The National Catholic Review

Last week was a very hard one for me. First, I reeled from reading, for the umpteenth time, over a twenty year period, Vatican attempts to tame the ' good sisters' in a document seemingly aimed at dessicating The Leadership Conference of Religious Women. Demands were made that the American nuns' organization revise its statutes, desist from any so called 'radical feminist rhetoric', pronounce less on issues of poverty and social justice and more on abortion and gay marriage, monitor speakers more carefully, somehow dissociate itself somewhat from Network (a Washington, D.C. lobby group sponsored by religious sisters which works for issues of poverty and social justice). All I could say is what Nicholas Cafardi, a Catholic law expert, said: "I have known many very saintly nuns in my life but very few saints who work in chancery offices!" Jesuits who work at the University of San Francisco, where I live, minister to a community of retired Presentation Sisters, many of them elderly. They spoke of a widespread dismay by these elderly sisters who gave their lives to the church at this recent disavowal of their direction. All this week, at every daily mass I have said in Saint Ignatius Church I have prayed in gratitude and thanksgiving for the witness and ministry of the sisters in our American church. When our pastor singled out the religious women for such a prayer of thanks at a recent mass, one congregant said to me: "He was courageous." I retorted: "What does it say about our current church's openness to honest dialogue and discourse if we think it is especially courageous to be grateful for the women who have been in our lifetime the very backbone of the church!"

On the back of the Vatican's announcement censuring The Leadership Conference of Religious Women, I read the remarkably intemperate remarks of Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria in a homily attacking the Obama administration because of its mandate for insurance coverage of contraception. Jenky compared President Obama to Hitler and Stalin and denounced Obama's "radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda." He went on to say: "This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote and must vote their Catholic consciences or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries--only excepting our church buildings--could easily be shut down." Jenky evoked the vote as a clear battle! Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (not an organization I usually admire) rather rightly suggested that the IRS look into the tax exemptions of the diocese of Peoria because any right minded listener could hardly miss that Bishop Jenky effectively urged a vote against President Obama, against the IRS limitations for tax exempt churches. I joked at the end of the week to my Jesuit superior: "I think I may have to quit this church." He responded: "I won't let you. We need your salary!". The irony for me is that while the American bishops can be super sensitive to what they take to be the rhetorical excesses of American nuns or a distinguished theologian such as Fordham's Sister Elizabeth Johnson, they rarely speak out in reproof when one of their fellow bishops exceeds ordinary civility and credulity and engages in intemperate rhetoric or fails true pastoral outreach.

Whatever one may think about the Obama administration's mandate on contraception (and the fact that the pill is used to regulate other health issues and not just for contraceptive purposes) by even a fairly conservative Catholic moral theological calculus, the Bishops could appeal, in the last resort, to a double effect morality. What they will is a good health care insurance for their employees. They will not pay or have to inform employees that the health care covers contraceptives nor are they responsible for the use or non-use of that possibility by employees. They can make clear their opposition to any such use of contraceptives, to be sure. The fact that ' the pill' has other medical effects than contraception ( and has sometimes been prescribed for post-menopausal women) came up recently when the Arizona legislature wanted to pass a law to protect anyone with religious objections from having to pay for contraceptive coverage in their insurance. It became clear that in some cases it was medically indicated for other than contraceptive purposes. When the legislators then said :" Well, then the woman would have to tell her employer or insurance precisely what that medical purpose was", the bill went down to defeat. Obviously, this tactic would violate the privacy and dignity of the woman patient. So, the issue is complex.

The American bishops have announced a fortnight of freedom, for the two weeks leading up to the Fourth of July, about religious freedom as they see it jeopardized by the Obama mandate. I have some real respect for issues of religious freedom and possible jeopardy to it (cf. my article in America for March 12, 2012). But clearly, if the bishops can not reign in the intemperate rhetoric of some of their confreres, such as Bishop Jenky, the bishops' effort is not likely to succeed or to be conceived of as anything other than the Republican Party at prayer. This is a real danger.

