The Motley Monk

The Motley Monk is Fr. Richard Jacobs, O.S.A., a Professor of Public Administration at Villanova University. His academic specialities include: organization theory; leadership ethics; Catholic eduational leadership; and, U.S. Catholic educational history. Fr. Jacobs writes several blogs: "The Motley Monk Omnibus" (http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/); "The Motley Monk's Homilies for Sundays and Holy Days" (http://themotleymonkhomilies.blogspot.com); and, "The Motley Monk's ***** Food" (http://www83.homepage.villanova.edu/richard.jacobs/FOOD/index.html).

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith slaps Sr. Margaret A. Farley, RSM, on the hand…

In a notification dated March 30, 2012, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) stated that the book, “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics” written by Sister Margaret A. Farley, RSM, contains “erroneous propositions, the dissemination of which risks grave harm to the faithful.”

In her 2006 book, the CDF states that Sr. Farley—now retired from the faculty at Yale Divinity School—”does not present a correct understanding of the role of the Church’s Magisterium as the teaching authority of the Bishops united with the Successor of Peter, which guides the Church’s ever deeper understanding of the Word of God as found in Holy Scripture and handed on faithfully in the Church’s living tradition.” 

In addition, Sr. Farley’s treatment of specific moral issues—including masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions, the indissolubility of marriage, and the problem of divorce and remarriage—are erroneous and ambiguous.  The CDF notes:

…either ignores the constant teaching of the Magisterium or, where it is occasionally mentioned, treats it as one opinion among others. Such an attitude is in no way justified, even within the ecumenical perspective that she wishes to promote. Sr. Farley also manifests a defective understanding of the objective nature of the natural moral law, choosing instead to argue on the basis of conclusions selected from certain philosophical currents or from her own understanding of “contemporary experience”. This approach is not consistent with authentic Catholic theology.

Because Sr. Farley’s affirms positions that are in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality, the notification states:

The Congregation warns the faithful that her book Just Love. A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics is not in conformity with the teaching of the Church. Consequently it cannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. Furthermore the Congregation wishes to encourage theologians to pursue the task of studying and teaching moral theology in full concord with the principles of Catholic doctrine.

While the focus of the notification is the content of Sr. Farley’s book, The Motley Monk notes that Pope Benedict XVI approved it and ordered its publication.

Might this notification, approved and ordered before what The Motley Monk called the “hostile takeover” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, provide another signal that the Vatican is going to take a more activist stance in “truth in labeling”?

The warning is gentle, but it’s there.

The CDF wants to ”encourage theologians to pursue the task of studying and teaching moral theology in full concord with the principles of Catholic doctrine.”

 

To read the CDF’s notification, click on the following link:
http://www.news.va/en/news/cdf-publishes-notification-on-book-just-love

To read The Motley Monk’s post on the hostile takeover of the LCWR, click on the following link:
http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/05/01/the-vatican-vs-the-good-sisters/

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

Attempting to advance the ball, the President of the University of Notre Dame drops it…

Let me say very clearly what this lawsuit is not about:  it is not about preventing women from having access to contraception, nor even about preventing the Government from providing such services.  Many of our faculty, staff and students—both Catholic and non-Catholic—have made conscientious decisions to use contraceptives.  As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs.

This is part of what the President of the University of Notre Dame (UND), the Reverend John Jenkins, CSC, had to say in a statement explaining his decision that UND would file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.  The lawsuit concerns the so-called “Obamacare mandate” promulgated by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, who just happens to be a UND honorary degree recipient.

The explanation, posted to Fr. Jenkins’ page on the official UND website, articulates a position that many Catholics are familiar with and take for granted.  That is, as long as in their consciences Catholics believe that conduct contrary to Church moral teaching is moral, they are free to engage in that immoral conduct because they believe it is moral.

 

The Motley Monk is no moral theologian or canon lawyer, but he is able to read and is saddened in reading Fr. Jenkins’ comments.

Why?

Fr. Jenkins contradicts long-standing, Magisterially defined Catholic moral teaching concerning artificial contraception (cf. 1989 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “The moral norm of ‘Humanae Vitae’ and pastoral duty“).  In sum, Catholics do not possess a “right” to conscientiously dissent from defined Catholic moral teaching concerning the use of artificial  contraception.  After all, in the Catholic view, “rights” devolve not from man—bolstered by science, theology, and the social sciences or public opinion—but from God.

For a President of a Catholic university or college—especially one who is an ordained priest—to state otherwise promotes a false impression, ultimately creating or furthering serious confusion and ambiguity among the Catholic faithful, in particular. Rather than upholding the Church’s credibility in teaching matters concerning faith and morals, statements like that of Fr. Jenkins only provide ammunition to those who are opposed to the Church’s teaching.

