Friday, August 23

Hey! I get bashed in the New Oxford Review! Not by name, apparently, but they quote my reserved review as a part of the general indictment.

Just a reminder: My take on Rose was that a)He said many things that were true and that everyone interested in the issue of the priesthood in the contemporary church should read the book but b)I thought that the research standards used in the book didn't quite cut it.. There were plenty of citations of hard evidence as cited in the press and so on, but there was also lots of anecdotal, anonymous sources who told their stories without any apparent attempt to verify those claims. I didn't say that such a method made the book false. I said that it made the book weaker and easier to dismiss. I mean, if you bash a seminary based on the testimony of an anonymous source without a)visiting the place yourself and doing independent research on site or b)offering the other side, you've not made a strong case. There was also a very strong scent of...having a thesis and judging your sources on how useful they were in supporting that thesis. Sorry. I was trained as an historian, and the first thing I always look at when I read a book like this is the sources and how they are used. It's not just a picky, technical point, either. When we read books or pieces of journalism - say on this crisis - that are one-sided in their sourcing and seem to be flowing from a predetermined conclusion, we object, and rightly so. I saw the same flaw in Rose's book. That is not to necessarily question his conclusions, merely to say, once again, that he would have a stronger book that would be more difficult t,for his (real) opponents to dismiss if he had not relied so heavily on anonymous anecdotal evidence and apparently shunned even the attempt to balance out those stories of oppression with the other side. (After all...some of us have known a seminarian or two who says he was dismissed because he was "too orthodox" for the room, but who, in the end, turned out to have done other things that quite rightly got him booted.)

In the wake of the Dreher piece, many have suggested a look at this essay by uberapologist Dave Armstrong called "Why Doesn't Pope John Paul II DO Something About the Modernist Dissenters in the Catholic Church?".

It's a helpful read (as is everything Dave does - go to his website and give him support!), but it doesn't quite address the same issue. Dave is looking at the question of excommunicating theological dissenters, and he makes the very good point that a wholesale cleaning of house of "dissenters" and "heretics" (whoever they may be) would probably produce schism, and quick. I think he's right.

In this instance, however, I think one must judge his plan, tactics, or strategy for recovering the institutional orthodoxy of the Church against the backdrop of the entrenched modernist rebellion or revolution. I maintain that anything his critics and "armchair popes" might say he "should" do would have a far worse effect than what he is doing. To casually assume that the liberals are not capable of literal schism is to vastly underestimate both their power and resolve. What would his critics on the matter of Church discipline have him do? Burn every heretic at the stake? The Church used to do that, after all (or at least gave approval to secular authorities to do so). I exaggerate, but this did indeed occur, and it was a way of "removing" heresy. The Middle Ages were very "decisive" in that way. Should he remove every modernist professor? That would almost certainly produce schism, etc.

That next-to-last sentence comes closer to the issue I'm interested in than the question of excommunication. For, as I see, the problem with these clerical sexual predators as well as others who use the Church as a convenient life-support while they gad about merrily undercutting its mission, is not as much related to faith as it is to discipline and support.

What concerns many of us is not that these people continue to be Catholic, but that they continue to be supported and protected by the Church. I'm not wondering why anyone is "allowed" to stay Catholic - If we're making lists, I'm sure my name is on someone's, somewhere, after all. No, I'm wondering why Church authority presumptively favors the clerical abuser, quite often in ways that go beyond the totally fair presumption of innocence, and has been known to make life hell for victims. And as far as the more general question of those some of us like to label as "dissenters" "heterodox" and "heretical," (I put them in quotes, not because I don't believe such a thing exists, but because it's not my job to define anyone's faith as such), the issue, even here, is not excommunication, in my mind. It's this:

Permitting people who teach material that undercuts faith and disposes students against faith under the label of Catholic in Catholic institutions Don't excommunicate 'em. Just don't hire 'em, for pete's sake. Don't send your catechists and liturgists to their summer programs, don't invite them to speak at your conferences. Let them say what they're talking about is Catholic, sure - but just don't make the rest of us pay for it, and do what you can to contain the damage, which would not be too hard if bishops and college administrators were as interested in getting rid of questionable faculty in Catholic universities as bishops are in getting rid of Catholic grammar school teachers who get married outside the Catholic Church.

