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Sunday, August 28, 2005

'Red-baiting in ecclesiastical garb.'

Michael Kranish pulls back the curtain from a particularly nasty conservative Catholic organization in his Boston Globe examination of the Cardinal Newman Society. The group — which shouldn't be confused with the Cardinal Newman Center campus ministry programs but which undoubtedly gains some prestige in being confused with them — spends its time chasing after "heretics" on the faculty of Catholic Church-affiliated colleges. Earlier this month, the Society demanded the firing of three Boston College professors for helping "pave the way for the killing of Terry Schiavo."

Turns out the group falsely claims to have Archbishop Sean O'Malley as an "ecclesiastical advisor" and falsely claims its tax-exemption as a religious organization under the auspices of the diocese of Arlington, Virginia, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. (Oops, says the Society's founder and president.)

The group has close ties to right-wing political organizations, naturally, with L. Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center and Conservative Victory Fund on the board, along with Connaught Marshner, formerly of Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation.

The group appears to believe that the Church can't properly locate or identify heretics on its own, and so has set itself up as a free-range Inquisition. And Catholic colleges have decided it's time to fight back.

"It is red-baiting in ecclesiastical garb," said the Rev. John Beal, canon law professor at Catholic University of America. In his view, Beal said, none of the professors on the society's target list fit the definition of heretic.

After Boston College last week dismissed what it called the society's ''unfounded accusations," Charles L. Currie, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, followed suit. The society's "attacks can no longer go unchallenged," he said. Their most recent activities "follow a long trail of distorted, inaccurate, and often untrue attacks on scholars addressing complex issues."

Michael James, vice president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, said the society is "destructive and antithetical to a spirit of unity in our commitment to serve society and the church." Boston College is a member of both associations.

The Rev. James Keenan, a Jesuit at Boston College who was also targeted by the Newman Society, gets the last word in the Globe story:

"There is something terribly indicative here of the degree of contentiousness in the United States Roman Catholic Church today," Keenan said about the Cardinal Newman Society. "Hopefully, someday our bishops will call us to end this awful conduct, which hurts not only those of us targeted, but more importantly, the unity of the church itself."

"Group's Church Role Questioned: Organization's Tactics Generate Disputes, Cash," Michael Kranish, Boston Globe 8.26.05, reg req'd; "Catholic Group Rips 3 at BC for Stance on Schiavo," Ralph Ranalli and Michael Kranish, Boston Globe 8.17.05, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 28 August 2005 at 8:44 AM

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