My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at and I have a Facebook page.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Grosswirth & Benedict: A Musical Duo

Dear Blog Visitors:

While Pope Benedict XVI and I have experienced differences in terms of a few church policies, we at least share a profound love of classical music.

As an undergraduate student at the Eastman School of Music in the 1960s, it was my career ambition to become the conductor of a major symphony orchestra. While I did very well with my conducting studies, I was not as proficient with the piano.

Anyone who has aspirations toward the conducting podium must be equally proficient with the piano; unfortunately, my piano skills were not good enough to cast me into the highly competitive conducting pool. However, I did manage to win a conducting competition in the 60s that resulted in my guest-conducting the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in Rochester's Eastman Theatre. I also did a minimal amount of conducting thereafter.

Pope Benedict would be pleased to know that for many years, my wife (Brenda) and I were able to utilize our musical skills in the church. (Brenda has her masters in performance in organ from the Eastman School of Music.) Brenda and I often played together, with Brenda on organ and myself on trumpet (my primary instrument). I was also a cantor and Brenda & I played with handbell choirs as well. However, in recent years, financial realities have caused Brenda and I to focus on our secular jobs, whereby our musical instruments have been gathering dust.

Just as I had moderate sucess in the conducting field, Joseph Ratzinger, before ascending through the ranks of the Catholic hierarchy to his present papacy, was a very accomplished classical pianist.

If you watch the video that follows, I mention the fact that despite the differences between the pontiff and myself, there is nothing I would like better than to conduct a concerto with Benedict XVI as soloist. However, the reality is that this is not going to happen, due to our age and distance from our musical pasts.

In any event, here is the video:

Friday, January 30, 2009

Clint Eastwood Receives Special Award

Dear Blog Visitors:

From time-to-time, I will offer a posting in the entertainment category, especially since I am a life-long film buff.

I am deeply pleased that my favorite actor/director, Clint Eastwood, was honored at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. I am equally pleased that Sean Penn presented the award to him. (Clint directed Sean in 'Mystic River,' for which he received an academy award for best actor.)

I am obviously disappointed that Clint didn't receive a best actor nomination by the Motion Picture academy for his terrific job in 'Gran Torino.' However, I want you to see the video I made prior to the Academy Award nominations, in which I both pitched 'Gran Torino' and highlighted a few other notable films Clint has given us over the years.

Following the video, you will find an article that details the award Clint Eastwood received in Santa Barbara. I am especially delighted that Clint is in good health and will be providing us with more film-work in the future.

Here is the video, followed by the article:

Clint Eastwood honored at Santa Barbara International Film Festival
updated 11:59 a.m. ET, Fri., Jan. 30, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009
Reported by: Melissa Mecija

A living Hollywood legend walks the red carpet at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival to receive its highest honor.

Thursday night, Clint Eastwood took home the Modern Master Award for all of his movie accomplishments throughout the years.

Eastwood made a grand entrance at the festival by hopping over the barrier amidst his screaming fans.
"Yeah, I was in with the group," Eastwood joked. "I stay with the crowd."

Eastwood has been to the festival before as a presenter. This time, he received the biggest honor for his decades of work. However, you can bet his time in film is far from over.

"There's a ton of people I haven't worked with. That's a fun thing about making movies. There's a lot of people, there's a lot of new parts that come along you need faces for," Eastwood said.

Renowned film critic Leonard Maltin sat down for a conversation with Eastwood. The 78 year old remembered back to when he first started, getting paid about $75 a week. "I wanted to learn as much as I could and work in pictures. I took any job that come along," Eastwood admitted.

Sean Penn, who worked with Eastwood in the 2003 movie "Mystic River" presented the Modern Master Award to his former director. "He's just been somebody I'm very grateful to have had a chance to work with and nobody can be called master like Clint, so it's an appropropriate honor," Penn said.

Eastwood has said Gran Torino is probably his last acting role, but he also said Thursday night, "You're never too old to learn."

Santa Barbara International Film Festival ends February 1.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Some Humor Amidst the Seriousness

Dear Blog Visitors:

If you have been a frequent visitor to this blog, you have found that most of my postings deal with the serious business of church-reform and related theology/history/reflection. However, I feel it is good for the soul to lighten-up on occasion, such as I did when I was part of a radio program in the 1970s. (I hope to provide some of my radio tapes to an audio site in the near future.)

