Richard McBrien’s latest: pure gift

Imagine this if you can… but I saw something a little weird in Richard McBrien’s most recent blurb in the National Catholic Fishwrap.

McBrien’s piece is about Popes of the 20th Century

As you might guess, he points out their deficiencies.

Highlights:

  • Leo XIII declared Anglican Orders null and void.
  • Pius X was mean to Modernists.
  • Benedict XV didn’t do very much.
  • Pius XI obsessed about commies.

And then there was Pius XII.

Pius XII was really bad. 

He gave lots of power to Sister Pascalina and everyone was ascared of her.

Wait…. now.  Think about this.  

McBrien is saying this was a bad thing.

What is it that he is pointing to?  La Popessa.

A Pope empowered a woman religious and let her run the Church!

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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32 Responses to Richard McBrien’s latest: pure gift

  1. TJerome says:

    I think Father McBrien is running out of gas. It’s the same old, same old.

  2. SimonDodd says:

    Mr. McBrien complaints that “the Catholic Church did not begin to recover” from Pius X’s “campaign” against modernism “until the pontificate of John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council a half-century later.” Really? The Church was in dire straights after Pascendi Dominici Gregis and didn’t recover until the council? Fancy! What percentage of self-professed Catholics believed in the real presence in 1907, Mr. McBrien, and what is it now? What was the ratio of priests to laity in 1907, Mr. McBrien, and what is it now? We could go on, but that seems McBrien’s forte.

  3. DdC says:

    “He gave lots of power to Sister Pasqualina and everyone was ascared of her.”

    Heck yeah…I’m STILL ascared of her and she’s been dead forevah!

    Still laughing at this Father, like a crazed Savage chicken idiot (See My personal Fav: The Three Stages of Self-Awareness-Savage Chickens http://www.savagechickens.com/2008/11/self-awareness.html).

    Now, getting down to McNutt oops McBrien throwing a nutty…normally he drives me to a few Grey Geese[hah] on the rocks but this time you, Reverend Father have given me a reason to actually enjoy that Grey Goose opening this “pure gift” from Herr McBrien.

    Sometimes you just can’t make this $#@% up ! (oops-enjoying my Grey Goose a wee too much? LOL!) Great post, needed this today Padre!

    ;)

  4. HighMass says:

    Does O’Brien really know what in heck he wants??? If the Church is so messed up why is he still a member of the Catholic Church???

    Ah Yes La Popessa….and letting women run the church…..

  5. I read “La Popessa: The Controversial Biography of Sister Pascalina, the Most Powerful Woman in Vatican History,” by Paul Murphy and R Rene Arlington, when it first came out in 1983, and enjoyed it immensely. (The juicy tidbits include details of a spat between Cardinal Spellman and Bishop Sheen, with Pius XII caught in the middle. Ripping good stuff!) She didn’t exactly run the Vatican, but she was arguably Pius XII’s closest confidant from his early days as a Papal diplomat, earning the contempt of high-ranking prelates such as Cardinal Tisserant. Sister Pascalina had to endure any number of indignities for being a woman of such influence, and was ultimately sent packing within a few hours of the Pope’s death. (I believe it was Tisserant who said about her caged songbirds: “… and take those damned birds with you.”) Although she wore a modified habit later in life, she decried most of the changes in the Church after the Council.

    It seems that Father McBrien is unable to spin the details of her life to his liking, so he derides her. Such is the desperate cry of a disingenuous man, one who knows his time is growing short.

    Pathetic. Just pathetic.

  6. Konichiwa says:

    I’m reading the comments to this piece of Fr. McBrien. [Under his NCR entry, I assume.] As nutty as his supporters are, it’s sad that people I know are not much different. It’s sad that people revel in such dung as maggots do. I pray daily for their conversion, that God’s grace may put them straight.

  7. Jack Hughes says:

    we should pray for Fr Mcbrien to repent of his errors

  8. Konichiwa says:

    Yes, Fr. Z. You are correct. :)

  9. MLivingston says:

    Change the subject! Father, how are you feeling? We’ve been praying for you all weekend…

  10. He’s just mad that Sister Pasqualina saw the Virgin Mary chatting with the Pope over coffee.

    I think that was the story, anyway. I can’t keep straight all these powerful nuns who ran papal households with iron fists.

  11. Jayna says:

    He neglects to point out that the concordats with Mussolini and Hitler were signed before the whole story of what their governments did came to light (and even well before the outbreak of the war – the Germans struck their bargain in 1933!). They were signed to protect the Church in those countries. Pius XI was not the first to act in such a way. For nearly a century, European Catholics had been finding out what happens to their Church during a liberal revolution. That was the appeal of fascism: it gave the appearance that it would let the Church be.

    I’m not saying that fascism is a good thing. I’m just saying that if we look at this in its historical context (which McBrien is apparently incapable of doing), that is what it looked like to both Pius XI and then Cardinal Pacelli (who had been the nuncio in Germany until he became the Vatican Secretary of State, which is when the concordat was signed). And if we want to be technical, Pacelli was the one who negotiated the whole thing, albeit with Pius’ blessing. If McBrien wants to “blame” someone for it, he can blame him.

    And Pius X did not hate modernists. If anyone, it was Pius IX and Leo XIII who started that (and rightly, so). Leo, especially, put the smack down on the Americanist bishops throughout the 1890’s.

    I think I know about papal history than McBrien does and I only have a lowly MA in History.

  12. Mitchell NY says:

    When pointing out bad decisions of Popes past one often forgets the epoch when those decisions were made. Social trends and tendencies often play into the politics of the Church. How can people judge them according to today’s standards? Seems in bad taste. From a Catholic Magazine I would expect more, like reminding us of the good things they have done for the Church. We are supposed to love them. Not rip apart of judge them when times were so much different and there is really no way we can relate to those era in which there is no tangible feeling or emotions left from anyone alive.

  13. Jayna says:

    Mitchell: “From a Catholic Magazine I would expect more, like reminding us of the good things they have done for the Church.”

    I think you mean “Catholic” magazine. This is NCR, we’re talking about here. Hierarchy is a dirty word round those parts.

  14. I wonder how Fr. McBrien was able to stand the LCWR for this past year, what with their president belonging to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration…

  15. I have to laugh at Fr. McBrien’s writing. His writing is no better than that of a seventh grader. How can anyone take this guy seriously?

  16. romancrusader: You are being unfair. McBrien unquestionably writes better than a 7th grader.

  17. M.D., I’ve watched that show and I love it! Father, I was exaggerating.

  18. “We also knew nothing of the controversy that would becloud the memory of Pius XII and remove him, at least for now, from consideration for eventual canonization, namely, his alleged silence during the Holocaust of the Second World War period when six million Jews were sent to their deaths by the Nazis.”

    Like or not Father McBrien, Pius XII is already declared Venerable. And to say that Pius was silent during WWII is just nonsense. Besides, once someone is declared Venerable their case is closed and cannot be opened.

  19. AnAmericanMother says:

    Father McBrien is just being bullheaded and ignoring the facts by ragging on Pius XII. I’d expect that of your typical newspaper reporter who usually is totally ignorant and only repeats what he or she has heard, but a priest . . . ?

    Or else he just enjoys attacking his own. At least I think they’re his own. Is he still Catholic?

  20. Rich says:

    I’m not making this up:

    I had a dream about Father McBrien a few weeks ago, only I didn’t know it was him in the dream until I woke up and though more about it. He was a baseball coach giving signs to players on base from behind first base. He thought a particular pitch was particularly fast and stopped the game to let people know what he thought. There was some sort of review and it turned out he was right. Then some sort of celebration commencenced in the infield and Father McBrien held aloft a fake Olympic torch made with red and orange cellophane for its flames. He began climbing the backstop in order to hold it aloft from the top, though I remember thinking even in my dream that someone else, like the pitcher, should have been the one to do these honors. Others helped Father McBrien climbed to the top of the backstop by hoisting him up. However, once he got to the top, he fell over the other side headlong.

  21. Northern Ox says:

    Rich –

    You need to stop eating spicy food and reading this blog right before bedtime.

    Maybe something soothing instead, like Fulton Sheen with warm milk.

    – Northern Ox

  22. TNCath says:

    Why this man is allowed to continue is beyond my understanding as a rational human being, much less a Catholic.

  23. Hans says:

    Does O’Brien really know what in heck he wants???

    Yes, Fr. McBrien and ilk want power. That’s what they think the hierarchy is about. That is what the arguments for the ordination of women boil down to. Ordaining women would change the balance of power in the Church, and they see the Church primarily in political terms. Since the nature of politics in society has changed from a primarily-monarchial to a primarily-‘democratic’ structure, then (they conclude) so should the structure of the Church.

  24. S. Murphy says:

    What’s the deal with attacking Pius XII, anyway? Why does that make you a good liberal?

  25. dans0622 says:

    Fr. Z., it has probably been pointed out before but perhaps your recent illness is because of enseeareitis. After the brain reaches a certain level of toxicity because of frequent reading of the ncr, the whole body falls apart. It’s well-documented. I’m in recovery, too.

    Actually, this article of Fr. McBrien was helpful to me since it pointed out Pius XI’s encyclical “Mortalium animos.” I’d never heard of it before but it is certainly a wise, forward-looking reflection on the dangers of “ecumenical dialogue.”

    Dan

  26. robtbrown says:

    Does O’Brien really know what in heck he wants???

    Yes, Fr. McBrien and ilk want power. That’s what they think the hierarchy is about. That is what the arguments for the ordination of women boil down to. Ordaining women would change the balance of power in the Church, and they see the Church primarily in political terms. Since the nature of politics in society has changed from a primarily-monarchial to a primarily-’democratic’ structure, then (they conclude) so should the structure of the Church.
    Comment by Hans

    I don’t think they want power. They want ambiguity–in everything.

  27. irishgirl says:

    Well said, Hans! That’s what it all boils down to….power.

    I remember looking through the book ‘La Popessa’ many years ago, when one of my sisters worked in the local library system. I recall an instance or two when Pius XII lost his temper.

    And maybe I read about the spat between Cardinal Spellman and Bishop Sheen, with Pius acting as a referee.

  28. Athelstan says:

    I will save readers the time by summing up: It’s all darkness in the Vatican before John XIII shows up on the scene, a couple nice social teaching encyclicals and a thoughtful statue in Istanbul notwithstanding.

  29. Hans says:

    robtbrown wrote:

    I don’t think they want power. They want ambiguity — in everything.

    It’s true, Rob’t, that they want ambiguity, but that ambiguity isn’t an end but a means. Once they have power, ambiguity will disappear; that is the lesson of history in modern times, at least since the French Revolution.

    It is also my experience with such people. Whenever I have pursued their arguments, they have always been rooted in a quest for power.

    There are, of course, many people who have been confused by the ambiguity (I recall a long conversation with my mother about the impossibility of ordination of women, for instance); I don’t mean them, they are the targets of the ambiguity and often the real victims in all this babble by Fr. McB’s sort.

  30. Hans says:

    Don’t forget in your summary, Athelstan, that the darkness began to fall again when Paul VI accidentally (or so it seems from some sources) issued Humanae Vitae.

  31. The Cobbler says:

    “We also knew nothing of the controversy that would becloud the memory of Pius XII and remove him, at least for now, from consideration for eventual canonization, namely, his alleged silence during the Holocaust of the Second World War period when six million Jews were sent to their deaths by the Nazis.”

    Wait… is McBrien saying that when the Pope was silent no one was aware of it, or is he saying that we didn’t anticipate people being too dull to read history and remember that the Pope wasn’t exactly silent? This statement is positing 1) that the controversy was unknown back at the time of its object, and 2) that the controversy centers around things that should be easy enough to show based on the relatively recent historical records of the time when the controversy was unknown. Even without bringing up that Soviets have confessed to manufacturing the controversy, which explains why it was unknown at the time, the very statement quoted here stumbles over the very thing it tries to raise as an issue: the controversy doesn’t make sense.

    Had to laugh at the way the “pro-woman” people feel about any strong woman, though. Hypocrisy is entertaining.