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Archive for July, 2010

We detour from the immediate topic of Fr. Bryan Hehir today to highlight this excellent post by Paul Melanson at LaSalette Journey entitled “Catholics want the truth, not sentimental paternalism” because of that post’s connection to this blog’s interactions with Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson over our coverage of Fr. Hehir.  It gets even more interesting and timately when you look at a recent email sent by the Vicar General to chancery employees.

Paul cites Dr. William E. May, a professor of moral theology, who wrote that Catholics, “want the truth, not sentimental paternalism. And they know, deep in their hearts, that the priest speaks the truth if and only if he affirms Church teaching and offers them the help and support they need to make it real in their lives.”

Towards that end, Paul highlighted some things Fr. Erikson said in an interview with The Boston Globe Magazine back in 2006.  Here’s what Paul wrote:

Father Erikson spoke of being a “father figure” during his interview with the The Boston Globe Magazine. But, as Dr. May has said, Catholics have a very definite idea of what a loving father should be. They are looking for truth and not sentimental paternalism. And yet, when faithful Catholics have expressed their legitimate concerns over dissent within the troubled Boston Archdiocese, the response they have received from Father Erikson is not that of a loving father concerned with people’s souls, but that of a bureaucrat anxious to dismiss complaints with a wave of the hand while accusing those who have meticulously documented their concerns of engaging in falsehood. This is not the proper approach if one is sincere about “rebuilding trust.”

For readers who have followed our interactions with the archdiocese in recent weeks, we think you know already that we’d agree with the opinion above.  The dismissing of valid, well-documented and canonically justified complaints is not a great way to build trust.

Beyond that, Father Erikson was also quoted in the article as saying:

“I expect people to judge us by our actions. I can go down to the Boston Common with a megaphone and proclaim Christ, but it’s how are we living our lives, and how are we leading…And are we doing so in a way that would imitate what Jesus Christ would do out of love and care? And let me say something about upholding Christ…He doesn’t need me to uphold him. But I need to uphold him. It’s about what I need to do to be centered in Christ. Because if my life here becomes primarily about finances and about structure and about corporations, and if I’m more concerned about the heater than I am about people’s souls, then I have lost perspective.

This is beautiful to hear someone like the Vicar General role having said back in 2006.  Unfortunately, it seems that there’s something about the chancery in Boston that may change people over time.  Though we have not yet seen any emails or actions in response to our blog to correct the undermining of Church teachings we’ve documented which leads people’s souls astray, here are excerpts from a recent email sent by Fr. Erikson to all chancery employees about finance, structure, and corporations:

Good afternoon,

As I have mentioned at the past couple of Pastoral Center meetings and via email, on 1 July the Catholic Media Group began under Scot Landry’s leadership and the Catholic Foundation continues its great work under the interim leadership of Kevin Kiley. The past several months for the Foundation, while challenging at times, have created new opportunities for not only new catholic media initiatives but an interim period to review our fundraising operations in order to position ourselves for an even more successful future… Turning to the Catholic Foundation, there is hope and confidence that this interim period will be an opportunity to evaluate strengths, improve were need be, affirm best practices and look at new ways of fundraising for the Foundation and others in our RCAB family, so as possibly to benefit from economies of scale. Kevin Kiley and I are meeting regularly to ensure a smooth and effective transition to a permanent successor once the Search Committee completes their work.  The Search Committee, chaired by Jack Connors, has begun meeting and assigned duties.  The goal is to find a permanent successor as quickly as possible.   Some highlights worth noting of recent accomplishments and planned short-term goals during this interim period:

Accomplishments: ·

  • The Appeal cash budget to support Central Ministries for Fiscal 2010 of $13.5MM has been achieved.
  • 2010 Appeal pledges at the parish level are higher than last year at this time.
  • Most of the Foundations’ fundraising team remains intact and disruptions in service are not anticipated.
  • A review of TCF operations, policies and procedures is underway in order to get a new successor quickly up-to-speed.
  • Outreach to each Board and PAC member is underway to gather thoughts, comments and recommendations on Foundation operations.

Short-term Goals:

  • Successful closeout of the 2010 Appeal campaign.
  • Ready 2011 Appeal campaign for launch next March.
  • Prepare for a permanent Cabinet Secretary in hopes of minimizing the learning curve.
  • Review other major dioceses fundraising efforts to evaluate best practices.

I am confident that this transition period will be smooth, orderly and fruitful.  I am grateful to all who have assisted to make this transition as productive as possible and one that, in the long run, will benefit the mission of the Church.

Blessings,   Fr. Rich

The archdiocese is a big organization to run and we do not fault Fr. Erikson for communicating what is going on structurally and financially, and keeping the train on the tracks as he is called to do in his chancery job.  We simply highlight the aspirational statement by the Vicar General from 2006 when he started, and invite you to compare it vs the the recent actions.

Father Erikson said “I expect people to judge us [Archdiocesan officials] by our actions.”

People are now doing exactly that.

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Readers, we interrupt the lively discussion about Fr. Bryan Hehir’s comments on Catholic Conscience Exemptions, to ask you to do something even more important today than addressing the situation with Fr. Hehir. No joking–we are serious on this one.

Catholic Citizenship, the local organization that complements the Massachusetts Catholic Bishops efforts to ensure Catholic voices are represented in the public square, has just sent out an alert on an important issue that requires gressroots action today.  Here’s the notice:

This Thursday, July 29th at 1PM the State Legislature is scheduled to convene a Joint Session of both the House and Senate in a Constitutional Convention. In a highly controversial move, the Joint Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to Senate Bill 23 filed by Cynthia Creem. This bill is a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit initiative petitions on “The rights to freedom and equality; the right of each individual to be protected by society in the enjoyment of life, liberty and property, according to standing laws.” 

