The Motley Monk
For the past several decades, an ideological battle has been transpiring somewhat “beneath the radar” at religiously-affiliated universities and colleges throughout the United States. What’s being contested is control of what an institution’s “religious affiliation” means in the conduct of educating young adults.
In many institutions, the battle has focused upon controlling of the board of trustees. Conservatives and liberals have vied for control to appoint presidents who will enact their religious views campus wide. Once the president is appointed, the focus of battle then shifts to the appointment of administrators—provosts, deans, and department chairs—who are intimately involved in hiring new faculty and granting/rejecting tenure and promotion in the professorial ranks. Of course, the overall objective is to control what students will experience of an institution’s religious affiliation in classrooms and through on-campus activities.
As this battle has been playing out most recently at Erskine College in South Carolina, the institutions’ Board of Trustees was concluding a presidential search when the board’s choice—a Christian college vice president—withdrew from consideration. Why? He was Baptist not Presbyterian.
- Erskine is a small liberal arts college, the only one affiliated with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) denomination. ARP is a branch of the Presbyterianism that’s closer in beliefs to the many evangelical Christian denominations, meaning that Erskine tends to be more “conservative” than other, more “liberal” Presbyterian colleges.
- In the past, Erskine’s board has hired presidents who were not ARP members. But, the board has never hired a non-Presbyterian.
What makes this particular candidate’s withdrawal noteworthy is that Erskine has been caught in a cultural struggle for years. At issue is how closely Erskine will adhere to a conservative worldview that treats the Bible as history and as a guide for all academic subjects and campus conduct.
According to Inside Higher Ed, this particular battle has been brewing since 2010—about the same time Erskine’s board was involved in a previous presidential search—as ARP conservatives began bringing pressure to bear upon Erskine’s board. Some alumni, students, and faculty members—who value Erskine’s liberal arts tradition—have been chagrined.
As the current presidential search was nearing its conclusion, ARP Talk—a blog that has led the criticism of Erskine’s board and administration in recent years for what ARP conservatives believe is the institution’s deviation from church teaching—took the institution to task. As reflected in a post about the now-failed search, what Erskine’s conservatives want this time around is a president who will:
- affirm the inerrancy of the Bible;
- affirm the historicity and special creation of Adam;
- work to maintain and strengthen the institution as an “agency” of the ARP denomination;
- address sexual impurity on campus; and,
- take fiscal responsibility by reducing the draw on the endowment to 5% immediately.
These are sound, conservative religious, moral, and economic principles, the first four of which fly in the face of how liberals today define the term “liberal arts tradition” while the fifth means cutting programs and, potentially, faculty positions.
For decades, similar litmus tests—but from the opposite direction—have been administered in the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges. Boards and officials in the religious orders sponsoring those institution have been carefully vetting candidates for presidencies—whether religious or lay—for their religious ideology. The objective is to appoint liberal Catholics. Then, once a president is appointed, this litmus test is applied even more stringently at the Provost and Dean levels, so these upper- and mid- level administrators will implement that agenda, protecting academic freedom and use their ideological agenda to guide decision making concerning all academic subjects and campus conduct.
As for Erskine’s failed search, ARP Talk states:
They put a good and honorable man through an unnecessary ordeal and in an untenable position! In all fairness, this candidate possesses a charismatic personality, a warm evangelical testimony of faith, and many admirable leadership skills. And the gentleman is not faulted because he is a convinced Baptist. A little background search on the Internet reveals his theological convictions, and he is forthcoming in what he believes. We can only wish he were Presbyterian in his theological convictions.
At too many of the nation’s institutions of Catholic higher education, the statement could be shortened considerably: “The candidate was simply too Catholic.”
To read the Inside Higher Ed article, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
The article’s lead paragraph says it all:
The recent arrests of teachers in the El Paso area accused of sex crimes against students is part of a nationwide epidemic that dwarfs the priest molestation scandal.
Now, if true, that’s a very big story. But, it seems it’s one in which the mainstream media (MSM) doesn’t appear very much interested. Instead, the MSM—including the National Catholic Reporter—has been focused like a laser whenever the story involves a priest, even if the case is decades old and a $3M settlement was reached.
Now, that’s not to dismiss any of those stories about predatory priests. What’s wrong is wrong—no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Prosecute the evildoers to the full extent of the law. It is to say that the MSM seems to be motivated by a particular agenda concerning those stories: To expose the moral failures of Catholic priests, not those of public school teachers and staff.
Terri Miller, the president of a victims advocacy group that tracks teacher-staff sexual misconduct across the nation—Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation (S.E.S.A.M.E)—is quoted in the El Paso Times as saying that since January 1, 2014, 180+ teachers in the United States have been arrested for alleged sexual misconduct. As of June 1,2014, that’s 1+ teachers-staff/day. Miller said: “We find that to be a huge problem of epidemic proportions.”
Think that number high?
A 10-year-old U.S. Department of Education study indicated that ~10% of children in U.S. public schools are victims of teacher-staff sexual misconduct sometime during their elementary and high school years. The alleged misconduct ranged from sexual comments to statutory rape. However, even though the U.S. Department of Education tracks just about everything that transpires in the nation’s public schools and will be tracking even more with the common core, the Department doesn’t track teacher-staff sexual misconduct! Furthermore, school districts are extremely reluctant to publicize problems. So, with no data available, a compliant MSM has no story. But, when it was discovered that dioceses weren’t tracking misconduct on the part of priests as well as only reluctantly publicizing any allegation, didn’t a non-compliant MSM function as the primary whistleblower?
Well, that was in 2004. To quote Hilary Clinton’s testimony before Congress about Benghazi: “What’s…it…matter…now?”
Well, 10 years later, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report examining the sexual abuse of K-12 students in the nation’s public schools. In January 2014, the GAO found that policies and methods to prevent teacher-staff misconduct vary from state to state and from school district to school district. The report noted:
The sexual abuse of students and sexual misconduct by public K-12 school personnel is a complex problem, and such behavior is particularly egregious because schools are entrusted with educating the nation’s children. There are no simple solutions to this problem and, although states and school districts are taking some positive steps, current efforts are clearly not enough.
This is now. Ever hear of that report? Did the MSM publicize its content 24/7/365?
Worse yet, the teachers and staff who are accused of misconduct typically are “placed on leave” and, then, “resign.” But that’s not all. According to Miller:
When I was in high school more than 35 years ago, there were teachers sleeping around. The creepy guys. They would be gone one day to the next. They just seemed to disappear.