I hope you will find at least a little bit of humor in the three videos that follow. The first two are somewhat of a spoof on exercise videos, my focus being simple exercises priests can do in the comfort of their rectories. (Sadly, priests have little time for exercise these days, so I used a little humor to prod them into getting into a routine.) The third video utilizes music by Leroy Anderson - namely, "The Typewriter." In this particular video, I am typing letters to bishops with the musical background.

Without further delay, here are the three videos:

Remembering Bishop Bernard McQuaid

Dear Blog Visitors:

Our local newspaper ran a feature article by Bob Marcotte a few days ago on the late Rochester Bishop, Bernard McQuaid. The article was well-written in that it focused on many of McQuaid's accomplishments during his historic tenure, inclusive of his creating the very first organized Catholic School system in the United States.

An interesting bit of information that was not provided in Bob Marcotte's article is the fact that while Bishop McQuaid was fiercely loyal to Rome, he nevertheless displayed notable independence when his conscience dictated that he do so. A classic example was his decision to abstain from voting on the infallibility of the pope during Vatican I deliberations. (He was only one of two American bishops to abstain.) In retrospect, his decision was correct, for the doctrine of infallibility has only been used once since its inception - namely, the infallible decree that Mary was assumed into heaven.

Many have incorrectly stated that Pope John Paul II declared infallibly that women cannot be ordained. At most, it was a definitive statement, but not infallible. Bishop McQuaid had the insight to realize that popes being human, are subject to possible error. Therefore, papal infallibility continues to be a topic that causes much controversy and debate.

In a video I made last Spring, you are able to see a grand structure erected during the tenure of Bishop Bernard McQuaid. It is the old St. Bernard's Seminary. (The buildings are now used as a senior housing complex.)

My thanks to Bishop McQuaid for being a trailblazer in the history of American Catholicism. Here is the video I made that displays the structure that once housed St. Bernard's seminary. In addition, I have also included a video I made at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, which is adjacent to the grounds of St. Bernard's.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Prayers for President Obama

Dear Blog Visitors:

I have produced a participatory video in which you can respond to prayers for President Obama. After each prayer intention, the response is "Lord Hear Our Prayer."

Here is the text of the prayer intentions:

For peace in our world, that President Barack Obama is able to bridge differences that have brought despair to God's people. We pray to the Lord.


For Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that she serves President Obama well and that nations of the world come to see the United States as a beacon of democracy. We pray to the Lord.


For those who have suffered the ravages of an economic downturn, that President Obama is able to bring about relief through new job initiatives and banking regulations. We pray to the Lord.


For an end to the plague of racism that has dominated our nation's landscape for too many years. We pray to the Lord.


For President Obama's family, that they be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world's families. We pray to the Lord.


For all who feel marginalized, that President Barack Obama will give courage to each American, so that a person's value will not be based upon economic status, gender or sexual orientation. We pray to the Lord.


For all religions of the world, that President Obama will invite Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Budhists, and other multi-faceted faith groups to the White House on a regular basis for dialogue. We pray to the Lord.


For Native American Indians, that President Obama will promise to safeguard their ancient burial grounds and personal dignity. We pray to the Lord.


For our environment, that President Obama will support all measures that lean toward cleaner air and safe products. We pray to the Lord.


For success in Barack Obama's attempts to bring political parties together for the betterment of our country and world. We pray to the Lord.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Excellent Article by Douglas W. Kmiec

Dear Blog Visitors:

For the most part, I like to write my own articles for this blog. However, on occasion, I like to present an article that is well-written by another author.

What follows is an outstanding article by Douglas W. Kmiec, who is the Caruso Family Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University School of Law. When you read this wonderful piece, you will know immediately why I have posted it.

Like myself, Professor Kmiec has been targeted by right-wing Catholic bloggers. In my case, I have been attacked for the simple reason that I wish to bring reform to the Roman Catholic Church, i.e., the ordination of women and married men. In the case of Professor Kmiec, he has been attacked for the simple reason that he is a Catholic Republican who supports Barack Obama.

A rough estimate indicates that right-wing Catholic bloggers only stand for the beliefs of approximately 3-5% of our nation's Catholic population. For the most part, they post on blogs anonymously, so they can't be sued for slander or hauled into courts for issuing threats. I suspect that the same cowardly bloggers who have called Professor Kmiec names are the same individuals who have called me names. The reason for my suspicion? Kmiec and I have been called the exact, same names by the anonymous bloggers.

