American Catholics : To Hell Wih You!

Having failed to convince American Catholics to follow their hard-line ban on contraception, American Catholic bishops are ignoring the consciences of those who work for them by seeking to impose their extremist beliefs on all women, Catholic or otherwise.

The current issue of course is the January 20th announcement by the Obama administration’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, that religious organizations could delay but not opt out of a requirement that all health plans cover contraception and sterilization in health-insurance coverage.

Catholic bishops across the United States have begun not just a spirited but a fierce anti-Obama administration campaign.

New York’s next cardinal, Archbishop Timothy Dolan feels “terribly let down, disappointed and disturbed.” In Phoenix, on January 25th, Bishop Thomas Olmsted declared: “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.”

Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, in a column titled “To hell with you,” wrote that the Obama administration is saying: “To hell with your religious beliefs. To hell with your religious liberty. To hell with your freedom of conscience. We’ll give you a year, they are saying, and then you have to knuckle under.”

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., enlisted the aid of St. Michael the Archangel in fighting “this unprecedented governmental assault upon the moral convictions of our faith.” In a January 24th letter to Catholics in Peoria, Bishop Jenky has mandated that the prayer of St. Michael be recited “for the freedom of the Catholic Church in America” during Sunday Masses at every parish, school, hospital, Newman center, and religious house in the diocese. Older Catholics will remember that that prayer ends: “Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil” and “cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

What’s happening here?

Who’s view of reality is more “real”?

Who’s understanding of “conscience” is more authentic.

Where do we go from here?

With all due respect to bishops Dolan, Olmsted, Zubik, and Jenky, I find the vision of my old moral theologian hero, Bernhard Häring, much more real and certainly much more hope-giving:

“Despite a certain trend towards conservatism in parts of the church and society, I am convinced that we have moved into a new era that will be determined by people who live by their own conscience and are particularly qualified to act as discerning members of community and society…the era in which almost everyone was content to be born and to live as a member of a certain church or ‘organized religion’ is over. The people who will shape the future of believers of all religions are those who have the courage to make their own choice, whatever pain may be involved, and to do so with personal responsibility.”


The U S Catholic Church : The KODAK Syndrome

Once the largest company in the world, the legendary Eastman Kodak is on its death bed. The fatal illness is what I shall call the Kodak Syndrome: a series of stategic leadership blunders and an institutional inability to understand contemporary trends and needs.

The Kodak Syndrome, sorry to say, infects as well the contemporary American Catholic Church.

I thought about the Kodak Syndrome last week, reading about Archbishop Charles Chaput’s announcement that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will be closing schools in record numbers during the coming year.

As NCR and other observers have reported, from Philadelphia to Newark, N.J., New York to Boston, Cleveland to Chicago to Detroit and beyond, the church of the immigrants is going the same route as the old industrial America of our parents and grandparents. The once huge parish plants — churches, schools and parish halls — like the great steel mills and manufacturing plants of old, are being abandoned, sold or demolished. The old American Catholic institution is being dismantled. (Something very similar of course is happening in Western Europe.)

According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, the Catholic Church in the United States has lost 1,359 parishes during the past 10 years, or 7.1 percent of the national total. While nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic.

Archbishop Timothy-soon-to-be-Cardinal Dolan, explains it this way:

“I’m developing a theory that one of our major challenges today is that American Catholic leadership is being strangled by trying to maintain the behemoth of the institutional Catholicism that we inherited from the 1940s and ’50s.”

The hierarchy is being stanged? No way. It’s the Kodak Syndrome.

I grew up in Detroit. The Archdiocese of Detroit has closed three dozen schools and fired a third of its diocesan employees during the last decade. It now projects that as many as 40 parishes will be closed in the coming decade. When I looked at photos of an abandoned and crumbling Detroit church, recently, it reminded me of my parents’ old Kodak Brownie camera: for years it witnessed births, baptisms, first communions, graduations, weddings, and deaths and burials. Their camera now sits unused gathering dust on a bookcase shelf. Once so important a part of my family life.

Tim is a congenial fellow but I cannot resonate with Archbishop Dolan. I do resonate with the words of Franciscan Father David Couturier (just appointed Director of Patoral Planning for the Archdiocese of Boston): “We have before us a generation of young adults and young Catholics who are negotiating life and faith in a wholly different way.”

We don’t need more demolition crews. Our bishops need more smart phones.

– John Greenleaf


The Pope’s War: Pope Benedict’s Crusade

Matthew Fox, former Roman Catholic and now Episcopalian, has written more than thirty books. An early and impressive proponent of Creation Spirituality, he first caught my attention when he completed his doctorate, summa cum laude, at the Institut Catholique de Paris.

Fox’s most recent book, THE POPE’S WAR: WHY RATZINGER’S SECRET CRUSADE HAS IMPERILED THE CHURCH AND HOW IT CAN BE SAVED, is a powerfully incisive critique of Pope Benedict XVI’s reform strategy to shift the Catholic Church back to the nineteenth century.

As Matthew Fox outlines it, the current Ratzingerian reform relies on three powerful and secretive pillar organizations: Opus Dei, the Legionaires of Christ, and Communion and Liberation. No surprises here; but as Fox tells it, it becomes all the more unsettling. Power. Absolute power. And corruption. So very far from the humble man of God from Nazareth.

The most moving and upsetting part of Fox’s book is its “martyrology” of the great “inquisitor’s” enemies. The inquisitor of course: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fox lists 91 men and women whose careers were either derailed or dead-ended because, in the judgment of Joseph Ratzinger’s Inquisition, they said the wrong thing. Martyrs indeed, like the venerable German theologian, Bernhard Häring, who was the first theologian to be attacked by Ratzinger.

Häring, presented a dialogic approach to Catholic moral theology in Free and Faithful in Christ and The Law of Christ. Morality, he said, follows the pattern of faith i.e. a dialogue. It rests not on obedience to the church but on the freedom of a person’s conscience that acknowledges listening to God as the basis of value. “God speaks in many ways to awaken, deepen and strengthen faith, hope, love and the spirit of adoration. We are believers to the extent that, in all of reality and in all events that touch us, we perceive a gift and a call from God.”

Häring, who experiencd a Nazi inquisition, said his inquisition under Cardinal Ratzinger’s CDF was far more scary.

Put it on your spiritual reading list: The Pope’s War by Matthew Fox


Cardinal George Apologizes and Vatican Ambassadors Support Romney

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has apologized for remarks comparing an annual gay rights parade to a Ku Klux Klan rally.

In a Chicago Tribune interview, George said he is “truly sorry for the hurt my remarks have caused.” George said he has gay and lesbian family members, and his remarks “evidently wounded a good number of people. I am sorry for the hurt.”

The cardinal’s initial remarks just before Christmas were prompted by plans by gay pride leaders to route a parade at a time that would have interfered with services at a church. He said it resembled anti-Catholic marches once staged by the Klan. The time of the parade was changed. Gay rights groups condemned his comments.

An official of The Civil Rights Agenda, which called for George’s resignation because of his remarks, said Friday that he is pleased by the cardinal’s apology. Anthony Martinez, executive director for the gay rights group, said George has set a good example of leadership by admitting he was wrong….


And a story just starting that could have significant implications for November 2012 Elections……

Five former ambassadors to the Vatican endorsed Mitt Romney on Saturday, 7 January,  choosing a Mormon over two Roman Catholic rivals in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. In a statement showcased by Mr. Romney’s campaign, the ambassadors said they “are united in our wholehearted support for the candidacy of Mitt Romney for the Presidency of the United States because of his commitment to and support of the values that we feel are critical in a national leader.”

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are both Catholics and often talk about their religion and values on the campaign trail.

The endorsements could also help blunt any under-the-radar attacks by religious conservatives who oppose Mr. Romney because of his religion. Last year, some evangelical leaders called Mormonism a cult.

In the statement, the ambassadors cited what they said was Mr. Romney’s commitment to “traditional values” and said that because of his “outstanding record in defense of marriage and the family, we are confident that he understands the importance of strong families as pillars of a vibrant economy and a flourishing polity.”




According to the statement, the ambassadors are:

Thomas Patrick Melady (U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 1989-1993)
Raymond L. Flynn (U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 1993-1997)
James Nicholson (U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 2001-2005)
Francis Rooney (U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 2005-2008)
Mary Ann Glendon (U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 2008-2009)

For obvious reasons, the current ambassador Miguel Diaz did not sign the statement. 🙂



The UNKNOWN KNOWNS: Another Voice in 2012

Throughout 2012….

I will constructively address the contemporary church problem of the  UNKNOWN KNOWNS.

In 2011 ANOTHER VOICE had just over eleven thousand visits….I appreciate your comments!

John W. Greenleaf

He was never my hero; but former US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld did make a statement that I will use as my editorial launch pad for 2012: “There are known knowns…there are known unknowns…there are also unknown unknowns.”

I would add that in our contemporary Catholic Church there are also “unknown knowns.”

The big problem in our contemporary church is that we have an increasingly large majority of laypeople, ordained ministers, and theologians who really do know what it means to be a believer today. And we have an ever angrier, more self-defensive, and more arrogant church leadership that glories in its ignorance of just about everything that the rest of the church has discovered and takes for granted.

Two examples:

(1)    USCCB and Elizabeth Johnson

(2)    Cardinal George and Gay Pride


First Elizabeth Johnson’s book:

Our US bishops demonstrated their difficulty with UNKNOWN KNOWNS when they condemned and still condemn the wonderfully reflective book by Elizabeth Johnson Quest for the Living God. Her book is positive, rooted in our tradition, inspirational and refreshingly contemporary. Too bad it is an “unknown” for our bishops. Here are three Quest for the Living God  citations:

          First off, a person can no longer be a Christian out of social convention or inherited custom.  To be a Christian now requires a personal decision, the kind of decision that brings about a change of heart and sustains long-term commitment.  Not cultural Christianity but a diaspora church, scattered among unbelievers and believers of various stripes, becomes the setting for this free act of faith.  Furthermore, when a person does come to engage belief in a personal way society makes this difficult to do…. When, nevertheless persons do make a free act of faith, the factors characteristic of the modern world impart a distinctive stamp to their spiritual experience.  This is not surprising, since the path to God always winds through the historical circumstances of peoples’ times and places. Inhabiting a secular, pluralistic culture, breathing its atmosphere and conducting their daily lives according to its pragmatic tenets, Christians today have absorbed the concrete pattern of modernity into their very soul. – p. 29

           Mystical and practical, Christian life then becomes a passion for God that encompasses the suffering, the passion, of others, committing people to resistance against injustice for the living in hope of universal justice even for the dead.  – p. 67

          A simple thought experiment may bring home the depth of this biblical revelation about the nature of God. Is there a single text where in vigorous “thus says the Lord” fashion people are counseled to oppress the poor, to rob from the widow, to put on a big show of sacrifice at the expense of doing justice? Is there a text where God delights in seeing people — or any creatures — in agony? Suffering happens; indeed some texts interpret war and exile as divine punishment for the sin of the people as a whole, sin that includes precisely the acts of oppressing the poor. But even here, God’s anger lasts for a moment, divine mercy for ten thousand years. Taken from start to finish, as a whole, the Bible reveals God as compassionate lover of justice, on the side of the oppressed to the point where “those who oppress the poor insult their Maker” (Prov 14:31). – p. 76


Now Cardinal George:

And then we have  UNKNOWN KNOWNS and Chicago’s Cardinal George who, four days before Christmas, revealed himself not only as ignorant but a self-righteous and dangerously silly bigot. NCR in a 2 January editorial clearly sketches Cardinal George’s problem with the unknown knowns:

          Whether Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George went into a Dec. 21 television interview intending to compare the gay community with the Ku Klux Klan or impulsively gave voice to something that popped into his mind at the moment, it is clear that he welcomed any opportunity to pick a fight.

          His incendiary comment, spur of the moment or not, betrays a larger context that, in the cardinal’s universe, is no secret. And that context is that anti-Catholic hordes — gays, materialists, certainly The New York Times, politicians who won’t hew their views and strategies to the Catholic line, and other societal forces — lurk around every corner and are largely responsible for all the church’s troubles…..

           But a cardinal who assesses a conflict between the time and route of a Gay Pride Parade and a Catholic Mass with the line, “You don’t    want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism,” diminishes any standing the church might still have in the public arena. The important issues get buried beneath the understandable outrage such comments invite. His words were not only embarrassingly imprudent, they are nonsensical as historical comparison.

          The facts also defy the cardinal’s assertion that he was backing up a pastor. Fr. Thomas Srenn did express concern that the parade route would go past the church this year at a time when the parish would be celebrating Mass. But his tone, in a statement posted on Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish website, was far more conciliatory. He noted the parish has a 125-year history in the East Lakeview neighborhood, is proud of the area’s diversity and considers the Pride Parade “one of the hallmarks that make Lakeview unique and we in no way wish to diminish its place in the community.” As a matter of fact, he met with parade organizers and the time of the parade, which doesn’t occur until June, has already been changed.

……….apologies to all who first of all accidentally received an unedited version. — J W Greenleaf