But those “creepy guys” didn’t disappear. No, an accused teacher would be sent to different school or allowed to resign and move to another district. The practice was called “passing the trash.” What this practice allowed is for teachers accused of misconduct potentially to victimize multiple students before being brought to justice. Miller notes that teachers charged with sexual misconduct typically work in 3 jurisdictions before being punished. She said: “This practice of ‘passing the trash’ is truly evil. It is helping and abetting child molesters.”
Okay. But, all of that was also a very long time ago. Again, “What’s…it…matter?” Besides, victims’ advocates—including S.E.S.A.M.E’S Miller—believe “passing the trash” has decreased. No…big…problem.
Doesn’t that sound eerily similar to bishops who moved predatory priests around their dioceses and across dioceses? Didn’t the MSM widely publicize bishops who engaged in similar, reprehensible conduct? Why weren’t public school superintendents exposed?
If Miller’s statistics concerning teacher-staff sexual misconduct in the nation’s public schools are accurate, her assessment may be correct:
The abuse that is happening in our schools is 10 times worse than the abuse that happened with clergy in five decades.
“The problem of educator abuse is far greater than clergy abuse,” Miller concluded. “The big difference is that we are not mandated to send our children to church. We are mandated to send them to school.”
Well, it may very well be accurate that teacher-staff sexual misconduct in the nation’s public schools is an “epidemic” affecting nearly ~4.5M students and “10 times worse than the abuse that happened with clergy” during the past 5 decades. But, given a generally compliant MSM, it sure would be difficult for anyone to discover.
Why? Could it that the predatory priests didn’t have unions and a generally compliant MSM to protect them?
To read the Daily Mail’s recent article concerning a decades’ old sexual abuse story, click on the following link:
To read the El Paso Times article, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
The subtitle of the January 17, 2014, Politico article concerning Pope Francis was eye-catching: “This guy could teach President Obama a thing or two.”
The article’s author, Candida Moss—a professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame—wasn’t writing about biblical, moral, or ethical matters. No, she was writing about political matters and reversing President Obama’s low poll numbers.
Moss’ thesis is that because President Obama and Pope Francis have so much in common, perhaps “that guy”—the President—can learn “a thing or two” (it’s actually four things) from “this guy”—the Pope.
Regarding those similarities:
- Both elections were historic firsts: Obama was the first Black elected U.S. President and Francis is the first Pope from Latin America and first Jesuit.
- Both preside over deeply-divided constituencies and institutions: Scandal and bureaucratic incompetence plague both the U.S. government and Roman Curia.
- Charting an unlikely path to power, both were initially media darlings who were heralded as ushering in a hopeful new era. President Obama has slipped in the polls but Pope Francis remains astoundingly high in the polls.
Given these similarities, Moss wonders why Pope Francis’ approval rating is 200%+ more than President Obama’s?
Moss answers her question, offering four lessons Pope Francis might have to teach President Obama:
- While utterly without guile, Pope Francis avoids the trappings of office which bolsters his credibility on political issues. The lesson? President Obama should avoid the trappings of the imperial presidency. After all, Moss notes, “power unexercised is power preserved.”
- Pope Francis sets aside notes and speaks off the cuff, giving his words an additional layer of sincerity. The lesson? President Obama should get out from behind the teleprompter and toss the script aside.
- Pope Francis has a knack for politics as well as people. His “eagerness to engage people proves not just that he’s a man of the people, but that he’s willing to do this despite the risk to his personal safety.” The lesson? President Obama should emulate the humility and accessibility of Pope Francis.
- Pope Francis embodies a few big ideas and persuades people to rally around them. The lesson? “What American president couldn’t benefit from a reminder of that?”
Moss summarizes these four lessons stating “Herein lies the genius of Pope Francis’s papacy: He has persuaded the world he isn’t a politician and, in doing so, has become arguably the most politically influential man in the world.”
If Moss’ assessment is accurate, Pope Francis has mastered the politician’s arts. Were President Obama to become more like Pope Francis, his polling numbers would skyrocket.
There’s a problem The Motley Monk has with Professor Moss’ assessment.
Pope Francis would have to become the politician he is not. And President Obama would have to become the spiritual leader he is not. After all, leopards don’t change their spots.
To read Candida Moss’ article in Politico, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
Over at The Catholic Thing, Dr. Paul Kengor—a professor of political science at Grove City College—comments about the transition now taking place at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The outgoing Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, confronts the specter of the threat of contempt of Congress. According to Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), Sebelius has obstructed the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the rollout of Obamacare:
The Department’s substantial delay in production, combined with its improper redactions, has obstructed the Committee’s investigation. Should the Department continue to refuse to produce all documents in un-redacted form as required by the instructions in the subpoena issued on October 30, 2013, I will have no alternative but to consider the full range of options to enforce the subpoena.
That’s provides great fodder for political junkies.
But, more important in the estimation of The Motley Monk, is Kengor’s discussion about what the HHS transition has to do with the Roman Catholic Church. As Kengor notes:
Kathleen Sebelius will be remembered not only as Barack Obama’s longtime HSS Secretary, but also as the spearhead of Obamacare. For that, many liberals will remember her fondly.
And here’s why:
- Sebelius is a lifetime/pro-choice Catholic who, as the Governor of Kansas, expanded access to abortion in the state.
- As HHS Secretary, Sebelius then expanded access to abortion nationally, forcing religious believers of practically every stripe to fund contraception and abortion drugs.
- According to the New York Times and Politico, Sebelius and Valerie Jarrett–President Obama’s closest adviser–championed the mandate from the outset. They did so even as Vice President Joe Biden and Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley (both Catholics) warned the President to consider carefully the backlash from the Catholic Church. Sebelius and Jarret bested Biden and Daley. (NOTE: One thing Dr. Kengor didn’t mention: The assistance and cover provided by the Catholic Health Association of the United States in the person of Sr. Carol Keehan.)
Sebelius’ legacy includes one of the most anti-Catholic pieces of policy legislation and religious discrimination in U.S. history. “That is quite a legacy for a Catholic public official,” Kengor notes.
With Sebelius on the way out, the selection of Sylvia Burwell as HHS Secretary offers Roman Catholics a bit of solace. Nothing’s going to change, of course. But, according to Kengor:
…whatever Burwell’s doings, I can say this much that gives me a measure of relief as a Catholic: At least she isn’t Catholic. At least we’ll no longer have a Catholic who is the point-person and poster girl for this ignoble and ignominious cause. I don’t know if that is much solace, but maybe it makes the ordeal slightly less painful.
