Just Deny It?

October 1999

It’s hard to deny the obvious, but the National Catholic Register seems to want to have a go at it. In “The Dumbbell Feminese Dialect” (New Oxford Notes, Jul.-Aug.), we commented on an article in the Register about the new Lectionary. As we all know, the revised Lectionary introduced a modicum of “inclusive” language into our Scripture readings in church. But the article contended that the Scripture readings “were never changed for the sake of inclusivity.” Denial. Curiously, the primary example of revision given in the article — changing “brothers” to “brothers and sisters” — is precisely a matter of “inclusivizing” scriptural language.

Well, the Register is playing the denial game again. In a “Notification” issued July 13, the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith promulgated its verdict on the investigation of Sr. Jeannine Gramick, S.S.N.D., and Fr. Robert Nugent, S.D.S., regarding their “ministry” to homosexuals — a “gay-positive” ministry that seriously deviated from Catholic doctrine. The “Notification” found against Gramick and Nugent, declaring that they “are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.” But the Register just couldn’t resist the urge to deny the obvious. Reacting to media reports that Gramick and Nugent were “punished,” the Register, in an editorial in its July 25-31 issue, asserted: “But there was no punishment involved….” Oh? If you are permanently prohibited from engaging in a ministry to which you have devoted over 20 years of your life, as in the case of both Gramick and Nugent, you have not been punished? Get real!

Which reminds us of another effort at denial performed by the Register. This one involved the issue of implementing the Holy Father’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which was promulgated to make sure that Catholic colleges and universities really are Catholic. We all know there’s a direct correlation between ignoring the Magisterium in Catholic institutions of higher learning and their loss of Catholic identity. The choice is clear: If we want Catholic colleges and universities to be really Catholic, there will have to be less academic freedom as we know it. But in an editorial in its February 14-20, 1999, issue, the Register claimed that pitting Catholicity against academic freedom is a “false dichotomy.” Come off it! Were that so, there would never have been any controversy over Ex Corde; indeed, Ex Corde would never have had to be issued in the first place.

There’s a pattern to these three cases. The Register apparently wants to blur, rather than face up to, the profound divisions in the Church. Indeed, the Register seems to want to tranquilize Catholics: Will “inclusive” language get the Catholic Right up in arms? Well, just deny that inclusive language is inclusive language. Will the Catholic Left be ticked off if two of its champions are punished? Well, just deny that they’ve been punished. Will dissenting theologians in Catholic academia go ballistic if bishops insist on their fidelity to Catholic doctrine? Well, just deny that fidelity would limit their freedom.


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New Oxford Notes: October 1999

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