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William MurphyAugust 09, 2017
An issue of the Italian journal La Civiltà Cattolica (CNS photo/Paul Haring)An issue of the Italian journal La Civiltà Cattolica (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In July’s issue of La Civiltà Cattolica, Antonio Spadaro, S.J., and Marcelo Figueroa offer an analysis of a political phenomenon in the United States they call “the surprising ecumenism” of “evangelical fundamentalism and Catholic integralism.” Father Spadaro, the editor-in-chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Jesuit-run, Vatican-vetted semimonthly, and Mr. Figueroa, a Presbyterian minister and editor-in-chief of the Argentine edition of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, have prompted morethan a little reaction in the United States as well as in Italy with their rather strong and assertive critique of a trend in American politics that the authors find deeply troubling and, indeed, at odds with the words and example of Pope Francis.

Reactions to date have covered the gamut of opinion. Some have cheered the article, while others have criticized it. This is to be expected and welcomed. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has offered a measured and well-informed corrective with which I would associate myself. Without claiming any special expertise, I would like to add a few comments that stem from the opportunities I have had these past several decades to be involved in ecumenical conversations and issues that include principles of Catholic social teaching at the local, national and global church levels.

First, it must be admitted that the “surprising ecumenism” that the authors describe does exist to some degree. Ours is a vast country in which one can find many points of view, as well as many alliances and coalitions. Yet the authors seriously misrepresent the experience the Catholic Church has had with evangelicals these past 30 or more years. The authors reach back to two people, Lyman Stewart and the Rev. Rousas John Rushdoony, whom they identify as important figures in the development of evangelical Protestantism in the United States. Stewart and Rushdoony may be gurus to certain groups of Protestant fundamentalists in the United States, but it is plain wrong to claim that they are the inspiration for some of the most important and positive dialogue between Catholics and evangelical Protestants.

The dialogue between evangelical Protestants and Catholics in this country is found elsewhere. For example, in 1987, a group calling itself Evangelicals and Catholics Together began a dialogue in New York at the Union League Club. Among the participants were the evangelical ministers the Rev. Richard Land and the Rev. Charles Colson, the Catholic Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., and the neoconservative lay Catholic scholar Michael Novak. As one present and participating, I can assure readers that the inspiration was a critical adherence to the Bible and to the “social gospel” traditions that were harmonious among the respective Christian denominations. Father Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa’s essay is devoid of any serious engagement with the neoconservatism of authors like the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, George Weigel and Michael Novak. To place them with controversialists like Michael Voris, as the authors do, is ludicrous. We all have benefited from the dialogue that began in 1987, and I am confident that the principals at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity would agree about the positive fruits of this and similar Catholic/evangelical dialogues.

Context is always important to interpretation. In Father Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa’s essay, the authors rightly seek to find clues to interpretation in some aspects of the American public life. However, they misuse certain terms common to American discourse, like the motto “In God We Trust.” They misunderstand how widespread and how many-faceted is the sense that Americans have that God has blessed us. Americans by and large see such a blessing not as a sense of self-righteousness or superiority, but rather a recognition that God is the source and ultimate end of all the good and positive aspects of life in our country. Are there some who are xenophobic and jingoistic? Some who exaggerate and exploit that sense of blessing? Yes, sadly, there are. However, when Father Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa use such a broad brush and turn the phrase into a sinister one or proof of nefarious intentions, it might well lead others to see the authors as guilty of the same kind of exaggerations.

The Catholics and evangelicals who engage in dialogue in our country do not qualify as Manicheans.

The authors also comment that “[a]t times this mingling of politics, morals and religion has taken on a Manichaean language.” The misuse of the ancient heresy of Manichaeism is perhaps a commonplace, but such misuse is not to be accepted if one wishes to understand it as it is described in the writings of St. Augustine. The Catholics and evangelicals who engage in dialogue in our country do not qualify as Manicheans. Neither do the “extremist groups” identified by the authors. No person or group guilty of opposing “modernist spirits, the black civil rights movement, the hippie movement, communism, feminist movements” and that also “pushes toward conflicts…and does not take into account the bond between capital and profit and arms sales” can be seriously labeled as “Manichean.” Equally perplexing is how the authors move toward accusing these persons and groups of preparing for an Armageddon because they refuse to see why “natural disasters, dramatic climate change and the global ecological crises” are not as life-threatening and cataclysmic as do the authors.

