The National Catholic Review

A pastor in Oak Park, Ill., has apologized to the women and women religious of his parish for the Vatican's "insensitive and harsh words."  Here is the story from the local newspaper, the Journal of Oak Park and River Forest.

Rev. Larry McNally, pastor of Ascension Parish in Oak Park, couldn't remain silent. "One of our catechists quit teaching religious ed. We've been losing lectors and communion ministers all along," McNally said. "Then my spiritual director quit." Quit?

"Quit the church. Then I read the article by Sheila O'Brien in the Tribune ["Excommunicate me, please," Aug. 4]. That got to me. I had to do it."

"It" was a letter to the Commentary section of the [Chicago] Sun-Times, published Aug. 10, criticizing his church's hierarchy for its treatment of women--specifically equating the ordination of women with pedophilia and investigating women's religious orders.

This past Sunday, he wrote in the church bulletin, "As we celebrate this great feast of Mary, the Mother of God [the Feast of the Assumption], I want to take this opportunity to say to all of our wonderful and virtuous women that I am sorry. I apologize to each one of you for the insensitive and harsh words coming from the Vatican male hierarchy of the church."

"We have so many [women]religious who come to our church," McNally said. "I felt I had to say something."  As of Monday, he hadn't received a single negative comment. He knows they're coming, but he's overwhelmed by the positive feedback he's received.


Vince Killoran | 8/25/2010 - 1:40am
Ditto for the other Allen piece you laud as "balanced":

Allen writes, "[N]one of this is to suggest that Benedict's handling of the crisis - in Munich, at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or as pope - is somehow exemplary. An accounting needs to be offered if this pope, and the church he leads, hopes to move forward."

Vince Killoran | 8/24/2010 - 9:17pm
Why on earth should Catholics trust the very people at the center of the culture that made the abuse and its coverup possible?

You chose to defend Law on the narrowest of grounds Bain.  In general, I find that your lengthy defense of the hierachy is meant to impress us with its many links to articles. They don't-in part because these often do not even prove the dry fact you are attempting to establish, e.g.,  the Allen piece in the NCR concludes that Law has a "diminished but still active life in Rome." This is hardly proof that Law no longer holds "power or prestige."

Bain Wellington | 8/23/2010 - 10:32am
Dear Brendan,
Thank you, too, for providing more context for your objections.  I realise it is not enough to deal with your examples piecemeal, because your point is a general one; but in defence of the Holy Father let me say that no-one has said or done more in grappling with the crisis over the last decade.  John Allen wrote a balanced piece on this very subject  
For a review of events in 2010:
Read, especially, the communique issued by the president of the German Bishops' Conference after his audience with the Holy Father on 12 March.
To be sure, there is always more that can be done, but it is asking too much to expect him to devote his entire papacy to a single issue; the life of the Church continues in all its diversity and the Holy Father is at the centre of it all. 
On reflection, surely you will agree it is unreasonable to object to his taking a month's vacation – especially since he is devoting his time not to fishing, golfing or shopping, but to his central responsibility of teaching. 
The new examples you raise (questioning his judgement) are the rejection of the resignations of two Dublin auxiliary bishops, and the alleged rebuke of Cardinal Schönborn (an incident blown out of all proportion, but I am willing to return to it if you want me to).   For now, let me concentrate, if I may, on the Irish bishops' case: Eamonn Walsh (auxiliary since April 1990), and Raymond Field (auxiliary since September 1997). 
An investigation of clerical abuse in Dublin Archdiocese between 1975 and 2004 (and of its handling) was conducted by a government commission headed by a senior judge called Yvonne Murphy.  Their Report was published in July 2009.  Its most serious criticisms were directed at the period before 1996, noting that one of the problems was that the Archdiocese disregarded Canon Law (§§ 1.15, 1.16, 1.25).  It found as a fact that all the Archbishops and "many of the auxiliary bishops also" – during the relevant period – "were aware of some complaints [of clerical sexual abuse]" (§ 1.21).   Five auxiliary bishops who knew of such complaints are named at § 1.22.  Bishops Walsh and Field are not on that list. 
Indeed, the Report levelled no criticisms against either of them.   Why, then, did they offer to resign in December 2009?  Because their Archbishop (for no obvious reason) did not support them when asked if they had his confidence:
Diocesan bishops must tender their resignations from office (not from the episcopate) when they reach the age of 75, otherwise, only illness "or some other grave reason" making him "unsuited for the fulfillment of his office" justifies resignation from office under Canon 401 §2.   
So, what has the Holy Father done wrong in rejecting their resignations?  This is no time for a witch-hunt.  Only those who have done wrong should be chastized. 
Nor did Cardinal Law escape chastizement altogether. From the time of his resignation as Archbishop of Boston in December 2002 (in itself a not inconsiderable and humiliating chastizement, forced upon him by public opinion) until his appointment as archpriest of the Basilica of Sta Maria Maggiore in May 2004, he was chaplain to a community of nuns in the Washington D.C. area.  We do not know, but we can easily conclude, that this was a time of prayerful reflection and penance.  All the positions he currently holds as a member of various dicasteries (listed by you above) date, so I believe, from the time when he was Archbishop of Boston and will terminate, along with his right to participate in a conclave, when he reaches 80 in November next year.
The prevalent idea that Cardinal Law enjoys power and prestige in Rome is wide of the mark.  Take the case of the Congregation for Bishops, where there are three other Americans (Levada, Rigali and Stafford).  There is no evidence that his input results in "his men" (does he have any?) getting appointments.  On this whole question of Law's alleged influence in Rome, see, again, John Allen
Your over-riding point, of course, is your conviction that the Holy Father hasn't done enough to address what you call "hierarchical corruption and unaccountability".  But without specific instances there is nothing much I can do to assist beyond encouraging you to trust him (for I believe he deserves as much from us), and to be more sceptical about what people write and say about him to his detriment. We both agree, I am sure, that the Holy Father needs our prayers.
Incidentally, I shall be in Mexico for the next six weeks, so it is unlikely I shall have time or opportunity to continue this debate on this thread, but perhaps we shall encounter each other, in a fraternal way, on other threads later. 
Brendan McGrath | 8/23/2010 - 12:28am
Bain - Thanks so much for your post, and for recognizing where I'm coming from.  I should also say that I do appreciate your loyalty and commitment to the Church - we need that very much these days.