Without further delay, here is the magnificent article by Douglas W. Kmiec, who by the way, is on a short list of individuals being considered for the post of ambassador to the Vatican:

January 16, 2009 / Volume CXXXVI, Number 1 ARTICLE

A Tangled Web
The Election & the Blogosphere

Douglas W. Kmiec

Now the great and historic election is behind us, and America watches, amid an economy in free fall, as the president-elect assembles his team. By the strength of its appointments and the steadiness of its demeanor, the administration-in-waiting has demonstrated its readiness to govern. Such strength and steadiness helped boost Barack Obama’s remarkable victory in November, a victory that included capturing 54 percent of the Catholic vote.

Yet not everyone in America is cheered by this triumph. Indeed, within certain embittered precincts, the penalty for having supported Obama can be stiff. As the author of a book whose title asked Can a Catholic Support Him?-and whose contents answered with an enthusiastic “Yes, we can!”-I have felt the animosity of those with an insatiable desire for political payback.

A longtime Republican who served in the Reagan administration, I nonetheless endorsed Obama last spring. Ever since, I’ve been subjected to unrelenting personal attacks launched from right-wing Catholic keyboards-blogs (and bloggers) so coarse and uncivil they make the insults of talk radio sound like actual journalism. Further, the lack of civility that rules the right-wing Catholic blogosphere has infected mainstream Catholic journalism as well. In a syndicated assessment of the 2008 election, one usually thoughtful conservative columnist employed the following descriptions of Catholic Obama supporters: “decadent,” “tribal,” “immoral,” “certainly stupid,” “mindless,” and in need of basic “adult education.” And those were all in a single paragraph! Such highly concentrated rhetorical venom is not calculated to invite discussion.

Of course, bloggers deny there is anything “personal” in such attacks. My online tormentors like to claim that their beef with me is my alleged abandonment of the prolife cause or willful misstatement of church teaching. Neither charge is true. I remain unabashedly prolife and I have never consciously misstated the doctrine of the church; indeed, I’ve publicly said that were the Holy Father to tell me I had contradicted the magisterium on any given page of my Obama book, I would tear out that page.

No, the real problem with the blogospheric reaction to Obama lay in the responses themselves, which all too often mixed the smallest dollop of substance into a big steaming stew of personal contempt. As the vilification of Catholic Obama supporters progressed over the months, it became something of a bloggers’ sport to conjure up ridiculous explanations for what was wrongly described as my “apostasy.” Bloggers asserted I was angling for a judicial spot (strange, when I had already declined appointment to the appellate bench twice); another imagined me distressed over some apparent snub by George W. Bush or John McCain (not true, unless it be distress that one governed badly and the other promised to “stay the course”). One online source even speculated that I had suffered a stroke.

Noting my continued good health, the editors of Commonweal invited this essay which I submit even as I acknowledge the wisdom of Sr. Pius’s eighth-grade counsel: “Douglas, just offer it up!” That was good advice; and indeed I have at times considered the blog calumnies hurled at me as penance for occasions when I have put on a bit of a false front. We all want to be perceived as intelligent, kindly, and well considered, and we all occasionally speak too glibly for our own good-as I did, for example, representing Obama on the campaign trail while chastising him for his criticism of Justice Clarence Thomas; or suggesting, out loud and even on camera, that his one-time pledge of support for the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) during the primary was “boneheaded.” These are not politic statements, but unlike most blog entries, they represent honest, substantive dissent illustrating how it is possible for a person to be capable of admiring both Barack Obama and Clarence Thomas, and of supporting Obama while rejecting legislation that would in any way limit religious freedom or insult the church. (My message to President Obama on FOCA, by the way, will remain what it was to candidate Obama: FOCA runs contrary to the pursuit of the common good.)

This essay is not about abortion, but at least this much must be said: blog lies to the contrary, there is no real legislative interest in FOCA. The attempt to use FOCA to drive a wedge between the church and the incoming administration is unjustified. The bishops, having stated clearly their opposition to FOCA-and rightly so-should not allow the right wing to obscure what Obama shares with the church: concern for the poor; support for the average family; a commitment to ending an unjust war; and respect for our environment. Unless the sore losers of November 4 manage to poison the well, the Holy See and the Obama administration should be working more closely together in service to others than any administration in modern memory.

