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The basic problem…

posted by awelborn

…with Fr. McBrien’s column was that he did not address the issues. He did not honestly confront Menino’s stances on the issues at hand and put them up against Catholic teaching. He did not address the substance of the protesters’ arguments. He tossed out some stereotypes, added some uninformed comments about Life on The Internet, and stirred.

What’s the value of that? I invite Fr. McBrien to do a thorough tour of the Catholic presence on the internet – from the blogs, which are of an infinite variety themselves, where he can find everything from Thomistic parsing to Carmelite Spirituality to adventures of Catholic school teachers…all the way to the resources available for study, research, and just keeping up with life in the Church today, from the web page of the Church in Cambodia, to the blogs of the bishops in the Philippines, to the web page of Communion and Liberation, and everything in between. It’s a big church that reaches far beyond, ironically, the walled-in ivory tower of the Church he seems to hope for, and, also ironically, it’s a church envlivened by the gifts of an informed, engaged, committed laity.

But since a lot of them are not the right kind of laity…who cares?



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Rich Leonardi

posted January 7, 2006 at 9:55 am


But since a lot of them are not the right kind of laity…who cares?
It’s the same phenomenon at work when someone shows up here or elsewhere on St. Blog’s to bash the “echo chamber.” (Enlightened Catholics with their magisterial consciences have progressed past quaint virtues like fidelity and piety.) The irony is that you’ll find a lot more genuine diversity of thought here and at your parish Familia meeting than you will at, say, the women’s Bible study that wouldn’t dream of constraining itself by the oppressive limits set out in Dei Verbum.



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tcreek

posted January 7, 2006 at 10:24 am


Why is it not a grave scandal on the part of the bishops to allow Fr. McBrien to continue functioning as a priest?
The Catholic meaning of “scandal” — causing people to sin against the faith or morals of the Church.
——
Review of Fr. McBrien’s “Catholicism”
by the National Council of Catholic Bishops’s Committee on Doctrine
released April 9, 1996
Summary and Conclusion
“Catholicism” poses pastoral problems particularly as a textbook in undergraduate college courses and in parish education programs. The principal difficulties with the book lie not only in the particular positions adopted, but perhaps even more in the cumulative effect of the book as a whole. The method is to offer a broad range of opinions on every topic with the apparent intention of allowing or stimulating the reader to make a choice. This places a heavy burden on the reader, especially since some of the opinions described do not stand within the central Catholic tradition.
. . . For some readers it will give encouragement to dissent.
The problem is further aggravated because “Catholicism” gives very little weight to the teaching of the magisterium, at least where there has been no explicit dogmatic definition. At many points the book treats magisterial statements on the same level as free theological opinions. On a number of important issues, most notably in the field of moral theology, the reader will see without difficulty that the book regards the “official church position” as simply in error.
—-



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Dick Rood

posted January 7, 2006 at 10:57 am


Well said Amy; I hope it gets to Father McBrien and his superiors.



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Clayton

posted January 7, 2006 at 10:59 am


The basic problem is that McBrien wants it both ways.



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Sue T.

posted January 7, 2006 at 11:00 am


I agree, Amy, that what you say is the basic problem.
However, what also disturbed me about the article was McBrien’s mischaracterizations and askew perceptions of people who are interested in following Church teachings as outlined in the Catechism. To be fair, mischaracterizations also occur among the “orthodox” about “liberals”.
And that, to me, relates to the crux of all the John Allen threads–that we can’t make assumptions about others, that we can’t put people in boxes since Catholics may have both conservative and liberal beliefs, and that we need to have some fairness and understanding when talking with those with whom we disagree.
The dismay I felt when reading McBrien’s article surfaced again when I read Mario’s comment in that thread (I would address this down there, but the thread seems to be closed to comments).
Those of us who may be a little bit right of center do not “have it in” for liberals. And where did commenters say that they agreed lock-step with everything that Carol McKinley wrote on her blog? And sure, some comments can be a little rude from time-to-time (though I think some are satirical and taken as rude), but can you say the majority are “hate-filled”?
That right there exemplifies why dialogue is difficult. One person says “X” and the other person interprets it as “Y”, then you get confirmation biases, and availability heuristics, and basic messy human nature and it all crumbles into a big conversational clusterfudge.



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Tom Haessler

posted January 7, 2006 at 11:45 am


Hello, all,
Thanks to Patrick’s post on the previous thread dealing with McBrien, I’ve received more than enough data to cause me to rethink my position on the Last Supper. He’s provided important passages from the Council of Trent’s doctrinal exposition of the Eucharist and confirmation of his position from a major Eucharistic theologian. Parsing such complex passages would probably bore most bloggers, but I’d like to assure all that whatever Trent intends here is my position. My previous “thinking out loud” posts need to be amended in the spirit of this one.



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Clayton

posted January 7, 2006 at 12:01 pm


Amy mentioned that McBrien will sometimes respond to personal correspondence. He and I have had a few exchanges which I posted on my blog.



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Todd

posted January 7, 2006 at 12:48 pm


Mountain and molehill, I think.
MeBrien didn’t address the core issues because that’s not what the column was about. He was critical of conservative activists. And let’s face it, Carol McKinley is not the best person to be getting the limelight. But she attracts attention, and in the media’s desire for ratings, she’ll haul in the attention.
McBrien has addressed the issues in his books, or so he believes, perhaps. He’s been around for a lot longer than St Blog’s, so perhaps he feels he’s got the legs over us. Don’t really know, nor care.
I wonder if by allowing our energies to get diverted away from actual pro-life issues, that we don’t dilute the witness. It’s clear to me, for example, that many people, including most Catholics don’t agree with the interconnectedness of pro-abortion, pro-choice, and those individuals who support either of these positions. It’s possible McBrien doesn’t get the “seamless garment” approach–namely that abortion and all its dominos are of equal or near-equal importance in addressing the pro-life issue.
My suspicion is that two camps are talking but not hearing. Menino and his supporters have the numbers, so perhaps it’s up to his detractors to make their point more clearly. And again, McKinley isn’t the right person for that. She can make the point more loudly, to be sure. But that’s not good enough.



