Tuesday, June 28, 2011

John Allen Declares The Progressive vs Conservative Wars Are Over---Guess Who Lost?

As the gay marriage vote comes in, Archbishop Dolan hides his unhappy face and prays it isn't so.

Readers may notice the side of the blog is now a little different.  I had intended to add a couple of more blog feeds to the side.  I was talking with my daughter at the same time and mindlessly managed to delete that whole section.  I remember distinctly a time when I was good at multi tasking, but back then I used to be able to put names with faces as well.  So much for all those quantum physicists who maintain that time is an illusion.

The reason I was even fiddling with the side of the blog was to add a feed for Vatican Insider.  VI is an Italian effort and it's pretty slick. I encourage readers to check it out.  It's like a hall of fame publication for global papal correspondents which means John Allen is on the roster.  He has an article which posted on 6/21 about Archbishop Dolan and Dolan's powerful status as the voice of American Catholicism. Given the gay marriage vote that happened in Dolan's Archdiocese on 6/24 maybe Allen should have waited a bit before he posted his article.   But being things are as they are I found this following part very interesting:

Beyond his charm and media savvy, what makes Dolan truly interesting for Catholics all over the world is that he’s the apotheosis of one option for the future of the Church: “Affirmative Orthodoxy.”

If generals are always fighting the last war, journalists are forever handicapping the last election. For the past fifty years, the conventional journalistic way of sizing up Catholicism has been in terms of a struggle between left and right. After more than thirty years of bishops’ appointments by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, however, that contest is largely over at the leadership level.  (I would agree with this.  It's doubly true since hardly anyone is following anymore.)

Instead, the real battle for the future runs between different currents in the broad conservative camp – between cultural warriors who see the outside world primarily as a threat, and evangelists who see it as missionary terrain. The first instinct is a prescription for pulling back, the other for meeting the world halfway.

In that tug-of-war, Dolan embodies the open, positive version of Catholic conservatism that I’ve called “Affirmative Orthodoxy”. Both parts of the formula are important. It’s “orthodox,” meaning a tenacious defense of Catholic thought, speech and practice. It’s also “affirmative,” in the sense of presenting Catholic identity in a positive key. The emphasis is on what Catholicism embraces and affirms, what it says “yes” to, rather than what it opposes and condemns. (If Dolan's version is open and positive, I'd really hate to see the closed negative version.)

Dolan is Affirmative Orthodoxy on steroids. No one can question his commitment to Catholic teaching, and most regard him intellectually and politically as a neo-conservative. He’s equally legendary, however, for a deep conviction that most of life’s problems can be solved by sitting down over a couple of beers and talking things out. If faced with a choice between reconciliation and recrimination, Dolan will invariably prefer the former.(And when things aren't reconciled to his point of view, he will do the recrimination thing--or as with the case of Bishop DiMarzio, appoint someone make the strong arm attempt at 'reconciliation'.)


So John Allen has decreed the war between progressives and conservatives is over and that the conservatives have won, and that now it's just a matter of which conservative point of view will take the ascendancy. Hmmm.  I beg to differ.  Oh I don't disagree that the battles for Roman Catholicism will be fought amongst the conservatives.  Allen at least has the part about all the bishops which have been appointed by the last two papacies correct.  They were hand picked precisely because they are conservatives.  Allen seems to say the choice we have now is between happy face lock step authoritarian conservatives and sour face lock step authoritarian conservatives.  Some choice.  I happen to think Mathew Fox is much closer to the truth.  The current curial church  is actually schismatic.  Vatican II expressly called for collegiality and consultation between the Vatican curia and national bishops conferences and much more lay involvement.  We don't have anything close to that intent, and since Councils are supposed to trump popes, this Vatican is in schism.  But back to Dolan.

I think Dolan knows his stock took a hit with the gay marriage vote in New York.  That victory, orchestrated as it was by lay Catholics--his lay Catholics, is indicative of sea change in American Catholicism.  Lay Catholics are not paying attention to their bishops.  Not the happy faced ones, and not the sour faced ones.  The cafeteria is not just open, it's spawning numerous franchises. In spite of John Allens positive PR,  Dolan is not the face of a resurgent positive orthodoxy, he is the posterior of a positive disintegration. 

Religious Dispatches has an interview with Mathew Fox about his new book "The Pope's War".  It's mostly a rehash of what he's said before, but his answer to the last question sort of sums up my own thoughts as they pertain to the recent vote in Dolan's Archdiocese:

Polls here in America have shown that a majority of laypeople in the pews of the Catholic Church are supportive of marriage equality for gay and lesbian people. Nearly three-quarters, in fact, favor either marriage or civil unions for gays and lesbians. Will the Vatican ever catch up with its flock?

I think the Vatican in its present state is beyond redemption. I think it is a very closed boy’s club. I have a section in the book on bullying. Ratzinger is a bully. I know him. He was in a 12-year battle with me before he won, I guess, and expelled me. Part of bullying, according to the studies that I’ve found, is that the bully likes a wolf pack. That wolf pack is the Curia (the central governing body of the Roman Catholic Church). It’s interesting that he appointed 24 cardinals in December and ten of them are in the Curia. They have lots of power and it’s a very tight circle, which is of course why they don’t want women in the club, it’s a boy’s club.
The point I make in the book is that the laypeople have to take over the church, period. It’s not going to be reformed from the inside, or from the top down, at all. It’s rancid, and so, these people have to assert themselves and that’s the next step, for laypeople to realize it’s their church. They should only hire ministers who are willing to serve and not to be served, and that means starting over.

Archbishop Dolan and the USCCB are maybe beginning to get the picture that they can no longer deliver the votes and that the vast majority of their flock is not listening to their moral advice on all things sexual.  That should send them a very big message because it's a short step from ignoring them politically on sexual morality to ignoring them completely.  Catholics are being forced to make choices about how they personally relate to the Church and how they want their faith to be expressed, both privately and publicly.  In the future we will see more and more Catholics opting out of Roman Catholicism and into some form of lay driven catholicism.  That small c catholicism may not have the buildings and assets of the big C Catholicism, but it will have the most spiritually driven and openly inclusive people--- and that could turn out to be a very amazing thing indeed.


  1. It is amazing. Some catholics are beginning to celebrate their own liturgy by virtue of the priesthood of Baptism, and others are attending Independent catholic Churches. There is a small crack in the Damn of Rome, but none the less the Roman structure is architecturally unsound and is crumbling. It will cause not a few people going there own way but many millions.

    Certainly further civil actions against Bishops and their surrogates on the diocese level will provide a wider understanding of Bishops misbehavior. Also the world court may have something to say about the leaders in the Vatican when it comes to the International Treaty to Protect Children. A treaty that the Vatican has signed and has clearly broken.

    Finally, it may also happen that a very powerful Bishop leading many millions of people will pull his flock out of the Roman alliance. This may be much more likely than Rome thinks because many people are pretty fed up. What ever happens, and when it happens, no one is sure, but it is certain that the Bishops can not continue their Authoritarian Ways and not be Called on the carpet by both civil authority and people interested in following The Way of Christ.

    My hope is that most Catholics will stay faithful to the teachings of Christ and will indeed provide a much better understanding of social and personal justice than does this current group of Episcopal men.

  2. In 1973 Westoff and Bumpass published The Revolution in Birth Control Practices of U.S. Roman Catholics in Science Magazine.


    They concluded: "It seems abundantly clear that U.S. Catholics have rejected the 1968 papal encyclical's statement on birth control and that there exists a wide gulf between the behavior of most Catholic women, on the one hand, and the position of the more conservative clergy and the official stand of the Church itself, on the other. That many Catholics can continue in their other religious practices and simultaneously deviate on the issue of birth control is an interesting commentary on the process of social change.

    Ultimately this crisis of authority will probably be resolved by a change in official teaching, since it seems doubtful that such a major discrepancy can continue indefinitely without other repercussions. At a minimum, the cost to the Roman Catholic Church will be a loss of authority in a major area of life: that of sex and reproduction."

    Within 5 years of the Papal Encyclical over 66% of practicing Catholic women were using artificial birth control. The more educated Catholics were the first to reject the Church's teachings. About 98% of Catholics now use artificial birth control.

    The civil rights issue of today concerns the LGBTQ community. Once again the politics and the policy of the church hierarchy is being rejected.

    An elderly Catholic person I know was visited by a member of the Presbyterian Church (Another traditional church in decline.) She was part of their church program to serve elders who might need counsel, assistance or company. The Catholic church in that community has no similar program.

    Catholic Churches in Canada once ran social activities for young and old. They ran sports leagues and dances. They were active, vibrant centres of the community. No longer. A parish priest can't possibly hope to provide all those services alone. The rejection of the laity by the hierarchy means parish councils and committees are seen as rubber stamps, not the life of the parish. Catholics do their charitable works with non-church organizations.

    To the scientists the conclusion was obvious, this organization cannot survive without a change in official teachings.


  3. And another thing...

    The present obsessions of the "Affirmitive Othodoxy" conservatives in the hierarchy were not among the essential teachings of Jesus.

    What are the greatest teachings of Jesus? I am no theologian, but I think it is fair to say "Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself."

    How does that apply to these present day issues when Jesus did not speak of either directly?


  4. I've been disappointed with Allen's reporting for a long time. It seems like he prefers to hob-nob with Curial types in Rome to taking more prophetic stances. That said, I think he's correct in stating that traditionalism has "won" the day, NOT in the Church, but in the hierarchical structure. That's why I am MOST disappointed in the bishops. I sincerely believe that many/most of them see and understand what's really happening, but because of careerism don't breathe a word of it to Rome. Their first obligation as shepherds is to the local flock, not ass-kissing a Curial bishop, who, theologically, has NO teaching authority vis-a-vis an Ordinary. But they all fold under the slightest pressure (e.g., the revised Mass translation).

    I have it on good authority that while rector of the North American College in Rome Dolan himself worried about the rightward shift of American seminarians. So, I guess, he's more of the "Affirming Orthodoxy" type, which means, as I've seen it acted out with priests and bishops, is the JPII model. Oh, they'll "listen." They won't overtly demean you. But in some senses it's worse. They'll smile when you're done, and essentially dismiss everything you've tried to explain. They won't articulate a coherent response. They'll basically invoke the, "You must obey Church teaching" line.

    Oh, you were looking for a sour-faced prelate? Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, NB. Burke would be another fine specimen.

  5. Colleen, sometimes before commenting on your blog I fail to give you the great credit that you deserve for not just this but so many presentations. Sometimes I am too persistent in pointing out facts as I see them rather than digest more of what you and others are saying. Please forgive me, I am not certain how much I'll change, maybe a little as I am an old dog in terms of health.

    p2p, both your notes today are right on and helpful. Many in science have felt that the Church leadership is doomed if they did not change. I have felt that way for over 20 years.

    Kevin, " So, I guess, he's more of the "Affirming Orthodoxy" type, which means, as I've seen it acted out with priests and bishops, is the JPII model. Oh, they'll "listen." They won't overtly demean you. But in some senses it's worse. They'll smile when you're done, and essentially dismiss everything you've tried to explain. They won't articulate a coherent response. They'll basically invoke the, "You must obey Church teaching" line."

    What you say is so very true, but they not only say "you must obey Church teaching," at a later date, but they find a way to work in the idea that since they have listened to every one that all the evidence is in their favor. Hence we get orthodox people who say science backs up their ideas of birth control and in vitro fertilization. In effect they are alway looking for angles to propagandize their demands of the flock.

    The Vatican Academy of (pseudo) Science is a case in point. All though there has been some good scientific work done there, there are no embryologist working in the field and to be appointed to this group one has to go through the same litmus tests as does a Bishop prior to appointment.

    Only the People of God can change the Church and they must change it to practice The Way of Christ. That is to love God and neighbor. dennis

  6. One thought that I can't stress enough is that once people have been forced to re evaluate their relationship with the mythical notion of Catholic identity or the Catholic religion, they WILL NOT go back to the old relationship or identity. This is happening for millions upon millions of Catholics in the West, and it's a process which is accelerating in the South.

    Roman Catholicism must change or shrink into a powerless cult. Unfortunately, I think Mathew Fox is right. That change will not come from the top down or from the clerical system. It will only come when laity act on the natural progession of where their new relationship with Catholicism points them. And that's to taking all Matter into their own hands and forming their own communities.

  7. I had missed this article, Colleen. Glad you posted about it.

    I have learned to laugh anytime I see John Allen writing about these issues: "There you go again, John," I say to myself, as I sit down with my videos of the champions of Affirmative Orthodoxy on steroids and sip my beer and munch my brats.

    John Allen has declared this war over time and again, and each time, along comes some new reminder of how absurd his predictions are, how way off-base.

    And how designed to keep himself in the center, reminding us of his importance as the umpire who'll let us know when the next ball has been thrown out, the next base earned, and the next batch of Conservative Winners on Steroids has been crowned.

    You're so right: would have been far better for his thesis if he'd waited until after the New York vote to publish this new bit of p-r fluff for the ever-smiling Mr. Dolan!

  8. If Dolan was hoping for a red hat, it should go to Andrew Cuomo.

    I don’t like the choices John Allen offers. The last two popes have stacked the deck with their episcopal appointments.

    People are shopping around. I like this question better. “What happens to a dream deferred?”

  9. Good point wildhair. What does happen to a dream deferred? We may find out it turns into a better dream. Kind of like in the Wizard of OZ when Dorothy opens the door of her house after the tornado and the movie is in color rather than black and white.

  10. Bill, in the golfing trade we would say John got way ahead of himself and produced a major league duck hook.

  11. Very good article. I think the comment about Archbishop Dolan talking things out over a beer was interesting. I don't drink beer or smoke so I might be out of the loop here. The Archbishop did say some conciliatory things in regards to gay people the other day. I think he is somewhat uncomfortable about fanning the flames of hatred against gay people so I see some conflicted feelings here.

  12. Mark, in my more charitable moments I think Archbishop Dolan is just one of many of our bishops suffering a terminal case of cognitive dissonance over the whole gay marriage issue. It has to be tough to know society and your own laity is finally accepting the concept of gay love while the Church you represent gets farther and farther out in right field--to use a baseball metaphor.

    This is probably especially difficult for any gay priest who went into the priesthood to get some acceptance as a human being and I imagine Dolan knows a bunch of those.

  13. "The bottom line is that to understand where the Catholic Church is headed in the 21st century, and not just in America, one must now reckon with the Archbishop of New York."

    And I understood and thought that we all were to reckon with God, and put no other gods before us. But first, we must reckon with the AB of NY, according to John Allen. This is the new evangelism, new Catholic identity. It has a face now and it is Dolan's face that we must face, face to face, with beers maybe.

    Dolan is given god-status from what I can gather from John Allen's article. Seems John couldn't contain himself from barraging his readers with his love and charm for Dolan. In John's view, Catholicism is reduced, journalistically and propagandistically, to a contest between right and left worldly divisiveness, instead of being spiritually centered in Christ and unifying all to a loving God.

    Dolan's head is down in the picture because perhaps deep down inside he knows that God had a different purpose in mind for the meaning of the Church other than on the mean issues it is unjustifiably against, and of which they will not even consider changing their minds. Dolan is not affirmative orthodoxy. Dolan is affirmative gay bashing and misogyny.

    And, well, progressives, they must be thinking about Jesus too much is what I gather from John Allen's article which pompously praises Dolan instead of remembering the suffering Christ within his midst, of which their minds apparently are veiled from seeing.

    Sure, let's go beer drinking John Allen and Dolan with the gay community and some divorced and remarried couples, and some poor folks that can't afford the price of beer in NYC, and conservative Catholics who use birth control. Great idea. Would love to see the Dolan be affirmative in being loving to others that he essentially condemns as he smiles at them.


  14. Butterfly,

    You hit the nail on the head. The leadership of the RCC continues as Colleen says to be in deep Right Field. An old expression here in California is that they are full of Bandini. (Bandini was the company that packaged cow dung for manure for fertilization of yards in LA.)

    I wonder what kind of though this Bandini will bring to the People of God. What does come of a dream delayed? When I see Dolan I remember the Latin Funeral mass of the 50's as I was a member of the Catholic Arch Bishops Choir.

    What Dolan and co. I should say Benedict and Co. are doing is darkening the human existence. They bless the politicians that are not helping to provide decent health care for children and expectant mothers, and these are the same guys who say that the wealthiest country in the history of civilization can no longer afford Social Security and Medicare. They bless these men who lie about the politics finances. You know the same ones who lie about the politics of abortion.

    Yes I feel movement in the dark side of the force and it is coming from the schismatic leadership of the RCC----from dolan and from The Rat Pope. These men wear fearful confused darkened miters. They have darkened what we once thought of as Church. dennis

  15. The more people who recognize that the "battle for the hierarchy is over" the better!

    What's "orthodox" in Eastern Orthodoxy (e.g. The Orthodox Catholic Church) is "conciliar" = no dictators need apply! And doctrinal pronouncements must flow only from counsels with all bishops present. (Rome broke away from that centuries ago.) Dictionary says: "conforming to the Christian faith as established by the early Church." (Early church was much more "experience near" and way less abstract, not into "scholasticism".) A much more compassionate view of Christianity, in my view and that of many others.

    Whatever route people take - once they see that there's no route to changing the hierarchy - it's a step in the right direction.

    Personally, I think the RC bishops now have their backs against the wall. In Homer's world warriors viewed the attempt to define a battle as "already won" as actually a concession of defeat. Thus, while the hierarchy has won the skirmish over control of the top, they've lost the war entirely! It can't be fun, being mocked and scorned. Having fewer and fewer defenders. Hardly any marchers in the parade. And fewer spectators!

    It's a matter of time... Decline and Fall. Crash and Burn.

    If there's any integrity left, they'd give all the wealth to the poor - especially at this time of international recession. And retire to monasteries, there to earn their bread by honest labor.

    Not that I'm expecting that much sanity....

  16. So if you believe that women should be ordained or that gays should marry, you're prophetic; if you don't think they should marry or that only men should be ordained, you're a troglodyte?
    How do you know any of this? How does the other side know any of this?
    This is why religion looks so stupid; it's so obviously a reflection of your socio-economic and psychological states that it's pointless to say "I'm feeling the Spirit!" or "I'm Christ-centered but you're a hater/heretic."
    You dare presume to teach me, who refuses to drop a penny into the collection plate and who's glad every time a church closes?

  17. Didn't know I was preaching to anyone Nixon, much less you. I write my observations and people are free to agree or disagree.

    Here's my observation on your two issues of women priests and gay marriage. I believe in the priesthood of Baptism. In many of our priests that priesthood of baptism is confirmed in their ordination. I find it absurd to think women are somehow predisposed to not having their own priesthood of Baptism confirmed through ordination. As far as gay marriage goes, the issue is really about love and intimate touch. I have met both gays and straights who understand the sacred nature of touch confirming love, and those who think sex is their right. The latter are wrong. Marriage is a contract between two people to honor and respect the spiritual nature of their love. Straights have no monopoly on that.

  18. Therapy,

    Good to hear from you. Sometimes I wonder if sometimes Orthodox Metropolitans work as if each of them has an Authoritarian right.

    Although, I have seen much more of an authoritative approach in the Orthodox and “a live and let life attitude,” some of the leaders mimic the Conservative RCC church in both style and doctrine.

    I went to the Orthodox Church interchangeably with the Catholic Church when I bummed around Europe studying abroad in the 60s. I always felt welcome in both Churches. A few years ago I walked down to my local Greek Orthodox one Sunday, only to find that I was no longer welcome to receive communion if I was not Orthodox. I must have received communion in Orthodox Churches over 500 times starting in secondary school when we thought it was cool to receive both the bread and wine and it was cool to listen to another language we did not understand.

    I really did feel sad that this GOC refused to welcome us. Down right reminded me of the RCC. I know that the clergy problems are not nearly so severe in the GOC as they are in the RCC, but I think a lack of friendliness is a bad sign. I had difficulty approaching the priest there as well as he seemed to think I must be some heathen. I was very disappointed.

    I have been more an advocate of the Home Church with the Eucharist consecrated by a selected individual because these have more a tendency not to reject any one and to be able to respond to all concerns. In my group of mostly very good friends and some extended family, we have people who were all cradle Catholic but some have over the past 20 years registered in the Lutheran, Episcopal and Methodist Churches. We all know that we are Catholic and this helps the group come together.

    A few years ago over several months, we used the Jewish Philosophy book "I and Thou" to read as an Epistle. Was a huge growth experience for many as we took the time to discuss this wonderful book in detail after communion.

    Being in the LA area there are also some pretty terrific Protestant Churches. I and a few of our Group have visited The LA Methodist Episcopal Church and All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena as well as many others with less notoriety. Several summers ago we spent a week at a local Buddhist monastery. Sundays and other days can be most rewarding when done with a lot of thought. LOL dennis

    PS: My health is a lot better for now. Some in my family say I have the lives of a cat.

  19. Colleen,

    Like Dennis I congratulate you on your fabulous writing.

    Here's a graphic that might give us all some perspective. Some of the secular world measures humanity in terms of dollars. Look at the relative amounts spent on the different activities. The USCCB preferred to support their conservative warmongering friends and look what it has cost. In fact look at the relative spending on war and military compared to other activities.

    See: The Billion Dollar-o-Gram 2009



    ps Glad to hear you are feeling better Dennis.

  20. p2p Thanks for the link. I almost missed the bottom half of the chart. I was mesmerized by the Wall St profits part--31 billion in profit vs 114 billion in bonuses out of total revenues of 300+ billion. Something is seriously wrong with that picture I thought, and then I saw the bottom half of the graph. Wow.

  21. It is amazing to see all those items in relative scale on one chart.

    If you go to the source you can find many other charts, for example there's the British "One Billion Pound-0-Gram" too.

    While I was writing the previous comment I thought of all the destruction condoned by bishops like Wisconsin's Morlino both at home and internationally through his work with the School of the Americas.


  22. On Oct 11, 2013, at 11:13 AM, georgebouchey@comcast.net wrote:

    I excerpted this part. Emphasis is in the original.

    *I think the Vatican in its present state is beyond redemption. I think it is a very closed boy’s club. .....**The point I make in the book is that the laypeople have to take over the church, period. It’s notgoing to be reformed from the inside, or from the top down, at all.It’s rancid, and so, these people have to assert themselves and that’s the next step, for laypeople to realize it’s their church. They should only hire ministers who are willing to serve and not to be served, and that means starting over.* .....

    I agree, but find there is some contradiction in what is asserted. Yes, the present state of the Vatican is beyond redemption. Yes, there is no indication that there will be a *top down* move within the episcopacy, at least to my knowledge.

    The part I have trouble with is the advice to the lay people to *take over the church*, and the assertion that they should *hire ministers*. There is no mechanism in the RCC at present that will allow the non ordained to *take over* the RCC. The RCC is defined, administered and owned by the present episcopacy. No democratic nation/government is going to allow an illegal takeover of the RCC government and assets,either thru the courts, or by violence against a sovereign Holy See. The Ordinary Bishop owns/controls legally the RCC and its spiritual and material assets within his diocese. His parishioners get to use the assets at the Ordinary*s pleasure.

    Colckoch recommends starting over, and Yes!, that is possible, just not at this time, or in the foreseeable future, within the RCC. So it would seem that what is being recommended is a *Bottoms Up* move by reform minded RCs, outside of the RCC. Which means a parallel church to the RCC. If this is what colkoch means, I am in agreement.