Calling a spade a spade. No fire and brimstone needed, and , can leave the stakes in the garage. But if bishops and their diocesan staffs, from the communications office on over to the catechetical offices a)paid no attention to the imaginative stylings of the Reuthers and Crossans among us or, if necessary, b) pointed out with good humor and Chestertonian wit what a joke they are and how we need not bother with them...these folks would not have nearly as much power as they do.

I can't see any schism flowing from that. More like a big sigh of relief that at the next Catechetical Conference, at least, we won't have to hear the phrase "claiming our stories." Not once.


Oswald Sobrino unpacks just one flaw in Why I am a Catholic

Recently, I corresponded briefly with the book editor of a major newspaper who reviewed Wills’ book favorably. Her view was that the key to the book was Wills’ revelation that the Apostle Peter was not the first bishop of Rome. She treated this revelation with a wonder more appropriate to an older child first discovering that there is no Santa Claus. She uncritically emphasized this wondrous discovery in a major urban newspaper to the detriment of her readers’ right to a critical book review.

Please hop over and see what Eve has to say about all of this. Brilliant all the way through.
Hey! Here's a new post on which to comment...the one below is getting too long. If you want to keep talking about that issue comment here.

In short...is wondering out loud what the heck Church authorities, from the Pope on down - or over - or whatever - are doing about this crisis in a substantive way hurting or helping the Church and its mission?

Frequent and valuable commentor Maureen M. has an excellent essay on her site about August, Art and the Catholic League.
In Indonesia: A TV Preacher Satisfies the Hunger for Islam Lite

Mr. Gymnastiar's appeal among Indonesia's young and the middle class appears to lie in a combination of his modernity, his background as the son of a soldier and his interest in business. In the country's precarious economic environment, where an unruly democracy is unfolding after three decades of dictatorship, his homilies inspire hope and confidence."Success is how we can improve ourselves all our life," he said during a taping. "Don't think success is only money, a beautiful wife and a good job — but how we can improve ourselves to the end of our life." At his base in Bandung, a city in West Java, he charges $100 for three-day motivational seminars on how to succeed. A local supermarket, a radio station and a variety of home industries opened by his organization are supposed to illustrate to the participants how to do better in their own businesses. Always mindful of the reach of his television audience, Mr. Gymnastiar had a waterfall built in the backyard of his modest home there, so the cameras could film him for special segments in front of an attractive backdrop.Every Monday he gathers his senior staff of eight men, all under 40, on his veranda to plan the week's commercial activities.His latest venture is "Al Quran Selular," a telephone service that allows subscribers to call daily to listen to their favorite texts from the Koran, recited in his deep voice. For several years, he has run charter flights to Mecca.

More questions about the disputed Boston abuse case: here and here.
Very bizarre family feud:

Indian nun charged with forced conversion and murder.

Explain to me why....American teachers find it a challenge to teach a class of 25 to read...while

4 nuns in Africa teach 2,000 kids to read

Four Spanish nuns, of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, taught more than 2,000 children to read during the last school term. The instruction was carried out in 11 community schools spread over the Bongord region in the central African republic of 8.7 million, AVAN agency reported. Moreover, close to 200 young people are now being trained in agricultural technical schools, which the nuns have established in the same region. ..Last year the nuns trained more than 60 teachers, who now give basic instruction to students in reading and writing, oral expression and mathematics, among other fundamental subjects.

Why did the San Diego newspaper highlight a story about a possible Catholic clerical abuser and bury an article about a convicted Lutheran clerical abuser?

The newspaper's ombudswoman answers.

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