It would have helped Fr. Jenkins had he grasped, in particular, the meaning of the CDF document’s reiteration of Pope Paul VI’s words to priests:

Worth recalling here are the words which Paul VI addressed to priests: “It is  your principal duty—We are speaking especially to you who teach moral theology—to expound the Church’s teaching with regard to marriage in its entirety and with complete frankness. In the performance of your ministry you must be the first to give an example of that sincere obedience, inward as well as outward, which is due to the Magisterium of the Church, For, as you know, the Pastors of the Church enjoy a special light of the Holy Spirit in teaching the  truth (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 25)” (Humanae Vitae, n. 26).

Priests are called to lead by defending the Church and its moral teaching, calling the faithful to greater fidelity to the truth as defined by the Magisterium.  This is especially true of priests who are appointed to lead Catholic universities and colleges.

While The Motley Monk applauds Fr. Jenkins in his attempt to advance the ball upfield in the U.S. Catholic Church’s current battle with the Obama administration concerning religious liberty, The Motley Monk thinks Fr. Jenkins dropped the ball when it came to his statement explaining his rationale.

 

And people wonder why the critics contend that U.S. Catholic higher education is “Catholic in Name Only”?

 

 

To read Fr. Jenkins’ statement, click on the following link:
http://president.nd.edu/communications/a-message-from-father-jenkins-on-the-hhs-lawsuit/

To read the CDF document, click on the following link:
http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19890216_norma-morale_en.html

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

The Obama administration’s attack on religious freedom: The Second Vatican Council’s “spirit of ecumenism” at work…

 

When he was a seventh grader, The Motley Monk recalls his homeroom teacher, Sr. Gerald Francis, OP, making a matter-of-fact statement that caught The Motley Monk’s attention.

“God will not be mocked,” Sr. Gerald Francis said.

That may very well be what’s playing out in an ironic way in the United States today.

How?

It seems to The Motley Monk that President Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have done more than many on the Catholic left be might be capable of imagining: They’re fostering the Second Vatican Council’s much-touted “spirit of ecumenism”—and, in particular, a spirit of moral outrage—to refocus the nation upon traditional Christian moral values.

Advancing the Second Vatican Council’s
“spirit of ecumenism”?

 

Imagine the nation’s Catholic, Baptist, Orthodox Jew, Orthodox Christian, Mormon and other religious leaders gathering in the early 20th century to discuss the state of religious freedom in the United States and to develop a plan to confront this moral malignancy.  They wouldn’t gather to pray!

Yet, according to an article in the Church Report, that’s exactly what happened at the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program which sponsored a daylong summit on Thursday, May 24th.

The Chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Richard Land, perhaps expressed best the participants’ sentiments when he said:

We must all be willing to stand up and tell the government “No.”  Secularists don’t like people of faith because the ultimate authority for us is not the state.  The ultimate authority is God.

Of course, detractors will continue to portray the nation’s Catholic bishops as being controlled by a “minority” of conservatives whose primary backers are Curia officials in Rome and whose less-than-thinly-veiled intention is to compel women to submit to Rome’s moral dictates.  Thank you, for more of the “same old, same old” insightful analysis, Mo’.

But, The Motley Monk would note, that’s evidence of a very different agenda—whose specific action items include agitating for abortion, artificial contraception, and women’s ordination—rather than the specific agenda the nation’s Catholic bishops have focused upon: the Obama administration’s unprecedented attack on religious freedom.

Archbishops Lori and Dolan

 

This broader issue is tangential to that other agenda with its action items.  The focus is the attack upon the freedom of religious groups to hire employees of their choice as well as the rights of orthodox believers to abstain from activities forbidden by their religious beliefs.

The threat is real.  Not just for Catholics but also for those who believe in and uphold traditional Judaeo-Christian morality.

“God won’t be mocked.”

That President Obama and his Catholic HHS Secretary have pushed an anti-traditional Judaeo-Christian moral agenda that advances the Church’s ecumenical agenda would be a “delicious” irony.

 

 

To read the article in the Church Report, click on the following link: http://www.thechurchreport.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=siteContent.default&objectID=155162

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

Is the American press anti-Catholic?

While it’s easy to paint any institution—like the press—with the broad brush strokes and to pretend the portrait accurately depicts the entire institution, The Motley Monk thinks it pretty safe to say the general impression of the U.S. public is that the national press is basically liberal in terms of its members’ political leanings and is also generally not balanced when it comes to reporting issues concerning Roman Catholic teaching.

This lack of balance is something liberals and conservatives might actually agree upon.  Liberals because they enjoy having the press report their point of view.  And conservatives because they are angry because they feel cheated because their point of view isn’t being reported.

In light of this broad brush portrait and observation, The Motley Monk was pleasantly surprised to read the ombudsman for the Washington Post, Patrick B. Pexton, taking time in an op-ed to respond directly to the question: “What would lead so many Washington Post readers during the past six months to conclude that the newspaper is anti-Catholic?”

That’s a great question, no?

Pexton’s conclusion—following a bit of the expected institutional self-defense—revealed more than bit of refreshing candor, in The Motley Monk’s opinion.

Concerning the critics’ charge that the Washington Post is anti-Catholic, Pexton wrote:

They have a point. There are deep divisions within the church that Post  reporting should accurately reflect. But sometimes The Post’s reporting and even  editorials fall short in conveying the passion with which many Catholics hold  their views, whether they be against the contraception mandate, gay marriage,  abortion or in favor of aid to the poor. It doesn’t mean that Post reporters or  editorialists have to embrace those views, but they should accurately explain  them in a ways all readers can understand. That, after all, is also part of  getting at the truth.

The Motley Monk thinks Mr. Pexton is absolutely correct.

To be a “free press,” its members will always hold personal opinions—both pro and con—about the various matters they report.  But, if the press is to remain “free” and exercise its “watchdog” function, its members must not be beholden to any particular interest or ideology that would cause any of them to distort the facts they are reporting.

A free press reports the whole and entire truth as it’s currently understood, supporting reportage with all of the relevant facts.

As an institution, perhaps the Washington Post isn’t anti-Catholic.  However, The Motley Monk wasn’t persuaded by Paxton’s institutional self-defense which included the number of Catholics and members of the Catholic hierarchy whose op-ed columns are published in the Washington Post. The number of Catholics who contribute to a newspaper, whether they are liberal or conservative, doesn’t guarantee a newspaper is “getting at the truth.”

Likewise, what guarantees that the Washington Post is “getting at the truth” isn’t that its reporters “get Catholics,” as conservative Catholics as well as the members of the hierarchy at the Archdiocese of Washington and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops opined to Mr. Pexton as he was cobbling together his op-ed.

Getting at the truth requires that every Washington Post reporter—not its op-ed contributors—report the facts.  They mustn’t allow any particular bias to interfere with reporting those facts as objectively as is possible…as is expected of any press that would dare to call itself “free.”

 

 

To read Patrick Pexton’s op-ed in the Washington Post, click on the following link:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/does-the-post-hate-catholics/2012/05/18/gIQAsfyVZU_story.html?wpisrc=nl_hdlns_wknds

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

So it’s wink and nod…and provide them cover….

 

In an extraordinarily interesting post at CatholicCulture.org, Phil Lawler raises the question “Is the New York Times protecting dissident priests?”

Lawler’s post is written in response to a New York Times article concerning religious attitudes toward so-called “homosexual marriage”in which the author, Terry Mattingly, noted:

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that homosexual behavior is a sin, but there are Catholic priests who secretly bless gay unions.

That dependent clause contain a bombshell—which Lawler describes as being treated almost as an “afterthought”—and raises a very important issue.  Mattingly observes:

If, in fact, the Times has factual material about Catholic priests blessing same-sex relationships and unions then this is clearly the most important news angle in this piece. This is a major news story, buried deep in a related news report.

However, note that this claim (which I do not doubt, by the way) appears with absolutely no context, no attribution, no clue as to the source of this information. The Times does not even claim to be printing this information based on anonymous sources who requested protection from the Vatican. This is most strange.

Assuming that Mattingly’s article is accurate, Catholic priests are blessing so-called “homosexual marriages.”

That wouldn’t surprise The Motley Monk.  But, if that is the case, Lawler notes:

…these priests are clearly acting in defiance of the Church: the institution they claim to serve. That defiance would constitute a major news story, not merely an observation to be made in passing.

Lawler asks: Why doesn’t the New York Times provide the evidence? After all, that would be news, no?  He adds:

Any Times reporter who actually witnessed a Catholic priest blessing a homosexual union, or heard a credible first-hand report of such an event, should have written a news story about it, and that story should have appeared on the front page. That didn’t happen.

Why not?

Lawler observes that the New York Times may be protecting dissenting priests from ecclesiastical discipline for three possible reasons:

  1. The New York Times reported something as fact when it had no solid evidence. (The Motley Monk thinks “Unlikely.”)
  2. The New York Times had solid evidence, but withheld it because the priests demanded anonymity. (The Motley Monk thinks “Likely.”)
  3. The New York Times knows of priests who have blessed homosexual unions, and those priests did not request.  But, the New York Times decided not to identify them anyway. (The Motley Monk thinks “Perhaps.”)

While Lawler believes the third reason provides the most likely explanation, The Motley Monk doesn’t.  The Motley Monk thinks it more likely that those priests who celebrate so-called “homosexual marriages” requested anonymity.