You wrote, "What you describe is not primarily attributable to anything the Holy Father has or has not done about Cardinal Law." - I suppose that's true to some extent: but think of the positive, relieved, hopeful reaction so many "average" Catholics would have if they saw Benedict remove him from power (you said that Cardinal Law's memberships in those congregations don't really put him in positions of power - is that really true?  It's certainly more power than lots of other bishops have, I'd imagine, and more power than priests, religious, and laity).  

You wrote that I seem "to feel that it is important that an example be made of him" - I guess you're right, although it's really more that for me, I use "Cardinal Law" as an example of the hierarchical corruption, unaccountability, etc. that I don't think Benedict has dealt with.  Cardinal Law is sort of the easiest one to point to in order to get my point across, since I don't think most people would defend him.  Perhaps now Cardinal Sodano could be mentioned as well: see Joseph Bottum's statement that "Cardinal Sodano has to go" over at First Things from back in May ( 

Perhaps we're all mistaken about their levels of guilt; who knows.  I do realize that it's not good to use someone as a scapegoat (maybe even if they are guilty), but... I mean, aren't ANY of the bishops here in America going to be held accountable?  As you might have guessed, though, it doesn't really matter to me in and of itself whether they're in positions of power still - part of me still tries to see the good in them.  Rather, what matters to me is the effect all of this is having on other people's faith.  I imagine that some would criticize me for this, saying that I don't really care about justice and the victims, but only about the Church.  I hope I care about both - but for me, I wouldn't really mind about Cardinal Law being where he is if it weren't for the fact that people are drifting from the Church. 

Yes, they say "it doesn't affect my faith," but by that they mean "faith in God" or "faith in Christ," etc. - it DOES affect their faith in lots of doctrinal matters.  Their faith in Christ gets shrunken down to exclude Christ's Mystical Body (the Church, considered in its widest boundaries) and the whole sacramental, incarnational, sanctifying dimension/impact/dynamic/reality of Christ upon the world.  They may believe in the Eucharist with one frame of mind, but something shifts inside them without their noticing it: for if you truly believe in the Eucharist, how could you let even the worst corruption on the part of the hierarchy stop you from going to Mass?  The scandals affect their faith concerning papal and ecclesial infallibility, the necessity of the Church for salvation (though of course baptism of desire, etc., and all the "footnotes" still apply), the divine origin of the papacy, episcopacy, and priesthood, and so much else.

As you went on to say, the scandals should not affect people's faith - i.e., we're not Donatists; sin on the part of popes, bishops, and priests is not an obstacle to grace "flowing" through them with regard to the sacraments and doctrinal authority, etc.  But unfortunately, so many Catholics aren't able to see it like that.  There's an ingrained assumption that if you don't practice what you preach, then what you preach isn't true.  Many did have an exaggerated confidence or expectation about the holiness of popes, bihsops, etc., as you said - and many think that they were TAUGHT to have that confidence, that they were TAUGHT to think priests were all holy, that they were TAUGHT that it was BECAUSE they were holy that they should believe the Catholic faith, etc.  (You hear the same thing when it comes to salvation outside the Church: "Oh, back when *I* was growing up, we were taught that non-Catholics went to hell!")Maybe that was informally taught or communicated, but it certainly wasn't official teaching - unfortunately it often happens that people mistakenly think they were taught something, when it was really just something they assumed, i.e., when it was really just the way they "heard" what was being said.  (Hence the surprise of many students when you tell them that according to Catholic doctrine, God is not male, and is neither male nor female, etc.)

So anyway, even though the sins and corruption of various bishops shouldn't cause people to drift from the Church, they nevertheless do cause that to happen.

You wrote that "The Holy Father sees the issues with great clarity and can act with boldness – one obvious instance is the treatment of Fr. Marcial Maciel (a step taken in the first year of his pontificate)."  But does he REALLY see it?  If so, why is he not right now in Ireland, meeting with victims, accepting rather than rejecting resignations, etc., etc.?  Why is he at Castel Gandolfo working on a book which, however brilliant and beautiful and worthwhile in and of itself, will not be taken seriously by the vast majority of people as long as he's rejecting resignations without any explanation, rebuking Schonborn rather than at least applauding his rightful conerns, saying that only a pope can criticize a cardinal rather than... I mean, why? 
Bain Wellington | 8/22/2010 - 8:20am
Dear Brendan,
I am humbled by the depth of feeling you show in your posts, and I apologise for not recognising it correctly until your most recent one.  My previous responses were, I now see, excessively clinical – although I don't resile from their content.
What you describe is not primarily attributable to anything the Holy Father has or has not done about Cardinal Law.  You seem, rather, to feel that it is important that an example be made of him; I disagree, but I hope we can debate that point without mistaken ideas about the nature of his guilt.  Plenty of people, distracted by media reportage, falsely believe he "fled" to Rome in order to escape the criminal jurisdiction of the US Courts.  He is not in any sense being shielded by the Holy Father from civil justice.
The anger and shame many Catholics feel about the abuse scandal (and sexual abuse is only a part of it) is a revulsion from sins committed by individuals.  If people put an exaggerated confidence in the personal holiness of priests and bishops, then their horror at the revelations of grave sins committed by priests and bishops (and – in the 9th and 10th centuries, and again in the Renaissance period – popes) can lead them to repudiate the Church. 
It may be humanly understandable, but it is inappropriate because, despite these sins, the truths of our faith remain undisturbed:- the Church was founded by Our Lord, it was to the Apostles under Peter to whom He confided the mission He Himself had received from the Father, and it is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church and prevents her from falling into error about God or about the nature and destiny of Man.
There is little space left in this post, but I keep two things in mind:  (1) The Holy Father sees the issues with great clarity and can act with boldness – one obvious instance is the treatment of Fr. Marcial Maciel (a step taken in the first year of his pontificate);  (2) Cardinal Law serves the Church by his membership of the Curial Congregations you listed, which are neither sinecures nor (since there are generally 20 prelates or so on each of those bodies) positions of power.  If the Holy Father considers that Cardinal Law can serve the Church in those arduous posts, that is enough for me.
Brendan McGrath | 8/21/2010 - 6:21pm
Bain - Yes, I suppose you're right, my view of the Cardinal Law case (and of the scandals as a whole) is driven in large part by media reports.  But it is also driven by the fact that my 95-year-old Irish Catholic grandmother, who once chided me for expressing disagreement with the pope when I was in eighth grade or so ("Who are you to disagree with the pope?" she asked), now, ever since the scandals broke in 2002, often voices the opinion that we should get rid of the entire hierarchy (even though she is still devoutly Catholic for the most part).  My view is driven by the fact that when I talk with her, I find that *I*, at 28 years old, am the one trying to persuade my grandmother - my 95-year-old Irish-Catholic grandmother - that she should still believe in the authority of the Church, etc.