On Saturday, at a reception honoring our retiring pastor, a man spoke to me to compliment me on my homilies. He then told me he was gay. He said he came to a Jesuit church because he had no fears in such a setting that his dignity would be assailed from the pulpit. I was surprised! I asked him if he had ever experienced such a denigration of his dignity from homilies in other settings and he assured me the answer was yes. Again, the issue of gay marriage roils our current political scene. I read recently the letter of Archbishop John Nienstadt of Minneapolis-Saint Paul to his priests about his concern to marshal an attack on gay marriage and support a referendum in Minnesota opposing it. He told his priests that this is one of the greatest challenges of our times and that he saw those who supported gay marriage as involving" an attempt to eliminate the need for marriage altogether." He made clear that he would not brook from his priests any open dissension on this issue. One of the dangers of Catholic attempts to fight gay marriage ( as we saw in California in 2008 at the time of the divisive Proposition 8 fight) is that the church runs the risk of allying its activity with other groups. In Minnesota, the Catholic effort seems to be allied closely with the Minnesota Family Council on whose web site one finds truly homophobic remarks which link gay orientation intrinsically to pedophilia and beastiality!

In the winter of 2008, the Catholic bishops of Los Angeles (who had supported Proposition 8 to outlaw gay marriage) wrote a post-election letter to their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. They acknowledged with sadness that some in that campaign employed hurtful and accusatory language against gays and lesbians. The bishops wanted to distance themselves from those other opponents of gay marriage who did so. They said they wanted to ensure gays and lesbians that the church's support for Proposition 8 " was not meant to diminish their dignity or their membership in the church." They insisted that gays and lesbians are " cherished members of the Catholic Church and that we value you as equal and active members of the body of Christ." In the heat of the campaign about Proposition 8, however, the bishops did not, publicly, distance themselves from the intemperate and disparaging rhetoric about gays employed by some of their co-supporters of the proposition. The same danger of entaglement with disparaging and intemperate ( and frankly un-loving) rhetoric by other groups opposing gay marriage in Minnesota is also there. The church has said, often, that the church recognizes the full dignity of gays and lesbians and has a pastoral outreach to them. As such, when it joins other groups in a campaign against gay marriage, it does need to distance itself from the intemperate rhetoric fulminating from its electoral allies ! Inasmuch as the church clearly and openly allies with other groups opposing gay marriage who use language which denigrates the dignity of gays and lesbians and does not repudiate such language, the church is also complicit, by association, in such disparagement of dignity.

My last experience this past week was a two day meeting of priests and lay members of the nine Jesuit parishes in the California Province. Much concern was heard about our parishes embodying prime Jesuit values: Ignatian spirituality brought into everyday life; the faith that does justice in social justice outreach; ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue; co-responsiblity for ministry among Jesuits and lay collaborators; some concern for a true and honest intellectual life. It became clear to me that many in our parishes have come to them as a kind of refuge or oasis. Also, I saw how widespread it is that, increasingly, thoughtful laity have come to simply assume that there is little room for any honest dialogue in the church about a host of burning pastoral issues: ministry to the divorced and remarried; whether we can have a married clergy; the issue of contraception in marriage; ministry to gays and lesbians.

In an editorial in the April 14th issue of the British Catholic journal, The Tablet, entitled, "Listen to the People," the editors said the following about this sense of the church as a place where one can not any longer have honest dialogue about pressing pastoral issues:

Tacit disobedience in practice, for instance over birth control and increasingly over the admission of divorced people to Holy Communion, is already commonplace. Disobedience, in theory, includes a rejection of the arguments against ordaining married men and, increasingly, against the ordination of women. Lay Catholic attitudes to homosexuality have changed remarkably within a generation. There is no method of re-evangelization that will turn this tide.

