Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

John Allen’s strategy for legitimizing Catholic dissent

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
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John Allen being interviewed on Salt & Light by Fr. Tom Rosica
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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 [email protected]

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Congressman: Give us Nucatola or we’ll subpoena

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Dr. Deborah Nucatola has become awfully shy since she became the first national Planned Parenthood figure featured in an exposé of its practice of harvesting, and allegedly profiting from the sale of, the organs of aborted children. Within hours of the video release by the Center for Medical Progress, she removed her social media accounts. 

Now, she is considering dodging a call to testify before a Congressional committee investigating whether she admitted to breaking the law during her covertly recorded cameo with actors posing as agents of a human biologics company.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee called her to address the committee by month's end. 

Roger K. Evans, Planned Parenthood's Senior Counsel for Law and Policy, responded by saying that asking her to speak to Congress "no later than July 31 ... is short notice given the number of questions raised." 

He instead offered to substitute Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley in Nucatola's place.

Faced with the possibility that Planned Parenthood would refuse to send its star witness, at least one congressman has said he will take steps to ensure the abortion provider shows up.

Rep. Joe Pitts, R-PA, responded to Evans' letter by saying that the committee has called Dr. Nucatola to the witness stand before the end of the month, and she will comply or face the consequences.  

“If they say no, we’ll subpoena her,” the pro-life Republican said. 

The committee is focused on whether the process Dr. Nucatola - the doctor seen in the first video, eating salad and sipping wine - amounts to a violation of federal felony law forbidding the sale of human organs for "valuable consideration." 

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Why selling ‘baby body parts’ has captured America’s attention (VIDEO)

By Pete Baklinski

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - A key player in last week’s startling video exposé of Planned Parenthood says that it took 30 months of strategic planning from numerous pro-life organizations to give the story the hard-hitting power with which it has walloped the abortion industry over its practice of harvesting the body parts of aborted babies. 

“We are seeing the fruit of a lot of careful thought, a lot of disciplined activities, and a lot of undercover work,” Rev. Frank Pavone, executive director of Priests for Life, told LifeSiteNews in an interview in Washington. 

Since breaking Tuesday of last week, the story has trended first place in social media platforms such as Facebook and has been given top priority on mega news aggregation websites such as Drudge Report. The first of now two undercover videos has been viewed over 2.5 million times on YouTube. 

Pavone said that this is not the first time Planned Parenthood has faced the heat for what many considered to be a barbaric practice of harvesting human organs for profit. Similar investigations in the late 1990s into the practices of Planned Parenthood found that aborted babies were being dissected alive, harvested, and sold in pieces for research. 

“Now this is fresh evidence. Now this is evidence going to the highest levels of Planned Parenthood. We know that people at the national level of Planned Parenthood are aware of and are admitting that these baby body parts are being harvested, that transactions are taking place, that money is changing hands. And so, this is catching the attention of the American public because it brings the abortion issue down from the abstract level to the concrete,” he said. 

“This is not just about viewpoints, it’s about victims. It’s not just about beliefs, it’s about bloodshed. When people see and hear terms like ‘eyes, livers, hearts’ it’s like, ‘What are we talking about here? This is ghoulish disgusting activity,’” he said. 

Pavone praised pro-life activists such as Operation Rescue president Troy Newman and Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher for helping the exposé along, giving “strategic input, guidance, and advice.” Pavone highlighted the hard work of lead investigator David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress for going undercover to film meetings with high profile Planned Parenthood employees and attending numerous Planned Parenthood conferences.

Pavone believes the story has received so much traction in social media outlets like Facebook because it gives people a platform to express outrage over the injustice of abortion in response to mainstream media’s unwritten rule of silence and apathy on abortion. 

Traditional media outlets are “in the pocket” of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, he said, adding that they “don’t want to say a bad word about Planned Parenthood.”

“Social media has become the engine for those who feel so frustrated that things we have known for years that the abortion industry is doing, and yet we can’t seem to get the word out, now these people are taking this and running with it. And I think you’re seeing years and even decades of frustration being channeled in productive ways to say, ‘We’ve got to shout this from the rooftops.’ And social media is the perfect rooftop,” he said. 

When asked what the undercover videos released so far reveal about the abortion industry and the people who work in it, Pavone responded: 

When an abortionist dehumanizes the baby that he or she is about to kill, the abortionist also dehumanizes himself. And this is what we are seeing in these people. We see it in Deborah Nucatola sipping the wine and eating the salad and talking about the body parts. We see it in the newest video [about] Dr. Mary Gatter. We saw it in [jailed abortionist] Gosnell.

What’s wrong with [these people]? There are two things wrong. Number one, these people are dehumanized. They are deeply damaged by the abortions they perform. Because when you perform your first abortion, a voice of protest rises up within you saying, ‘No. Stop. You can’t do this.’ But then if you ignore that voice, and go ahead and do that abortion, then the next time you have to explain to yourself, and to everybody else, why you ignored that voice. And so, the voice of protest gets buried under layer, and layer, and layer of excuses and rationalizations. And in doing that, you are becoming disconnected from your own conscience.

How can these people talk about this with apparent peace on their face? It’s because they are disconnected from themselves, from their own conscience.

Pavone said that new undercover videos to be released in the coming days will continue to shed light on the gruesome practices happening at Planned Parenthood abortion centers across the nation. 

“We want to defund Planned Parenthood and get them to stop what they are doing. This is a very concrete way of doing that. We want to end Planned Parenthood because they are the largest abortion business in the world, and we want that to stop,” he said. 

Already a Congressional investigation is underway, but so far, Planned Parenthood is refusing to cooperate with the demands of the Committee investigating. 

