Monday, August 14, 2006

'Orthodox Catholics' who hate the hierarchy

In recent decades, we've seen a phenomenon that seems very strange to me: Catholics who deem themselves very traditional, very orthodox -- and to show it, they dispense the most cynical, vile invective against the hierarchy, from top to bottom.

I am not talking about mere criticism. One can easily think of criticism one can make of any bishop, even the pope, and of them all acting together. One can think of criticisms, even rather severe, that would be fitting in areas of liturgy, financial management, clarity and boldness of teaching, and certainly in handling the clerical crimes.

Catholics, it seems to me, are supposed to love their pope, their bishops, and their priests -- after all, we're supposed to love our enemies aren't we? Can't the pope and bishops get a piece of that?

I realize many feel deep hurt and anger over the way bishops and priests have conducted themselves. They are impatient for the pope to remedy things. They fear for the future of the Church.

As to hurt, anger and impatience, even righteous indignation -- they are not justifications. Any of us can feel hurt and anger over any number of things; turning around and inflicting more hurt is hardly the answer.

As to the future of the Church. Well, I care too. But one has to beware of the temptation to take on more than God has asked us to. Do you think you can care more for the Church than He does? We certainly may be impatient for God to act, and we wonder why he does not. But really, any fury you can hurl at the bishops etc., can be hurled as justly at God. It's his Church, and he's God. Why isn't it His fault?

It makes my blood run cold to see the scurrilous, hateful things that fall from the lips and typing fingers of self-described faithful Catholics: accusations of every sort of crime, of the deepest depravity and cowardice, willing participation in conspiracies, etc.

Now, of course, it happens to be true that from time to time, we are all horrified to learn the depths of evil anyone can commit, and sometimes that includes clerics. We are aware of clerics who have committed every imaginable crime.

But in all this, we are obligated to maintain our Christian virtue: we are bound to be skeptical about such charges, simply because we are bound to give the benefit of the doubt. It is wrong to want to believe such things, and to be easily persuaded. The matter must prove itself true -- and the harsher, more appalling the accusation, then the more demanding we must be about it being proved.

This is not an impossible standard.

For that matter, there is a kind of conceit at work here. If a cleric is truly guilty of terrible crimes, then the matter must be determined. But by whom? In every instance, there are those who must act, who must reach a decision. And, certainly, if we have first hand knowledge, then we must bring it to the appropriate forum -- and perhaps, regrettably, to the larger public.

But most of us do not have first-hand information. We read, see or hear something, and we have a choice whether to repeat it. I fail to see what great urgency attaches to most of us repeating that which is defamatory but not certain.

By what right do I spread about a salacious, scandalous story about a bishop or a pope? Because I think it explains some problem in the Church, some inadequacy I see in that individual?

Really, let us reason here: if I find a bishop lacking, I might have recourse to any number of explanations, all reasonable. I think charity demands having recourse to the reasonable explanation that is least ugly, least defamatory.

When people depict the late pope, Pius XII, as a Nazi sympathizer, this is outrageous, particularly when one does a close examination of the whole story. The vastly more probable situation is that he showed great virtue, if not heroism, in opposing the Nazis and helping their victims, principally the Jews. One can find any number of resources that will demonstrate this -- the trend in real scholarship lately has been to vindicate the pope.

As I say, this outrages many faithful Catholics -- who (me included), feel very angry about the attacks on Pius XII.

And yet, some of the very same folks who are justly appalled at the unfairness of such charges against Pius XII, are quite ready to hurl equally foul accusations against other popes -- Paul VI in particular. (I choose not to repeat them, because while the charges against Pius XII are, sadly, all too well known, those against Paul are, thankfully, less well known, and I shall not help spread them. And I will swiftly delete any of that offal that may be posted here.)

I guess it depends on whose ox is gored?

"Faithful" Catholics would seem to be mindful of the sin of detraction -- which denotes repeating truthful but hurtful information unnecessarily; as well as the better known sin of calumny, and plain old lying. Also, the demand of charity, including -- as St. Ignatius of Loyola taught -- giving one's opponent the benefit of the best reasonable explanation of his conduct or words.

