By Catholic Worker, Dr. Larry Chapp
Michael Sean Winters is either hoping we are naïve enough to not remember the Reporter’s long and problematic history, or he thinks we are stupid enough to not be concerned with incoherent zig-zagging.
The folks over at the National Catholic Reporter must think we have poor memories or no memory at all.
For decades, the Reporter positioned itself as the loyal opposition to what it viewed as an overly authoritarian papacy thwarting the “true reform” of the Church. Operating from within a populist, liberal modality, they adopted the rhetoric of the various grassroots political movements of the Sixties in order to agitate for broad and sweeping changes in Church doctrine, morality, and practice.
The new democratic ethos of modernity and the secular liberal trends of contemporary culture all pointed toward a “curve of history” that the Church needed to get in line with or perish. The “people of God” metaphor was put in the service of this populist message with strong claims being made that the cultural sea change that was going on among Catholics in the West represented a paradigm shift that was the fruit of the Holy Spirit pushing the hierarchy “from below” to change with the times.
The Reporter was not the fringe publication of a handful of disgruntled bohemian Catholics cranking out their little underground newspaper in some stoner’s basement. When I was a young man, the Reporter was the go-to source for dissident Catholics and that gave them ecclesial clout in the American Church and a certain street credibility. The publication was standard fare in thousands of parish reading racks, as well as in every seminary and Catholic university library. Thus, its anti-papal message was not something subtle or hidden. It was the dissident Catholics’ stock-in-trade, their calling card, and anybody who was involved in Church work was well aware of the latest missives from these liberal lions in Kansas City…
This popularity allowed the Reporter to pay little heed to their conservative Catholic critics, among them not a few bishops, who admonished the Reporter for its disobedience to the magisterium and its insolent disregard for papal teaching in particular. Such criticisms were summarily dismissed as the last gaspings of fearful reactionaries who were upset over the loss of their grip on power. The clock was ticking and time was running out on the old Church of papal authoritarianism. And every papal or episcopal move against the more liberal wing of the Church was vociferously denounced by the Reporter as a horrific denial of the rights of conscience and a display of raw autocratic power that was almost Stalinist in its lusting after total control over the lives of believers ….Read it all