Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

John Allen’s strategy for legitimizing Catholic dissent

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
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May 19, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In recent months, media celebrity John Allen has been on a campaign to legitimize the dissenting, anti-life and anti-family views embraced by his publisher, the “National Catholic Reporter” (NCR).  Let us call it the “Allen Strategy”.

The Allen Strategy hearkens back to the 1990s, when Chicago’s Cardinal Bernardin sought to co-opt orthodox Catholics with the “common ground” and “seamless garment” initiatives. His apparent intent was to induce the faithful to compromise with liberal dissenters in order to promote “unity” in the Church. Inevitably he failed, although the Common Ground Project maintains a post-mortem presence at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union.

Allen incorporates this element into his overall approach with his claim that the Catholic Church has been splintered into numerous “tribes” during the “postmodern” period, due to the cultural fragmentation of society. His model presents a multipolar world inhabited by what he calls “pro-life Catholics, peace-and-justice Catholics, liturgical traditionalist Catholics, neo-con Catholics, church reform Catholics, feminist Catholics, and on and on”. Not coincidentally, “peace-and justice” “feminist” and “reform” are the labels that NCR uses to sugar-coat its dissenting ideology.

In Allen’s universe, the Catholic Church is not polarized between those who are faithful to its perennial teachings and those who oppose them—an inconvenient notion that highlights the unacceptable and increasingly marginalized position of NCR. Rather, the Church is “tribalized” among various groups that have legitimate differences in perspective. This permits Allen to smuggle in his assumption that those who write for his newspaper are in an analogous position to “pro-life Catholics” and “traditionalist Catholics” in their differences with the others. In other words, liberal dissenters are only one Catholic “tribe” among many.

Allen’s term “pro-life Catholic” speaks volumes about his own distorted perspective on the faith. He seems to regard “pro-life” as a mere type of Catholic, rather than an essential element of the faith. However, the deeper significance of Allen’s “tribal” model of modern Catholicism lies in the proposed solution to his contrived problem.

Writing about the divisions among his “tribes” in a recent article, Allen opines that “Such diversity is healthy in principle, but destructive in practice if these tribes come to see one another as the enemy, and in many cases that’s precisely the situation. Compounding the problem is that these tribes have spent so much time moving down separate paths that they often have completely different senses of what the issues facing the church actually are, so on those rare occasions when they do rub shoulders, they often lack a common set of points of reference to sustain a conversation.”

So, for example, when the disgraced “theologian” Charles Curran is given space on NCR for long and convoluted essays attacking the bishops’ pro-life teachings and defending the “pro-choice” position, and then is praised for it by NCR itself, we must not react with outrage. And when NCR’s openly homosexual columnist Kate Childs Graham rejects the Church’s condemnation of sodomy—an article of the natural law recognized by virtually every society and religion in history—we are not to see her publisher as “the enemy.”

When we find NCR writers defending nuns who are excommunicated for authorizing abortions, or trashing the homosexual ministry group Courage for encouraging its members to remain celibate, we should not raise our voices in objection. Nor should we grimace with indignation when we read NCR legitimizing heretical nun Jeannine Gramick’s campaign to legalize homosexual “marriage.” Rather we need “common points of reference” with such people, accepting them as just another species of Catholic.

As Allen uses very euphemistic language in his own columns to refer to the NCR agenda, and takes pains to present himself as “balanced,” one might easily conclude he doesn’t share in the anti-Catholic perspectives of NCR and its other columnists. However, his own words in a recent NCR fundraising campaign leave little to doubt about the matter.  He calls NCR a “precious gift, a gift to journalism, and a gift to the Catholic Church” and an “incredibly important vehicle for keeping Catholic conversation alive.” He adds that NCR is “about the only outfit” where “it is theoretically possible” to write objective, accurate stories.

The real problem for Allen and NCR: “evangelical Catholicism”

Later in the same article, Allen identifies the true source of the conflict between the “tribes” that he so laments. It is caused by what he calls “evangelical Catholicism,” which is creating “pressure” on “Catholic identity.” Even more alarming for the dwindling faction of sixties radicals that Allen represents is the fact that this movement is coming from both the upper and the lower levels of the Church.