Having drawn the blogs’ Machiavellian FOCA gambit into the open, I am certain now to be called, yet again, a “useful idiot” (or worse) in service to the new president. Such a prospect returns me to the subject of blog caricature and its consequences. While I may have felt personally wounded in the free-for-all that followed my endorsement of Obama, I never thought it was mainly about me. The scurrilous remarks of conservative bloggers missed the point, which was that I and millions of others who voted for Obama did so not despite our Catholic faith but because of it. When, in a meeting of faith leaders in Chicago, Obama told me that his community work years before, helping the displaced and the unemployed, left him empty until he knelt before the Cross, I believed him. As a Catholic, I understood that it is our faith that explains us to ourselves. No politics or philosophy or relationship is launched well when faith is missing; and I did not (and do not) doubt the genuineness of Obama’s Christian faith commitment.

The president-elect’s alluring gift of inspiration has been noted by many, and while conservative bloggers demean it as “mere rhetoric” or “drinking the Kool-Aid,” others of us prize it as a talent that has been sorely absent for eight years or more. From Berlin to Denver’s Mile High Stadium to Grant Park, Obama does big campaign rallies exceptionally well. At these vast assemblies, his message of working together on common ground draws deeply on the nobility of other, past leaders who called us to reach beyond ourselves. Lingering beneath his cadences are the charitable and prophetic words of Lincoln. One also hears FDR’s instruction to stand forthright against fear, and John F. Kennedy’s call to service, reminding us that “here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.” Finally, there is the tearful remorse of RFK following Dr. King’s assassination (and not long before his own), reminding us of the senselessness of violence and hate.

A hate-filled blogosphere, on the other hand, feeds a politics of odium, misleading people of faith and good will, diminishing and at times obliterating our ability to know one another. Our faith urges us to presume the stranger is kind, and to seek out opportunities to manifest love of neighbor. Sadly, neighbor-love is not what has overwhelmed my in-box since my Obama endorsement. Instead, right-wing blogs and their readers have launched missiles of hate, delivering ad hominem invective of an astonishing vehemence and crassness. I am “an embarrassing shill,” “hysterical,” and “pathetic”; also “a fool,” “an Obama shill of such mystifying obtuseness that one suspects a head injury,” “a slimeball,” “an unfaithful, cowardly betrayer”; just “another so-called Christian who flashes a Bible and looks righteous to the pagans,” and so on. “I hear,” wrote one Catholic blogger, cutely summoning the gospel, “that Sen. Obama will be FedExing thirty pieces of silver to Doug Kmiec.”

Beyond mere personal affronts, the politics of odium has more tangible consequences. Last fall I had the privilege of speaking at a beautiful Catholic college, Seton Hill, in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Acting on blog misinformation, the well-meaning local bishop sought to bar my appearance, placing a letter to that effect on his Web site. As it turned out, I didn’t know this until after the event-a wonderful afternoon of community and classroom discussion with well- prepared students eager to discuss how to live their faith in the light of Catholic social teaching. Only hours afterward, seated on an airplane about to take off, did I learn (through a telephone call) of the bishop’s Web post. Immediately I dialed the chancery. The bishop, surprised by the call, listened, and I believe he heard both the sincerity of my faith and the depth of my respect for the magisterium. He gracefully removed his Web posting within the hour.

Of course, by then the letter was already beginning to circulate virally, spread by the venomous right-wing blogs. To be remade by a hateful blogosphere has its price, I’ve learned. I worry that such invitations to speak at Catholic colleges, and the fruitful exchanges these invitations make possible, will be fewer. When I do speak, contingents of demonstrators often appear, carrying preprinted signs, part of an orchestrated pressure to disinvite me. In response, it is my practice to invite the protesters to join us, and they usually do. Yet civil discourse can be difficult with those misinformed by blog propaganda that you are a proponent of evil-or worse, its very embodiment. Such attitudes are not limited to placard- carrying demonstrators. One member of the U.S. hierarchy whom I greatly admire has renounced our past association, writing, “We are not friends, professor,” and answering my invocation of Christian brotherhood with a curt retort: “I do see you as a brother in Christ-a brother who is serving an evil end.” The greatest personal price I have paid is the loss of old-and the preemption of new-friendships.