I would hope that these, particular "traditional" Catholics would want to be attentive to this less celebrated part of the Tradition?

And those who rightly feel outrage about the sins of clerics that do terrible harm should be mindful that God is outraged, too, at the harm done by careless words and uncertain accusations. To destroy someones reputation may not be the worst sin, but it is a terrible one.

Feel free to comment if you agree with me, or think I'm way off base. But I repeat -- no "news bulletins" about misdeeds will be tolerated. If you have some terrible fact to report, this is not where it needs to be reported.


Tim said...

Father, last month's National Review had an book review that defends the pope against the ridiculous charges of Nazi sympathizing.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting that, Father. I think that's reminder that a lot of people could use (myself included at times). I think St. Francis de Sales compared detraction to murder because it kills somebody's reputation.

Thanks again and God bless...

Anonymous said...

You know Father some people will complain if you give them ice water in Hell! If need be we pray for our Bishops and our Pope! Go to Mass a few minutes early guess who is in the Tabernacle! Talk to Jesus he's waiting, tell him any thing he he's a great listener! Then just sir quietly and you listen it's great! The Church is perfect but the people are not! Pray say the Rosary!

Fugger Nutter said...

Great post Father, one that should be read by many.

God Bless,

Penitens said...

Good post, Father

Anonymous said...

Dear Father Fox,

A query:

If I recall rightly, we pray during the Mass that we may grow in love for Pope (N.), Bishop (N.), etc. Am I in the right vein here? Could you provide the words from that part of a Eucharistic Prayer for us?

Fr Martin Fox said...

Bro Andrew:

From the 2nd Eucharistic Prayer:

"Lord, remember your Church throughout the world; make us grow in love, together with N. our Pope, N. our bishop, and all the clergy."

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Fr.

Anonymous said...

Holy Cow Father - your fingers probably need dipped in ice water - the keyboard given a holiday - you have really put out some articles!!

OK - I assume that you are talking about something that is really horrendous being said about Pope Paul VI (which happily I haven't heard or read)- who, it appears to me, had an exceedingly hard row to hoe - harder than many and given the situation I'm not sure who would raise their had to claim they could do better - with, of course, no 20/20 hindsight.

OK - so here's the question - how do you know where the line is? Bishops or priests that have, what appears to be, a sting of particularly poor judgements or harsh behavior? Or - situations where they don't take what I consider to be really obvious actions (a priest admits to molesting a 12 year old boy or girl - got to tell you this seems really easy to figure out to me - especially after 2002. Or priests that are preaching heresy in the media and/or from the pulpit - what about worrying about the feelings and the souls of everyone that hears him? Again - this seems pretty obvious to me - although maybe not easy if he is a freind of yours.)

There is righteous anger and indignation of a continued lack of action or effective action if the situation doesn't change. What should we as the laity do?

Clearly pray. But pretending everything is just wonderful - well just doesn't appear to be the right thing. But what? Write the bishop - tell him how upset a situation makes me? Tell him he's not doing himself any PR favors? (Seems a little arrogant!)

Clearly - there is a point of complaining that is is sinful. The bishop is still in the succession of the Apostles. Only priests can give my the Bread of Life and say the best words in the whole world - I absolve you from your sins. And no bishops, no priests. I get it. There is no place else to go - this is my home and family. But I sure would like to help do some spring cleaning - how do we go about it?

Anonymous said...

Someone said the church is perfect but the people are not. Um...the church is not and never has been perfect, because it is run by those pesky imperfect people. Human beings introduce evil into the church. The church itself is not evil, but evil can penetrate within the church.

There is a mistaken popular belief that all the evil in the church originates with the laity. There seems to be a tacit agreement that the clergy and heirarchy can do no evil. Some folks even think the popes cannot sin, which is false. (Nor have I ever heard of any pope claiming to be sinless.) When it becomes apparent that the clergy/heirarchy do sin, just like everybody else except Jesus and Mary, there is a fierce resentment from the laity. People feel cheated, deceived, and disappointed; something has happened that they had not considered possible. Yet they have no way to express their thoughts or questions to the clergy and negative feelings continue to fester.