After all, there are many priests who dissent from a variety of Church teachings.  Think of those who “bless” the marriages divorced persons whose previous marriages haven’t been annulled.  There also are those priests who advise their parishioners that using artificial birth control is “completely moral.”  Then, too, there are those priests who participate at faux Masses celebrated by so-called “women priests.”  Why should it be any different for those priests who believe that so-called “homosexual marriage” should be a sacrament?

What many of these priests who dissent from these Church teachings absolutely don’t want is that their dissent be made public by the New York Times or any other news organization.

Why?

It would endanger their status as public ministers of the Roman Catholic Church.

So, it’s wink and nod…and provide dissenting priests cover.

And The Motley Monk wouldn’t be surprised if many of their bishops happen to know it.

 

 

To read Phil Lawler’s post at CatholicCulture.org, click on the following link:
http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otn.cfm?id=912

To read Terry Mattingly’s article in the New York Times, click on the following link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/14/us/gay-marriage-issue-divides-churches.html?_r=1

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

Meet one of the Church militant’s young members…

Watching those “20-something” Occupy Wall Streeters opine time and again on cable television about all that’s wrong with the United States—the fellow Sean Hannity interviewed on his show was particularly disturbing—it’s pretty easy to succumb to the temptation to believe that “every thing’s going to Hell in a hand basket” and the current crop of young adults won’t amount to very much.  In short, the nation’s future is bleak.

But, The Motley Monk thinks, the picture that’s being portrayed by cable television is, at a minimum, a distortion.

For example, consider Miss Delaware 2011, Maria Cahill.  Maria grew up in an Irish Catholic family in Newark, DE, the second oldest of seven children.

As Miss Rehoboth Beach, Maria spoke about her genesis as a pro-life Catholic.

 

 

Given her public stature, statements like these have transformed Cahill into a lightning rod for the pro-choice lobby.

According to an interview in Townhall Magazine, she’s accused of being “conservative,” “close-minded,” and “brainwashed” due to her Catholic upbringing.  (The Motley Monk can only recall the statement “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”)  Yet, Cahill maintains that’s completely the opposite of who she is:

That’s the most hurtful thing people could say—like I’m not my own person!  It’s the farthest thing from the truth.

Insofar as The Motley Monk is concerned, Cahill not only “gets it.”  But’s she’s also witnessing to the real war on women that’s being promulgated by the pro-choice lobby.  For Cahill, the root of the problem is that people aren’t focused upon the fact that it’s another life that’s at stake.  She said:

No one likes to think of themselves as selfish.  But whenever those terms get thrown around like “My body, my choice,”  you’re just bringing it all back onto yourself, and, to me, that’s selfish, whether people want to believe it or not.

Worse yet, Cahill believes that selfishness is causing the current assault upon the nation’s unborn:

This topic of abortion and birth control and all these things are so taboo now. And why is that? These young people in high school, its something that we don’t talk about anymore…and I think the reason for this is…is because this is murder we are talking about. You know, people don’t use that word anymore…that’s a bold word…but that’s what it is. It’s murder.”

And it’s bold of Cahill to use the “M” word for what so many others characterize as a “choice” and a “right.”

Maria Cahill
Pro-Life Catholic and
Miss Delaware 2011

 

As in most things concerning “cable television,” it’s the case that it’s not who’s being interviewed but who’s not being interviewed that’s important.

And, in this regard, The Motley Monk thinks there’s very good reason to be full of hope.  God renews each generation through the Church militant and there are many fine young Catholic adults who belong to it.

 

 

To read about Maria Cahill in Townhall Magazine, click on the following link:
http://townhall.com/tipsheet/elisabethmeinecke/2012/04/25/a_charming_ambassador_for_life

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

Episcopal Activism: Girls Scouts of the United States

As the Girl Scouts of the United States (GS-USA) celebrates its 100th anniversary, it struck The Motley Monk as somewhat odd to read in the Washington Post that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) would be launching an official inquiry into the organization.

“Surely something’s awry here,” The Motley Monk thought as he read the headline in the Washington Post.  “They’ve certainly got bigger fish to fry than this.”

 

Well, it appears, this official inquiry is extremely important.

So, what’s the big problem?

The inquiry is to be conducted by the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.  In a March 28, 2012 letter sent to his fellow bishops by the Committee’s Chairman, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne, IN, the Committee will be examining the  Girl Scouts’ “possible problematic relationships with other organizations” and  various “problematic” program materials that conflict with Church teaching.

According to a Visiting Fellow in Catholic studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Mary  Rice Hasson, GS-USA has not been responsive to its critics and has been “whitewashing” programs and policies that contradict church teaching.  Hasson said:

They just repeated the Girl Scouts’  denials.  Families’ concerns were minimized or  ignored.

