The 58 under attack

The 58 under attack

The 58 priests from Boston who signed the letter demanding Cardinal Law resign now feel attacked and the Boston Globe has rushed to their defense. The priests are bleating because The Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper, has published a column by George Weigel that is critical of them, saying they are “men who had repeatedly and publicly denied the Church’s teaching on the moral truth.” And Fr. Richard Neuhaus has also publicly said that some of them are part of a “subculture of infidelity.” What I don’t hear from the 58 is a denial.

The Globe says:

    Three months after Cardinal Bernard F. Law resigned in disgrace, some leading conservative Catholics are sharply criticizing the 58 Boston priests who called for him to step down, reopening divisions in the Archdiocese of Boston even as Bishop Richard G. Lennon is calling for healing.

In other words, “can’t we all just get along?” Hey, they opened the door, now they want to close it. They opened the divisions in the archdiocese and now the only way to close them is by their renouncing any heterodox beliefs they may hold.

    “I regard it as a scurrilous and slanderous attack, and it’s very unfortunate,” said the Rev. David Hollenbach, a professor of theology at Boston College and one of the 58. “Parish priests have been through one heck of a lot last year, and I’m sure that this will have a very negative effect on their morale to be attacked in a further way like this. Their motivation was to stand up for the well-being of the church, and to be accused of being somehow unfaithful is demoralizing, profoundly unfair and untruthful.”

Actually, Fr. Hollenbach, the vase majority of parish priests don’t stand with the 58 and would welcome even more discipline applied to these dissenters. That would really boost their morale to see that a bishop of Boston takes and active stance in ensuring that the teachings of the Church are upheld by all priests in his purview.

I love the way, the Globe downplays the heterodoxy of the priests.

    Some of the priests who signed the letter are clearly among the minority who have publicly questioned church teachings on issues like gender and sexuality. The Rev. Walter H. Cuenin, pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Newton, for example, questioned the treatment of women and gays in the church. Another signer, the Rev. Roger D. Haight, a theologian at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, is under investigation by the Vatican for his controversial writings about the complex theological question of what role Jesus plays in the salvation of non-Christians. [emphasis added.]

Minority? Not in the group of names just in this article. Fr. Cuenin did not just question the treatment of women and gays, he defied Church teaching on ordination of women and gay marriage and the immorality of homosexual activity. And Haight’s writings are controversial because he denies the necessity of Jesus for non-Christians. Notice how the article says it is a “complex theological question” as if to say that since it is so complex, it’s understandable that there would be differing nuances. It’s not just a nuance, fellas.

Of course, rather than back up for what could be a principled stand on the issue, The Pilot instead goes wishy-washy when faced with criticism.

    The Pilot, which has published several weeks of an unusually robust debate among letter-writers expressing their opinions on the Boston 58, also published an unusual editorial defending its decision to publish the Weigel column, and expressing “regret that some priests feel that Weigel’s column misrepresented their motivations.”

    The editorial noted that Weigel has been a regular columnist for The Pilot for years and that “on several occasions the themes of Weigel’s columns have run contrary to established editorial positions of our newspaper.”

I just hope that, as Fr. Neuhaus says, the next archbishop of Boston keeps the list of 58 priests handy when he arrives in order to be clear about where infidelity and “priestly miscreance in doctrine and life” abide in the archdiocese.