Challenge Grant: Our Boosters will match donations up to $45,000. We have $40,615 to go. Please donate!
Click here to advertise on

James Carroll strikes (at the Church) again

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Apr 16, 2014

In the years since he deserted the priesthood, James Carroll has contributed dozens of op-ed columns attacking the Church in the pages of the Boston Globe. Like an angry young man who posts embarrassing photos of his ex-girlfriend on the internet, Carroll seems determined to persuade the outside world that the Church is a cramped, benighted, outdated institution, sorely in need of reforms that he will recommend.

Now it’s Holy Week, and many lapsed Catholics are thinking that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to get to church for Easter. So it’s urgent for Carroll to set them straight, with a new Globe column complaining about the way the Church handles causes for canonization.

Huh? Canonizations? Has anyone else been complaining about canonizations recently? Most Catholics (and many non-Catholics) are looking forward joyfully to the canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. Yet as usual Carroll notices something Seriously Wrong.

His argument, as I understand it, is that the Church should not recognize miracles that consist of miraculous healings, because if God heals one person from disease, that implies that the same God allows others to suffer. Carroll wants to do away with miracles, so as to “remove forever the implication that God is indifferent to, or even complicit in, the suffering of any person.”

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this loopy argument. (Could Carroll be suffering from some sort of liturgical-season disorder? This is not the first time that he has produced a bizarre argument just before a major Christian feast.) How do you answer someone who finds “something quite horrible about how God operates” when He relieves someone of a deadly disease?

If Carroll wants to abolish miracles, he should address his complaint to God. The Church, in the canonization process, merely recognizes miracles; it’s God who performs them. But it’s not clear: Is Carroll suggesting that the reported miracles aren’t real, or could be explained by natural causes? Or does he believe in miraculous healings, but think it’s better to hush them up? Or protesting that God doesn’t cure everyone, right now? Or questioning how God would allow anyone to suffer?

The latter is a deep question, of course. Better minds than mine (and Carroll’s) have explored the field of theodicy. Let me just suggest that if there’s one week each year when the meaning of human suffering comes into focus, it’s this week: the week when we recall how God the Father allowed Someone to suffer. It’s simply amazing that a column appearing during Holy Week, written by a former Catholic priest, addressing the question of human suffering, could fail to make even the slightest allusion to the suffering of Christ, the one event in history that might help us make sense of it all.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Our Fall Campaign
Progress toward our year-end goal ($128,302 to go):
$150,000.00 $21,697.70
86% 14%
Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 1 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: shrink - Apr. 17, 2014 2:28 PM ET USA

    When I read Carroll's argument, it reminded of the argument that atheists use to support their belief that God doesn't exist. Although Carroll is not, evidently, a doctrinaire atheist, many of his positions are tinged with the practical atheism that is quite common among the semi-churched Left; principal among these beliefs is that the all powerful/loving/knowing God would not allow evil or tolerate evil, and, neither should man.

Fall 2014 Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on

Recent Catholic Commentary

When Catholics are less Catholic than non-Catholics 4 hours ago
Cardinal Kasper's nose is growing again October 18
Challenge Grant Begins as Synod Ends October 17
What's wrong with this Synod, IV: Unprepared for marriage October 17
No, mainstream religious orders aren't attracting vocations as fast as younger traditional orders October 17

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Key synod report calls for 'gradualism' in Church response to irregular family situations CWN - October 13
As synod concludes, bishops issue message, approve document; Pope weighs in CWN - 14 hours ago
Cardinal Parolin: UN must protect innocents from Islamic State CWN - September 30
Synod of Bishops opens with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica CWN - October 6