My view is driven by the fact that my best friend since third grade, who attended Catholic grade and high schools with me, has left the Church - and his family has probably drifted too, his family who, when he went on vacation with my family, asked my Dad to make sure that he got to Mass on Sundays.  My view is driven by the fact that various other friends have drifted from the Church for all sorts of reasons, too.  And it is driven by the fact that my father, although he still manages to go to Mass each week, has an almost allergic reaction to priests and to the Church in general, as if he can only take so much of it.  My view is driven by the fact that the scandals have further disuaded my Dad from trying to allow Catholicism to play any sort of part in my little half-sisters' upbringing.  It is driven by countless heart-wrenching cases of people who have let the scandals push them away from the Church and the Catholic faith, by dioceses filing for bankrupcy, closing Catholic schools, and by the feeling that a world is slowly ending, even though, as a Theology teacher (and in a small way as a writer) I will not let it fade away without a fight.

Let me ask again - why should Benedict allow Cardinal Law to continue holding the positions of power that he has (see above for the list of his membership in various congregations, etc.), while prayer and penance was not enough for dissenting theologians?  I hope you can understand that my frustration arises out of a deep love of and loyalty to the Church.
Gail Grazie | 8/19/2010 - 11:52am
After Constantine, the Church became a political institution with enormous power and authority. Given the status of women in society at that time and for centuries thereafter, the ordination of women was not conceivable to men. The idea of ordinary women in powerful roles was not comprehensible or likely even contemplated by people, even women. Yes there were a few powerful queens, but they were accepted due to the lack of a male heir in the hereditary line of succession, e.g., Queen Elizabeth II. In any event and with all due respect, Jesus did say to Peter that he was the rock upon which the Church would be built, but He never said all the bricks had to be men.  Jesus had enormous respect for women and their intelligence and included them in His Work and Mission. Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, the woman by the well and all the other New Testament Women helped spread the Gospel message. In addition, there was no more significant an individual in the establishment of the Church  than Mary, Our Lord's Mother. What an incredilby heroic woman - the Church would not have existed without her strength, courage and faith. She gave birth to the Body of  Christ. I honestly do not see any theological basis for prohibition of the ordination of women. In my mind the prohibition results from women's historical role in earthly and human society which has been largely rejected today. The Catholic Church is one of the few instituions that continues to cling to this outmoded view of women. I do  believe I am still Catholic and will not accept any statement to the contrary by any person.  
Bain Wellington | 8/19/2010 - 2:01am
Molly and Stanley, if your comments are directed at my remarks they take the discussion nowhere.  I have set out an argument which you have either misunderstood or which you reject out of hand.  It is, however, the teaching of the Church.

No one here has denied or belittled the contributions of women in the Church's past and present.  No one here has attacked women, Stanley, so there is no call for you to "defend" them.  Name-calling is also out of place in rational discussion.
Molly Roach | 8/18/2010 - 8:38pm
What is with "feminized" and "effeminate" as criticism?  Also, read today's first
reading, Ezekiel 34, about the bad shepherds.  Our generation has not been spared this. 
Peter Lakeonovich | 8/18/2010 - 5:30pm
There is nothing alienating about the truth.  We should be confident about the truth of our faith and not doubt it for one second (even if, inevitably, we will).  Let's not be lukewarm about our faith for fear of alienating others.  What we know and believe about our faith needs to be spoken and shared with others.  There is little to admire in one who is tepid in what he or she believes because such person inspires no confidence of conviction in such beliefs.  If you have to break some eggs to bake a cake, we may have to hurt some feelings to save a soul.  (I suspect John Stehn's generation of JPII/B16 Catholics will do just that.)
Bain Wellington | 8/21/2010 - 2:02am
Barbara Peters needs to attend more carefully to what history teaches.  Within the Jewish tradition priests were exclusively male, but in the wider Greco-Roman world into which the Church rapidly spread in the decades immediately after the Resurrection, priestesses of pagan cults were a normal feature of life.  The widespread and popular cult of Isis (to take only one example) attests to this.  It is, therefore, not true to say that, at the time of Constantine (or, indeed, at any relevant time), "the ordination of women was not conceivable to men".

Nor is there any historical truth in Barbara's vast generalisation:- "The idea of ordinary women in powerful roles was not comprehensible or likely even contemplated by people".  No female ever held a formal position of supreme power in the Roman Empire, but the lives of the Caesars are full of "women in powerful roles", and nor is there lacking from the scriptures evidence of women in powerful roles (Deborah, Judith, Esther and, on quite another level, Mt.14:6-10).  Incidentally, I do not know what to make of the idea of "ordinary women in powerful roles" since the presence of a woman in a powerful role is quite a large indication that she is not "ordinary".

That leaves the actions of Our Lord, which speak for themselves.  His selection of the 12 is a deliberate recreation of the Jewish patriarchal structure (Mt.19:28; cf. Rev.20:4) and if He had chosen to include any woman among them, it would surely have been the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother.

The problem, however, is not Barbara's inability to grasp the theological reason for the impossibility of ordaining women (it is not a prohibition); what,we must rather ask, are the theological reasons for suddenly departing from the ancient and consistent practice of the Church.  I have never heard of one. 

