sauce for the goose

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 02, 2005

The departure of Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., from the editorship of America is still fueling hyperbole from dissenting Catholics, most recently E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post:

It seems that Reese was too willing to invite Catholics to his pages who did not agree with the totality of the Vatican's views. Not, mind you, that he didn't give top billing to the official view. Ratzinger himself once wrote for Reese's magazine. But Father Tom, a moderate by temperament, was a bit too willing to broaden the community of discourse. Liberal Catholics -- and many moderates, too -- were aghast. ...

The Catholics Reese's magazine spoke to, and often for, are loyal to their tradition but also understand, as the philosopher Michael Walzer has put it, that "traditions are sites for arguments." Traditions stay alive by nurturing a spirit that is at once loving and critical. If every question is kept open, there are no answers. But if too many questions are closed, the answers the tradition offers become steadily less compelling, less fresh and less persuasive

Dry the starting tear, boys and girls.

The fallacy underlying Dionne's argument is the assumption that America is a free agent, more or less like Harper's or The Atlantic, and the only institution exercising censorship or shutting down open argument is the Holy See.

But America is itself wholly beholden to the Society of Jesus, and states forthrightly that "the board of directors of America are the ten Jesuit provincials and the president of the Jesuit Conference in the United States." So the sparring partners in this controversy are not the free Catholic intelligentsia versus the faceless Vatican, but two institutions, each with its own fully functioning engines of censorship.

Well, Brer Dionne, how much criticism has the Society of Jesus permitted to be directed at itself -- its strategies, its superiors, its ideological infatuations -- in the pages of America? I defy you to find a single article in the past thirty years of America as confrontational of its own board of directors as the average issue is critical of the Holy See. In point of fact, you'll find that, institutionally speaking, the "community of discourse" is no broader in America than in the Osservatore Romano, and that deviationists are roughed up at least as harshly by New York as by Rome.

So let's just keep a level playing field. If you accept Walzer's "traditions are sites for arguments" line, fine. But then in virtue of that very premise you have to admit that America is guilty of rank toadyism -- there's no other name for it. On the other hand, if you decide to give America a pass and concede that, after all, Jesuit provincials have right to monitor and limit the opinions that go out under their flag, that's fine too. But then you have to admit the Holy See has a legitimate right to delimit the contents of an ostensibly Catholic publication, a fortiori when the publication is governed by a congregation with traditionally close ties to the pope.

You want to teach Rome that it has nothing to fear from open and unrestricted criticism? I'm all for it, lads. But you give example not by criticising Rome but by aiming your artillery closer, a lot closer, to home. It would be interesting to see this kind of freedom in action. Show us how it's done.

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  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2005 1:53 PM ET USA

    Yes Canismaster. All one of you.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2005 1:51 PM ET USA

    What makes me ill is the fact that the secular media, including E J Dionne, continues to use the terms liberal-, moderate- and conservative Catholics, as if these terms are compatible to the Church. They are not. One either agrees with, and follows, Church teaching or one does not. The correct terms, as I see it, are orthodox-, or non-orthodox Catholic. The media continue to place a political hype on everything, including religion, which they do not understand.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Jun. 02, 2005 8:31 PM ET USA

    Your comments hit the nail right on the head. About 5 years ago during the fuss about ex corde Fr. Reese made an historical error saying that if ex corde had been in effect Thomas Aquinas would not have gotten a mandatum. I sent a note correcting him. Aquinas' academic degree was in fact a license to teach. The Ph. L and the Th. L. are reminders of that. He did not publish the correction. Some people just can't take the heat.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 02, 2005 6:40 PM ET USA

    If you are so against totalitarianism and control, then why doesn’t Diogenes write a column for America? Why? Because you all are all un-pious frauds...and most of us know it…

  • Posted by: - Jun. 02, 2005 1:48 PM ET USA

    One of the tiring things about liberal writers, especially those who claim to be Catholic, is their consummate predictability. Like a wind up toy, you set them down on the table and they do the same thing repeatedly. The only surprise is which edge of the table they fall off. Put a tacky pastel pant suit on E.J. Dionne and he can pass for Joan Chittister or Donna Quinn.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Jun. 02, 2005 12:31 PM ET USA

    Diogenes, as usual, you are right on. The Society of Jesus leadership needs to set its scope a lot closer to home, something it has not done for the past 35-plus years. e.g., will we see a piece in America magazine about Father Fessio, SJ, making his final vows, as he did May 31, & the reason that it took the SJ provincials & general over 30 years to give him final vows? (With Ignatius Press, CWReport, Ave Maria U., etc., Fr. Fessio has done & continues to do opus Dei for the Church. AMDG.)