01 December 2008

Ethicist-cum-Writer Rips Archbishop Burke and Other Faithful Bishops

The bustling metropolis of Meadville, Pennsylvania apparently has a newspaper. This newspaper apparently utilizes the services of at least one writer. This writer, while not moonlighting as a Professor of Bioethics at the prestigious Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, apparently produces anti-Catholic bile:

LOCAL COLUMN: Failed Catholic bishops

December 01, 2008 03:25 pm— By James Drane

Some bishops are doing serious damage to the Catholic Church in the United States. True, but not the ones that will be mentioned in this article.

During the presidential campaign these extreme right-wing bishops did their best to require Catholics to vote Republican. No, they reminded Catholics of their moral duty to refrain from voting for a pro-death candidate. It is the Democrat party, by its platform and candidate choices, who requires that Catholics not vote for most Democrats. Their message was that Catholics are morally obligated to vote for a candidate who claims the pro-life label. More accurately, to vote for, when possible, actual pro-life candidates. There is no duty to vote for fake ones.

Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., Archbishop Raymond Burke and Bishop Robert Hermann from St. Louis, Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Bishop Charles Chaput of Denver and Cardinal Regali [sic] of Philadelphia, are some of the most prominent of the extreme [read: Catholic] bishops. One big question facing today’s Catholic community is whether there is enough strength within the Catholic hierarchy to control the disposition of these bishops to use sacraments to push their political views. If not, who will stop the damage that they are doing to the Church? I suppose it depends on your point of view. Asking Catholics who commit scandal to bring their views in line with the faith they profess to hold is called pushing one's "political views".

Instead of taking advantage of the Barack Obama victory to celebrate the end of a period of racial intolerance and social injustice [they actually acknowledged this quite openly], these bishops do nothing but lament the refusal of Catholics to follow their voting directives. Instead of using the election outcome to call attention to the Catholic roots of Obama’s social justice agenda [there are no Catholic roots to Obama's "social justice agenda". To the extent that any policy of Obama's would match true Catholic social justice teaching, it is a happy accident. Jesus did not come to advocate social welfare programs.], these bishops continue to blame the Catholics who ignored their orders.

In the 1960s, celibate Catholic hierarchs decided to teach married couples about sexual morality [Right. Just decided.]. Married Catholics were instructed not to use available technologies (e.g., the pill) to practice birth control. Just like they were taught for 2,000 years. This ethical issue was not addressed biblically [it was, but why let facts stand in the way] so their teachings were based on rational arguments. Their arguments, however, were a total failure. All studies I recall hearing from that time confirmed that a majority of married Catholics continued to practice birth control in good conscience. The Church’s moral authority and Church credibility were severely damaged and yet there were no signs of any disposition on the part of church authorities to learn from their failure. Why was the Church's credibility damaged, and who did it? So-called "liberal" bishops and priests and nuns and laymen who promoted the idea that contraception was perfectly OK, and that the Church's teachings were "out of date". Forty years later, the Church is denuded and in crisis. I think the Bishops the writer dislikes did learn their lesson.

Then there was the priest scandal. Many bishops knew about the scandalous behavior of certain priests but kept everything secret. Their response was to reprimand the priests and to require them to make retreats in order to stop sinning. Of course, this didn’t work. It was a terrible mistake. Children were hurt along with families and the whole Church community. Besides being sinful, the pedophile priests were mentally ill and emotionally retarded. To have them make retreats had little effect on their behaviors. Who suffered from this failure on the part of bishops? The whole Church did, financially and socially. What did not happen was any public admission of failure on the part of the guilty bishops. They were not disciplined. There were no signs of the bishops learning from their mistakes. Which bishops? The "extreme" right-wingers, or the more doctrinally-pliable ones?

Most recently U.S. Catholic bishops decided to tell Catholics how to vote in the presidential election. The main issue for the bishops was reversal of the current Supreme Court law (Roe vs. Wade). The bishops wanted more legalized restrictions on abortions even though more restrictions and criminalization of all abortion would be a moral, political and medical disaster. Living babies a moral disaster? Talk about moral bankruptcy. Most bishops distributed a “Guide for Catholics Voters” which made abortion legislation the main concern. The most right-wing bishops even wanted to use the Eucharist as an instrument for their political objectives. They wanted to deny communion to Catholics who do not obey their directives.