The vituperation propagated in the Catholic blogging world is remarkable for its reach and speed. When a writer for America recently speculated that the Obama administration might name me as ambassador to the Holy See, I was flattered. And while I would never want my presidential endorsement months earlier to be understood as anything other than what it always was-freely given without expectation of quid pro quo-the writer’s suggestion did prompt me to seek God’s will through prayer. Might this be an invitation to be of greater service to the church? Neither God nor the president-elect had an opportunity to answer before the blogs were recycling their various calumnies, and adding now an anonymous voice allegedly saying “it would never happen.” And why not? Well, according to “anonymous,” now sounding suspiciously partisan, the Vatican would view me as a “traitor,” with my appointment being the equivalent of naming a homosexual-presumably meaning that as an insult, notwithstanding its own insensitivity and disregard of church efforts at inclusion. Facing down such ugliness can be daunting. A writer for the National Catholic Reporter threw up his hands, editorializing that “it might be less complicated to name” a non-Catholic. With all due respect, that would be the ultimate “heckler’s veto,” and it is far from the stand many Catholics took in speaking the truth of the gospel to the power of an American president over the unjustified and tragically costly occupation of Iraq.

All of the world’s overheated overstatement cannot be blamed on the blogs, of course, but the blogosphere’s megaphone quality magnifies unfortunate remarks best left in more limited, and usually more nuanced, contexts. During the election campaign, Archbishop Raymond Burke called the Democratic Party “the party of death,” an expression deeply hurtful to my octogenarian father and millions of other lifelong Democrats who still see the Democratic Party as Leo XIII saw it-the “working man’s” party. The situation worsened when bloggers exported from the student newspaper a classroom remark of Cardinal Francis Stafford at The Catholic University of America describing some of the policies of the president-elect as “aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic.” With admirable restraint, the Obama administration has kept its puzzlement and disappointment with these blog-spread commentaries to itself.

Of course, faith calls upon us all to “turn the other cheek” to ridicule and hatred, and like the president-elect, I am resolved to do so as well. In 1920, Benedict XV put the instruction this way in Pacem, Dei munus pulcherrimum: “We are to...forgive all our enemies who knowingly or unknowingly have heaped and are still heaping on our person and our work every sort of vituperation, and we embrace all in our charity and benevolence, and neglect no opportunity to do them all the good in our power.” That, said Benedict XV, “is what makes Christians worthy of the name.” It is also the central precept of international relations, and whoever takes up the diplomatic post, whether me or someone else, is well advised to be guided by it if the world is ever to be at peace.

In a September campaign appearance on Meet the Press, Joe Biden explained that while he believed life begins at conception, he couldn’t impose that belief on others. Biden likely thought himself right with the church (though having been present for Mario Cuomo’s similar pronouncement at Notre Dame in 1984, I could have told him otherwise). Probably thinking he would at least get a holy card for his faith-based answer, he instead got his hand slapped, and was subsequently told by the archbishop of Denver not to bother showing up for Communion when in town for the Democratic convention. I know from experience the pain of being refused the Eucharist, having been denied Communion at a Mass preceding an invited lecture before a group of Catholic business people. The priest had apparently bought the blogosphere’s cynical distortion of my pro-Obama position. Cardinal Roger Mahony would later find the priest’s action to be “shameful and indefensible.”

Cardinals Mahony, Theodore McCarrick, and others have warned against using Communion as a weapon, for good reason. Indeed, even the mere threat of Eucharist denial aimed at Biden unleashed a wave of giddy right-wing blog invective, precisely when-and where-it should have invited discussion. The invective supplies no answer to those of other faiths who do not see themselves as bound by the magisterium, or who are unwilling to accept the move from a biological fact (that the human zygote formed at conception is a unique life) to a broader ethical conclusion (that we should use the force of law to protect it). These points of difference are regularly missed by bloggers who freely hurl the label “baby killer” at anyone who does not readily concede the equivalence of zygote destruction and infanticide.

Putting the ill consequence of blog name-calling aside, in a post-Holocaust world, you have to admire the Catholic faith for insisting on that equivalence, and thereby recognizing the need for absolute truth to exist. Politically, though, there remains one big difficulty: the American Constitution is not linked to a concession of absolute truth. It is the Declaration of Independence that is anchored upon self-evident truth, and the relation between the two documents is virtually unexplored in the Supreme Court. Indeed, only Justice Thomas has really thought about it seriously, hence my admiration.

Does Barack Obama believe in the truth of the human person? Not surprisingly, he values the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence-even as he argues that the deliberative democracy established by our Constitution casts suspicion upon a claim of absolute truth. The founders, Obama observes, uniformly rejected all forms of absolute authority, whether that of the monarch, the high priest, or the majority. And yet, as John Paul II told us, democracy detached from absolute truth can be little more than another form of totalitarianism. Obama has similarly observed that absolutists can be correct-as the blunt wrong of slavery illustrates. “Sometimes,” Obama notes, “absolute truths may well be absolute.”

