Understanding Catholic Fundamentalism

Reflections about Religious Fundamentalism


Fundamentalism is Fundamentally Flawed



Fundamentalism is fundamentally flawed because it takes one element of the truth and proclaims it as the WHOLE TRUTH. Religious fundamentalists place such a high priority on doctrinal conformity and obedience to doctrinaire spokespersons that they sacrifice values basic to the great religious traditions: love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and caring. In their overwhelming seriousness about religion, fundamentalists do not hesitate to intervene in political and social process to ensure that society is forced to conform to the values and behaviors the fundamentalist worldview requires. Fundamentalists are their own justification.

Fundamentalism appeals for a variety of reasons.

(1) For people who feel unimportant or insignificant, fundamentalism says you are important because you are God’s “special messenger.”

(2) For people who are fearful, fundamentalism says “you can’t be saved without us…join and be saved.”

(3) For the confused, fundamentalism says one doesn’t have to think about doctrine nor even be educated in it. Just believe

(4) Fundamentalism makes the fundamentalist feel good about himself or herself. It is slf-stroking

(5) Fundamentalism justifies hatred of one group of people for another, because it believes that God hates those who do not conform to the fundamentalist’s worldview.

(6) Fundamentalism appeals to people burdened by guilt and shame because it exempts them from responsibility for situations or actions that cause guilt and shame. Fundamentalism says…if you are one of us, you are OK.

(7) Fundamentalism excuses people from honest self-examination; and it justifies their prejudices, zealotry, intolerance and hatefulness.

What should we do about fundamentalism?

  • The best way to confront ignorance is through real education that emphasizes critical, analytical thinking skills.
  • Real education stresses the importance of gathering evidence and then proceeding to conclusions. Fundamentalists work in the opposite fashion.
  • We need to establish channels for dialogue and institutions that promote multi-cultural knowledge and understanding.
  • We ALL need to practice a genuine humility that enables us to see the broad human picture and the variety of thoughts and understandings about what we call Reality.
  • We need to translate our vision-gained-from-humility into concrete and achievable actions and strategies.

Civility and Chutzpah Confronting Catholic Polarization and Fundamentalism

Yes We Do Have  A Problem…..Yes We all Share in the Solution

In Church and In General Society



When Civility and Open-Mindedness are Abandoned

Polarization and Ideological Idolatry Set In


The Tea Party people are crusading across America. The mid-term elections campaign rhetoric is angry, strong, and fierce.
Conservative America is vocal, often unfairly judgmental, and on the move. And conservative American Catholcs are angry and aggressively judgmental, and on the move as well.
It appears that civility and open-mindedness have been discarded for the battle axes of prejudice, narrow-mindedness, and just plain nastiness.
* I have had more than enough emails reminding me that “Imam Obama” is a baby-killer, is anti-life, anti-family, and establishing extermination centers to liquidate all who disagree with his un-American sociualist strategy for the United States.
* And now craziness has consumed the Catholic Right as well. A new breed of theologically conservative American Catholics has taken to blogs and YouTube to say the church isn’t Catholic enough. RealCatholicTV.com, for instance, working from studios in suburban Detroit, is hunting for “traitorous” nuns, priests or bishops throughout the American Catholic Church. John Allen, Vatican analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, calls this trend “Taliban Catholicism.”
Next time I will have some further reflections about Catholic fundamentalism in the United States — and what to do about it.
Somehow we all need to stop blaming “them.”
We need to rebuild communities in which civility (politeness and respect) lead to objective and open-minded reflection and conversation.
Otherwise we are doomed to either tyranny or anarchy.
I guess, frankly, that CIVILITY demands HUMILITY: knowing that no one has all the correct answers and
we need to have open ears and open eyes to the other.
But HUMILITY demands as well CHUTZPAH: the courage to speak out while maintaining respect for the other.




(As Reported in the Dallas Morning News)
Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas has taken issue publicly with a Southern Methodist University professor’s upcoming lecture on U.S.
Catholic bishops and abortion law. The Rev. Charles Curran is a Catholic priest and ethicist who has long taught at SMU, and who also has a history of tangling with the Vatican over social issues. He’s to give a lecture Thursday at SMU titled “The U.S. Catholic Bishops and Abortion Legislation: A Critique From Within the Church.”
An SMU press release says: “Curran’s lecture will examine how U.S. Roman Catholic bishops have made opposition to legal abortion their primary social
issue, and will challenge the bishops from a theological perspective for claiming too much certitude in their position.” Farrell issued a statement, saying he had become aware of the lecture. “The act of directly taking an unborn life is wrong and has always been wrong,” Farrell said. “This has been the constant teaching of the church.” Near the end of the statement, Farrell said, “I regret that Father Curran has chosen to criticize the position of the bishops of the United States on this
matter.” But Curran disputed Farrell’s characterization of the lecture. “This paper is not about the Catholic moral teaching on abortion,” Curran said Tuesday. “In fact, the paper accepts the Catholic moral teaching that direct abortion is always wrong. The paper deals solely with abortion law and argues that one who holds the Catholic moral teaching can come to different conclusions about what the law should be.” Curran added: “The bishop’s false public statement is a gross injustice to me and my good name.”
Farrell’s statement has been posted on the SMU Catholic Ministry website and been sent by e-mail to people registered with the SMU Catholic Ministry.
It also was inserted into bulletins at Catholic Masses on campus Sunday, said Annette Gonzales Taylor, spokeswoman for the diocese. Curran’s address is part of a lecture series put on by SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Ethics & Public Responsibility Center. Early in his career as priest and ethicist, Curran challenged the Vatican’s
conservative positions on birth control and other social issues. In 1986, the Vatican – in a ruling shaped by then-Cardinal Joseph
, now Pope Benedict XVI – declared him unfit to teach theology at a Catholic school. Amid much publicity, Curran left the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., arriving at SMU in 1991.

Signs of the Times: “Reform-of-the-Reform” Brings Lace-Covered Old-Time-Religion

Cardinal-elect Velasio De Paolis

Tridentine Rite for the Franciscans of the Immaculate

Cardinal-elect Velasio De Paolis, president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See and pontifical delegate for the Legionaries of Christ, has ordained deacons in the Tridentine Rite for the Franciscans of the Immaculate.  The order was founded in 1990 and given papal approval in 1998.  

Meanwhile back at the office…..

Italian prosecutors have contested claims by the Vatican bank that it is trying to comply with international rules to fight money laundering, saying an investigation that led to the seizure of 23 million Euros ($30 million) from a Vatican bank account shows “exactly the opposite,” according to a court document obtained last Friday by The Associated Press.

An Italian court on Wednesday rejected a Vatican request to lift the seizure, leading the Vatican to express “astonishment” at the court’s ruling and indicating the case will not be cleared up quickly, as the Vatican originally predicted.

Since the money was ordered seized last month, the Vatican and the bank’s chairman, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, have repeatedly said the allegations resulted from a “misunderstanding” and that the Vatican bank – officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion – has been working to comply with international rules to fight money-laundering.

AND….. theVatican says it ended 2009 with a loss of 4.1 million Euros ($5.93 million), compared to its loss of 911,514 Euros ($1.32 million) in 2008.  In 2007 it had lost 9 million Euros ($13.03 million). 

The Tridentine liturgy has returned with abundant papal blessings and a big push from some

big-power-boss new cardinals.

Perhaps the sale of indulgences — to replenish church coffers — will be the next

reform-of-the-reform innovation.



The Latest Hierarchical Rationalization: SMALLER IS BETTER

The Eclipse of the American Catholic Church is Well Underway


Archbishop John Nienstedt has the answer


Around the world the Catholic exodus has begun. Here in the United States, a steadily increasing stream of “had it” Catholics is leaving the Roman Catholic Church. Parish closings around the country have become simply a sign of the times. Roman Catholic dioceses across the country have been struggling for years to maintain aging churches because of falling attendance, a priest shortage, and financial problems. Now they are simply closing shop.

Catholicism has lost more people to other religions or to no religion at all than any other single religious group in the United States.

More than 10% of the adult population in the United States now consists of people who have left the Roman Catholic Church for another religion or for no religion at all. To put it another way, one out of every 10 people in the United States (or 22,725,000) is a former-Catholic.

These are individuals who were baptized and raised Catholic but who now no longer identify themselves as Catholic. Furthermore, if one excludes immigrants and converts from the calculations, the Catholic Church has lost to other religions or to no religion at all, 35.4% or more than one-third of the 64,131,750 of its native born members. This amounts to almost 7 out of every 20 adults who were baptized as Catholics.

So what do we think about the more than 10% of the population that has left the Catholic Church? What has happened to the

more than 22,750,000 people who have left?

Archbishop John Nienstedt has the answer! SMALLER IS BETTER……

A couple days ago, in an interview with The Associated Press, Archbishop John Nienstedt (Archbishop of St. Paul / Minneapolis) talked about plans to close 21 churches in the archdiocese. “A smaller church isn’t a bad thing if the people in it are more strongly committed to Catholic principles” the Archbishop stressed, because “a shrinking church can still be influential on cultural issues.” This is what we call the “holy remnant” idea that is also very popular with Pope Benedict.

Archbishop Nienstedt made headlines earlier this month when he denied Communion to a group of college students from St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict because they were wearing rainbow-colored buttons in support of gay rights. Heaven knows — some of them were probably even gay.

Nienstedt is a popular fellow. He recently angered a lot of Catholics with the mailing of a DVD that opposes gay marriage in Minnesota.

Nienstedt says Jesus directed his followers not to be lukewarm on important issues. Nienstedt said people who are going to be Catholic “have to be 100 percent Catholic.”

Of course. We all know that Jesus said that as well.

Big Money, Conservative Politics, and the American Catholic Hierarchy

The Growth of the U.S. Catholic Right



Christian Nationalism in America?


After liturgy on Sunday, a friend and I had several cups of coffee and a long conversation about the growth of the Catholic Right in the United States. He asked if I knew of some resources to help understand why the shift has occurred. The very best book I have seen so far is The Neo-Catholics by Betty Clermont.

The book examines how neo-conservatives linked-up with powerful right wing Catholics in a way that could change the face of institutional American Catholicism, the structuring of social policy in the United States, and the American agenda in the world. As I reminded my friend over our third cup of coffee, it is no coinicidence that the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican is a conservative American Cardinal and the head of the Vatican’s supreme court is another far to the right American Conservative (soon to be cardinal) whose battle cry is that President Obama is anti-life and anti-family. Levada and Burke are key players in a well-orchestrated power-shift that has Pope Benedict dancing in his red slippers.The book is highly recommended as well by two of our greatest observers of the American Catholic scene: Robert Blair Kaiser and Jason Berry.

“Betty Clermont helps us recall, in excruciating detail, a history of the U.S. Catholic right and its tremendous influence in the U.S. government since Ronald Reagan began forging ties with the Vatican. In vivid scene after scene, Ms. Clermont lets the documented facts tell the story, of how the American bishops diverted our money  (not theirs) away from programs promoting social justice into political action that could only make Republicans smile. A darn well written study in the abuse of power by lordly bishops who rest assured because they rest assured.”  ROBERT BLAIR KAISER covered Vatican II for Time magazine. He is the author of Cardinal Mahony: A Novel.


“Betty Clermont’s The Neo Catholics tracks the links of Republican politics, big money and Catholic ideologues with a muckraker’s zeal. Even those who do not share Clermont’s every position will be pulled along by her relentless scrutiny of how the pro-life agenda turned into a hothouse for war-mongering and the endless money-hunt.”  JASON BERRY, Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II and Lead Us Not into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the  Sexual Abuse of Children

Get to Know the Players — and the Game Plan Becomes Obvious

New Men Welcomed at the Vatican


On Thursday, 7 October 2010,  Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Cardinal Claudio Hummes from the post of Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy; and appointed Italian Archbishop Mauro Piacenza to succeed Cardinal Hummes to the position.

Archbishop Piacenza is a “siriano,” i.e., one of the “Siri Boys” educated and formed in the highly conservative tradition (read Latin liturgy and Council of Trent-style liturgy) of the late and far to the Right conservative Cardinal Giuseppe Siri (1906-1989). Another “Siri Boy” now serving Pope Benedict is Monsignor Guido Marini, the Papal Master of Ceremonies.

Piacenza at Tridentine Mass

Ultra-traditionalists, the “Siri Boys” are key players in the reform of the reform. They are actively collaborating in the implementation of:

(1)   Latin in the liturgy

(2)   Liturgy ad orientem – that is with the presider’s derriere facing the People of God

(3)   Communion on the tongue ONLY

(4)   Nineteenth century clerical dress.

Benedict’s decision to tap Piacenza to take over the Congregation for Clergy is widely seen as a reward for his efforts in organizing the recently-concluded “Year of Priests.”

Piacenza could be in line to be named cardinal in a consistory Benedict XVI is expected to call for late November. Announcement of the names of new cardinals is expected one month before, probably after the conclusion of the October 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.



Speaking of the Synod of Bishops, one of the “experts” appointed by Pope Benedict to Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for the Middle East is Don Nicola Bux.

Bux is a professor of sacramental theology at the Theological Faculty in Bari (Italy). During a  recent pilgrimage for priests, he celebrated Eucharist in the “usus antiquior” (i.e. the pre-Vatican II old-style liturgy) and gave a lecture in which he encouraged young priests to be faithful to the thought and liturgical teaching of Pope Benedict XVI and “be able to appreciate the treasure of the usus antiquior and reflect on the reform of the liturgical reform undertaken after the Second Vatican Council.”

Since pictures often speak louder than words, a couple photos of Don Nicola Bux:

And now we better understand how the Vatican will solve

both the shortage of ordained ministers problem and the problem of clerical sexual abuse….

Happy Birthday Vatican II! We miss you!

The Second Vatican Council Opened Forty-Eight Years Ago Today: On 11 October 1962




Joseph Ratzinger-become-pope wants to forget Vatican II.

His Rome wants to reform the reform and pretend Vatican II never existed.


We will not forget Vatican II and the message of its life-giving theology:

The Church is the People of God — a community of men and women united in faith. The male-dominated clerical superstructre is simply an administrative body. It exists to be of service to the People of God and not to dominate and control through intimidation, denigration, and condemnation.

Humanity and the human condition progress through time. Cultural understandings and the ways in which we think and express ourselves change. The signs of the times deserve in depth reflection and concrete action rooted in that reflection. Yesterday’s understanding of the human condition is not necessarily today’s and will probabaly not be tomorrow’s.

Church teaching, like all theology, is time-bound. Yesterday’s expressions are not necessarily best suited to today’s understandings and language. Healthy theology dares to ask questions and dares to formulate answers that echo the tradition and resonate with the experiences of contemporary believers.

Today’s ecclesiastical leadership has willfully imprisoned itself in a nineteenth century time warp. Pope John XXIII smiled at the world and opened the windows. Pope Benedict turns up his nose, slams the windows shut and nails them closed with ornate medieval nails.

Nevertheless, the theological challenge  remains:

How do we speak today about our experiences of the Divine? Who is God for contemporary believers?

Two thousand years after he walked the earth, who is Jesus of Nazareth, raised from the dead, whom we  proclaim Lord and Christ?

And what does it mean to be a human person? And how do we develop and live a system of values that respects that humanity in all its cultural, historic, religious, ethnic, sexual and gender varieties.

PS………..How did the Pope celebrate the anniversary of Vatican II?

He brought back the papal tiara and re-worked his papal coat of arms………This past Sunday a new banner appeared in front of Pope Benedict’s study window for the noonday recitation of the Angelus.  Gone is the bishop’s mitre — originally part of his papal coat arms.  The papal tiara has been returned…

Pope Benedict’s Institutional Church is Playing Language Games

A Meditation : Church-Speak



Orwell would have more than a few cynical remarks about today’s institutional church.


In 1946 George Orwell wrote “Politics and the English Language” — a perceptive essay about the institutional use of language. In this essay he lamented the quality of the English of his day, citing examples of the pretentious rhetoric of institutional leaders and the use of absolutely meaningless words: all of which contribute to fuzzy ideas, a lack of logical thinking, and making falsehood appear as truth.

I thought about this October 7th when Pope Benedict XVI addressed an International Congress for the Catholic Press sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. As one of my Rome-based friends observed: “Not only was his address exclusively in Italian, but neither the Holy See Press Office nor any other Vatican office saw the purpose of issuing a full translation in any other language, such as English, French or Spanish.”

This is the same pope of course who is implementing a liturgical “reform of the reform.” What terrific Church-speak!

It is of course no reform at all. It is rather a slowly-moving regression back to a 1950’s Catholic ethos of clerical-centered triumphalist ritual which turns its back on the congregation, glorifies obfuscating language, and denigrates the non-ordained.

Next stage after the Church-speak proclamation of Jesus Christ  as “consubstantial with the Father” will be more liturgical Latin-Latin and more liturgical Latinized-English (as in the “new and improved” English liturgy arriving officially in Advent 2011).

Vatican liturgists are already preparing for reintroduction (more “reform of the reform”) of communion on tongues because hands are sinful. They forget that Jesus said one should not worry about eating with dirty hands because what defiles a person is what comes out of the mouth. And the tongue, though a little member, defiles the whole body with evil and corrupt communication.

Two expert Catholic theologians, well-anchored in the theological tradition of the church, have written an excellent book on human sexuality. The USCCB Committee on Doctrine, headed by Archbishop (no doubt soon to be crowned with a red hat) Donald Wuerl of Washington, has condemned the Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler book  The Sexual Person as an “inauthentic expression of Catholic theology” and “harmful to one’s moral and spiritual life.”

Church-speak: Making falsehood appear as truth. Loyalty to institutional ideology versus ministry to people.

I am reminded of Archbishop Raymond Burke’s continued condemnations of President Obama for “aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda.”

Burke has great praise of course for former Presidnet George W. Bush and remains closed-lipped about Bush’s immoral and illegal war in Iraq, his continued support for capital punishment, and his taxation policies making the rich ever richer, eliminating the middle class, and making ever-more America poor (now about 45 million) even poorer.

In Orwell’s 1946 article he reminded his readers: “When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

Now I have to think again. Was that phrase “consubstantial” or “Constantinople with the Father”……………..or does it make any difference?






Pure Nonsense: U.S. Bishops Condemn Book by Creighton Theologians

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement denouncing as “harmful to one’s moral and spiritual life” a 2008 book by two theologians at Creighton University, a Roman Catholic institution. The book, The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology, by Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler, was published by Georgetown University Press, and the press website features much praise for the work.

It really is time to protest the patent ignorance of our bishops.

(1) I encourage all readers of Another Voice to buy and promote this excellent book.

(2) I also encourage people to send letters of support:

Professor Todd Salzman

Creighton University • 2500 California Plaza • Omaha NE • 68178

“Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler’s new book…is among the most important works in Catholic sexual ethics to emerge in the last two decades…Their book will be noticed because of its controversial positions on contraception, same-sex relationships, cohabitation and artificial means of reproduction. However, its contribution is its clear articulation of a person-centered natural-law ethic that offers Catholics an authentic way to think about sex in relation to their faith.”—National Catholic Reporter

How to Solve Problems in the Church

Some are demanding that Pope Benedict and other bishops resign immediately.

That may be a good idea in fact, but…





What we need AT EVERY LEVEL in the church is a new leadership style.



The openness for new wisdom, emerging in the here-and-now Roman Catholic Church, is so absent from our church leadership because the official  leadership model is based on individual authoritarian leaders — cut off from all genuine dialogue. 

Genuine dialogue happens when the authoritarian leader dares to lose grip on his (or her) ideas and allows new ideas and wisdom to emerge within an open and non-judgmental conversation.

Life-giving leadership is about enabling people, groups and organizations to create their own future, to acknowledge the need for change, and to collaborate in the processes of questioning, theorizing and changing. 

This is what we mean by theology: faith, in every age and culture, seeking understanding.

Leadership, based just on the individual perspective of the person in charge, blocks the co-creative process of dialogue and ignores the wisdom that is present in every person engaged in conversation in the community of faith.


Yes I do think the pope and other bishops guilty of sexual abuse cover-ups should resign.

And resign at once: pack their bags and move out.


BUT….we will not begin to solve the church’s problems until we shift from an authoritarian leadership model to a dialogical communitarian model….and this at all levels of the church: all the way from the young tyrant parish council president to the old tyrant bishop in Rome.