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fr. frank

posted January 7, 2006 at 1:08 pm


“My previous “thinking out loud” posts need to be amended in the spirit of this one.”
Bravo, Tom.



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Rich Leonardi

posted January 7, 2006 at 1:12 pm


Todd,
I agree that McKinley, based on the limited number of her statements I’ve come across, has a Donahue-esque ability to make one cringe when agreeing with her.
However, your constant cluck that everyone else but you isn’t focused on the real issues is getting old. (It’s second only to your invocation of the dreaded “echo chamber.”)
Sorry Todd, but when the Church’s teaching is applied to a fallen world, things often get messy. As a result, a large number of related — and messy — issues get thrown into the mix.
If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, that’s your business. But as you look down from your perch at this seeming mudpit, you might display a little more charity.
And Tom, I too was impressed by your post. Where else but St. Blog’s could one have an opportunity to engage in a conversation that enables one to clarify his thinking so quickly? An exchange I had with Greg Popcak last year on another subject produced a similar result for me.



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Mario S. De Pillis, Sr.

posted January 7, 2006 at 2:02 pm


Amy states that McBrien
. . . did not honestly confront Menino’s stances on the issues at hand and put them up against Catholic teaching.
Fair enough, but the above statement is much more clear than your original post about something called the “justice equation.” In that post I understood your “justice equation,” to include certain “issues,” but mainly the issue of abortion. I tried to look at the justice equation in the last paragraph of my post, but that was cut out by the line limit of the comment field.
As for the resources and blogs of the Internet, yes they can be very useful, but rarely for considered opinions. I have found Open Book and Relapsed Catholic useful sites for information that does not appear in the secular mainstream media, like the ongoing killings (including beheadings) of Christians in Indonesia. But I still find the printed word and face-to-face dialogue more instructive.



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Fr. Totton

posted January 7, 2006 at 2:06 pm


Todd, referring to “the seamless garment,” you wrote: “namely that abortion and all its dominos are of equal or near-equal importance in addressing the pro-life issue.”
I would disagree that “all its dominos (sic) are of equal or near-equal importance.” and I think I should cite the words of the Late Cardinal Bernardin to make the point:
“Not all values, however, are of equal weight. Some are more fundamental than others. On this Respect Life Sunday, I wish to emphasize that no earthly value is more fundamental than human life itself. Human life is the condition for enjoying freedom and all other values. Consequently, if one must choose between protecting or serving lesser human values that depend upon life for their existence and life itself, human life must take precedence.” From Cardinal Bernardin’s message for Respect Life Sunday 1989.
Amy, if you deem this a significant departure from the intent of this thread, please remove it!



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Glenn Juday

posted January 7, 2006 at 3:06 pm


It seems to me that there is an issue here at the root of the unease of some commenters that goes something like this:
“Given the Christian ethos, how can it possibly be permissible, much less obligatory, to withhold acceptance from anyone who demonstrates sensitivity for the poor and weak in society? Aren’t those who insist on this sort of behavior, ipso facto, demonstrating a contra-Christian sentiment?”
Well, first off, acceptance at the individual human level is not the issue. These controversies usually involve honors extended to people who are publicly known to be Catholics. So, a higher standard applies for two compelling reasons. First, any honors will be cheapened and any awarding institution will be rightfully seen to be cynical and hypocritical if it extends an award to someone who fundamentally rejects an essential purpose of the organization. Those who endorse the unjust taking of innocent human life have place themselves in that category with respect to the Catholic Faith. An objective observer would then have a legitimate basis for suspicion that other motives, such as obtaining favor from powerful, wealthy, and influential people for their future usefulness to the organization, had crept into the decision to extend awards.
Second, all baptized Catholics make a profession of faith each Sunday, have at some point renewed baptismal vows explicitly (and implicitly do so each time they make the sign of the cross), and engage in ritual oath action in publicly presenting themselves to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. These cannot be evacuated of meaning by excusing, much less honoring, supposed members who are dead set against the clear, firm, and unalterable moral positions of the Church. No properly functioning organization, – secular, ideological or religious – would do this nor should be expected to do this.
And Jesus himself did not do this, did not instruct us to do this, and no reasonable reading of what he taught can be pieced together that he inferred or quietly wished us to do this.
This is most definitely not simply a matter of social customs. We are playing here for all the marbles. It is a life and death issue for the individuals terminated, and for the societies and cultures that accept and thereby entrench this barbaric practice of unleashing arbitrary violence of the strong against the weak and innocent. When the Church denies a platform to such of her members she is acting with integrity.
What is left is sentiment. But in many ways it is a noble and proper sentiment that should motivate us to something positive. Our goal should not be the severing of Church relationship to those who attack its solemn teachings, only to deny them a privileged platform from which to do so. The Church, and that includes us, must do what she can to bring such wayward members back to the right Way. And sometimes the first step in that process is to force the confused or the willful to confront the contradiction in what they are called to, have professed, but now claim to reject. They need to choose. Now and every minute of the future. In a matter like this time is short.
Of course it is hard to admit that you have been wrong, deadly wrong. And even harder to admit that your perceived and detested social inferiors were right. And that is the deadly thing about silly, stupid, blinding pride. It prevents a person from embracing what they would otherwise concede is the truth for reasons of mere taste and exaggerated self-regard. When I am in this ridiculous position, I depend on true friends to help me see through it. When we see others caught in this trap we need to extend to them our sincere efforts. So, our goal is not a self-satisfied and tight-lipped glee at the ostracism of people who have sold themselves out to evil. Our goal should be to help rescue them.