So, who is adrift, the leaders or the led? Indeed, which is which? If dissenting clergy are little more than proxies for dissenting laity, then the real chasm opening up is between the senior hierarchy, the Vatican especially, and the lay faithful at large. But they are out of reach, because the church has neglected to put institutions in place through which an honest dialogue can take place. A useful move would be to remedy that deficiency. First, however, the Vatican would have to give at least the appearance of listening. And that moment is still some way off.

When our best, practicing and well-informed Catholics feel that honest discourse is not allowed in the church (they continue to think on their own, of course) we have lost our pastoral mooring. The American bishops, too, need to approach this growing and serious pastoral perception if they want, in a true sense, to lead. They need to put institutions in place which do allow such dialogue. Later this week we are celebrating the feast of Saint Peter Canisius, the apostle to Germany and Austria at the time of the Reformation. Two of his comments stick with me when I think of the problem of intemperate Episcopal remarks: "An honest exploration of the faith would be much more effective than polemical attacks." Unlike most of his contemporary Catholics, Canisius refused to demonize Luther and Calvin. He noted: "With words like these we don't cure the patients, we make them incurable!" 

John A. Coleman, S.J.


Comments

Craig McKee | 4/25/2012 - 2:36am
Meanwhile PHILADELPHIA has kinda fallen right off the radar, n'est-ce pas?
Clever strategy, USCCB.
But we're not all that dumb!
Michael Legge | 4/25/2012 - 1:07am
Thank you, Fr Coleman, for your comments regarding The Leadership Conference of Religious Woman.  This past week has been very difficult for many of us.  Our oldest daughter (an MD) spoke to me yesterday about how distraught she was both as a result of the actions of Rome and the LCWR and our own Archbishop Sartain's approval and implementation in our parish of a petition drive against Washington State's legislative approval of gay and lesbian marital rights.  Sartain. of course, has accepte being appointed for an approximate 5 year assignment to oversee the hierarchical felt changes necessary in the LCWR.

I couldn't agree more with one of your commentatores that diocesan or ordered priests today reflect the sprectum of the Church.  Our parish is staffed by a Jesuit pastor whose decision to permit signiture gathering at all the masses last weekend was diametrically opposite his conferees decision at the university level to not permit it.  Although you wouldn't know it by the lack of diverse representation on our parish council, his action has resulted in significant derision within our parish community.  Our Lord said he didn't come to unify but divide...wife against husband, daughter against parent, brother against sister, etc.  Amidst all this, there must be a careful listening to others, personal reflection, discernment, and a sharing of our principals and why.  Accommodation and hopefully peace in faith will follow.

At this time, it is easy to feel that the waters are rising rapidly and that those asking questions will be overwhelmed.  No matter what, however, I'm hopeful that most of the faithful will remain true to their convictions and in the end are thankful they led a good fight.  In tne meantime, we hope to support ourselves, our service, our efforts and our faith on the personal and social issues we have always thankfully focused on.  Toward these efforts I can't but help think of someone like Dorothy Day.
Daniel Ruwe | 4/24/2012 - 8:20pm
So...just how open is Church dialogue supposed to be? So far, you have disagreed with the Church's teachings on contraception, gay marriage, divorce, and the all-male clergy (I'm assuming, considering that many, probably most, of the LCRW's problems with the Church stem from their disagreement on that issue). Are there any issues on which the Church's teaching authority is sacrosanct and debate unnecessary, or are all moral issues to debated as social mores change?

-Daniel Ruwe 
Michael Appleton | 4/24/2012 - 8:14pm
One of the unfortunate characteristics of totalitarian governance, whether civil or religious, is the tendency of leadership to react to criticism through censorship or other disciplinary measures.  And repression tends to increase in proportion to the extent to which authority feels threatened.

There is no doubt that the moral authority of the Catholic hierarchy has been severely damaged in recent years, most notably by the exposure of widespread sexual abuse by the clergy and, even worse, the Church's refusal to deal with it as a criminal matter for many years.  The hierarchy feels itself under siege, and it has been reacting by doubling down.  The Pope can no longer call upon the armies of Europe to enforce orthodoxy, and he can't very well send out the Swiss Guard for that purpose. So instead of thoughtful engagement, we see bishops reacting to every challenge by declaring that war has been declared on Christianity, a decidedly puerile charge in view of the fact that government at all levels is less sectarian now than it was fifty years ago.

The comments of Bishop Jenky are a prime example of an overwrought response to controversy. To my non-Catholic friends, he is a virtual caricature of what they perceive to be an authoritarian, misogynistic religious neanderthal more interested in preserving power than engaging in honest dialogue on church-state issues. If Bishop Jenky represents the level of hierarchical maturity in the American Church, we can expect a continued decline in the respect shown for the Church's moral authority by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Fr. Coleman hit the nail on the head. I am doubtful, however, that the decision makers are listening. 
Juan Lino | 4/24/2012 - 7:40pm
Michael - I apologize for my surley and inchorent remark in #22 - I am having a very dark day today (and yesterday too!) and so I think it's best that I refrain from commenting until it passes.  We'll catch up with each other later my friend.
Juan Lino | 4/24/2012 - 5:11pm
Hi Michael (#20) - When I wrote my sentence I was thinking primarily about "lay people" (although I don't doubt that priests were also not well trained) because the primarily catechesis that the people I know received was pathetic.  And I am not talking about "pelvic issues", which young people learned about from "porn", cable, etc., but about basic things like "Jesus is God incarnate."  Believe me, there are many people who reject that fact because the philosophical, theological and anthropological beliefs they've been taught leads them to reject the claim. 

YouCat and other "faithful documents" are helping to correct this but its primarily lay people and younger priests and nuns that are using it.  For example, if we took a poll of the priests and nuns that write on this blog and/or read it, I would bet that we'd be lucky to find 10 that actually use it to teach the faithful.  Strange but hopeful times.
Joshua DeCuir | 4/24/2012 - 3:26pm
"Whatever one thinks of the mandate to provide contraceptive care to non-ministerial employees, and however much one thinks that infringes upon one's religious freedom, it doesn't come within light-years of approximating the conduct of Hitler or Stalin, and it is absurd and counterproductive to make the comparison."

I agree; and I submit that allusions to "cold war paranoia" and "McCarthyism" to people who agree with the bishops on various issues are absurb and counterproductive.
Michael Barberi | 4/24/2012 - 3:19pm
Hi Juan:

The problem is the content of Bishop Jenky's rhetoric. Rhetoric is the undo use of exaggeration; speech that pretends to significance but lacks true meaning. Therefore the analogy that Obama is like Hilter and Stalin is an exaggeration and also a disparaging remark. This rhetoric reflects anger, not respectful dialogue. 

Lastly, tacit disobedience in practice among priests and bishops, per the Table article, was not caused or exacerbated by the lack of good catechesis teachings. Catechesis is simply Church doctrine spelled out in common language for Catholics. What this tacit disobedience reflected was disagreement with certain Church doctrines and teachings, especially contraception. It reflects respecrful disagreement with the philosophical, theological and anthropological underpinnings of these doctrines. This does not mean cafeteria Catholicism or being unfaithful. 

If a moral doctrine or teaching does not have a convincing reasoned argument, neither will Catechesis have any compelling understanding or reception.



Rick Fueyo | 4/24/2012 - 12:59pm
Whatever you compare it any side of the political debate in the United States to Hitler or Stalin, who directly murdered millions, you are engaging in rhetorical excess. There's even a catchphrase for this trend on the Internet - Reductio_ad_Hitlerum.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_Hitlerum  It is properly labeled a logical fallacy.
 
Moreover, any time someone in the political debate resorts to such rhetoric, they are not truly trying to enter into anything resembling a dialogue. They are just trying to foment their own supporters, and express their anger.
 