Their essay also includes an argument about “theopolitics” that leaves me perplexed. Their critique of the politicization of one’s faith tradition is seen as a particular characteristic of the “Christian Right” but certainly not of whatever constitutes the “Christian left.” Yet the very critique they make of the “conservatives” is much the same critique made by conservatives of movements in Latin America such as liberation theology and populist interpretations of society. Father Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa propose the church adopt a kind of neutrality on the part of persons of faith in relation to society and the state, a “neutrality” that does not correspond to the stance of the Catholic Church toward the state and toward international order in modern times.

Even more puzzling is their linking of the “gospel of prosperity with the rhetoric of religious liberty.” May I suggest that the therapeutic Christianity of the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, whom the authors mention, is not the same as the prosperity gospel of fundamentalist preachers of today? The sources of Peale’s approach are found in a liberal Protestantism that lost its dogmatic roots some time ago. Prosperity gospel preachers, on the other hand, promise material wealth as a sign of God’s special election, an approach that compromises the transcendent operations of grace. They are found largely in the realms of storefront fundamentalists or televangelist preachers. They do not have a coherent Biblical source or principles of Christian social teaching to back them up. Conflating them into one “movement” is difficult to defend.

That the authors link this “prosperity gospel” to a consideration of “the rhetoric of religious liberty” miscasts the serious discussions and debates about religious liberty taking place in the United States today. I also think it tendentious to use the term “rhetoric” in this context, because the label implies a certain lack of substance to the issues and the debates surrounding issues of religious freedom in our country. With that wisdom that both enlightens and inspires, Pope Francis has spoken often of a kind of “soft persecution” of religious groups in Western societies where religious liberty is under threat, though different from the open and acute forms found in other countries in the Middle East and in other parts of Asia and Africa. In many places in our world today, there is outright, severe persecution of religious minorities of all stripes, including Christians, Muslims and many other religious minorities who face direct persecution of many kinds. Having served on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, I am grateful to Thomas Reese, S.J., the current chairman, and his colleagues for their leadership. But the “soft persecution” of persons and religious groups is not absent from our country or others in the West as well.

Instead, this new century has seen in Western societies a growth of this “soft persecution” that in a variety of ways seeks to marginalize, penalize or impose restrictions on the practice of religious faith as an integral part of human life and social good. For example, the bishops of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops initially supported the Affordable Care Act because it offered what the conference had sought for decades: universal health care. But as chairman at that time of the relevant committee, I worked hard with my staff to seek certain safeguards that reflected our concern for the common good. With our commitment to universal health care, we had three requests: a) immigrants must be covered in some way, so that they too would receive health care; b) federal funds would not be used to provide for elective abortion; and c) provisions would be made for the protection for the rights of conscience or religious freedom of persons and religious groups. One by one, all three were rejected by the majority party. Sadly, at the end, the U.S.C.C.B. had to withdraw its support in face of a secular and ideological insistence on the part of the framers of the law who refused to include three very positive provisions that would have improved the bill as a whole.

But the Affordable Care Act is not the only issue regarding religious freedom. There are courts that infringe on human rights that touch religious freedom, and states that do so as well. Some pressure groups actively seek to enforce such unjust provisions. I commend the authors for stating. “[T]he erosion of religious liberty is clearly a grave threat within a spreading secularism.” I also accept that there can and probably do exist some who would seek a kind of “religion in total freedom” that ignores or even attacks any attempt at placing religious freedom in relation to the common good. But that is not the case with the evangelicals I am speaking about, and certainly not of the Catholics with whom the U.S.C.C.B. and its Standing Committee on Religious Freedom work.