In essence, no initiative petition would ever go forward since all petitions touch on some aspect of life, liberty or property.

Please click below to send an email to your state senator and state representative opposing this amendment (S23 and H4537), which is designed to rob the people of their constitutional right to effect legislation through an initiative petition.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:
http://www.votervoice.net/link/target/catholic/FBG9BttK.aspx

Folks, this proposed measure from State Sen. Creem is a really bad one.  It’s basically saying the legislature would move to amend the constitution to take away the people’s constitutional right to amend the constitution.  God forbid that the citizens of the state would be so outraged by a move by activist courts  that they muster the votes to amend the constitution to undo a bad court decision, as just one example!  John Adams wrote the Massachusetts consitution especially to ensure citizens’ rights were protected via a constitutional amendment process, so we need to get this terrible measure by Sen Creem killed.  Do click on the link to send a message, but even better, pick up the phone and call your state rep and senator.  If you don’t know who they are, click here to search for their names by filling in your address.  (then scroll to the bottom of the results to get your state rep and state senator).  Though we do have our criticisms of the Mass Catholic Conference and Catholic Citizenship , this is one email and/or call you should act on today, and ask your friends and family members to also take action on it.

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Joe is off on a much deserved break, so I’m helping out along with our web/video crew to continue documenting things Fr. Bryan Hehir has said that we here at the blog see as objectively problematic.  No one in an official capacity from the archdiocese has responded to us about the last post and video of Fr. Hehir saying the doctrinal questions around women priests need to be worked through by the Church—a contradiction of the infallible teachings of the Catholic Church.  So today we move to the topic of Catholic conscience protections and abortion.

We considered reporting on this back in April after Fr. Hehir spoke at Boston College on “A Matter of Conscience,” though Diogenes, the long-term anonymous blogger at CatholicCulture, and Throwthe BumsOutin2010 covered it very nicely at the time. But since abortion is a key issue of our time—especially in light of the healthcare debate and pending sale of Caritas Christi—we are revisiting it.  And since this blog has come under criticism by the Archdiocese of Boston for saying things they feel are untrue, degrading, and defamatory about Fr. Hehir which we feel are in fact accurate, we hope that the video footage documenting exactly what was said will make it easy to find common ground with our critics with the objective truth.

If you feel you know everything you need to know about conscience clauses, skip down to the video.  For anyone who wants a refresher on the Catholic teaching regarding conscience clauses, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.

Here’s the USCCB’s resource page on conscience protection.  Here’s an excerpt from a 2009 letter from the USCCB that lays out the case very nicely:

The first recorded claim of conscience rights for medical personnel is the 4th Century B.C. Hippocratic Oath: “I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients. … I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion.”

The right of conscience is recognized in the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the World Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics, and in 47 states, laws protect the conscience rights of healthcare providers.

Here are statements by various U.S. bishops on the same issue.

So Fr. Hehir participated in a panel discussion at BC on April 10, 2010 called “A Matter of Conscience: Religious Exemptions and the Healthcare Debate.”  You can watch the whole event here.   (Fr. Hehir’s comments are between about 6:45 and 25:00)

Below is about 5 minutes of video footage, including opening comments excerpted from the moderator (Eric) where he defines a conscience excemption, excerpts from what Fr. Hehir said, and brief commentary from a representative of the “Catholic militants of Boston.”  (Video credit to BHE team member LastCatholicinBoston).  The most controversial part of Fr. Hehir’s comments starts at around 2:40 and runs to around 4:30. 

Before we review Fr. Hehir’s comments, we should note that next to him on the panel was Mass General Hospital Director of Obstetrics, Dr. Michael Greene, who is on the record as working around the legal ban on partial-birth abortions by “injecting fetuses with lethal drugs before procedures” to avoid any chance of partially delivering a live fetus. The Boston Globe quoted Dr. Greene in “Shots Assist in Aborting Fetuses: Lethal Injections Offer Legal Shield” saying “No physician even wants to be accused of stumbling into accidentally doing one of these procedures…in the experienced hands of hospital staff, the injections add no risk and are “trivially simple.” To avoid partially delivering a live fetus, then intentionally causing its death and violating the law, now for abortions done after 18-20 weeks gestation, a lethal injection of digoxin or potassium chloride (a potentially poisonous salt also used in state executions) is done beforehand and is carefully documented so as to preclude an accusation and prosecution. Patients “all are appreciative of what we do for them and understand the circumstances under which we work,” Greene said in the Globe.  But I digress–this was never mentioned during the panel and Fr. Hehir did not mention “abortion” by name, so allow me to get back on topic. 

As Joe said in the last post, what Fr. Hehir did not say is almost as important as what he did say. To be fair, Fr. Hehir started out by paraphrasing what the moderator, Eric, said in defining what a Catholic conscience exemption is—namely a “standard of civil law which protects the right of a professional or institution from performing a legal act because of either personal, moral , or religious conviction.”   He said it was fair to argue there are deep cultural moral fragmentations in American society. 

At about 2:40, Fr. Hehir says,

“There are tensions when you try to provide public service but don’t always live under laws you necessarily agree with.  In terms of choosing our future, we need to ask the question what could be lost if we can’t find a fair adjudication of this issue?  The issue by definition is shot through with tension.  If you think of the conscience clause protecting the professional, then you have to think about access to service on the part of clients of various kinds, patients, or clients of social service agencies.

 Just to be clear, this “access to service” described by Fr. Hehir means abortion, but for some reason, he never states that.  The Catechism, Pope, and teaching authority of the Catholic Church are clear that the Catholic Church opposes killing the unborn. So, it’s troubling to this writer and others faithful Catholic who watched the video to hear from a senior Archdiocesan official that Catholics should “have to think” about how the woman will get access to abortion services.