“Whether anyone likes it or not, pressure related to Catholic identity is here to stay,” he writes. “This is not only because a fragmented, post-modern world always makes identity contentious, but because one key trend in today’s church is precisely the rise of ‘evangelical Catholicism.’”

Allen informs us that “evangelical Catholicism” is “premised on recovering a strong sense of Catholic identity (including traditional markers of Catholic thought, speech and practice, such as Eucharistic adoration and Marian devotion) and using that identity as a lever to transform culture - beginning with the culture of the church. This evangelical wave comes from the top down, in the sense that policy-makers are understandably concerned to defend Catholic identity vis-à-vis secularism. Yet it also comes from the bottom up, in the form of strong evangelical energy among younger priests, religious, theology students and lay activists.”

What are aging radicals to do in the face of this youthful fidelity to the Catholic religion? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em—or co-opt them, to use the more precise term.  It is impossible to reconcile NCR’s dissenting positions with the teachings of the Catholic Church, to which they stand in stark contradiction.  However, if orthodox Catholics can be induced to join organizations or movements that include dissenters, they are likely to stop fighting and cooperate, giving the dissenters the legitimacy they need to continue their subversion of the faith.

“What the church needs instead are spaces in which relationships among Catholics of differing outlooks can develop naturally over time,” Allen opines. “The plain fact of the matter is that such spaces have been badly attenuated by the ideological fragmentation of both the church and the wider world.” Within such zones, liberal dissenters and faithful Catholics would work together, creating a “hybrid vigor” through synergistic action.

Among the groups he names to perform this amalgamating function is Canada’s Salt and Light Television, run by Allen collaborator Fr. Thomas Rosica.  In a recent Salt and Light interview with Rosica (beginning at 19:49), Allen promises viewers that there will be a “new spiritual awakening” where “we realize the sterility of this dead-end street of importing the culture wars into the Church” and names Salt and Light as an institution that conforms to his “zones of friendship” concept.

“One of the things that has always struck me about you personally and the Salt and Light network generally is that it genuinely is open to all of the different tribes of the Catholic landscape. that is you are not speaking from one side of the street, you are not speaking for one constituency, you are speaking for, and to, and about the entirety of the Church,” Allen gushes to an affirming Rosica.

Unfortunately, Allen’s “tribal” model is shared by many other Catholic leaders as well, who see themselves not as protectors of the faith and morals of the laity, but rather managers who balance competing factions against each other in order to maintain a peaceful equilibrium in the Church. Those who take this view seem to care little for the essential message of the Gospel— conversion from error and sin to the light of truth and of love. They are fundamentally politicians rather than leaders, and they are among the most useful allies of heretics, dissenters, and other malcontents who undermine the Church’s salvific mission.

Ironically, the true source of the “polarization” in the modern Church is arguably to be found in the same relativistic concept of the faith pushed by Allen, which leads so many into a deluded sense of Catholic identity. A truly charitable approach to discipline would not permit those who promote an anti-life, anti-family agenda to deceive themselves into believing that they are authentically Catholic. The accompanying divisions owe their existence to a fundamentally uncharitable laxity of discipline on the part of many bishops, which permits confusion and strife where there should be clarity and harmony, an authentic unity based on the truth.

Allen’s Plan B

If the “common ground” aspect of the Allen Strategy fails, however, Allen has a backup plan, which we shall call “Plan B.” In Plan B all pretense of reconciliation and syncretism is dropped. Faithful Catholics are tar-brushed as extremists, while NCR’s dissenting viewpoints are portrayed by implication as the reasonable middle ground in the Catholic Church.

Allen’s choice of smear-term, “Taliban Catholicism,” has become standard fare in his talks since he first used it in a 2006 speech,  in which he expressed his concerns about new movements to restore “Catholic identity.”  Despite his protests that he doesn’t apply the term to any particular person or group, there is little doubt of its meaning within the NCR paradigm.

Allen warns of a “defensive and polemic Catholic traditionalism that depends upon enemies, perceived or real, to give it strength. This reaction too fudges the identity question by attempting to define Catholicity in terms of the narrow borders of one or another Catholic tribe, which amounts to an artificial limitation of our universality.”