The authors close by expressing their fear of and their opposition to “a strange form of surprising ecumenism” between evangelical fundamentalists and Catholic integralists. The authors identify them by the fact that they are concerned about “themes such as abortion, same-sex marriage, religious education in school…and promote an ecumenism of conflict….” I would challenge them to justify such a charge.

Unless we are to be “sacristy Catholics,” we have a responsibility to bring our religious truths and values into the public sphere.

The authors’ position here has two parts to it and one suggestion. First is this list: abortion, same-sex marriage [and] religious education in schools (and let’s add religious liberty). Second is the charge that the persons and groups alluded to are xenophobic, anti-Muslim and desirous of bringing “religious influence in the political sphere.” I doubt any Catholics would want to exclude the first group of issues, from abortion to religious liberty, from their concerns. In fact, if one of the faithful of our diocese did, I would feel a responsibility to speak with that person to correct that. I would do the same were he or she endorsing any kind of rampant xenophobia, or any anti-Muslim or anti-Jewish bias or any other religious prejudice. I would have an equal responsibility to speak to those who reject outright the substance of climate change or the need to control and eliminate nuclear weapons, or who would propose we treat immigrants as though they have no rights. Pope Francis time and again has reminded us that our faith is a “both…and”, not an “either…or.”

May I suggest by way of conclusion that we need to discuss together the importance of the proper kind of religious influence in the secular sphere? I would propose the authors need to be more nuanced. We have the resources and the teaching of the church to inform us and bring us together for the good of our church and the common good of all. Unless we are to be “sacristy Catholics,” we have a responsibility to bring our religious truths and values into the public sphere. We are justly proud that the popes for more than 100 years have given us a rich tradition of principles based on the Gospel, the lived tradition of the church and truths that are both intelligent and intelligible to all persons of good will, through both encyclicals and constant preaching. May I suggest with great respect that we need to move beyond discussion about “theopolitics?” We need to renew our understanding of and support a coherent vision of the church’s proper role in public life. The Second Vatican Council set the conditions in “Dignitatis Humanae”that have guided us these past 50 years and remain valid today. The Council set out the teaching on the legitimacy of the secular constitutional state and affirms the context in which religious liberty is rightly exercised and contributes to the common good.

If we seek privilege or refuse to collaborate in a pluralistic and secular society with no respect for others, we marginalize ourselves and become a cult, and are guilty of being unfaithful to the teaching of the church. All of us have specific responsibilities in this sphere. Above all, we bishops must respect the proper role of the laity in secular society, as was asserted so clearly in “Lumen Gentium”and “Apostolicam Actuositatem”during Vatican II.

Finally, I note that in several places the authors offer a “vision inspired by Pope Francis” that is the absolute opposite of what they call an “ecumenism of hate.” In one place they propose that we be “guided by the incisive look, full of love, of Jesus in the Gospels.” They remind us that for Pope Francis, ecumenism “moves under the urge of inclusion, peace, encounter and bridges….Here we can understand why the Pontiff is so committed to working against ‘walls’ and any kind of ‘war of religion’.”

With that we all are in agreement. We do not simply applaud the pope. We look to him for inspiration. We seek to let his word and his example shape our positions and our actions. He shows us the importance of confronting those persons and issues that are truly important. Yet, by the end of Father Spadaro and Rev. Figueroa’s argument, I was convinced that the authors are fighting a straw man whom I too oppose. While they clearly support the Holy Father, the way they present Pope Francis’ approach and his teaching seems to me to be weaker than the dynamic and robust approach we have come to recognize as Pope Francis at his most vibrant and inspiring.

Pope Francis has provided a lovely image from John 13:11-17, wherein the Lord washes the feet of his disciples, an image the authors propose as the model for the church to serve secular society and thus refrain from being seen in opposition to society at large. But, as in the Gospel, the footwashing should make way for the hearing of the Word of God, as found in Jesus’ powerful “Farewell Discourse” in John 13-17. Word and example go together. If the pope and bishops and lay faithful are limited to gestures devoid of content that applies Catholic social teaching to the specifics of an issue, we can be accused of pieties that refuse to speak the truth to power.

