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In a Divided Church, Even “Unity” Is Divisive

In our September letters section, Prof. William J. Tighe puzzled over why the National Catholic Register “fails clearly to controvert dissent and identify dissenters.” He suggested that “Perhaps the Register deems respectability — meaning respectability in the eyes of the dissenting nomenklatura — to be as important as orthodoxy. If so,” he continued, “the Register is playing a sap’s game, for so long as it remains orthodox it will never be respectable….”

About the time Catholics United for the Faith (CUF), a leading orthodox Catholic organization, moved to Steubenville in 1994, it essentially called off its campaign against dissent and pursued a policy of moderation, prompting certain observers to wonder if CUF were seeking respectability. Of course, CUF no doubt sees its new policy as one of seeking to be constructive and positive.

But as early as the January-February 1995 issue of Lay Witness (published by CUF), CUF’s then-President was unconvincingly exclaiming, “we have not gone ‘soft’….” He went on to say that “Our joy must be founded upon the theological virtue of hope, undisturbed by the passing troubles…within the Church.” Of course, an orthodox Catholic would have to live on a permanent regimen of Valium to be “undisturbed” by the troubles in the Church.

Later, in a book review in the dissenting National Catholic Reporter (Nov. 7, 1997), CUF’s current President seemed to offer an olive branch to liberal Catholics by declaring, “The enemy is not the ‘liberals’…but sin….” (Of course the enemy is sin, but the liberals are doing all they can to excuse or justify certain popular forms of sin. The enemy is both sin and the liberals.) The President went on to say that “The way of the church is always the way of reconciliation and renewal, of healing and unity. As Cardinal Joseph Bernardin [founder of the Common Ground Project] so poignantly insisted during his final days, this is critically the case for the church in America today.” The President proceeded to criticize the book he was reviewing for doing “nothing to build common ground” between liberal and orthodox Catholics.

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