With this kind of leadership, the Catholic Church is going through a period of decline. The decline started forty years ago, and the response of courageous bishops is the beginning of the reversal of the decline.

Great empires fail when leadership fails and the same thing happens [ed] to the Church. Over and over again Church authorities do not learn from mistakes and do not change. They suffer from a creeping infallibility. It guarantees institutional decline. Huh?

The election of a decent American with African roots [birth certificate?] meant a moral leap in our nation away from prejudice and toward tolerance. Ah, the god Tolerance. It was a moral example that the whole world can see and learn from. It changed the public image of the United States and made more hopeful a world- wide movement toward peace and reconciliation. Just look at Mumbai for confirmation of this.

Obama’s victory, however, was a loss for Catholic bishops. We finally agree. Their message was not to vote for him. Although he has a strategy for reducing abortions substantially [this is a complete crock], he did not support their drive for criminalization of abortion because it would mean more deaths for the poorest, the weakest, the most vulnerable women. But forget their babies.

A majority of Catholics agreed with Sen. Obama. Many [not] good Catholics worked to advance his candidacy. Adult Catholics carefully formed their own consciences [true, if by formed, you mean killed] and by so doing demonstrated moral maturity. Ha! The numbers showed that the bishops lost the overall Catholic vote: the adult vote, the Latino vote, the young Catholic vote and on and on. Is there any evidence of the bishops learning from these results? Is there any evidence that Catholics will wake up and listen to the Church? Will the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recognize that their arguments were unconvincing, even to faithful and loyal Catholics? They were convincing to faithful Catholics. It is the others who were unconvinced. Will the more responsible bishops do nothing to restrain their right-wing colleagues who show a pathological obsession with the one issue of legal access to abortion?

The Catholic Church has had a long history. Deep. Good popes and bishops contributed to the spread of Christianity over the centuries. Bad popes and bishops justified movements for reform. How will our era be judged? We will find out soon enough. If secular nations can turn things around and leap forward morally, so can the Church, but this will require getting rid of failed bishops. Difficult? Not really. Just re-establish the most ancient Catholic tradition of electing and periodically subjecting their leadership to review by priests and lay persons. Oh yeah, great idea. Is this guy Marek Bozek?

Drane is Russell B. Roth Professor of Bioethics, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.


Anonymous said...

With this kind of leadership, the Catholic Church is going through a period of decline.(The decline started forty years ago, and the response of courageous bishops is the beginning of the reversal of the decline.)

...and here is the response of a Catholic mother of 10


("The martyrs were bound, imprisoned, scourged, racked, burnt, rent, butchered —and they multiplied." St. Augustine)












Anonymous said...

Anti-Catholic bile? Jeez, Tim, is anyone who has a different view of the Church hierarchy than yours anti-Catholic? There are a lot of faithful Catholics who would agree with most of what Professor Roth says. By the way, the early Church did indeed elect their bishops. It only stopped when secular rulers decided it was their prerogative to appoint bishops. Apparently, your respect for the ancient traditions of the Church is, shal we say, kind of cafeteria-like.

Anonymous said...

Dear James Drane,

It is just amazing how the very same people who talk about how we should all be grateful that an African American is elected president are the same ones who hatefully call supreme court justice Clarence Thomas an "Uncle Tom".

I'd bet my granny's house that if the black economist and conservative political author, Thomas Sowell were running for president, as a Republican, of course, you and other liberals would hatefully attack his character! I'd bet his race suddenly wouldn't be important, or you may even put him down for his race.

Mr. Bane, your true colors are showing, and they are as dark as the bottom of hell. I hope those faithful Catholic bishops that you despise so much find time to pray for your soul.

thetimman said...

TGL, there is a decided difference between the living Tradition of the Church and a false antiquarianism, which is all a modernist thinks of if they ever think of tradition at all.

Who cares if the early Church in some places elected their bishops? The acorn looks different than the oak tree it becomes. Everything to the so-called progressive amounts to this: we live in a political democracy, so why not a religious one?

