The National Catholic Review

I am currently reading, and inspired and challenged by, Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea's remarkable psychoanalytic study of the Catholic abuse crisis, Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (Vanderbilt University Press, 2007). Many America readers will recall that Frawley-O'Dea was selected to give a presentation on abuse to the Catholic bishops at their crucial meeting in Dallas in June 2002, and many as well will remember how important was her presence and presentation at that watershed event.

Among many poignant, subtle, and arresting arguments in Perversion of Power -- a great deal of which has to do with untangling the relationship between sexuality and clerical narcissism in the governance structures of the church -- I was also moved by her declaration at the beginning of the book, in the "Personal Preface", that after a painful search, Frawley-O'Dea has left Catholicism for the Episcopal Church, a move she discusses frankly.

This arc -- she worked with the bishops, she counseled priests and victims/survivors, she faced the corrupt and abusive dimensions of the church's way of proceeding, and then she left Catholicism and joined the Episcopal Church -- this arc seems somehow symbolic for where American Catholicism, or at least one strong dimension of it, seems to be going: an increasingly frank settling of accounts by American Catholics who are going to do what seems best for them to do in face of all that is being learned about Catholicism through the crisis, whether those responses are struggling for reform from within or (more typically) marginal affiliation or disaffiliation. 

Indeed, a new courage for telling the truth about the range of affiliations in and out of Catholicism seems to have taken over in the last several years, and I wonder if 2010 was the year in which this dynamism reached a certain irreversibility. The data about people leaving the church or marginally affiliating are now increasingly not only known but being slowly and unevenly integrated into everyday consciousness, if not church planning. Peter Steinfels and Cathleen Kaveny, among many others, have written powerfully of the feeling of this new moment, in which -- more than ever, and with more educated and confident awareness than ever -- those raised Catholic realize that they can redefine, however actively or passively, their relationship to Catholicism in ways that part with official expectations, and the sky will not fall.

On Catholic blogs, the frank discussion can be found in ways that seem remarkable even to me, someone raised after the Council, for whom the fragmentation-restoration tug of war in the church was supposedly old hat. This moment of frankness, though, seems new.

An article by Charles Blow in today's New York Times seems also to capture this mood. Titled "Religion and Representation", Blow mentions casually that he left born-again Christianity and has become religiously "unresolved," and that he supports his son's ongoing spiritual searching, relatively detached from religious institutions. Blow then points to data showing the percentage of Americans who call themselves religiously unaffiliated at 16% (and, I presume, still rising). He wonders whether these Americans are represented in the new Congress.

It could be that I am late in recognizing a consciousness that was already sufficiently generalized many years ago, but Catholicism seems to be crossing over into some genuinely new post-Catholic space of awareness -- within, on the margins of, and outside the Catholic Church. Was 2010 a crucial year in that space of awareness?

Tom Beaudoin

Hastings-on-Hudson, New York


Matt Emerson | 1/11/2011 - 2:53pm
Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful responses to my question.  I need to order a lot of books, I think, to gain something definitive.  It appears this thread has dissolved, but in the interest of finishing what I started...

1.  My guess, a guess which admittedly requires additional verification, is that prior decades of Church history presented equally troubling examples of poor decision-making and misbehavior at all levels of the Church.  But we are the heirs and beneficiaries of many saints who looked at a troubling situation and chose to stay, chose to work within the Church.  To what extent is their response normative for us? 

2.  The effort to separate Catholicism from what what is called the "hierarchy" (Bishops, Cardinals, Popes) and to claim authentic Catholicism (see #46, above) seems tenuous.  Fr. Francis Sullivan, S.J., one of the modern experts on ecclesiology (and no right-wing Catholic), has written that the credo ecclesiam of our Baptism as Catholics commits us to the following:

" . . . that we believe that the episcopal and papal structure of the Catholic Church corresponds to God's design for His Church.  We believe that the authority with which Bishops and Popes lead and teach in the church ultimately comes to them from Christ, and that in the exercise of their office they enjoy a special assistance of the Holy Spirit, in virtue of which we believe that when they teach in a definitive way they will not lead the church into serious errors in its faith, and that even in their non-definitive teaching they provide generally reliable witness to the faith of the church."  (Sullivan, S.J., Creative Fidelity:  Weighing and Intepreting Documents of the Magisterium, p. 6).

