Oh, Jesus. Mr. Keller who, I will remind you, used to be the Executive Editor of the Times from 2003 to 2011, has developed a man crush on Bill Donohue. In “The Rottweiler’s Rottweiler” he actually says that Bill Donohue, the Vatican’s most vociferous American apologist, may be right about one thing. There is a crisis in Catholicism and the church is not about to change direction. Bill Donohue is an abscess on Christianity’s butt. Prof. Krugman has a question in “Greece as Victim:” Whose hubris caused this crisis? Here’s Mr. Keller’s piece of crap (he’s being eviscerated in the comments, for what it’s worth):
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Bill Donohue is right. Donohue, the chronically peeved president of the Catholic League, and I rarely see eye to eye, but he is right about one very big thing: how to resolve the crisis in Catholicism. My endorsement may horrify him as much as it surprises me.
Donohue, for those of you without cable TV, is the Vatican’s most vociferous American apologist. Any time a critic — especially a Catholic critic — casts doubt on the wisdom of the Catholic hierarchy, Donohue fires off a press release attacking the attacker or otherwise changing the subject. Bring up pedophile priests and he’ll talk about pedophile public-school teachers or pedophile Orthodox Jews. That nun who is under a Vatican cloud lately for having written a book with decidedly liberal views on sexuality? Donohue’s response bypassed her arguments and focused on the fact that she sometimes cites Michel Foucault, the creepy French philosopher known as an acolyte of the Marquis de Sade and a darling of the radical left. (Guilt by footnote.)
Another ferocious defender of the faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, used to be known as “God’s Rottweiler.” Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict XVI, and Bill Donohue is the Rottweiler’s Rottweiler.
In person, Donohue — a big, 64-year-old Long Island Irishman, divorced father of two grown daughters — has the genial manner of the parish priest he almost became. Instead he digressed to military school, the Air Force, and the sociology faculty of a Catholic college in Pennsylvania. He is more likable one-on-one than his notorious sound bites, which have an Ann Coulterish reductiveness: Hollywood is “controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity.” President Obama “supports selective infanticide.” Progressive Catholics are “termites.” The title of his 2009 book catches the snarly Donohue: “Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America.”
I picked up his new book — “Why Catholicism Matters” — expecting another fountain of invective. But this is a mellower work, a believer’s portrait of the church he loves, built around the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. It dwells on Catholicism’s estimable contributions to scholarship, Western culture and humanitarianism, while airbrushing those episodes where the church came up short in the cardinal-virtue department. Thus the case of Galileo — who was branded a heretic for endorsing Copernicus’s theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun — does not merit our indignation, since Galileo spent his last years under house arrest rather than in a dungeon. “Why Catholicism Matters” gives us the defense counsel’s version of the Crusades (a natural response to Islamic jihad) and the Inquisition (never mind the torture, secular authorities did the heretic-burning). He sums up the shameful cover-up of predatory priests with that weasel classic, “mistakes were made.”
By now some readers are wondering Why Donohue Matters. Indeed, when he took charge of the Catholic League in 1993, Donohue could be dismissed as a conservative blowhard, one of those laymen who was, ahem, more Catholic than the pope. But the official church has moved far enough to the right that Donohue now speaks for its mainstream.
And what you learn if you listen to the Catholic Church in the plain language of Bill Donohue is that it is not about to change direction. Not in this century. The parishioners who hope for a kinder, more inclusive church, the nuns who are now being rebuked by the Vatican because they have doubts on subjects like gay marriage and the ordination of women — the church’s message to them is: Shut up or go.
Face it, even at the high-water mark of contemporary church reform, the Vatican II council, issues like the stained-glass ceiling and intolerance of gays were not really on the table. And that tide was been receding for nearly 50 years. Indeed, the church’s 1960s effort to engage the modern world is now regarded in the current Curia as part of an era of degenerate individualism — Woodstock, Stonewall, Vatican II — that is blamed for all kinds of deviant outcomes, including the scandal of priests who can’t keep it in their cassocks.
Donohue notes that roughly a quarter of Americans identify themselves as Catholic. He reckons maybe half of those, the more conservative half, attend church regularly and contribute. “They’re the ones who pay the bills,” he said. “Can we afford to ignore the other half? I think we can.” And as for the unsettled religious orders, the nuns and priests who vowed allegiance and now preach dissent, why should the church put up with insubordination?
“Do we have more than a handful of nuns who have totally lost their moorings?” Donohue mused. “Oh, yeah.”
His point: “Quite frankly I believe, as Pope Benedict the XVIth said just before he became pope, that maybe a smaller church would be a better church.”
Much as I wish I could encourage the discontented, the Catholics of open minds and open hearts, to stay put and fight the good fight, this is a lost cause. Donohue is right. Summon your fortitude, and just go. If you are not getting the spiritual sustenance you need, if you are uneasy being part of an institution out of step with your conscience — then go. The restive nuns who are planning a field trip to Rome for a bit of dialogue? Be assured, unless you plan to grovel, no one will be listening. Sisters, just go. Bill Donohue will hold the door for you.
Go where? Well, the history of Christianity is filled with schisms and offshoots. Last spring I attended Sunday Mass at a breakaway church called Spiritus Christi in Rochester, a congregation that describes itself as “Catholic, not Roman Catholic.” Spiritus Christi has a female pastor and began performing gay marriages long before the State of New York legalized them. Mass was packed with as joyous a crowd of worshipers as I have ever seen. I could imagine hundreds of Spiritus Christis — and leave it to the theologians to debate whether the Vatican or these defectors have the stronger claim to being the authentic heirs of St. Peter.