As for the unborn children whose lives will be snuffed out at taxpayer expense, the pain continues. And for that ordeal, Kathleen Sebelius, lifetime Roman Catholic, will always shoulder her share of responsibility.
Kudos to Dr. Kengor for discussing these important matters in his is substantive post in defense of the Gospel of Life.
To read Dr. Paul Kengor’s post, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
Consider the following statistics describing today’s undergraduates:
- 60-80% of college students have had some sort of hookup experience.
- 63% of college-age men and 83% of college-age women would prefer a traditional relationship to an uncommitted sexual one.
No doubt about it, college is the place to be if one is interested in engaging in sex.
Yet, an associate professor in psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Richard McAnulty, notes: “The vast majority of young adults hope to be in a romantic relationship characterized by mutual love and commitment.”
If the latter statistics and McAnulty’s research are accurate, then would it not seem sensible for that every administrator at every one of the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges to work assiduously to provide undergraduates a culture wherein they can fulfill their hope?
Yes, it is sensible. But, try convincing those administrators of their moral obligation to reverse the hook up culture. “How?” they ask. When told “Provide students a culture that not only raises their hopes but also assists them to translate those hopes into actual behavior,” they oftentimes opine something learned…about hopelessness…like Sisyphus.
Forget those administrators. They’re more interested in producing slick advertising campaigns and travelling all over Timbuktu to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for their institutions than they are about their primary moral obligations to form their students in wisdom and grace before God and man.
But, according to the Boston Globe, hope is alive…at Boston College.
There, the associate director of the Lonergan Institute, Kerry Cronin, is showing those feckless administrators how to build that culture. How? She’s teaching her students the lost art of dating…that is, how to date. The idea came to Cronin years back when she was delivering a lecture about the hookup culture. A student asked, “How would you ask someone on a date?…Like the actual words.”
Cronin believes most of today’s undergraduates don’t know how to date or, even, how to ask for a date. Why? This generation has grown up with relatively low expectations in the realm of “happily every after.” She notes:
- In their world, most embrace group activities that are punctuated with the periodic hookup.
- They communicate in digital bursts of 140-250 characters instead of in person.
Cronin’s pedagogical remedy? A class assignment that helps students reclaim the “lost social script” of dating. Not knowing where to begin or what to say, the assignment defines the boundaries so that students know exactly what to expect:
- The date has to be 45 to 90 minutes in length with a person of legitimate romantic interest.
- The student has to pay and has to make the invitation not by text or e-mail but in person.
- The date cannot involve alcohol, kissing, or sex.
Cronin tells her students that dating requires the courage to be vulnerable to another person. As a freshman, Frank DiMartino said about the assignment:
It’s easy to hook up with someone you’ve just met in a dark room after having a few drinks. But asking someone out on a date in broad daylight, and when you actually have to know their name, can be really scary.
Cronin’s assignment directly confronts the culture that emphasizes uncommitted sex when it’s committed love that their hearts desire. She says:
- Students use friendships and groups to satisfy social and emotional needs and see hookups as purely physical. As a result, students don’t have a relationship that allows them to address the confusions or expectations that can arise out of hookups.
- Relying on groups prevents students from learning to interact one-on-one. Getting to know another person through a group dynamic is very different from getting to know another person in an interpersonal dynamic.
- Social media, especially texting, is another way one-on-one conversations are mediated. It provides access to a constructed “virtual self.” Students may feel connected but it builds habits of “ADD-quality connections” rather than face-to-face relationships.
Cronin’s alternative builds on her students’ hope yet challenges them to risk failure. She said:
When you ask somebody, you risk failing, and nobody likes to fail or be vulnerable to rejection….[Undergraduates] like to push themselves out of their comfort zone only if the energy and effort will equal success. But when asking someone out, nothing can ensure the person is going to say yes.
Cronin believes the hookup culture “creates a part of life that is unnecessarily chaotic and lonely.”
Yes, indeed. Leading undergraduates from the darkness of sin into the light of faith, hope, and love. Cronin might not think of her assignment in this way, but she’s evangelizing young people about the Gospel of Life!
Kudos to Kerry Cronin! She’s treading in and casting her net into the deep waters that most Catholic university and college administrators fear will engulf, sink, and drown them and their careers.
To read the Boston Globe article, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
The “spirit of adolescent progressivism” and the commencement season at the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges…
It’s commencement season in U.S. Catholic higher education, that time of year when administrators of the so-called “independent” Catholic universities and colleges can take advantage of the annual opportunity to “thumb their noses” at the Church and Her teaching.
The truth be told, those administrators don’t actually thumb their noses. Instead, they invite speakers with pedigrees aligning them with the “progressive forces of worldliness,” to quote Pope Francis. The speakers then do the thumbing for the administrators, as they sit on the dais and applaud.
Consider this year’s commencement speaker at Villanova University, Dr. Jill Biden.
The wife of Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Biden is being honored for her work as an educator, supporter of military families and veterans, and breast cancer prevention. So far, so good! Dr. Biden also earned an M.A. in English at Villanova. Even better yet!
However, the University’s announcement of Dr. Biden’s invitation didn’t mention her support for abortion, for the proliferation and use of artificial forms of birth control (some of which are abortafacients), and for so-called “homosexual marriage.” Check it all out at LifesiteNews.com.
Administrators at Villanova likely would reply to critics that Dr. Biden’s invitation evidences their unwavering, personal commitment to “the tradition of Catholic higher education [that] has always placed a priority on the integration of the pursuit of intellectual excellence and ethical conversions essential for the integration of knowledge and faith.” Furthermore, those administrators likely would assert that this invitation demonstrates their commitment to “the sacredness of individual conscience [that] must find a secure place in the discourse with a Catholic, Augustinian university.”
In her speech, even if Dr. Biden wasn’t to mention any of her personal beliefs that are contrary to Church teaching, it will be eminently clear to everyone in the audience what those beliefs are. After all, that’s why administrators of the independent Catholic universities and colleges exercise such great care and oversight when inviting commencement speakers. In this case, Dr. Jill Biden will clarify for graduates the administrators’ loyalty to those cherished Catholic and Augustinian values as well as what those values should mean for graduates in the existential practice of their lives as they commence forth into the world beyond Villanova.
Yes, indeed. “Ethical conversions” and “the sacredness of individual conscience”—cherished institutional values.