Perhaps there has been too much polarisation between laity and clergy.

Chris said...

Some people are so upset with the Novus Ordo mass that they have convinced themselves that it is invalid. Since a "real" pope could never institute an invalid mass, Paul VI must not have been a real pope. Somewhat flawed logic but it is the fruit of flawed liturgical reform.
Paul VI would never have had the courage to release Humane Vitae without the grace especially reserved for popes.

Steve said...

Father, thank you so much for this point. I couldn't agree more. I admit that I have complained about priests before, but I will try harder to live out the message that you have posted here and in your post from the Cathechism. If a person thinks a priest is doing something wrong, the right course of action is to talk to that priest or to talk to that priest's bishop, not to spread rumors (even if true) about that priest with other parishoners.

Of course, if a person suspect's that a priest has engaged in criminal acts, that person should call the police first. A big reason for the recent scandal in the Church is that people chose to report criminal activity to the Church rather than to the police (and I believe some states even required this, which makes no sense at all). The Church is not a law enforcement agency. If a priest committed a crime, the police are the proper people to address this, not the Church. [I do understand that bishops may have nonetheless acted improperly by simply moving priests around after learning that they may have committed crimes, but if the people had reported the crimes to the police and the priest was guilty under the law, there would have been no issue]

Sorry for ranting for so long... Thank you again, Father, and keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

While I may be familiar with at least some of the insinuations against Paul VI, I have never looked into their substance. I don't have to. As one who has just enrolled in RCIA, I have been drawn to the Church by "converging and convincing arguments," but reading Humanae Vitae may have clinched it. I think Chris (above) is right. No merely human or earthly institution would be capable of such moral clarity and courage during what was virtually another "Athanasius contra mundum" moment (at least for the issues addressed in HV). Thank God for Paul VI.

And thank you for your blog, Fr. Fox. The homilies in particular have helped me along the way.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting that Father. It is very long overdue and probably should be posted on a regular basis.

I admit to a lot of anger at times at actions or inactions of Church officials but I try to keep it to myself. I still mention it in the confessional.

Some of the worst offenders are popular Catholic bloggers. I find myself paying less and less attention so some of them.

I attribute some of these intemperate posts and statements to the doldrums of Summer when there isn't much news, but that is no excuse. Especialy for someone who purports to represent things that are good in the Church.

I'll be linking to this important message.

Anonymous said...

A detractor responds;

Your fourth from last paragraph about detraction is a very helpful reminder. Thanks. I almost did not get down that far.

After reading your more recent post first where you give us the entire third section of the Catechism on the 8th commandment I laughed when I read the headline for this thread.

Come on Father, what about CCC 2478?

"hate the hierarchy" Wouldn't "disparage the hierarchy" or "slander the hierarchy" or "rashley judge the hierarchy" be more in keeping with CCC #2478? What word would not be stronger than "hate" when refering to people. (It is sad that I really did laugh)

"recent decades"
Surely not on the internet. The slanderous, detraction filled books in my parish library are of the liberal bent. There is nothing attacking Paul VI, denying the validity of the Second Vatican Council, etc. but we do have books by Sandy Rapp, Matthew Fox, Anthony Padavano etc. The Da Vinci Code is still on the recommended reading list for 6th graders and in the school library. This past year I listened to the progressive parish Director of Faith Formation mock our current Pope. During the year of the Eucharist our progressive president of the parish worship commission stated on the cover of the parish bulletin that Pope Julius II committed sacrilege. He wrote that the Pope had the Blessed Sacrament put on a pole and led his army into battle. He stated that as fact and common knowledge even though his source; Ross King's The Pope's Ceiling had no footnote or listed source for this suppsed fact of the warrior Pope's sacrilege. ( the book did state that the Pope's enemies dropped their weapons and surrendered without a drop of blood shed but this was ignored by our progressive commission president.) No retraction or apology for the slander from our progressive Pastor or our orthodox associate Pastor.

"and certainly in the handling the clerical crimes."