Finally, no one who wilfully departs from the definitive teaching of the magisterium, gets to choose their objective status within the Catholic Church.  The duties of Catholics in this regard were fully set out by the Second vatican Council in Lumen gentium, n.25.
Bain Wellington | 8/21/2010 - 1:28am
I was not defending Cardinal Law or implying that his leadership was blameless, I was calling Brendan McGrath out on his characterization of Law's alleged offences.  Nothing Vince says bears in any way on what I wrote.

Since Brendan now admits that he was "too lazy" to read the Attorney-Generl's Report, it is tolerably clear that his view of the case is entirely driven by media reports.  Frankly, if allegtions of criminal activity are to be sprayed around, those making them have a duty to be sure of their ground.
Tamzin Simmons | 8/19/2010 - 11:47am
Still, we should always present our faith to others with gentleness and humility as much as is possible. Christ's Gospel is demanding but unless people are also shown how attractive it is they won't be inspired to follow it. 
Peter Lakeonovich | 8/19/2010 - 11:33am
Bill, I'm not sure that wisdom works outside the context of attracting flies.  But thanks for your post, it is a good example of what I have been talking about.

Remember, the great Paschal mystery of our faith involves a Cross first and then a Ressurrection.  You don't get to the "honey" of the Ressurrection without drinking the "vinegar" of the Cross.  This doesn't mean let's be violent to other, or violent to others' feeling, it means, simply, that truth is uncompromising and takes primacy over feelings - and, therefore, feelings might get hurt (i.e., might have to taste the bitterness of vinegar to appreciate the sweetness of honey).  The salvation of the soul is worth it.  Think of the clothing that St. Ignatius adopted so he would never forget, in his own daily life, the vinegar our Lord drank for us.
William Kurtz | 8/19/2010 - 11:05am
I am a bit nervous about flip comments like "If you have to break some eggs to bake a cake, we may have to hurt some feelings to save a soul." It sounds too much like the old Marxist defense of violence, that one must break eggs to make an omelet. Whatever happened to the wisdom that more flies are attracted with honey than vinegar?
Stanley Kopacz | 8/18/2010 - 10:52pm

"feminized and "effeminate" are criticisms from those who don't realize or can't admit how heroic the contributions of women have been in the Church's past and present.  Now that I have said something in defense of women, I'm waiting for the attack on my masculinity, the kind that are made by cowards at the distance of the internet.

Bain Wellington | 8/18/2010 - 6:12pm
Tim, in the Church (and we can easily forget how radical was this aspect of early Christianity) there is nothing negative about women or their femininity. 
The wider issue - that is to say, not limited to the Church - is the improper importation or attribution of either masculine or feminine qualities and attributes, which can be termed "masculinization" and "feminization" respectively. 
This is true whether one is considering (a) the false sexualization of something which is sexually neutral, or (b) the masculinization of the essentially feminine (and vice versa). 
It remains true whether the subject is primary or secondary sexual characteristics.
Insofar as these two "-ization" terms mean what I take them to mean, they denote something intrinsically disordered since they tend to obscure a constitutive aspect of God's creation (Gen.1:27, naturally).  Here I am not talking of sexual difference only, but of complementarity too.  To the extent that the difference is worn away (at least in our thinking, even if biology is obstinate), so complementarity erodes.
It is, therefore, illogical to object to the use of the term "feminization" on the grounds of it having a "negative" connotation, for the term is implicitly negative.  On this analysis, "feminization" is necessarily a distortion of something which is either sexually neutral or masculine.
Brendan McGrath's polemic deserves separate attention.  To address one of his points, he claims that Cardinal Law "covered up and enabled child rape".  Put in so brutal a form, that must have involved one or more criminal offences in Massachussetts at all relevant times, but the extensive Report (2003) by the State Attorney-General concluded ("Finding No. 2", at pp. 21f.) that there was no "evidence sufficient to charge the Archdiocese or its senior managers with crimes under applicable state law."
Gerelyn Hollingsworth | 8/18/2010 - 5:54pm
Joe Garcia:  Heu! heu!
Brendan McGrath | 8/18/2010 - 5:39pm
I'm going to avoid wading too far into the discussion on infallibility, heresy, Protestantism, etc. - if I did, I'd be agreeing with some points made by the "conservatives" here and other points made by the "liberals" here (obviously those terms aren't adequate, but they're useful as a shorthand here), showing my liberal-traditional nature. 

Also - I agree with Fr. Martin that the alienation cuts across all age groups.  I am saddened to see various friends of mine drifting from the Church, not just over doctrinal matters, but over corruption and "knavish imbecility" (to quote Hillaire Belloc) on the part of the hierarchy (more on that in what follows).

On another issue:  To Pete Lake, John Stehn, and anyone taking more "conservative" positions here, or to anyone who's upset by Fr. McNally's apologizing for the Vatican's words and actions, etc., let's step back for a moment and stop focusing on the issue of women's ordination, or even on whether it was insensitive to address it in the same document as clergy sexual abuse.  It's possible that, whether you intend it or not, zeroing in on those issues allows you/all of us to avoid discussing the other actions/inaction on the part of the hierarchy which have alienated people like Sheila O'Brien (author of "Excommunicate Me, Please") - things that are not about doctrine, but about corruption, and for which you cannot fault anyone for critizing.  For example, consider the following excerpts from what O'Brien said in her op-ed piece (I've omitted the stuff about women's ordination):

But, the headlines continue — more pedophilia, more stonewalling by the bishops, more "norms" from Rome protecting perpetrators. ... And, the hierarchy, who have arguably hidden crimes and criminals, who will not open the books so we can see where our money has gone and who always claim the moral high ground ...

