Volume > Issue > Briefly: October 2011

October 2011

Whose Church? A Concise Guide to Progressive Catholicism

By Daniel C. Maguire

Publisher: The New Press

Pages: 235

Price: $23.95

Review Author: Anne Barbeau Gardiner

There are many shepherds today who act like sheep, along with many wolves who pose as shepherds. Daniel Maguire is a case in point. In Whose Church? A Concise Guide to Progressive Catholicism, the ethics professor from Marquette University poses as a shepherd guiding us to an alternative Catholic Church, one that can exist without a pope and bishops.

Let’s start with Maguire’s acknowledgments: He gives abject thanks to Planned Parenthood for lavishing “awards” on him and inviting him to present “keynote addresses at the annual events of at least a third of their 130 affiliates.” Oh, how he loves them: “Being with them has always infused the blood of hope into my veins.” Yes, the blood of hope. Well, that group indeed has a lot of blood to spare, since it is up to its neck in it. It’s definitely not “the blood of hope,” however, but the blood that crieth to Heaven from the earth (Gen. 4). Then Maguire gives an accolade to Mar­quette (run by the Jesuits) for defending his academic freedom “almost perfectly” for 35 years. What this implies is that they defended his “freedom” to teach the opposite of the Church’s moral theology, as he has done, on contraception, masturbation, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, abortion, and embryonic stem-cell research.

Maguire is a virtual atheist. He praises the priest-shaman Thomas Berry for saying that the natural world, not the Bible, is the “primary revelation of the divine.” Then Ma­guire denies divine providence with a scoff: Although Vatican I declared that God protects and governs all things with sweetness and strength, “the tumultuous rise and fall of stars” seen in the Hubble Telescope reveals that the process is not “under sweet management.” Richard Dawkins could not have written with more contempt against a compassionate God. In addition, while posing as a Catholic, Maguire denies the dogmas of our Lord’s virgin birth and our Blessed Mother’s perpetual virginity. He laments that 83 percent of Americans “believe in the literal virgin birth of Jesus, even though Bible scholars see this as metaphoric,” and claims that Mary saw “two of her sons, Jesus and James,” killed as “rebels.” He also presents Christ’s divinity as an invention: In orthodox Christianity “a human male was divinized” and “Goddess images vigorously suppressed.”

Besides this, Maguire uses vulgar expressions to heap scorn upon Catholic bishops. He says that they keep “bleating about their pelvic obsessions, abortion, and same-sex marriage.” In wanting to consign homosexuals to a life of chastity, he adds, they are not as Catholic as he is: “The view that homosexual people are condemned to involuntary celibacy for life is as cruel as it is absurd. And it is very Catholic to say so.”

He instructs the bishops that on abortion, too, they are not as Catholic as he is: “The Roman Catholic position on abortion is pluralistic and always has been.” Of course, this is a downright lie, but it is one that Maguire has repeated for several decades, with impunity. The difference here is that he is boldly shoving it down the bishops’ throats by saying that “if bishops don’t know that, there is a cure for their ignorance: they can be sent back to school.” What school? In his book he refers favorably to Daniel Dom­browski and Robert Deltete of the Jesuit University of Seattle, who promote the myth of a “pluralistic” Catholic tradition on abortion.

So here we have the wolf lecturing the shepherds on the proper way to tend their sheep. Maguire has the temerity to do this because he sees them as no braver than their sheep. For years he has dared them with his shenanigans to excommunicate him, but they have only rapped him gently on the knuckles and left him at his post, as professor of moral theology at Marquette. He mocks them now by taking a dogmatic tone and exhorting them to study their own tradition.

Oh, he is not entirely against bishops. He speaks patronizingly of their “great leadership potential” if only they would promote environmentalism: “Think of it. Bishops are theater. They are opera, and people like a bit of pomp and circumstance.” Yes, bishops have their place if they will stick to being theatrical ad-men for progressive Catholicism. Maguire gloats that, on contraception, many of them long ago left behind the “narrow” Vatican way to embrace the “broader and richer Catholic theology.” What he forgets here is that our Lord Himself called the road to Heaven “narrow” and the road to Hell “broad” (Mt. 7:13).

On Church history, the ex-priest Maguire again echoes the scoffs of atheists. He speaks of “the macho takeover of the church that eventually followed Jesus’ death,” and of Constantine’s establishment of the Church as a “shotgun marriage” that “joined Jesus to state-sponsored violence,” so that “Jesus got a new career as a warlord.” After this, Maguire ignorantly lumps together the Dark Ages and the high Middle Ages, writing that “Christendom became a cauldron of violence as the so-called barbarians arrived…. The violence that could not be subdued was diverted into the Crusades.” If this is what he taught his own family, is it any wonder that his son and grandchildren are now Muslims — something Maguire appears to celebrate in this book?

Whose Church? would be a work beneath our notice if the author had not been teaching moral theology at a Catholic university for over three decades. In Maguire’s account, “progressive Catholicism” is only a short step from atheism.

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