To reconcile the pragmatism of democracy with claims of truth requires that our minds be nourished by wide perspectives discussed freely and respectfully; it requires a heart full of grace, not anger. Within our own Catholic community, we need to bear in mind one further caution from our new president: that claiming public territory outside the church requires persuasion, not intimidation or force. Translating particularistic faith beliefs into rational argument is the stuff of democracy. “I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons,” Obama said during the campaign, “but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or [invoke] God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”

Of course, that is the very reason Cardinal Justin Rigali and Bishop William Lori were so quick to remind candidate Biden of the scientific basis for the church’s life perspective. Indeed one might ask, with the church having brought forth its scientific claim in so forthright and objective a manner as it has in modern encyclicals, is it not proper for the burden of evidence now to shift to those who, for religious or nonreligious reasons, believe unfettered abortion ought to be permitted? It is a valid question; and were the right-wing Catholic blogs not so preoccupied with demonizing me and other brothers and sisters in Christ who backed our president-elect, perhaps the question would receive some competent discussion. As it is, however, right-wing Catholic bloggers, acting as a thinly disguised political front for the GOP, remain fixated on the goal of precipitating an unnecessary war between the Holy See and America’s next administration. It is dismaying to see a few American prelates and their “anonymous” Vatican commentators acting as witting or unwitting coconspirators in this divisive action.

It’s hard to know what understanding of the United States filters upward through the Vatican to reach the pope. What’s certain is that the statement of the Holy Father that came across the ocean just after the U.S. bishops met in Baltimore in November was warmly welcomed by those assembling the new Obama administration. Speaking movingly to a conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Assistance to Health Care Workers on the theme of “Pastoral Care of Sick Children,” Benedict XVI noted that every year some 4 million newborns around the world die within four weeks after birth, often because of poverty, poor health-care systems, and armed conflict. He called this a matter of “urgent” concern. “The church does not forget these smallest of her children,” the pope said. And neither does our president-elect, which is also why he believes that aiding expectant mothers in poverty, and not condemning them, will reduce the number of abortions.

The president-elect does not share our faith, and like many modern men, he can be skeptical about aspects of the divine that we, because of the sacraments and the magisterium, are blessed to accept. But the blogs have not closed the mind of the new president and, like Lincoln, he bears “malice toward none” and manifests “charity for all.”

Obama himself has written that the golden rule tells us that we “need to battle cruelty in all its forms, [with] the value of love and charity, humanity and grace.” Even spinning a pervasive web of falsehood, the right-wing Catholic blogosphere is no match for the self-evident truth of that golden rule-nor would its bloggers want to be, were they to indulge a microsecond of charitable thought before hitting the send button.


Douglas W. Kmiec
Douglas W. Kmiec is Caruso Family Chair & Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University School of Law.


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Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Anniversary Celebration & New Ventures

Dear Blog Visitors:

I would like to share one of my recent articles with you. This particular one was published in the January/February 2009 issue of 'CORPUS Reports.' If you have not visited the CORPUS website, be sure to do so. The address is Amongst the menu items at the site, you will find my monthly audio address.

In the article that follows, I address the tenth anniversary of Spiritus Christi Church, my new ventures in YouTube and a my reflection on the next twenty years.

Here is the article:

By Ray Grosswirth, CORPUS Media Liaison
January/February edition of 'CORPUS Reports'

It has been a few months since I wrote an article for CORPUS Reports. So, I thought it was about time for me to pull up a chair in front of the keyboard, so I can give you an update on my latest activities.

This article will be divided into three sections: 1.) The Tenth Anniversary of Spiritus Christi Church; 2.) My Adventures with YouTube; 3.) A Reflection on the Next Twenty Years.


I was greatly honored to receive a phone call from Rev. Jim Callan of Spiritus Christi Church in September. He indicated to me that the church was going to celebrate its tenth anniversary with an all-inclusive liturgy, whereby Jim invited me to concelebrate. Of course, I accepted the invitation with great enthusiasm.

The 10th anniversary liturgy was a wonderful experience for all who attended and participated. Members of the clergy were inclusive of Jim Callan, Mary Ramerman and Denise Donato from Spiritus Christi. Additionally, there were male and female pastors from a variety of Protestant churches present, in addition to multiple married priests and women priests, including yours truly.

Following the opening procession, each member of the clergy had an opportunity to extend a greeting to the Spiritus Christi community. I extended my greeting on behalf of CORPUS and the Federation of Christian Ministries. I also had an opportunity to extend a final blessing on behalf of CORPUS.