Pope Francis is the protagonist for the church of the 21st century. He also is the inheritor of the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.Should the pope not have spoken in defense of Charlie Gard and his parents because he did not wish to enter into the decision of some European Court? Should we not have had the leadership of the church in Italy, aided by the wisdom of Professor Francesco Margiotta Broglio, when the European Union decreed that Italy had to take the crucifixes off the classroom walls of Italian schools? Should we eliminate all concordats, even when they help protect men and women of faith, all faiths, when they are under attack?

On the weekend of July 4, 2017, the church in the United States celebrated a convocation in Orlando, Fla. Over 3,500 laity, religious, deacons, priests and bishops came together to celebrate their commitment to be true missionary disciples in our church and our nation. Reaffirming our faith, sharing ideas and initiatives to make us ever more authentic witnesses, we experienced all that is good in our church and pledged ourselves to collaborate with all people of good will to affirm all that is good in our society as well as all that needs to be pursued to better the common good of all. We are not “Catholic integralists.” We are Catholics. We will go forth to preach and witness the message of the Gospel, that it is Jesus Christ who saves and sets us free.

There is no reason for fear. Pope Francis shows us that every day. But do we avoid our responsibility if we are afraid to speak the truth in love, reject the extremes of all ideologies and offer a service to the world that mediates by word and deed the Gospel message of God’s love and Christ’s redemption of all humankind?

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Robert Lewis
6 years 9 months ago

“Are there some who are xenophobic and jingoistic? Some who exaggerate and exploit that sense of blessing? Yes, sadly, there are.”

There are not "some"; there are “many,” and that large group now have extraordinary influence in the corridors of government.

“Prosperity gospel preachers, on the other hand, promise material wealth as a sign of God’s special election, an approach that compromises the transcendent operations of grace. They are found largely in the realms of storefront fundamentalists or televangelist preachers. They do not have a coherent Biblical source or principles of Christian social teaching to back them up. Conflating them into one “movement” is difficult to defend.”

When they are able to resolve differences and unite behind the banner of a xenophobic, Islamophobic and homophobic Republican Party that justifies oppressing the poor, they certainly do look like one “movement” to me!

“c) provisions would be made for the protection for the rights of conscience or religious freedom of persons and religious groups. “

This is too vague and calculatedly (on your part) non-specific. What “conservative Christians” seem to want is for enterprises and firms that receive licenses to conduct business with the PUBLIC to be able to deny services based on certain kinds of identity. Few of your critics are suggesting that organizations with pre-existing requirements for membership have to accept those who don’t or cannot meet those requirements. Private schools and colleges, for example, already have admission standards; bakeries and dry cleaners don’t.

“The authors identify them by the fact that they are concerned about “themes such as abortion, same-sex marriage, religious education in school…and promote an ecumenism of conflict….” I would challenge them to justify such a charge.”

Go and read the pontifications of Rod Dreher, the author of The Benedict Option and a prominent, self-avowed spokesman of the “religious right” in America, who seems to feel that the chief threat to propagating orthodox theology is gay rights—and, more specifically, the growing awareness by youth of the normalcy and frequency of “same sex attraction” and affectivity.

“Should we not have had the leadership of the church in Italy, aided by the wisdom of Professor Francesco Margiotta Broglio, when the European Union decreed that Italy had to take the crucifixes off the classroom walls of Italian schools? Should we eliminate all concordats, even when they help protect men and women of faith, all faiths, when they are under attack?”

This is the kind of defense against rampant secularism in political affairs that is perfectly legitimate, but the “defense” should be limited to protecting the practice of the “pilgrim people of God” (of whatever faith) rather than going out to attempt to “reform” a world that is no longer religiously inspired. A good example is opposition to what the secularists and the Protestants call “traditional marriage,” which isn’t Catholic marriage at all, because it has been, for centuries, imminently dissoluble. The “traditional marriage” of most Western societies is ALREADY “civil marriage” and not the “sacramental marriage” of the Catholic faithful, and the Church needs to recognize that it is unjust to deny it to gay folk. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has every right to insist that she will never sacramentally unite two people of the same sex.

