of the keys" as it were, but those of you who are subscribers can access Peter Steinfels' article (and Cardinal George's reply) here: if you're not a subscriber...well, why the heck not?

Donald Cozzens spoke tonight in Pleasantville, NY. The Church has changed even more since this 1999 conversation. Dramatically. The new church will be looking a lot different.

Peggy,To answer your question, do catholics under 45 see a difference between liberal and progressive: I would never had until this post. However, I see a huge difference between CWL and NCR, and so I understand what you mean by this distinction. Isn't part of it, though, that CWL has progressives and liberals writing for it, whereas NCR is having a conversation with itself?Just in case you doubt I'm under 45, you were my college commencement speaker! How long have you been doing those?

Just to get things straight: Cardinal George had the first word (he was invited by Commonweal to have the first word) and everyone else replied. So hearty souls who are going to delve into this, read him first.

Still not sure I understand the labels, but I would say liberal Catholicism is more dormant than dead. Some things I've noticed that might be on topic:1. Innovation is out, a return to "tradition" is in. Catholics seem to want to get rid of the liturgical dancing, the "new hymns," and ad-libbing the language of the Mass. They seem open to chants, some Latin, and facing the same way at the consecration. (I consider myself a liberal Catholic, and I'm for that.) I'd guess few Catholics want to return to everyday Latin Masses or see major rubric changes.2. Ecumenism is out, apologetics is in. Protestants (outside of my extended family, anyway) no longer believe Catholics worship statues or are automatons doing the bidding of the Pope-a-Rome, as he's referred to by my non-Catholic relatives. Ecumenical dialogue has gone about as far as it can go. Catholics have responded by turning to converts like Chesterton, Newman and Lewis (oops, he was an Anglican, but never mind), who articulated the Catholic difference (no Wiegel reference intended). I chatted with a couple of Catholic bookstore owners at the last couple of retreats I attended, and apologetics are selling like hotcakes. I'm not sure that all these free-lance apologists should be encouraged. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.3. Tolerance is out, orthodoxy is in. Most Catholics I know are sick of trying to be understanding of homosexuality, abortion, divorce and birth control. They don't want to hear arguments for women priests (not gonna happen in this lifetime, so find something else to do). There's certainly a "shape up or ship out" attitude.

The first time a guy called me a conservative Catholic I was shocked. But he insisted: I talked about doctrine. Only conservative Catholics talk about doctrine.I find the current pendulum swing unnerving, because it is too early to say whether this youthful fervor will grow out of its reactionary phase and its false nostalgia for the fifties, though I've noticed a change in anger levels (decreasing) just within the past few years. The young conservatives I know spend their time working and playing, making friends, voliunteering, falling in love, discerning their vocations, etc. They're basically happy and concerned with virtue, and they're really very social.There was a panel discussion about the Pope at the JPII Cultural Center right before his visit, with Archbishop Sambi, Msgr. Giuliani and John Allen. The auditorium was packed. There were less than a dozen gray heads--I actually counted 5 but couldn't quite see everybody. Anyone who has been to a Common Ground lecture would note the contrast.

Jean, what you have noticed may be geographic. Details might help. And kathy, I would like to see evidence of a pendulum swing. We had thirty thousand youths here at Dunwoodie in Yonkers for the pope. There was little evidence that this was indication of any change or movement. Basically they were rounded up, bribed and cajole to suffer mostly in boredom except when the cameras were on them.Getting back to the liberal/progressive/conservative discussion, there is so much to digest. I did like Peter Steinfels description. It reminds me of his book: "A People Adrift." He describes the problem very well but he has no idea how to solve it. Maybe it can't be solved.

Bribed? Do tell!

KathyAll Catholics are conservative. They want to be true to the teachings of Scripture and to faithful to the revelation that is the Incarnate Word. But it is quite compatible with this conservatism that one be also liberal in the sense of expecting free and fair inquiry when questions are raised. The Church is both divine and human, just as Scripture is a collection of books ("Biblia" is a plural) both divine and human. There is a sort of, say, dull-witted conservatism that is wholly focused on the divine and imagines that nothing has ever changed--or ought to have--and correspondingly an empty-headed liberalism that is wholly focused on the human and thinks that everything can be changed. There is a middle way and there lies virtue.