Don't focus on her comments about women's ordination - tell me why, given the above, Fr. McNally should not be apologizing for the Vatican's actions?  Perhaps some of those words above go too far, are misinformed, etc., but if so, here's another point: can someone explain to my why Fr. McNally should not apologize for how Benedict rejected the resignations of those bishops in Ireland?  Yes, yes, yes, I know, perhaps there's some reason for it, the Vatican looks at these things differently, etc., etc.  But surely it was not handled well, and is alienating people form the Church - think about what that means!  Another issue: Can someone explain to me why Benedict (who I still think is fundamentally a good and holy man, though) has chosen to rebuke (or whatever) Cardinal Schonborn, while choosing to allow Cardinal Law to be at St. Mary Major, not to mention a member of the Congregations for the Oriental Churches,  for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, for Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for the Clergy, for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and for Catholic Education?  Can someone explain why Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, held dissenting theologians accountable, but as pope has not done the same for Cardinal Law?  Why was prayer and penance not enough for Roger Haight? (I disagree with Haight, but still, what did more to harm people's faith: heterodox ideas published in a book, or the spectable of a cardinal who covered up and enabled child rape, and then said one of the Masses televised around the world when John Paul II died?)  And can someone tell me how, as we try to re-evangelize Europe and the West as a whole, we are going to explain this?

It is precisely because I believe that the papacy and the episcopacy are divinely established that I am furious at those members of the hierarchy who have caused people to reject the papacy and the episcopacy and drift away from the Church.  Given all that I mentioned, how can it possibly be anything but good for Fr. McNally to apologize for the Vatican's actions and attempt to keep a few more people from leaving the Church?  Following a pattern that often happens in discussions on teh Church, focusing on the issue of women's ordination is a way to brush Fr. McNally's remarks aside and avoid looking at the outrageous, incomprehensible, stubbornly obtuse, and damnable corruption and cold-heartedness on the part of certain members of the hierarchy. 

I'm going to end this comment here, even though I feel like I've been trying to hammer some point that I somehow haven't managed to hit exactly - like those things at carnivals where you take a hammer and hit this thing in order to make a shuttle fly up and hit a bell.  Anyway, I feel like I haven't hit it properly, but maybe someone else can contribute more.
Peter Lakeonovich | 8/18/2010 - 5:30pm
There is nothing alienating about the truth.  We should be confident about the truth of our faith and not doubt it for one second (even if, inevitably, we will).  Let's not be lukewarm about our faith for fear of alienating others.  What we know and believe about our faith needs to be spoken and shared with others.  There is little to admire in one who is tepid in what he or she believes because such person inspires no confidence of conviction in such beliefs.  If you have to break some eggs to bake a cake, we may have to hurt some feelings to save a soul.  (I suspect John Stehn's generation of JPII/B16 Catholics will do just that.)
Peter Lakeonovich | 8/18/2010 - 4:42pm
Tim, fair enough, perhaps my word choice needs some work (or a lot).  Sure, there is room for the feminine in our Church and, so, yes, you misread me.  There is room for the rightly feminine.  The rightly feminine is indispensible.  Our Blessed Mother.  Our saints and women Doctors of the Church.  Our women religious.  Our own mothers, sisters, and wives.  All these women are heroic witnesses to Christ.  We refer to St. Therese as the Little Flower, but that delicate image would be misleading if we failed to recognize that how she endured suffering and offered up her suffering to the Lord was an act of the will stronger than most could bear (certainly stronger than any little flower).

What there is no room for is for what is not rightly feminine to become feminized, and vice versa.  See recent Vatican statements on the attempted ordination of women.  For some reason, I see the connection between this phenomenon and people "quitting" the Church and Pastors like Fr. McNally making the statements they make.  It is a failure to see reality is it ought to be, in Christ, through the lens of the Church.  A failure to stand firm with the Church, like the martyrs.  To stand up for Truth, even at the expense of hurt feelings and pseudo-compassion (i.e., compassion for your feelings instead of compassion for your soul, which is what it means to hate the sin but not the sinner).

In short, to paraphrase Archbishop Sheen, the infinite mercy of the ressurected Christ in the light of the shadow of the Cross.
Bain Wellington | 8/18/2010 - 4:30pm

Feminization of the faith is one thing; celebrating the vital and essential role of women in the Church is quite another.  Calling God "she" is an example of the former.
Joe Garcia | 8/18/2010 - 4:11pm
How does one say "Oy, gevalt." in Latin?
Anonymous | 8/18/2010 - 4:08pm

I think that Hans G's point is that we should not assume that this church has lost most of members due to the Vatican's statements but rather it is possible that they have lost most of their membership due to the pastor's statements.

Also I agree we should refrain from personal attacks....  that is unless it is a personal attack against someone like Newt Gingrich, that Hippocrate!
Vince Killoran | 8/18/2010 - 4:01pm

"Heresy"  a favorite label that conservative Catholics have put back into circulation when referring to our Protestant brothers & sisters.  I don't see how it can apply and neither does B. XVI.  In his THE MEANING OF CHRISTIAN BROTHERHOOD, he writes that "There is no appropriate category in Catholic thought for the phenomenon of Protestanism today. . . . It is obvious that the old category of 'heresy' is no longer of any value." (pp.88-89)

I know I haven't grabbed as much blog space as Bain, John, & Hans (hey, that rhymes!) but I'll take a break and allow others to participate. 
Peter Lakeonovich | 8/18/2010 - 4:01pm
Bain, God bless you; you cannot begin to understand to understand the "quitting" because it is irrational (in the philosophical sense of the term, to be clear, lest Tim accuse me of personally attacking anyone).  It is irrational because as Catholics we believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and, consequently, we believe that everything Jesus taught and said is absolutely true, including the foundation of his Church upon the rock of Peter.  As we know from Timothy, it is the Church which is the pillar and foundation upon which truth rests.  So, as Catholics, by the gift of Faith (as John Stehn has rightly noted), we believe all that Holy Mother Church teaches.  Therefore, knowing all of this, how can any genuine Catholic "quit" (to use the word of the day) the Church?  It is absolutely irrational.  

This is why, Tim Reidy, when you talk about the Church in terms of "PR mistakes," it's difficult to take too seriously the tenuous connection between PR mistakes (or insensitive remarks) and people "quitting" the Church.  Even in the case of absue, as Fr. Jim describes, it is still irrational for a Catholic, knowing what a Catholic should know, no matter how much he is hurt, to "quit" the  Church.  This is why apologies are needed less than solid Catholic formation.

