Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Two Churches In One Church

How much longer can US Catholicism sustain the increasing tensions between its conservative and liberal believers?

Some news and views from the world of US Catholicism:

1. Students at Seattle’s Matteo Ricci College are occupying the dean’s office, demanding, among other things, her resignation.:

Fiza Mohammad, a 22-year-old senior majoring in humanities, said the tensions have been mounting for months for a couple of reasons.

First, racism and sexism are especially acute at Matteo Ricci because the humanities curriculum is based heavily on Western canon and European classic literature, i.e. stuff that old racist and sexist white guys wrote down, Mohammad said.

“I can count on one hand how many people of color I’ve read in the four years that I’ve been here,” she said.

Here is the list of “demands” these kids are making of the College. Among them:

Dissatisfaction, traumatization, and boredom are realities within our collective MRC experiences, as well as being ridiculed, traumatized, othered, tokenized, and pathologized. These experiences have been profoundly damaging and erasing, with lasting effects on our mental and emotional well-being. Additionally, the curriculum in MRC is unsatisfactory as a Humanities program. For students to have their personal and ancestral voices erased in curriculum and conversation, only to be told that their experiences of pain are insignificant, is psychologically abusive.

Oh lord, make it stop.

It doesn’t stop.

We are diverse, with many different life experiences, also shaped by colonization, U.S. and Western imperialism, neo-liberal politics, and oppression under racist, sexist, classist, heteronormative and homophobic, trans*phobic, queerphobic, ableist, nationalistic, xenophobic systems, which perpetuate conquest, genocide of indigenous peoples, and pervasive systemic inequities. The world in which we live, and the realities of students at Seattle University are vastly complex and worthy of critical study. Our concerns regarding racism, sexism, homophobia, and other manifestations of oppression are not individualized–they are systematically upheld by the college.

Matteo Ricci College is an institution within Seattle University, which is itself a university in the — ahem — “Jesuit tradition.” Let’s see here … a Catholic university, however nominally so, should probably prioritize recruiting Catholic students. Right? Wrong, say these SJWs:

Furthermore, the college has grown out of a tradition of partnering with elite Catholic private schools, greatly shrinking their recruitment pool to the detriment of students of color, low income students, and students with other marginalized identities. Because of the lack of diversity, student experiences of gaslighting and isolation are made more dramatic. In light of these issues, we demand:

  1. That the college actively recruit and support a diverse student population, divesting from its historic relationship with only Catholic private schools. Students welcomed into the college through the Running Start program must be provided with the additional support necessary to engage in University-level classrooms.

  2. The college must stop using the bodies of students of color to advertise diversity. The objectification of these students is an egregious expression of the racism endemic in our college.

    So these kids are demanding that MRC de-Catholicize itself, and calls the actual presence of black people on campus an example of racism (“using the bodies of students of color” — the “black bodies” thing again).

    The self-identified “liberal” reader who sent me this item says:

    As a sixty-something lefty throwback, I do not understand attacking the stated purpose of Seattle University’s Matteo Ricci college. If you don’t want to study immersed in the European classic books, why would you go to that college anyway?

    When I discuss politics with my daughter’s friends, twenty-something women whom I have known all their lives, the mental mismatch becomes apparent between their privilege liberalism and the old school liberalism that I found in Andrew’s old blog.

    2. Nuns who run a San Francisco High School have allowed a trans man to keep his teaching job:

    “This is significant for us; we did not take this lightly,” said Sister Laura Reicks, president of the 16-state region of the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community. “We feel because of our values, the choice was this, but that didn’t mean it was easy.”

    Supporting the dignity of each person — regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identification — aligned with the order’s values, Reicks said Wednesday.

    The decision reflects policy within the West Midwest Community, which sponsors or co-sponsors six high schools.

    3. The small diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska (pop. 97,000) has been punching far, far above its weight in terms of producing new priests for a long time. What’s it like there?:

    According to the Official Catholic Directory and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), Lincoln, NE is the only diocese in the United States to place in the Top 20 for the ratio of ordinands to population in every survey conducted from 1993-2012.

    Despite having a Catholic population of only 97,000, the Lincoln diocese ordained 22 men from 2010-2012. Only seven diocese in the entire country ordained more. One of those, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (with a Catholic population over 4.2 million) ordained 34 men during those same three years. In other words, L.A. only ordained four more men per year on average despite having a population 44X greater than Lincoln.

    Bishop James Conley recently noted that, with this year’s class, the diocese will have ordained 17 men to the priesthood in a 24 month span of time; unheard of in this day and age.

    As of 2012 the diocese had a total of 150 priests serving 134 parishes.

    There is no permanent diaconate program in Lincoln. There are, however, installed acolytes and lectors constituted of lay men.

    There are also 33 Catholic schools, including 6 high schools. One of those high schools, St. Pius X, produced 18 of the 48 men enrolled at St. Gregory the Great Seminary in 2014.

    It’s also interesting to note that 96 percent of students attending diocesan schools are Catholic.

    Many of the schools are staffed by female religious, of which the Diocese of Lincoln boasts 141 sisters from 14 different orders. Many have priests teaching high school theology and often serving as principals as well.

    The article goes on to say that Lincoln has been served by a series of bishops who have been orthodox and open to Catholic tradition. Plus they have worked hard to make Catholic education orthodox and affordable for all Catholics. And it’s working.

    So why don’t more dioceses look to Lincoln for answers? The article goes on:

    No doubt many bishops, priests, and lay faithful would rather forgo a boom in vocations if it means having to reestablish clear divisions between the nave and the sanctuary, or ending such post-conciliar innovations as altar girls or Extraordinary Ministers. The secular push for egalitarianism has been enthusiastically embraced by most bishops these past few decades. It would seem that either pride, or fear, or an agenda that is not exclusively focused on saving souls, is keeping many from reversing course. Or maybe some dioceses simply don’t want orthodox Catholicism.

    We can only hope and pray that more of those within the Church hierarchy humbly and attentively look to Lincoln for some answers. There is a blueprint for rebuilding a vibrant Church, an authentic and thriving Catholicism.

    Look to Lincoln.

    4. Back in 2014, I joined the chorus of conservative Catholics decrying the removal of iconographic images from the parish of Our Saviour, on Park Avenue in Manhattan. These images had been commissioned by its previous pastor, Fr. George Rutler, and removed by its current pastor, Fr. Robert Robbins. I am a fan of Fr. Rutler’s, and reacted strongly to Fr. Robbins’ action.

    Last week, a very conservative Catholic friend who had been involved in the protests met personally with Father Robbins, and tells me that we who had objected to his taking down the images had been wrong. I can’t give details of what was a private conversation, but I know this friend to be quite conservative in his views. If he has changed his mind on this issue, I will accept that, and hereby apologize to Father Robbins.

    OK, aside from No. 4, a point, and a question. It has long been known that since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, many Catholic dioceses have what are informally known among the faithful as liberal parishes, as well as conservative parishes, where the orthodox Catholics tend to congregate. It’s not supposed to be that way, but that’s how it is. I’m wondering at what point — if ever — this coexistence can last. Is schism a realistic possibility? I don’t see it at this point, but when presented with examples like this one from Villanova, and this one, about the pro-transhumanism nun hired by Villanova to teach, I wonder at what point these tensions become too much for the institution to bear.

    Thoughts, Catholic readers?



Want to join the conversation?

Subscribe for as little as $5/mo to start commenting on Rod’s blog.

Join Now