Skip to comments.Andrew Greeley: Pope Benedict "deceives himself"
Posted on 08/29/2007 12:57:05 PM PDT by NYer
Perhaps the quote is out of context. Perhaps I misunderstand the genius and insight of the sociologist/priest/pulp fiction writer. Perhaps I'm overreacting (no, that couldn't be it. Never!) But this remark by Father Andrew Greeley, found in a rather annoying National "Catholic" Reporter piece by John Allen, Jr. about "evangelical Catholics" vs. "liberal Catholics", is worth pondering for a moment:
Pointing to Hoges survey, noted sociologist Father Andrew Greeley expressed skepticism about the long-term prospects of evangelical Catholicism.
It is not within the popes power to establish a Catholic identity, Greeley said. He may think it is, but he deceives himself.
Of course! Because the power to establish "a Catholic identity" lies with (take your pick, dear Catholic consumer) theologians, USCCB staffers, the media, the Catholic media, the liberal Catholic media, the dissenting "Catholic" media, sociologists, and (I presume) Greeley himself. Anyone but the Pope. The reason this short remark irks me so much is that I cannot help but think, based on reading many of Greeley's columns, that Greeley uses the term "Catholic identity" with a mostly sociological bent, focused on culture, politics, etc.
Not that such things aren't important or worthy of study, but what, at the very core, is a "Catholic identity"? What does it mean to be Catholic? And how should that be realized, lived, expressed, and demonstrated? I don't think we can do much better for a short, direct remark on the matter than this paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
To live in heaven is "to be with Christ." The elect live "in Christ," but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name. "For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom." (CCC 1025)
And, for good measure:
The Church is ultimately one, holy, catholic, and apostolic in her deepest and ultimate identity, because it is in her that "the Kingdom of heaven," the "Reign of God," already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into him, until its full eschatological manifestation. (CCC 865)
Catholic identity is finally and fully found in being united to Christ, being in communion with His Church, and working and looking toward the realization of the Kingdom of God, which is already here, especially in the celebration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist. And this Catholic identity is guided and defined, as well as defended, by the Magisterium, established by Jesus for the good of His Church. And the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, has a unique and vital role in the Magisterium and in the Churchnot as a sort of emperor or dictator, but as Peter, who despite his faults and failings, declares (by the grace of God), "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt 16:16). This is an essential work of the Holy Father, to continually point toward Christ and to affirm Who He is. And by doing this, he not only "establishes" Catholic identity, he protects it and keeps it from the sort of "Catholicism" that not only seeks identity in things of this world, but arrogantly dismisses the authentic Catholic identity.
Father Robert Barron, in Bridging the Great Divide (Sheed and Ward, 2004), writes of being raised in the late '60s and '70s in what he calls "beige Catholicism." He writes:
It seemed to be an overriding concern of the teachers, nuns, and priests who formed my generation to make our Catholicism as non-threatening, accessible, culturally appealing as possible. Nuns and clergy eschewed distinctive dress and frowned on special titles; doctrinal particularities were set aside in favor of generally humanistic ethical values; liturgies were designed to be, above all, entertaining; homilies were delivered by priests who had far more questions than answers; troubling biblical texts dealing with divine anger and judgment and the reality of sin were scarcely mentioned; Jesus was presented exclusively as friend and brother. There was, above all, a hand-wringing and apologetic quality to the Catholicism of my youth. It seemed as though the project was to "translate" uniquely Catholic doctrine, practice, and style into forms acceptable to the environing culture, always downplaying whatever might be construed as "odd" or "supernatural." Thus, the biblical and theological tended tended by replaced by the political, the sociological, and, above all, the psychological.
That final sentence, if I had to guess, captures the difference between Greeley's notions of "Catholic identity" and the views of that influence-less "evangelical Catholic" we call Pope Benedict XVI. Peter and the other apostles, when measured and gauged according to political, sociological, and psychological criteria, obviously lacked the ability and power to carry on the work of leading the Catholic Church, nevermind establishing a "Catholic identity." Yet, here the Church is today. And if the Church continues to grow and remain Catholicwhich Christ promised it would, being built upon petros, a flawed fishermanit will do so because it continues to be authentically Catholic, that is, Christo-centric, eucharistic, and living in the eschatological tension created the Kingdom that is here but not fully realized.