The universality of the Church, therefore, depends on an inclusiveness that contains all of Allen’s “tribes”—both those that defend the faith and those that distort and undermine its teachings.  The latter are not to be seen as “enemies,” lest one fall under the rubric of extremism. All must be included, and those who oppose this “universality” are the moral equivalent of Muslim fanatics who engage in terrorism, oppress women, and prohibit kite-flying.

The answer to the wicked Catholic Taliban, Allen assures us, is to be found in St. Thomas Aquinas’ concept of the “just mean,” which he regards as the veritable essence of Catholicism. 

“In the long run, what almost always prevails in the Church is what Aquinas called the ‘just mean’ between such extremes,” Allen assures his readers. “Assuming this pattern holds, it suggests that the future will belong to those voices able to articulate a robust sense of Catholic distinctiveness, but one which does not shade off into a Taliban Catholicism that knows only how to excoriate, condemn, and smash the idols of ‘the other.’”

The “just mean” of Aristotle and St. Thomas is a favorite theme of Allen’s when he addresses the issue of conflict in the Church, but the star journalist has somehow forgotten that Thomas regarded virtue as a mean between extremes only in the case of the moral and intellectual virtues, which are directed to the created world. With regard to the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, which are directed to God, Thomas writes that there can be no excess, no extreme too great. Perhaps the Angelic Doctor himself is in danger of Allen’s “Taliban” smear.

If we wish to see an example of the Allen Strategy in action, we have no further to look than Salt and Light’s Fr. Thomas Rosica.  Without a hint of irony, Rosica has launched his own campaign to tar-brush pro-life and pro-family groups with Allen’s “Taliban Catholicism slur”  and other similar epithets, while simultaneously calling for civility and moderation.

Although Rosica can count on the backing of many bishops as well as chancery and episcopal conference bureaucrats, his actions reveal an increasing frustration with the liberal establishment’s inability to control the flow of information. Rosica has gone so far as to call for “oversight” of the Catholic internet by the hierarchy—a concept discarded at the Vatican’s recent meeting held for bloggers.

What the Allen Strategy really means

And it is here that we arrive at the deeper meaning of the Allen Strategy. Although it is distressing to witness such a famous and capable reporter putting his talents to ill use, Allen’s words can only inspire hope, if read in their proper context. The Allen Strategy, which has no real possibility of succeeding, is nothing less the swan song (if swans will excuse the comparison) of a dying movement that has no recourse left but to silly subterfuges and weak protests against “extremism.”

The defeat of NCR’s phony, neo-modernist “peace and justice Catholicism” is in large part the product of lay movements exercising the very functions that liberal dissenters hoped to expropriate for their own ends following Vatican II, a council for which the latter professes a profound reverence. Although the legitimacy of lay movements to protect orthodoxy has always been recognized in the Church, the concept was engraved in stone in the new Code of Canon Law, which explicitly recognizes the right and even the obligation of Catholics to inform their prelates, and one another, of their concerns regarding the faith.

To the dismay of NCR and the movement it represents, this new emphasis on lay involvement in the Church did not spawn a proletarian army to carry out their “peace and justice” revolution. It produced instead the “evangelical Catholicism” that so troubles Allen and his publisher. In recent years, “evangelical Catholicism” has made increasing use of the Internet as well as television, augmenting its influence dramatically. The Church’s establishment, so accustomed to controlling the Catholic means of communication, is finding that modern communication is a two-way street.

The response it is hearing is a clear “no” to the culture of death and sexual perversion, and to compromise and laxity with regard to the truths of the faith.  It is a voice that will only grow louder until the Catholic faith, in all its integrity, is fully upheld and protected in the Church.

John Allen and his unfortunate patron are facing an inexorable imperative of Catholicism: the tribe of life must prevail over the tribe of death. Then, and only then, will authentic justice and peace reign among Christians.

——————-

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman is LifeSiteNews’ Latin America correspondent.  His award-winning articles have appeared in many major newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, Sunday Times of London, Christian Science Monitor, Detroit News, and Nicaragua’s La Prensa. He can be reached at mhoffman@lifesitenews.com.

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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