Especially at a Catholic university, should it not be asked: “Ethical conversions to what ?” and “Individual conscience guided by what ?” And, especially at an Augustinian university, should it not also be asked: “Supported by what truth ?”
During a daily homily as Pope Francis was describing the Maccabean persectuion, he noted how when the people of God live in a foreign and alien culture, they oftentimes prefer to distance themselves from the Lord in favor of worldly proposals. These proposals, he said, are the root of evil. This preference then leads the people of God to abandon their sacred traditions as they negotiate their loyalty to God. This is “apostasy—a form of “adultery” the Pope said—that transpires as the people of God negotiate the essence of their being: loyalty to the Lord. This attitude of adolescent progressivism, he said, is the attitude “is a fruit of the devil who makes his way forward with the spirit of secular worldliness.”
Just two weeks ago, the University’s pro-life group, Villanovans for Life, celebrated its 40th anniversary. This student organization has evidenced a legacy of unwavering loyalty to Catholic and Augustinian values rooted in Church teaching. In contrast, the invitation to Dr. Jill Biden evidences the spirit of adolescent progressivism, as the University—like so many other independent Catholic institutions—seeks to be part of the secular world and promotes its spirit.
To read the LifesiteNews.com article, click on the following link:
To read the text of Pope Francis’ comments about adolescent progressivism, click on the following link:
The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
William Peter Blatty, Georgetown, and the Congregation for Catholic Education: Headed for the circular file?
The narrative is pretty common today. An alumnus of a Catholic university believes his Alma Mater is failing to uphold in a significant and meaningful way her Catholic identity. So, this alumnus collects signatories on a petition and sends the petition to the members of the institution’s Board and administration. All of which goes nowhere, as everyone decides to ignore the stormy petrils.
This particular narrative takes a different turn, however, as the alumnus is William Peter Blatty—author of The Exorcist—whose Alma Mater is Georgetown University. Moreover, rather than have his petition go nowhere except into the circular file, Blatty decides to exercise his canonical rights, sending his petition containing 2k+ names to the Congregation for Catholic Education (CCE) asking that the Congregation “require that Georgetown implement Ex corde Ecclesiae, a papal constitution governing Catholic colleges.” Failing that, the petition asked the Congregation to strip Georgetown of its right to call itself Catholic and Jesuit. Let there be not doubt: Blatty is serious. He believes that neither Georgetown’s faculty nor its students are exemplary of the faith.
In a letter sent to Blatty dated April 4, 2014, the CCE’s Secretary, Archbishop Angelo Zani, stated that CCE cannot grant Blatty’s request for “hierarchic recourse” because Blatty is not able to demonstrate that he has “suffered an objective change in his/her condition due to an administrative act.” However, Zani did write:
Your communications to this dicastery in the matter of Georgetown University…constitute a well-founded complaint. Our congregation is taking the issue seriously and is cooperating with the Society of Jesus in this regard.
(click on the image below to read the letter in its entirety.)
At this time, precisely what Archbishop Zani has in mind when he states that CCE is “taking the issue seriously” and is “cooperating with the Society of Jesus [SJ] in this regard” is impossible to know from those phrases. Is CCE sufficiently serious enough in this issue to bring pressure upon SJ leadership in Rome to introduce the kind of changes at Georgetown that Blatty seeks? Or, lacking “hierarchic recourse,” is CCE going to communicate with SJ leadership in Rome (perhaps over a very nice lunch and glass of wine) and then place Blatty’s canonical petition in the circular file, Archbishop Zani having done what said he would do?
One thing is for certain: Administrators at Georgetown are unrepentant. According to Inside Higher Ed, a Georgetown spokeswoman, Rachel Pugh, wrote in an email that the University has received no formal correspondence from the Vatican regarding the petition, and that Georgetown’s Catholic identity “has never been stronger.”
Perhaps the petition has already been placed in the circular file.
To read the Inside Higher Ed article, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
On divorce, remarriage, and responding adequately to the people’s expectations: Sorry, folks, but this “experiment” has already been tried…
The sole item on the agenda for the upcoming Synod of Bishops–the family–has sparked heated debate concerning the Church’s teaching about marriage, especially among Germany’s episcopate. The agenda has also ginned up hope among divorced Catholics, especially in the United States.
Expect the latter to be ginned up even more as the liberal Catholic news media tout the recent comments of the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri. In an interview with the Christian weekly magazine Tertio, Baldisseri is quoted as stating that he wants a change in Church teaching on marriage:
The Church is not timeless, she lives amidst the vicissitudes of history and the Gospel must be known and experienced by people today. It is in the present that the message should be, with all respect for the integrity from whom the message has been received. We now have two synods to treat this complex theme of the family and I believe that these dynamics in two movements will allow a more adequate response to the expectations of the people.
Perhaps Cardinal Baldisseri’s comments represent the kind of “open” and “frank” dialogue that Pope Francis has encouraged. Perhaps, too, they are a “trial balloon” Baldisseri is floating for the Synod to gauge attitudes and responses. Those comments may also represent only one man’s opinion, in this case, a very important man–given his leadership role in the Synod. Let’s not forget that Cardinal Baldiserri will be intimately involved in selecting the “experts” who will be advising the Synod…the “periti.”
That’s all fine…the stuff of “inside ecclesiastical politics.” The simple fact is that the Church has constantly upheld what Jesus taught:
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:8-9; cf. Mark 10:2–9; Luke 16:18)
Jesus’ words “except for sexual immorality” would seem to allow for divorce. Okay. But, the Church teaches, they do not allow for remarriage. If spouses must divorce due to the existential realities associated with their marriage, divorce–though reprehensible–is tolerable. Again, the Church is upholding Scripture and, in this case, what St. Paul taught:
To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:10–11).
Unfortunately, divorce sometimes happens. Yet, it does not extinguish a sacramental marriage and, thus, as the Church has consistently taught based upon Scripture and Tradition, remarriage is not permissible. It’s in this sense that Jesus was not making an exception in the case of valid, sacramental marriages, despite what many Catholics–including some in the German episcopate–and non-Catholics today hold. This is the “truth” the Church has constantly taught, most recently in Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation “Familiaris Consortio.”
But, Cardinal Baldisseri seems to think, what Tradition has consistently taught is not timeless. After all, the Cardinal does seem to have gone out of his way to note that the document is 33 years old. And, if that’s his attitude as it is the attitude of many of those who want this teaching changed, what about Scripture–which is much older, yes, ancient–“even with all respect for the integrity from whom the message has been received”?