This seems to minimize the problem. It was not just the handling of predator priests but the participation of at least eleven "PROGRESSIVE" U.S bishops in the actual predatory disordered acts. That is from police reports, sworn testimony, the word of other priests (progressive and orthodox), newspaper investigations and even the reports of dioceses themselves.

I am certain that some of us detractors pray for the salvation of the souls of our enemies and even offer to share in their penance.

Another troubling part of your post;
"But really, any fury we can hurl at the bishops etc., can be hurled as justly at God." Maybe it is what you mean by "fury".

"self - described faithful Catholics"

I think I visit many of the same blogs that you do and I see Catholics more often describe themselves as orthodox rather than faithful.

I have only covered a third of your post. I type even slower than I think. I hope you will allow "A detractor responds Part II" Later.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I guess my point in the headline was to allow for criticism, even severe criticism, but to highlight what seems to crucial issue: do we act out of true charity?

My purpose in choosing the word "hate" is to try to awaken some to the implications in their approach: if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...etc.

If I missed something at my prior assignment that appeared in the bulletin, I'm sorry. And in speaking of "clerical crimes," my point was to summarize, not minimize -- and to include not only the crimes of commission, but omission as well.

As to describing folks as "faithful" or "orthodox," well I mean to treat them as linked.

Finally, after I wrote this post, I looked up (and posted) the relevant passages in the Catechism, which was helpful, as it reminded me of "rash judgment," which to me seems to be more often at issue than detraction.

Detraction pivots on the question of necessity, and also on the question of revealing what is hidden. In many cases, we're not talking about something hidden (everyone knows about bishops' inaction on a number of things!), and one can fairly argue for a necessity to discuss it.

More often, I think, we are talking about rash judgment, which lacks "sufficient foundation." It seems to me the more damaging the accusation, the more is required for a sufficient foundation.

And then, I would say that when one is not terribly concerned about whether the statement has sufficient foundation, it seems to me one is potentially guilty of calumny -- i.e., one is saying something that may well not be true, and not overly concerned about that.

Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

It's not often, Father, that I hear a "homily" about sin, much less one that actually brings up a sin which I might be practicing regularly. I know you've visited my blog, but I don't know if you mean me.

Still, while I certainly don't "hate the hierarchy", I sure have lost patience with some members of it, and I may not have been as temperate in my complaints as I should have been.

But it's hard; I am sincerely scandalized when I hear that Archbishop Niederauer has approved a plan that will enable Catholic Charities to "partner" with a group that calls itself "the gayest adoption agency in the country". I am scandalized when Archbishop Flynn takes Father Altier off the radio. I am scandalized that Cardinal George tolerates a "Queer Studies" program at DePaul. I am scandalized when my own Pastor, from the pulpit, states that Jesus wouldn't recognize the liturgy.

It's very hard not to be demoralized.

David L Alexander said...


It pains me to hear things said about your own Archbishop, for example, 'cuz I knew him while growing up, and still know him today. Pray for them all, yes, but I'm afraid Paul the Regular Guy has a point. So would Thomas Aquinas when he said: "When the Faith is in imminent peril, prelates ought to be accused by their subjects, even in public."

Some of us got tired of writing polite letters and getting canned responses a long time ago. If this doesn't excuse the wrath from the pews, it might explain it.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I understand. If you look again, you'll see that I am not faulting folks for offering criticism, even severe criticism; I am focusing on that which I think lacks moderation and above all, charity.

What does what one must do, out of true necessity -- including revealing terrible facts or severe criticism. The issue for me is necessity and charity.

Anonymous said...

A reluctantly repentant detractor responds part II;


Even when I disagree with you I always learn something valuable from your response. Thanks.

Regarding Pope Paul VI, I believe he may have been the most prophetic voice of the 20th century. We have forty years of history that proves Humanae Vitae to be completely accurate in its' predictions of what would happen if we succumbed to artificial birth control.

It took courage to release that encyclical. Pope Paul faced great opposition from even the theological commission that advised him to allow artificial contraception. (Forty years' history has also shown us the the true colors of some of the disobedient, dissident commission members.)

