It is by Keith Soko, Ph.D, who is associate professor of moral theology and chair of the theology department at St. Ambrose University.
My emphases and comments.
EWTN offers an outdated view of the church
By Keith Soko
Wednesday, January 28, 2009 1:25 PM CST
Every day, people switching through their cable and dish TV channels encounter the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). The station is Mother Angelica’s, and I give her credit for doing what no one else has done, operate a Catholic cable network. [People watch what they want to watch. Keep that in mind as you read.]
Many Catholics have chosen to operate within the mainstream media, such as actor Martin Sheen and producer Father Ellwood Kieser. But Mother Angelica persevered in taking a small television station and making it a national offering. At best, it offers coverage of the Vatican and the U.S. bishops’ conferences.
[Here is comes…] The problem is it is seen by many as “the Catholic channel.” Unfortunately, it is Mother Angelica’s version of the Catholic Church, and it is an outdated view of what “church” is. [When they just talk about "church" and not "the Church" you know what sort of low ecclesiology they embrace.]
EWTN is a complex blend of high technology and outdated theology, promoting a version of Catholicism that no longer actually exists. [At this point you must ask: Who says? This guy? What you are hearing is someone who has embraced the "hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture". ] That previous model of the church — hierarchical, clerical, absolute, unchanging — where the laity “pray, pay, and obey,” was abandoned when Vatican II (1962-1965) ushered in a greater role for the laity, male and female, married and single.
Those changes brought Mass in the language of the people, the priest facing the congregation, churches built in a semi-circle with the congregation gathered around the eucharistic table and greater participation by the laity including as eucharistic ministers and readers. [And those have all really helped a lot, right? He predictably has a shallow understanding of what "participation" means. It is mainly focused on what people do.] Later developments brought back the role of the deacon and females were allowed to be altar servers. [Allowed after his friends violated the Church’s law for years.] It’s a model that sees the Catholic Church as the “people of God,” a “community of believers,” a “pilgrim people.” [Again… he wants you to believe that the Church no longer is any of those other antiquated (=bad) things. Watch.]
The changes of Vatican II responded to the “signs of the times,” but also looked to the scriptural foundations of the church, with the focus on Jesus, and purged excesses that had developed over history. [Progressivists always want you to buy the premise that what the Church gained over the centuries is a foreign encrustation, like barnacles and seaweed which slow the ship… oopps… out dated symbol. The idea is this the "pristine" is automatically better than what came later.]
The late Cardinal Avery Dulles offered five models of what the church is and should be: [this again?] institution (its organization and structure); sacrament (the church being a visible sign of Christ in the world); a herald proclaiming the good news; a servant (especially to the poor and vulnerable), and a mystical communion (the Body of Christ) or community of believers (disciples). Vatican II emphasized the co-responsibility and collaboration of all Catholics in being church. EWTN focuses only on the first model, the institution, and primarily on the pope, cardinals and bishops. It largely ignores the role of most female religious orders and the laity. [?!? Really? It seems like everytime I turn on EWTN there are lay people on. And good female religious I know are members of community which are quiet and contemplative, not looking for limelight. The "hey look at us" orders are probably more to the taste of the writer because they are involved with doing stuff.]
Of course, there is debate today whether the church has actually gone far enough in implementing the vision of Vatican II, or if it is retreating to its pre-Vatican II mode. [This "debate" he mentions is, I think, his actually position. This is what, for example, Hans Kung thinks: the Council didn’t go nearly far enough. Discontinuity is good in that way of thinking.] That mode was insular, removed from the world rather than engaged with it, unresponsive to historical developments and unchanging. [B as in B. S as in S. When was the great explosion of evangelization? The increase of religious orders? The building of schools and hospitals which served the whole of society? Insular? Risable.]
EWTN operates as a high-tech machine advocating a pre-Vatican II theology. If you have a question, ask Father. [I think the website Q&A section has lay people answering lots of questions. And is it wrong to ask a priest?] Need some advice, ask Father, or Sister, in full habit. [He has a real problem, this guy.] Answers are absolute, easily memorized. It waxes nostalgia for the time of Father O’Malley, when priests and nuns filled the Catholic landscape. [Obviously that was a bad thing… actually to see priests and religious and recognize them in public. That there might be a lot of them, rather than the few we have now. I think this fellow might be anti-clerical.] You wouldn’t know, for example, that most Catholic parishes, grade schools, high schools, colleges and universities, publishers and health care institutions are run by lay Catholics. [Like many liberals, he assumes people are stupid.] You wouldn’t know that theologians exist, certainly not lay theologians [Here is the real problem…. it’s all about him. I wonder if he was recently turned down for a job. What do you imagine he thinks of Ex cordo Ecclesiae?] — men and women. You wouldn’t know of intelligent discussion, and some dissent, by Catholics on a number of issues. [Get that connection between "intelligent" and "dissent"?]