JeanCan you explain why it is good that all face one way? I though that the Holy Spirit was the one who effects the consecration and he was sent to dwell in all who believe in Christ, i.e., all of us. Or have I misread the Good News according to John?

Joseph, I didn't say I thought facing away from the congregants was "good," only that I'm partial to it from the old days in our Anglo-Catholic parish. I'm also partial to a communion rail, kneeling at communion, RED wine in the cup, and NO gee-tars, bongo drums, hymns written after 1845 or handholding and hugging.When I attend Catholic Mass, however, I follow the prescribed rubrics, sing the songs listed (I've even learned to stop rolling my eyes at "Taste and See") and stand when everybody receives.Bill, yes, these are only things I observe in my neck of the woods. I hope I made that clear.

Just to clarify my original post:I'm not making judgments about what's good or bad, conservative or liberal. And I also understand that Catholicism might look different in other parts of the country.I agree with Sean that catechesis is dreadful, and I would further suggest that there would be far fewer converts if those involved in RCIA required candidates to look more soberly at what is expected of them as Catholics. If you don't set the bar fairly high and be pretty strict and serious about it, you leave people struggling to discern whether their conversion was real years later and abandoning the whole enterprise entirely. I noted in another post that the drop-out rate at the local parish here is 90 percent. I did the math with my husband who has been involved with RCIA for several years, and it's true.I disagree with Sean's notions of tolerance. But we've been there before, so no need to rake over that old ground.

Jean Raber: "I would say liberal Catholicism is more dormant than dead." Peggy: Maybe it depends on where you live. There are parishes where it continues a lively presence and maybe a few dioceses. Beyond that professional associations of lay ministers seem to me of necessity to be at least modestly liberal if only because they have to make a living (wage) and they are professionals (with some non-clerical standards for doing their jobs). Universities seem mostly full of liberals, certainly the Catholics.Jean: "Innovation is out, a return to tradition is in. Catholics seem to want to get rid of the liturgical dancing, the new hymns, and ad-libbing the language of the Mass. They seem open to chants, some Latin, and facing the same way at the consecration. (I consider myself a liberal Catholic, and Im for that.) Id guess few Catholics want to return to everyday Latin Masses or see major rubric changes."Peggy: Innovation may be out but I don't see in my preceincts a return to "tradition," either the real one or the ersatz one that gets promoted by reactionaries. Liturgical dance can go (was that a liberal cause?). Some Greek (Kyrie), some Latin, but I notice that most people under 45 don't know it and don't sing it. Facing the same way at the Consecration? you mean priest and people facing East or what passes for East? Haven't seen it.Jean: "Ecumenism is out, apologetics is in."Peggy: Both in here. NY is by nature ecumenical, of necessity. And I was surprised at the keen student interest here in talks by John Haught about Darwin, Einstein, and Belief. They seemed to take great comfort in the compatability of the three. Jean: "Tolerance is out, orthodoxy is in. Most Catholics I know are sick of trying to be understanding of homosexuality, abortion, divorce and birth control. They dont want to hear arguments for women priests (not gonna happen in this lifetime, so find something else to do). Theres certainly a shape up or ship out attitude."Peggy: Don't see it quite this way here. People may be tired of the arguments (or some may be) but I would say except for abortion, people are most or less tolerant or supportive of the rest. Perhaps more people just ship on their own, but not because they're told to shape up.So is liberal Catholicism dormant, dead, tired, or out there like yeast?