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amy

posted January 7, 2006 at 3:18 pm


Mario says:
Fair enough, but the above statement is much more clear than your original post about something called the “justice equation.” In that post I understood your “justice equation,” to include certain “issues,” but mainly the issue of abortion.
Really? Well, then I guess should you take some remedial reading, Mario. My argument was excluding abortion from the justic equation.



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Poppi

posted January 7, 2006 at 3:47 pm


Well said, Glenn!



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DJP

posted January 7, 2006 at 5:18 pm


I suggest that everyone writes McBrien’s archbishop, Henry Mansell of Hartford and tell him what they really think of McBrien’s service to the Church. After all, his columns don’t even appear in his own archdiocesean newspaper anymore.
McBrien has put off to the sides by the liberal NCCB and even his own archdiocese. Isn’t it time for rank and file Catholics to do what the McBrien and those who think like him have been doing for the past 50 years – write, speak out and most of all, convince others by persuasion. Unless we let America know that there is another voice other than McBrien and company, the media will continue to think that orthodox bloggers are extremists.



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tcreek

posted January 7, 2006 at 5:45 pm


DJP writes:
“Unless we let America know that there is another voice other than McBrien and company, the media will continue to think that orthodox bloggers are extremists.”
Let them. . . extremism in the defense of truth is no vice, moderation is no virtue.
Or something like that.



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Charlotte Allen

posted January 7, 2006 at 5:54 pm


Yes,it’s too bad that it had to be Carol McKinley, whose blog, unfortunately, I find extremely difficult to follow due to its tangled prose(someone should explain to her that the four-dot ellipsis, her favorite punctuation mark, does not not make stream-of-consciousness ourpourings any more coherent).
McKinley functioned as a big fish in the barrel for McBrien to shoot in his attack on orthodox Catholic blogs. And this enabled him to skirt the issue, as Amy says, of Menino’s (and probably his own)actual position, which seems to be that it’s all right to promote the unrestricted taking of human life as long as you make the right noises about caring for the poor (which always means, not actually going out and feeding them yourself, or dipping into your own bank account to buy them homes, but, rather, promoting expensive government welfare programs that may or may not do anything to help them).
If McBrien had tried to take on any of the dozens of highly articulate orthodox Catholic bloggers, from Amy to Jeremy Lott to Mark Shea to Professor Bainbridge to Cacciaguida to Dominic Bettinelli, he would have made himself the laughingstock of the blogosphere.



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Richard

posted January 7, 2006 at 6:02 pm


Hello Amy,
Well said – as usual.
“…with Fr. McBrien’s column was that he did not address the issues. He did not honestly confront Menino’s stances on the issues at hand and put them up against Catholic teaching. He did not address the substance of the protesters’ arguments. He tossed out some stereotypes, added some uninformed comments about Life on The Internet, and stirred.”
I confess I got rather angry when I first read his comments on this point.
But then I stepped back to fairly consider what the real problem was here. How does he know this? How does he know that pro-life activists care about absolutely nothing else? Is he extrapolating from one he’s met? And then the bigger question: What *are* Menino’s positions? And are they in fact reconciliable with Catholic belief? And by Catholic blief I don’t mean subpoint 4 in the latest USCCB statement, but core dogma.
All this is unaddressed by McBrien. Which is a shame. Believe it or not, there are underlying issues that many “conservatives” would really like to hash out, reasonably and rationally, with Fr. McBrien. Who knows? Maybe we could even find some common ground.
Instead, we just get more flogging of dead horses. And shiboleths.



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michigancatholic

posted January 7, 2006 at 6:22 pm


Yes, but that’s the whole point. The likes of McBrien don’t really want to do the hard work of taking the articles of genuine Catholic belief and the details of the matter at hand and formulating, using valid methods of moral philosophy and moral theology, a responsible and credible stance. He’s only an ideologue, pure and simple.
We have quite a few so-called “theologians” of this type. It’s very sad when they are believed by people who can’t slog through and see the problem. They just take the conclusions and quote the name and go with it. Sad.
Speculative theology is speculative theology and needs to carry a label as such. And it should NOT be used in catechesis until it is held up to the venerable long-standing teachings of the Church and decreed valuable by a large number of eminent people over time.
This is important stuff. It’s not the stuff of cookbooks and self-help tomes.



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Maclin Horton

posted January 7, 2006 at 6:27 pm


“How does he know that pro-life activists care about absolutely nothing else?”
Indeed. And of course he doesn’t know it because it isn’t true, and I can’t help wondering if he really even believes it. (Of course if you’re going to be a really active activist you have to focus, but rank-and-file pro-lifers are concerned with the same bundle of issues that everybody else is.)
I’m glad some are still willing to argue this point, because it does need a response, but for my part I’ve come to see it as something akin to a squid squirting ink.



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michigancatholic

posted January 7, 2006 at 6:27 pm


The church has laid out, very clearly and coherently, the moral theology of abortion in terms of basic christian principles. I’m not sure what it would take to overturn it, but I suspect that it is not possible, for reasons that have already been laid out.
For that reason, it is considered church teaching, not to be defied.
This has nothing to do with a “seamless garment” or anything of that sort. That’s some sort of buzzword that came out of Chicago some years ago, used by idealogues to get people to accept homosexuality and a few other nasty practices, based on a superficial “niceness” rule. This, needless to say, is not serious moral theology or philosophy at all. Not in any sense of the terms.



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michigancatholic

posted January 7, 2006 at 6:29 pm


So, you see, it’s always easier to make a fast-&-dirty ad hominem attack than it is to actually do the work. Any little kid knows this.



