What Is To Be Done

What is to be done? On my third reading of "What the Church Needs Now" (February 14, 2003), I calculated that I agreed with 98 percent of David O’Brien’s ideas. On the fourth reading, I concluded that he agreed with 98 percent of mine.

We agree that: the church is paralyzed; no major American Catholic institutions have yet offered a compelling response to the crisis; structural changes are needed in the church; the truth of the sexual-abuse crisis must be unraveled and made public; shared responsibility is required across the range of parish and diocesan councils; independent organizations of priests, deacons, pastoral ministers, and laity must be formed; the Catholic Common Ground Initiative needs to emulated and expanded in airing the neuralgic differences among Catholics; pastoral ministry needs to be re-assessed and renewed at all levels.

We agree on a great deal. Yet I find in O’Brien’s essay a curious animus toward what he terms "moderates." People like Scott Appleby, me, and others unnamed are judged hesitant to "issue a challenging call to action." While acknowledging the need for a "necessary pause before offering prescriptions," O’Brien disdains the "on the one hand, on the other hand" stance of moderates toward the agendas of both right and left, as if they were "equally unacceptable." Well, they are unacceptable, although not necessarily equally. What I and other...

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.