Fr. Hehir continued saying,

My sense is what could be lost is on one hand is damage to profession involved, what also could be lost is this characteristic of social system where it is pervaded by non-profits, using a pluralism of actors in the system. Unless we choose well on this, we could harm the profession, the social system. And clearly, if we don’t choose well, we could harm the individual who needs precisely the service.

Not to be redundant, but once again, “service “means abortions.  Was Fr. Hehir concerned about harming the woman who needs the abortion service to have her unborn baby killed?  Or was he concerned about harming the baby who needs the service to be aborted?  He emphasizes the possible harm to the profession, the pluralism of actors in the social system and the individual who needs the abortion service, but says nothing about the risk to the individual conscience of the medical professional.

Near the conclusion we get Fr. Hehir’s own redefinition of the conscience clause, which is objectively nothing like what Eric the moderator or Fr. Hehir said earlier.  A conclusion of a talk is usually what the speaker wants to drive home, to have the audience remember most.  The takeaway.  The “whole Enchliada” as it were, summed up in the bottom line:

My basic position is, conscience clauses provide an essential political legal component to adjudicate deeply held convictions and positions in this pluralistic society.  I think the resolution requires defining the issues broadly.  You’ve got to pay attention to all the actors, their beliefs, their interests, and the duties involved and recognize that conscience clauses will limit the rights of others to some degree.

After hearing Fr. Hehir’s comments, a listener does not come away with the conclusion that Catholics should focus our attention and efforts in public policy on lobbying to limit the availability of abortion, to limit government funding of abortion or to ensure Catholic healthcare professionals can be exempt from taking part in the moral evil of abortion.  Instead, the average listener will likely come away hearing that we should pay attention to ALL the actors and our duties to provide these services,  lest we compromise the social service system.

In Fr. Hehir’s final conclusion, he asked: 

How do you deal with that tension. Conscience clauses should be claimed only for essential issues – not capaciously.  If conscience clauses were eroded, the effect could be that you use the power of the law to drive a wedge between professionals deepest convictions  and their ability to provide effective public service on the other.

 After listening several times, our team found it difficult to understand what Fr. Hehir believes, what he wanted the audience to conclude, or what he wanted the Church, citizens and the government to do.  Carol McKinley at ThrowtheBumsOutin2010 raised a similar question.  “You have the State take away the rights of the individual person to make a judgment about a moral evil and assert their  constitutional rights themselves–and replace it with public policies that make decisions for the individual about what moral evils are protected with conscience clauses and which ones are not.  But then you can’t have it both ways, can you?   Either every person whose conscience is formed has the right to make a judgment on their own and assert their rights to make decisions about their salvation, or they have a society that takes those judgments away. What form of governance takes away individual rights to make decisions about your salvation?  It isn’t democracy.”

As fraternal correction, I would offer that Fr. Hehir should have mentioned the word “abortion” and said clearly that it was considered a gravely moral evil by the Church.   Fr. Hehir said nothing about how an erosion in conscience clauses would result in many medical professionals abandoning their profession, thus limiting the quality of medical care for everyone.   As the Cardinal’s Cabinet Secretary responsible for pro-life programs, he should have offered a strong pro-life voice.  The USCCB has posted on their website, comments from bishops including Archbishop Hughes of New Orleans who said, “It is imperative that the rights of doctors, nurses and all medical professionals be protected and free from discrimination based upon their religious beliefs, morals and ethics.” Or, he could have cited Archbishop O’Brien of Baltimore who said healthcare professionals must exercise their consciences regularly in matters of life and death. “They are called to be guardians and servants of human life. This noble vocation invites moral, cultural, and legal pressures into its everyday practice. Freedom of conscience is essential to facing these pressures and responding to them “with an impassioned and unflinching affirmation of life,” as Pope John Paul II called for in The Gospel of Life.”

Diogenes at CatholicCulture sounded similar criticism of Fr. Hehir when he commented on a Boston College Magazine article about the event, saying: “…we put at risk the health-care profession, the patient requesting the services, and the role of non-profits in the social welfare system,… What’s missing from that list of endangered values? The individual conscience: which was, you may recall, the subject of the evening’s panel discussion. Father Hehir’s concern about health-care institutions and non-profit agencies was expressed clearly enough to make an impression on the Boston College Magazine reporter. His concern for individual Catholics who might be compelled by law to perform immoral actions wasn’t so memorable.”

We know we sound like a broken record on this but we have to keep coming back to the comment by Cardinal O’Malley on his blog back on April 30.  Fr. Hehir “has brought a vast understanding of the important place our Church has in society and inspires us with his compassion, vision and fidelity to the work of the Church. His voice brings clarity to our message and mission in serving the Catholic community here in Boston.”

Does someone else objectively see  and hear in this Boston College video (or in Fr. Hehir’s other public comments or actions) what Cardinal said he sees?

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Most of our blog readers by now should be familiar
with the interchange between our bloggers and Vicar General, Fr. Richard Erikson.  You’ll find a record-setting 70 comments on our last post, Response from Boston Archdiocese’s Vicar General. where we shared how the Archdiocese feels much about our posts has been “untrue,” “inappropriate,” and “harmful to the Body of Christ.”  Though we disagree in the strongest of terms with that assessment and still are waiting for the Archdiocese to tell us about any inaccuracies, we are going to try in the next few posts to communicate in a different way regarding some of the things Fr. Hehir has said and done, and we’ll see how that goes.

Today we pick up on a topic that has been in the news recently, namely the Vatican’s new rules that make attempts at ordaining women among the “most serious crimes.”  Women attempting to be priests, and those who try to ordain them, already faced automatic excommunication but the new decree goes further and enshrines the action as “a crime against sacraments.”  In view of this new decree, and the fact that Catholic Church’s position on women priests has been crystal clear for a very long time, we thought we would feature for you a short video clip with Fr. Bryan Hehir’s comments on the subject of women priests.  The issue of women priests may not be one of the biggest ones facing this archdiocese or society today, so why highlight it on ths blog?  Because a) the Vatican thought it important enough to further clarify and b) we see it as yet another unambigous example of what we have been saying since March.

Just as background, in his 1994 apostolic letter on ordination, “On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone “, Pope John Paul II said the church’s ban on women priests is definitive and not open to debate among Catholics.  “The all-male priesthood does not represent discrimination against women, but fidelity to Christ’s actions and his plan for the church. The pope’s document reaffirmed the basis for ordaining only men: “Christ chose only men to be his Apostles, it has been the constant practice of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, and the Magisterium’s teaching on the matter has been consistent.”

On November 18, 1995, the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith reinforced this by releasing a letter signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, saying the  Church’s traditional ban on women priests “requires definitive assent…(and) has been  set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.  The teaching that the Church possesses no authority to ordain women, is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of faith.” (It’s a short letter–you can read it in just one minute)

The letter from the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was accompanied by a cover letter insisting that bishops “will do everything possible  to ensure its distribution and favourable reception, taking particular care that, above  all on the part of theologians, pastors of souls, and religious, ambiguous and contrary positions will not again be proposed.”

Invoking the word “infallible” in the letter, explained Father Augustine DeNoia,  a theological advisor to the US Bishops, means that “to teach the contrary is  equivalent to leading consciences into error.”

Against that backdrop, here is a video clip of a September 18, 2003 Boston College forum, held as part of BC’s “Catholic Church in the 21st Century” series, where Fr. Hehir was a panelist.  In one segment, after several consecutive panelists spoke in favor of women priests (including one who favored ordaining women deacons, and another who supported homosexual or women priests), Fr Hehir shared his opinion.  (Listen from 3:15 to 3:45 for Tim Russert’s question and Fr. Hehir’s response about women priests at 3:35-3:45).  Fr. Hehir said, “The ordination of women raises doctrinal questions that have to be worked through in a Church that takes doctrine seriously.”

You can read written excerpts from the event including Fr. Hehir’s comments here. In case you don’t have time to play the whole clip, allow me to restate what was said before Fr. Hehir speaks. Panelist and theology major, Liz Paulhus, said “as a young woman, as a theology major, I certainly would like to see women ordained. There’s not a lot that can be said against women’s ordination. The problem is that this is an area where conversation is basically closed with the Vatican. Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter on the ordination of women was unequivocal: We’re not discussing it.”

Then Peter Steinsfels said, “There should be an effort to open the question of ordaining women to the diaconate. The roles that women in the diaconate played in the early centuries were not exactly parallel to the roles played by men deacons, but historical studies show that the ordination rituals were quite similar.”

Then Catalina Mones ’98 said, “I feel that women can make tremendous contributions to the Catholic church, and women are often overlooked and treated like a different class of citizen.”

Then student, Patrick Downes, said if a “woman, homosexual, or male felt the presence of God is within them, who is the church to limit their potential to grow in the church?

Then Fr. Hehir spoke.  In our humble opinion as anonymous bloggers, what he did not say to set the record straight for the faithful, is as important as what he did say.  He did not affirm that Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter was indeed unequivocal. He did not correct Peter Steinsfels’ erroneous statement about women having a role in the “diaconate” in early centuries or explain how the role of “deaconess” in the early centuries was one of a servant, not at all a woman “deacon.”  (Women who assisted other women in full emersion of Baptism were referred to as “deaconesses”).  He did not say that the Roman Catholic Church cannot ordain women because Jesus specifically chose men for apostolic succession. He did not say this teaching was infallible as set forth by the Magisterium.  He did not say he agreed with this infallible teaching.  He did not avoid say anything ambiguous or avoid taking a contrary position.  What Fr. Bryan Hehir said is,

The ordination of women raises doctrinal questions that have to be worked through in a Church that takes doctrine seriously.”

Nine days later, on September 27, 2003, then-Archbishop O’Malley announced the appointment of Fr. Hehir as Cabinet Secretary for Social Services.

Before we ask some questions about what Fr. Hehir said and the implications of this, let’s just revisit what people said at the time of Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1996 letter:

For, as those on both sides of the battle agree, the essence of this recent statement is that those who will not accept Church teaching on ordination are not Catholic.” (Paul Likoudis, Challenge Magazine, Jan 1996)

The Pope is not only “aiming to shut the door on debate about women’s ordination” but he has made it clear that dissenters on the issue are out of the Church.” Catholic New Service reporter John Thavis

Father Richard McBrien at Notre Dame told the New York  Times: “If the pope wants us to believe that the prohibition against the ordination of  women is a matter of divine law and divine faith such that the denial of this teaching  is a heresy, then that puts everyone who disagrees outside the Church.  Is that what is being said?”  Precisely, said Archbishop J. Francis Stafford of Denver.

We are well aware that Fr. Hehir was not working for the Boston Archdiocese on the exact day he made this statement, but we are focusing on what he said.  So, we have a few questions for Vicar General Erikson, Fr. Hehir, Cardinal O’Malley and anyone from the Archdiocese or Holy See who is reading this post, and welcome their response:

1) Do we objectively agree that women priests are forbidden, and this teaching is infallible and non-negotiable?

2) Is there something unclear or ambigious about the CDF’s statement that “the Church’s position is set forth infallibly by the…Magisterium, and “the teaching that the Church possesses no authority to ordain women is to be held always, everywhere, and by all”?

3) Did we hear Fr. Hehir correct any of the previous speakers for the benefit of the audience at the event and clearly state that the Pope and CDF had declared that women priests in the Catholic Church are never allowed?

