On May 19 The New York Times carried an opinion piece by Maureen Dowd in which she expressed her distress at what she perceives to be the current state of the Roman Catholic Church.
Dowd believes that the church of her childhood has become narrow and exclusive.
I ALWAYS liked that the name of my religion was also an adjective meaning all-embracing. …So it makes me sad to see the Catholic Church grow so uncatholic, intent on loyalty testing, mind control and heresy hunting. Rather than all-embracing, the church hierarchy has become all-constricting.
She goes on to suggest that the growing intolerance she senses in the church is attributable to a deepening insecurity among the church’s leadership.
Absolute intolerance is always a sign of uncertainty and panic. Why do you have to hunt down everyone unless you’re weak? The church doesn’t seem to care if its members’ beliefs are based on faith or fear, conviction or coercion. But what is the quality of a belief that exists simply because it’s enforced?
“To be narrowing the discussion and instilling fear in people seems to be exactly the opposite of what’s called for these days,” says the noted religion writer Kenneth Briggs. “All this foot-stomping just diminishes the church’s credibility even more.”
Predictably, the reactions to Dowd’s opinion piece vary wildly.
Many people rushing to comment on Dowd’s piece of course are in a hurry to agree.
tarry davis norfolk, virginiaThe Church hierarchy in the US is ignored by the majority of Catholics. They are old, stubborn, iconoclasts. So, we simply turn our back on them. They have no relevance to our lives. They have proven time and time again they cannot be trusted to render unto Caesar. Unfortunately the bishops live in a bubble. The are out of touch with their flock
Other responders to Dowd’s piece seek to dismiss her right to make any comment at all on the life of the church in which, according to this comment, she no longer participates.
Michael in Hokkaido Mountains
Ms. Dowd has written a very unfair and contumacious piece about the Roman Catholic Church.
As a disgruntled former catholic Ms. Dowd should, in fairness, recuse herself from commenting or judging the Church. When a judge or lawyer is too close to a case or has “issues” and “connections” to a case they always recuse themselves from being involved because they are unable to be fair minded and unbiased.
In much the same way as a judge recussing himself from hearing a case—Ms. Dowd should recuse herself. She is clearly the proverbial “hostile witness”.
Ms. Dowd has written highly inflammatory and contumacious accusations and innuendo against the Roman Catholic Faith and Church and her piece is unfair and an outrage.
Then of course there is the predictable response of shooting the messenger. Rather than listening to Dowd, Elizabeth Scalia dismisses her with mockery and ridicule. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2012/05/21/pelosis-failure-leads-dowd-to-cuomo-again/
Dowd has demonstrated that she really doesn’t understand much about Catholicism and its unending, beautifully nuanced and constant move toward God’s ever-present “Yes” — a fundamentally sophisticated and paradoxical means toward true freedom. As with many other issues, she has completely bought into the arrested-adolescent perspective, which can only perceive the church as a numbing “no.” Since Dowd is unwilling to plumb the depths of the church in order to seek out its richness, there are absolutely no surprises in the piece.
What I have been unable to locate in my brief search of responses to Dowd’s piece are the considered reflective comments from within the church that say, “Yes Ms. Dowd may have put her finger on some legitimate concerns and here are the steps we are taking to address these issues.”
Perhaps I am naive, but it seems to me that such a response might go further to deflate Dowd’s critique than any amount of vitriolic defensive counter attack.
Curiously, Dowd’s critics seem unimpressed with the fact that she quotes appreciatively the loyal Roman Catholic Mario Cuomo who, in a telephone interview summed up his relationship with the church telling her that,
If the church were my religion, I would have given it up a long time ago. All the mad and crazy popes we’ve had through history, decapitating the husbands of women they’d taken. All the terrible things the church has done. Christ is my religion, the church is not.
Perhaps, like Ms. Dowd, Mr. Cuomo is disqualified as a voice in the Catholic conversation because he is willing to entertain the possibility that his church might at times be a legitimate object of critique.
Any organization that is unable to entertain the possibility that there may be a grain of truth in the kind of avalanche of criticism currently being leveled by many loyal voices against the Roman Church, risks losing the valuable tool of self-reflection that is an essential quality in healthy organizational life.