Respect for the integrity ? What about respect for the truth ?
Those who want Church teaching as it concerns divorce and remarriage to change seem to be arguing that doing so will provide a wonderful tool for evangelization. At a minimum, at least consider all of those disaffected Catholics who would return to the faith if only the Church lowered the bar and became more inclusive.
With all respect for the integrity of those who are promoting this message, this experiment has already been tried…to the detriment of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. Look around: Are the divorced and remarried flocking to those Christian denominations that have allowed for divorce and remarriage for centuries? The demographics suggest not.
The Church doesn’t have to become more like those who would fashion the gospel to fit their attitudes to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. No, the Church’s mission is to promote the truth as it is conveyed in Scripture and Tradition. Yes, as Karl Rahner noted in his book The Shape of the Church to Come, this may very well mean a much smaller Church than many would hope. But, its witness would be more potent to the ends of the earth because its members would be more unified.
Unfortunately, this attitude isn’t very popular in this generation. Or, come to think of it, was it in any previous generation.
To read the article reporting Cardinal Baldisseri’s interview, click on the following link:
On April 30, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, made some opening remarks at the Meeting of the Superiors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the Presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The meeting focused upon the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, especially the revision of the LCWR’s Statutes and civil by-laws.
Remember that the Doctrinal Assessment was made necessary by the LCWR’s theological positions which indicated the organization was entertaining if not promoting theories beyond the boundaries of the Catholic faith. The goal was that the LCWR would reflect more explicitly the mission of a Conference of Major Superiors as something centered on Jesus Christ and grounded in the Church’s teaching about Consecrated Life and so that religious life might continue to flourish in the United States.
As Cardinal Müller noted in his opening statement:
We are aware that, from the beginning, LCWR Officers judged the Doctrinal Assessment to be “flawed and the findings based on unsubstantiated accusations” and that the so-called “sanctions” were “disproportionate to the concerns raised and compromised the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission.”
The remainder of Cardinal Müller’s opening remarks address those two judgments made. In his own words:
It is my intention in discussing these things frankly and openly with you to offer an explanation of why it is that we believe the conclusions of the Doctrinal Assessment are accurate and the path of reform it lays before the LCWR remains necessary so that religious life might continue to flourish in the United States.
Anyone who reads Cardinal Müller’s remarks objectively and carefully will see that he is not “playing poker” with the LCWR. Although gracious and respectful, the Cardinal was not bluffing as he carefully details, point by point, how the LCWR has been less than fully responsive to the Doctrinal Assessment and what its leadership needs to do. Without drawing a line in the sand, Cardinal Müller intimates there is a line in the sand when he concluded:
The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration.
Read the entirety of Cardinal Müller’s remarks because they are very important. They represent “the other side of the story,” the one that the National Catholic Reporter isn’t telling except by negative example. The simple fact is that the LCWR is in error theologically. Despite the image they may want to project, these are not the sisters whose heroic witness over the generations in U.S. Catholic schools, hospitals, and social service agencies is seared upon the memory of those many Catholics and non-Catholics alike their predecessors once selflessly served. These sisters are promoting an ideology that is beyond the boundaries of the Catholic faith.
To read the text of Cardinal Müller’s remarks, click on the following link:
It’s no secret that there’s a college tuition bubble and that it’s showing signs of potentially imploding across the United States. As fewer students enroll, administrators at public and private institutions of higher education are having to make sometimes Draconian budget cuts. Oftentimes, these cuts adversely impact support staff, programs, and faculty…in that order, as The Motley Monk reported about the University of Southern Maine here.
Well, the bubble may be demonstrating signs of imploding at Catholic institutions of higher education.
According to an article in the Times-Tribune, the President of the University of Scranton, the Reverend Kevin P. Quinn, SJ, outlined some of the “difficult, even painful, decisions” to be implemented—to the tune of $4M—to align the budget better with current realities. Fr. Quinn wrote:
As a result, we will see a decrease in net tuition and fee revenue per student for the class we recruit for this fall when compared to the class that preceded it.
This problem involving enrollments and finances has been brewing for a couple of years, but evidently came to a boil at Scranton with increased operational costs and a smaller than expected entering freshman class in 2013. Having already reached the “price point” that students and parents were willing to pay or indebt themselves for a Scranton degree, the Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration, Edward Steinmetz, knew a tuition increase was off the table. Hence, the cuts.
Why is Fr. Quinn’s announcement important? Considering the landscape of U.S. Catholic higher education:
- Scranton is a small, tuition dependent institution. Student enrollment—hence, tuition cash flow—is the “mother’s milk” for institutional survival. As the cost of attending Scranton, for example, passes the “price point”—and with a limited number of “discounts” (ahem, “scholarships”) available to award new students—enrollments will inevitably decline, exacerbating the institution’s already fragile financial problems.
- As cuts evidence themselves in fewer new “attractors”—those non-educational, Disneyworld-like experiences, programs, and buildings that universities and colleges have increasingly focused upon to improve on-campus student “life” and, hence, “attract” more new students to enroll—high school seniors may be less attracted to attend an institution like Scranton. The day of “keeping up with the Jones”—at first, those were the state university systems, but increasingly in recent decades, the larger Catholic institutions—may be over.
- The Motley Monk knows Scranton to be a pretty good Catholic college, meaning that students generally can experience a somewhat solid Catholic culture. The only drawback is its Jesuitical emphasis upon social justice and de-emphasis upon doctrine. If a Catholic institution isn’t offering a truly Catholic education—as that has been defined by Saint John Paul II and reiterated by Benedict XVI–why would students pay a higher price point—and indebt themselves more upon graduation–when cheaper alternatives are readily available?
It’s all about supply and demand because market forces are at work. Moreover, with many students and their families having to indebt themselves increasingly if they are to graduate from a Catholic institution of higher education, “glitz” will necessarily factor less into a decision about enrollment than whether the institution delivers on its value proposition.
Unless administrators in Catholic higher education are willing to differentiate their institutions sufficiently by providing students and parents a sufficient return on investment, the tuition bubble has the potential to alter the landscape of U.S. Catholic higher education dramatically. Why ever would they pay a “premium” for a “product” that doesn’t deliver on what’s promised?
Then, too, don’t forget that tuition revenues also provide the necessary cash flow to pay off the debts many of those institutions have incurred over the past two decades in keeping up, all in a desperate effort to attract more students.