4) Do we agree that Fr. Hehir’s failure to correct the previous speakers and most importantly, his assertion “womens ordination raises doctrinal questions that have to be worked through”  suggests this issue remains open for reconsideration and contradicts the Vatican’s unambigious teaching on this matter?

5) What should the consequences be for such action, namely publicly contradicting infallible Vatican teachings?

6) Did Fr. Hehir potentially lead “consciences into error” with his comment?

7) Is it reasonable for people to conclude that Fr. Hehir’s comments are an objective example of undermining Church teachings?

8) If someone undermines Church teachings or leads consciences into error, does that harm the Body of Christ?

9) Would it be beneficial for the Church to not have priests publicly undermining Church teachings, especially those considered infallible and ones where the CDF specifically called for priests and theologians to avoid taking ambiguous, contrary positions?

10) Hypothetically speaking, if a priest or church official were to make statements or act in such a way as to undermine Church teachings repeatedly over a period of time, what should the remedy and consequences be to prevent a repeat of those actions?

11) If people complain to their archbishop about such public comments (or similar actions) and see nothing done over a period of months or years that addresses the problem, is it reasonable for them to utilize new media to make these complaints more public?  Is it reasonable for them to escalate those complaints to the Holy See so as to ensure that further undermining of Church teachings by that person and harm to the Body of Christ is prevented?

12) If Fr. Hehir makes comments like this about women priests in a public forum, is it reasonable for people to question Fr. Hehir ‘s judgement and beliefs?  Is it reasonable for people to question what he is saying and doing in less public settings?

13) If then-Archbishop O’Malley picked someone with this judgment for a key cabinet role after what that person said in public, is it reasonable to question the judgment of both the Archbishop as well as Fr. Hehir?

14) Is there anything about this specific post objectively calling attention to Fr. Hehir’s public comments on women priests that is considered to be “untrue,” “cruel,” “inappropriate,” “disparaging,” or would be ” harmful to the Body of Christ”?

We welcome comments from anyone, especially the Archdiocese, Fr. Erikson, Fr. Hehir, blog reader “Bill,” or others below to the questions we have raised.

Ps. You can watch the entire session here, , but it’s 110 minutes long.

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Those following the blog know that we have had the pleasure of comments by Boston Archdiocese Vicar General, Fr. Richard Erikson and a request for dialogue.  A post by Paul Melanson at La Salette Journey entitled, “Constructive Criticism or Condemnation” prompted us to now tell you exactly what has resulted from our interaction with him.  Today’s blog was written last night and in our review queue ready for posting when we received an email back from the Vicar General first thing this morning.   Advance apologies for the level of detail.  Grab a cup of iced tea, iced coffee, or lemonade and read on.

When Fr. Richard Erikson was  first named Vicar General in 2006, we were impressed by his background—former St. John’s Seminary instructor, and U.S. Air Force Lt. Col and chaplain for seven years who had been deployed to Ballad, Iraq to minister to injured soldiers at the center of the insurgency and most attacked sector in Iraq for a 40-day tour.  What was not to like about this person coming back to Boston?  But, now four years later, well, we’ll just say something about being in the Boston archdiocesan hierarchy must get to people and wear them out after a while.

On June 24, we wrote criticizing how Fr. Bryan Hehir helped reinforce a “wound to Catholic unity” by praising the Catholic Health Association’s leadership as they celebrated the passage of CHA-backed “Obamacare.”  Hehir also suggested the CHA’s voice in the debate carried equal weight to that of the Catholic Bishops, and our post prompted a response from the Vicar General, who said our blog posts were disrespectful, inappropriate, and inaccurate in criticizing Fr. Hehir. Here is Fr. Erikson’s original public comment:

To the author(s) of this blog:

You have made many statements and assertions in the text of your blog that call for comment and engagement by the leadership of the Archdiocese of Boston. We are open to entering into serious and sincere discourse with individuals who have the confidence to identify themselves and engage in civil discourse with respect for all individuals involved. Such has not been the case with your blog. We have reached out to you before. I am reaching out to you again. You do not identify yourselves and you regularly engage in disrespectful, discourteous and inaccurate attacks including consistently inappropriate and cruel disparagement of Fr. J. Bryan Hehir. Should you be interested in coming forward for thoughtful and respectful conversation on issues that matter to you, we would be happy to reciprocate such courtesy.

Fr. Richard Erikson
Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia

We responded back immediately on the blog asking that Fr. Erikson “let us know any specific points or things we have posted here that you, Fr. Hehir, or the Archdiocese believe are factually incorrect…if there are any factual inaccuracies, they will be immediately corrected. Almost always when we ask this question, it turns out that there was not a factual error, but instead it was a complaint that the actual actions or words of the person described in the blog didn’t look so good presented publicly along with a logical interpretation of those facts.”  We didn’t hear back, so we wrote Fr. Erikson an email. Here are excerpts:

Fr. Erikson,

As you know, the Bryan Hehir Exposed bloggers and others have sent you or copied you on well over a dozen messages at this email address, and we never received any response other than one short acknowledgment message from your secretary.

Fr. Hehir went on a string of public speaking engagements where he said or failed to say things that objectively undermined the Church. Recent examples: His comments about conscience protections for Catholic healthcare workers at a BC forum, his comments on WBUR about the Hingham situation that contradicted the Cardinal, his recent comments at the CHA. The issues we have raised are not “our” issues—they are issues for all Catholics, and in the absence of the archdiocese doing anything to correct Fr. Hehir’s statements and ensure he no longer is spreading inaccurate views, we had to say something. What we have posted is factually correct–and if there are errors in the facts, just let us know. It is also factually correct that he has been distorting and misrepresenting the truths of the faith and Church doctrine for nearly 40 years, and we are tired of letting this happen with no one in the church correcting it and preventing further scandal and confusion to the Catholic community at large. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we are trying to help an Archdiocese–which many say is at the point of imploding–to uphold the fundamental truths of the faith.  We are doing what we are doing because you guys seem increasingly incapable of doing this yourselves and have left a void.  Six weeks have passed (actually eight weeks now) since Fr. Hehir publicly contradicted the Cardinal’s version of what is happening with Catholic schools in a situation with national visibility (that could affect Catholic education across the country for generations in the future), and archdiocesan officials have said NOTHING publicly. Are meetings being held to formulate a policy on whether to admit children of gay parents? If so, who is involved and what is happening?

If you and the Cardinal exercise strong leadership and ensure that the truths of the faith are taught and communicated in-season and out-of-season instead of letting the likes of Jack Connors, the Chancellor, Bryan Hehir, Neil Finnegan, and others who dissent from the faith (often publicly) run things, then we would have nothing to write about and the blog would fade away.  Instead, all we see is the Cardinal blogging about his travels, places he goes, people he sees, looking more and more like an absentee archbishop. It is his responsibility to teach, sanctify, and govern. A huge number of priests, chancery workers, and laity are frustrated with the leadership void and see things in the Archdiocese getting worse and worse. Are you upset with us because we are simply blogging what is obvious and it’s troubling because we are exposing it publicly?  Do you plan to do anything about the legitimate issues we have raised for the sake of millions of Catholics and their salvation?  Or is the hope to just stop us from exposing the issues publicly as we have?

Fr. Erikson wrote back saying he did not wish to engage in an email conversations with people who remained anonymous, and said he welcomed the opportunity to meet with us. A few days later, on July 6, we wrote back:

Fr. Erikson,

We hope you had an enjoyable July 4 holiday weekend.  The blogging team has discussed your offer to meet.  We have several questions before agreeing to a meeting:

In case it was not clear to you and others, the key reason that we have remained anonymous up to now is because this archdiocese has a well-established history in recent years of retaliating against people and trying to silence them.

If the objectives in a meeting are primarily to identify the bloggers and extended team and have a meet-and-greet dialogue with years more of inaction on the fundamental concerns, then we’re sure you would agree it’s not worth it for our entire team to trek into Braintree and your staff to stay after hours to meet.  Please let us know your thoughts on the above when you have the opportunity to respond.

Sincerely in Christ,
The Bryan Hehir Exposed team

We heard nothing back until this morning, but more on that in a moment.

We have known and continue to know that we are on solid ground with our blog posts and criticism.  Paul Melanson’s excellent commentary “Constructive Criticism or Condemnation” puts it all in perspective and further explains the basis for what we are doing here. Here are some excerpts, but you should really read the whole post:

It is most significant that the Vicar General, Father Richard Erikson, doesn’t provide any specific examples of posts which he feels were “disrespectful, inappropriate and inaccurate.” For this would suggest a certain dishonesty on his part. It is important, especially for Christians, to be truthful in every communication. This because it is only by testifying to the truth that Christians can spread the truth of the Gospel and do their part to build up the Kingdom of God.

I suspect the Vicar General is confusing criticism with condemnation. Dr. Montague Brown explains the difference between the two nicely: “Criticism is the honest appraisal of the value of ideas or actions…Pursued in the right spirit, it is a positive undertaking whose purpose is to gain an accurate understanding for the sake of growing in wisdom and virtue….Condemnation goes beyond evaluation of an idea or action to a declaration of the worthlessness of a human being. It is never fair and is a wholly negative judgment, referring only to weaknesses. Because condemnation is unreasonable, it serves no purpose in our quest for wisdom and virtue.” (The One-Minute Philosopher, pp. 28,29).

Since Father Erikson has asserted that criticism of Father Bryan Hehir has moved beyond criticism and into condemnation, the burden is on him to demonstrate how this is so. Thus far, he has failed to do so. At any rate, the Code of Canon Law is clear:

ß2 Christ’s faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their spiritual needs, and their wishes to the Pastors of the Church.

ß3 They have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ’s faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals….

So, to readers of the blog and to Fr. Erikson and others in the Archdiocese, we hope it’s been clear and it remains clear that we are merely exercising our canonical right to make our views and needs known that relate to the good of the Catholic Church.  And we are offering fraternal correction along the way as we are also called.

This morning we got an email from the Vicar General, just after we had given up on hearing back from him.  He said nothing of a private nature that was not said publicly in his prior post, so here it is:

Good morning,

The objective of the meeting is to have a frank conversation about what is the best way to serve Christ and His Church.  I believe there is much on your blog that is untrue and harmful to individuals and to the Body of Christ. I know of your convictions based on what you write in the blog. I hope our conversation would give you a broader frame of reference for future blog entries.   I anticipate Fr. Hehir, myself and, perhaps, one or two of my colleagues from the Pastoral Center being present for this meeting.

Blessings,

Fr. Erikson

We have promised our readers an update for a while, so now you have it.  We appreciate the outreach from the Vicar General and opportunity for face-to-face dialogue with him and with Fr. Hehir, and have not yet decided on how to respond. We do pray that we can best serve Christ and His Church, so it is positive that we are in agreement on the end goal. Since starting this blog, we have heard from bishops, priests, laity, and well-known theologians who all say what we are doing is valuable, much needed, and is indeed serving Christ and the goo0d of the Church.  But, the continuing statements that the blog has much “that is untrue” have not been backed with any examples, despite our asking several times.  (Just for clarity’s sake, we will re-state and re-present the key facts in as objective a way as we can in the next weeks worth of posts.)  In the end, it seems like the goal of a meeting is simply for them to educate us (without acknowledgment of the objective facts and truths we have presented), and for us to then moderate and tone-down legitimate, canonically-authorized and requested criticism–without the Archdiocese doing anything to address the concerns fundamental to faithful Catholics.

