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By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 27, 2004

In a notable New York Times column of some years past (3-4-2000), Peter Steinfels, a famously liberal Catholic himself, rightly scored the reflexive intellectual self-congratulation of dissenting Catholics and their sympathizers:

A woman with an impressive track record in liberal, humanitarian causes was singing the praises of her daughter-in-law. "She's a Catholic, you know," the woman said, "but she's a thinking Catholic."

Can one imagine that woman saying of someone, "She's an African-American, you know, but she's an educated African-American"?

"Thinking," or an equivalent term like "independent," is usually a code word. It refers to a Catholic who disagrees with church teachings on abortion, contraception, ordination of women, etc., regardless of how much or how little actual thinking or independence has gone into the disagreement.

Australian Jesuits Frank Brennan and Bill Uren are, not to put too fine a point on it, thinking Catholics. They are naturally in a flutter about Sydney's Cardinal George Pell's intransigence in the matter of gluten-free hosts and sodomy:

Father Frank Brennan said the push by Catholic conservatives for greater Vatican control was driving people away from the church. "All of us need to accept that the revolution in sexuality has left many people, especially young people, completely uninterested in the views of an all-male, unmarried clergy," he said. "For example, I have been ordained almost 19 years and I have never had any person come to me in confession to talk about contraception."

Brennan and Uren are talented men, but neither their accomplishments nor their learning quite justify the patronizing air of superiority with which they deliver their pronouncements. Can they really award themselves points for conclusions that every seventh-grade girl in the western world has reached by her own resources?

Describing his battle with Archbishop George Pell over the issue of the primacy of conscience as a "war at arm's length", Father Brennan said the clergy needed to consider their consciences ahead of church law.

Doesn't Whoopi Goldberg make the same argument in Sister Act, somewhere?

"It is interesting that few argue that if your conscience instructs you to be racist or weak on social issues, it is acceptable to be so," Dr Pell said.

Celebrated Australian conscience-follower Frank Klep was unavailable for comment.

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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Aug. 28, 2004 3:13 PM ET USA

    These liberal Catholics just love being like Adam and Eve because each insists on taking an apple from the forbidden tree because they think they have a right to tell God I'm going to do what I want, not what You want by ignoring HIs Commandments and His Son's teachings! It leaves me to wonder in this world of our, how many apples are left? Maybe, some of them are putting them back by repentance, who knows? One can hope, they'll realize they need to really think about what they are doing.

  • Posted by: Phil - Aug. 28, 2004 7:52 AM ET USA

    With your permission, Gil, I'd like to add this question: "And how many hours have you spent in the confessional?"

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Aug. 27, 2004 6:35 PM ET USA

    Fr. Brennan's comment that "I have been ordained almost 19 years and I have never had any person come to me in confession to talk about contraception" leads to the inevitable question: Rev. Father, how many times in 19 years have you preached on Humanae vitae?

  • Posted by: frjimc - Aug. 27, 2004 6:03 PM ET USA

    My favorite code word is "progressive," used exclusively as a synonym for "dissenting." It manages to lionize the left (after all, who doesn't want progress?) at the same time it disparages all others (after all, who doesn't want progress? only re-gressives!) The battle for semantics is the key to success in the war as a whole, and we constantly lose this battle because we allow others to frame the discussion (see "pro-choice")

  • Posted by: - Aug. 27, 2004 1:52 PM ET USA

    "Educated fools" who do not accept the Church's teachings CANNOT be "driven out," for the simple reason that they have ALREADY LEFT ! To deny one single infallible doctrine is to lose the infused virtue of Faith (and along with it Hope and Charity). To be so deprived is to be a "dead" Christian, and (in practice) worse off than a sincere pagan. It is time to get rid of the "dead weight," the phony Catholics who just fill up space, and I don't mean in the churches they almost never attend.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 27, 2004 12:36 PM ET USA

    Yes, kind of like how Frank Brennan is described as "A Leading Jesuit..." Whenever I see that moniker I reflexively substitute 'Dissenting' for 'Leading' - and I'm invariably right! I mean, was Fr. Hardon ever described as a "Leading Jesuit"? Or Fr. Fessio...? Guess, I'm not a 'thinking Catholic'. Oh well...

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