Reprinted with permission of Crisis magazine.

I guess it was just a matter of time. As you and I both know, critics of the Church are taking advantage of the sex scandal to push forward their own agendas. We've seen it time and again in newspaper editorials, radio call-in shows, and TV interview programs.

And now, to the list, we can add The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) -- that venerable old institution of tedious (and increasingly gray-haired) dissent. CRISIS reader Danny deBruin alerted us to NCR's latest overturn-the-Church scheme.

The newest issue sports a provocative cover story: "Blueprint for Vatican III." And in case you're wondering, the article does not disappoint.

Here's how it works: The NCR's editors sent a request to "Catholics in various parts of the world." They asked each person to list three issues they believe a future general council of the Catholic Church must address, along with 12 additional items they'd like to see on the council's agenda. The results were collated, edited, and printed in NCR.

Who were these "Catholics" chosen to represent the opinions of the universal Church? We're never told. Everything was conducted anonymously. But NCR does tease us a bit, saying that the respondents included one cardinal and three bishops (the remainder consisted of nuns, priests, and laity).

I know, I know. You can't wait to get the results. Well, I won't torture you, so here they are... Shockingly enough, NCR discovered that "the people of God" want to see the next council mandate a married clergy, women priests, complete freedom on all the sexual issues (contraception, homosexuality, etc., etc.), and democratization in the leadership of the Church.

Let me give you a couple juicy examples, along with my comments in brackets... "Respondents wanted the widest possible participation of all the church in the next council, laity -- single and married -- and women religious and priests present as a group in proportion to the number of bishops present. A cardinal in a developing country wrote that all religions should be invited 'and have the right to vote.'"

[Did you catch that last bit? So, non-Christians should be given the right to vote on Catholic doctrine? Hmm... I wonder how Muslims and Buddhists would vote on the issue of Christ's divinity?]

"I would like to see a discipleship of equals. The issue goes to the heart of the patriarchal and hierarchical structure of the church and the false holding of one person above another. It means opening all church offices to women. It means shifting the weight of power away from Rome and church pulpits to the people of God. It means getting rid of all parent-child terminology like "Father" (Holy and otherwise), and attendant behaviors."

[Get rid of "Father" terminology? Sounds like this respondent has more of a problem with Jesus than with the Church.]

"We must search for a coherent and persuasive moral stance on sexual morality: marriage and its support systems, family planning, reconciliation after divorce, homosexual activity, natural law."

[I wonder what that respondent's "persuasive moral stance" on those issues might be?]

"Now, only the hierarchy has real power. Others are merely tokens. This accounts for all the ills of the church, from pedophilia to financial abuse to theological violence."

[Ah yes, a powerful Church hierarchy caused pedophilia. Isn't it more likely that the sex-abuse scandal -- which again ISN'T pedophilia -- could have something to do with the outrageous number of active homosexuals in the priesthood? And aren't those active homosexuals there because of the liberal seminary policies urged on by the kinds of people who read NCR? A little food for thought.]

"Seminaries need to be closed and modeled after the experimental seminary training proposed by Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helder Camara and some Protestant types of training such as Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge and Berkeley Feminist D. Min courses."

[Yes, that should pack in the seminarians. After all, what young man doesn't want to be harangued by an angry feminist for his "misogyny" and "homophobia"?]

"The whole question of infallibility and the role of the magisterium needs to be looked at. Both of these issues can be like nuclear weapons in the wrong hands."

Well, you get the picture. NCR devotees, like so many other aging radicals, still live in a past where 1960s-style dissent is bright and new. But the truth is something quite different. The mainline liberal Protestant churches are fading away... some predict that the Methodist and Episcopal churches may not even exist a century from now. Which Protestant denominations are growing? The conservative, orthodox, evangelical churches.

This same phenomenon holds true in the Catholic Church. The orthodox dioceses are vibrant and bursting with vocations. Just take a trip to Denver or Northern Virginia if you doubt it. Conversely, the dioceses that likely receive NCR in their chanceries are shriveling up.

It's revealing, I think, that out of the 300 requests NCR sent out, only 60 came back. That's a pretty sad response for a group that claims to speak for the average Catholic.

The simple truth is the heady days of dissent are dead and gone. It just seems that some people refuse to leave the funeral.

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