Readers, what do you think?

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About 3 weeks ago, we wrote criticizing how Fr. Bryan Hehir helped reinforce a “wound to Catholic unity” by praising the Catholic Health Association’s leadership as they celebrated the passage of CHA-backed “Obamacare.”  Now we see the first federal funding of abortion, and the concerns of the Catholic bishops and millions of other Catholics and pro-lifers alike have proven true. We hope Fr. Hehir and his supporters in the Archdiocese like Vicar General Erikson and Cardinal O’Malley are pleased with the result.

As you will recall, the CHA backed Obamacare in direct opposition to the Catholic bishops, and Bryan Hehir  later commended the head of the CHA, Sr. Carol Keehan for her “intelligent and courageous leadership of this organization.  Hehir also said there “multiple voices” in the debate (the CHA, the U.S. bishops, and others) as though all of the voices had equal merit and the teaching authority of the Church had no more weight than any other voice.  And amidst those multiple voices, “there was foundation for the different judgments made on the bill in the Catholic moral tradition.”  Multiple readers excoriated Hehir for his statements, and our post prompted a response from the Vicar General, who said our blog posts were disrepectful, inappropriate, and inaccurate in criticizing Fr. Hehir.

Now we hear that the first $160 million in taxpayer  money is going to support insurance plans that cover abortions.  That would further validate that our posts were respectful of life, appropriate in reinforcing Church teachings and need for unity with the bishops, and accurate in the criticism  of Fr. Hehir for backing the CHA.   Here are exceprts from the  Lifenews report in “Obama Administration OKs First Tax-Funded Abortions Under Health Care Law

The Obama administration has officially approved the first instance of taxpayer funded abortions under the new national government-run health care program. This is the kind of abortion funding the pro-life movement warned about when Congress considered the bill. The Obama Administration will give Pennsylvania $160 million to set up a new “high-risk” insurance program under a provision of the federal health care legislation enacted in March.  It has quietly approved a plan submitted by an appointee of pro-abortion Governor Edward Rendell under which the new program will cover any abortion that is legal in Pennsylvania.

 The law authorizes $5 billion in federal funds for the program, which will cover as many as 400,000 people when it is implemented nationwide.

The Obama Administration will give Pennsylvania $160 million in federal tax funds, which we’ve discovered will pay for insurance plans that cover any legal abortion,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee. Johnson told LifeNews.com: “This is just the first proof of the phoniness of President Obama’s assurances that federal funds would not subsidize abortion — but it will not be the last.

President Obama successfully opposed including language in the bill to prevent federal subsidies for abortions, and now the Administration is quietly advancing its abortion-expanding agenda through administrative decisions such as this, which they hope will escape broad public attention,” Johnson said.

The abortion funding comes despite language in the bill that some pro-abortion Democrats and Obama himself claimed would prevent abortion funding and despite a controversial executive order Obama signed supposedly stopping abortion funding.

The pro-life community strongly opposed the executive order and said Rep. Bart Stupak and other House Democrats who voted for the pro-abortion health care bill in exchange for it were selling out their pro-life principles. This first case of forcing taxpayers to pay for abortions under the new law appears to prove them right that the bill language and executive order were ineffective.

Proving the point further that the abortion funding comes from federal taxpayer dollars, Johnson explained that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has emphasized that the high-risk pool program is a federal program and that the states will not incur any cost.”On May 11, 2010, in a letter to Democratic and Republican congressional leaders on implementation of the new law, DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote that “states may choose whether and how they participate in the program, which is funded entirely by the federal government.”

Under the Rendell-Sebelius plan, federal funds will subsidize coverage of abortion performed for any reason, except sex selection,” said NRLC’s Johnson. “The Pennsylvania proposal conspicuously lacks language that would prevent funding of abortions performed as a method of birth control or for any other reason, except sex selection — and the Obama Administration has now approved this.”

There you have it folks.  Fr. Hehir, the trusted “strategic advisor” to Cardinal O’Malley who brings “fidelity to the work of the Church” and ”clarity to our message and mission” backed the organization that was critical to passing this abortion-funding healthcare overhaul legislation, and the bloggers who expose and complain about this and are the ones who are criticized by the Archdiocese.   Go figure.

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To call the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine’s piece,
What I Believe”  anything more than a poorly-written wretched Anti-Catholic screed would be a compliment.  It is so bad it is literally unbelievable, and as usual, the response by the Archdiocese–that these days, is mostly run by Chancellor Jim McDonough, Fr. Bryan Hehir, and Jack Connors–has been nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.

Naturally, Vicar General Fr. Richard Erikson, who was quick to condemn us for exposing the truth of Fr. Bryan Hehir’s public dissent and undermining of Church teachings, has issued a strongly worded public statement condemning the Globe for their anti-Catholic screed.  (NOT!) And of course, Cardinal O’Malley, who personally countered us by posting gushing praise for Bryan Hehir on his blog (after we exposed all of Bryan Hehir’s speaking engagements alongside gay activists) has been quick to exercise his role as bishop by responding with a teaching message that corrects all of the Globe essay’s misstatements. (NOT!)  If you missed that, then of course there’s  been the theologically rich statement issued by the $166K/year communications secretary, Terry Donilon, criticizing the Globe in the most politically correct of terms possible for offending Catholics who “love the Church.”  (NOT!) Last but not least, all guns are firing about the Globe essay over at the newly launched Catholic Media group, who said upon their launch that “embracing new and state-of-the-art forms of digital communication to reach the faithful has been a top priority of Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley.”  (NOT!)  Yes, readers, the full communications machine of the Boston Archdiocese that costs about $5 million a year to operate (PR, website, The Pilot, CatholicTV, and  production/admin staff) is all over it, immediately correcting the scandalous piece and proclaiming the truth in-season and out-of-season so that hundreds of thousands Catholics who might have read it are not confused.  Do us a favor–when someone finds just one comment from the Archdiocese on this, would you send it our way?  And they wonder why people read our blog.  Maybe we’ll send the Pastoral Center a bill for doing their jobs.