I think Jeans observations are generally true, and if it is out there like yeast, it is pretty old yeast and not likely to leaven very well. The reality I have seen over the last decade is that the conservative or orthodox movement is generally younger. This is true both in the laity and among religious particularly women religious. I think this, more than anything is going to lead to the demise of Liberal Catholicism. I disagree, however, that tolerance is out. I think a better description, from the perspective on the other side is that rejecting forced acceptance is in. To tolerate something, one must first identify it as objectionable. As to some of the issues you identified, what is rejected is the insistence that people not just tolerate or bear things but accept and embrace them.As to apologetics, I think that has less to do with rejection of ecumenism and more to do with the miserable job of catechesis that was done in the US during the decades after V II. I and others I know who are the ones scooping up those books Jean mentions do so to learn more about our faith than anything else. Besides, what has passed for ecumenism in the past isnt dialogue, but stripped down Christianity which usually means non-denominational Protestantism.I dont know about Dunwoodie, but I was at the Mass in Yankee Stadium, and despite cold, windy, and crowded conditions people were truly in a joyful mood. There were a lot of young people there, and they sure didnt look bored to me.

Peggy,Sorry, got the order wrong as I was trying to get the links straight. In any case, if they can get through to Peter's piece, they can link through to George.

First, if Diogenes says liberal Catholicism is a "lifeless dummy," Diogenes is certainly not lifeless...Jean, I don't see us moving more to tradition but to "retrenchment" on the official side of the house.Yet the differences are somewhat a matter of location. Here's an example:On Saturday I played in a bridge tournament in Santa Fe wherethey announced there new complex would be named after the long time rabbi of Santa Fe, Len Helman -once also a world class bridge player and much loved by all.The next day in the Santa Fe paper, a sweet op-ed by the same Len Helman appeared, praising the working together of faiths in the community there. He recalled that as a metter of piety, he attended Midnight Mass at the cathedral each year and was warmly greeted by the Archbishop and the Rector. he saw Benedict's visit as a kindly old pastor -a kind of contemporary churchman reaching out.Here in Los Alamos. 40 miles away, ecumenism is almost if not dead. Christian Unity was never mentioned during Christian Unity week -what mattered was perpetual adoration.Another example is Pax Christi; PC New Mexico with strong roots in Santa Fe is musch beholden to Fr, John Dear who is literally detested by our JPII priest (retired military man) and many of his followers.I wonder what will happen when they bring Helen Prejean here to speak this year?So I see Commonweal as a magazine that attempts to give sophisticated discussion to the hard or complex issues of the day as opposed to those Catholic publications that offer only the TRUTH or, like NCR, have an unabashedly liveral bent.Sorry, Peg, but I'd say the editorial policy tends to be moderately progressive, though I'm quite unhappy with all the semantics here.So i laughed when Kathy said she was shocked shen she was called a conservative - I'd have never have though that - reactionary would be the adjective I'd use, bu tthat shows the semantic tangle

I admire Fr. Reese, and often agree with what he says, but not in this case. I don't think that the Pope's visit changed anything. A brief media frenzy has rendered otherwise sensible people mesmerized. It will blow over quickly and be forgotten. And the Pope's outreach to survivors of clerical sexual abuse, while welcome, cost him nothing. It was a decent gesture, but he let the American Bishops off with the lightest of wrist-slaps. It was not only the Bishops who "handled the matter badly"; it was the Vatican. The initial coverup of the Maciel business happened on his watch at the CDF and his failure as Pope to have a full disclosure of the outcome of the inquiry into the charges against Maciel has left those who brought the charges in limbo while allowing the Legion to continue to venerate the memory of their disgraced founder. I don't think we have to worry about reform-minded Catholics running out of items on their to-do lists any day soon.

Susan, I think Fr. Tom Doyle, victim advocate extraordinairre, wrote a persptive piece on the Pope's visit, with some praise for a "changed" Benedict, but arguing more indeed has to happen and the ball is in the Bishops' court to do so, e.g. supporting SOL legislation and opening files.Sad to say, I don't think they will.

"professional associations of lay ministers seem to me of necessity to be at least modestly liberal if only because they have to make a living (wage) and they are professionals (with some non-clerical standards for doing their jobs). "My experience with professional lay ministers - and clerics - is that, as a whole, they are more liberal than the body of the faithful as a whole. Not sure what ths means: does a significant commitment to service make one more liberal? Are already-liberal people more attracted to a life of service? Is there something self-selecting about the process of recruiting and developing church professionals that excludes those who are more conservative?I know it's commonly believed among conservatives that exposing someone to American university life is to plant them in a hothouse of liberalism. Inasmuch as professional standards have been steadily rising among lay ministers in the church and it's not unusual for preparation/certification to take place in an academic environment, perhaps there is something about that interaction with academia that activates the liberal yeast in candidates?