Tim Reidy, the point I was trying to convey in my first post is that our faith has a heroic tradition, which has been distorted or feminized.  In an attempt not to belabor the point, I'll use an example relevant to all who read this blog.  Inigo Loyola, before he became St. Ignatius of Loyola, had an ambition of greatness, he wanted to achieve the greatest things, initially in terms of chivalrous accomplishments.  However, it was not until he read about the lives of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic, that he realized the greatest accomplishment humanly possible (greater than earthly accomplishment) was to empty oneself in service to Christ the King, and if St. Francis and St. Dominic could do it, then he would do it even "better."  That is a heroic faith.  That is the sort of heroic faith the could found a religous order of other heroic men.  That is the sort of faith the could set the world on fire and send a Spaniard like St. Francis Xavier all the way to India and then on to China.  No apologies here.  No room for hurt feelings here.

When we talk about our faith today without the sense of the heroic, like the saints and the martyrs, we water down our faith and end up with dissension, a decrease in vocations, absuse, scandals, and people "quitting" the Church (not mention blog editors obssessed with complete names, hurt feelings, unfair personal attacks, etc. etc.  Just kidding Tim).
Bain Wellington | 8/18/2010 - 3:44pm
There are two levels of doctrine - even of doctrine which is taught infallibly.  The impossibility of ordaining women does appertain to the Deposit of Faith, but it is a so-called "secondary object" having an intrinsic, logical or historical connection with Divinely revealed truths. The Doctrinal Commentary I referred to is available at

Further to my post at 24 (in response to Fr. Martin), and taking account of the reminder at post 26, I might add that a recent NYTimes/CBS nationwide telephone poll conducted between 28 April and 2 May (among 1,079 respondents, of whom 412 identified as Catholic) offers these results, so far as pertinent to the issue raied by Fr. Martin in post 23:

Asked of Catholics only] with reference to recent reports of clergy sexual abuse of minors:

Q. 48, involvement in Church activities:- more likely to get involved 9%, no effect 77%
Q. 50, Mass attendance:- more likely to attend 4%, no effect 82%
Q. 51, considered "quitting" 9%, not considered 86%
Q. 78, Mass attendance:- more than once a week 7%, once a week 40%, once or twice a month 22%, few times a year 22%, never 5%

for the full poll, see
John Stehn | 8/18/2010 - 3:31pm
Bain:  Again, thank you for you erudite response.  Without trying to sound like Dr. McCoy from Star Trek, I'm an engineer, not a theologian or a canon lawyer.  I just figured that since the CDF had confirmed that the teaching on woman's ordination belongs to the deposit of Faith, that said teaching was to be believed with divine and Catholic faith, and it's pertinacious denial would be heretical.  Thanks again.
Hans Goeckner | 8/18/2010 - 3:07pm
I live within a few blocks of Ascension Church, well within the defined boundaries of the parish.  Every time I have gone to Fr. McNally's church I have been scandalized by the often-venomous dissent advocated and the disrespect shown for the Body and Blood of our Lord — including by the clergy there, and I have been shocked by the anger, scorn, and disrespect for those who disagree expressed in or underlying the words in homilies and other comments or pronouncements.  I can no longer bring myself to darken the doors of Fr. McNally's church.

Nonetheless, I cannot bring myself to abandon the Church Jesus founded because of Fr. McNally's failings.  I have found a parish home elsewhere, and there are other refugees from Fr. McNally's church there also.  These refugees include catechists, lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, members of the parish council or of the local St. Vincent de Paul conference, and even are in the choir.  There are parents with young children, and even one who has been asked (in this other parish) to consider becoming a deacon.  And that is in this one parish. 

How many others has Fr. McNally driven away elsewhere?

Perhaps he should look in the mirror before he throws stones at Rome.
Bain Wellington | 8/18/2010 - 2:59pm
Fr. Martin,
I don't begin to understand the quitting, which also occurs when individuals encounter some severe set-back or particular grief in their life.  Since it remains at the anecdotal level, nothing much can be said about it.

Canon 751 says: Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith." 
The impossibility of ordaining women is not yet considered to have been Divinely revealed; but as we learn from the Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei (CDF, 1998):- 
"this does not foreclose the possibility that, in the future, the consciousness of the Church might progress to the point where this teaching could be defined as a doctrine to be believed as divinely revealed."
John Stehn | 8/18/2010 - 2:08pm
Bain...that is very interesting.  Thank you.  But isn't pertinacious denial, of a doctrine that belongs to the deposit of the Faith, heresy?
Bain Wellington | 8/18/2010 - 1:57pm
Michael Binder has already been answered briefly, but perhaps I might offer a fuller response (also addressing the "heresy" point).
The Church's teaching on the impossibility of ordaining women:-
[1] is not an "organizational" or disciplinary matter, but relates in a profound way to the sacrament of orders without which we have no Eucharist;
[2] is founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning has been constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church;
[3] has been propounded as infallibly taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium and is to be held definitively; but
[4] has not yet been defined as a doctrine to be believed as divinely revealed.
Therefore it falls within not within the Canons regarding heresy, but within Canon 750 §2: ". . one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church".
As for the things which "must be believed", these are not limited to dogmatically defined teachings regarding truths Divinely revealed.   See Canon 752: " Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act . ."
Canon 752 substantially reproduces part of the Conciliar Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, n.25.
Robert Carter | 8/18/2010 - 1:45pm
I would like to further clarify my remarks about the recent change in canonical procedures that are the cause of so much Sturm Und Drang in certain sectors of the Church.

The recent Vatican decision gives the CDF the authority to investigate ''more serious crimes against morals and the celebration of sacraments.''  Such change ensures that the investigation of ANY sacramental crime proceeds uniformly irregardless of the diocese in which the abuse occurred.

One of the canonical crimes against the sacraments now under the CDF's review is the attempt to ordain a woman to the priesthood.  Such attempts are an offense against the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  It is, therefore, logical to place such cases before CDF's tribunal.

Pope Benedict XVI also directed the CDF to review certain ''more serious crimes again morals.''  Among these are the use of child pornography by clerics and the abuse of vulnerable adults.

