Action Alert!

Of all the Rutten ideas

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 04, 2011

While Catholics all over the world are still celebrating the beatification of Pope John Paul II, curmudgeonly columnist Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times is unhappy because proper procedures were not followed.

Proper procedures, it seems, would require the Vatican to consult Tim Rutten before proceeding with a beatification. Tim would not have approved this one, because John Paul II was a nasty old conservative. To prove the point, Rutten cites the opinion of Hans Küng that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have made the Catholic Church a sad and lonely place. (Neither Küng nor Rutten offers an explanation for the cheering mob in St. Peter’s Square. They didn’t look sad and lonely. But I digress.)

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which does exhaustive research into the lives of candidates for beatification, may not wish to rely too heavily on Tim Rutten’s opinions, since the columnist takes a somewhat more cavalier approach to research. For example:

Many Catholics worry about a Vatican that fires an Australian bishop for speaking in favor of ordaining women and married men, but declines to act against a Belgian prelate who unapologetically admits to molesting young boys.

This would be a plausible argument, if the Vatican had indeed declined to act against Bishop Roger Vangheluwe. But in fact the disgraced Belgian bishop has been suspended from ministry. In fact, he was pressed to resign his episcopal office as soon as his abuse became known—unlike Bishop William Morris, who remained at the helm of the Toowoomba diocese for 5 years after making the heterodox statements that drew the Vatican’s scrutiny and eventually led to his removal. Immediately following that inaccurate statement, Rutten offers another:

Many are troubled too by the U.S. Catholic bishops--all conservatives appointed by the last two popes--who attempt to force theologians to resume the old practice of submitting their work to the local prelate for approval before publication.

All of the American bishops are conservatives? All of them? Maybe it’s possible to justify that phrase, by reasoning that the bishops are all conservative in comparison with, say, Hans Küng. But with the remainder of sentence, Rutten simply becomes unhinged from reality. Which bishops are forcing theologians to submit their work for approval prior to publication? Could we have a list? No. It’s fiction.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - May. 11, 2011 11:12 PM ET USA

    Mr. Rutten favors the Protestant view of personal interpretation of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition to the infallible teaching of the Magisterium of the Cathlic Church. Christ established the Magisterium when he appointed Peter head of the Apostles, (apostolic college) instructing them to "Go forth and make disciples of all nations, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them all that I have commanded you."

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2011 6:04 AM ET USA

    I get the impression that Mr. Rutten detests any faith tradition or religious leader that he can't control in some way. Sad, but very common these days.