The New Inquisition

Faced with a crisis, people often react one of two ways. They may think about what brought them there and how they can act differently to get through it. Or they may dig in their heels and become very defensive.

The Catholic Church has been in a crisis for some time. Divided over how best to reach people and on issues like women in the priesthood, the Church has seen dwindling congregations and fewer new priests. The sex scandals of a few years ago dealt a blow to people’s faith and the Church’s image, not to mention its finances. 

In this light, the venom in Michael Gaynor’s piece in WEBCommentary is understandable. But it’s a shame to see a Catholic columnist engaging not with the Church’s relationship to its parishoners, or its mission to needy people in America and the world, but with a perceived “threat from within.” 

Gaynor’s piece is a call to arms against pro-choice Catholics, in the wake of Sebelius’s nomination, part of what the writer sees as Obama’s pandering to Catholics (Joe Biden is his other example). 

The piece is striking in the way that it stultifies the Catholic Church. Gaynor blames “the bishops’ tolerance of prominent pro-abortion Catholics” for Obama’s victory, made possible by the support of many Catholic voters. The suggestion that American bishops should have a greater political presence is offensive to me as an American and as a Catholic. Many Americans have a complex, nuanced relationship with their faith, and Catholics, like non-Catholics, are capable of holding political views. Gaynor’s implication that political power lies in the Catholic hierarchy rather than in Catholics will only alienate the faithful. His is the type of attitude that’s threatening to make the Church extinct. 

In a time when many Catholic thinkers are reaching out to people of different faiths and different views on religious issues, including contraception and abortion, Gaynor is interested in making the church more exclusive. He quotes from a member of the religious media who calls for what sounds like an Inquisition:

Mr. Arroyo: "The Sebelius case (and the cases of Pelosi, Kerry, Biden, Daschle, Durbin, Kennedy…etc.) present the Church and its leaders with a serious challenge. . . .every day that it goes unaddressed the Church loses credibility, influence and ultimately, moral authority. Until a unified, PUBLIC correction is offered by the bishops, with appropriate penalties, they will continue to cede their teaching office to politicians who are at best confused and at worse malicious. To remain silent is not an option.”


As Catholic Americans drift farther from the Catholic hierarchy, Gaynor insists that the hierarchy chastise the people. As Catholics are practicing their rights as free-thinking Americans, he and Arroyo clamor about “public sin.” And finally, Gaynor compares pro-choice Catholic politicians to pedophile priests:

Sinisterness, or malevolence, was involved in the pedophile infiltration of the priesthood, and explains the enabling by priests and distributors of Holy Communion of pro-abortion politicians posing as faithful Catholics and publicly presenting themselves for Holy Communion.

My suggestion: the bishops disavow this kind of distasteful, unwise persecution before all the Catholics jump ship. To remain silent is not an option.

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  • invalid-0

    like you were saying the parishoners, and many Priests are very good people. However I do not see the Vatican making any compromises in the future on womens issues. It really does seem that women are almost considered non existent or unimportant. They never listen to us. They will not change with the times,even on birth control which would limit abortion. I think in my opinion that the catholic hierarchy is anti-women and so I have left the church for good.
    Unfortunately they are sending the wrong message to women-it is a self esteem issue and since there is no proof that God exists or is a “Man” I do not think they have a right to offend half the population just to “keep women as pets, and to do the dirty work.” They are typical hypocrites.

  • invalid-0

    The Catholic Church is in a very bad position. You have a hierarchy that’s very closed and insular, with no good way to get fresh blood in there (unless they toe the line on doctrine 100%). You have elements of the dogma that explicitly deny any sort of decentralization, like the idea of Catholics following their own conscience instead of the Church’s teachings, or even the idea of other religions being an equally valid path to salvation (see: indifferentism).

    I think the Church will eventually change to bring women into the hierarchy, ease its views on abortion, and accept GLBT people for who they are, but it’s not going to be in our lifetimes, or even our grandchildrens’ lifetimes. The Church is the epitome of a slow-moving organization; I’m thinking something like the year 2500. And till then, its numbers will continue to dwindle in developed countries, until it becomes this sort of quaint, harmless anachronism, like the Amish.

    (Benedict has been clear that he will not change the Church to salvage its relevance in the modern world. He knows that he still owns many of the less-developed countries, and so is bunkering down with those populaces.)

  • invalid-0

    I have a question for you. It is my understanding that the church cannot change its position on birth control without threatening the doctrine of papal infallibility (which theory was apparently created in the late 1800s).
    Is that your view also?

    • invalid-0

      Papal infallibility doesn’t cover everything the Pope says. To date, it’s only been invoked once, in making the Assumption of Mary an article of faith. The Church has at least had the sense not to go all ex cathedra with controversial policy documents like the Humanae Vitae.

      • invalid-0

        Thanks, well back to my research for more information.

  • invalid-0

    The historical tables are about to be turned on the Roman Catholic Church and they’re not going to like it very much. But some very big questions on human sexuality have now been resolved.

    The first wholly new interpretation for 2000 years of the moral teachings of Christ is on the web. It redefines the central element of the Resurrection and focuses specifically on marriage, Love and human sexuality, overturning all natural law ethics and theory.

    This new teaching delivers the first ever religious claim of insight into the human condition, that meets the Enlightenment criteria of verifiable, evidence based truth embodied in action. For the first time in history, a moral tenet exists, offering access by faith, to absolute proof for its belief.

    In religious terms, revolutionary stuff.
    Check it for yourselves:

  • invalid-0

    Wow, this is one powerful article! Thanks Kathleen…

  • invalid-0

    Just don’t overreact to his posts. Gaynor is just a nerd starving for attention. He will yell and stamp his feet so everybody can hear him talk. You see these people on the street and the reaction is the same – stare, shake your head in disgust, walk away.

  • flashstar

    It agree with opinion, that “church attendants – typical hypocrites”. Being covered with the Lord the god lobby laws – absolutely contradicting the sacred writing.

    I believe in God. But I am sharp against teaching of “Catholicism Bases» at school! First, formally this step anticonstitutional. Secondly, ideologies not a place at school! To form ideology – a prerogative of parents, instead of the states. Wish to educate children of religion – send them in special establishments. This any new current, the new tendency is visible…
    The Christ spoke, – to the God divine, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. This principle it is necessary to hold in all the rest…