Whatever one thinks of the mandate to provide contraceptive care to non-ministerial employees, and however much one thinks that infringes upon one's religious freedom, it doesn't come within light-years of approximating the conduct of Hitler or Stalin, and it is absurd and counterproductive to make the comparison.
 
Bishop Jenky was rightly called up for this rhetorical excess.  Merely calling it excess is itself a rhetorical euphemism
JIM MCCREA | 4/24/2012 - 12:38pm
Jenky might be better off limiting his public exposure to Weight Watchers commercials.
Amy Ho-Ohn | 4/24/2012 - 9:10am
I agree that Bishop Jenky's homiletic rhetoric was intemperate and explicitly partisan. However, it seems to me that the way it is usually quoted is a little bit irresponsible also.

To say that the homily compared Obama to "Hitler and Stalin" implies that it suggested he is a mass murderer as well as anti-clerical. In fact, the homily compared Obama to Bismark, Clemenceau, Hitler and Stalin. No doubt, it would have been better to leave the latter two off. But the intention was clearly only to call attention to his (perceived) anti-clericalism.

In general, the bishops' hysterical persecution complex on this question is regrettable and their inability to discuss it calmly appears to confirm the prejudices of secular armchair psychologists. But in this case, the bishop was drawing a halfway valid historical analogy.
Crystal Watson | 4/23/2012 - 11:11pm
Thanks for this post.  All the stuff you mention - the treatment of women (including nuns), the treatment of LGBT people, the contraception/abortion issue, the identification of the church with the republican agenda, married clergy, etc  - will never be honestly and openly discussed because the bishops and the Vatican don't care about what anyone else thinks or feels.  As long as the church is set up in such a way that those at the top have absolute power and are unaccountable to anyone else, there will be what there is now -  a climate of fear in those who can lose their jobs by being honest (like Fr. Roy Bourgeois or Fr. James Alison) and  a sort of despair in the laity, who seem to have no other way of showing how we feel besides leaving the church.
ed gleason | 4/23/2012 - 10:20pm
Josh ;   I said 'some' bishops . The 300 US bishops are being drowned out by the shouters and the ambitious ones. . The title of this thread is "Intemperate Episcopal Rhetoric" . And Vince K, thank you for the USCCB quotes. How many bishops 'go all the way' to the SC.. A lot. 
Josh wants to share the blame for harshness on both sides.
Can he name a left side harshness quote that makes him sad?? The state of "dialogue" in our CHurch - on BOTH sides - is genuinely sad to me.'
  
Vince Killoran | 4/23/2012 - 9:32pm
As to Josh's call for more information on the USCCB's view on the pending USSC case, this news item:

"Asked to comment on the high-profile case before the court, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered a terse comment in an email message: “The U.S. bishops are in favor of health-care reform that protects life from the moment of conception until natural death.”

The USCCB has been clear that they will be in the courts and halls of Congress. This from the USCCB General Counsel's website:


"While USCCB representatives will continue to meet with representatives of the Administration to discuss these new proposals, it must also be very clear that the Church, together with other religious groups and faith-based entities, will simultaneously continue to seek relief from the legislature and redress in the courts."
 
MICHELLE FRANCL-DONNAY DR | 4/23/2012 - 8:13pm
I was struck while reading this by the use of the word dignity.  We say that while we do not treat women in the same way as men, they have the same dignity; that our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers must be treated with full dignity. But what precisely does this mean in a philosophical and ecclesial context? The word is often invoked to respond to perceived inequality in treatment, but it often feels to me like a reflex and I realized that I don't have a precise sense of the meaning either.  

This question seems to me to be at the core of these conversations.  Is dignity a concept that requires two parties, the one confering the dignity, and the object of their respect?  If I argue that I'm treating you with dignity, and you think otherwise, where do we go from there? 
Joshua DeCuir | 4/23/2012 - 6:53pm
"Yet they still  think/hold that the Supreme Court will and should overthrow the HCA [Obamacare] ...therefore I say we are witnessing fakery with these episcopal  rhetorical out-bursts."