This standardization of the procedure for review does not imply any equality in severity of the crime being reviewed.  I am an attorney, and the statutes & court rules of my state provide uniform procedures for the review of issues before the court.

Certain matters are best delegated to a particular court.  Divorces & child welfare issues are directed to family court.  Tax matters to tax court.  Civil matters to a civil judge and criminal matters to a criminal one.

The fact that the court rules provide that a criminal court can hear a particular class of case does not mean that all the crimes of that class are equal.  A criminal judge may hear a murder cases and a larceny one.  They are both criminal cases, but this in no way implies that the two crimes are the same in severity.  It is about procedure, and ONLY procedure.

The continued failure of commentators to note this distinction can only be the result of invincible ignorance, willful neglect or patent hositlity to the truth.
John Stehn | 8/18/2010 - 1:37pm
Vince:  The "signature even in the 20th Century life of the Church" did not touch upon this matter.
John Stehn | 8/18/2010 - 1:16pm
Vince:  Incorrect.  The Greek Orthodox are in schism.  So, possibly, are the Society of St. Pius X.  But Protestantism is a heresy.  Just ask any Protestant if they hold the Church's teaching on the Primacy of Peter, Transubstantiation, Justification, etc..  Again, did the Council of Trent and Pope Paul III get it wrong?

Michael:  Incorrect.  From the Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston (fr. Feeney Case) ''We are bound by divine and Catholic faith to believe all those things which are contained in the word of God, whether it be Scripture or Tradition, and are proposed by the Church to be believed as divinely revealed, not only through solemn judgment but also through the ordinary and universal teaching office (, n. 1792).'' And further ''...Therefore, no one will be saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless refuses to submit to the Church or withholds obedience from the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth.''
Vince Killoran | 8/18/2010 - 1:06pm
The Catechism characterizes Protestants/ism as a schism, not heresy.  The distinction is important.
John Stehn | 8/18/2010 - 12:55pm
Vince…perhaps at CCC No. 2089 "Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same;”.  Did the Council of Trent have it wrong?
Vince Killoran | 8/18/2010 - 12:39pm
It seems like Fr. McNally is taking his pastoral role seriously-he's exactly the kind of priests we need.  

As for John's claim, it just doesn't make sense that women who seek ordination-and, thus, full participation in the sacraments-are separating themselves from the Church. 

Finally, John's does use the "heresy" label in an incorrect manner.  Back in a March 2010 posting on this website he referred to Protestants as heretics. I could find absolutely no support for this in the Catechism. 
Vince Killoran | 8/18/2010 - 12:39pm
It seems like Fr. McNally is taking his pastoral role seriously-he's exactly the kind of priests we need.  

As for John's claim, it just doesn't make sense that women who seek ordination-and, thus, full participation in the sacraments-are separating themselves from the Church. 

Finally, John's does use the "heresy" label in an incorrect manner.  Back in a March 2010 posting on this website he referred to Protestants as heretics. I could find absolutely no support for this in the Catechism. 
Robert Carter | 8/18/2010 - 12:31pm
Assumption parish has been wrestling with issues regarding Church authority since this past spring, when it was revealed that Fr. Larry Reuter, S.J., a regular visiting priest, had admitted to an innapropriate relationship with a male student at Loyola Academy.

Fr. Reuter is the former President of Loyola Academy and rector of the Loyola Chicago Univeristy Jesuit Commjunity.  He was popular among the parishioners at Ascension, and worked the weekend masses for the last 10 years without anyone knowing about the relationship.

The Chicago and Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus removed Fr. Larry Reuter from active ministry this past March after a review of his personnel files.  Among the files was Reuter's admission from years earlier that he'd ''engaged in an inappropriate relationship'' with an 18-year-old student when he was president of Loyola Academy.

Fr. McNally of Assumption parish stated Fr. Reuter confessed to only one inappropriate relationship.  Yet a second man has come forward with allegations that he was also been abused by Reuter.  The Chicago Jesuit Province is investigating the claim and has contacted the Cook County State's Attorney.

Fr. Reuter has been ''assigned to internal ministry with and for Jesuits only in a monitored setting.''  He is in the process of being moved outside the Chicago area.

The Chicago/Detroit Province has not been forthcoming with information regarding Fr. Reuter.  It did not participate in a forum held by Fr. McNally at the parish to address this issue.

The anger of parishoners at Assumption is due, in no small part, to terrible decisions by the Chicago Jesuits - who not only failed to remove a priest who committed abuse - but also appointed him rector of the Jesuit Community (where young scholastics study), gave him supervision over the Univeristy Campus Ministry and allowed him to minister in a local parish.
I would further note that a simple administrative decision regarding the canonical procedure for addressing the abuse of the Sacraments has been conflated into an existential crisis by those who can impute no good to the hierarchy.  People have been whipped into a lather by those who should know better.
Anonymous | 8/18/2010 - 12:22pm
This has nothing to do with the controversy but Oak Park is one of the most up scale suburbs of any city in the country.  It also was the home of Frank Lloyd Wright and the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Rice Burroughs and several other well known people.  A good friend of ours grew up there and took us for a tour of the town last year pointing out all the homes designed by Wright in the town as well as Hemingway's birth place.  It is a very pleasant place and still very well to do.
John Stehn | 8/18/2010 - 11:31am
Anybody willing to bet that the departees are all in their 60's, part of that generation that has wrought so much moral confusion and doctrinal amnesia upon the Church over the past 45 years?

If a rather bland Instruction on grave crimes against the Sacraments is all it takes for these people to separate themselves from the Body of Christ, then I must ask if they were ever really members of that Body?  Going to Mass, and being active in various "ministries" at your local parish does not a Catholic make.   One can perform all of these nice acts, and still hold heretical beliefs regarding the hierarchical structure of the Church, woman's ordination, the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, etc..

Can someone who seriously hopes that the Church will someday reform an irreformable teaching (woman's ordination) be said to possess the supernatural virtue of Faith?  Can someone who seriously believes that they will find Christ somewhere other than the Roman Catholic Church be said to possess the supernatural virtue of Charity?