3.  In light of number two, can there be an authentic Catholic faith without recognizing the authority of the episcopal-or, if you'd like, the hierarchical-structure of the Church? 

I know this thread is probably over, but still a lot to be discussed...
Vince Killoran | 1/10/2011 - 2:06pm
Thanks David, but I'm not certain you can write with accuracy that "almost all writers here are Americans, who know only the present."  I've been visiting this blog for a couple of years and I've been impressed by the informed, educated manner of many of the contributors (of course, at post #33 I groused about the "slush" that people contribute to this site as well!).

Is your point that we should study periods in which the Church suffered from "corruption, abuse, and scandel" as a way of framing our response (a bit of the "useable past"), or are you arguing that we should all just buck up because things were a lot worse in the bad old days? I hope it's the former. . .
Jack Barry | 1/10/2011 - 11:57am
Tom Beaudoin's question on the irreversibility of the dynamism he observes allows a speculative answer.   On the current Catholic Church turmoil, bloggers talk to bloggers, rarely with significant impact.   Conflicting certainties, whether factual, imaginary, or ad-hoc, are exchanged with vigor but seldom with noticeable effect.  Lecturers, authors, and neighbors carry on in similar fashion on the subject.   A description better than I could produce that fits this interactive process comes from the Merton quote linked to by Deacon David Backes in #21 above.   As Merton said, in seeking truth, ''we are not able to act always in this respect according to our nature'', i.e., to seek pure truth.  (The phenomenon he describes may be observed in barrooms, academia, formal conferences, and learned journals as well as on the Internet.)   
Reversal of the dynamism Beaudoin refers to would require compromise of their present heart-felt stances by many.   Conscious compromise requires pre-existing trust.   Trust in the institutional church has been deteriorating for years because of human actions and inactions of some in the hierarchy, including Pope, and the clergy.   Restoration of institutional trust, if even possible, would be a very long and uncertain process.  In the meantime, compromise is not to be expected; in fact, it would be unjustifiable.  And renewed trust alone could only enable compromise; other reasons would be needed to motivate it.  Therefore, the dynamism will persist, and parts will continue to fly off in various directions until some state of equilibrium evolves, as happened 500 to 400 years ago.    History suggests reversal is unlikely when spiritual convictions are at the heart of the matter.   
ROBERT NUNZ MR | 1/10/2011 - 11:48am
Brett Joyce's ideological ramblings  made me think of St. Paul telling us that without charity, we are just "noisy gongs."
The ideological play up is one reason Tom B.'s post is meaningful -if we have to march to the "smaller,purer"drummer many now hear emanating from the putative orthodox, including hierachy, the marginalization spoken of becomes drift and departure for some.
A profound problem is that voices of moderation are often quelled.I think what hapened to the National Pastoral Life Center and the Common Ground initiative are examples of how that approach tends to be either crushed or brushed aside.
I return also to my original coment here -emphases on "punishment" by the likes of Cardinal George will only further alienate many thoughtful catholics (who see his approach as to try to bring everyone into his line of thinking by coercion.)
My own view is that furture is less than promising and the world of blogdom  underscores that view.
Anonymous | 1/10/2011 - 10:20am
Robert - I was not mocking him - he said that he was not a priest; however, failed to mention he was indeed a seminarian.

Just because I bluntly challange the liberal orthodoxy of this board (and of Mr. Keane) does not warrent his suggestion that I am in favor of protecting those responsible for the abuse crisis.

This is not the first time Jim has come on to attack me in particularly mean spirit - gives one pause considering he is studying to be a priest.  What happens when one of his flock challenges him?

david power | 1/9/2011 - 8:50pm
Why do you put SJ after your name if you are not a Priest.Are you a brother or something else ?
Bill Mazzella | 1/8/2011 - 2:54pm
When Hans kung was asked why he did not leave the church he answered: "It did not work with Luther." The abuse revealed much about the leadership in the church. But many saw this already. They did not need this crisis. Kung has been calling for renewal for fifty years and there are many example of his and other efforts being effective. The problem with Frawley-O'Dea is that she saw the evil of the hierarchy up close and personal but she must have found that the Episcopal church has its flaws also. Luther did some good things but he made some very serious mistakes. He, Calvin and others equaled the inquisition in torturing and killing others. 

We have to work within the church and challenge our bishops to be better and stop being LORDS  and start being servants. Perhaps the greatist Catholic of our times is Theodore Hesburgh. As John Tracy Ellis wrote when comparing Hesburgh to Bishops it is not even close.