Since you are accusing (the entire?) episcopacy of hypocrisy, would you provide substantiation for your claim that "they" (i.e. "the bishops") have publicly called for the Supreme Court to overturn the ACA?  I am not aware of a single bishop who has weighed in on the merits of the cases currently pending in the Supreme Court.  If you're going to make such an accusation, shouldn't you responsibly back it up with verifiable evidence?

And I have to add, I can only imagine the response from the IAT team to a comment like this had it been made about a progressive issue.  The state of "dialogue" in our CHurch - on BOTH sides - is genuinely sad to me.
Anonymous | 4/23/2012 - 6:45pm
Bishop Sartain's sister is a nun.
ed gleason | 4/23/2012 - 6:17pm
Some  bishops think and say they believe that they  and their Catholic institutions are about  to be martyred by Obama/Dem liberals. Yet they still  think/hold that the Supreme Court will and should overthrow the HCA [Obamacare] . Can a rational person  have a doctorate in physics and still think the sky is falling? Intelligent men cannot believe in obvious contradictions at the same time; therefore I say we are witnessing fakery with these episcopal  rhetorical out-bursts. Fakery is not at all becoming in bishops... as brings out scorn from the pews. .
T BLACKBURN | 4/23/2012 - 5:31pm
Father John, you are saying what I've been thinking.

Once upon a time, when I was young and bishops were suspected of being Democrats, the bishops were able to play politics smoothly, and they attracted attention only when it would be edifying or necessary and when they were sure they would be seen generally to be on the side of the angels. Now they speak in public, like Bishop Jenky, as if they are auditioning for regular consultant status on FoxNews. And, speaking as a group, they seem to be inviting a martyrdom which no one I can see is planning for them.

There is a vast, throbbing ignorance on the left, which staffs the mid levels of the Obama administration, that matches a vast, throbbing ignorance on the right. Peter Canisus would know how to talk to the ignorant. American bishops, having lost their political savvy, seem to want to fight instead of talk.
David Pasinski | 4/23/2012 - 5:29pm
Thank you for a thorough and heart-felt commentary.
I don't know if his spiscopal brothes will speak publicly about this or reighn him in, but perhaps the IRS will.

But the larger isssues about speaking out..now that they're coming after the sisters, Martin Niimoller's phrase seems more appropriate. I think that each of us- not just we blog junkies and letter writers and theologians - need to speak out- and let the chips fall...
Juan Lino | 4/23/2012 - 5:26pm
Hmm… the post reminds me of “hopscotch” because it seems to jump to and from many elements.  On the whole, I agree with Josh that the post can be perceived as “the pot calling the kettle black.”  That’s not to say that it doesn’t have some interesting points that I’d like to address.
 
I attend daily Mass at a Jesuit parish and I can tell you that the priests I encounter reflect the spectrum of the Church as she exists today – some are absolutely orthodox and others aspire to a level I would call “beyond heterodoxy”; and that shouldn’t surprise anyone.  I presume the same is true with the members of the LCWR as well as my home parish.  So yes, I agree that thanking the sisters for their contribution is indeed a wonderful thing to do although I wouldn’t say they are “the very backbone of the church”. 
 
Regarding Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, while it’s not a style of rhetoric that many are attracted to today, that doesn’t mean it should be an unlawful style.  Many use it and it’s effective.  (Perhaps the style bothers me less because of my upbringing!).  But “bad style” style doesn’t mean “erroneous content”, and it’s important to remember that.  I strongly disagree that the Bishops are the Republican Party at prayer just as I would strongly disagree that the Jesuits are the Democtrratic Party at prayer – evidence sometimes not withstanding!  ; )
 
When one is in a political fight it’s sometimes necessary to join hands with someone you would normally distance yourself from for the sake of the common good.  Sure, if the Church’s members were impeccable that might not happen, but they are not and so they won’t.  However, until your order starts to do the same with its members I wouldn’t throw stones.  
 