This is, admittedly, easy for me to say. I have not spent my life in a religious order, embracing vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. So I called someone who speaks with more authority about what it costs to leave the church. Sister Margie Henninger was expelled from the Order of St. Joseph and excommunicated for affiliating with those not-Roman Catholics in Rochester. She now runs a recovery house for the drug- and alcohol-afflicted.
“It was certainly painful, after 42 years,” she told me. “I lost my community. I lost my home. I lost so much. But, God being God, I gained much more.”
At 71, Sister Margie feels deeply Catholic, very much in harmony with her conscience, and happy. And of the Roman church she left behind, she says: “It almost has to completely come apart before something new and beautiful can spring up.”
There are many nuns who hold fast to the church out of genuine devotion. But there are others who stay out of fear — fear that they will grow old alone, fear of penury and homelessness, fear of losing purpose.
Thankfully, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has offered us one possible remedy for this problem. As Laurie Goodstein documented in The Times recently, when he was archbishop of Milwaukee Dolan authorized payments of up to $20,000 to predator priests if they agreed to leave the clergy without resisting. He described this as “an act of charity.” Bill Donohue calls it “a severance package.”
I suggest that any long-serving nun who has come to find church teachings incompatible with her conscience should be offered a generous severance. We could call these acts of charity “Dolan Grants.” Surely a church that offers a lifeline to men who brought disgrace on the institution can offer a living stipend to women who brought it honor at great sacrifice.
Mr. Keller, I would suggest that you go back and actually read the Gospels. And then ask Maureen Dowd what she thinks of Mr. Donahue. And then go and sit down in the corner and STFU. Here’ss Prof. Krugman:
Ever since Greece hit the skids, we’ve heard a lot about what’s wrong with everything Greek. Some of the accusations are true, some are false — but all of them are beside the point. Yes, there are big failings in Greece’s economy, its politics and no doubt its society. But those failings aren’t what caused the crisis that is tearing Greece apart, and threatens to spread across Europe.
No, the origins of this disaster lie farther north, in Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin, where officials created a deeply — perhaps fatally — flawed monetary system, then compounded the problems of that system by substituting moralizing for analysis. And the solution to the crisis, if there is one, will have to come from the same places.
So, about those Greek failings: Greece does indeed have a lot of corruption and a lot of tax evasion, and the Greek government has had a habit of living beyond its means. Beyond that, Greek labor productivity is low by European standards — about 25 percent below the European Union average. It’s worth noting, however, that labor productivity in, say, Mississippi is similarly low by American standards — and by about the same margin.
On the other hand, many things you hear about Greece just aren’t true. The Greeks aren’t lazy — on the contrary, they work longer hours than almost anyone else in Europe, and much longer hours than the Germans in particular. Nor does Greece have a runaway welfare state, as conservatives like to claim; social expenditure as a percentage of G.D.P., the standard measure of the size of the welfare state, is substantially lower in Greece than in, say, Sweden or Germany, countries that have so far weathered the European crisis pretty well.
So how did Greece get into so much trouble? Blame the euro.
Fifteen years ago Greece was no paradise, but it wasn’t in crisis either. Unemployment was high but not catastrophic, and the nation more or less paid its way on world markets, earning enough from exports, tourism, shipping and other sources to more or less pay for its imports.
Then Greece joined the euro, and a terrible thing happened: people started believing that it was a safe place to invest. Foreign money poured into Greece, some but not all of it financing government deficits; the economy boomed; inflation rose; and Greece became increasingly uncompetitive. To be sure, the Greeks squandered much if not most of the money that came flooding in, but then so did everyone else who got caught up in the euro bubble.
And then the bubble burst, at which point the fundamental flaws in the whole euro system became all too apparent.
Ask yourself, why does the dollar area — also known as the United States of America — more or less work, without the kind of severe regional crises now afflicting Europe? The answer is that we have a strong central government, and the activities of this government in effect provide automatic bailouts to states that get in trouble.
Consider, for example, what would be happening to Florida right now, in the aftermath of its huge housing bubble, if the state had to come up with the money for Social Security and Medicare out of its own suddenly reduced revenues. Luckily for Florida, Washington rather than Tallahassee is picking up the tab, which means that Florida is in effect receiving a bailout on a scale no European nation could dream of.
Or consider an older example, the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, which was largely a Texas affair. Taxpayers ended up paying a huge sum to clean up the mess — but the vast majority of those taxpayers were in states other than Texas. Again, the state received an automatic bailout on a scale inconceivable in modern Europe.
So Greece, although not without sin, is mainly in trouble thanks to the arrogance of European officials, mostly from richer countries, who convinced themselves that they could make a single currency work without a single government. And these same officials have made the situation even worse by insisting, in the teeth of the evidence, that all the currency’s troubles were caused by irresponsible behavior on the part of those Southern Europeans, and that everything would work out if only people were willing to suffer some more.
Which brings us to Sunday’s Greek election, which ended up settling nothing. The governing coalition may have managed to stay in power, although even that’s not clear (the junior partner in the coalition is threatening to defect). But the Greeks can’t solve this crisis anyway.
The only way the euro might — might — be saved is if the Germans and the European Central Bank realize that they’re the ones who need to change their behavior, spending more and, yes, accepting higher inflation. If not — well, Greece will basically go down in history as the victim of other people’s hubris.