The result is this-- the truth is not determined by majority vote. The lack of education and moral sense is perfectly encapsulated in the Obama victory, for no truly moral society would elect him.

The laity have been ignoring the teaching of the Church for decades, aided and abetted by the shepherds whose job it was to guide them. The result is a massive decline in faith, church membership and a societal disaster.

Of course at this point those who have been giving in to every temptation they encounter would resent a bishop who actually tries to point out their errors. Errors are comfortable to embrace, require no courage or self-denial, and are applauded by the world.

Anonymous said...

Dear TGL,
The Holy Roman Catholic Church with all of it's authority, has declared that Abortion is an intrinsic evil, an act of murder. In doing so they have informed the world (not just Catholics) that anyone who supports (in any manner) this evil is committing a Mortal Sin.

Regardless of the multitude of misguided people whom you profess agree with this equally misguided man, the facts are the facts. Feel free to 'agree' with the professor, be willing to pay for it with your soul.

Mark S.
New Haven

Long-Skirts said...

TGL said:

"By the way, the early Church did indeed elect their bishops. It only stopped when secular rulers decided it was their prerogative to appoint bishops. Apparently, your respect for the ancient traditions of the Church is, shal we say, kind of cafeteria-like."

Oh, puh-leeeeeeeze! How many times did I hear that in the Novus Ordo Churches I was in in Madison, Wis. and Chicago. The best was with the Baptism of our 5th child. The priest wanted me to bring our infant in regular clothes, undress her and then let him submerge her in water and THEN put on the Baptismal gown. He said that was how it was done in the early Church too. As a mother I know how completely impractical that is and I'm not going to go into all the reasons why, but I refused to do it and since we were playing "early Church" when I gave him our stipend of a jar of honey and locust he looked at me stangely and asked "What's this?" (and by the way he made the whole Sacrament uncomfortable because I wouldn't go along with the submersion, etc.)

I said to him "That's your honey and locust stipend. That's how they paid in the Ancient Church!"

(I know, I'm bad and I'm never going to get to Heaven.)

B.J. said...

{They suffer from a creeping infallibility. It guarantees institutional decline. Huh?}

I think the author is claiming that the bishops think their own statements are infallible. Since they are not the Pope, the author is claiming that the notion (of the Pope speaking officially on faith and morals) of infallibility is somehow being borrowed (creeping from Pope to other bishops) by the bishops when they make statements. For some reason, the author ignores the Church's teaching that abortion is inherently evil, but as long as the Pope hasn't said it in a newspaper in the past month (the author's approximate attention span), it is somehow not true and consciences can (de)form in many diverse ways. Apparently being a professor in Bioethics does not require a course in logic.

Anonymous said...


This is exactly why I read your blog. You are spot on.


You silly goose. Isn't there a protestant sect more to your liking?

Anonymous said...

Wow. You guys sure don't appreciate a dissenting view, do you? As to Fenian's suggestion that I find a protestant sect, no thank you, the Vatican II church, the church of the vast majority of Roman Catholics, is fine with me. As to Anonymous a.k.a Mark S. from New Haven, I think one should feel free to discuss a subject without having to constantly worry that by doing so you are jeopardizing your eternal salvation. Lighten up, man!

Mitch said...


Apparently those radicals Bishop Martino, Cardinal Rigali et al had some affect up there in Pennslyvannia where more Catholics voted for McCain then Obama...

Anonymous said...


I hope you stay with the Catholic faith. I think that you don't realize how far you are from knowing and living the true Catholic faith, though.

It isn't our fault that we weren't properly catechized as children. The Church stopped teaching the true faith, and now they wonder why catholics really don't follow the churches teachings anymore.

I hope you listen to the Holy Spirit and continue to seek the truth. You wouldn't be reading this blog if there wasn't something more that you were looking for.

Peter said...