The challenge to those administrators?
To demonstrate in fact how their institutional cultures, from the curriculum, to the classrooms, to the dormitories, and to its extra-curricular offerings actually form students from a decidedly Catholic perspective (that is, the “value added” proposition).
To read the Times-Tribune article, click on the following link:
To read The Motley Monk’s blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
It’s pretty easy to tell that the folks over at the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) aren’t happy campers these days. Some of their heroes fighting on the front lines for women’s ordination are being “disciplined.”
A longtime peace and human rights activist arrested countless times, Franciscan Fr. Jerry Zawada has been removed from public ministry for concelebrating Mass with a woman priest in 2011.
Poor Fr. Zawada! After all he’s done over the decades to promote the cause of social justice. He’s been jailed numerous times and now at the age of 76, one would think the Vatican would overlook Fr. Zawada’s minor infelicity for merely concelebrating “Mass” with the Roman Catholic “WomanPriest,” the Rev. Ms. Janice Sevre-Duszynska.
The enemy in the NCR’s narrative is the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which reviewed documentation related to the November 22, 2011 “Mass.” NCR obtained a copy of the CDF’s private letter which stated:
Having carefully examined the acts of the case, and the vota of the former Minister General and the Rev. Zawada’s Provincial Superior, this Dicastery has decided to impose on Rev. Jerome Zawada, OFM, a life of prayer and penance to be lived within the Queen of Peace Friary in Burlington, Wisconsin.
The letter also forbids Fr. Zawada from presenting himself in public as a priest or celebrating the sacraments publicly. However, Fr. Zawada is allowed to concelebrate Mass with other friars at the friary and in private.
Zawada isn’t too pleased. He told the NCR:
I don’t mind the prayer part, but when they called, when they say that I need to be spending time in penance, well, I’m not going to do penance for my convictions and the convictions of so many others, too.
Apparently, CDF isn’t going to wink and ignore any priest who concelebrates “Mass” with so-called “WomenPriests.”
- Strike #1 involved the former Maryknoll priest, Ray Bourgeois, who was excommunicated in November 2012 for doing so.
- Strike #2 involved the Jesuit priest, Bill Brennen, who was relieved of his priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for concelebrating “Mass” with a “WomanPriest” one month later.
- Strike #3 is Fr. Zawada.
And that’s only the cases that the priests involved have made public.
“You’re out!” the umpire yells after a batter takes three strikes.
And, by the way, the baseball season opens today.
Perhaps those priests who support the cause for the ordination of women should place their money on the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series this year. Both have about an equal chance of happening anytime soon.
To read the NCR article, click on the following link:
Atlanta’s “Archbishop Bling”? The mainstream media and liberals in the Catholic press have been silent…
When it comes to clerical “careerism,” ostentatious “princely” lifestyles, or even the mode of transportation, Pope Francis has sent a new standard—one of humility and poverty—for clerics. It’s been called the “l’effet Francois” (“the Francis effect”).
Members of the mainstream media and liberals in the Catholic press love it and have been quick to jump on the bandwagon to criticize clerics who have crossed the line that Pope Francis has drawn in the sand. Arguably, the most roundly criticized cleric to have crossed that line is “Bishop Bling,” the Most Reverend Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, Germany. He constructed a new residence and office complex costing nearly $43M.
Not only did Tebartz-van Elst spend a ton of money on all the wrong things, but he did so just after the cardinals elected a pope who is making austerity and humility the hallmarks of a bishop in today’s church. Francis wants prelates to “smell like the sheep,” not pricey cologne, and he doesn’t want them to act with the sort of authoritarian and dismissive manner that Tebartz-van Elst displayed.
In fact, as the resignation of Tebartz-van Elst was being announced Wednesday, Francis was telling thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square that “a bishop who is not in the service of the community does no good.”
In addition, Tebartz-van Elst in November paid a court-ordered fine of nearly $30,000 to avoid a perjury charge over his false claims that he did not fly first class to India on a charity trip. That’s three strikes.
Okay, Bishop Bling deserved to be “fired,” although technically that’s impossible. Removed, yes. Fired, no. His conduct was egregious, although similar conduct certainly was not in the early- to mid- 20th century.
But, will those media outlets and liberals in the Catholic press be as vociferous when it comes to the Archbishop of Atlanta, the Most Reverend Wilton Gregory?
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Archbishop Gregory recently moved into a new, 6,196-square-foot home built at the cost of $2.2M. His previous residence—adjacent to the Cathedral of Christ the King—is also slated to be renovated as a rectory for the priests assigned to the Cathedral residence. The price tag for those renovations, which includes the purchase of additional property, is another $2.2M.
That’s a total of $4.4M for two residences. That’s not quite $43M. Plus the money comes from a $15M bequest. So, technically, all of this housing is “free.”
But, is it consistent with the “l’effet Francois” that the mainstream media and liberals in the Catholic press on this side of the pond have been propounding as the standard for criticizing clerics?
Some believe Archbishop Gregory should have used the money for schools and the poor. “This is an excessive lifestyle,” said one parishioner of Christ the King, Beth Maguire.
Both Archbishop Gregory and the Cathedral’s Rector, the Reverend Monsignor Frank McNamee, call the expenditures “necessary.” Gregory said the new residence will allow him to “smell like the flock,” providing him a residence where he can more easily mingle with his sheep.
Isn’t that what Pope Francis said bishops should do?
Once again, will the mainstream media as well as liberals in the Catholic press who have been so quick to denounce Bishop Bling be as quick in denouncing Archbishop Gregory?
Time will tell. So far, they’ve been silent.
The answer is unknown. But, there are at least three possible answers:
- The magnitude of his expenditures for suitable housing is only a little more than 10% that of Bishop Bling. If so, is this a new standard for judging the nation’s bishops and cathedral rectors that the mainstream media as well as liberals in the Catholic press have deemed acceptable?
- The mainstream media as well as liberals in the Catholic press perceive Archbishop Gregory to be a theological liberal and kindred spirit. It would be indecorous to take one of their own to task, would it not? But, if a conservative bishop were to do the same, then watch how quickly he will be denounced.
- They don’t want to attack one of the nation’s most respected Black Catholic leaders. But wouldn’t that be using a double standard?
Atlanta’s “Archbishop Bling”?
Pope Francis may not be as silent. He may speak by denying Archbishop Gregory a red hat because of that new residence.
But, all of that doesn’t really matter. What matters is the perception of duplicity on the part of the mainstream media and liberals in the Catholic press.
