Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Catholic Stasi

The Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative Catholic group that seemingly has loads of money to investigate the abortion views of anyone who speaks at a Catholic college or university, is taking aim a Richard McBrien, a priest and nationally known theologian at the University of Notre Dame. McBrien's most recent syndicated column, which appears in a number of diocesan and other newspapers, allegedly contains a plagiarized sentence from a Boston Globe story.

The sentence in question is clearly related to the Globe story, which McBrien has admitted, but in his defense just a few sentences before he cited the story, though not the author. McBrien was sloppy and has admitted it.

But that's not enough for the Cardinal Newman Society. In a letter to the president of Notre Dame, Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, wrote, "Because this concerns the reputation of one of the most well-known Catholic universities in the United States, we urge you to give this matter serious consideration. If the faculty member is indeed guilty of such dishonesty, we urge you to consider whether he belongs at Notre Dame."

The Newman Society, of course, could give a damn about plagiarism; they just want to discredit a theologian they disagree with. And they are contributing to the current tattle-tale atmosphere in the Catholic church, in which every conservative group with an agenda sends secret agents to parishes searching for "abuses" and scores of research assistants pore over theological journals and newspaper columns for any whiff of "error." And someone is bankrolling this effort to the tune of millions. Ever wonder what the salary of the president of the Catholic League, Bill Donahue, is? How 'bout the president of the Cardinal Newman Society.

The people of God don't need secret police. The very idea is unworthy of the baptized, and the self-appointed guardian-of-truth Newman Society has had a chilling effect on academic freedom at Catholic universities. Cardinal Newman, a 19th-century Anglican-turned-Catholic, would be spinning in his grave if he knew what was being done in his name. Just read his "The Idea of a University" (1854), where he argues for academic freedom and open debate as the core of what a university is all about.


At 8:11 PM, Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

I was brought up Catholic but haven't had much to do with church for many years. This past month I started a blog as a way of trying to work out if I could ever actually be a 'proper' Catholic. http://catholicfringedweller.blogspot.com/ I have done some searching of blogs online as I think about this. But nearly all of them seem to be of the 'conservative' Catholic ilk. It was a refreshing change to find your one and I will have to read some more!


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