It was a very special moment for me when Mary Ramerman stepped up the microphone to acknowledge the fact that Rochester’s Bishop Matthew Clark is a very nice man and indicated that just as Spiritus Christi continues to pray for him every week, she knows that he continues to pray for the Spiritus Christi community as well. I was heartened by Mary’s good will, because I continue to hold Bishop Clark in very high esteem, for he is one of the few pastoral bishops left in the ranks of the hierarchy.

I recall that when Spiritus Christi began ten years ago, skeptics gave the community one or two years at most. Well, ten years later, the community continues to grow. In addition, to its primary location in Rochester, Spiritus Christi has started communities in Elmira, New York and Buffalo, New York.

I truly see Spiritus Christi as the wave of the future (parishes where there is no discrimination on the basis of gender, marital status or sexual orientation).

If you would like to extend a 10th anniversary greeting to Spiritus Christi, by all means visit their website at


One of the reasons I haven’t been doing much writing lately is my new-found hobby of making videos for YouTube. It has been a process of trial and error. Depending upon the message I am delivering, I occasionally dress in clerical clothing; other times I dress in either casual attire or a suit and tie. Of course, since I can’t resist being a ham in front of a camera, I occasionally venture into the world of comedy, so I can offer some variety to viewers who want to see more than serious theological/pastoral messages.

I have had both positive and negative experiences on YouTube. (By the way, my channel can be accessed at You need to have a high-speed connection in order to watch videos.) On the positive side, I have been able to connect with Catholics of all age groups. On the negative side, I occasionally get criticized by what I like to refer to as the EWTN crowd (mostly conservative young people in their twenties or thirties who would rather watch devotional videos than the reform-minded messages I deliver on a regular basis).

There does seem to be an audience for videos dealing with church reform. Correspondingly, I would love to hear from CORPUS members who may have some creative ideas for me to try, in an attempt to draw attention to the efforts underway to change the face of the Roman Catholic Church.


I now have a homework assignment for CORPUS members. Your assignment is to imagine what the Roman Catholic church might look like in twenty years. For that matter, what will CORPUS look like in twenty years?

I think it would be fascinating if members of CORPUS would write creative articles that envision the future. Who knows? Perhaps we can influence Vatican officials who seem to be in a state of gridlock.

As I ponder the future, I realize that as I approach the age of 60, I am one of the younger members of our organization. So, if we want CORPUS to continue its vitality for another twenty years, we need to come up with ways to attract some younger persons who will be able to carry the ball for us when we are no longer able to do so.

During our joint conference last July in Boston, I was struck by the number of young women who have recently joined the Women’s Ordination Conference. I was also struck by the energy and enthusiasm they have for reform initiatives. It is therefore my hope CORPUS can also draw some young folks to the table. This would certainly make the Vatican nervous, because our cardinals actually believe that reformers are going to fade away.


I often think of CORPUS as an extended family. I therefore want to wish all of you in this extended family a very blessed Christmas and New Year.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Richard McBrien Featured in Boston Globe

Dear Blog Visitors:

I want to extend my best wishes for 2009. Considering everything occuring in the Roman Catholic Church, I hope this will be the year Pope Benedict XVI sees fit to convene Vatican III.

As we look back at the late 1950s, the church was in the midst of heated debates, which encouraged John XXIII to convene Vatican II in 1962. We are in a similar heated period now, whereby written and verbal warfare exists between conservative and liberal forces within Roman Catholicism. Perhaps what is needed is a centrist church, whereby both sides of the aisle can reach constructive compromise.

Whenever I am asked who my contemporary Catholic role models are, I always mention Rev. Richard McBrien. I am therefore pleased that the Boston Globe ran the article that follows my comments.

May God bless all of you in 2009.

Ray Grosswirth

A talk with The Rev. Richard P. McBrien
Life as a theologian, commentator - and lightning rod

By Michael Paulson | December 28, 2008

CATHOLICISM IN AMERICA is riven by internal debates - often about gender, sexuality, and authority - and seemingly unending controversies, about politics and parish closings and the handling of sexual abuse. Whenever one of these battles catches the attention of the evening news, one of the likely commentators is the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame who is one of the most visible interpreters of Catholicism to the American public.

McBrien has helped translate the arcana of Catholic history and teaching to an increasingly religiously uneducated America, editing the single-volume Encyclopedia of Catholicism, and penning two popular reference texts, "Lives of the Popes" and "Lives of the Saints."