Almost every paragraph in this senseless drivel has something wrong with it, so I will just share a few of the most egregious problems with it. Our comments are in italics.

For starters, the author, Charles Pierce, describes himself as an “anti-Catholic Catholic.”  His current religious “orientation” is based largely on some kind of attraction to the color purple (“I like my faith in purple”) and he says an “awful lot of my early theology was architectural.”  Yet Pierce is quick to preempt any accusation that he is no longer Catholic.  “Nobody gets to tell me that I’m not a Catholic.”
Readers with a weak stomach or high blood pressure might want to stop here.

The article cites the Pew Research study that one in ten Catholics have left the Catholic Church after being raised Catholic.  And about half of those who departed and now identify themselves as “unaffiliated” left the church because of its views on abortion, homosexuality, and birth control.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  But ya know, if the other 9 in 10 of us have a smaller Catholic Church of people who actually believe what the Church teaches,  that would be fine.  As Cardinal Ratzinger said in an interview published in “Salt of the Earth” in 1997

Maybe we are facing a new and different kind of epoch in the church’s history, where Christianity will again be characterized more by the mustard seed, where it will exist in small, seemingly insignificant groups that nonetheless live an intense struggle against evil and bring good into the world – that let God in.”

There are the requiste quotes from Richard McBrien, the dissident church critic and Notre Dame theologian whose writings have been condemned by the U.S.C.C.B. (and who also preached at Fr. Bryan Hehir’s first Mass after his ordination). McBrien says, “And the spiritual authority… of the hierarchy, up to and including the papacy, was diminishing in the minds of millions of Catholics long before the sexual-abuse crisis brought that issue to a conspicuous boil. “The hierarchy is largely irrelevant to any intelligent, educated Catholic.”
No, Fr. McBrien, for any intelligent, educated Catholic, it’s actually the case that YOU are irrelevant.

Pierce got input from his “friend,” Fr. Walter Cuenin, who he says was forced to leave his Newton parish because the archdiocese “didn’t approve of the way finances were being handled.”  Cuenin also told Pierce that he preaches in homilies that the Buddhist and the Lutheran faiths are comparable to Catholicism as a means to salvation and heaven.
Um, I think it was actually misuse of parish funds by Walter to pay for his monthly car and alcohol bills, when those expenses should have been paid from out-of-pocket instead of from the parish donations.  And never mind that the Catechism of the Catholic Church, following historic Christian theology since the time of the early Church Fathers, refers to the Catholic Church as “the universal sacrament of salvation” (CCC 774–776), and states: “The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation.”

In the Church according to Pierce, the “teaching authority is dependent wholly on the primacy of my individual conscience.”
This is flat out false.  As Catholics, we do have an obligation to inform our consciences by the teachings of the Church, and if we reject those teachings, that is considered a sin.  To say any “teaching authority” is dependent on a person’s “individual conscience” not only makes no sense logically, but it’s totally wrong.  This means you make up whatever you want to believe in, right?   I don’t think there is an organized religion that operates that way, except for maybe the Unitarians, but then again, maybe they are not an organized religion anyway.

Pierce says “ I simply don’t want what they call a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. …I do not need a personal Lord and Savior.”
If you don’t care about a relationship with Jesus Christ or about salvation, then why do you want to be Catholic?

No Globe piece critical of the Catholic Church would be complete without the requisite quote by the dissidents over at Voice of the Faithful.  VOTF trustee Ron DuBois  said, “I have my own theology. I do have a doctorate in philosophy and I’ve done a lot of my own reading. I think it’s an ongoing process by anyone who really thinks, especially in our country, with our emphasis on political democracy and a tradition of questioning authority.”
If he has his own theology, let him practice it and write about its core tenets in “Ron’s Church.”   I thought VOTF  had faded into complete oblivion
, but apparently the liquidation sale for their remaining assets has not occurred yet. We’ll keep you posted when they have the yard sale.

The author quotes Garry Wills as though he is an authoritative source, when instead, every comment from Wills is wrong or misguided.  “Wills points out how Vatican II defined the church as the entire ‘people of God.’ That being the case, one can find a way to remain a Catholic while not only distancing oneself from the hierarchy of the institutional church but also subverting it, in a kind of internal Reformation.  Wills has said “The pope is a freak of history. . . . Peter was not a pope, or a bishop, or a priest – offices that did not exist in his lifetime.”
Pierce and Wills are simply wrong. At ThrowtheBumsOutin2010, they said it well–Pierce encourages people to ignore the Pope, the encyclicals, and the teaching authority of the Church since nobody can tell you these rejections are not Catholic.

There’s more, but that’s all we have time to pick apart today.  Usually the Globe sends stuff like this over to Terry Donilon and the Communications office before publishing it.  We wonder if that happened in this case.  As if we have not had enough years of seeing the teachings of the Church distorted, now we have the Globe’s equivalent of a circus contortionist, Charles Pierce, an “anti-Catholic” wolf in “Catholic” sheep’s clothing who is twisting and bending the teachings beyond recognition to encourage “Cafeteria Catholicism” (best case) or further discourage Catholics from sticking with the true teachings of Christ’s One Holy and Apostolic Church. If the people responsible for public policy, communications, evangelization, and teaching in this Archdiocese do not respond to this essay from the Globe on Monday–and if the person charged with teaching, sanctifying, and governing doesn’t lead his team to respond promptly with some statement to correct everything wrong about the essay–then heads should roll.  We’re serious.

 

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