The Holy Spirit prevents the Pope from teaching error in matters of Faith and morals but the Holy Spirit does not force the Pope to teach. We owe Paul VI our gratitude for his prophetic voice and an apology for ignoring it.

Regarding necessity;
I believe it may be necessary to expose and ruin the reputations of the disordered priests, bishops and their protectors by spreading the digusting truth of their acts because many of the predators have had such influence as liturgists, retreat gurus, theologians, authors, canon lawyers, directors, translators of texts, Catholic university presidents, teachers, diocesean chancellors, vicar- generals and even Bishops.

One example of a facilitater;
In the mid 90's a west coast bishop resigned in disgrace(years before required)in the midst of a grave scandal that involved two of his closest advisor priest friends who embezzeled hundreds of thousands of dollars and were both exposed as homosexual predators.

Instead of fading into the sunset in shame the retired Archbishop wrote a book on reforming the papacy and continues to travel the dissenters circuit knocking JPII and now Benedict XVI and promoting dissent among priests as he did at last years National Federation of Priest Councils annual convention. Of course the arrogant liberal was not challenged or shunned by our pastors but applauded and praised for proposing a more democratic and shared leadership model by decentralizing Church governance.

The liberal protector of predators and hero of homosexual activists completely mismanages his Archdiocese and then demands reform of the Papacy.

What is really sad is that so many of our Pastors are buying the arrogant ass's book.

Fr Martin Fox said...


You hit on something that is key for me: it was a particularly vicious attack, on Pope Paul VI, by someone who would certainly consider herself a faithful, orthodox Catholic, that prompted me (a) to indignance and (b) to post this.

There are many things I might criticize in Pope Paul's papacy, but as you say, Humanae Vitae was such a shining moment for him.

Once again, I am not saying clergy and bishops, and popes, are above criticism.

My point might be stated this way: St. Thomas Aquinas had four cardinal virtues: in addition to courage and justice were prudence and temperance. And the virtue of justice includes charity.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was appropriate for the conversation :)

From St. John of the Cross's Degrees of Perfection and Other Counsels:

"Anyone who complains or grumbles is not perfect, nor is he even a good Christian."

"Never interfere in what you are not ordered to do, nor be obstinate about anything, even though you may be right..."

Anonymous said...


Very appropriate. I don't know if I am buying but I am thinking and might be trying.


David L Alexander said...


Your response is duly noted.


Anonymous said...


Thankyou for this post. There is an old saying in most European languages about being "more Catholic than the Pope" and some commenters I have seen on blogs and in say Catholic Answers do indeed overstate their cases and indulge in what is really gossip. Criticism must be capable of proof or it simply becomes slander. And your point about necessity is well made.

On Paul VI, I myself have made criticisms of his early years as Pope (as a historian of the Middle Ages I tend to notice the warts on the Holy Father more easily I guess) but I consider him to have achieved greatness in his end. That he promulgated Humanae Vitae at all was more thaqn an act of courage, it marked the point at which the destruction of the Church stopped. Though it will take an historical perspective to see it (many years in the future) I believe that later historians will see Humanae Vitae as the Dunkirk of its time - a seeming defeat that will become the foundation of victory. Until that point the destroyers of the Church were having a smooth run, using the authority of the heirarchy to mislead the laity and the sensus fidelium to unman the bishops. By promulgating Humanae Vitae Paul VI established a tower of defence within which the Church could begin to regain its authority. Though the wolves prowled around it and destroyed all without its walls they could not destroy the Church or its teachings. We are now seeing the fruit of that defence in the returning orthodoxy of the new generation of Catholics.

Paul VI deserves our love.

Anonymous said...


After so much discussion I was compelled to search out the site and thread and found it. I am a regular visitor to that site and did see the blogger's original post but I never read the comments until the other night.

I did leave my two cents worth there and also left two cents worth on your "sloppiness"post.

Regarding this thread, I would no longer object to your use of the word "hate" if the first word in the headline was, "INSANE".

Thanks for being a patient priest. I hope you continue to "wear your collar" while you blog.