But McBrien has also become a lightning rod for criticism because of his outspoken support for women's ordination and married priests and his willingness to sharply criticize bishops and popes. And he has become persona non grata in some quarters - his theology column, which he has written since 1966, is barred from many diocesan papers, and his commentary has won him the ire of many conservatives. The Rev. John T. Zuhlsdorf, a popular conservative blogger, recently referred to McBrien as a "heresiarch," meaning a leader of heretics.

A priest of the Hartford archdiocese, McBrien taught for a decade at Boston College before moving to Notre Dame in 1980. He has just come out with his 25th book, a history of Catholic ecclesiology called, simply, "The Church," and spoke with Ideas during a visit to Boston.

IDEAS: How would you describe your standing in the church now?

McBRIEN: Well, I'm a theologian and a priest in good standing. What more could I say? I've been around a long time, and I'm not easily disposed of, put it that way, even though some people would like to have had that done.

IDEAS: Your column is not running in some places that it used to run.

McBRIEN: If I had all the papers that once carried the column, I'd have nearly 50 papers, which is a lot in the Catholic market. Don't ask me how many I do have, because I never really know, but I have a relative handful of that number.

IDEAS: What happened?

McBRIEN: As the Catholic hierarchy became more conservative under Pope John Paul II, bishops who were open to a diversity of viewpoints in the church either died or retired, and were replaced, in almost every case, by bishops who were more, let's say, attuned to the desires and intentions of the Holy See. I used to kid, I'd say bishops get points if they drop my column. They get noticed, and then they get promoted eventually, and so forth. I can give you so many examples. I mean, let's take Boston. Cushing was a patron of mine. He liked me, and I liked him. He had his foibles, but we all do. I liked Cardinal Cushing very much. But Medeiros was in, and Medeiros once said to me, 'Richard, what would my mother think if she read your column?' and I said, 'Your eminence, I don't write my column for your mother.' So then it got dropped.

IDEAS: Have you become more liberal or more outspoken over the years?

McBRIEN: No, I don't think so. I don't think of myself in those terms, although it's a relative term. I mean obviously I'm liberal if you define liberal stands as being open to the ordination of women, feeling that abortion shouldn't be a litmus test defining whether one is a good Catholic or not. I'm very much against the policy of a certain handful of bishops to threaten to deny Communion to Catholic Democrats - and they're always Democrats. I think that's counterproductive, and I think it's a mistake, and I also think it's contrary to the policy of the bishops conference.

IDEAS: Why are you such a lightning rod? Whenever I quote you, I get e-mails, and I see bloggers taking after you.

McBRIEN: That's a good question. It might be because I have such a public image. I regard myself as a broad centrist. But to an extreme right-wing person, especially in religion, and within the Catholic Church, a centrist or a center/left person is automatically perceived as an extreme left-wing person, bordering on, if not actually in, heresy. But for every e-mail or blog that you would see that would condemn me . . . I can tell you I got a lot of e-mails and letters from Catholics who said that I had given them hope and that their teenage kids who had been alienated from the church said that, "If there were more priests like the guy we were watching on television, I'd still be a Catholic."

IDEAS: And why don't you leave?

McBRIEN: Because it's my church. It's my home. And I was born in it. I've been a Catholic all my life. And I have affirmation from so many good people. I feel that I have a responsibility to them to continue working at it and doing the best I can.

IDEAS: You're so critical of the bishops, but you don't seem angry.

McBRIEN: I'm critical of the bishops not because I have any gripe against any one of them personally. John Paul II, in the 26 ?? years he was pope, did some good things. [But] the most serious deficiency the late pope had . . . was the poor quality of men he put in the hierarchy. And nowhere was this more obvious than at the height of the sexual abuse scandal in the priesthood. The truth be told, a significant number of bishops . . . including some high-ranking bishops at the time, were gay. I have no problem with people being gay, but the Catholic Church officially does, and it's constantly making statements that are hostile to gays, and they were compromised. They could not exercise leadership because they could not speak comfortably about issues relating to sexuality, because they were conflicted themselves.

IDEAS: Why don't you wear a collar?

McBRIEN: I only wear a collar when I go to my home parish in West Hartford to say Mass on a Sunday when I'm home. My Roman collar is my television uniform. You don't see the apostles with Roman collars on. It's a custom. And the custom in the academic world is that most priests who teach in Catholic colleges and universities wear a tie or just have an open sport shirt.

Michael Paulson covers religion for the Globe
© Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company