Quick Hits: Questioning the priesthood, dangerous ‘proselytism’, new rules on abuse

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles | May 24, 2019

When The Atlantic published an essay entitled, “Abolish the Priesthood,” everyone who saw the magazine’s cover knew instinctively that the author, James Carroll, was writing about the Catholic priesthood. That’s a point that Father Paul Mankowski makes in the opening paragraph of his reaction, published by First Things. But if you abolish the Catholic priesthood, Father Mankowski observes, you thereby abolish the sacraments, which means that you abolish the Catholic Church. James Carroll doesn’t see the problem, because he sees the Church as a social-welfare organization, promoting the secular causes that he holds most dear. And that, in turn, explains why Carroll, who was once a Catholic priest, deserted his vocation and has spent the last several decades attacking the institution to which he once vowed fidelity. “Carroll’s proposal is an example of the disease for which it purports to be the cure,” writes Father Mankowski, in his devastating rejoinder.


“Something out of the ordinary happened this week,” writes another old friend, Robert Royal, for The Catholic Thing. He alludes to the annual March for Life in Rome, which brought 10,000 people onto the city’s streets “despite no support from the Italian bishops—including the Pope.” Two cardinals were spotted among the marchers: the American Cardinal Burke and the Dutch Cardinal Eijk. The Italian bishops and Pope Francis have indicated that they don’t want the March to be seen as a “Catholic” event. Royal wonders aloud why that would be a problem. In any case the bishops’ own preferred strategy—working quietly with elected officials—certainly hasn’t produced results. And come to think of it, haven’t Italian bishops (and the Pope) taken a high-profile public approach on other issues, notably including immigration?


In L’Espresso, the veteran Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister notes that Pope Francis has once again condemned “proselytism”—this time in an address to the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. If proselytism means over-aggressive missionary work, Magister remarks, “it is a mystery from where [the Pope] would gather the conviction that this is a real danger in the Catholic Church that is ‘popping up again today.’” Quite the contrary, Magister argues, “if there is one incontestable reality in the Church of the past half century, it is not the excess but the collapse of the missionary drive.”


Finally, also in First Things, I offered an analysis of the new motu proprio governing the handling of sex-abuse complaints. If the new policies had been in effect years ago, would the McCarrick scandal have been avoided? Not likely, I conclude. Under the new rules, many Vatican officials—including Pope Francis himself—would be subject to investigation. “But if any such investigation has been made, we have not heard about it. So the crisis of credibility continues.”

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 CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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