A collision  course is probably a good description of where things are headed.  The leadership of the Girl Scouts is reflexively liberal.  Their board is  dominated by people whose views are antithetical to the teachings of the  Catholic Church.

GS-USA argues that the concerns raised by Catholic critics are recycled complaints that GS-USA has denied repeatedly and categorically.  GS-USA spokeswoman, Michelle  Tompkins, said:

I know we’re  a big part of the culture wars.  People use our good name to advance their own agenda.

For  us, there’s an overarching sadness to it.  We’re just trying to  further girls’ leadership.”

GS-USA maintains that it has no partnership with Planned Parenthood, and doesn’t take positions regarding sexuality, birth control, or abortion.  However, GS-USA is a member of the 145-nation World Association of Girl Guides and Girl  Scouts (WAGGGS) which does maintain that girls  and young women “need an environment where they can freely and openly discuss issues of sex and sexuality.”  WAGGGS also has called for increased access to condoms to protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

Critics allege that GS-USA materials contain links to groups such as Doctors without Borders, the Sierra Club and  Oxfam which support family planning or emergency  contraception.  In addition, EWTN has alleged that an International Planned Parenthood  brochure was made available to girls attending a Girl Scout workshop at a 2010 United Nations event.  The brochure—”Healthy, Happy and Hot”—advised young  people with HIV about how to engage in so-called “safe sex” and to lead sexually active lives.  Lastly, GS-USA offers a patch honoring the Hispanic labor organizer Dolores Huerta, who received an award in 2007 from Planned Parenthood.

The Girl Scouts’ Delores Huerta Patch

 

It’s estimated that 25% of the 2.3M GS-USA members are Catholic.  If the complaints being lodged against the organization are accurate, the USCCB should be concerned that these materials may be making their way into parish-based Girl Scout troops and investigate whether that’s happening.

It may not be all about selling cookies.

The Motley Monk asks: Why should the bishops not be inquiring into GS-USA?

 

 

To read the Washington Post article, click on the following link:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/catholic-bishops-continue-to-delve-into-concerns-about-girl-scouts/2012/05/10/gIQAqaRlGU_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

Forget “Occupy Wall Street”: It’s now “Occupy Anna Maria College”…

Those who follow The Motley Monk might recall an April post in The American Catholic—”What’s A Bishop To Do?

In that post, The Motley Monk discussed how academic administrators at Anna Maria College (AMC)—a small Catholic college located in the Diocese of Worcester (MA) and having close ties to the Diocese—had withdrawn their invitation to the widow of Senator Ted Kennedy, Victoria, to  deliver the institution’s 2012 commencement speech.  The invitation was withdrawn due to the opposition of Bishop Robert J. McManus, who cited Kennedy’s moral views that conflict with Roman Catholic teaching.

 

 

For those who thought the story would end there, they thought wrong.

Ensuing controversy over the withdrawal of the invitation to Kennedy is now threatening to mar the event.  Rumors persist that protesters might demonstrate.

Think of the threat as “Occupy Anna Maria.”

Apparently, the threat has AMC’s President, Jack Calareso, and the Chairwoman of the AMC’s Board of Trustees, Sister Yvette Bellerose, so concerned that, according to The  Boston Globe, they recently met at the diocesan offices and politely disinvited Bishop McManus, claiming “the bishop would be a distraction to the event.”

A spokesman for Bishop McManus said: “He was going to  attend, but that’s not going to happen now.”

AMC’s academic administrators subsequently issued a statement indicating that the relationship between AMC and the Diocese of Worcester “remains strong.” In addition, they promise “the two organizations will continue to work together with respect and collegiality to advance the goals and values of quality Catholic education.”

 

In the world of the politics of Catholic higher education, The Motley Monk would observe, those words are the refrain for the hit tune “Tit for Tat.”

 

 

To read The Motley Monk’s post in The American Catholic, click on the following link:
http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/04/02/whats-a-bishop-to-do-wink-and-nod/

To read the Boston Globe article, click on the following link:
http://articles.boston.com/2012-05-05/metro/31574538_1_gay-marriage-graduation-exercises-commencement-speakers

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

The Vatican vs. the “Good Sisters”?

Much of the so-called “analysis” of the Vatican’s hostile takeover of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) focuses upon how “evil bureaucrats” in the Vatican have unilaterally imposed their will upon all of the “good sisters” whose selfless acts of charity personalize the Church in a way that those evil bureaucrats could never personalize it.

