The March 3 issue of Catholic San Francisco included an interview by reporter Rick DelVecchio with the Jesuit Fr. Paul Crowley. The subject was a spring quarter course Crowley is heading at Stanford University called “Vatican II: Catholicism Meets Modernity.” The article begins:
“Catholics’ contentiousness over Vatican II reflects not merely factionalism but a crisis of meaning at the heart of the church, said Jesuit Father Paul Crowley, Jesuit Community Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University and a visiting professor at Stanford.
‘Vatican II in the last 30 years has become the issue that, for various reasons, seems to be dividing the church into various factions, and it strikes me that the real issue is not Vatican II per se but something deeper than that, something that Vatican II addresses, which is ecclesiology,’ Father Crowley said in an interview with Catholic San Francisco. ‘It’s really the very nature of the church and how we arrive at consensus as a church.’”
Fr. Crowley did not specify who constituted the “factions” to which he referred and Mr. Del Vecchio did not ask. That’s too bad, because the half hath not been told, and readers of an Archdiocesan newspaper deserve more. An quick glance at the course presenters reveals that a more accurate title would have been Modernity vs. Catholicism. While the presenters give a clear enough idea of what is meant by “modernity” and certainly represent the modern “faction,” there is simply no Catholic faction to be found. A brief description of the first six presenters:
The April 1 presenter is Jesuit Fr. Stephen Schloesser, an Associate Professor in History at (Jesuit) Loyola University of Chicago. His subject is Against Forgetting: Memory, History, and Vatican II. In 2004, as Massachusetts was debating the legalization of counterfeit marriage, Fr. Schloesser sent a lengthy letter to Massachusetts state Senator Marian Walsh. An excerpt, from the website Queering the Church: “It seems helpful to me to recall what traditional marriage is: it is a community’s legal arrangement in order to pass on property. In it, a male acquires (in the sense of owning and having sovereignty over) a female for the sake of reproducing other males who will then inherit property.” (See Footnote 1).
The April 8 presenter is Fr. Mark Francis who served as Superior General of the international Viatorian Community of brothers and, from 2000-2012. Before that, he was Professor of Liturgy at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. His subject will be Reforming the Church through the Liturgy: The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. In a 2007 article in The Tablet, Fr. Francis wrote about Pope Benedict XVI’s support of the Extraordinary Form Mass in the "Summorum Pontificum." From Fr. Francis’ article: “In short, ‘Summorum Pontificum’ weakens the unity of the Church by failing to support the foundational insights of the Second Vatican Council.” He also asserts that the (ex) Holy Father “is not a trained liturgist.” Fr. Francis is currently Visiting Scholar at the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education at Santa Clara.
The April 15 presenter is Professor Gary Macy, Professor of Theology at Santa Clara University and chair of the Religious Studies Department. His subject will be The Reconsideration of Orders by Vatican II. Professor Macy is a prolific writer on “the reconsideration of orders”: he is the author of “The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination”, co-author of “Women Deacons: Past Present, and Future”; and co-author of “A History of Women and Ordination.”
One of the April 22 presenters is Catherine Murphy, Associate Professor in Religious Studies at Santa Clara. Her subject will be Unexpected and Obvious: The Dei Verbum Doorway and What Lies Beyond. On March 26, 2006 Professor Murphy joined Fr. Cameron Ayers, SJ, and Professor Vincent Pizzuto at the “Alienated Catholics” forum at San Francisco’s St. Agnes Church. In her presentation, Murphy described herself as “…a Catholic lesbian Scripture scholar struggling with a faith tradition that grounds my hope and a church that poisons it.” Since the forum, Ayers has left the Catholic Church, while Pizzuto was ordained a priest in the Celtic Christian Church, and elevated to the Chair of Theology and Religious Studies at the (Jesuit) University of San Francisco. As noted, The “Catholic lesbian scripture scholar” Murphy serves as Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the (Jesuit) Santa Clara University.
The April 29 presenter is the ex-Jesuit Paul Lakeland, Professor of Catholic Studies and founding Director of the Center for Catholic Studies at (Jesuit) Fairfield University. His subject is The Rediscovery of the Laity: Overcoming Baptismal Amnesia. In 2009, Lakeland was a public supporter of Connecticut’s Senate Bill 1089 which would have wrested control of parishes away from the Bishops. Anthony Picarello, General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Bishops described SB 1089 as “blatantly unconstitutional” and said that it “targets the Catholic Church explicitly and exclusively, and attempts to use the civil law to alter Church governance.” At the time Catholic News Agency reported “The premise of the bill is remarkably similar to the 2009-2010 Voice of the Faithful Strategic Plan.” According to the VOTF website, Lakeland is on its board of advisors. In 2012, Lakeland told The Daily Beast that the U.S. Catholic Bishops position in defense of marriage is “… an argument that’s based more on fear or repugnance.”
The May 6 presenter is Professor Jerome Baggett. His subject is In the Wake of Vatican II: Institutional and Cultural Dilemmas among American Catholics. Baggett is best known for his book Sense of the Faithful: How American Catholics Live Their Faith, a survey of Bay Area parishes, including San Francisco’s Most Holy Redeemer. In a striking example of Modernity vs. Catholicism, Bagget’s survey not only found that 93% of MHR’s parishioners thought that one could be a good Catholic while committing homosexual acts (not surprising) but also that 34% thought one could be a good Catholic without believing in the real presence; and 28% without believing that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Professor Baggett is Professor of Religion and Society at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, located in Berkeley.
Course head Fr. Crowley himself carries more baggage than need be enumerated here. One example : on June 9, 2011 at the 66th Annual Convention of the Catholic Theological Society of America, he served as moderator for the session “When the Saints Come Marching Out: Same-Gender Relationships as an Embodiment of Christian Holiness.” That session was convened by the already-mentioned Reverend Vincent Pizzuto, Chair of Theology and Religious Studies at the (Jesuit) University of San Francisco. The presenters were Pizzuto and the ex-Jesuit priest James Nickoloff, College of the Holy Cross. In a 2009 lecture at the (Jesuit ) Santa Clara University, Nickoloff opened by saying “In the interest of ‘full disclosure,’ let me make it clear that I write as a professional Catholic systematic theologian who is also a self-affirming gay man and legally married in Massachusetts.”
It will be noted that five of the six presenters (and Fr. Crowley himself) are professors at Jesuit Universities. The sixth, Fr. Francis, is currently a visiting scholar at a Jesuit University.
Rev. John Malloy SDB is a Catholic priest who blogs at A Shepherd's Voice. He resides in California.
Footnote 1) In his 2006 essay called 'Beyond the Land O’ Lakes: Catholic Modernity and Jesuit Hybrids', Fr. Schloesser gives the game away: “An institution in the Jesuit tradition ought to be the place that reverences culture.” But “culture” does not exist in the abstract—particular cultures do.
Fortunately, in the same essay, Fr. Schloesser does become more specific. He writes: “The crucial problem that I see for Catholic higher education is this: on the one hand, the institutional Church has almost entirely staked its identity on gender and sexual reproduction issues; on the other hand, for mainstream contemporary culture (at least in Western Europe and North America), these same issues of gender and sexual reproduction are the way the future’s moving — in exactly the opposite way the Church represents them.”
If, for the sake of argument, we accept Fr. Schloesser’s analysis of what the Church has “staked its identity” on, it becomes obvious that the Church cannot reverence “contemporary culture.” Further, if “an institution in the Jesuit tradition” does reverence “contemporary culture” it has, as Fr. Schloesser himself says, moved “in exactly the opposite way” from the Church.