Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

in a Roman café

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 12, 2004

The NCR's John Allen has a chat in a Roman café with San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, who is distressed by "aggressive Pentecostal and evangelical movements making strong inroads into traditionally Catholic populations" in the U.S. Why do these people bother to go after Catholics?

"These are people acting out of their own sense of the missionary apostolate. They are not people touched by the vision of ecumenism. They are convinced that Catholics are going to Hell and need to be saved, so they reach out to them."

Can you beat that? These folks really believe that there really is a Hell. They don't want their neighbors to go there -- they're not touched by the vision of ecumenism -- so they put themselves to considerable trouble to reach out to them to save them from damnation.

Now take look at any letter, homily, speech, interview or book produced by Levada or by the USCCB in the past 30 years, and try to come up with a single example of pastoral concern that someone, anyone, may end up in Hell as a consequence of any action whatever. You won't find it.

That leaves us with one group of Christians who believe in the literal possibility of damnation (a teaching they have unambiguously from Jesus) and are thereby spurred to missionary frenzy -- and another group of Christians whose most serious moral concern appears to be Gender-Exclusive Language. Guess which group succeeds in speaking to the minds and hearts of ordinary working people?

Levada also made the news in his local paper today:

The founding chairman of a panel formed by San Francisco's Roman Catholic Archdiocese to look into allegations of priestly child abuse has resigned from the board, accusing church leaders of "deception, manipulation and control' for refusing to release the investigation's results. James Jenkins, one of six members of the Independent Review Board and its chairman until last December, said Archbishop William Levada has blocked the release of the panel's findings on sexual-abuse allegations involving 40 priests.

Perhaps the two stories are not unrelated. The truly shocking aspect of the clerical abuse scandal for most laymen was not the revelation of the sexual predation itself, but the drowsy indifference displayed by the bishops in response to it: no rending of garments, no indignation, no flame-thrower reforms. Remember Levada's reaction when Bishop Patrick Ziemann crashed and burned after his catamite went public?

The archbishop described himself as a lifelong friend of Ziemann's and said he joined "friends throughout California and beyond in thanking him for the energy and gifts he has shared far and wide. Our prayers and good wishes go with him."

Detect any awareness of a soul at risk of damnation there? Neither do I. It sounds like one Rotarian congratulating another at a farewell luncheon. On the other hand, the odds are increasing that Ziemann, in his retirement, may run into a Pentecostal or evangelical who cares more for his eternal destiny than his comfort. There's hope.

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