To read the National Catholic Reporter article, click on the following link:
To read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, click on the following link:
Today, the Solicitor General of the United States, Donald Verrilli, will tell the the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby that killing a human embryo by preventing the embryo from implanting in his or her mother’s uterus is not an “abortion” and, thus, the drugs approved by Obamacare that kill embryos in this way are not “abortion-inducing” drugs. Verrilli will also argue that every business that provides its employees’ healthcare insurance plans—even businesses owned and operated by Christians who are pro-life—must provide the drugs Obamacare mandates.
Yet, when Verrilli first petitioned the Supreme Court in September 2013 to take up Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, his petition conceded that among the drugs and devices Obamacare approved were some that prevented human “fertilized eggs”—conceived human embryos—from implanting in their mothers’ wombs. In his petition, Verrilli wrote:
The FDA has approved twenty such methods, ranging from oral contraceptives to surgical sterilization. Four of the twenty approved methods—two types of intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the emergency contraceptives commonly known as Plan B and Ella—can function by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.
Then, in a footnote, Verrilli went stated:
Both the government and the medical amici supporting the government concede that at least some of the contraceptive methods to which the plaintiffs object have the potential to prevent uterine implantation.
So, Virrelli concedes that the drugs and devices the Obama administration mandates can terminate the life of a human embryo by preventing “implantation.” However, Virrelli also asserts that terminating the life of a conceived human embryo by preventing it from implanting in the womb is not an “abortion.”
Verrilli is weaving a clever, but illogical deceit. What the FDA and the Federal regulations call “contraceptives” include drugs and devices some of which work not by preventing conception but by terminating a human life after conception. In other words, these government-approved drugs and devices are not contraceptives but post-conception abortofacients.
The Motley Monk prays and is remains hopeful the more sober and honest members of the Supreme Court will see this charade for what it truly is and rule on behalf of innocent children.
To read the Solicitor General’s petition for a writ of certiorari, click on the following link:
It appears that the public relations officer for Cardinal Dolan, Joseph Zwilling, has been getting quite a workout this past week. The poor fellow has had to respond to the Cardinal’s botched pre-recorded appearance on Sunday, March 9th’s Meet the Press.
In that interview, David Gregory asked Cardinal Dolan:
Michael Sam, from your home state, the football player, revealed that he was gay, first in the NFL. And you saw the celebration from the president, the first lady, and they were saying what a courageous step that was. How did you view it?
The Cardinal responded:
Good for him. I would have no sense of judgment on him. God bless ya. I don’t think, look, the same Bible that tells us, that teaches us, well about the virtues of chastity and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say, “Bravo.”
Not one who fails to express her opinions with trenchant clarity, Ann Barnhardt posted in her blog:
“Bravo” to sodomy….says Dolan, who couldn’t give any less of a [s***] about this Michael Sam kid, and is perfectly willing to not only watch this poor kid go to hell, but will even relish in Michael Sam’s sin in order to leverage his (Dolan’s) own personal worldly popularity. There simply aren’t words. The craven connivance is beyond description.
Is this yet another example of the Bergoglio—“Who am I to judge?”—phenomenon?
Does Dolan really believe that we are called by God to make absolutely NO moral judgements whatsoever about human behavior? Really? So we can’t judge murder? We can’t judge rape? We can’t judge theft? “Judge not lest ye be judged” is God Almighty abolishing the very notion of sin and demanding total anarchy? REALLY?
But beyond that obvious imbecility, Dolan has now taken it a step further—he HAS in fact JUDGED the sin of sodomy, and has JUDGED it positively. ”Bravo” means “good”. ”Good for him” means GOOD. FOR. HIM. But Dolan isn’t smart enough to recognize the internal contradiction in saying “Bravo”—which is the Italian word for “good” in the sense of “well done”—and in literally the same breath saying “Who am I to judge?” You just DID judge, you jackass.
Like her assessment or not, Barnhardt does make a point.
Cardinal Dolan should have anticipated David Gregory’s question. He also should have answered in a way that promoted Church teaching and protected the Pope’s integrity. After all, the interview was pre-recorded.
But, some might opine, the Cardinal may have been caught off guard anyway. What can be said about this?
For one thing, whereas Cardinal Dolan is usually very adept at evading traps when interviewed, no one—even a cardinal—is so good as to be able to dodge every bullet, every time. Imagine what it must be like to be in the Cardinal’s position: In every interview, he knows there’s always the possibility that after each question is asked, it might be the next one that takes him down.
And, taken down to the mat and pinned as Cardinal Dolan was on Meet the Press, it wasn’t by David Gregory…but by the Cardinal himself and by his own words.
Barnhardt also makes the point that Pope Francis bears some responsibility for this phenomenon. His advice that priests and Religious should throw doctrinal caution to the wind and mix it up with the los pueblos goads not only priests and Religious but also high-ranking prelates—who sometimes think themselves more clever than most, even allegedly “friendly” folks in the press—into a snake pit from which it is impossible to escape unscathed.
That’s why Zwilling was in high gear last week, attempting to tamp down the maelstrom. Responding to questions from CNSNews.com, Zwilling’s email stated:
You can quote me about the Cardinal’s appearance on Meet the Press as follows:
“I believe that the Cardinal’s intention was clear, when he said that the same Bible that teaches us about chastity and fidelity also teaches us not to judge. We are called to love one another.
At the same time, the Cardinal is a very strong supporter of Courage, the Church’s ministry to those with same-sex attraction who are trying to follow the Church’s teaching. He understands, however, that the Church can only extend the invitation, and that, in the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II, the Church can only propose, it cannot impose.
It would therefore be wrong for anyone to say, or even imply, that the Cardinal’s words on Meet the Press meant that he was unconcerned about Church teaching on homosexual activity (or any other immoral behavior), or that he was not fully supportive of that teaching, particularly as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”
Oh, come now! As the CNS News.com report observed, Zwilling sidestepped the question concerning whether the openly homosexual Michael Sam is a good role model for young males or whether his conduct is scandalous.
Cardinal Dolan has stepped right into a snake pit. Now, all the King’s horses and all the King’s men won’t be able to put New York’s Cardinal back together again. No doubt, he will survive, but not unscathed.
Likewise for Pope Francis. If the Pope is of the opinion that this kind of mixing it up with los pueblos will make the Church look more inviting to disaffected U.S. Catholics on the left or right, it’s quite likely he’s either misinformed or mistaken.