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Colleen

posted January 7, 2006 at 8:16 pm


“The likes of McBrien don’t really want to do the hard work of taking the articles of genuine Catholic belief and the details of the matter at hand and formulating, using valid methods of moral philosophy and moral theology, a responsible and credible stance.”
I disagree. I honestly believe that Fr. McBrien believes he is part (if not one of the founders) of the parallel Magisterium – one of the authentic interpreters of Vatican II. Therefore, in his world he is using valid methods of moral philosophy and theology and his stance on issues is responsible and credible. Anyone with a more orthodox view of Catholicism than he has is of course an extremist – but I have never seen/heard him castigate anyone with a less orthodox view of Catholicism than he has.
Anyway, aside of being kind of annoyed although not surprised by some of the same old, same old, columns/interviews that Fr. McBrien has done for years, he is not an important or respected voice in the Catholic Church today except among the other parallel Magisterium experts.
As an aside and OFF TOPIC… although the Catholic Charity/Menino/Bishop O’Malley/McKinley/Catholic Action League event made semi-national news, there is a connection to Fr. McBrien here. Fr. McBrien (went to seminary in Boston) and Fr. Walter Cuenin (recently ousted from his parish in Newton, Ma) plus the now deceased Fr. Bullock founded the Boston Priests Forum (the 58 who signed the letter to Card. Law) and its lay arm, Voice of the Faithful. Most of the ordained leaders are/were friends. Fr. McBrien had hit heads with Cardinal Law over Fr. McBrien’s book “Catholicism” – Cardinal Law spearheaded the Vatican ‘fisking’ of the book that was to be no longer used in schools due to problematical Catholic teachings. So these two groups were founded to form a sort of level playing ground regarding the perceived power of Cardinal Law. Carol McKinley has been out there pounding the pavement (literally) for a long time railing against VOTF, Boston Priests Forum, Fr. Cuenin and Fr. Bullock (occasional swipes at Fr. McBrien). So for my money, Fr. McBrien was trying to discredit and portray as extreme and nutty Carol McKinley (and by happy association those Catholics who espouse the same views [in a more quiet way ;-)] – Carol McKinley has been a thorn in the side of VOTF, BPF and in particular, the priests associated with both groups. I doubt that the orthodoxy level of Menino mattered to Fr. McBrien at all.



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michigancatholic

posted January 7, 2006 at 8:28 pm


Oh, yes, he does clearly believe that he is a member of the “parallel magisterium” so-called. One only need scan his book “Catholicism” to understand that. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s using legitimate methods for his analyses. What he uses is pop theology.
And clearly the heterodoxy of Menino doesn’t bother McBrien either. But that doesn’t mean it might not have been uncomfortable for McBrien to actually address it in some coherent way. Thus the ad hominem attack. It’s easier.



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michigancatholic

posted January 7, 2006 at 8:43 pm


Ah, I see the connection you are making there too, Colleen. Being able to take a swipe at the foes of VOTF and their compadres (expecially the somewhat wacky ones like Carol) plus being able to take a swipe at us was probably all bonus for him too.
I suspect he might find it odious to see so many out here of an orthodox nature. I haven’t heard the old “sensus fidelis” argument in quite a while because I doubt that it would get the dissidents exactly where they’d like to go. Like it ever would have.
Probably the spectre of Rome doubling in size for PJP2’s funeral was quite a shock for these people. To be explained away no doubt.



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april

posted January 7, 2006 at 11:36 pm


This has nothing to do with a “seamless garment” or anything of that sort. That’s some sort of buzzword that came out of Chicago some years ago, used by idealogues to get people to accept homosexuality and a few other nasty practices, based on a superficial “niceness” rule.
Huh? Wasn’t it Cardinal Bernadin who suggested the term?



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Tom Haessler

posted January 8, 2006 at 12:44 am


“Seamless garment” is possibly a buzz word for a “consistent ethic of life” an argument on strategy made by those who are completely committed to Catholic teaching on abortion and euthanasia. It has nothing to do with getting people “to accept homosexuality and a few other nasty practices, based on a superficial ‘niceness’ rule.” Yes, Cardinal Bernardin was one of many who made the argument over a period of many years. [There’s a certain irony here, in that the Cardinal was falsely accused of homosexuality by an individual who later retracted his accusation].
1. The consistent ethic of life does NOT mean that all the life issues are placed on the same level. Cardinal Bernardin attempted repeatedly to eradicate this misunderstanding. He explicitely said many times that abortion and capital punishment are two distinct issues that have to be approached in the context of a full understanding of Catholic teaching.
2. The basic idea here is that reception in society of Catholic understanding of abortion and euthanasia based on natural law will be more likely if those promoting it are seen to have a deep respect for ALL human life (even the life of convicted criminals, for example) at ALL stages.
3. It has nothing to do with promoting liberal causes or the Democratic party. It has to do with promoting Catholic teaching in the context of the full range of issues connected with the Gospel of Life. John Paul the Great, for example, discusses capital punishment (in a very nuanced fashion) in his encyclical EVANGELIUM VITAE. So the example of the Holy Father here is one expression of the so-called “seamless garment” issue.
4. SOME people who are Catholic pro-life activists feel that the seamless garment approach is confused and gives too much importance to too many issues. OTHERS take a very different position. The argument about the seamless garment is an argument WITHIN the pro-life community.
5. McBrien’s poor record on the life issues would place him completely outside the seamless garment approach.