"Commonweal has often been called a liberal Catholic magazine, but not a progressive onea distinction I maintain. Is it a distinction without a meaning? To those under 45?"I'm not quite under 45, but ... yes. What is the differennce? I've been trying to glean the difference from the conversation, but it's still eluding me.

Looks like we're all struggling with the semantics here as we try to figure out what we mean by the labels we use. It always reminds me of what Blake cautioned: "To generalize is to be an idiot," advice I need to follow more often.I do think labeling ideas or movements is one thing, but labeling people--Bob Nunz's calling Kathy a reactionary--should be out of bounds.Not that Kathy wants or needs my defense.

I'm late to this party, but I want to compliment Joseph Gannon on his 9:56 a.m. post from earlier today. I thought it was very insightful.

Jean,I deeply appreciate your kind words.And Joe Gannon's thoughtful post. Made me look up "biblia"--neuter plural indeed. But it's an unusual kind of plurality, I would think.

Peggy,Your definitions are interesting. I guess, though, I think of "liberal" as having a harder edge than "progressive." The terminology is tangled indeed.Cathy

I'm afraid that I find all this label discussion pretty uninformative. What i find distressing about the so-called conservative clergy that populates parishes etc. is that they seem to have no real grasp of good theology or good Scripture studies. I'd be plenty happy if they read the weekly Scripture piece in America by Fr. Harrington, for example. The preaching I usually hear show a dreadful ignorance about such things. It wouldn't be so bad if the so-called conservatives were willing to discuss doctrine seriously. Instead, they seem to practice what we used to call ipsedixitism, i.e., it's so, because I say it's so.Pope Benedict, however he's "classified." shows himself ready to offer reasons for what he says. I appreciate that he does so. I take it that we are called upon to consider this evidence seriously. None of this is a matter of "obedience." It's just truth-searching, a process that is never completely concluded about any non-Credal matter and that even is appropriate when trying to see the implications of the Credal formulations themselves.

Peter Phan claims that one can be a "Buddhist" Catholic. Would his belief in a quadinity rather than the Catholic Church's belief in the Blessed Trinity, make him a liberal or a progressive? Wouldn't Buddha have to convert and become part of the Body of Christ to make one a " Buddhist" Catholic? I suppose I simply don't get it.

Jean,Like I said - the tolerance comment is from a different perspective. Perhaps the best example deals with homosexuality - but it is similar for divorce. I believe I am tolerant. By tolerance, I mean that I belive, as the Church teaches, that homosexuality is morally wrong. I don't even think it is a particularly and uniquely sinful. In fact, there are many things, including things that I struggle with myself, that might be more problematic. I tolerate it in the sense that I don't think it is my business, or anyone else's, to condemn or persecute homosexual people. What I object to is the the idea that tolerance means that I am intolerant, and a bigot, if I don't accept the proposition that homosexuality in not sinful at all.

The only Way, is Christ's Way. The Truth is absolute. The Truth is consistent, yesterday, today and always. If we believe in Him, Christ, we are to conform our lives to His Truth. Christ has only one voice. He did not come to confuse us. Follow Him. Be Faithful to His Church. If you are not for Him you are against Him. To live a life of Virtue, one must follow His Way to Love.

Sean, thanks for that cogent explanation.Rather than try to impose labels on various types of Catholics, labels which seem to be falling apart here, perhaps it's fair to say that Catholics who sincerely try to live up to the teachings of the Church may also have different responses to activities the Church teaches are sins without putting labels on those Catholics.You don't want to be seen as intolerant because you believe homosexuality is a sin. I don't want to be seen as tolerant of abortion because I don't want to legislate against it.

