Via Media

A Boston Globe piece on the Cardinal Newman Society, especially apropros, since the Society recently called Boston College on the carpet for its high concentration of purported heretics.

Yet it’s difficult to independently verify some of the society’s claims of influence. For example, a recent society document included this contention: ”Recently a Catholic bishop contacted Patrick Reilly to discuss how he could put the screws to a wayward Catholic college in his diocese, including ways of encouraging the removal of dissident theology faculty." Reilly said the bishop spoke confidentially.

Although the group does not speak for or represent the church, its listing among other Catholic groups has raised questions about whether its policies are in accordance with the church itself.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops referred questions about the society to the Diocese of Arlington, Va. In a statement, diocese spokesman Soren Johnson said the church ”has established procedures for investigating allegations of heresy."

Beal said a charge of heresy — officially defined as ”the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith" — is rare.

Also, earlier this year, the society claimed credit for stripping Marymount Manhattan College of its Catholic identity after contending that the school’s commencement speaker, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, supported abortion rights. The college said at the time, however, that it had previously shed its Catholic identity.

The society has targeted three Boston College faculty members — law professors Milton Heifetz and Charles Baron and theology professor the Rev. John Paris — because they signed a legal brief filed on behalf of those wishing to remove Schiavo’s feeding tube.

The Society’s webpage

What’s most unfortunate about this article is that it is filled with voices of critics, but the only supporter quoted is the group’s President, Patrick Reilly. Attempts were made to get statements from the USCCB, the Diocese of Arlington and Archbishop O’Malley (who is one of several bishops to serve as an "Ecclesiastical Advisor" to the group), but none had much of a comment. It would be a far more helpful piece if there were other voices present to really focus on the question of Catholic identity and the Catholic university, how the Church has traditionally enforced those lines, how it does or doesn’t today, and what vacuum the Society is attempting to fill.

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