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Tom Haessler

posted January 8, 2006 at 1:05 am


Some posters have said that a Catholic can’t be a “liberal.” It all depends on how you define this term. The teaching authority of the Church has many times since Leo XIII insisted that the Church’s social doctrine canNOT be identified with particular political programs. John Paul the Great emphasized that his teaching on social issues is NOT a mean between the two extremes of socialism and capitalism, but rather Catholic moral theology in the area of justice.
One can be an orthodox Catholic and be a reactionary (Joseph Sobran of the Wanderer), a paleo-con (like Patrick Buchanan and Robert Novak), a neo-con (like Richard Neuhaus and George Weigel), a liberal (like those in Democrats for life), a radical (like Fr. Michael Baxter – a defender of HUMANAE VITAE and a Catholic Worker – who was passed over to be the chairman of the theology department at Notre Dame in favor of Fr. McBrien), or a socialist (like John Cort).
Yes, I’m sure readers of the WANDERER will raise their eyebrows at this last one (since the masthead proclaims, quoting Pius XI, “Noone can be a Catholic and a socialist at the same time”). Of course, they forget that Pius XI at the time of the publication of QUADRAGESIMO ANNO told the English bishops he was NOT condemning Catholic participation in the British Labor Party (a member of the Socialist International). And the current issue of FIRST THINGS contains an important article by Benedict XVI that says very complimentary things about socialism. “Democratic socialism [is] … a welcome counterweight to the radical liberal [laissez faire] positions, which it developed AND CORRECTED. In England it (the socialist Labor Party) became the political party of Catholics…In Germany… too, Catholic groups felt closer to democratic socialism than to the rigidly Prussian and Protestant conservative forces. IN MANY RESPECTS, DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM WAS AND IS CLOSE TO CATHOLIC SOCIAL DOCTRINE and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.” [FIRST THINGS, January, 2006, p. 20]



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Tom Haessler

posted January 8, 2006 at 1:08 am


If Father Michael Baxter, a radical who is scrupulously orthodox on all issues and a strong defender of Catholic teaching on human sexuality, had been made chairman of the theology department at Notre Dame instead of Fr. McBrien, American Catholicism would have been much better served. The problem is not Fr. McBrien’s politics, but his theology.



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Fr. Bill

posted January 8, 2006 at 1:55 am


Tom,
Fr. Baxter was “passed over” because he did not yet have a PhD, and if memory serves, was not yet ordained, when Fr. McBrien was brought into ND. At the time, Fr. McBrien was about to publish Catholicism, and many had advised the school that he would be the best person to make the department “more Catholic” than some perceived it to be at the time. One might question the results of that move, but the motive was in fact pure.



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 1:57 am


Correct, April. Cardinal Bernardin in Chicago.



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 2:05 am


Well, Tom, there’s a whole lot of credible information about Bernardin and odd goings-on but that’s another thread.
The seamless garment “approach” is not a credible method with respect to serious moral theology. It’s a gloss and a rather poor one in that it attempts to define only a “rule of thumb” which misses the particulars and depth of different situations. And then it canonizes the rule of thumb as the only rule to follow. It cannot be relied upon.
I never said anything about the Democrat party, Tom. You brought that up and it’s not the topic on this thread.



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Old Zhou

posted January 8, 2006 at 2:11 am


Regardless of what I might think are “the issues,” reading Fr. McBrien’s column again, I get the feeling that he feels the issue is:

what used to be called “the silent majority” during the Nixon presidency is now composed largely of liberals and moderates, not conservatives. The real “silent majority” in the Church consists of mainstream Catholics like Father Hehir, Mayor Menino and the hundreds of other committed lay Catholics who support Catholic Charities and who attended last month’s fund-raising dinner in spite of the shrill protests and threats from the Church’s far right.
What is most distressing, however, is the failure of church leadership to name what is going on and to stand firmly against it. Instead, too many bishops cave in to these pressure-groups, allowing even an outstanding priest like Bryan Hehir to absorb their barbs and insults.

I think “the issue” for Fr. McBrien is that “the Church” that he envisioned in the 1960’s is getting old and quiet, and these noisey young “conservative” and “ultra-conservative” (his words) Catholics are making all the noise and getting the media attention, and even the attention of bishops. This is not “the Church” that Fr. McBrien expected. That is his issue. Remembe that his life-long specialty has been ecclesiology.
I think it would be good for him to ask: why is this “silent majority” of “liberals and moderates” (his words), “mainstream Catholic” silent? Why are they silent? Do they have nothing to say? Perhaps not. Poorly catechized, taught a sort of religious relativism popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s that reduced their faith to “be nice,” they have, now that they are in their golden years, little to say, except “Let’s hope we get a new Pope soon” (their mantra repeated endlessly since Humanae Vitae).
Most of them are ignorant of Scripture, ignorant of theology, ignorant of Church teaching, and content to repeat “that Jesus ‘did not give priority to piety. He didn’t make holiness the big thing. And he did not tell us to go around talking up God, either.'” (Menino’s words.)
No wonder they are a new silent majority in the Church.



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Tom Haessler

posted January 8, 2006 at 2:37 am


Hello, Fr. Bill,
Mortimer Adler, the great Jewish Thomist who later converted to Christianity (Episcopalian) entered graduate school without a bachelor’s degree. He’d received straight A’s at Columbia, but the university refused to give him a degree because he refused phy ed (insisting that he came to Columbia to improve his mind, not his body – LOL).
I’m still checking, but I think you might be confusing the controversy about the initial hiring of Fr. Baxter with the controversy about the chairmanship. At any rate, the controversy was entirely about theology, not about credentials. Baxter insisted that those associated with McBrien were “Americanist” in the pejorative sense, more interested in allowing the culture to change the Church than the reverse. McBrien, at the time, strongly attacked Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker (Fr. Baxter had been a long supporter of the Worker). Many liberals (like Scott Appleby) supported Baxter in the first controversy. McBrien had already a reputation as a dissenter from HUMANAE VITAE, and IMHO, this was the REAL hidden agenda. Fr. Baxter was a strong defender of HV and insisted that McBrien’s facile rejection was an example of “bourgeois” theology.
I think this issue is extremely relevant to the thread. It underscores the THEOLOGICAL character of the problem of McBrien’s influence in Catholicism. Noone would ever accuse Baxter of being a conservative (or even a liberal). And his orthodoxy is unquestioned.