Good idea Jean. No one should impose labels on anyone. The labels heterosexual and homosexual etc. are demeaning. Why use such terms to describe anyone? God only made Man and Woman. Homosexual sexual acts are demeaning because they do not respect the Sacredness and Dignity of Human Life and are not consistent with God's intention of Sexual Love. Sexual Love exists within the Sanctity of a Holy Marriage which is Blessed by Him, God. "What God Has Joined Together" (Direct quote from Christ) The document, " Theology of the Body", inspired by the Holy Spirit, through His chosen leader of His Church, at that period of Time, Holy John Paul 11, explains and defends the Truth about Sexual Love.

Jean,I don't follow your logic.I am tolerant of homosexuality because I would take no action, including outlawing homosexual behavior. But if we refuse to act against the horror of abortion, aren't we in fact tolerating it?I don't think the dispute is over tolerance, but approval. I think it is hard to argue that people who do not oppose abortion on demand tolerate it. I think they usually claim that that toleration does not equate to approval - frankly in exactly the same way my attitude about homosexual behavior, or divorce, or adultry is one of tolerance but not approval.That being said, I argue that Catholic doctrine, and indeed the natural law, do not allow us in justice to tolerate certain things - like murder, slavery, or rape - but rather require our active disputation. Abortion is one of those things because it involves the intentional and unjustified destruction of innocent human life - we are not permitted to tolerate that.

A friend who sometimes posts here says the answer to the original question here, "I Liberal Catholicism Dead?" is a simple YES. And in his neck of the woods (as in my parish) i it's certainly close to internment.But that's the area issue.He also said - and I found it important - that ecumenism is dead.Under the weight of the identity push, I see that happening too, as previously noted,What's problematic is if we really are concerned with the "new atheism" or Taylor's secularism in the Atlantic areas, moving towards more enclavism is unhelpful, both in terms of proclaiming belief in God here and in isolating ourselves more in the coming global shift.

Paul Moses stated on his post of May 5th, "even conservatives will assail the bishops when they disagree." It should be noted that some bishops are not in communion with the Pope.

Sean said: I am tolerant of homosexuality because I would take no action, including outlawing homosexual behavior. But if we refuse to act against the horror of abortion, arent we in fact tolerating it?Jean asks: If you wish to take no legislative action against homosexuality, which the CCC calls a grave sin, why is it wrong not to take legislative action against abortion?I expect your response would be (as implied above) that abortion is not only a sin but a crime.I would agree with that in some, even most cases. But I also see some medically gray areas that won't allow me to embrace an absolutist view on this issue. It is the sticking point over which I feel I cannot, in good conscience, call myself Catholic anymore. That leaves the church smaller but more faithful--a good thing, according to Donohue and others.Win-win, no?

It's not for me to tell folks about their affiliation, but I'm deeply saddened by Jean's last paragraph. And ther eare others who post here who say they've left the church, but whose posts reflect a terrific Catholocity.I agree that Joe Gannon's post on keeping balance was on target and Bernard's post on the importance of searching out the truth as a continuing (I'd say lifelong) proicess is quite germane.It strikes me that the job of being Catholic is hard enough: trying to love Christ and follow his way every day-trying to influence others, especially by showing love and truly listening;-grappling with a world that easily slips into persobnal "spirituality" or gives up on God altogether.Those struggles are not .helped by the all knowing spinmeisters of faith (like Mr. Donahue in the newest threadI'd just like to add I found Cardinal Martini's article in America on living the faith in our post modern world to be both broad minded and spiritual and embarcing a broad view of Church on the (prayerful) search.

Once you introduce a false assumption, the Truth gets distorted. The Catholic Church is a Theocracy, not a Democracy. We are all called to be servants of the Word Made Flesh as He Has revealed Himself to His Church. The Truth is revealed in The Deposit of Faith that has been handed on to the Apostles and their successors through the inspiration of a special Gift of Grace from The Holy Spirit, the Powerful Union of God's Great Love and His Great Mercy. ("I will not leave you orphans") This is a Truth of the Catholic Church, His Church. The Truth of the Way we are to Love one another as He Has Loved us. Only Good can come from God's intention for Love. Peace.