And yes, I agree that the Jesuits appear to be more “gay friendly” but there are many reasons why that might be so, and I am not excluding behavioral reasons.  But I do agree that in some other parishes a person with SSA can be treated as an untouchable. 
 
Regarding your quote from the Tablet which starts: "Tacit disobedience in practice…” I blame the Church’s poor catechesis during my lifetime! Priests, nuns, catechists, etc., did not teach the Faith and so while MTV, etc., evangelized the People of God they did nothing! 
 
Lastly, I agree with St. Canisius’s approach, even though my comment my not exhibit that.  ; )
Thomas Farrell | 4/23/2012 - 4:56pm
The church should expunged and abandon a number of its teachings based on the Catholic tradition of so-called "natural law" moral theory, including the church's opposition to artificial contraception, the church's opposition to legalized abortion in the first trimester, and the church's opposition to same-sex marriage under state law.

But the Catholic bishops, including of course the pope, are too stubborn to make such changes in the church's teachings.

The Catholic bishops, including the pope, are also too stubborn even to change church laws and customs that would allow the church to have married priests and women priests.

Now, from my study of the historical Jesus, I have concluded that he was a local do-gooder who did not set out to found a church. Instead, he set out to proclaim something and to attract other locals to what he was proclaiming.

But what was he proclaiming? The Greek words in the New Testament are usually rendered as the kingdom of God. However, I learned from David M. Stanley, S.J., that the Greek words can be rendered as the reign of God. (Stanley translated the Gospel According to John for the New English Bible, which is now known as the Revised English Bible. So his professional expertise in ancient Greek was recognized by his professional peers who selected him as one of the translators in the NEB/REB.)

So I'm going to take a hint from Stanley and say that the historical Jesus was proclaiming the reign of God. More specifically, he was proclaiming that the reign of God has come.

So the historical Jesus was proclaiming that the reign of God has come, and he was trying to interest other locals in the reign of God, which is to say the experience of the reign of God.

So, Fr. Coleman, if you want to be in the society of the historical Jesus, you should seek to experience the reign of God in your life, as he did in his life.

Ah, but where might you experience the reign of God? Around the locals, who might also be referred to as neighbors.
Stephen SCHEWE | 4/23/2012 - 4:19pm
Thanks, Father John, for your thoughtful reflection on current relationships between the leaders and the led.  I can confirm that many of us see parishes led by men from religious orders, as well as monastery and convent churches, to be oases in the current climate.  When I was on the parish council of a Minnesota parish in 2002 and our pastor announced plans to retire, we considered petitioning the diocese to allow us to be led by an order priest like a Benedictine or a Jesuit.  We decided at the time that it made more sense to stay engaged with the diocese by welcoming one of their priests.  I'm sad to say that our subsequent experience led us to conclude that we had made the wrong decision.

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to hear a story from a very traditional priest of my acquaintance about a gathering of priests sometime last year in Chicago. The speaker at that meeting, Cardinal George, said during his remarks that he expected he would be able to retire peacefully from the episcopate, but that he expected his successor would die in jail, and that his successor's successor would be martyred.  I can't confirm this secondhand story, but if true, it speaks to the level of paranoia that's influencing decisionmaking at the highest levels of the American church.  There may be more bishops in sympathy with Bishop Jenky's perceptions of civil authority than ordinary Catholics could possibly imagine.
Joshua DeCuir | 4/23/2012 - 4:18pm
By "intemperate", don't you just really mean "A Bishop said ___________" [followed by a statement with which you disagree]?

Whether they are saints or not, Levada and Sartain are intelligent, moderate and thoughtful; yet here they are accused of being "ingrateful" for the work of women religious.  Certainly the good work of women religious is not being impugned by questioning a relatively small organization that reprsents some women religious.  To suggest otherwise strikes me as "intemperate" in its own way.