"The Pope as a Rotweiller": The consummate Vaticanista

Using what The Motley Monk calls the Vatican’s “hostile takeover” of the LCWR as a case in point, the National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen has written a good article taking to task the first assumption calling it a “classic case in point”:

Insiders have long realized there’s no such animal as “the Vatican” in the sense of an organism that thinks only one thought at a time. The Vatican is instead a complex bureaucracy encompassing a variety of outlooks and instincts, which means it rarely speaks with just one voice on anything.

If Allen’s assessment is correct—and The Motley Monk thinks in this instance that he’s spot on—most people opining about the hostile takeover don’t know what they’re talking about.  Instead, they’re making a political point by constructing a pinata caricaturing what doesn’t exist in reality.  In ethics, this is called the “agentic shift” which seeks to locate responsibility in an organization rather than in the persons making a decision.

Allen is correct in this regard.   “The Vatican” does nothing.  People working for the Vatican do things.  He concludes:

Framing this issue as “the Vatican vs. the nuns,” therefore, is sexy but ultimately misleading.  As always, the question is which Vatican officials, not to mention which nuns, we’re talking about.

Many of those who understand the point Allen is making have reported the long history that has led certain individuals in the Vatican to make a decision to intervene directly in the LCWR.  Allen’s article provides a good summary as does Sandro Magister in his Vatican Diary.  In sum, Allen writes:

The doctrinal assessment of the LCWR and its demands for reforms in LCWR’s statutes, plans, and programs was issued April 18 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led by American Cardinal William Levada.  The other Vatican department that’s part of the picture is the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, popularly known as the ”Congregation for Religious.”  Under church law, primary responsibility for overseeing religious life, including organizations such as LCWR, belongs to the Congregation for Religious [under the aegis of Brazilian Cardinal João Bráz de Aviz and American Archbishop Joseph Tobin].

What interests The Motley Monk about all of this are the charges that led those responsible agents to engage in the business equivalent of a hostile takeover of the LCWR.
As Sandro Magister reports:

Among the accusations that the Holy See makes against the conference of American women religious superiors is the de facto approval of the tendency to go “beyond the Church” and even “beyond Christ,” as theorized in a 2007 talk by Dominican sister Laurie Brink.

Another accusation concerns the resistance of some groups of sisters against accepting the Mass, celebrated by a male priest, as the center of their communal life.

Yet another recalls the opposition of the LCWR, in 1977, to the declaration “Inter Insigniores” approved the previous year by Paul VI, which reiterated the reservation of priestly ordination to men.  A “public refusal”—remarks the document from the congregation for the doctrine of the faith—that subsequently “has never been corrected.”

Assuming the veracity of the charges—and The Motley Monk has no reason to believe they are inaccurate—this is not the stuff of “good sisters” performing important charitable works on behalf of the Church but of a group of like-minded, vowed religious women actively working to remake the Church in their collective image.

There is some talk that the hostile takeover of the LCWR initiated by Pope Benedict XVI will cause its leadership and their sympathetic followers to form a new organization that has no canonical status, thus leaving LCWR—or its successor organization—behind to be run by “the Vatican” and its sycophants.


Since their agenda is basically political in nature to achieve theological objectives, The Motley Monk thinks forming a new organization independent of the Church would be the equivalent of committing “political suicide.”

How?

Withdrawing from the LCWR as the official U.S. representative organization for women religious and forming a distinct, non-canonical organization free of Vatican control would represent a self-inflicted death sentence.  Looking at the ages of these women, the new group will not survive very long and “the Vatican” will prevail.  All the dissenters will have accomplished is to “get up and die.”

 

 

To read John Allen’s article in the National Catholic Reporter, click on the following link:
http://ncronline.org/blogs/all-things-catholic/notes-lcwr-overhaul

To read Sandro Magister’s article in his “Vatican Diary,” click on the following link:
http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350234?eng=y

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

Things are beginning to heat up between the USCCB and President Obama…

 

The Hill is reporting some potentially disastrous news for President Obama concerning his bid for re-election: His support among Catholic voters is slipping and, perhaps, is bleeding badly.

 

For example, a Pew Research Center in March 2012 found a “noticeable shift in opinions” among White Catholics with 31% now describing the administration as “unfriendly” to religion.  In August 2009, only 17% described the administration that way.

Then, too, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is organizing for two weeks of public protest in June and July against what the USCCB  believes is growing government encroachment on religious liberty.  A confrontation with Catholic activists could cause major headaches for David Axelrod and his crew in Chicago.

Of course, that would require the USCCB to prove itself capable of whipping up fervor among U.S. Catholics.  It’s a possibility, The Motley Monk would note, but there are many obstacles, not the least of which the majority of U.S. Catholics who are reported to support the President’s healthcare policies, especially as they concern “women’s freedom of choice.”