Robert Lewis
6 years 9 months ago

Also, I wish to add another thing to the above, as a sort of general reproof of those who seek, as this bishop apparently does, to minimize theological differences, in the interest of some sort of "ecumenism" that might foster a kind of "unity" that is more political than it is actually spiritual.

He and others of his persuasion seem not to be in the least aware that certain of the social and moral blights that they recognize in American and Western European society may well have been CAUSED by the fragmentation of Christian sacramental and doctrinal unity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Among these are the beliefs and attitudes that shaped the kind of "marriage" and "holy matrimony" that was propounded by the early Church Fathers, who were closer to the spirit of Christ's apostles than Luther or Calvin were. And Luther, in particular, challenged the notion of the indissolubility of marriage for a specific theological purpose that reflected an important principle of his heresy: the notion of "salvation by faith alone," the idea that one could "sin bravely," as he put it, and still attain salvation by "throwing" oneself "upon the blood."

Here's the evidence: in his "Table Talk" Luther is challenged by one of his disciples to note that, in the Gospel of Matthew, Christ TWICE forbids divorce, permitting it only for adultery, despite its being allowed by Moses's Law. The reason Luther is being cross-questioned on this issue is that, at that point, he had divorced a nun from her order and had married her, despite her religious vow, which had "married" her to Christ. Luther's response: "I know that, but I say that when the Savior gave us that law, He had His tongue far in his cheek." Considering what was Luther's theological bent at that period, the only logical conclusion of that statement, as it has been interpreted even by Luther's followers (although they never seem to elaborate on what it means for modern, so-called "traditional marriage") is that Christ gave that prohibition to His followers knowing that their concupiscence indicates that they cannot follow it, and, in knowing that, they will be "convicted of their sins." From THAT follows the legitimacy of "companionate," as opposed to "sacramental" (i.e. indissoluble) marriage in Christian societies, and from THAT follows the logic of readily available divorce. It has been readily available divorce, as well as readily available contraception, that has reduced so-called American "traditional" marriage--among Protestants and secularists--to being no more than the "civil marriage" of the revolving door of American serial monogamy. The sacrament of Roman Catholic matrimony has, in my opinion--informed, as stated above, by this profound theological difference--as little to do with what passes for "marriage" in American Protestant and secularist society as it has to do with so-called "gay marriage." If, in a context informed by this theological difference, people have a "right" to divorce promiscuously--which they have had, ever since Luther's blasphemous marriage and John Milton's "Doctrine of Divorce"--then they have a "right" to so-called "gay marriage," which has absolutely nothing to do with Catholic sacramental marriage, and has no bearing upon it.

You see, these theological differences cannot be papered over so easily; they have had, and will continue to have, great influence on cultural trends.

Also, if you would seek to dismiss and belittle what I have just stated, I would suggest a very interesting tome to you: "The Unintended Reformation" by Brad S. Gregory.

Robert Lewis
6 years 9 months ago

Of course, in the above, I mean "opposition" to so-called "attacks" upon what the "conservatives" mistakenly call "traditional marriage."

Robert Lewis
6 years 9 months ago

Rod Dreher and his “Benedict Option” ARE fascinating phenomena, and I don’t mean to dismiss them frivolously. However, I just don’t think his Christian isolationism is the “Catholic way” or that it ever has been—because it is essentially un-compassionate. Certainly, it’s not the Jesuit way of Inigo de Loyala.
There are many ways of objecting to it. This reader at one of his columns has found one:

"That marriage could be unsexed is a total novelty in the Christian tradition.”--Dreher

"Not in the most important sense, i.e., the sacramental, since both Eastern and Western churches have recognized the validity and even superiority of celibate marriages (by mutual consent) from apostolic times. Sacred legend even contends that Mary and Joseph lived celibately throughout their marriage. The concept wreaks havoc with more doctrinal assumptions than one (e.g., of marriage as procreative AND absolutely indissoluble, since even the Catholic Church dissolves — not annuls — unconsummated, albeit sacramental unions for good cause. But there it is.)"

And here is another objection by a reader that should give Catholics pause about Dreher and his "Benedict Option";

"How Protestantism and Catholicism are to do this is not up to me to say, but rather for Protestants and Catholics, respectively. This means that they will need to first recognize that they are minorities in post-Christian America, and second to get busy being creative minorities."--Dreher

This is an oddly Protestant statement. Catholics have always been a minority in America, both “Christian” (which meant Protestant) and “post-Christian” (no change there). Sometimes, often, we were a persecuted minority. We built an entire school system to protect our children from Protestant indoctrination.

So I think we don’t have to “get used to” not being in charge. I think this fact might be part of my reaction to the Benedict Option. The book, the whole idea, seems to arise out of a sort of surprise at not being on top any more, whereas I am always thinking, “so what? big deal.” Not being in charge doesn’t much worry people who were never on top anyway.

If you are a minority, being creative about it would seem the best strategy, and we’ve done a fair amount of that too."

[NFR: Perhaps I should have been more precise: orthodox/traditional Protestants and orthodox/traditional Catholics. — RD]

What the reader recognizes, and what Dreher partially admits, is that his programme seeks to divide Catholic, or “universal” Christianity into purist sects. It’s the old Protestant impulse, and, as Chesterton insisted, these heresies never wholly die; they just undergo a metamorphosis.


Vincent Gaglione
6 years 9 months ago

Bishop Murphy writes a long and thorough rebuttal to the Spadaro-Figuero article. Regarding many of the items which he addresses I certainly do not have enough knowledge to respond intelligently. I did find the Spadaro-Figuero comments persuasive.

Of one thing I am sure, however. And it can be seen in some of the comments posted on this website in response to many different articles. There was, there is, and there continues to be a level of disdain and disrespect evident from the Catholic right (and evangelicals) towards those who vigorously oppose the campaign promises and policies of Trump. Many of Trump’s behaviors and policies to some of us are the antithesis of Christian morality and teachings.

The president seemingly can do no wrong, to the extent that a Southern Baptist preacher from Texas can proclaim without any rebuttal as yet from any other religious figure, Catholic or otherwise: "When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.”

This last quote is the apotheosis of what I previously described. It is a level of hate that I find disturbing and frightening. If I am wrong, let my Catholic clergy publicly tell me now. But if that preacher and Trump are wrong, let me hear it publicly as well.

William deHaas
6 years 9 months ago

Sorry, Bishop Murphy - you merely continue the false and failed Forenight for Freedom campaign masquerading as Catholic-Republican.
He cites three reasons why the USCCB did not support PPACA - avoiding the issue that basic catholic social justice and almost all other catholic groups/associations supported PPACA.
a) immigrants - meaning undocumented. Yes, that would have been wonderful but no Congress would have passed that - let's at least face reality
b) funding for abortion - duh, Bishop, but that law already exists. PPACA does not allow federal funds to pay for abortions. So, what is your point?
c) religious freedom - I note that you completely avoid the more direct language that the USCCB used to oppose PPACA and it had to do with birth control and contraception. BTW, the church (meaning the people of God) have moved way past this single issue. And the HHS and SCOTUS provided very easy solutions to this *made up conscience* objection which the religious right rejected - in basic catholic morality, we call these means *remote participation* - notice you skip over that reality.

Finally, you do point out that Civilta Catholica article tended to lump all evangelicals together - but that is an interpretation and it fails to recognize that this was an opinion piece - not a documented white paper. You also appear to highlight notable right wing catholic conservatives as not part of what Civilta notes. Sorry - you and I will have to disagree on that observation. Folks such as Nuehaus, Novak, etc. are and were part of the problem with the catholic hierarchy's shift to the Republican Party citing unsubstantiated claims about religious liberty, etc. Most historians and studies now show that their works and stance on religious liberty merely covered a form of discrimination e.g. poor, blacks, gays, women's health, etc. They unfortunately (along with you bishop) appeal to a bygone era as if it was the perfect period (the 1950s).

Dan Kreutzer-Crocker
6 years 9 months ago

thank you for succinctly refuting the thinly disguised Republican first bishop

Catherine McKeen
6 years 9 months ago

Bishop Murphy surely knows something about people being marginalized, penalized and restricted in the practice of their faith. For that was his policy toward faithful Catholics in his diocese who joined Voice of the Faithful, the organization that formed in Boston in the wake of the clergy abuse scandal.

We were characterized as "heterodox" in the practice of our faith; we were prohibited from meeting in our own parishes or even distributing leaflets on church property; the priests who supported the organization were "punished" in a variety of small-minded ways.

Bishop Murphy's last hurrah before retirement was the letter he sent to all parishes in the Rockville Centre diocese instructing pastors that it was to be read out at all Masses. That letter was an implicit endorsement of Donald Trump, appearing just before the November elections, though Bishop Murphy -- when questioned -- denied that was his intention.

Now he has the president he endorsed, one formed in the prosperity gospel of Normal Vincent Peale. The sad case of "Murphy's Mansion" echoed the same values, showing off the new wine cellar as a way to impress the folks and prove one's ultimate importance.

Douglas Fang
6 years 9 months ago


Thanks for sharing your experience. You seem to be quite knowledgeable about Bishop Murphy. If your last statement is true: “Murphy’s Mansion” with a new wine cellar, then I don’t believe that Bishop Murphy is a true follower of Jesus. If this is the case, I don’t think he has anything to teach us and his response to the essay is mostly self-serving.

Suzanne Smith
6 years 9 months ago

Oh, I just googled and read an article online on Irish Central about the $5 million renovation with marble bathrooms and gold platings...., oh, Bishop Murphy, please say its ain't so!

Suzanne Smith
6 years 9 months ago

I appreciate the Bishop's thoughtful response to the article in question - which I read - but this rebuttal does not ring true for me. Sadly, the alliance between a certain population of Catholics and Evangelical Protestants has given us Donald Trump, who in turn, has inspired domestic terrorism and raised up the Ku Klux Klan. And the Pope went about as far as he could without overtly warning American Catholics not to vote for him. But many of our Bishops have a great deal to answer for because they endorsed Trump - putting their personal politics ahead of the Church, the faithful people they serve and Jesus' admonition to Love our God with all hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. I share many of our Pope's and this Bishop's (I am sure) concerns about the dangers and problems associated with secularization (a trivialization of life for example, Charlie Gard, etc.. ) But that is no excuse. BUT I do agree that not all Evangelical protestants are of the same make and mold - many, in fact, are quite "liberal" in their thinking - unfortunately they don't get much air time. No you don't get to support someone for the most important political job in the world - US president - who wants to build walls, calls people names, makes fun of people with disabilities, behaves recklessly regarding war. compulsively lies, has multiple divorces, and a history of adultery and then cry foul when fellow Catholics call you out. I, too, have noticed that many Catholics are adopting the language of Evangelical Protestants. And, more importantly, that many of today's converts to Catholicism are converting because they are conservative and want certainty in an uncertain world. They understand the dogma but miss the compassion piece that is also at the heart of Catholicism. Nothing wrong with being conservative. I was raised by Catholic Republicans. But not one member of my Catholic Republican family voted for Trump. And, because of what they were hearing from their bishops over the last 10 years. stopped listening to them. Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia (my old neck of the woods) just wrote a wonderful and important message denouncing racism and Nazism in response to what happened in Charlottesville. But he also did his best to get Trump elected. I would like to ask him: What did he think was going to happen? The bishops are now outspoken about the current treatment and policies regarding refugees and illegal immigrants in the US (and rightly so) but again, for those conservative bishops, I would ask: What did you think was going to happen? Maybe it is time for some of our conservative Church leaders to take a hard look at themselves and their complicity? Maybe Bishop Murphy, instead of feeling wounded by the article, you might reflect on your own actions?

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