We have to learn to work within our church with courage, dedication and hard work. It is easy to leave and seek acceptance in other places. We have to build up our church. Not leave it nor excuse it.  
Vince Killoran | 1/10/2011 - 3:26pm
History doesn't reapeat itself, and it's not worth studying for a vague appreciation of the past: the questions we pose about the past  tell us much more about ourselves now than those in the past.
Jack Barry | 1/10/2011 - 3:25pm
Matt E. -
Depending on whom you ask, things are better than ever today, not worse, in most respects:  

In times past, over about a millenium, the pope was able to call on major military forces of kings, princes, and the Vatican in efforts to impose and maintain Christian unity in Europe and South America.   Questioning was harshly opposed.

The Inquisitions, which spanned about six centuries in Europe and Latin America, were powerful in persuading Christians not to become even suspected of having disloyal, much less heretical, thoughts.   These corrective measures stopped early in the nineteenth century (1820).  
Before the Bible was translated into local languages and radio was invented, total knowledge about the Church for most Christians in the world was limited to whatever they were told by the local priest or a traveling missionary.    Worldwide press and publishing, TV, and Internet make available information, accurate and otherwise, everywhere to anyone interested today.   When St. Peter Damian wrote his harsh critique of clerical sexual behavior (1049), it was limited to hand-made copies in Latin.   A discussion of it in English can be found at  and many other sites to which Google can point you in the next few minutes.   Church practices dependent on the ignorance of the laity have lost most of the value they formerly had.  
Jim McCrea | 1/10/2011 - 3:07pm
"Are things worse now than they have ever been?  Do Catholics today have more incentive to depart the Church than they did during prior episodes of corruption, abuse, and disappointment?"

Most of us didn't live in nor experience what passes for church in the "then."  We are here in the "now" and only have that experience on which to base our decisions.  I am sure that if I had been around at the time of the Reformation I would have joined Luther without the slightest pang of conscience or guilt.

I keep this thought from a wise cleric in mind more and more these days:

"God will see you through when you believe you’re through."  Abp Gabriel Zubeir Waco of Khartoum.
James O'Reilly | 1/10/2011 - 2:10pm
For David Smith:
While history is always interesting and useful, each generation's reality is what motivates their actions, or not.
Thus, irrespective of how corrupt the Church may have been in past periods, that is only informative but not decisive in a decision by a member of today's Church to ''quit'' or not.
Humans do not base their decisions on historical experience (though perhaps they should give it more weight before acting), they decide based on today's reality for each individual at a given point in time.
Matt Emerson | 1/10/2011 - 1:30pm
Question for Everyone, especially for Church historians:

Is there any reason to leave the Church now that hasn't been present at some time during the history of the Church-e.g., during the decades leading up to the Reformation?  Put another way:  Are things worse now than they have ever been?  Do Catholics today have more incentive to depart the Church than they did during prior episodes of corruption, abuse, and disappointment?

Vince Killoran | 1/10/2011 - 11:33am
I'm trying to locate the "particularly mean spirited[ed]" manner in which Jim Keane attacked Brett-are they his comments in #15?  That seems like a vigorous rejoinder, not an attack. Jeez- I am amazed at the patience of the AMERICA editors with the slush that some people post.

In any case, I'm intrigued by Tom B.'s post and interested in knowing more about people like me who are increasingly marginalized by a church hierarchy but stay anyways.  Maybe it's the emotional pull of family and ethnicity, perhaps a sense of possibility on the margins. These days Garry Wills, WHY I AM CATHOLIC has become necessary antidote to the "pray, pay, & obey" model. The biggest challenge is convincing my kids that parish life should be central to their formation.
James O'Reilly | 1/10/2011 - 11:31am
Having struggled for many years with the discord in the church I was born into, I have not left because I believe it is my church as much as the clerical heirarchy's.
Now, in my seventh decade I am beginning to sense a tidal change towards Lay governance of the Church. The shrinking number of priests, and the loss of credibility of the Vatican, may well be God's plan to renew the church.
The laity will have little recourse but to step up and begin to fulfill the role of Administrators of the Church, and the clergy, because of their scarcity, will increasingly be limited to their unique role as dispensers of the sacraments, and consoling the sick, weary and bereaved. The clergy will, hopefully, become ''of the people'' as in the early years of the Church, not a superior ''brotherhood''. This may well eventually lead to a married priesthood and female priests in time, but probably not in my lifetime.
Thus, I no longer get angry at the arrogance of the bishops and their syncophants, since they are exhibiting the typical behavior of an entitled class that is in the throes of becoming extinct. I support my parish, and my pastor who is a good man, and ignore the bishop and others who don't support the Laity's role in the Church. I pray for peaceful and positive change in the Church, and that the victims of clerical arrogance and misbehavior get special Grace from God to recover from their mistreatment.
However, I AM NOT leaving the Church! I am simply ignoring those priests who are unable to understand their role in God's plan for mankind, and the our Church.
Robert Killoren | 1/10/2011 - 8:32am

The tone of this discussion only changed and became ad hominem when you came on board. I think you owe Jim an apology. You have really crossed the line here in mocking him and implying that since he is seminarian he is somehow unqualified to be an associate editor. I am pleased that his Jesuit superior has given him a chance to have this Catholic journalism experience during his regency. Whether he is a priest or not, he deserves our respect, as you expect others to respect you.

Deacon Killoren 
Coblentz Jessica M. | 1/10/2011 - 2:42am
Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Tom. Will pass it along to many, many friends who will find interest in and resonance with your reflection...
Anonymous | 1/9/2011 - 10:45pm

Mr. Keane, should you state that you are a seminarian? 

Associate editor of America???
Anonymous | 1/9/2011 - 10:36pm
Jim Keane (S.J.)

Whether you are a priest or not, your ad hominem attacks do not reflect well on America Mag and the Jesuits.  Despite your insinuations, I - like all Catholics - deplore the abuse crisis and seek reforms to prevent such attrocities. 

We simply have different views on the origin - you say the bishops, I say the with the infection of moral relativism and modern sexual disorentation of priests of that period.

I am not putting all of the necessary responsibility on the pope, nor am I an expert on the subject.  However, some bishops were at fault (even liberals such as in LA or the Netherlands) but, I find the demonization of all of the "hierarchy" and attacks on basic Christian teaching by posters on this thread a bit much.  I would expect someone associated with the Jesuits to provide more nuance comment rather than taking sides with such absurdity and malice as demonstrated above saying the "rot" comes from the teachings of the Church.

Of course there were unjust bishops - but this does not address the root of the problem.  And of course there was abuse before the 60s - but no where near the level that occurred during this period of sexual revolution and social upheval in the Church and society.

Here is an informative graph on the correlation:

Some posters call for more liberal measures in the Church to somehow address the rot caused by modern liberalism.  They are calling for new morally relativistic ideologies to address the damage caused by earlier forms of relavatism.

This is bit like calling on a arsonist for advice on how to stop a fire.
Crystal Watson | 1/9/2011 - 10:05pm
Brett writes ... "As for the abuse crisis, this rot was created by the liberalization that allowed for an influx of homosexuality and liberal sexual morals into the seminaries during the 60's and 70's - the John Jay report shows this clearly in its stats."

I think you're wrong - sex abuse has always existed, it wasn't invented in the 60s, and there's no connection between homosexuality and pedophilia -  but what I think especially exemplifies the "rot" is the church hierarchy's cover-up of the abuse  ... Law gets a promotion, Brady keeps his job, and the pope protects himself from giving testimeony with his immunity as head of state. 
Anonymous | 1/9/2011 - 6:44pm

Fr. Keane: "There will obviously be no solution to the problem of sexual abuse and its systematic coverup if the desire to see it eliminated is identified as its cause. Then again, that might not be what you're aiming at."

This is a fine piece of clericalism right here. 

I.e. - stating that if I question the liberal rhetoric of Fr. Keane and other posters who call for radical changes to Christian teaching, then I just might be for enabling abusers...

That is quite counter argument there,
Anonymous | 1/9/2011 - 6:27pm
It is interesting that Fr. Keane blast me for addressing the self-righteous rhetoric of the above posters but says nothing of the blatent liberal, anti-Catholic words found above my post...

For example, by Anne: "Catholics can do nothing about the rot - especially since this rot is supported by teachings, which the laity cannot influence."

Do you belong to a Church that is rotten to the core (i.e. - simply does not give in to the liberal trends of day).  Is this what you believe Fr. Keane, if not, why not speak out against such absurd rhetoric??

As for the abuse crisis, this rot was created by the liberalization that allowed for an influx of homosexuality and liberal sexual morals into the seminaries during the 60's and 70's - the John Jay report shows this clearly in its stats.

