The Boston Globe
Zealots Mask Real Struggles
By Eileen McNamara, Globe Columnist | December 11, 2005
The demonstrators outside a Catholic Charities fund-raiser honoring Mayor Thomas M. Menino the other night are not leaders of some right-wing ascendancy among the laity in the Boston Archdiocese.
They are a tiny band of antiabortion zealots, being exploited by the hierarchy in hopes of promoting a backlash against reformers outraged by the criminal conduct of predatory priests and the bishops who protected them.
These folks do not just miss the Latin Mass; they miss Cardinal Bernard Law.
Who exactly organized that hardy handful of protesters out there in the snow holding signs denouncing abortion and gay rights? They claim to be apolitical, mainstream, traditional Catholics. Judge for yourself.
There's Bill Cotter, pining for the good old days when Law would allow Operation Rescue to use Catholic churches as staging areas for illegal blockades of abortion clinics. Cotter was sentenced to two years in the Worcester House of Correction in 1991 for violating a court order prohibiting those blockades. He would have gotten a lighter sentence, but he refused to promise the judge that he would not ignore the same injunction when he got out.
There's C.J. Doyle, the excitable executive director of Catholic Action League, who has been churning out dyspeptic press releases for more than a decade accusing anyone who questions the church of being an anti-Catholic bigot.
There's Carol McKinley of Pembroke, who says she is an ''authentic" Catholic who just ''speaks as a mom defending the faith." This is what Mom has to say on her website, Magisterial Fidelity, about Governor Mitt Romney's view that all hospitals are required to obey a new state law mandating that emergency contraception be offered to rape victims: ''Romney Now Says Catholic Hospitals Must Be Forced To Kill Children."
This is what she has to say about the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, the president of Catholic Charities who refused to capitulate to demands from McKinley and her pals that Menino's honor be rescinded because the mayor supports a woman's constitutional right to abortion and a gay couple's civil right to marry: ''That man is pure unadulterated evil. He literally sends shivers up my spine. . . If he and his cronies think we're going to tolerate he and the Archbishop's material cooperation in abortions -- we'll chase them out of town faster than you can say Voice of the Faithful."
Ah, Voice of the Faithful, those godless lay Catholics who organized in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal to support good priests, to reach out to victims, and to challenge an authoritarian clerical culture that for decades tolerated the rape of children; that crowd really sends a shiver up McKinley's spine, with what she and her band of religious purists suspect is a clandestine agenda to foist a married priesthood, female ordination, and a host of other liberal causes on ''authentic" Catholics.
McKinley, by contrast, is motivated not by political power but by religious purity. This is what the humble penitent has to say about Hehir and the sellout crowd at the Catholic Charities dinner that raised $200,000 for the poor: ''The Archbishop wants a red hat and it's clearer than ever that we have pull in Rome. We can make them or we can break them."
Carol McKinley could teach Karl Rove a thing or two.
This is an important moment in the Catholic Church in Boston. But the struggle for the soul of the church is not being waged at the fringes. Sincere people in the pews are struggling with how best to rebuild the trust that was shattered by revelations of official complicity in the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
A few fanatics railing against ''proaborts" and gay adoptions are not going to heal that rift. Sadly, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley and Bishop Richard G. Lennon are willing to exploit them as long as their antics distract attention from the real challenges confronting the church.
Eileen McNamara is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
Published: Friday, January 6, 2006
Banned in Boston
Richard P. McBrien
What happened in Boston last month was emblematic of what has been happening in the Catholic Church nationally and, to some extent, worldwide over the past two decades and more.
A tiny group of ultra-conservative Catholics protested the decision of Catholic Charities of Boston, the largest private social services agency in Massachusetts, to confer its annual award upon Boston's mayor, Thomas Menino. Catholic Charities honored him for his commitment to the poor and to the cause of justice. The activists, on the other hand, regard him as an advocate of abortion and gay marriage.
Unfortunately, Archbishop Sean O'Malley yielded to their pressure and boycotted the dinner, whose sole purpose is to raise money to fund the wide-ranging work of Catholic Charities on behalf of the needy of the Boston area.
Significantly, the activists were unable to force the mayor to step aside and decline the award, nor were they able to discourage prominent Catholics from attending the $500-a-plate dinner in support of Catholic Charities. Indeed, for every conservative Catholic who ran for cover, there were many more lay Catholics ready to take their places.
The dinner was a sell-out, raising more than $163,000 (at last count), which was more than $25,000 greater than last year's net.
As dozens of pickets marched outside Boston's Seaport Hotel, Mayor Menino faced his critics head-on. The Boston Globe characterized his remarks as a "relatively rare discussion of faith" on his part.
Menino said that his understanding of Catholicism was derived from the nuns who taught him in parochial school and that it had to do with reaching out to people in need: "the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the sick, and yes, the imprisoned," referring to the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew's Gospel.
The mayor also pointed out that Jesus "did not give priority to piety. He didn't make holiness the big thing. And he did not tell us to go around talking up God, either."
His critics, however, saw it differently. In their eyes, they alone are "authentic Catholics." Everyone else, it seems, can be written off as dissidents or heretics --- "bad Catholics" all.
These ultra-conservative activists, for whom abortion is the only moral and political issue that counts, not only miss the Latin Mass but also the former archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, who allowed Operation Rescue, a militant anti-abortion organization, to use Catholic churches as staging areas of illegal blockades of abortion clinics.
The foundress of Faithful Voice, a counterpart to Voice of the Faithful, has said on her Web site that the Republican governor of Massachusetts, by urging all hospitals to obey a new state law mandating that emergency contraception be offered to rape victims, was in effect saying that Catholic hospitals "must be forced to kill children."
Regarding the president of Catholic Charities, Father J. Bryan Hehir, one of the most respected priests in the United States and a long-time staff member at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, she wrote: "That man is pure unadulterated evil. He literally sends shivers up my spine. If he and his cronies think we're going to tolerate he and the Archbishop's material cooperation in abortions --- we'll chase them out of town faster than you can say Voice of the Faithful."
What has changed on the ecclesiastical and political fronts over the past decade is the broad accessibility of the Internet. With it has come a new capacity of individuals, who could never be published by reputable newspapers and magazines, to gain an audience via personal blogs and to attract the attention even of the mainstream media, which are always interested in controversy, especially of the man-bites-dog variety.
The rhetoric of these self-styled defenders of orthodoxy is so recklessly hot that it automatically gets attention. This is the new reality.
Ironically, what used to be called "the silent majority" during the Nixon presidency is now composed largely of liberals and moderates, not conservatives. The real "silent majority" in the Church consists of mainstream Catholics like Father Hehir, Mayor Menino and the hundreds of other committed lay Catholics who support Catholic Charities and who attended last month's fund-raising dinner in spite of the shrill protests and threats from the Church's far right.
What is most distressing, however, is the failure of church leadership to name what is going on and to stand firmly against it. Instead, too many bishops cave in to these pressure-groups, allowing even an outstanding priest like Bryan Hehir to absorb their barbs and insults.
One hopes that the defiant support for Catholic Charities in Boston is a harbinger of things to come.
Father Richard P. McBrien is the Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.
copyright The Tidings Corporation ©2004
Theologian Confirms Plagiarism Inquiry
Notre Dame Mulls Group's Allegation
By Tom Coyne
Published January 24, 2006
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A well-known liberal theologian at the University of Notre Dame said Monday that the school is reviewing an article he wrote after a conservative Roman Catholic group questioned whether the piece was plagiarized.
The Cardinal Newman Society alleges that a syndicated article Rev. Richard McBrien wrote for several Catholic newspapers, including The Tidings in Los Angeles, earlier this month closely resembles the "structure, arguments, ideas and general theme" of an article written a month earlier by Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara.
McBrien said the allegations are unfounded.
Both articles were about a protest of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's appearance at a Catholic Charities dinner in Boston in December. The protest focused on the group's decision to honor Menino despite his support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, urged Notre Dame to investigate McBrien's article in a letter last week to Rev. John Jenkins, the university's president.
"Because this concerns the reputation of one of the most well-known Catholic universities in the United States, we urge you to give this matter serious consideration. If the faculty member is indeed guilty of such dishonesty, we urge you to consider whether he belongs at Notre Dame," the letter said.
University spokesman Dennis Brown said the school "takes any allegation of plagiarism seriously and has procedures in place for investigating such charges."
McBrien confirmed in an e-mail to reporters that the university is reviewing the article. He said he welcomes the review.
The Boston Herald reported last week that McBrien conceded that he took facts from the Globe that he should have credited.
"If I were deliberately trying to cover my source for the facts and quotations that were in the public record, I would hardly have cited The Boston Globe in the first place," McBrien wrote.
Among the similarities in the articles cited by Reilly is that McNamara wrote: "These folks do not just miss the Latin Mass; they miss Cardinal Bernard Law. ... There's Bill Cotter, pining for the good old days when Law would allow Operation Rescue to use Catholic churches as staging areas for illegal blockades of abortion clinics."
McBrien wrote: "These ultraconservative activists, for whom abortion is the only moral and political issue that counts, not only miss the Latin Mass but also the former archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, who allowed Operation Rescue, a militant anti-abortion organization, to use Catholic churches as staging areas of illegal blockades of abortion clinics."
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune