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Birdseed Catholicism

In the National Catholic Reporter (Dec. 17, 1999) its Editor, Michael J. Farrell, takes note (in his “Inside NCR” feature) of a “masterwork” that recently came his way called Pope Dreams by William Cleary. To illustrate its “sublime wisdom,” Farrell gives us a few snippets: “They couldn’t believe their ears … 2,034 prelates and officials of the Roman Catholic Church sat there dumbfounded, filling St. Peter’s Basilica, that Easter Day, 2001, with a colossal hush,” for the pope had just said, “I have come to believe in democracy … and in this new ecumenical council we must complete all the long-delayed programs of Vatican II.” That night, as the pope wrestled with insomnia, “across the pillow tiptoed a little gray bespectacled church mouse…. Smiling fondly, she whispered, ‘…You did it, didn’t you? You dropped the bomb.'”

So, what would the Catholic Church be like after the dropping of the democratic bomb? Farrell doesn’t tell us, but we don’t have to look far. On the very same page of the Reporter is a short article by Fr. James Stephen Behrens, a Trappist at Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. Asserting his belief in universal salvation, he says: “Salvation is a given…. No one is left out…. All ‘religious’ scripture ‘flows’ from this truth. All the Bibles … could be destroyed tomorrow and it would not make a difference. The truth of scripture is not ‘in’ the text. The text(s) constantly points to a living, expanding mystery we call life…. God is everywhere…. Spirituality overflows from everything — hearts and coffee cups and longings…. Whatever opens the heart is scripture, be it the canonical gospels, a sutra, the Vedas, Bob Dylan, a trip to the circus, Sylvia Plath or feeding the birds.”

Behrens doesn’t tell us how he knows all this — but it’s obvious he didn’t get it from Scripture, Tradition, or Magisterium. By what authority does he speak, and why would anyone (other than gullible readers of the Reporter) believe him?

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