More trash theology from McBrien

I, like you, am often subjected to rubbish from those who say they are Catholics.  And when the rubbish stinks badly enough I, like you, am forced to clean it up lest it annoy other people.

This was the case with the horrible gaffes of Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Biden, of course.  Since they were in a position to influence others and confuse or deceive them, we had to speak up and correct the record. 

But if it was necessary to act in the case of Pelosi and Biden, it is perhaps ever more necessary to correct the errors of someone who is styled as a Catholic theologian.  Although he only writes for a newspaper now, he should try to get it right, even if the readership is elderly dissident nuns.

So, today we must clean up the mess left by one Richard McBrien.

In a recent column in the tired ultra-leftist dissenting National Catholic Reporter, which is more and more showing its colors these days, McBrien promoted a pet notion of his on the basis of stunningly bad theological methodology.

He is pushing for the popular election of bishops.

To do so he instrumentalizes a few cherry-picked items associated with St. Leo the Great (+441).

You know… the only Popes McBrien seems to quote favorably are dead Popes.

Let’s have a look at his lamentable work in the NCRep.  My emphases and comments.

Leo the Great’s legacy remains a challenge for the church today

Fr. Richard McBrien
Essays in Theology
Publication date:  November 3, 2008

Leo was still only a deacon ["only a deacon" is a bit silly here, when describing what Leo’s role.  Leo wielded immense political and theological influence and more than likely had oversight of the material goods of the Church of Rome.  For example, Leo executed the mosaics in St. Mary Major: the images were by his design according to his theological perspective and he took take that they be constructed.] when elected to succeed Pope Sixtus III. Indeed, he was not even present at the conclave that chose him, having been away from Rome on a diplomatic mission [even though he was "only a deacon".].

As pope, Leo became a strong advocate of papal authority, but he himself was not interested in power for power’s sake. [This is a set-up phrase for what comes down the line.  McBrien is planting in the reader’s mind what he hopes you the reader will see as a contrast between Leo’s approach and the power motivated approach of modern Popes. For single-issues types like McBrien and other feminists, you can usually reduce their objective to power.]

He used his authority to root out abuses in the church, to resolve disputes, to insure unity in pastoral practices, and to help clarify the church’s teaching about the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ.  [He also used his authority to clarify that he had authority and whence that authority came.]

When another bishop, Hilary of Arles, presumed to exercise authority over neighboring French dioceses, Leo ordered Hilary to confine his pastoral activities to his own diocese.

Bishops, Leo insisted, are to be elected by their own clergy and leading laity, and their elections are to be ratified by the rest of the diocesan community, without interference even from Rome[First, that phrase "without interference from Rome" is what McBrien wants you to remember.  But let’s get to some history and Leo’s texts. First, consult Leo’s Letter 40 of 22 August 449 to a group of bishops in the province of Arles, France:  "Accordingly we ratify without sanction the good action done by your Fraternities in the diocese of Arles.  On the death of Hilary of holy memory you unanimously consecrated a man approved also by us, our brother Ravennius, according to the wishes of the clergy, the nobles and the people."  Thereafter, Leo exorts the new bishop Ravennius to be a good bishop. On 5 May 450 Leo would again write in Letter 66 to the bishops around Arles to settle a dispute about the rights of the Bishop of Arles and the Bishop of Vienne. Leo determines the extent and limits of their jurisdiction. He wrote several letters to this effect, including Letter 10 in 445.  In other words, though the locals elected the new bishop Ravennius, Leo ratified that election, just as he worked to settle to dispute between the Churches of Arles and Vienne.]

Leo’s electoral principle, “He who is to preside over all must be elected by all,” has been quoted throughout the subsequent history of the church and to this very day, but unfortunately the principle has not been observed for centuries[McBrien thinks that today bishops should be elected in the local Churches without "interference" from Rome.  He is claiming Leo to back that up.  That quote is from the above mentioned Letter 10.  In ep. 10 Leo also writes: "And although the power to bind and loose was given to Peter before the others, still, in an even more special way, the pasturing of the sheep was entrusted to him.  Anyone who thinks that the primacy should be denied to Peter cannot in any way lessen the Apostle’s dignity; inflated with the wind of his own pride, he buries himself in hell."  In Letter 10 Leo also describes what was going on in Arles with old Bishop Hilary.  Leo describes Hilary: "He seeks to subject you to his authority while not allowing himself to be under the jurisdiction of the blessed Apostle Peter", meaning Leo himself. Also, Hilary had a group of soldiers, armed thugs, who went everywhere with him.  They imposed Hilary’s will as to who would be bishop in towns of the province.  Hilary also convoked synods and interfered with other bishops.  Leo works to lay down the parameters of how the dioceses and province should be governed.  He writes: "We have not reserved to ourself consecrations in your provinces – a false claim which Hilary, as is his custom, can perhaps make in order to mislead your Holinesses’ minds.  But in our solicitude we justify your right in order that no innovation may be allowed in the future and no further opportunity may exist for the usurper to infringe upon your privileges."  Leo was concerned that pushy clerics with bands of thugs not interfere in the election of bishops. So, we learn from this that Leo thinks he can reserve to himself the right to consecrate in Arles and Vienne.  The problem here is not that McBrien’s claim that bishops were elected is false: people did elect bishops in those days.  The problem is that McBrien tries to use Leo as a prop for his own notion that we should have elections for bishops today, and that Leo did not vindicate rights to himself or "interfere", and modern Popes do.  This is all part of McBrien’s flailing polemic against John Paul II and Benedict XVI and the sort of bishops being named more and more frequently.]

Indeed, the writings of Pope Leo the Great and also those of another great pope, Gregory I (590-604), testify that it was entirely normal for the church in the West, that is, in Italy (including Rome), Gaul, northern Europe, and North Africa, to select its pastoral leaders with and through the consent of the clergy and laity, as well as the bishops of neighboring dioceses.  [Again… this is not a dispute.  However, it is entirely laughable to think that neither Leo nor Gregory did not claim rights in this regard.  Think for a moment about how Gregory sent a bishop to England and then advised as to the governance there, leaving freedom of course, but still maintaining authority.]

However, if the bishops and clergy were to prefer a candidate whom the laity disapproved of, that candidacy would not likely survive. That is how decisive the voice of the lay faithful was in the early church. [Again, he cannot claim that Leo did not claims rights for himself in these matters.  Leo was very clear about his own rights, as the haeres of Peter over the whole Church.]

Only later did temporal rulers and the pope himself become directly involved in the selection of bishops. But not even the pope had a direct hand in episcopal appointments outside of Italy until the end of the First Christian Millennium.  [To which we must respond: The Church found a better way to select bishops.  What McBrien is revealing here is the penchant of some progressivists to claim that the early Church, the pristine Church, had the better way of doing things simply because, well, that was a longer time ago than the long time ago when other ways developed.   Medieval bad.  Late Antiquity better.  Apostolic best.  This doesn’t allow for the possibility that with the changes of the times we actually learned something as a Church.  Our praxis follows on a deepening of our theological reflection.]

By the 10th century, however, the role of the local clergy and laity in the election of their bishops was practically non-existent, having been supplanted by political leaders and powerful families[Of course McBrien thinks that is bad.  He can’t conceive that members of the powerful families of Christendom might have warm and concerned hearts of charity for their people.  This is nothing more but the flip side of the "big business is bad" view.  Companies must be evil.  Nobles must be selfish.  He can’t fathom than perhaps big business might have social aims together with making a buck.]

With the reform movement of the 11th century, led by Pope Gregory VII (1073-85), the extra-ecclesiastical hold on church offices began to weaken, but the reforms also produced an unintended consequence, namely, the centralization of authority in the papacy. This development would shape the history of the papacy throughout the Second Christian Millennium and even into our own time.  [And this is what McBrien wants to undermine.]

The reform movement did try over the next several decades to restore the ancient practice where the clergy and laity as well as neighboring bishops had some decisive input into the selection of bishops, but the effort eventually failed and popes, kings, and local princes filled the void.  [Get that? "the reform movement".  He is holding them up as a model.  I think he might mean the Protestant Reformation, by the way.]

The laity were limited to consenting “humbly” to whatever choice had been made for them, just as is the case today[All in all… has that been bad?  I don’t think we can claim that it has, in the balance.  And there isn’t much wrong with humility.]

It was Pope Pius VII’s concordat with Napoleon in 1801 that had the effect of vesting in the pope alone the power to appoint bishops anywhere in the Roman Catholic church. And that system has remained in place ever since.

The fact that this method of appointing and promoting bishops has absolutely nothing to do with the will of Christ or with the authentic tradition of the church seems to escape many Catholics, and not a few bishops who themselves have benefitted from the break with the ancient practices[So… the decision of the Church has nothing to do with Christ.  The appointing of bishops by the Holy See has nothing to do with the "authentic" tradition of the Church?  Really?]

Finally, it was also Leo the Great who made a point of referring to himself as the Vicar of Peter, always careful to add that “the blessed apostle Peter does not cease from presiding over his see.”  [This is where McBrien really goes off the rails.  Bad history is one thing, but bad theology is another.  McBrien has probably latched onto a line in some book, like the Encyclopedia of the Early Church and made it into something Leo would not have recognized.  What McBrien does not consider is that Leo, who was a key figure in the development of the theology of the Petrine ministry, uses various terms to describe his own connection with Peter and in light of Peter’s connection with Christ.  Leo often describes Peter’s authority as Christ gave it to him.  In the sermons Leo only once uses a word related to "vicar" to describe his rapport with Peter.  In tr. 3.4 he says, "We we present our exhortations to your holy ears, consider that you are being addressing by the one in place (cuius vice fungimur) of whom we exercise this function." I don’t think anything occurs in the letters. To get at what Leo really thinks, you have to expand the pool of technical terms and look especially at how he describes himself as haeres ("heir") with all its Roman legal connotation, and how he is in the sedes and what that means both from biblical language and Roman juridical force.  In the Roman view, still functioning in Leo’s day, the haeres takes the place of the giver.  Think of how Octavian Augustus vindicated his rights as Caesar, and not just as the stand in for the dead Julius.  If Leo, and other Popes before him, referred to themselves as "vicar of Peter", it was first because of their understanding of the close relationship of the haeres with the testator.  Secondly it was because of humility.  Whenever Leo refers to his close connection with Peter, he always does so with a reference to his own smallness.  In tr. 3.2 we find a good distillation of how Leo shows humility, the close bond he has with Peter, and that Peter is wielding Christ’s power: "Therefore, dearly beloved, though we be found weak and slothful in carrying out the duties of our office … still we have the constant propitiation of the omnipotent and perpetual Priest. … We rightly and piously rejoice in his arrangement because, although he has delegated the care of his sheep to many shepherds, he himself has not relinquished custody of his beloved flock.  From his eternal protection derives the reinforcement of apostolic help that we have received.  This never stops working either, …  Just as what Peter believed in Christ remains, there likewise remains what Christ instituted in Peter."  We must also remember that in Letter 93 writing to the Synod at Nicea in 451 – moved later to Chalcedon, Leo wrote that, "I am present in my representatives".  He understood that Christ worked in Peter and he himself had Peter’s role.  This does not say he thought explicitly he was "Vicar of Christ", but it is less than a very daring step away.  By the way… Leo thought he could "interfere" to approve councils and synods.]

The popes of the 5th and 6th centuries regarded themselves as “holding the place” of Peter, and even into the 11th and 12th centuries the title “Vicar of Peter” remained in use to designate the Bishop of Rome, alongside “Vicar of Peter and Paul” and “Vicar of the Apostolic See.” 

“Vicar of Christ” also has a long history, but not as a papal title. It was applied to every priest at least from the 3rd century and to all bishops in the Middle Ages. Vatican II also referred to bishops as “the vicars and ambassadors of Christ” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 27).

Leo the Great’s legacy remains a challenge for the church today[It is apparently a challenge for McBrien too.]

In reading McBrien I am reminded of one of the central plot lines of Windswept House, by the oddball Malachi Martin.  Windswept House contains some irresponsible fictions, but it was spot on when it describes the sort of creeping incrementalism and rot behind the push to see the Pope not so much as Vicar of Christ but only as Vicar of Peter.  In that book, there is a (diabolically inspired) conspiracy of subverted (masonic) cardinals et al. to get the Pope to sign a document reducing his own authority as one who is more primus inter pares along the lines of a Vicar of Peter rather than a Vicar of Christ.  

I am not saying that these are McBrien’s starting points.  I refer to this book only because it can give you a sense of the thinking behind this effort to shift people’s view from the Pope as Vicar of Christ, with the authority that implies, to Vicar of Peter with the less extensive authority that implies. 

McBrien is working from a specific ecclesiological view, one with a very weak Petrine ministry, one with a strong element of "church from below", very horizontal, not vertical.  Christ selected the Apostles and Peter did not (though he certainly presided over the replacement of Judas with Matthias).  Thus, Peter’s Successor selected the Apostles’ Successors.  The real voice of Christ is in the people, thus the people should select the successors of the Apostle’s, not the Bishop of Rome, who is only Vicar of Peter.

Moreover, if McBrien likes Leo’s ecclesial "democracy", at least as it exists in McBrien’s theological fantasy world, then would he also advocate that the Pope should rule Italy and Rome as a secular ruler, as did Gregory?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. As we say in the drafting and design world, Fr. Z has slit his wrist all over that piece of work.

    Nice job.

    I hate to say it, but until Holy Mother Church removes these people from good standing and bars them from teaching at any Catholic institution or from speaking on Catholic property, the confusion will continue.

    Someone who is at such great odds with Catholic teaching and doctrine should not be permitted to remain in good standing where he will continue to lead others into scandal. This case illustrates precisely the kind of scandal that is caused by dissidents left in good standing.

  2. P.S.: We need to pray for McBrien and others like him.

    Until he converts he ought not enjoy good standing in a way that allows him to teach or speak on anything Catholic in Catholic circles.

  3. Chris says:

    Father, quick question: while he has physically defrocked himself (I’ve never seen him in collar and cassock), why hasn’t he been defrocked officially by the Holy Father?

    I mean, really, what does it take these days?

  4. TNCath says:

    WHY hasn’t somebody in some position of authority (Notre Dame, his bishop) gotten this guy out of the media yet–and out of Notre Dame?

  5. Paul Madrid says:

    TNCath: Civil law contract rights, unfortunately.

  6. Trevor says:

    Can the Bux Protocol be used for priests? [Ooohhh yessssss!]

  7. mpm says:

    Paul Madrid,

    I’m sure you’re right about the contract-rights, but KIM that O’Brien was a “pet”
    of not a few American bishops in the ’70-’80s period. I think they liked to keep
    him around because he helped prop up the “AmChurch” fiction.

    I think Fr. Z. made one mistake, when he said “McBrien is working from a specific ecclesiological view”. Ecclesiology is theology. Whatever McBrien does do, I do not think it is
    theology, not anymore anyway. I think it is more like sociology, and when he’s
    really off his game, simple politics (ecclesiastical or national). But that requires
    a base, and his base is asymptotically approaching zero.

  8. Fr. Guy says:

    I like the point that you emphasize concerning how McBrien (and those who think like him) love to speak of the early Church as though it did everything perfectly and any later developments are bad. That smacks of antiquarianism which is heresy. In addition, you make a very good point when you speak of how later developments betoken a deeper and better understanding of how things should be done. For example, perhaps the Church began to abandon the idea of bishops elected by clergy and laity because the process devolved into a political struggle or just a plain old popularity contest. This is what has happened in many other Christian groups where they elect their leaders. (i.e. the Episcopal Church in America) In such groups the election process does not ensure and openness to the Holy Spirit. Rather, it guarantees a closed-mindedness that only allows for the election of those who subscribe to a particular “agenda”. Why doesn’t it occur to Fr. McBrien that where there are people there is politics and perhaps, just PERHAPS, the Holy Spirit led the Church away from this to save the the selection of Church leaders from being dominated by merely human concerns?

    That would require him to admit that occasionally he is wrong which seems to be a physical impossibility for him.

  9. Thomas says:

    What Dickie McBrien doesn’t see is that if the Faithful have a hand in choosing bishops, then he and his ilk would be EXCLUDED from the process, because faithful they are not.

    It reminds me of the Modernists’ constant appeal to the Sensus Fidelium. To be a part of the sense of the faithful, you must first BE FAITHFUL.

    This guy’s a hack. As a 26-year-old, I detest the mess the previous generation has left me. And I resent being robbed of my rightful patrimony. Well, Dickie, I’m taking back what’s mine.

  10. Paul Madrid says:

    mpm: I should have added “among other things” because there are a lot of significant factors in that calculus that I did not mention, like the one you did. But the civil-law contract rights and the apprehension for expensive litigation in which they will lose are probably big ones.

  11. mpm says:


    I’m about twice your age, yet I completely understand you’re justified outrage.
    Let me just say, that were clergy to be chosen according to the methods of the
    ancient Church, as Fr. McBrien would like, then they would also be deposed by
    the methods of the ancient Church. In that event, His Reverence would be out
    on the street selling pencils today for a living.

    He hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about!

  12. mpm says:

    Paul Madrid,

    You’ll get no argument from me on that.

  13. TNCath says:

    Paul Madrid: “Civil law contract rights, unfortunately.”

    Civil law contract rights with Notre Dame, perhaps, but not with his bishop.

  14. Paul says:

    I’m afraid I have a rather more pedestrian inquiry—what work contains St. Leo’s writings? That would be a fascinating resource to add to one’s library, but I’ve never seen such a work.

  15. mpm says:


    If you read Latin, you can find all his works here:

    (you’ll have to browse around, there isn’t a simple lookup function)

    or if English only, then (scrolling down to “Leo”) (click on the Fathers button on the left)

    have some, if not all, the letters and sermons.

  16. TAAD says:

    After just going through the US Election, I can not imagine why anyone would
    ever desire this for the church. Good Lord! In case people haven’t figured it
    out yet, the system is flawed and only works when most people are good. Otherwise
    you end up with bad leaders. Only the Devil would want elected bishops & Popes.
    Look at the other faiths that elect their leaders. They believe in that abortion
    gay ‘marriage’ and the like are good things. It would be the end. McBrien reminds
    me of the serpent in the Garden, “Surely God didn’t mean….”

  17. Mary Jane says:

    Want to see locally elected bishops? Look at the Episcopal church in the USA – that’s the process there. Enough said.

    I truly regret that Fr. Z has to waste his “time, talent, and treasure” responding to something like this. I honestly wish Fr. McBrien would just be quiet.

  18. John Enright says:

    “You know… the only Popes McBrien seems to quote favorably are dead Popes.” LOL. How true! Father, sometimes you crack me up! “[O]ddball Malachi Martin” is another great phrase, although I don’t know if it goes far enough. I’d settle for “weirded out.”

  19. Dr. Eric says:

    Aren’t Orthodox bishops locally elected? It seems to have worked for them. (No, I’m not discounting our current practice, well maybe I am, after all the current practice has given us Cardinals Martini and Mahoney.)

  20. Mark says:

    I’ve been aware of Father Richard McBrian for many years, and have come to the conclusion that his problem with the Roman Catholic Church is essentially the same as that of the Protestants. This stumbling block focuses on the Papacy, and seeks ways to either eliminate it altogether, or make it meaningless first, and then eliminate it.

    By promoting such ideas, Father McBrian seems to be unaware that the election of Bishops (and priests) by the proletariat was also an intermediate goal of those communist regimes which were burdened with masses infected by religion. The elimination of all clergy was their ultimate goal. What Father McBrian’s ultimate goals are in this respect, only God knows.

  21. John Enright says:

    The more I think about McBrien’s claim that bishops should be democratically selected, the more I realize that he really doesn’t understand how the Church operates. If you read his statement, it appears that the selection of bishops throughout the Church is a result of autocracy.

    I looked at the Code of Canon Law of 1983, and found some relevant sections which squarely refute Fr. McBrien.

    Canon 377. The Supreme Pontiff freely appoints bishops or confirms those lawfully elected.

    At least every three years, the Bishops of an ecclesiastical province or, if circumstances suggest it, of an Episcopal Conference, are to draw up, by common accord and in secret, a list of priests, even of members of institutes of consecrated life, who are suitable for the episcopate; they are to send this list to the Apostolic See. This is without prejudice to the right of every Bishop individually to make known to the Apostolic See the names of priests whom he thinks are worthy and suitable for the Episcopal office.

    The provisions of Canon Law are much more democratic regarding the selection of bishops than Fr. McBrien would lead you to believe. Moreover, the Bishop of Rome has always had final say on the matter, even with regard to the Patriarch of Constantinople.

    I really don’t understand his point at all since things really haven’t changed.

  22. Charivari Rob says:

    Father McBrien also forgets some of the practical considerations in the continuing development of the practices of the Church.

    Travel and communication! 1600 years ago, travelers would take months to reach the furthest corners of the world (even as it was known to them then). No internet, phones, fax, telegraph, air mail, motor vessels, railroads, etc…

    If, on the death of a bishop in a country, his neighboring bishops had to be assembled, select a delegate to go to Rome, have to come up with a list of candidates anyway (since it’s not like Leo had an internet database of subordinates in that place), send their delegate, wait for a decision to be made, wait for the delegate to return, install the new ordinary, etc… Wouldn’t someone have to have been (in essence) the acting bishop? Wouldn’t installing a candidate and reporting the decision to Rome (to be ratified) be a little more efficient?

    Another consideration is the political/diplomatic realities of international travel at that time. Crossing any number of borders, small kingdoms, little flareups and border wars, etc… The challenge wasn’t just the distance.

    Our choir went on a tour of Ireland this past winter. Our director couldn’t believe it when I told him that (historically) that one small country had 22 dioceses! It was due in part to all the little kingdoms and rivalries of ancient times. In fact, the ‘map’ of Ireland’s dioceses shows what seems to be a bizarre layout, until you consider that the practical result was that each diocese touched the sea. No bishop had to depend on crossing a separate kingdom to reach the one where his own diocese lay.

  23. tony says:

    I had the great pleasure of reading a book and watching a video by McBrien for my Pastoral Ministry class. *puke*

  24. Paul in the GNW says:

    Like most readers here, I am deeply saddened by this type of drivel, and especially that it persists so broadly in the face of so many courageous Bishops and Cardinals, and two great Popes.

    My main consolation, beyond praying for the perpetrators and those who are misled, is that I am at least 30 years younger than McBrien et. al. …. I can only hope that the next generation lives up to and even exceeds the promise we see today.

    God Bless

    Paul in the GWN

  25. TomH says:

    Good comments, all.

    Fr. Z, the only piece you noted that I didn’t read as you did was the “reform movement” line. He mentioned in the preceding paragraph that it was a movement of the 11th century. I have no idea what movement he was referring to but it seems unlikely that it was the Protestant Reformation in context.

    Thanks for the great blog!

  26. Alan says:

    Where do these people come from…. I wish the Catholic name was trademarked, so the local Bishop could strip it from a publications name.

  27. John Enright says:

    “I wish the Catholic name was trademarked, so the local Bishop could strip it from a publications name.” Interesting point. The Scientologists (or whoever they think they are) did exactly that!

  28. Toby says:

    In the Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin, Richard McBrien’s column was at long last eliminated from the pages of the diocesesan newspaper (The Catholic Herald). There is now a movement afoot, no doubt promoted (“sub roza” so as not to affront the bishop) by loonie-left clergy to have it reinstated. Time for good folks in that Diocese to write to the editor and agree in no uncertain terms with the decision to get rid of McBrien –his pomps and his works! email address for editor =

  29. Ioannes Andreades says:

    My hunch is that Leo Magnus never would have ordained a huge percentage of the priests out there let alone think they should decide members of the episcopate.

  30. opey124 says:

    Did they burn heretics during Leo’s time or was it after? I have some wood and matches.

  31. John Enright says:

    “Did they burn heretics during Leo’s time or was it after? I have some wood and matches.”

    I think it would be better if the Holy See directed Fr. McBrien to a Carthusian Monastery. Out of sight, out of mind.

  32. McBrien ends his encyclopedia of the popes by rating them all. The top category — the Most Excellent Popes According To Richard McBrien — contains exactly two names:

    Leo the Great
    John XXIII

    This is absurd for so many reasons.

    In 1963, the two most powerful mortals on the planet died, after very short reigns: Pope John XXIII and President John F. Kennedy. I think they have one thing in common: because they died before finishing the work they had started, they function as “Rorschach tests” for their fans. American political liberals have convinced themselves that Kennedy, had he lived, would have championed civil rights and environmentalism, and ended the Vietnam War. Liberal Catholics have convinced themselves that Good Pope John would have lifted the ban on birth control and democratized the church. And they have remained loyal to these hypothetical projections ever since.

  33. John says:

    Father Z – why the description of Malachi Martin as an “oddball”? If you meant “mysterious,” fine, but oddball?

  34. Andreas says:

    The fact that this method of appointing and promoting bishops has absolutely nothing to do with the will of Christ …

    Otherwise: God is looking down from heaven saying: “I am no longer in charge here. They have taken over and there’s nothing I can do about it. In the old days things used to go according to my will, but now, the things they do have nothing to do with my will. Oh tempora, oh mores! What shall I do? I know, I will send them that McBrien fellow. He’s a man of action. A call to action.”

  35. Fr W says:

    This business of seeking to return to the ‘pristine Church of antiquity’ –

    I never hear them say that we should separate men on one side of the church and women on the other side during Mass. Funny how that tradition is not sought out. Nor the tradition of confessing sins publicly, and sinners being ordered out of the Church to do public peanance before the Offertory. Interesting how a return to that is not desired. Or the practice of not permitting anyone who is not initiated into the Faith to enter for Mass.

  36. Fr W – you said exactly what I was thinking! The problem with these “return to simpler/better times” is they reflect far more the imaginations of those wishing it than the realities of the day. And let’s not forget that this was the Protestant agenda. See where that got them.

  37. Dan says:

    I wonder if Mcbrien would like his elected bishops to have civil authority like some did in the early years of the Church? And, what if one of them – gasp! opposed abortion or womyn “priests?” Ugh…. he and his ilk get me going.

    His research reminds me of when I was writing papers as a freshmen in college: I based everything on one isolated piece of information that I had found, and drew all my conclusions from it. I eventually learned how to research, but maybe that wasn’t stressed at his school….

  38. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    I wonder if McBrien is referring to a book about popes which was plagiarised. By whom? By whom indeed.


  39. Maureen says:

    So… if a bunch of English Catholics grabbed (just for example) His Hermeneuticalness, then dragged him to Westminster Cathedral and installed him as Primate of England in the old traditional early Christian way, Richard McBrien would be all for it?

    Hee, hee! Can we sell tickets to watch?

  40. Jim Dorchak says:

    As long as he is a priest he speaks for the Church.

    So he must be right.

    Jim Dorchak

  41. Ron says:

    I am a ND grad and I have seen McBrien in action. On one occasion, he introduced the then archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. He spent a few moments introducing Carey, but most of his comments were dedicated to vomiting all over the pope. There is only one way of describing it: perpetual adolescence. When he was a boy, Sister Mary Ignatius hit him with a ruler and he has devoted his entire career to revenge. Given the shallowness of everything he writes or says, I honestly don’t think it is really much more complicated than that. He just never grew up.

  42. paul c says:

    The fact that the Pope appoints the bishops ensures continuity and consistency of the faith. This is of course the role of the Church as a whole: to spread the faith that came down to us from the Apostles. The problem with local elections of bishops, without ratification of the Pope, is that inevitably, bishops with views contrary to the Apostolic faith would be elected by unknowing congregations. You don’t have to look further than that rogue parish in Australia to see how quickly it can happen. And further more, if the congregation chooses the bishop without interference from the Pope, then you would have to assume that the Pope would have no recourse if the bishop did indeed embark on a heretical path. Following that path, you quickly realize that if the Pope has no control over the bishops, you no longer have a centralized church but at best a confederation of diosceses, each free to do as they please. It seems obvious to me that if you are really intent on spreading the one true faith without deviation, it needs to be supported by a common hierarchy with recourse to exclude those that deviate (heretics)..
    A good question to ask Father McBrien would be how he would propose to ensure the continuity of the faith without the Pope…

  43. John Enright says:

    I read your comment. LOL!

  44. Bob Glassmeyer says:

    McBrien is a liberal, leftist bully.

  45. Michaelis says:

    Why do you call Malachi Martin an oddball? Many saints were called “Holy Fools” or Fools for Christ (especially in the Eastern Tradition)
    I liked his Hostage to the Devil and also the Vatican.
    I heard he had an affair with a journalists wife in Rome and was the assistant to Cardinal Bea but later became a Traditionalist.
    I like his writings and think he is very intelligent and interesting writer and speaker.
    Please inform what you think is odd or wrong–or respond privately by email if you have the time.

  46. TLewis says:

    McBrien, I can’t call this individual father because he comes off as such a heretic. St. Leo I (440-461 bolstered the power of the papacy by issuing the Petrine Theory. According to this theory, Jesus appointed Peter as the head of the Christian Church, and evidence is found in the scripture.

    The pope’s powers were bolstered in the First Vatican Council in 1870, when 433 bishops passed the decree of papal infallibility. This decree declared that the pope was infallible in matters of faith and morality. According to the decree, the pope “is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed.”

    Most all of you got McBride correct – however was it not Vatican I that asserted the Popes Authority, and Vatican II that transferred (in theory ) that Authority equally to all bishops? However since Vatican II was merely a pastoral council does that not mean that in effect it did not change anything regarding the faith. So the question is did Vatican II change anything because of its mere existence?
    In the recent MOTU PROPRIO SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM Given at Saint Peter’s, 7 July 2007 by Benedict the XVI the Pope says to the world wide local bishops the following…

    In conclusion, dear Brothers, I very much wish to stress that these new norms do not in any way lessen your own authority and responsibility, either for the liturgy or for the pastoral care of your faithful. Each Bishop, in fact, is the moderator of the liturgy in his own Diocese (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22: “Sacrae Liturgiae moderatio ab Ecclesiae auctoritate unice pendet quae quidem est apud Apostolicam Sedem et, ad normam iuris, apud Episcopum”).

    POPE BENEDICT XVI is issuing as a leader to the community of world wide bishops a Papal Command(cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22:)POPE PAUL VI ON DECEMBER 4, 1963 According to the norm of Art. 22 of this Constitution, the territorial bodies of bishops are empowered to adapt such things to the needs and customs of their different regions; this applies especially to the materials and form of sacred furnishings and vestments.

    This pastoral statement does not diminish the authority of the Pope but rather enhances the ability of the local bishop to design his dioceses to fit the culture of which it resides. However, many local bishops throughout the world have abused this statement and changed even their interpretation as to how much power a local bishop actually can manifest.

    The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and head of state of Vatican City. No other bishop can claim to be the leader of the Roman Catholic Church – which included theologians and so-called theologians such as Mr. McBrien. The man is just shameful and should be removed from his post. But then his Bishop has the Right to retain him in that Post. So go to Mr. McBrien’s Bishop.

  47. simpleton says:

    Fr. McBrien is old and pathetic, gasping his last breaths of junk theology, only because Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and his ordinary bishops didn’t and don’t have the guts to take him out. They are all culpable and have added to the scandal by their silence! I would like to know what McBrien knows on how to keep on going since 1964 without one word from the authorities to chop him off at the knees. Kung, Curran and few others felt the heat from Rome when they decided to spout heretical opinions on orthodox Church teachings. McBrien is like that rabbit which keeps on going and going without a peep from the Vatican and the weak-kneeded bishops who should have applied the excommunication to silence him.

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