Just thinking out loud. 
Tamzin Simmons | 8/18/2010 - 11:30am
How interesting that Fr. McNally's remarks were made on the Feast of the Assumption. Over the past few years I've heard some lovely Assumption homilies about what the Assumption of Mary shows to Catholics about the inherent dignity of all human beings, and about how Mary demonstrates the artistry of God.

We need to hear things like that in a world where human dignity is so often overlooked in different ways. And it is refreshing to hear of a case where Catholic teaching on the Assumption encourages someone to speak out for the dignity of women particularly in the Church.

Peter Lakeonovich | 8/18/2010 - 10:21am
The Pastor didn't mention whether the "Anne Rice-esque quitters" came back, did he? 

Didn't think so.

Too bad.

And if they did "quit" and come back, what does that mean?  Does it mean that the alleged insensitive words of the Vatican (which they are not, by the way) initially caused the "quitters" to stop believing in Jesus Christ and all that His Church teaches?  But that, after the apology for the alleged insensitive words of the Vatican (which, did I mention, they are not, by the way), the "quitters" once again came to believe in Jesus Christ and all that His Church teaches?

The lack of seriousness is self-evident and speaks for itself.

How about the Pastor focus on reinforcing effective Catholic formation of his faithful rather than wasting time on nonsensical apologies, which do nothing to strengthen the faith of those who have drifted and annoy those who love the Chruch.  In point of fact, the opposite effect is true.  Those who have drifted, by way of the apology, may feel a connection with the individual Pastor, but will lose even greater faith in the Church because the apology has confirmed them in their error.

Catholics need formation in a faith that has a heroic tradition, founded by the most heroic act of love on the Cross.  Enough already with this effeminate distortion of the faith.
Vince Killoran | 8/18/2010 - 1:18pm
I agree Michael-I think that to call fellow Christians "heretics" is, well, "unChristian."  

BTW, Trent is fine but what about that signature event in the 20th century life of the Church we call Vatican II? 
James Lindsay | 8/18/2010 - 1:10pm
The things which "must be believed" are in the Nicean and Apostles Creeds, not the entire Magisterium and certainly not consent to the churches very human (and very flawed) organizational arrangements.
John Stehn | 8/18/2010 - 12:13pm
Tim:  I believe I was being careful.  But, theological hair splitting aside, do you agree with the main point of my post, as it pertains to these women who have abandoned the "Arc of Salvation" as Blessed Pius IX referred to it, over what amounts to pharisaical reasons?   Is someone who formally severs themselves from the One True Church, in possession of (at least) the supernatural virtue of Faith?  Can anyone today, who professes to believe that the Church will one day reform Her teaching on woman's ordination, really be considered a Catholic, and a member of the Roman Catholic Church?
Brendan McGrath | 8/19/2010 - 8:24pm
Thanks, Vince; I was too lazy to look up the report or whatever for a quote like that. :)

Something else I might mention with regard to corruption - shouldn't the various bishops who live in mansions sell those mansions and the proprety on them (preferably to a Catholic college, perhaps) before daring to close one single Catholic school?  Or perhaps do some sort of investment or something with the land - rent it out? - and use the regular income, or maybe interest on it or something, to contribute to Catholic schools, perhaps with scholarship funds for those who can't afford a Catholic education?  I know little about money matters, but the basic point is that bishops should not be living in mansions on large properties (which, unless I'm mistaken, they used what was ultimately from our donations to build) and being driven around in limos while daring to close a Catholic school.  I'm not talking about "selling the Vatican" or selling artwork or anything like that, and I'm not talking about liturgical finery; I'm only talking about the mansions.  Even if they're now mostly office space or whatever, surely there could be some way to get cheaper office space elsewhere and convert the resource into money for Catholic schools (or whatever cause you might want to put in here for the sake of argument - the poor, etc.).
Vince Killoran | 8/19/2010 - 6:42pm
Brendan's point is well-taken. You would think from Bain's comment that the Mass. AG report in 2003 absolved the Boston hierarchy of blame-not by a long shot. The authors of the Masschusetts' AG report concluded, among other things,  that there was a "massive and pervasive failure of leadership"(73).  Unfortunately, the laws in existence at the time did not allow the AG's office to file charges.  

This is hardly the kind of report people should present as a defense of Cardinal Law.
Hans Goeckner | 8/19/2010 - 5:29pm
Tim, as pastor, Fr. McNally is ultimately responsible for how the lectors and other lay ministers are trained and how they perform their duties.  He also has final say over who can say Mass or do much of anything in his parish; that at least is the situation here in the Archdiocese of Chicago.  He is responsible for what happens there.  I understand that people make mistakes, or will say something in the heat of a situation that they wouldn't say otherwise; I am not talking about that sort of thing.  What I am talking about are essentially institutional practices, a parish being after all the 'institutional church' that most Catholics experience.

Fr. McNally uses the situation in his parish as an explanation of why he 'had to' issue his apology.  That, it seems to me, makes the situation in his parish fair topic for discussion.  My point was, in part, that his depiction of the situation is at best incomplete, and certainly misleading.  I am, in pointing out that his argument is misleading, also bringing into question his effectiveness as a pastor, but that results from the nature of his argument.  I did not question his 'commitment to the Eucharist', whatever of the many possible things that might mean; that is something you read into what I wrote, though perhaps I could have been clearer in saying that it was his description of the situation in his parish that I was addressing.

I was also, as Joe Kash notes, making the point that misconflated Vatican statements aren't the only reason why people leave parishes, ministries, or even the Church.  There is, for instance, (though I'm not suggesting it is Fr. McNally's fault) an apparently-thriving SSPX chapel just four blocks north of his church.  I've never been there, so I can't say how many of those there are from his parish, but I have seen people heading there on foot from that direction while waiting at sometimes-long the traffic light there.


Fr. Martin, the name of the local paper is actually the ''Wednesday Journal'', as confusing as it might seem.


Vince, since you have associated my name with accusing others of ''Heresy'' (in what seems to me a personal attack on me, and others, that you have not otherwise been called to account for), perhaps you can show me where I have done so.