You would get the impression that answers to complex questions are black and white, with no nuance or qualification. [Think about it. When you ask a question about some, for example, moral dilemma, you really want an ambiguous answer which leaves you just as confused as you were before you asked. Maybe more. If you don’t believe that there are objective truths and that the Church teaches properly on faith and moral, you wind up thinking that everything has to be nuanced. As a matter of fact, you convince yourself that you are oh so deep.. so intelligent. This is the problem addressed in Fides et ratio… the conflict in the modern world between faith and reason… authority and intellect.] EWTN comes dangerously close to making an idol of “the church” itself, rather than seeing it as a vehicle that leads people to God. The church is seen as something on a pedestal, “out there,” rather than being all of us. That idolatry is a hazard of any religion, and can easily become fundamentalism. [Pretty condescending, this guy. Think about this for a moment: all salvation is mediated through the Holy Church which Jesus Christ, God and Savior, established. But we are not supposed to put the Church on a pedestal.]
Catholic theology today consists of four sources: Scripture, tradition (including church teaching), [tradition includes Church teaching! nice!] reason (our intellect), and our own human experience. Unfortunately, EWTN promotes a view of church and theology that focuses almost exclusively on tradition with a capital “T.” What’s ironic, though, is that it promotes this top-heavy, clerical model in a time when priestly vocations are dwindling, when educated Catholics are leaving the church, and when more lay men and women, motivated by the spirit of Vatican II and the Gospels, feel called to ministry.
God love Mother Angelica for her endeavor. [What a weasel.] I’m sure that many find some spiritual fulfillment in its offerings. [more condescension] But don’t call it “the Catholic channel.” Far from it, it’s a version of the Catholic Church that has long since passed on. And, it is an oppressive model, to lay men and women, as well as to the clergy themselves. My advice? If you want nostalgia, watch an old Bing Crosby movie. But don’t call it theology, and don’t call it the Catholic Church today.
Bitter, isn’t he? Such condescension usually comes from disappointment.
He is the chair of the theology department at Ambrose College. He teaches moral theology. Think about it.
Talk show host Al Kresta of Ave Maria Radio took on this fellow on the air.
The Catholic Messenger, embarrassed at the editorial of Keith Soko, above, published a different point of view.
persons, places and things: An opinion is an opinion
By Barb Arland-Fye
Wednesday, February 4, 2009 2:30 PM CST
St. Ambrose University associate professor Keith Soko’s column criticizing the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) has provoked numerous responses.
We have received letters via e-mail, U.S. Postal Service and — a first for us — “blog comments” on our new Web site, www.catholicmessenger.org. [heh heh… welcome to the club]
Soko’s contention that many people incorrectly assume EWTN is “the Catholic channel” and that it presents an outdated view of the Catholic Church was offensive and hurtful to a number of readers who responded.
“EWTN is an excellent teaching tool,” say Elmer and Annette Pollpeter of Burlington, who believe that “our bishop, his diocesan paper, our Catholic schools and universities and our parish priests ought to be encouraging these efforts.”
“EWTN is doing what no other Catholic entity has succeeded in doing: bringing Catholic television programming into the home,” says Madelyn Phares of Princeton. “I do not feel that pre-Vatican II theology is being shoved down my throat by EWTN. And if I did, I would just select a different channel, rather than belittle the entire network in the pages of The Messenger.”
Tim Hart of Fairfield, writes, “Mr. Soko says: EWTN promotes ‘an outdated theology … a version of Catholicism that no longer actually exists.’ Wow! A version of Catholicism? I thought the Church was One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. I didn’t know there were different versions.” (Hart’s full letter will appear in next week’s issue).
One letter writer took on a scolding attitude, exclaiming, “Shame on you!” at the beginning and end of her letter.
Another demanded that Soko retract his opinion column and write an apology in The Catholic Messenger.
Others criticized Soko personally and made disparaging remarks about St. Ambrose University, The Catholic Messenger and the Diocese of Davenport.
Some of the more uncharitable comments were from bloggers, [again… welcome to the club] people who write entries for inclusion in our Web log (“blog” for short), which appears beneath the on-line article. The Catholic Messenger may accept or reject blog comments, and at least a half-dozen have been rejected because they stifled rather than furthered dialogue.
The first blogger to submit a comment, Sister Dawna Sutton, SFCC, thanked Soko for sharing his opinion. “I could not have said it better. (EWTN) is an outdated view of Catholicism today.”
A friend who e-mails me regularly with gently worded critiques of The Catholic Messenger thought Soko’s reasoning was immature and wondered how often he watches the station and whether he had watched it lately. My friend wished Soko had provided more specific examples of programming he found fault with. I would have to agree with her on that observation.
In responding to my friend and other e-mail writers, I said that the Opinions Page is a place for people to express opinions. Nothing Keith Soko said was blasphemous or denied church teaching. His opinion piece has generated plenty of thoughtful responses as well as some unconstructive criticism.
It’s a good thing to get Catholics talking about issues that are important to them. In part, that’s what makes The Catholic Messenger a Catholic newspaper.