A related Ignatius Insight article is "Who Is Catholic? The Awareness of Catholic Identity and the Universal Call to Holiness," by Cynthia Toolin
Also see "Jesus is Catholic," by Hans Urs von Balthasar and "The Religion of Jesus," by Blessed Columba Marmion (both of whom, I presume, were "evangelical Catholics")
This is a response to the article you posted earlier.
Greeley’s identity is that of a soft core pornographer who has a history of failing to keep his vows.
The effect of a flea attempting to push an elephant.
That’s the sum total of Andy Greeley’s rhetoric.
Setting limits on the Pope's and by implication God's power is a defining trait of liberals, modernists and their fellow agnostics. The lack of any faith in the supernatural always makes itself evident.
Greeley's 79 years haven't taught him much.
At Greeley’s age (79), eternity is starting to stare him in the face. He ought to be “preparing for a happy death,” rather than exacerbating his objectively uncomfortable stint under the klieg lights of his impending personal judgment. His comprehension of Pope Benedict’s motivations and goals is almost as bad as his novel writing ability.
Anyone but the Pope (and those who support him) rules here. In my diocese, it's the Bishop. First and foremost. He refers to our Holy Fathers Benedict and the late John Paul II as 'bishops of Rome', particularly when he disagrees with them. Rightly so, they are indeed Bishops of Rome. But...
There is a lot of attempts at deception, but it isn't coming from the Holy Father. Fr. Greeley needs a mirror.
How sad to be so old but understand so little.
Andrew Greely should have stopped calling himself a priest a long time ago.....
For Greeley's rhetoric here in San Francisco we might say: "gnat droppings in pepper."
I assume you are referring to Fr. Greeley, right?
Wonderful analogy but he has the media in his hands.
Some people like to break stain glass windows from the inside out.
Yes, sorry if I was garbled.
True, but if it weren’t for the mystique of him being a priest, he couldn’t sell those trashy novels or get columns in psuedo-religious/secular periodicals. No one would take him seriously if he were just another regular old disillusioned, carping lefty.
the tougher they talk, they weaker they are.
Greeley’s just jealous that the Pope’s books pack alot more brainpower than his do.
I wonder if Greeley ever heard of the word humility.
one of the more inane statements I’ve heard....While I question fr. Greeley’s methods, I never question his faith....He is a priest AND an author of fiction...God can give people more than one talent and He has done so with Fr. Greeley....Exactly what is his history of faining to keep his vows....be specific here because you have made a very serious accusation......prove it or STFU
While I do not admire Greeley, primarily because he has declared publicly that he is concealing evidence of sexual abuse, murder, and other crimes by other clergy, which he is concealing as an insurance policy against being murdered by them), and because of his snarky anti-Papal, anti-life attitudes, I don’t think there’s any evidence that Greeley has failed to “keep his vows.” (Diocesan priests do not have vows, but at ordination to the diaconate, men promise celibacy and obedience; at ordination to the priesthood, they repeat the promise of obedience.)
We have priests in our diocese who say, in the Canon, “John Paul, the bishop of Rome.” What is your diocese?
Of course, Greeley may be right! The Pope, like all members of the hierarchy, is the custodian, not the originator, of the Faith. On the other hand, what’s “a Catholic identity”? Since there’s no definition of the term, Greeley is on safe ground whatever he says. Can the Pope start or encourage a new movement in the Church—certainly. And that is happening, whatever Greeley thinks.
I'm in northwest PA, Erie. Which diocese are you in? I've heard them say Pope in the Canon, but honestly, they don't sound too thrilled. In most every other instance, Pope Benedict is referred to as Bishop of Rome, and Rome is said in a way I'm sure a few have heard, as though it were a pejorative.
Of course, I meant “Benedict, the Bishop of Rome.” Who can keep up?
LOL, too true, but I knew what you meant. It does keep us on our toes! Which diocese are you in?