Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Catholic News: Pavone Again; Bishops' Religious Liberty Initiative; John Allen on Capuchins

Catholic news:

1. Fr. Frank Pavone wants money.  Now!  (For background, see here, here, and here.)

2. "Our people"--that is, the American Catholics whom U.S. Catholic bishops' leader Mr. Dolan claims to be protecting from "assault" with his new episcopal initiative to safeguard religious liberty--are underwhelmed by Mr. Dolan's concerns to protect them.  To say the least.  Judging from the response of readers to Dennis Coday's recent article about the bishops' initiative at National Catholic Reporter, "our people" stand solidly against what the bishops are choosing to do on our behalf through this overtly political initiative.

I particularly like Jerry Slevin's characterization of Mr. Dolan's new office to protect religious liberty, which is being rolled out as the 2012 election cycle gets underway, as "the pope's new Republican re-election swat team."  And I appreciate his and other readers' reminder of the . . . shall we call it shady? . . . history that the bishop appointed to head the religious liberty initiative, Mr. Lori of Bridgeport, brings to the new initiative.  For my own commentary on that shady history, click the label "Bishop William Lori" at the bottom of this posting, and you'll find a steady stream of postings documenting just a few of Lori's unsavory antics in the recent past.

And kudos to David Gibson for noting the congruence of the timing of this new religious liberty initiative with the start of the 2012 election cycle in this article for Religion News Service and Huffington Post readers.

3. And--I just can't help myself: I stand in awe of John Allen's seemingly endless capability to find yet one more pugilistic sports metaphor to describe the doings of his favorite boys in the hierarchy.  His latest: the Capuchins--including particular heroes of Allen's like Mr. Chaput of Philadelphia, and O'Malley of Boston and Weinandy, the rather dim lightbulb occupying the position of Secretariat for Doctrine at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops--"punch above their weight."

Weinandy was right in the middle of the bishops' shameful censure of Sister Elizabeth Johnson this spring. He subsequently went on to attack American Catholic theologians in general as a curse on the church. 

Neither he nor Mr. Chaput is a follower of Francis of Assisi whom I myself would choose to tout as as a shining exemplar of the charism of that poor, slight man enraptured by the love of Jesus, who proclaimed the good news of that love by embracing all of creation as effusively as possible.  Not by declaiming, but by singing.  By poetry.  Never by issuing condemnations.  Or throwing his weight around.

And, God help us, decidedly not by "punching above his weight."

The journalistic big boys of American Catholicism really need to lose the macho jock metaphors.  They're entirely ill-suited, those metaphors, to convey to anyone at all the riches of a tradition that grounds itself in remembering a Jesus who chose to humble himself and wash his disciples' feet in a ritual act by which he took on a role relegated to slaves and women in his cultural setting.

Neither Jesus nor Francis "punched above their weight."  That Chaput, Weinandy, et al. do so is hardly a recommendation for them as noteworthy sacramental signs of Christ or the alter Christus, Francis of Assisi, in our world today.

Later the same day: I've just now seen Jerry Slevin's response to John Allen's adolescent characterization of the Capuchin ecclesial misters he admires.   He makes many of the same points I make, but with far more panache than I do--and more punch, in the very best sense of that word.

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