Nancy, I'm not sure what to make of most of your comments. Perhaps you'd care to identify what false assumption has been introduced? Or who has denied that the Church is the repository of True Teaching? Or perhaps you're simply parading your orthodoxy for the rest of us to admire?The discussion is how you respond to the Truth--and whether your response is sufficient to sustain your place at the Table. Which I presume mine is not, so I'm not there anymore, though I still take the Church seriously and struggle to be better.

Jean, how am I "parading" orthodoxy by stating that the Catholic Church is a Theocracy? We are all called to follow Christ. The Deposit of Faith has been entrusted to His Church. This Truth of the Church is the same Truth yesterday, today, and always. The false assumption is that the Catholic Church is some sort of Democracy where we get our own vote to determine what is Truth. We have been given the Gift of Truth through the Life and Death of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is with us now, as always. We simply need to Believe. That is all. (everything)

P.S. Christ, The Truth, The Word Made Flesh, is absolute. He is not a matter of opinion. You respond to the Truth by being United to the Truth with Love. "If you Love Me , you will keep My Commandments." To be Catholic, one must enter into a Loving relationship with God.

Clearly, you have no point to add in my exchange with Sean about a correct and practical response to the church's teaching about abortion. Your interjections strike me as so much recycled bits of apologetics designed to add I know not what to the conversation. You puzzle me entirely, whatever you're trying to accomplish by this puzzles me entirely.Good day to you.

The Church's teaching on abortion is to be believed and respected as the Truth. It is not open for debate. One does not debate a Truth. I am sorry that you are so puzzled because I am faithful to the Magisterium of His Church. I Believe, that is all.(everything) I am more puzzled that you are so puzzled. He never told us that it would be easy, He only told us that it would be worth it. Peace to you.

I don't know what to call that form of Catholicism that leads to a surfeit of capital letters. Capitalism?Anyway, back to the original article, there is a tendency among American journalists to treat Catholics as though we were arranged in teams wearing jerseys, where one "wins" and another "loses" (probably because they report on politics this way all the time). Among ourselves though, is this any way to talk about Christ's church? The body has many members... Indeed, the purpose of saying one group or another is "dead" seems to me to be an attempt to bully people into silence, and I would submit that this is wrong and wrong-headed both. Time magazine may have no scruples about this, but that doesn't mean it's a fitting way to consider the situation.I have the same gripe about "liturgy wars." What are we doing, talking about a war? I think we are pretending that we can vanquish people with whom we disagree. Maybe that works in politics. It ain't that simple in the church, or so I would like to think. Charity first, charity always comes first. Or have we forgotten that, in our thirst to be right all the time?Where are my fellow Catholics going to go when they've been told they "lost" some sort of war or -- worse! -- that they are "dead"? Will someone come and take away their baptism? Will we introduce swipe cards at communion, coded for conservative orthodoxy, to be sure no one receives who "has issues" with any church teaching? The liberal or progressive Catholics (call them what you will) whom I know would be very surprised to hear that they have been part of a "rebellion," when all this time they thought they were remaining faithful. Benedict has not swept these people away. What the article is implying, by saying that he has, is that we can afford to discount these people now. I don't believe it.

Rita, a nice thoughtful post. Thanks. You ask, "Where are my fellow Catholics going to go when theyve been told they lost some sort of war or worse! that they are dead?"I think the Time article has part of the answer--they ignore church teaching on some issues or shop for another Church. The writer ignroes the many lapsed Catholics who retain some Catholic identification and find it difficult to "turn Protestant" after being Catholic (or, in my case, to "go back" to the Anglo-Catholics). It feels like a step backward.Luckily, we have Nancy to bonk us over the head with exhortations to shut up, stop thinking, and get back in line. No thanks.

With all due respect Jean, I am simply stating the Truth of the Church that Christ Has Founded. Christ has only one voice. The Word is consistent. He did not come to confuse us. He did not say that there are many Ways. There is only one way to Perfect Love, His Way. We acknowledge the Truth of our Faith everytime we recite the Creed:I(We) believe in one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church...I am not asking anyone to stop thinking. I am simply stating that His desire is that we are speaking in one voice, His voice. To do that, we must be Faithful to the Magisterium of His Church. Peace.

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