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 2:50 am


I think there is a “silent majority” in the Church. But I don’t think they’re particularly liberal in a theological way. They’re ignorant and pragmatic.
They don’t know any history, they don’t read much of anything, they don’t always show up at church and they make decisions in and out of the church. Their investment is often low and their participation sometimes only emotional at best.
Some of them are married (or remarried) outside the church and still show up for Holy Communion occasionally and claim to be Catholic. They know da** well there’s no check. Most of them contracept. Few of them confess.
It’s not that most of them actively dissent. They’re not aware of what dissent might be or what there is to dissent from, because they don’t know what the church teaches unless the media screams and yells about it. They feel free to depart from anything they hear anyway. They’re somewhat non-doctrinal.
The aims of the progressives were to produce generations of touchy-feely evangelical-like non-doctrinal Catholics. Well they did that and it’s their fault if they don’t like what they got.
As spinoffs occur, ie. the “American Catholic Church” etc. some will wander off not even aware of the depth of what they do. They’ll think they’re still Catholic! Only of a better fairer sort. :/
Protestants often pick the congregation they belong to not by theology but by whether the church is friendly, neighborly and cushy. There is little difference in view between the average Baptist and the average Methodist. Sure, there are published differences but most members can’t tell you what they are. They do know who the ushers are and when the donuts are served.
We’ve gone there.



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Tom Haessler

posted January 8, 2006 at 3:03 am


Hello, michigancatholic,
Actually, I “brought up” more than the Democratic party. I’m trying to show that it is entirely incorrect to see the McBrien issue as conflict between conservative and liberal Catholics. The issue is theological and has to do with orthodoxy. So it’s completely wrong to attack McBrien for being a “liberal”. He could be a liberal, or a Democrat, and still defend Catholic teaching and be a voice for the unborn.
On the “seamless garment” issue, Germain Grisez (who’s what the media call a “conservative” moral theologian) is widely regarded by those Catholics in the pro-life movement who support the consistent ethic of life as one of their heros. He’s written extensively in defense of the unborn, HUMANAE VITAE, against capital punishment, against nuclear war. He was a consultant for EVANGELIUM VITAE.
I grant you one thing. I’ve noticed some people who’ve never been involved in pro-life activities OR in any anti-war or anti-capital punishment work who prattle on about the “seamless garment” in connection with certain issues like minimum wage, immigration policy, etc. These are not the people I’m talking about and not the people Cardinal Bernardine would have held up as examples of the consistent life ethic.
Finally, those of us who support the consistent life ethic have more fun. When I picket Planned Parenthood, I get to talk about the Iraq war with pro-lifers. When I’m in peace demos, I get to challenge leftists about their prejudice against little people – real little people. And I get to remind them about Margaret Sanger’s racism and classism. Things they like to be against.



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 3:04 am


There are precious few of the old progressive flamers left and most of them look silly and senile to the young.
Interesting thing now is that you hear echos of the old progressive crap all mixed up with snatches of orthodoxy because people are confused. I used to teach in a Catholic high school near here. One of the high school religion teachers was fascinating to listen to because she was spouting all this stuff, but she had mixed it up and reframed it for herself somehow into this crazy mosaic of old, new and practical. This is not at all unusual, I have found in my 20 years as a Catholic. I’ve heard a lot of it.
The talk was luv, luv, luv. But if you crossed her she’d be the first to tell you you were headed for hell. Crazy. The whole depth and subtlety and beauty of the Church was somehow lost in all that yard-sale-like confusion.



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 3:14 am


Tom, it’s an interesting feature of logic that one can argue for any one particular outcome from opposing points of view. I’m not disputing that.
I am saying that, regardless of the point of view used, the so-called “seamless garment approach” (which has a euphemism–consistent life ethic, ok) is an inferior argument technically. I am not speaking now of outcomes or politics or how much fun you have at rallies. I’m speaking as a degreed philosopher. The “seamless garment argument” is a shallow stunt.
When determining the morality of an act, one has to examine the particular act in light of principles. Particularly in Catholic theology, one must use the principles that come from tradition and Catholic teaching.
To set up a method like the “seamless garment method” as a “rule of thumb” and then turn around and say it’s not to be questioned and it’s to be used preferentially to better methods is just a ploy. A stunt. Dishonest and incoherent.



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Old Zhou

posted January 8, 2006 at 12:23 pm


Thinking some more about ecclesiology, categories, the recent posts on McBrien and Allen….
I recall reading a dissertation on ecclesiology in the last couple of years that talked about categories and dialogue. The author proposed a continuum of
Roman Local
Those on the “Roman” end of the spectrum tend to want their Catholic Church to be more closely tied to “waht Rome teaches (and maybe practices)”; while those on the “Local” end of the spectrum want their (Roman) Catholic Church to put more emphasis on local customs and practices and ideas; I think that both Irish and Polish communities in the past, and now American communites, can provide examples of strong sentiment in this direction.
I would propose a second dimension which is useful:
Written Oral
Those on the “Written” end of the spectrum have a strong knowledge of and preference for what is “written,” be it in documents from the Vatican, rubrics, Scripture, etc. In contrast, those who are more strongly at the “Oral” end of the spectrum prefer a freer, more spontaneous experience of Church, with free departures from texts, or total disregard for texts. An extreme form of the “Oral” end of the spectrum would be, I think, a sort of American Catholic Intellectual Zen which feels a sort of superiority in rejecting and being ignorant of everything written from Rome. I believe this developed because of the coincidence in the 1960’s of Vatican II and a new American interest in Zen (the premier “non-written” Buddhism).
Many American Catholics, I would say including Mr. Menino, are rather strongly in the “local-oral” quadrant. His Catholicism is that which was locally, orally passed on to him by the nuns that taught him.
Many “traditionalists,” on the other hand, might be located in the extremes of the “Roman-written” quadrant, wanting nothing more than a faithful practice according to what Rome has written.
(By the way, having been in Rome, I can tell you that even in Rome, what is said and practiced is not necessarily the same as what is written!)
I think that a healty Catholic Church needs to strive to keep in the center, with a good balance of what is Roman and what is Local, with a good balance of what is written and what is (local) oral tradition. This is not easy, because it is not that hard to think that these things are contraditions.
If I recall correctly, this thesis on ecclesiology also used the case of Archbishop Hunthausen of Seattle as a “case study,” and the failed efforts to remove him.
A nice letter from Cardinal Ratzinger is interesting, dated September 30, 1985. The “harsh critics” were rejected by Ratzinger:2. It is also true that you and those who assist you have suffered from exaggerated criticism and routine misunderstanding. Our observations are based neither on the complaints of your more strident critics, nor on publications that are obviously biased. Nor do we wish to encourage extremist groups who are wholly lacking in a spirit of cooperation and seek to destroy or suppress whatever is not to their liking. It is our intention, rather, to support what you have done to promote the renewal of the Church in Seattle and to point out, at the same time, areas which we consider are in need of correction and improvement.
This paragraph sounds like it could have come from Fr. McBrien to Mr. Menino!
Cardinal Ratzinger did outline some real problems in Seattle:

4. . It appears that there has been a rather widespread practice of admitting divorced persons to a subsequent Church marriage without prior review by your Tribunal, or even after they have received a negative sentence. Catholics have been advised that after divorce and civil remarriage, they may in conscience return to the Sacraments.

5. A number of other basic doctrinal problems can be identified. While it is impossible to judge how widespread they are, and although they may seem to be abstract, they too often have had real implications and concrete effects in the day-to-day life of the Church in Seattle.

6. As per your letter of March 14, 1984, we realize that you have taken steps to correct the practice of contraceptive sterilization which had been followed in local Catholic hospitals. Such procedures are clearly and explicitly forbidden in all Catholic institutions.

9. . Likewise, the attention of the clergy and the faithful should be drawn to the fact that non-Catholic Christians may be admitted occasionally to communion in the Catholic Church under specific conditions as listed in c. 844 par. 4, and in the related documents of the Holy See on this question. Catholics, however, are permitted in some cases to receive the Eucharist in non-Catholic churches, but only in those whose sacraments are recognized by the Catholic Church, as is clear from c. 844, par. 2.

10. Effort to encourage full and lively participation in the sacred liturgy should be fostered. However, practices, which are not in accord with the Roman Sacramentary and the related directives of the Holy See, should be eliminated. The appointment of a carefully trained priest to aid in the supervision of sacramental and liturgical discipline is indicated here as well.

etc.
But still, Cardinal Ratzinger did not just “throw out” the Archbishop, nor care much for the harsh and strident critics.
Rather, he concluded:

n bringing all the above points to your attention it has been our purpose to assist you as effectively as possible in your office as Archbishop of Seattle. We commend you for your kindness and patience during the Apostolic Visit and during the many months needed by the Holy See for careful review and appropriate action.
May the Holy Spirit of Christ be with you and with His people whom you serve.
With my own best wishes, I am
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Signed/ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Prefect

I think that perhaps looking at the historical situation in Seattle, and how it was handled by Cardinal Ratzinger (and Rome in general), could provide some insight into why Fr. McBrien is rather indignant at the “harsh and strident” critics of Mr. Menino.
It could be argued that 2005 is not 1985, and much has changed in 20 years. But still, on the time scale of ecclesiology, 20 years is not very long. The Church has ways of doing things, and “in your face” is not one of them.



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Richard the Adequate

posted January 8, 2006 at 12:30 pm


We seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time, effort and space on slicing and dicing McBrien, who, let’s face it, has really become a bit player on the public stage of American Catholicism.
When do we get to the real “meat and potatoes” guy who really defines the Church in our fair land (and in all his seamlessly-shrouded glory) — Bill Donahue!!



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Tom Haessler

posted January 8, 2006 at 12:46 pm


Thanks, Old Zhou, for this insightful post. It’s interesting to note that nowhere did Rome criticize Archbishop Hunthausen’s involvement in the peace movement (a major irritant for his critics) and his support of what would today be called the consistent ethic of life (or by the buzz word favored now especially by its enemies “the seamless garment”).
Cardinal Ratzinger’s (and now Benedict XVI’s) wonderful praxis is a very credible witness to teaching that challenges us to ever greater conformity to the fullness of the Catholic Tradition.



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Carol McKinley

posted January 8, 2006 at 12:55 pm


Colleen, thanks for your support – it’s a difficult thing for people to understand if you haven’t lived through it (Boston).
It’s a baffling thing how Massachusetts got to condition it’s in with all the smart people here who could have simply written things down nicely and sent it to the politicians and Bishops and VOTF. Perhap’s they could give some advice to the Holy See and the Holy Father – who also got a dirty response from the Archbishop when they told him to yank Catholic Charities back in line and they said we don’t take advice from the Holy See we have committees that tell us what to do now and we are awaiting their directives.
We could all be somewhere over the rainbow with Dorothy and Toto singing Kumbaya had Planned Parenthood which is now operating CCD in the diocese, Menino and the Boston Globe been given the link to all the geniuses clucking on this blog.
Charlotte, dear, just for the record – we’ve all been there done that. There was a time and place where EBay would have taken the Blessed Sacrament off the auction block and Walmart would have backed down, and the Bishops would have listened to the people saying that wingnuts with sexually depraved eitology should be relieved of their duties when we all wrote it down nicely and asked them to intercede. Those days are gone. We need the donoghues and the mckinleys of this world to escalate the efficacy of the warfare going on – political, theological and spiritual.
There is a strategy to which you are not privy. While I would love to take the time to explain it to you – my gut tells me that if the prose (do I sense the Latin Vulgate is not in the Allen household) and dots (it’s three dots not four) have you baffled – it would all be over your head.
To put it as simply as I can – there are a number of us executing strategies that are sort of working in unison. Sort of like when you turn on the boob tube to one of them there cop shows and one cop plays bad and one cop plays good and it all works out in the end. I pry, you nice folks convert and Christ cleans up in the end.