Modern liberalism and it's attendant ideologies (combined with clericalism) is what has created the rot and this is exactly what Benedict is addressing as we speak. 
david power | 1/9/2011 - 2:56pm
I think that it is unfair to call those who are disgusted by the behaviour of Bishops ,Cardinal and Popes as fairweather catholics.
I was all in favour of the high standards that the last Pope preached ,as it turns out even moreso than him.
What is crushing to people like Frawley-O' Dea is probably not the high standards but the double standards.
I agree with Brett that the Pope is trying his best to root out the rot and this can be seen in some seemingly insignificant details but he is too timid or prudent to speak more plainly about the "filth" he is surrounded by.  
The clerical stranglehold on reform of any kind is seemingly countered in history by Saints but even they are usually only given the green light if the collar or the habit is on.
Most Bishops spend their day in an atmosphere of Faith and speaking to Priests or else devout catholics and in interviews they cannot operate very well out of that limited lexicon. The Lord has been busy this last year trying to eliminate their pedestal and we must be vigilant that they dont    get the chance to make new ones. 
John Shuster | 1/9/2011 - 2:08pm
The Roman Catholic priesthood has become a predominantly gay profession.  This has created an atmosphere of sexual politics that is very different from the mixed hetero/homo interaction that we have in everyday mainstream life.  While the priesthood is a safe haven and a comfortable culture for a persecuted sexual minority, this also requires an atmosphere of secrecy that is vulnerable to blackmail and extortion since most Catholics in the pew are not ready to support a sexually active gay clergy.
ROBERT NUNZ MR | 1/9/2011 - 1:50pm
Just want to note the latest posting by Msgr. Harry Byrne at Archangel on  the need for the Church leadership, from top down, to stop blaming the laity and  the need to think about reforming themselves.
I keep thinking as I get older how much more we can learn and how good it is, even as our aches and pains grow, that we can still keep our minds sharp.
If the Church wants to talk to us, it can't be a talk down and it's our fault for what's gone wrong.
As Msgr. Byrne urges, there is a major need for leadership to LISTEN.
Anonymous | 1/9/2011 - 12:44pm
Benedict knows where the "rot" in the Church is located and he is reforming the ideologies that have created it, that is why these posters and the Commonwealers are up in arms.

For those critiquing arrogance of the leadership, I have never seen so much self-congratulations and hubris as I see in these liberal activists.  "I am right, I am holy - they are scum" is the general tone here...

As Chesterton said, revolutionaries are right about what is wrong, but wrong about what it right.


Charle Reisz | 1/9/2011 - 12:01pm
The rot is fundamental and self perpetuating in the heirarchy that has declared itself to be absolute rulers of the religion and absolute interpreters of the faith and of God's will.  There is no provision for correction or reform by anyone other than the heirarchy.  Maybe over centuries but I don't expect to be around that long. 
Crystal Watson | 1/9/2011 - 3:39am
I sadly agree with Ann when she writes:  "Catholics can do nothing about the rot - especially since this rot is supported by teachings, which the laity cannot influence."

I thought for sure when the most recent abuse scandal in Germany and Belgium  was in the news, and the pope was even somewhat implicated in the cover-ups, that finally  some real change in the church would take place - maybe a change in celibacy, or in the impunity enjoyed by guys like Cardinal Law, or in women's ordination, or if nothing else in the way the pope is viewed - but nothing has really changed.  Thirteen people who were abused in Europe by priests committed suicide and nothing rchanged. 

As Bill said, there are groups like VOTF and Call to Action and Womenpriests, etc .... they may have an effect on the faithful but they have not managed to change the church hierarchy and its views at all, as far as I can see.  Women's ordination  was recently made (more clearly) anathema, we are no closer to allowing married men to be priests, and Cardinal Law continues to fail upwardly.
Jack Barry | 1/9/2011 - 12:06am
Bill - 

Can you name any evidence for the statement ''The Vatican realizes it must reform'' or of the reform you say is being spearheaded by loads of theologians?  
Bill Mazzella | 1/8/2011 - 11:46pm
"Catholics can do nothing about the rot - especially since this rot is supported by teachings, which the laity cannot influence."