To read Ann Barnhardt’s blog, click on the following link:
To read the CNSNews report, click on the following link:
Last December, S. E. Cupp wrote an op-ed “A Pope Conservative Can Love” in the New York Daily News in which she stated:
While liberals will revel in ideas that Pope Francis is reforming the church to their liking, and condemning conservative values in the process, it’s actually fairly easy to see his mission as the opposite. He’s arguing for a church with limited powers, reduced bureaucracy and lean, local governing.
Conservatives should say “Amen to that.”
Having mulled over that thought for a while, The Motley Monk decided he can’t say “Amen” to that.
Ms Cupp’s lens for “conservative” in social, political, and economic theory, doesn’t apply to ecclesiology. That fundamental misunderstanding causes many conservatives to fail to call out the liberals in the Church who continuously argue for “limited powers, reduced bureaucracy, and lean, local government.” Doing so enables them to manipulate local bishops and dioceses into doing whatever they, the liberals, want them to do.
This is what happened in the Church during the “liberal” pontificate of Paul VI. The “conservative” pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict reversed this trend, re-centralizing doctrinal authority in Rome, where it belongs. That was good for the Church, and it was also conservative.
Conservatives should say “Amen to that.”
To read S. E. Cupp’s op ed, click on the following link:
“Educational itineraries of encounter and of dialogue”: The new mission of Catholic higher education…
Many have said that Pope Francis would “shake things up.” They have pointed to his living quarters, cars, committee of cardinals to study reforming the Curia, founding the new dicastery for finance, and most famously, his “Who am I to judge?” statement. These provide all the testimony need to demonstrate that this Pope is indeed shaking things up.
There’s now more evidence.
At the recent Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Catholic Education, members discussed a series of issues:
- the reform of the Apostolic Constitution, Sapientia Christiana, which governs the Pontifical university system (Catholic universities chartered by the Vatican, not Catholic universities and colleges chartered by other nations or states);
- the recovery and strengthening of Catholic identity in all Catholic institutions of higher learning; and,
- the preparation of two major anniversaries: the 50th anniversary of the II Vatican Council’s declaration, Gravissimum educationis, which called for a renewal of Catholic instruction and formation at all levels and the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution, Ex corde Ecclesiae, which describes the nature and mission of Catholic universities.
Ho hum. More pious platitudes about providing an “integral formation” and strengthening Catholic identity.
Who’s interested in that? Certainly not many of those who administer and teach in the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges. They routinely interpret Vatican statements concerning Catholic education to fit their progressive secularist agenda or ignore those statements altogether.
However, those weren’t the topics on Pope Francis’ agenda when he addressed the Plenary Assembly. Of many things the Pope told participants, he expressed his desire that they
…be involved in educational itineraries of encounter and of dialogue, with a courageous and innovative faithfulness that is capable of bringing the different “souls” of a multicultural society together with Catholic identity.
What’s this? “Itineraries of encounter and dialogue”? A “courageous and innovative faithfulness”? “Bringing different ‘souls’ of a multicultural society together with a Catholic identity”?
It’s difficult to know what Pope Francis means, as the terms he used could mean many different things to many different people and be invoked to quite different ends.
Take the phrase “courageous and innovative faithfulness,” for example.
Liberal Catholics could interpret it to justify continuing their experiments in Catholic thought and practice that undermine Catholic doctrine. It takes courage and innovation to move beyond the confines and limitations of doctrine, they would argue. Consider, for example, their research and calls for change in Church teaching about so many moral issues–including divorce and remarriage, so-called “homosexual marriage,” and women’s ordination–and being rebuffed at the highest levels of the Vatican, especially the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Just ask Father Charles Curran.
Conservative Catholics could interpret that phrase to justify a greater emphasis upon doctrine in Theology courses as well as reining in many of the so-called “progressive” trends in U.S. Catholic higher education during the past five decades. It takes courage and innovation stem the tide of secular progressivism that has diminished Catholic identity in those institutions, they would argue. Consider, for example, the national culture of Catholic higher education as well as many of those institutions where conservatives are marginalized, if not mocked for their fidelity to Church teaching. Just ask the folks at Wyoming Catholic College or conservatives at institutions like the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown, DePaul, Gonzaga, and the University of San Francisco, among others.
Is it possible that the Holy Father thinks both are forms of courage and innovative faithfulness?
The Motley Monk thinks not.
In this instance, however, the Pope’s choice of terms has muddied the waters more than they have been for the past five decades. In doing so, the Holy Father may have unintentionally emboldened the secular progressivists in U.S. Catholic higher education. Now, their lemmings over at National Catholic Reporter will endeavor to convince more and more folks that they are the authentic interpreters of Pope Francis’ statements concerning Catholic higher education.
Despite the Siren song of the stormy petrils, a Bay Area News Group article reports that the Board of Trustees of Santa Clara University (SCU)—a Jesuit university—has upheld its decision last year to terminate elective abortion healthcare coverage for employees beginning January 1, 2015.
In a statement issued February 14, Board Chairman Robert Finocchio wrote:
In making the decision, the President carried out this duty. The decision was not a decision of condemnation or of exclusion, but rather one that flows from the University’s identity and mission as a Jesuit, Catholic university.
In his statement, Finocchio merely reiterated what the Board had stated previously when Fr. Engh announced the Board’s decision last fall.
As was entirely predictable, Fr. Engh’s announcement didn’t set well with SCU’s Faculty Senate, which objected strenuously. Members claimed that the Board’s new policy sent several messages: the Board doesn’t value diversity (not all employees support Church teaching), the Board doesn’t value inclusivity (having excluded faculty leaders from the process), and the Board was imposing Catholic doctrine on employees (many are not Catholic).
Addressing the protests, Fr. Engh announced a delay in the benefits change until January 2015. The extra year, he said, would allow the Faculty Senate to review the new policy and study options beyond SCU’s healthcare plan.
That said, in this round, the decision has been made. The Board didn’t reverse it, despite the Siren song of the stormy petrils.
Isn’t it refreshing to read that members of the Board of Trustees of a Catholic university are upholding their sacred trust? Would that members of the boards of every institution of U.S. Catholic higher education had as much spine!
Come to think of it: Why do so many of Board members live in mortal fear of and cower before the stormy petrils who charge them with not being diverse and inclusive as well as with imposing Church doctrine on employees? Or, is the real truth that many Board members actually side with the stormy petrils?
To read the Bay Area News Group article, click on the following link: