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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sr. Joan Chittister and the problems of history

While the Russian Orthodox church sat in solemn conclave in 1917 debating internal church agendas, a fledgling group of communist insurgents made their first military attacks on the czar.

While the clergy bolstered the monarchies of Europe, the first stirrings of democratic revolution broke out in France.

While Roman Catholicism was being banned in France in 1793, the construction of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., a country built on the rights of the individual, was beginning.

And while 256 Roman Catholic bishops from 118 countries prepared to assemble in Rome this week for a synod on the Eucharist, Corpus, an organization of married priest that has long supported the notion of a married priesthood (it was formally named the Corps of Reserve Priests United for Service), initiated a program that could certainly enliven the discussion. Maybe even start a revolution of its own. [source]

One who is not a historian should always be careful of making use of historical analogy as they are often, as in this case, wrong and often, as in this case, horribly wrong.

Let's begin with the problem of comparing the movement of Corpus to the Bolshevik uprising in October 1917. At the time that the Russian Orthodox Church was meeting, it was not meeting to discuss mere "internal agendas" although the praseology is helpful if one wants to accuse the Catholic hierarchy of doing the same. In fact, this was the first time that the Russian Orthodox Church had been able to meet to decide, free of state control, upon its own policies and leadership. This synod represented a failed opportunity for the Russian Church to do many of the things that Sr. Joan and her friends at the NCR support - a liturgy in the vernacular, an church more concerned with issues of social justice, a church more focussed on the laity. Indeed, the Bolshevik uprising ended those possibilities and put out a brief spark of Church independence as well as leading to the brutal deaths of thousands of believers.

Sr. Joan doesn't improve any with her next analogy to the French Revolution. Again, she has it all wrong. The French Revolution was not begun as a democratic revolution. Certain groups - i.e. the educated elite wanted a greater voice in the government but they were not in favor of opening the vote to everyone. Moreover, what the French ended up with was a Terror that also brutally killed Catholics and finally yet another despot in Napoleon.

Failing miserably in her first two analogies, Sr. Joan tries a third time by comparing the situation in Europe at the time of the French Revolution with that of the situation in the United States where throughout most of the country Catholics were also persecuted as any trip through Philadelphia will demonstrate. Fortunately, the religious persecution in the US was not lethal.

That's three for three. Not only does she misrepresent the history involved in these three analogies [sometimes to an astonishing degree] but she also errors in trying to imply that any movement by CORPUS could be seen as historically significant as the French, Russian, and American revolutions. Moreover, if I'm in CORPUS, I don't think I would like being compared to the Bolsheviks or French Committee for Public Safety.

But perhaps, Joan really does mean what she says - in that case, we should all be very afraid.


Blogger Jeff Miller said...

With Sr. Joan getting three historical analogies wrong is just as consistent as how she gets the faith.

I have been seeing the 25,000 Roman Catholic married priests number more and more touted by progressives. I am pretty skeptical of this number. Even with the number of priests that left the priesthood how in the world could this number be equivalent to half of the number of serving priests.

11:17 PM  

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