Ultra-liberal NPR manages decent interviews about the LCWR dust-up. Donna Bethell shines.

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I read the transcript (there is also audio available) of an National Public Radio segment on the recent develops between the American Bishops, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (a subsidiary of the Magisterium on Nuns).

The players are the NPR interviewer, who despite working for this ultra-liberal outlet does a fair job, the nearly-ubiquitous John Allen of the Fishwrap, Donna Bethell, Chairman of the board of directors for Christendom College, Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK (one of the organizations associated with LCWR and under review by the Holy See).

Some great things happen in this interview.

Allen gave a workman-like summary of what is going on, but the really interesting stuff happens in the second part of the segment.

First, Donna Bethell really shines, hitting one after another out of the park.  Don’t miss her demolition of Sr. Campbell’s utilitarian eisegesis of Scripture moment of Our Lord and the Samaritan woman at the well.  Also, when a caller named “Mary” presented her point of view:

CONAN: So you don’t think that your disagreements on doctrine make you any less of a Catholic?

MARY: No, I think I’m a good Catholic. In fact, when I go to confession, I sit there, and I say: You know, I really don’t have a whole lot to say because I think I do a pretty good job. [The confessor heaves a sigh…] Maybe pride is my biggest sin. But no, I think I’m a good Catholic. I think our social doctrine, social justice doctrine is ignored, and we’re focusing on this contraception. [How paradigmatic this is!]

And when I’m out feeding people and helping women with three or four kids, they could probably do without all these kids with no family support. And to be pushing against contraception and pushing against, you know – and I get so – what was your question?


MARY: No, I don’t think it makes me worse of a Catholic. I think I’m a good Catholic if I pay attention to the doctrines that are important: Eucharist and social justice. I think our social – and taking care of the poor. That’s – that is what we’re supposed to be doing, and so few do.

CONAN: Mary, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

MARY: Thank you.

CONAN: And I wonder, Donna Bethell, that’s somebody who people would – some would uphold as a model, and others would say, well, that’s an a la carte Catholic.

BETHELL: Well, in effect she said she was an a la carte Catholic. She said that she was going to accept the things that were important to her. And I think she sounds like a wonderful lady, a very generous lady, a very warm and caring lady, and that’s just the sort of person that you would like to have as a Catholic.

I think she has not been presented, probably, with the fullness of Catholic doctrine. She probably has not been – had a full explanation to her of why contraception is a problem.


Anyway, if I ever run into Donna Bethell, I’d be happy to buy her lunch and thank her for her recent media appearances!

Take the time to read the transcript or listen to the audio.  There is a lot going on.  And you who have been reading here for a while will hear all the themes and cliches.

We could even try to create a list of themes to listen or watch for!

So, share your favorite bits here.

And listen for how Sr. Campbell tries (and fails) to back herself and NETWORK away from the Magisterium of Nuns.  Too good.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mary said, “I think I’m a good Catholic if I pay attention to the doctrines that are important.”

    Wow, pick and choose. I call this “type” of catholic, with a small c, a Burger King catholic. You know their slogan, “Have it your way.”

  2. digdigby says:

    Sister Mary, quite contrary
    How does your garden grow?
    With Marxist shills and Feminist thrills
    And condoms all in a row.

  3. Frank H says:

    Indeed, Donna Bethel has really done well in this and a recent appearance on PBS. Hope we see much more of her!

  4. wmeyer says:

    Donna Bethell was excellent. Graceful, but clear in her comments.

    Sr. Campbell seems to believe that her conscience is senior to the teaching of the Church. Of course, this comes back to the issue of whether the conscience has been well formed, and I think it is clear from her statements that something is deficient in that area. One can make allowances for deficient catechism in the laity, especially in post-conciliar years, but for a member of a religious order, we would hope that proper catechesis was not lacking.

  5. smmclaug says:

    “I think I’m a good Catholic if I pay attention to the doctrines that are important.”

    I’d like it if someone were to ask her which doctrines she has determined are “unimportant,” and whether by “important” she really means “true.”

  6. Ray says:

    Obedience to the Church/Magesterium, irrelevant of ones vocation(single, married or ordained) should be the driving force for all Catholics. In order for anyone to be obedient, humility is required. Some of the good sisters seem to have forgotten this fact and need our prayers and forgiveness after they humble themselves. I applaud our Church’s efforts to reign in the groups who seem to have splintered from the teachings of our Church.

  7. filioque says:

    Last week on the PBS Newshour Donna Bethell took on a self-styled “Catholic feminist theologian” from Fordham University. It got to be funny.

  8. Acanthaster says:

    My favorite part…or at least the part that stuck me the most, as it’s hard to see this as favorable, is this:

    “CAMPBELL: We don’t speak for the Catholic Church. Catholic sisters don’t speak for the Catholic Church.
    CONAN: They don’t?
    CAMPBELL: No. We speak for ourselves. We may speak for our organizations. We don’t speak for the whole church. The bishops do that, and we say that all the time. But the issue is, is that I believe that our lives speak volumes to people who know sisters.”

    Shouldn’t those lives they are speaking with be speaking the Catholic Church then? What’s the point of vows? What’s the point of being Catholic? This stuff is so odd!! Definitely a good chance to pray for all those involved! Especially for Donna Bethel as she grows in popularity.

