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June 26, 2007



Some Fundamentalists call Catholics "cultural Christians only" and it appears Fr. McBrien would like to join them.


"Why do you want more parishioners? You already have the largest parish in the diocese?"

Aside from the general cluelessness of that comment, the first thing that comes to my mind is, so start another church in the area.

Tim Ferguson

I can get on my little soapbox for a bit here and remind folks of two of my favorite canons, cc. 528 and 529, on the duties of a parish priest (pastor) and, through him, of a parish community. The territoriality of a parish is not so much intended to limit Catholics to what parish they can go to, but to ensure that all Catholics - all the baptized, in fact - have a proper pastor and a parish. The Missa pro populo (Mass for the people) that all pastors are obliged to say on Sundays and Holy Days is not offered for the "registered" members of the parish (a concept foreign to the universal law), but for all the baptized who reside within the boundaries of the parish. Fr. Paul in Colorado Springs has obviously read and digested these two canons and is taking his, and his parish's obligation to "seek out and feed" all the sheep of the parish. Good for them!

As to Fr. McBrien's carping, I have to suspect that there's some bitterness there - he's upset that hordes have not been converted by his own bankrupt ideology and so casts things in terms of "good converts" who become Catholic because of things like family and marriage issues and "bad converts" who are convinced of the truths of Catholicism, and so provide ammo to further dismantle the liberal intellectual facade that McBrien and his cronies took thirty years to build.

Jack Smith

I think he's complaining that converts who make a full intellectual assent to the Church are insufficiently docile to the ministrations of priests like Fr. McBrien.

I've heard similar complaints aimed at former protestants from a number of pastors over the years. The same also dislike young active orthodox Catholics who are mistakenly and pejoratively labeled "those Steubenville types."


I came into the Church in 1982. There was no RCIA, only an Inquiry Class (I think it was called) with very little information, no explanation of history, sacraments, truth, etc. Obviously I had already made the decision on my own -- but I felt like I was beating down doors to have anyone explain more of what I had already discerned to be holy and true. Even pre-cana explained birth control precisely as, "You're the Church, you decide." I must say that God provides. At every step of the way, a layman would take me aside and clear up the confusion -- a layman over age 60, usually. (That "pay, pray, and obey" generation knew far more than people give them credit for.)

I'm delighted to see the creative initiatives of some Catholics -- really going to the highways and byways. Grace is everywhere.

Sean Gallagher

Jeff Miller over at 'The Curt Jester' ran his commentary on Fr. McBrien's column along the lines that there will be a shortage of straw soon because McBrien set up so many men made of the product.

He has a humorous point. Fr. McBrien's column is so one-dimensional, so out of touch with even a nuanced reading of the reality of the Church in America at the present that I truly wonder what is going on in his mind.

Is it a case where he has told his vision of what he would like the Church to be so often that he has convinced himself that it is actually true, whole and entire?

I don't know. But after reading a column like his, I wonder about him and am honestly concerned for him.

Sherry Weddell

Just a background note:

The post that Amy linked to is by Fr. Mike Fones, current Co-Director of the Catherine of Siena. (It's easy to get confused - I've worked with nothing but OP's named Michael since the beginning - but Fr. Michael Sweeney is now President of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkley.)

Holy Apostles is my parish in Colorado Springs and it is most encouraging to routinely hear intentional discipleship and the apostolic call of the laity preached at every Mass. Check out their new website http://www.holyapostlescc.org/

All the staff, including Fr. Paul, have attended our summer seminar, Making Disciples, and they are now implementing the ideal of the parish as a center of evangelization and lay formation in an intentional, very creative, and locally appropriate way. But it is quite a paradigm shift for your standard mountain/high plains cradle Catholic.

Fr. Paul, who is in his late 60's (and has more enthusiasm and energy than the Energizer bunny. I always feel like a slothful underachiever around him),was studying in Rome during the Second Vatican Council and (like any red-blooded seminarian would do at such a moment) managed to finesse his way into the back of one or two sessions. He strives to think with the Church and outside the box at the same time. It's a refreshing combination.

He has been passionate about evangelization as long as I've known him and has asked his bishop to dedicate the remainder of his active priesthood to evangelization and has been given permission to do so.


Is it a case where he has told his vision of what he would like the Church to be so often that he has convinced himself that it is actually true, whole and entire?

