Curran Fishwraps Häring. Groovy!

Fishwrap tapped one of their darlings, former-Catholic theologian and dissenter Charles Curran, to write an encomium of the late Fr. Bernard Häring, CSsR, whose “proportionalist” legacy in moral theology is decidedly mixed.

First, Curran in his piece, reputedly about Häring, winds up writing mostly about himself.  Fine.  It happens.

Second, Curran’s piece is a tired old apology for dissent from Church teaching under the wearying mantle of “speaking to power”, like any nun on a bus.  The only lasting remedy for this is, I fear, the Biological Solution.  Let us pray for Fr. Curran.  Dum spirat.

Third, consider June and July of 1968, when Curran and his pals were running down Humane vitae.  Curran and Co. gave cover, permission to dissent about anything and everything, to a generation of Catholics who, having breathed in civil-rights and anti-war protest movements, down to this day to this day are incapable of separating their ‘catholic’ identities within the Church from those 60’s protest movements outside the Church.

Why does Fishwrap publish this stuff? Curran writing about Häring?  Hymns to Küng and Bourgeois?  Praising the old nuns on the bus and still publishing McBrien?  Why can’t they see how far off the rails they are?

Fishwrap is what it is, the editors/bosses are the way they are, because the generation still running the National Catholic Reporter (and the generation still paying for it) interpret everything within the Church still through the lens they formed during the anti-authoritarian civil-rights and anti-war protest movements.  When we try to uphold hierarchy and authority or rubrics or the older form of Mass or obedience to the Magisterium or decorum in liturgy and sacred music, an involuntary subconscious switch clicks in their heads. They take your faithful Catholic position of continuity to be an attack themselves and on Vatican II. Vatican II cannot, in their minds, be separated from the protest movements they have idolized until they are actually paradigmatic, iconic, even mythic.  The Council itself – in the received liberal interpretation – cannot ever be questioned or subjected to the authority of the letter of the Council’s texts, because they cannot separate their understanding of the Council from those movements of protest.  The events outside the Church in the USA in those days are completely fused with the event of the Council and certain post-Conciliar reforms.  They interpret everything they do through the lens of this combined and unassailable myth.

These older liberals – now of a certain age – have some younger acolytes and heirs to carry on their work. But the younger ones didn’t imbibe those heady halcyon days personally.  They have their protest, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty” iconoclast glasses at second-hand.  For the younger ones, the protest hermeneutic is skin-deep. For their bosses and the deep pockets behind Fishwrap it is marrow-deep.

And also this applies to some members of the hierarchy, okay?  Seminary and university faculties, too.  They are men and women of their age, after all.

Back to Curran and why Fishwrap is so into him.  What was up in spring and summer of 1968?  Look at the theological revolt in the Catholic Church which started in the 60’s (still going on today for some people) from the standpoint of the events going on around it.

Here’s a taste.  Go to one of those websites that recounts the major stories day-by-day for  1968, such as this one HERE:

  • ML King assassinated in April 1968
  • Bobby Kennedy assassinated in June 1968
  • Sakharov publishes 10,000 something or other
  • The Prague Spring (Czech: Pražské jaro, Slovak: Pražská jar)
  • Race riots in Cleveland and Gary one week before Humanae vitae
  • The summer of the Prague Spring
  • On April 24 students took over Columbia University
  • US and USSR began underground nuclear testing
  • France tested nuclear weapons above ground in South Pacific
  • On April 29, “Hair” opened in NYC for the first of 1750 performances
  • On April 20, English politician Enoch Powell makes his controversial Rivers of Blood speech.
  • On April 26 Students seize administration building at Ohio State
  • On May 10 Vietnam peace talks began in Paris between the US & North Vietnam
  • On May 24 Pres De Gaulle proposes referendum & students set fire to Paris bourse
  • On May 27 The meeting of the Union Nationale des Étudiants de France (National Union of the Students of France) takes place. 30,000 to 50,000 people gather in the Stade Sebastien Charlety.
  • On May 28 Senator Eugene McCarthy wins Democrate primary in Oregon

“It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.”

But for Fishwrappers it was the best of times.  The only times.  And, in a sense, they are still living those times.

When they claim that John Paul II or Benedict XVI are turning the clock back to the 19th century, they are having a sort of ecclesial-flashback to Lyndon Johnson and race marches and war protests and love-beads.

Remember my four PODCAzTs about the 40th anniversary of the Novus Ordo?

Curran and Co.’s scandal-causing destructive dissent didn’t happen in a vacuum.  The world was in uproar.  Dissent, protest, riots, anti-authoritarianism was rife everywhere.  Even nuns, now on busses, were burning their veils.

Had Paul VI published Humanae vitae even two years earlier, today we would even know the name of “Curran”.  Their party would never have happened.

Love-beads and meditation man… groovy.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, Throwing a Nutty, Vatican II. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    You might have added: Bobby Kennedy wins the California election; I was born (May 29); Nixon was elected the first time to the highest office in the land.

  2. andersonbd1 says:

    Rev Curran – still a priest in good standing in the Diocese of Rochester, NY.

  3. VexillaRegis says:

    Smoked and red Härings belong in a Fishwrap.

  4. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    They forget, in the list belly blows that sound thinking took in 1968, the election of Richard Nixon. Anyway, what I meant say was, Haring had some good stuff in his earlier works. He was testing the limits of manual methodology, yes, but he was not breaking with its values. Not then, anyway.

  5. Father K says:

    This is probably the most succinct and accurate reading of that generation and the reason for their stance. Well done, Father.

  6. Supertradmum says:

    God in His great mercy and impeccable timing saved me from this generation, pulling me out of the muck into His Living Water. Thank God. However, these old “non servums” honestly think they can change the Church. Look at this article and the Tablet video on Ray Blake’s blog which is just as disgusting and aged.

    These people want the power. It is all about power. The men in the Vatican threaten the grass-roots power-base these Marxists desire.

    Ah, I am so sick of it. The mistake is also combined with a desire to protestantize the Church, to make the Church one, big, happy family of all Christians and maybe a few Buddhists thrown in.

    Sigh, the remnant looks smaller and smaller daily

  7. wmeyer says:

    Better a small remnant and true than a horde of those who do not believe, or believe in opposition to what is true.

  8. frjim4321 says:

    Met Curran many years ago while on a sabbatical in canon law. I found him to be quite a gentleman. At the same time as a presider I was not comfortable with an on-the-fly homemade eucharistic prayer. Obviously he knew what he was doing and it was quite eloquent (valid but illicit), but I missed the connection to the universal church. Had this occurred more recently subsequent to the Vox Clara 2010 product I might have been more forgiving.

    Find the recurrent “smaller but more ‘faithful'” theme interesting. Trying to remember when Jesus of Nazareth advocated for a smaller but more faithful band of followers. Weeping women need not apply.

  9. frjim4321 says: I found him to be quite a gentleman.

    I have heard the same about him from friends who had him as an instructor.

    That, however, is not the point, is it?

  10. CatholicMD says:

    Anyone else feel like Fr Jim is ruining the combox on the blog?

  11. benedetta says:

    You know, I think libs like frjim4321 are completely exaggerating and blowing out of proportion the now much discussed Ratzinger quotation. In that quote he does not literally or actually advocate for a smaller church. I think he was speculating. That it is coming to pass should not be laid upon the already faithful but upon the libs who have dominated the functioning and catechesis of the American church for many decades now. You are exaggerating so much about this frjim4321 that it can only be described as ridiculous. The orthodox dioceses and religious orders are the ones with many, not fewer, vocations. Orthodox families have many, not fewer, children. So in fact the faithful remnant will be quite larger than you and the likes of your mindset exaggerate. No one desires a small church. Stop the calumny.

  12. Laura R. says:

    Quite right, Fr. Z, that is not the point.

    I knew Fr. Curran (he did not want to be addressed as such, by the way, only as “Charlie”) in a professional capacity during the time when I worked at Southern Methodist University and he arrived to take up a professorship in Ethics. I was many years from having any idea I would ever become Catholic and at that time was far more sympathetic to his views. He was and presumably still is a genuinely kind and likeable man, and I enjoyed talking with him on many occasions. Nowadays, I find it hard to hold together in my mind the Charlie Curran I knew and the enormity of the damage he has evidently done to the Church, the extent of which I am only beginning to comprehend.

  13. dominic1955 says:

    FrJim4321-do you ever contribute to the Praytell blog? The lack of personal pronouns in some of your sentences seems much like one of the “regulars” over there, but it might just be a coincidence.

    Anyway, I met a Methodist pastor who met “Charlie” down at SMU. She was impressed I knew of him, but I gave her a little lesson on Catholicism. Sorry, “Charlie”‘s Catholicism ain’t my Catholicism…or the Pope’s for that matter.

    Fr. Z’s take on this generation (and I remember them every time I do Matins) is very spot on. “Charlie” and his dissenting buddies might be just dandy people, but I don’t think that a person has to be a dour and meanspirited stick in the mud to be a heretic. The damage has been done by these people, regardless of how they make you “feel” when you meet them.

  14. Dennis says:

    “Trying to remember when Jesus of Nazareth advocated for a smaller but more faithful band of followers”

    John 6. Christ could have let everyone keep following Him by remaining quiet about the truth of the Eucharist, but instead chose to create a smaller group of those who were genuinely faithful to Him.

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Find the recurrent “smaller but more ‘faithful’” theme interesting. Trying to remember when Jesus of Nazareth advocated for a smaller but more faithful band of followers. Weeping women need not apply.”

    Matt 7:13-14:
    “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
    For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

    The Chicken

  16. Charles E Flynn says:

    I doubt Eric Cadin would be impressed with Father Curran and his methodology: Resurrection, by Patrick Doyle. Do not become discouraged part way through the story.

  17. vox borealis says:

    Find the recurrent “smaller but more ‘faithful’” theme interesting. Trying to remember when Jesus of Nazareth advocated for a smaller but more faithful band of followers.

    Jesus surely never advocated for such a situation, but then, I’m pretty sure Pope Benedict has not advocated for a smaller Church, so much has suggested that will be the reality in the coming, difficult years. Sort of like, maybe, when the crowd asked Jesus for clarification after the Bread of Life discourse, and upon hearing the hard truths Jesus taught, many in the crowd left disgusted, leaving a smaller, more faithful group of followers.

  18. Fr. Z:

    A very insightful post! As someone who reads the N(so-called)CR regularly, for a variety of reasons, and sometimes attempts to speak sense to those strange folks, I think you get at the “hermeneutic key” rather well.

    I feel bad for those folks, I really do. They are gripping the handrail of the Titanic with grim death, all the while repeating the same cant, without even acknowledging anything is wrong. “Women will be ordained very soon!” And so it goes.

  19. The Masked Chicken says:

    By the way, the Greek for, “Enter,” is telic, which in linguistics means, “a purposeful or defined action.” See: The Preverb Eis- and Koine Greek Aktionsart, Shain, Rachel M. Unpub. MA thesis, The Ohio State University, 2009.

    So, Jesus was telling people to enter through the narrow gate, but there would be few who did. While this does not advocate for a smaller Church, it does indicate that, in the end, it will be so.

    The Chicken

  20. acardnal says:

    As they used to say in the old “StarKist” ® brand tuna commercials, “Sorry Charlie . . . . ”
    You are wrong.

    “Let us pray for Fr. Curran. Dum spirat.

  21. Imrahil says:

    when the crowd asked Jesus for clarification after the Bread of Life discourse, and upon hearing the hard truths Jesus taught, many in the crowd left disgusted, leaving a smaller, more faithful group of followers.

    While it seems true what you say, I’d like to point out that the truths Our Lord told were not hard in fact, the very reverse (what, I beg, is the hard thing about eating Our Lord’s body presented in an eatable way?), nor a sensible reason for anybody to be disgusted.

  22. yatzer says:

    I remember 1968 quite well, unfortunately. I also remember being thoroughly confused as a young person, and nearly drowning in the social whirlpools going on at the time. Thanks be to God I reached shore and finally the Catholic Church.

  23. Clinton says:

    The Fishwrappers seem to be so wedded to their ideology that they will not examine its fruits.
    What collapsing diocese or imploding congregation of nuns has looked around and decided
    that what they’ve been up to for the past few decades clearly hasn’t worked? All these
    Curran-friendly groups within the Church congratulate themselves for implementing the
    latest liturgical and theological trends, but I can’t recall any that would simultaneously set
    criteria by which one could dispassionately judge whether those novelties were indeed helpful
    or not. I think that’s because for them results are unimportant– it’s the ideology that matters.

    Perhaps it’s that for the modernists, the groovy seminaries, and the nuns on the bus the health
    of the Church is not measured in terms of how many are attracted to Her and how well the
    Faith is being handed down, but how much can She be pushed to conform to their increasingly
    irrelevant 60’s ideology. Their dioceses, schools, parishes, orders and seminaries will be
    increasingly smaller– and they don’t care, so long as they have the purity of their outdated
    60’s hermeneutic of rupture.

  24. benedetta says:

    Good point, Clinton.

  25. vox borealis says:

    what, I beg, is the hard thing about eating Our Lord’s body presented in an eatable way?), nor a sensible reason for anybody to be disgusted.

    The teaching has always been difficult in practice: that is why the crowd left Jesus in droves, that is why subsequent Protestant groups have rejected the teaching.

  26. Late for heaven says:

    I am also a refugee from the American Church of Social Justice My Way Right NOW. I recoil in shame at the things I used to profess and I pray often and sincerely for forgiveness. However. I wonder, being a child of my time, whether I would have continued to even call myself Catholic (tho in error) had the Church not been dragged so far from the Truth. The roaring of the devil was loud in all our ears and I could hear nothing. I was only going through the motions, but I kept going to Mass for the sake of the children.

    Now I must evangelize my friends and family who I left behind in the “catholic” church. We who grew up in those benighted times are both cradle catholic and, by the grace of God, converts. I think that THIS, converting “c”atholics, is the new evangelism.

  27. gracie says:

    There also was the August, 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention where the police and student protesters had a go at each other.

  28. Mark Smith says:

    I agree with Father K , this post is both succinct and accurate. However, if one wanted to read one of the best in-depth treatments on the perfect storm that hit the Church in the ’60s one would be hard pressed to find a better study than writer and sociologist David Carlin’s book, “The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.” I’ve been recommending it since it was published in 2003.

    The following is from the Amazon description:

    [The Roots of the Crisis That’s Rocked the Pulpits and Emptied the Pews Many Catholics blame Vatican II for the decline of the Church in America these past 30 years: traditionalists say it caused too many changes, liberals say too few.

    In this groundbreaking book, sociologist David Carlin shows that although Vatican II was the flashpoint for change in the Church, the roots of today’s crisis go deeper than anything that happened at the Council.

    Basing his conclusions on sociological analysis rather than on theology or Church teachings, Carlin shows that in the 1960’s the Church in America was weakened by the triumph of tolerance as an American virtue (which led Catholics to downplay their uniquely Catholic beliefs for the sake of unity) and then was battered by a culture that, seemingly overnight, had become boldly secularist and even libertine.

    Called by Vatican II to engage the culture in order to evangelize it, while pressed by the culture to downplay its Catholicity in the name of tolerance, the Church in America lost its way.

    The result? A widespread loss of Catholic identity; weakening of fidelity to Church teachings; Catholics abandoning their faith; and a diminishment of the Church’s role as a moral voice in American society.

    Carlin’s analysis has uncovered a problem that’s older and even more dangerous for the future of Catholicism than the deeds that have lately thrust the Church onto the front pages. Indeed, says Carlin, the scandals are merely symptoms of this deeper problem that will continue to drain the Church’s vitality long after the scandals are forgotten.

    The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America: essential reading for all who seek to understand the decline of their beloved Church and who hope to devise effective ways to restore her.]

    Here’s the link folks. Perhaps Father Z gets credit if you link from his blog and buy. (By the way, I have no financial interest in Mr. Carlin’s book. I just found it compelling reading worth recommending).


  29. FeedieB says:

    Great post, Father Z. I was born in 1968 – in a hippie commune in northern California, in fact. (I preferred “far out” to “groovy” as a tot learning the English language.)

    If I could end up a Tradition-loving Catholic despite my rebellious, pot-filled beginnings, then perhaps there is hope.

  30. Gail F says:

    That is a fantastic summation of how they look at things, and why.
    I was born in 1964, and I remember as a child thinking that we had all just missed the glory days of hippies and protests, and that life was just boring for our generation. A couple of years ago, at a doctors office, I leafed through a magazine for active elderly people (probably the AARP magazine) devoted to that “great” year of 1968 and found myself appalled. They were going on and on about and awful time and about things that have proved to be such a disaster for my generation. But they think they are the greatest thing EVER.

  31. dawneden says:

    Wow, Father, I am impressed! You found a Lemon Pipers song I didn’t know!

  32. gracie says:

    As this is a Catholic blog it’s only right to remember a couple of Catholic priests from 1968 – Fr. Philip Berrigan and his brother, Fr. Daniel Berrigan. The two were anti-war protesters who became famous for stealing several hundred draft files and setting fire to them with napalm. The FBI placed them on their Ten Most Wanted List as a way of honoring the two men for their effort.

  33. FeedieB says:

    I just went back to find those PODCAzTS about the 40th anniversary of the implementation of the Novus Ordo — That day, November 30, 1969, was my first birthday. :( Poor me. I pray every day for a Latin Mass…

  34. Pingback: Two and a Half Men Inclusive Language and Baptismal Validity | Big Pulpit

  35. frjim4321 says:

    FrJim4321-do you ever contribute to the Praytell blog? The lack of personal pronouns in some of your sentences seems much like one of the “regulars” over there, but it might just be a coincidence.

    Awesome! Form criticism!

    I monitor PTB but not with any kind of frequency, and I rarely post anything there. There are four blog “feeds” on my iGoogle, so I don’t really have to go to the blogs since I can link to posts directly from iGoogle. PTB seems to have a pretty balanced clientele and I usually find that anything I might have said has already been said by somebody else. I don’t really think I would be considered a “regular.”

    And of course there is work to be done, so I try to restrict internet time per day.

  36. frjim4321 says:

    … sadly iGoogle is going the way of all flesh in a year or so… Tarnation!

  37. boko fittleworth says:


  38. pmullane says:

    Fr Asks:

    “What was up in spring and summer of 1968?”

    From this distance it seems something demonic was at play. Trying to destroy the ‘old ways’ and replace them with the ‘new ways’. Permanent revolution. Ugliness. The ends justifying the means. Im not sure if the devil latched onto the prevailing winds from culture, a real sense of injustice at real injustices, and a huminty scarred by and tired of war, but latch on he did. As much as I fear that the future will hold real persecution of the Church and a loss of liberty in the West, I’m glad I was spared living through that time. Unfortunately many Catholics gave their sould to this ‘spirit’ rather than the Holy Spirit of God.

    CatholicMD – I agree.

  39. DisturbedMary says:

    Pity those burdened with a high IQ, superior minds and a lifetime subscription to Fishwrap.