It is sad that many 'catholics' flock to the umbrella or penumbra (as the Supreme Court made up) of "well formed conscious" to excuse their value of economic security to life. TGL, sadly enough, your and teh professor's opinion is not the minority. But the question is...how did they form their conscious? Turning on an episode of Bible Study with Nancy Pelosi or Study the Summa with Joe Biden does not quite count. These bishops role is to shepherd and inform. And praise God that here in Missouri (ironically which bucked the national trend of voting Catholics) we had many in Bishop Finn, Nauman, Hermann and thankfully in Archbishop Emeritus Burke.
Pope Leo said it best 'the greatest sin is not knowing what a sin is anymore.' Some catholics may prefer living in the grey waters of relativism, BUT we have good bishops who are bringing us to the Truth.
May God have mercy on us.

Anonymous said...

Note how the writer brought up Humana Vitae first thing? That encyclical was the jumping off point for open dissent in the Church. Recall a bishop's (or cardinal? from Baltimore area?) recent story of what happened when he was a young priest and the immediate plotting against it by rebellious priests? Such open plotting and unapologetic dissent was unheard of previously.

Peter said...

I completely agree with Peggy (wow- a double comment day!). That what we now know as the Theology of the Body is the great scandal in the world today. It began to be revealed with Humane Vitae and was fleshed out (pun intended) by John Paul II and has been fought outside and unfortunately inside the Church since.
Theology of the Body is the sacramental and scriptural understanding of our dignity of human beings and our sexuality- which leads to a respect for Life. To deny it, leads to abortions, eugenics and euthenasia.
I suggest watching 'Expelled' the movie by Ben Stein to see this link.
Sadly, catholics would rather use eachother and their own bodies as means to ends rather than sacred ends within themselves. When they do that- we have the election we did.

thetimman said...

TGL, take my view as a "dissenting" view from yours and you will find it more palatable.

I appreciate that you are not searching for a protestant sect to join. However, to the extent that you view Vatican II for the proposition that it changed the Church's infallible teaching on contraception, you have already joined one. Why must the Church bend to your view, and not vice versa?

Seriously, and with respect, can I ask you what makes contraception a morally good thing? Or morally neutral. Care to build a case?

Anonymous said...


Mark S. did not say "discussing a subject jeopardizes your eternal salvation" he said "if you agree with it". You CAN NOT agree with contraception/abortion and be Catholic, even if you are "the Vatican II Church".

Anonymous said...

Folks, I'm leaving for Fort Benning to pick my son up from boot camp graduation. I'll be back with you in a couple of days. (I'm sure you're waiting with baited breath!)

thetimman said...

Be safe. And you are welcome when you get back.

Anonymous said...


I think that TGL cannot build a case for the morality of contraception. The example she gave from the homily at mass about a woman having 7 kids whom she had difficulty loving because her husband was drunk during conception was lame at best. What did her poor kids have to do with her husband's alcoholism?

So, if she was on the pill, and didn't conceive all would have been better? What a strange homily. No wonder TGL is confused with that kind of teaching from her church!

Anonymous said...


I hope that you do stay with the Church. I only made the protestant sect remark as it seems that the beliefs of Professor Roth and I would assume, yourself, are not those that a Catholic should hold. My remark about finding a protestant sect was merely in response to your quote of,

"There are a lot of faithful Catholics who would agree with most of what Professor Roth says."

My problem with that statement is that a faithful Catholic wouldn't believe most of what Professor Roth says. That isn't opinion that is subject to personal interpretation, but simply keeping one's beliefs in line with the teachings of the Church.

Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with the Novus Ordo mass (yes, I said that out loud!). However, if they are teaching beliefs that are in line with Professor Roth's views, then there is something very, very wrong with it. Those beliefs should not be up for interpretation when one professes to be Catholic.

Good luck and safe travel when picking up your son.

Show Me No Hate said...

Did you ever think that the Catholic Church can have their views and opinions but they need to stop forcing them into my Constitution.

If you really want a Theocracy then move to the Vatican, otherwise stop funding hatred and using your Catholic doctrine to oppress my American Freedoms.

Keep your Catholic Cannon Laws out of my Constitution.

thetimman said...

As Stalin said, "How many Divisions does the Pope have?"

Yes, you have discovered us. Archbishop Burke really wasn't named to head the signatura, he is really the new head of the vatican dicastery to force our "cannon" laws into your constitution.

Now that we are exposed, what will we do?