Ann, Really, we have made a lot of progress since Vatican II. We have the vernacular in the Liturgy with rules for better homilies, more women are involved in ministry and more. We have respectable lay organization like VOTF, Women's ordination, Call to Action, Future Church and the like. More women are getting theology degrees than ever. Voices like National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal prod the bishops and pope to be true to the mandates of Jesus. Loads of theologians are spearheading the effort of reform. The Vatican realizes that it must reform. Europe has virtually ignored Rome. There as hardly been a time in the history of the church where the people have demanded that the leaders serve better and be true to the gospel. 

We are a church of sinners. There is the universally accepted mandate: "The church must always reform itself." Ecclesia semper reformanda.

We have done much and can do more.  
J B | 1/8/2011 - 10:06pm
Many prefer not to see it, but there is rot at the very top of the institution. Do you not think it possible that this rot is rooted in some of the institutional church's own teachings?  This situation puts Catholics in a bind - they are members of an institutional church that literally claims to speak for God and they are ''bound'' to obey those at ''the top.''  This is not a church that recognizes that THE church is not limited to a few thousand hierarchs, nor gives its membership a voice in its governance, nor in the development of teachings, even though Cardinal Newman recommended ''consulting the faithful on matters of doctrine.''  It would never cross their minds to do such a thing - they expect what Pius X expected - a docile laity, who realized that their job is to obey.

so, as a practical matter (not just theoretical), Catholics can do nothing about the rot - especially since this rot is supported by teachings, which the laity cannot influence. So what do you suggest Catholics who identify with the church primarily at the parish level and wish to remain in their parish level do in order to not be participants in the ongoing rot and corruption at the top, which they are powerless to change?
J B | 1/8/2011 - 8:14pm
"For Catholics who see abusive priests and too-tolerant bishops and popes as signs of elemental rot, there's no door but out."

How do you see them, David?
Jim McCrea | 1/8/2011 - 5:22pm
I don't think we are dealing with post-Catholicism as much as post-ROMAN Catholicism.

I no longer define myself as Roman - or even American - Catholic.  Rather, my Catholicism is defined by membership in my parish, no more, no less.  The universal aspect of Catholicism is no longer defined for me by Rome or any bishop's/archbishop's domain.

"When Pius X died, the conclave of 1914 elected Benedict XV, who immediately issued an encyclical (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum - calling on Catholics ‘to appease dissension and strife" so that "no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith.’
‘There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism,’ he concluded. ‘It is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname’
David Gibson, “Who Is a Real Catholic?” The Washington Post, Sunday, May 17, 2009
Jack Barry | 1/8/2011 - 4:55pm
Starting with the 1st Commandment, we are advised to pay attention to whom and what we worship.   Many appear to have figured out where God, Jesus, Pope, and bishops should stand in the hierarchy, and it's not reflected in some of the Catholic Church institutional practices and preaching observable today.    
My wife and I have lived with three markedly different variants of the active Catholic Church  -  a legalistic Latin phase, a Vatican II phase, and the ongoing reform-the-reform, cover-up-abuse phase.   In this phase, a complaint is often heard about the ''apathy'' of ''lapsed'' Catholics.   That view is hard to support in the face of the evidence, a small sample of which can be found in comments on the America article ''On Their Way Out'':  
Passion is the opposite of apathy.  It is found in great abundance and diversity among many honest, thoughtful, well-informed individuals driven to try to do what God wants, and lapsing is an inaccurate way to describe their efforts.   
Hans Kung hasn't left the church to which he has dedicated a long life, but the church has discarded him as far as official formality will allow.   Meanwhile, the 500th anniversary of what Martin Luther started will be celebrated by many in 2017.   
Anne Burke has been pleading eloquently for truthfulness since leaving the Review Board.  Her latest at:
In a 2011 space of awareness, it is difficult to know what is included when ''the Church'' or ''Catholics'' or ''Catholicism '' is spoken of as if it were a single unit, defined by the commonality of its contents.   The key question is on the existence and strength of the irreversibility that Tom Beaudoin wonders about. 
ROBERT NUNZ MR | 1/8/2011 - 2:14pm
Or perhaps 2011.
John Allen is his piece yesterday has Cardinal George talking about  our bishops strengthening their goveranace through "punishment."
I sense  that both policy wise and leadership wise, many are finding their Church out of touch with their lives,
Anne Burke, someone elsae who worked with the Review Board,  on line today has writen a piece about our bishops to really tell the truth.
If folks feel their relationships to their Church are  not able to be dealt with honestly, tehn weare in a bad way.
Anonymous | 1/11/2011 - 2:43am
Bill: "Restorationist Catholics like at EWTN and the Catholic Newman Society tout the old lies."