I wondered as I read it has he ever talked to a convert or read a conversion story. It is pretty hard to avoid doing such a thing in the church today but he really does not seem to get where they are coming from. It is not like they are keeping it a secret.

You wonder of he just believes the church should die. The idea that you would not welcome a convert who believes Catholicism is right. Before I became Catholic it was clear to me that if my Reformed church did not attract people who thought Reformed theology was right it would die. It depended for it's future on it's teachings being compelling and convincing. It is just basic logic that converts are necessary for the survival of any church. How an intelligent man can completely miss that is beyond me.

Sherry Weddell

I should make it clear that the ideal I wrote about above of a "parish as a center of evangelization and lay formation" is not the Institute's ideal, but the Church's. We're just trying to help pastoral leaders realize what the Church actually teaches on the subject and work through what it means for their particular community on the ground.

And it isn't like Fr. Paul and the folks Holy Apostles hadn't been wrestling with these issues for years - long before we showed up. We've just tried to contribute what we've learned over the years working with parishes all over the world. They have just taken the basic ideas and run with them in very creative ways.

Ave Maria

In Father John Hardon's wonderful tape set on the Blessed Sacrament (which I recommend everyone to listen to), he mentions Fr. McBrien by name and not in a good way. Fr. McBrien has done much damage and shame on the diocesan papers that still run his column.

But if that is not possible, then it is good that he is refuted.

Now, lets see--what is that definition of heretic again?

Carl Olson

And who better equipped to take it on than Carl Olson? Go for it.

Many more are better equpped than I am, but I appreciate the kind words and the link. I agree with Ave Maria—Fr. McBrien does indeed deserve to be ignored. However, I think his views, or variations thereof, are held by a substantial number of Catholics, and so much be addressed from time to time.

Michael Tinkler

Yes, Carl!

I can't count the number of times nice people have told me to read something by Fr. McBrien to really understand the Catholic Church -- "you know, he teaches at Notre Dame!"

Fr. McBrien needs to be addressed over and over again, and every diocesan paper that carries him should get an annual note from the concerned asking why he's still there.

Mary Jane

When I mustered up the courage to speak with someone about joining the Catholic Church in the late 1980's, I was told not to bother. Since I was already Russian Orthodox, I didn't need anything more. When I mentioned the Petrine claims to the good sister with whom I was speaking, she made a snorting noise. I did attempt RCIA and dropped out after several weeks of psychologizing (and after I noticed that all the other people of a similar educational background had also left). I am a Catholic today because I found a priest who would listen to me and helped me complete the formation I needed to make a mature profession of faith. To come into the Church I didn't need "caring and sharing" meetings, I needed education and spiritual formation. After I came into the Church, I found fellowhip and community. But I didn't come for the community. I came for Christ.


Yikes, Mary Jane. But I'm not surprised. When I become Catholic ten years ago I found there are still remnants of the "silly season" and malcontents such as Father O'Brien who for the life of himself can't understand that there are people who really want to be Catholic, who appreciate the good their Protestant (or other) Christian upbringing gave them but found Catholic Christianity to be the bearer of the fullness of the Apostolic witness.

I'm grateful my diocesan paper dropped him (although I'm beginning to have my doubts about his replacement, Father John Dietzen).

Isn't it about time for Father McBrien to retire? Or can't someone banish him to a monastery?

Dale Price

Ah, Fr. Dietzen: the Holy Fog Machine of Antioch.

Not a great read, but light years ahead of the exhausted ideological pen droppings of Fr. McBrien.

Mark Shea

Where does he get this rubbish about apologists saying Protestantism is "completely wrong"? Every book of conversion stories I know is *thick* with encomiums to the Protestant roots of the author and generally very careful to say something along the lines of "I'm really grateful for all the truths of the faith I learned from my Protestant parents/mentors etc." If you want to hear "They're completely wrong" agitprop, you have to turn to the work of ex-Catholics, who spend all their time trying to show that the Catholic Church has not one, single solitary redeeming feature and that even its good points are wilful and malicious snares, deceptions, etc.

The Grand Old Man of pre-Vatican II apologetics, Chesterton, is much the same as the post V2 Catholic, by the by. He's certainly not afraid to criticize the various Protestantisms when they contradict the Faith and are therefore, 'ow you say, "wrong". But the notion that he thinks the various Protestantisms "completely wrong" is preposterous. They are, for Chesterton, partly right.

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