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michigancatholic

posted January 8, 2006 at 1:49 pm


Um, just because he didn’t tell the Archbishop he was removed, doesn’t mean the Archbishop shouldn’t have paid attention to the corrections. That’s just juvenile, race to the bottom mentality.
Have we sunk that low? Like Junior High School students who have to be told every single rule they can’t break and have no ability to comply with reasonable directives from superiors?
Or maybe the Archbishop thought he had no superiors? Who knows.
I vaguely remember the brouhaha around this case. Was there not a adjunct bishop appointed to “help him out,” or something like that. Somebody help me out.
BTW the corrections sound like they could have been written yesterday. Hmmm.



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carol mckinley

posted January 8, 2006 at 2:03 pm


p.s.
I couldn’t agree more with the people wishing it wasn’t me – who has to take things to the level I had to do in order to get the proaborts politicians out of the Catholic platforms here in MA, dismantle VOTF, Priest’s Forum, and take down Bryan Hehir who is about to lose his post on Catholic Charities, Eric McFadden who is now legless with his Massachusetts democratic dog sled running for cover with their tail between their legs,(truncated list).
My goal this year is by December of 2006, I’ll take down Talking about Touching and January 1, 2007, we’ll be free of it. If any one of you over here in the peanut gallery would like to take that initiative over as you seem to think you have better ideas – I’ll gladly hand over that chore…give you an update on where the project stands. Please email me at cmmckinley@aol.com – step up to the plate and let’s see you take them on.
I’m fairly certain Donohue wishes it wasn’t him too – and would gladly let the cluckers take on any project you think you can have efficacy in.
:)



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Eileen R

posted January 8, 2006 at 2:14 pm


Tom wrote:
I grant you one thing. I’ve noticed some people who’ve never been involved in pro-life activities OR in any anti-war or anti-capital punishment work who prattle on about the “seamless garment” in connection with certain issues like minimum wage, immigration policy, etc.
This made me laugh. I remember a nice but sort of clueless priest on the Human Life Issues committee whose only contribution was to campaign for including something about tuna fishermen netting dolphins as part of the Life Sunday package that was going out to all the parishes. Seamless garment, you know!



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John V

posted January 9, 2006 at 8:56 am


michigancatholic wrote: “I vaguely remember the brouhaha around this case. Was there not a adjunct bishop appointed to ‘help him out,’ or something like that. Somebody help me out.”
The auxiliary bishop (with special faculties) was Donald Wuerl. He was ordained a bishop in January of 1986, stayed in Seattle a little less than 2 years, and has been Bishop of Pittsburgh since February of 1988.



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c matt

posted January 9, 2006 at 12:37 pm


RP from below thread:
Because you won’t support anyone in the first instance who does not agree with your position on what public policy on abortion should be.
(Note carefully: I did NOT say what the morality of abortion is. These are different issues — another area where you have proven yourself wrong again and again.)

This is extremely ironic – as if the “social justice” crowd is not guilty of the very thing they claim against pro-lifers. That is, someone may disagree with their public policy position on how to best help the poor and therefore they don’t “care” about the poor. Pot. Kettle. Black.



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c matt

posted January 9, 2006 at 12:40 pm


And, pray tell, how can “public policy” on abortion include allowing it if one agrees it is the murder of innocents? Somehow, that just doesn’t seem to allow for the same diversity of opinion that, say, whether direct handouts or job growth are the best way to lessen poverty.



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Fr. Bill

posted January 9, 2006 at 1:40 pm


Tom,
In case you or anyone else is still keeping up with this thread, Fr. Baxter’s hiring controversy came in the 90s, well after McBrien’s 10 year (I believe) term as Chairman had ended. He was brought into the Department in 1980 or thereabouts, in part to shift away from hiring so many Protestants, like Hauerwas (very amenable to Catholicism), Wilken (now a Catholic) and Griffiths (now a Catholic)–aint irony grand?
The Baxter hiring controversy was covered pretty well, of all things, by the National Catholic Reporter, thanks to their appreciation of his Catholic Worker affiliation. Aint irony grand?



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Old Zhou

posted January 9, 2006 at 2:14 pm


I would highly recommend a little article from my bishop: 10 rules for handling disagreement like a Christian.



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Tom Haessler

posted January 9, 2006 at 7:52 pm


Hi, Fr. Bill,
Yes, I got the real scoop by reading the long article in the NCR. What fascinates me is that Fr. McBrien openly censured Baxter’s position as incompatible with Catholicism, something which Richard Neuhaus did NOT do! Neuhaus understood that his differences with Baxter were not faith differences, but theological and political differences within the one household of the faith. But McBrien, in this instance, showed a certain narrowness not usually associated with “liberals”.



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Duane Litfin, President

posted January 14, 2006 at 12:12 pm


The best threaded discussion I’ve seen. Thank you for that. But still, little awareness shown of a book length treatment that deals with all the relevant issues (Duane Litfin, Conceiving the Christian College, Eerdmans, 2004), especially chapters 2, 10-11.
I don’t ask that you agree with us; only that you genuinely understand us, which is not likely to happen if you are depending on the popular media’s treatment. Consider the anti-Catholic spin so often apparent in the popular media and you will take my point. Reading so much of this coverage and the uninformed but dogmatic criticisms it has spawned, I’m constantly reminded of the old adage, “Often wrong, but never in doubt.”
We don’t mind being criticized, but the criticisms should be of the real thing, not the illusions generated by the secular media, especially in a thoughtful venue such as this one.



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D. Litfin

posted January 14, 2006 at 12:38 pm


Oops. Wrong thread. Check out “Evangelicals and Catholics, Not Together”



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