 

To wit, James Salt, the Executive Director of Catholics United—a politically left Catholic social justice group—told The Hill that the USCCB’s public relations campaign is misguided:

It reflects a great misplaced priority of the bishops.  In no way is it apparent to me how Catholics in America are oppressed.  Their positioning in society is greater than their numbers.  There are six Catholic members of the Supreme Court.

This is part of a very orchestrated campaign by the bishops to make contraception the focus of the 2012 election.

Salt believes the USCCB’s broader goal is to get Mitt Romney elected so he can nominate a fifth conservative justice for the Supreme Court.  That would make it possible for the Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

If the USCCB is successful in its efforts—irrespective of whether they are motivated by concerns about religious liberty or to elect Mitt Romney—organized civil disobedience could feature Catholics in cities across the nation being hauled off to jail.

 

According to The Hill, Republican strategists are enthusiastic about the possibility.  One Republican strategist is quoted as saying:

These would be devastating images for the Obama administration.  You have a very important religious demographic coming out in protest of Obama’s policies and being arrested for their expression. These images would be politically damaging for the president’s campaign.

That’s a hope, one supported by the President of Catholic Advocate, Deal Hudson, who told The Hill:

This is the most dynamic situation I’ve ever seen since I’ve been involved in Catholics and politics.  I think civil disobedience is almost inevitable. I think that kind of protest is on the way.

Of course, all of this is all about the so-called “war on religious liberty” initiated by the Obama administration, which The Motley Monk thinks is best understood in terms of the Obamacare mandates announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  Those mandates—and the ham-handed “compromise” announced subsequently by the President—could end up having been a terrible political miscalculation.

 

But, don’t expect President Obama to attempt to mollify the USCCB before November.  The Motley Monk believes the President and David Axelrod are confident that the 90% of Catholic women who use artificial forms of birth control are firmly in his camp.  (The reality is that it’s 60%.)  Furthermore, they are confident that Catholics who are aligned with political left are likely to view any protesters who get arrested for demonstrating for religious liberty as “right-wing, conservative nut jobs.”  Catholics aligned with the political left are not going to march in lock-step with the USCCB.

Time will tell.

But, just like the spring weather, the political season is heating up.  Religious liberty may end up being an important factor in deciding who will be the next President of the United States.

The all-important question is: Will the “Church militant” align itself with conservative Christians across the nation to teach a lesson to the President and David Axelrod come November?

 

 

To read the report in The Hill, click on the following link:
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/politics-elections/223227-two-week-protest-by-catholic-activists-may-hamper-presidents-reelection-bid

To read The Motley Monk daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

The Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut may reveal the soul of the Democratic Party…

 

The race for the open U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut—the seat currently held by Joseph Lieberman—is now providing some pretty clear evidence about exactly what the five Democratic candidates for national political office think about the issue of religious liberty. 

 

When asked during the “Face the State” debate whether Catholic hospitals should be required to provide contraceptive services and abortions, all five Democratic candidates said in various ways and to various degrees that they would support federal legislation compelling Catholic hospitals—since they receive federal funds—to perform abortions.

Candidates Susan Bysiewicz, Matthew Oakes, and William Tong were direct in their responses: the federal government has the right to require Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.

Bysiewicz said:

The federal government has the right to regulate what  services are provided, because Catholic  institutions, colleges and universities get funding from the federal  government, and I believe that those institutions should provide access  to reproductive health care.

Oakes said:

If they’re gonna take our money—I’m Roman Catholic—then they  need to perform the health care issues that women need performed for  them.

Tong said:

Access  to an abortion should be open and available.  Access to contraception, the  same thing. These are basic liberties enshrined in our Constitution, in  our jurisprudence. That’s a fact. [...] I think we need a cooperative  approach. We had a bill in the state Legislature to provide emergency  contraception. It was called Plan B. [...] Now Plan B is a reality.  Emergency contraception is made available to patients at Catholic  hospitals. We just need to find a way to make it work.

Candidate Chris Murphy was not as direct.  He said: “[Catholic hospitals] certainly have the ability to decide what services they perform.”

That’s masterful politicalspeaque, The Motley Monk would note.  Saying Catholic hospitals “certainly have the ability to decide” is quite different from saying “the government should not require Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.”

Candidate Lee Whitnum didn’t answer the question directly.  Instead, she said that providing contraceptive services is a “good thing.”  But, Whitnum didn’t go so far as to say whether Catholic institutions should be forced to provide contraceptive services.

The Catholic bishops of Connecticut were quick to issue a statement, noting:

If it is [the candidates'] position that our hospitals should be forced by law or regulations to provide abortions in spite of our teaching, it is unfortunate to note their readiness to violate religious liberty.

Their position would be the logical extension of the federal Health and Human Services regulations with regard to so called “preventative services.”

Yes, the statements of these five candidates for the U.S. Senate indicate their readiness to trample upon the exercise of religious liberty.  Perhaps the statements also reveal the state of the soul of the Democratic Party.

 

 

To view the video of the “Face the State” debate, click on the following link.  The relevant comments begin at 5:30 into the debate.
http://www.wfsb.com/category/213663/face-the-state

To read the Connecticut bishops’ statement, click on the following link:
http://www.archdioceseofhartford.org/news/facethestate.pdf

To read The Motley Monk daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

 

American Catholic progressivism: An “exhausted project”?

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the good news is that things may be looking up for the U.S. Catholic Church.

Despite all of the bad press it has endured in recent decades, the number of vocations to the priesthood—the all male, celibate priesthood—is up.  Perhaps the Vatican’s incessant calls for priestly celibacy and its denunciation of  women’s ordination have struck a resonant chord among some young U.S. Catholic males.

According to the article, these candidates for the priesthood

…are attracted to the philosophy, the art, the literature and the  theology that make Catholicism countercultural. They are drawn to the beauty of  the liturgy and the church’s commitment to the dignity of the individual. They  want to be contributors to that commitment—alongside faithful and courageous  bishops who ask them to make sacrifices.

To wit:

  • A new seminary is in the planning stages near Charlotte, NC.
  • The Archdiocese of  Washington, DC, has expanded its seminary facilities to accommodate the increase in number of candidates.
  • In 2003, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston was advised to close the seminary. But there are now 70 candidates.  More surprisingly, the seminary has had to turn away candidates due to a lack of  space.
  • In 2011, there were 467 new priests ordained in  the U.S. last year, up from 442  in 2001. Eighteen priests were ordained for Washington in 2011 and 26 for the Archdiocese of Chicago.  Astoundingly, the Diocese of Lincoln (NE)—where Catholics are 16% of the population, ordained 10 priests in 2011.

Of course the critics will say, “There’s nothing like an economic downturn to stimulate vocations.”  And, The Motley Monk would note that there is historical precedent to support that assessment.  However, the much-touted end of the celibate male priesthood and glorious future of the U.S. Catholic Church featuring the ordination of women seems to be a Siren song that’s falling on deaf ears.

Beneath the radar, the winds of change—perhaps the authentic “signs of the times”—seem to be empowering the long-dormant turbines of seminaries.  Popular books like “Full Pews and Empty Altars” and “The Death of Priesthood” may end up being the stuff of pulp fiction.

The Wall Street Journal is researching what may be transpiring beneath the radar.  The article notes:

Our preliminary research on the  correlates of priestly ordinations reveals that the dioceses with the largest  numbers of new priests are led by courageous bishops with faithful and  inspirational vocations offices.

Uh, oh!  Success correlates with “intolerant” and ”conservative” bishops, like the Most Reverend Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, NE.

Of course, many who populate the Catholic left don’t much like this trend and believe these young Catholic men who are being attracted to the priesthood by these conservative bishops have been characterized, shall The Motley Monk say, as being “somewhat unusual.”

It’s all been said before.

They are “conservative, even traditionalists” who “cling to extrinsics” to reinforce an immature self-image shaped by a domineering father, and are “pastorally insensitive.”  Worse yet, these “John Paul II priests” don’t challenge Church teaching but dogmatically preach it.  They view the Church as a hierarchy, not as a Quaker Meeting.  And, worst of all, they are misogynists if not homophobes or potential pedophiles.  In short, they will be the death of the U.S. Catholic Church.

“Just you wait and see, Motley Monk.  You’ll be sorry.”

 

While many “Baby Boomer” priests and theologians continue to preach about the Holy Grail of the “unfulfilled promise” of Vatican II, these aging progressives and their Siren song criticizing the Church’s teachings about so-called “reproductive “rights,” homosexual marriage, and women’s ordination aren’t resonating with some young people in this generation.

The Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, may have inserted his finger directly into the wound when he delivered a homily in which he pronounced liberal Catholicism “an  exhausted project…parasitical on a substance that no longer exists.”

The truth is that the Church is countercultural, challenging American Catholics in this generation to turn way from the ideologies of secularism, materialism, and consumerism.  Perhaps these so-called “John Paul II” and “Benedict XVI” priests will be well-equipped to evangelize the lapsed Catholic faithful and non-faithful alike.  After all, these men grew up hearing nothing but the Siren song and looked beyond American Catholic progressives to the Roman Catholic Church for leadership and guidance.

But, as with all things of this world, The Motley Monk would note, “time will tell.” Ultimately, Divine Providence always will achieve its end, which is always nothing other than the good.

 

 

To read the Wall Street Journal article, click on the following link:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303772904577335290865863450.html?mod=relevancy

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

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