Finally, if what we have is a dialogue, doesn't that require an openness to the possibility of legitimate critique?  That the "other" (even if he or she works in a Vatican dicastery or chancery) might have a legitimate point of view?
Jack Rakosky | 4/24/2012 - 9:40pm
Support the Sisters; scrutinize and reform the Bishops, both here and in Rome.
Michael Barberi | 4/24/2012 - 6:02pm
Juan:

I don't disagree that the Church can do a much better job in teaching catechesis. The issues that have and are dividing our Church are not issues of faith, they are primarily moral issues involving sexual ethics. I say primarily, not to minimize other significant issues such as the divorced and remarried, the role of women in the Church, ecumenism and the profound disagreement over the meaning of Vatcan II which has lead to its inadequate fulfillment.

Surveys after surveys demonstrate that about 40% of priests today and a significant majority of nuns do not believe that contraception is always immoral. Those priests that do believe in Humanae Vitae do not have any better tools or argumentations today, no better catechesis, than those issued during the 1970s-1990s. The teachings about birth regulation and contraception continue to be in tension with marriage and human experience and to most Catholics unintelligible, unreasonable and insensible. This is the reason for its non-reception.

The Roman Curia is silencing any dissent to its teachings among seminarians, priests and bishops. The late JP II required all of them to sign a new Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity. Priests who were relunctant to sign and take it were not punished, but they were excluded from important positions in the church. As a result, silence ensued as a demonstration against repression and stirct obedience regardless of conscience. So, we live in a divided church and in a crisis of truth. However, there is hope and the Austrian Priests Initiative is one example of it.
Mike Evans | 4/24/2012 - 11:05am
It would be great if such enthusiasm and fervor were engendered by the recent letter to Paul Ryan and Republican congressional leadership about the failure of their budget proposals to reflect a preferential option for the poor. The current House budget would drastically cut essential domestic programs in order to increase defense (offense?) spending and avoid raising taxes on the richest 1%. The bishops could not be more conflicted and obtuse.  We seem to be back to the 1950's with cold war paranoia and McCarthyism throughout our church. We are certainly not a haven for peaceful or respectful discussion of issues. And in some dioceses like mine, nearly 50% of clergy come from foreign third world origins and have no experience whatsoever with American politics, history or culture wars. They are too ready to adopt the hard line of whatever their bishop says. Meanwhile, our fellow religious colleagues are puzzled and dismayed by this reactive conservatism and appeal to 'church authority.'
Joshua DeCuir | 4/24/2012 - 9:47am
"The 300 US bishops are being drowned out by the shouters and the ambitious ones. . The title of this thread is "Intemperate Episcopal Rhetoric" . And Vince K, thank you for the USCCB quotes. How many bishops 'go all the way' to the SC.. A lot."

So again, I ask the question: where in the above quoted statements is a statement of a single bishop that he thinks the ACA should be stricken down on the basis of the Commerce Clause?  The provided quotes are extremely broad and generic: indeed, I think I read similar such statements made last week in reference to the Republican budget.  The USCCB pledged to work to defeant proposals which, in their view, undermine Catholic social teaching.  I didn't hear many on here evicertaing the bishops' statements last week as "fakery."

It seems to me we pick and choose where our outrage falls: if the bishops' statement support my political (among other) beliefs - HOORAY!, if they contradict them - they're nothing but a shouting, ambitious bunch of hypocrties.  The total erosion of mutual respect and trust among co-religionists is what saddens me.  How can we hope to have a positive influence on the national dialogue as Catholics, when we are so quick to assume the worst about each other?
Helen Mc Devitt-Smith | 4/24/2012 - 12:22am
Joe Kash:
Bishop Sartain’s sister is a member of the Dominicans of St Cecilia, a community who wears a full habit and is considered to be a true example of a tradition-based community of sisters. My guess is that their community leaders are not members of the LCWR but rather the parallel group, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) who wear an identifiable habit.
If I am correct, then I would say Bishop Sartain most definitely has a "conflict of interest."