The gamut of opinion, from A to B

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Jul 11, 2003

The Boston Globe breaks the story that the leaders of the US bishops' conference recently convened a secret meeting with various prominent Catholic leaders, to sound out their views on the future of American Catholicism.

Hmm. That's interesting. And we weren't invited. Who was?

Among the participants were several Bostonians, including Mary Jo Bane, a professor of public policy and management at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; Dr. Michael F. Collins, president and chief executive officer of Caritas Christi Health Care; Dr. Mary Jane England, president of Regis College; Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, president of Catholic Charities USA and former head of Harvard Divinity School; Sister Mary Johnson, an associate professor of sociology and religious studies at Emmanuel College; the Rev. J. Donald Monan, chancellor of Boston College; and R. Robert Popeo, chairman and president of the law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo.

Read through that list, and find the name of someone generally identified as "conservative" in theological orientation. Find someone who is known for defending controversial Catholic teachings. Good luck.

At their Dallas meeting last year, the bishops were criticized for scheduling presentations from two prominent liberals, R. Scott Appleby and Margaret Steinfels. So at this secret meeting, they heard again from Appleby and Steinfels spoke again!

What was the point of this meeting? Maybe the liberal theologian Monika Hellwig captured the sense of the group when she told the Globe: "There are some things that will not move without Rome. But we can make some efforts to move Rome..."

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: - Jul. 14, 2003 1:14 AM ET USA

    I can hear Captain Louis Renault say to his staff: "Round up the usual suspects." I was appalled when I first heard the story, but after reflection (and Mass), I am more hopeful. Don't you get the sense that this was a "circle-the-wagons" meeting, a meeting of desperation? This is a meeting from the 1970's, ex-priests, ex-nuns, media people (Cokie Roberts), beautiful people (any Kennedy will do), many, many moneychangers from Wall Street. How many Latin Mass indults among these bishops?

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jul. 12, 2003 6:36 PM ET USA

    Shrink's question is a good one. But I'm sure he and the rest of us know the answer. Shall we out a note on our calendars to check again in, say,a month? August 12 or so. And see if any Bishop has said a word. How about a wager? I'll send a check for $100 to the diocese of the first Bishop to object to this meeting.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jul. 11, 2003 7:36 PM ET USA

    Any illusion that bishops understand that this is a scandal of fidelity rather than "sex" is destroyed. The fact that is part of the statuis quo shows there is an entrenched bureaucracy controlling invitation lists, agendas, etc.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 11, 2003 10:06 AM ET USA

    The sidebar in the Globe article states that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was one of the invited guests. She ran (and lost!) for governor of Maryland on a pro-abortion platform. She was also the invited graduation speaker for an exclusive local "Catholic" girls school. There were some brave parents who protested her presence at the school, but most just went along. Controversial Catholic teachings are not being taught to our children, what real hope is there for the future?

  • Posted by: shrink - Jul. 11, 2003 8:13 AM ET USA

    Phil, you shouldn't need to ask what the point of the meeting was. Rather, the orthodox bishops need to be asking, and asking in a very public manner. Will one of them step forward and publicly ask what the premise of this meeting was? 2. Will he publicly challenge the premise of this meeting or others like it? 3. Will he publicly make a stand that he is parting company with his brother bishops who kowtow to the left?