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The Planned Parenthood scandal shows the power of exposing abortion’s grotesqueness

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By Jonathon van Maren

July 23, 2015 (UnmaskingChoice) -- If there’s one thing that confuses me about how many pro-lifers decide on strategies to change hearts and minds on abortion, it’s the fact that they seem to believe that we have to approach the most controversial issue there is without controversy—that somehow, we have to take an issue that people have incredibly strong feelings about and ensure that none of those feelings surface during a discussion.

As our postcard campaign nears our record-breaking mark of one million postcards delivered to one million homes, reactions have been widely varied—we have phone calls from people “horrified” by the postcard, who don’t seem to realize that the action depicted is much more horrifying. We have people who demand to know what they are supposed to say if their children see the picture of “the dead baby”—who don’t seem to realize that with their own words, they have admitted that we live in a country where dead babies are tossed in garbage cans behind government-funded clinics. We also have people who call us to thank us for the information, and express anger that such barbarism could be happening in Canada. We have people who phone to tell us that the postcard has changed their vote, and the votes of their neighbors. And we have people like the old man who wanted to shake my hand because he was encouraged to see that “some people cared about things.”

Huge numbers of Canadians have no idea that abortion decapitates, dismembers, and disembowels a pre-born human being. Huge numbers of Canadians are being exposed to that tragic and horrifying fact.

By the polling numbers, we see many people influenced against abortion—even if they don’t like us, the image stays with them, and they like abortion even less. Even if only ten percent of people were influenced against abortion because of postcards depicting abortion imagery, I would point out that that is still a far bigger number than any other pro-life strategy even claims to impact. For the first time, statistically significant portions of the population are being exposed to the reality of abortion—and they are reacting to that reality.

Pro-lifers are often tempted to run scared because they believe what the pro-abortion movement says about our best evidence—that it will “turn people” off. It will, of course. In the words of one abortion activist: “Your pictures turn people off of abortion.” If people get angry with us, but are still influenced against abortion, we have accomplished exactly what we set out to do. That being said, people only focus on the angry commenters that they see—a handful of social media posts, and the same tired news story from each and every single media outlet. I’m not sure if most journalists are unimaginative or just lazy, but most seem unwilling or incapable of even visiting a few websites and trying to find out what the rationale behind the strategy is. Most of them, I suspect, have pre-written stories and just call around to get the quotes they want. We know, for example, that reporters have specifically ignored people who have received the postcard and offered to comment positively—that is not, they openly say, the story they are looking for.

The abortion movement, on the other hand, can’t decide whether the imagery we use is extremely effective, or very ineffective. Canadian abortion blogger “Fern Hill” is usually babbling the talking points about how what we’re doing is so counter-productive, and that we’re obsessed with “gore porn,” and then calling us a bunch of names. (If pro-abortion groups really did believe that what we were doing strengthened support for abortion so much, I suspect that they’d be a lot less angry about what we’re doing—after all, we’re just doing their job!) But a couple of days ago, after responding to pictures of the dozens of lovely young women on our staff by snapping that they were all one unplanned pregnancy away from being pro-choice (such a depressing world these people live in), she tweeted an article at me that I found interesting.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

It was a piece on David Daleidan of the Center for Medical Progress, the man behind the recent exposes of Planned Parenthood. He’s captured video of Planned Parenthood employees casually discussing not only the abortion procedure, but also how to best pillage the corpses of these dead children in order to sell their body parts for profit. The videos have horrified people across North America, and reaction has been swift. Amanda Marcotte, a pro-abortion blogger who often writes for Slate, has responded to the new scandal in an article called “Grossing people out can have short-term impact, but does it matter in the long-term?” She quotes Michelle Goldberg over at The Nation:

Further, it’s a way for the anti-abortion movement to focus the abortion debate on the graphic details of rare, late-term procedures, about which there is less public consensus than there is about early abortion. It serves the same purpose as the ban on so-called “partial-birth abortion,” and as blown-up pictures of bloody fetuses. It induces disgust, a very politically potent emotion, since most people associate things that are gross with things that are immoral. In his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt describes how researchers asked students at Cornell University to fill out surveys about their political attitudes while standing either near or far from hand sanitizer. Those standing closer to it became temporarily more conservative. If something that minor can affect people’s politics, then a video like this one is sure to have a visceral impact.

Amanda Marcotte goes on to say that while abortion imagery and exposes are very potent, that the impact of them is not long-lasting. Why? Because, she writes with hilarious immaturity, most things in life are gross—sex, going to the bathroom, surgery—and we all get over those things, don’t we? So surely abortion pictures will also be forgotten.

She’s forgetting something—abortion pictures aren’t powerful because they’re “gross.” Abortion pictures are powerful because they show the results of abortion—a dead, butchered human being. The power in the imagery is that people recognize that, and something in them responds to this injustice. It’s why even the people angry with our postcards have responded to the media by talking about the postcards depicting the “dead babies” or the “slain babies” or the “torn-up babies.” No-one thinks that what they’re looking at is a removed appendix. No one thinks that what they’re looking at is bodily waste. Everyone knows, almost immediately, that what they’re looking at is a dead human.

That is why the impact of abortion pictures doesn’t just disappear. One more piece of evidence? Almost everyone I know in the pro-life movement was convicted to join the pro-life fight because they saw a picture or a video of abortion, including myself. As Marcotte herself pointed out, that was what convicted David Daleidan as well. We now have over forty young people on our staff, all convicted by seeing what abortion does to babies and what they can do about it.

The movement is just getting started.

Reprinted with permission from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform.

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