  40. DisturbedMary says:

    The picture there of Curran looks like he swalloped the “fishwrap” hook, line and (tragically) sinker.

  41. THREEHEARTS says:

    Is this the Fr Curran SJ who was laicised married and became editor of the Table? This tablet is a medicine I find hard to swallow.

  42. dominic1955 says:


    No problem, it just struck me because I do not see many people writing that way.

  43. Late for heaven says:

    I think what happened in the sixties boils down to the atomic and hydrogen bombs, contraception and television. It WAS the end of the world as we knew it. We were driven by a sense of immanent destruction.

    I well remember the total separation of the generations, the utter conviction that the old ways were completely useless. The old shuffling, hypocritical, sanctimonious, moralistic poses that were adopted by those in power could have no relevance to the issues of instantaneous world wide destruction, the new reality of sex without consequences, and instant communications.

    “What do we want?”
    “When do we want it?”

  44. Supertradmum says:

    Did anyone else get the pun on herrings and newspaper fishwraps? I am sure Fr. Z intended this….

  45. One of the questions I mull, when I visit the N(so-called)CR site, is whether the editors and writers spend much time reading, and reflecting on, the commenters on their site. The NC(?)R folks make much of how capable the laity are (and it’s true), as well as taking pride in how vital a source the N(not-)CR is to educating the empowered laity. Well, then, wouldn’t the comments pages of their site be a good indicator of what their efforts have wrought?

    Well, in fact, it is. I would love to be a fly on the wall to hear how the editors and writers describe the commentary and discussion on their own pages–from their readers. It’s both funny and sad to see how Mr. John Allen, who is a reasonable, pretty middle-of-the-road fellow, is excoriated any time he says something about the pope, the Vatican or the hierarchy that is insufficiently caustic. He’s a lapdog! He’s a secret agent of the Vatican! Similar things happen when Mr. Michael Sean Winters, who, while liberal, occasionally says that aren’t knee-jerk: such as actually saying abortion is a bad thing and should be illegal, or the HHS Mandate was bad, etc.

  46. VexillaRegis says:

    STM: Yes, I did :-). I read the article, made a comment at 3.00 pm (yesterday), *then* I read the head line properly, and realised that Our Host hade got it before me. Ooops! Sorry….

  47. DisturbedMary says:

    You really want to get scared. Think about the very well-funded “Engaging Tradition” project at Columbia Law School started in 2011. Here is it’s purpose: “A critical goal of the Engaging Tradition Project is to better enable advocates working for sexual, gender, racial, and economic justice to resist tradition-based objections—whether derived from religion, custom, history, gender role stereotyping, forms of family, or identity and nationalism.”

    Watch for the war on “tradition” up ahead. It is the endgame of the forces loose in the world seeking the ruin and destruction of our Church.

  48. eulogos says:

    I was 17/18 in 1968 so I am right square in the middle of that generation.
    ( I lost my virginity and had an abortion in that year.)
    I think what kept me from being now one of the aging hippies of the Church is that I was a total pagan in 1968, so I never saw the Church as part of the great world around me which was supposedly metamorphosing in the Age of Aquarius. When I realized to what degree the values of that world had failed me, and when I found some hope that there might after all be a God, I did not look for an Age of Aquarius church, I wanted the Church which was the piller and the ground of truth, and a bulwark against everything 1968 represented. I remember thinking, not as my main reason in any way, but as a sort of decoration on the cake, “Now no one will ever make me have an abortion, I have the whole Catholic Church on my side. ” I loved the Chesterton quote about the Catholic Church being the only thing which saves us from the detestable slavery of being children of our time.

  49. dorcatholic says:


    No, not the same guy. This Fr. Curran is now and always has been a priest of the (U.S.) Diocese of Rochester. Furthermore, as andersonbd1 noted above, he is now and always has been a priest in good standing in this diocese, which speaks volumes about the level of orthodoxy around here.

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