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you people are such good dancers

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 01, 2006

Naomi Riley fails to be impressed by Fr. Andrew Greeley's condescension toward Third World Christians:

WASHINGTON--Last week, Andrew M. Greeley, the well-known liberal priest and sociologist of all things Catholic, gave a celebrity interview to his fans. Though his main interlocutor was Robert Orsi, the chairman of the religion department at Harvard, Father Greeley also took some questions from the audience, most of whose members were gathered here for the annual conference of the American Academy of Religion. One person asked about the potential for the lay group Voice of the Faithful to transform the church, another about whether nuns should return to wearing habits. Then a middle-aged woman in the back of the room asked Father Greeley about the changing face of the Catholic Church. The greatest growth in the world-wide Catholic population, she noted, has been coming for some years from new believers in South America and Africa, and the trend shows no signs of abating. What effect would this have on the church?

"We will depend on them for vitality," Father Greeley predicted. "But they will continue to depend on us for the ideas."

I wish Riley had been able to ask Greeley a follow-up question: "Name for us, please, half-a-dozen IDEAS -- ideas for which Christian academicians of the First World can take credit -- introduced, say, over the last half century."

It would be interesting to hear Greeley's answer. What counts as an "idea" to this kind of guy -- Olber's Paradox? The Labor Theory of Value? Beverage-holders in automotive arm-rests?

My hunch is that Greeley has no idea of ideas per se. In this jargon, the phrase "people with ideas" is interchangeable with "people who don't check their brains at the church door," which is itself liberal shorthand for dissent. Take any unpopular doctrine, knock it into decent propositional form, put a tilda before it -- poof! -- it turns into an "idea," and the man who professes it becomes a Thinking Catholic. Picture a Franciscan from Ghana or Peru who studies at Berkeley for six years and returns to his homeland more orthodox than he arrived: isn't it obvious that his education was a failure?

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Show 11 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Dec. 04, 2006 12:51 PM ET USA

    Definition: Thinking catholic - One who is so open minded their brains have fallen out.

  • Posted by: snowbird - Dec. 02, 2006 5:27 AM ET USA

    patriot6908 - - - Amen to that!

  • Posted by: Italiana - Dec. 01, 2006 10:14 PM ET USA

    We also were at the AAR/SBL annual meeting & walked into Fr. Greeley's session as it ended. The last question asked of Fr. Greeley was a 3-fold question - "What do you think of the DaVinci Code? What do you think of the Jesus Seminar? Please comment on Mel Gibson." To Fr. Greeley's credit, he answered, "1. The DaVinci code is pure hokum. 2. You can't vote on what to believe" ...and he graciously never answered the Mel Gibson question. We spoke with him after & he was kind and gracious.

  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 01, 2006 5:26 PM ET USA

    Those orthodox dogmatic believers, their priests & religious from the "provinces" (Asia, Africa, South America) were all educated and formed by devoted faithful American & European Missionaries (something like 80% of Hongkong's civil service & legislature were educated by the Catholic Church - even the Beijing appointed Chief Exec is a daily communicant!). Those missionaries, Thanks be to God, missed the corruption that blossomed in their home countries. Now, we profit from their missions!

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Dec. 01, 2006 5:00 PM ET USA

    Fr. Greeley's plaque will read: "I knew a lot of priests in my time and he was one of them."

  • Posted by: - Dec. 01, 2006 3:53 PM ET USA

    Fr. Greely's condescension still isn't up to the level of that bishop Spong chap who clucks "They've yet to face the intellectual revolution of Copernicus and Einstein that we've had to face in the developed world." Yessir, we intellectuals of the developed world must put up with beads of sweat on our upper lips every time we think of E=mc^2. There, darn it! Pardon me while I dry off the keyboard.

  • Posted by: frjimc - Dec. 01, 2006 2:48 PM ET USA

    Should not the African and South American Catholics be as distressed by us and our tacit support for the Greeley's of the world as we were by Bishopess Katherine Jeffords-Schori and her disdainful comments about Catholics (and Mormons)? It's just this kind of gnostic "holier than thou" disdain for true believers, though, that will eventually leave their kind (Schori and Greeley) in the dust-to-dust, while the Africans, South Americans and Chinese faithful inherit the earth. Somebody tell him.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 01, 2006 2:47 PM ET USA

    100 years from now, Father Greeley will be remembered for....Actually, will he even be remembered? Maybe they will give him a plaque that says "He had an idea or two, but they're not worth remembering."

  • Posted by: ladybird - Dec. 01, 2006 2:00 PM ET USA

    AIYAHHH! As my Chinese family & friends say! My Euro-American and Afro-American friends are so patronizing & condescending: "Your kids are so gifted! But Asians are after-all good at Math and Science!" Um, yeah? What am I - chopped liver? (as my Jewish friends used to say!) I'm not, as it happens, Asian! Tho my hubbie is. White folk (like me) always ask me to "translate" or act as go-between, since I seem "able to communicate" with those "ethnic" types! 'Course, they laugh till they cry!

  • Posted by: - Dec. 01, 2006 1:35 PM ET USA

    And Fr. Greeley did not even study theology at Berkeley! He is a man hungry for a following. He seems able to say anything in order to attract attention. Falling in line with doctrine places him in the crowd od unknown follows. I think he is an egomaniac. Another one of those needing to be silenced by his superiors(and he has them).

  • Posted by: patriot6908 - Dec. 01, 2006 12:47 PM ET USA

    In nice weather, Fr. Greeley can occasionally be seen strolling down Michigan Avenue in Chicago, looking haggard from all the salacious ideas that have tortured his celibate mind in his quest for yet another potboiler novel headed for the discount table. When not dealing in things unchaste or unorthodox, he, along with counterpart, Jesse Jackson, regale us Chicagoans by spouting their banal, worn liberal ideas in respective Chicago Sun-Times columns. Bring on the Third World vitality, please!

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