Why the need to vilifiy those with whom you disagree?

Bill Mazzella | 1/10/2011 - 9:21pm

We are a sinful church in an imperfect world. In my opinion, Catholics who are not blind followers of leaders who do not set an example, are more numerous and effective than ever. Unlike, St. Paul Rome, too often,  has chosen to govern by edict and interdict, not persuasion, building and working to bring God's people together.  So wherever you go you will find imperfect people. The church reigns with those who follow the beatitudes.
Bill Mazzella | 1/10/2011 - 9:13pm
I believe Jack has it right in #43. Church history was written on a partisan basis and many historians kept the Vatican line and distorted things. Only fifty years ago many of us believed that to even question a priest, bishop or pope was at least a venial if no mortal sin. We have more facts available in the last fifty years than we had in the last 2000. Even with that many who finally accepted that the sexual abuse of children is a fact did not do so until the Boston Globe made it crystal clear that it was and that Cardinal Law had to resign. 

Restorationist Catholics like at EWTN and the Catholic Newman Society tout the old lies. Today we will not tolerate clerical lies and domination. Those who want a church of the gospel water down nothing. They want the gospel of Jesus not a parade of peacocks with servants who are into domination not service. 
Dominic Tomasso | 1/10/2011 - 5:46pm
I have left the Catholic Church, but I still consider myself a Catholic. Catholicisim didn't let me down, the pope, the cardinals, the bishops organization and all the priests that failed God are responsible for my leaving.

The hierarchy are not the church. The church didn't fail us the heirarchy did. That is the way I see it.

I do not believe that the hierarchy will ever change because they have too much to lose and as long as they have Catholics that will still continue to accept these failed leaders they will never allow themselves to be held accountable.

Since the pope has not seen fit to correct the situation, there is no way in hell that  any change will come from inside.

This is the most difficult decision I have ever made in my life, but to continue to worship under these circumstances in a church where these failed leaders (criminals) are completely in control, is much more than my conscience will allow.

Dominic Tomasso
Advocate for Bishops Accountability.

Crystal Watson | 1/10/2011 - 5:09pm
David,  I have a masters degree in history  :)

Jim McCrea | 1/13/2011 - 6:53pm
"If the quote in #50-2 is taken literally, it's time to raise questions about the Holy Spirit -"

I don't think She has been involved in the machinations of this church for the last couple of hundred years! 

Here's a hint to that from You Know Who XVI:

" (He) was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected pope, and this was his response:
 I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope. … I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.
Then the clincher: There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have picked.”
 John L. Allen

"With the publication of a papal or hierarchical document that expresses a refusal to budge on an issue, an unwitting acknowledgment has been made of the fact that the turnabout is already in process. "      'Rynne's Law' from The Papacy Today by Francis X. Murphy.
Vince Killoran | 1/12/2011 - 1:03pm
Matt-I see your point but I think that you're not interpreting the comments accurately: it's not whether we "need" a hierarchy, but what kind.  Nicholas Lash's "Teaching or Commanding" article from last month is a very useful way to frame the discussion.
Jack Barry | 1/12/2011 - 2:15pm
Matt E. - 
A distinction needs to be made between the hierarchical structure of the institution and the live bodies filling positions in the structure.  Actions are by those people, not the theoretical structure, although the latter may encourage practices which others find undesirable.   Connecting today's structure directly with God's design seems a stretch.  Since the early centuries of the Church, authority, responsibilities, and power in the structure have shifted among bishops, cardinals, and popes a number of times through councils and papal decisions.   Vatican II considerations included lay roles.  To the extent the present structure is destructive, precedent could be found for adjusting it again.  Means for doing so seem to be the challenge, as well as enlisting the agents to lead.  
Specific people filling the structure are a separate issue.   If the quote in #50-2 is taken literally, it's time to raise questions about the Holy Spirit, given what we know of bishops in this generation facilitating, concealing, and executing crime-related activities in Austria, Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Italy, Mexico, Belgium, Ireland, Canada, US, and other countries.  The related teaching of the hierarchs may be non-definitive, but there is no doubt about the lesson taught and what many bishops stand for in certain areas of morality.   Re-positioning people with the same thinking and values in some optimum structure would offer little hope of beneficial change.