  9. wmeyer says:

    Acanthaster: Another oddity is the notion that despite their vows, including obedience, they seem to retain–or believe they do–a second existence, in which all this is suspended, perhaps based on the Bill of Rights. Now, as to whether they speak for the Church, I suppose a case could be made, if they are not in habits, and continue to use their given names, and if they do not preface their comments to someone by telling them they are nuns, then no, they do not speak for the Church. However, absent all those conditions, the perception will be that they do speak for the Church, or for a valid contingent of that Church.

  10. PA mom says:

    Filioque. I saw that interview. Donna Bethel was very good, and so remarkably calm. I love how clearly she said that, yes there are items, like Christ’s divinity, that are off the table for discussion. The “Catholic feminist theologian” was visibly seething through the whole thing and had to (chose to?) refer to herself as a Catholic feminist theologian, like, 10 times. I don’t know if that was her idea of convincing people that she did in fact have credentials, but it ended up sounding quite desperate. Very disappointing that she is of my generation, rather than one who will be likely to be retired soon. What I do like is this sense of approaching clarity. It is becoming very clear who is on which side.

  11. catholicmidwest says:

    “CAMPBELL: We don’t speak for the Catholic Church. Catholic sisters don’t speak for the Catholic Church.

    It’s nice to see them finally admit it openly. This has been the case for years, but many laypeople couldn’t believe it until they heard it. Well, there it is.

  12. Charles E Flynn says:

    Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism, by Donna Steichen (electronic book download in prc or epub format).

  13. tour86rocker says:

    I love that video where Bethell cracks up at Fordham University’s Jeannine Hill Fletcher’s crazy tirade…I was afraid NPR/PBS would be upset at her for disrespecting another guest in that way because I don’t think it was intentional…the hilarity was just too much.

  14. tour86rocker says:

    Bethell is doing a truly excellent job defending the Church on secular media. I pray that she will continue to do so.

  15. Charles E Flynn says:

    Bad Religion, by Stephen P. White, at The Catholic Thing.

  16. frjim4321 says:

    LOL, NPR as “uber liberal.” ROTF!

    When the preeminent unbiased news outlet in the country is tagged as “uber liberal” you know something’s wrong.

    Compare to FAUX-News? Yeah maybe . . . compared to real news? NPR is the only real news in this country.

  17. oldcanon2257 says:


    I’m ROTFL too, but only because of the quotes below – straight from NPR personalities:

    If you were to somehow poll the political orientation of everybody in the NPR news organization and all of the member stations, you would find an overwhelmingly progressive, liberal crowd.” –Bob Garfield, co-host of NPR’s On the Media

    Journalism in general, reporters tend to be Democrats and tend to be more liberal than the public as a whole. Sure. But that doesn’t change what is going out over the air…”Ira Glass, host of NPR’s This American Life


  18. filioque says:

    Frjim4321, NPR reports on a lot of interesting news and a fair amount of mind candy. They are liberal not so much for what they tell you as for what they don’t tell you. For example, relying only on NPR, could anyone tell me:
    1. What is the evidence that CO2 causes global warming?
    2. Why are hundreds of scientists publicly skeptical about the “consensus on climate change?”
    3. What is the Social Security Trust Fund and what is in it?
    4. Before Donna Bethell, when was the last time you heard an orthodox Catholic (on NPR)?
    5. Which documents from Barack Obama’s background that are normally available for a presidential candidate are not available and why?
    That’s enough for this lesson.

  19. Lily says:

    Oh. I just went to the NPR site and realized that the transcript quoted above is real. When I read “(SOUNDBITES OF LAUGHTER)” halfway through Mary’s phone call, I thought this was satire, Father. LOL!

  20. AnAmericanMother says:

    You sound exactly like the Upper West Side socialite who couldn’t understand how Reagan won because “nobody I know voted for him.”

  21. Ray says:


    You’re not using that grape Kool Aid again, are you Father?

  22. plemmen says:

    The complicit and suborned media is the incipient tyrants best friend. I suggest you research and explore the studies and articles authored by Adorno and the other members and adherents of the Frankfurt School (including their sister institutions the Birmingham School and Tavistock Institute) regarding manipulation of awareness and propaganda. Then look seriously at the professors that are training/trained the “journalists” of today (and the past generation of them as well) to see just where their influences are. The somewhat satirical term “Political Correctness” was created and gained traction as an apt descriptor for their limitation and re-definition of language to be used in the media and thus influence society. That is part of the actions of cultural Marxists and I have written extensively in my blog about their actions, methods and direction.
    NPR is no less a part of the complicit and suborned media than Fox News is. A strong central (federal) government is always in control of the media, no less so here than in any “Banana Republic” in the third world under a strongman government.

  23. wmeyer says:

    frjim4321: I’d be laughing were I not appalled. NPR as the standard of bias-free reporting? Just another water bearer for Obama, in truth. Journalism was always a rare commodity in broadcasting, and rarer now than ever. It is now equally rare in print. What we have is commentary, and some of it intelligent.

  24. Ray says:

    Was that the Frankfurt school started by Josef Goebbels?

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