National Catholic Reporter’s “Young Voices”: An Exercise in Dissent

In its continued assault on the Catholic Church, the National Catholic Reporter has published yet another hateful piece in its “Young Voices” section (it’s the third bullet point below). If you’re not familiar, Young Voices is the worst part of NCR’s editorial section. It’s staffed by four young people: Nicole Sotelo, Kate Childs Graham, Mike Sweitzer-Beckman, and Jamie L. Manson. All four write in opposition to Catholic teaching. By this, I mean that they don’t just happen to privately hold some doubts about the Catholic Faith. I mean that they, while in the employ of a nominally-Catholic newspaper, use that same newspaper to attack the Catholic Faith. That newspaper is then distributed to parishes around the country spreading misinformation and dissent. Here’s some examples from all four authors:

Diogenes at Catholic Culture made mincemeat of the piece. For starters, the parish worker in question, Ruth Kolpack, was allowed the opportunity to defend her orthodoxy, and the “accusers” in question are probably the 11 and 12 year old students in her CCD class who realized that something was amiss. You see, Kolpack is a feminist in favor of inclusive language in the Mass, in favor of women’s ordination, gay “marriage,” and is a member of the heretical organization Call to Action. After enough complaints, the bishop of the diocese felt that Kolpack wasn’t passing on the Catholic faith. They talked to her priest, and when he failed to correct the problem, they talked to both of them together, a conversation which ended in her refusal to recant her doctoral thesis (which had attacked the Early Church Fathers and Aquinas, as well as Luther and Barth, as sexists while seemingly placing the blame for some modern sexism on the masculine terms for God found in the Mass) and her termination. Since the Catholic Culture article was published, the Diocese of Madison finally broke their intentional silence: they’d kept quiet to protect her reputation, but she used her termination as a chance to attack her bishop.

Sweitzer-Beckman can hold that Kolpack should keep her job if he wants. It’s not itself a heresy to think heretics should be allowed to instruct kids in orthodoxy: it’s just a stupid idea. But the bigger problem is that to arrive at his baffling conclusion, he’s forced to misrepresent and exaggerate many elements of the case. By passing along one party’s statement about what happened, he damaged the bishop’s good name when, in fact, he was performing his job as shepherd of the flock.

  • Nicole Sotelo wrote in response to Benedict’s proclamation of the Year for Priests: Pope Benedict has declared June 19 as the beginning of the Year of the Priest. He has proclaimed that “without priestly ministry, there would be no Eucharist, no mission and even no church.” I hate to be the one to inform him, but Eucharist, mission and church existed long before the rise of priesthood.

I’m pretty sure that Benedict isn’t poring over the pages of National Catholic Reporter to learn about Church history, so Nicole has nothing to worry about. She won’t be “informing” him of anything more than that there’s a lot more work that needs to be done restoring Catholic education. Nicole herself doubles as a member of Call to Action, where she’s actively involved in the push for women’s ordination. So on the one hand, women should be priestesses; and on the other hand, priests weren’t ever intended by Christ. Or, as Nicole condescendingly puts it, “Perhaps the pope has forgotten that Jesus was not focused on priesthood. He was focused on ministry,” omitting that this ministry included Twelve specially chosen men separate from His other disciples, and who viewed themselves as not simply members of the laity (I think the Book of Acts stands for that proposition well enough that I need not elaborate?). It’s hard to see these contradictory goals (eliminate the priesthood / expand the priesthood to include women) as anything other than an assault on traditional Catholicism: and it’s not even a logically consistent assault.

  • Jamie L. Manson writes in response to the Vatican’s Apostolic Constitution: Misogynist? Homophobic? We’ve got the church for you!

Manson claims to be Catholic while serving as director of Social Justice Ministries at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church in New York, and a member of the national board for the Women’s Ordination Conference (an ostensibly Roman Catholic group). How one claims to be Catholic while (a) on the dole of a mainline Protestant church, (b) mocking the Catholic Church, and (c) seeking to ordain Catholic women as priestesses (knowing, of course, that this action will result in their excommunication) is unclear to me. She tries to answer this question (which she says she gets asked a lot) in an article called Why I still call myself Catholic wherein she writes:

For me, there is nothing to “leave.” I cannot leave my Catholic tradition any more than I can leave my Italian tradition, which also formed my vision and imagination, my way of seeing the world, my way of relating to others. One can argue that I have left the Catholic church since I no longer accept the authority of the hierarchy. However, I feel equally left behind by the institution. As a woman and lesbian, I have no voice in this institution, and I am denied the ability to make a substantive contribution to it. Rather than speaking about leaving the church, I believe is time to call the institutional church to accountability for how many people it has left behind.

Right, but she’s not Italian. She just was raised by an Italian-American family in New York and happens to like elements of Italian culture. She also disagree with the Church on fundamental issues, self-ascribes as a lesbian, and doesn’t accept the Church’s authority. She’s describing herself as a cultural or nominal Catholic. And she goes on to say, Unlike many of those fighting for reform in the Catholic church, I’m not aiming to “take back my church.” I’m not sure that the institution and its endless tomes of rules, its privileged priesthood, and its propensity for uninviting people from the Eucharistic table is something worth re-inheriting because I’m not convinced these functions were ever conceived or practiced with God-centered intentions. I don’t even have to explain that she doesn’t believe what the Catholic Church believes, anymore than I need to explain why she’s not eligible to vote in Italian elections. It’s just a cultural heritage that she looks back on (sort of) fondly.

  • Of the four, perhaps the biggest disgrace is Kate Childs Graham, who wrote an article entitled “I am a prochoice Catholic”

An authentically Catholic publication never would have permitted this. Period. To even leave it on the website, to not publish a retraction, signals that it’s possible (or even acceptable) to be pro-choice as a Catholic. At that point, the Reporter is actively on the side of the culture of death. She writes, “Finally, I am a prochoice Catholic because my Catholic faith tells me I can be. The Catechism reads, ‘[Conscience] is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.'”

I’m torn here. Does she honestly not know that the Church doesn’t teach “whatever your conscience tells you is right”? Because if She did teach that, why bother to publish a Catechism at all? Why not simply say, “Do whatever your conscience tells you!” She’s either intentionally misrepresenting the Cathechism’s stance on abortion (and on conscience), or she’s been duped into supporting mortal sin. And worse, given a soapbox to do so from the largest “Catholic” newspaper in America.

Had she read any of the rest of the Cathechism, or listened to the Church’s teachings on how sin can mar one’s conscience to the point that you consider evil good and good evil, she would know better. But I’m not convinced she’s been exposed to the rest of that: I think she knows some cut bullet points of what the Cathechism and Saints taught, presented to her in a way that made her think this was acceptable.

Patrick Madrid, thankfully, responded to this with a much needed correction. Could the Catholics at the Reporter not be troubled to do the same for her? Nothing less than this young woman’s soul hangs in the balance. Was it really better to try and score some cheap political points against the Catholic Church?

Of course, Young Voices is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s wrong with the National Catholic Reporter. Some of the worst of the worst – Joan Chittister, Richard McBrien, and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton – have regular columns. I know that a number of dioceses still carry the Reporter. My question is: why? Why pay money to a newspaper whose editorial board continually undermines Catholic teaching?

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