Saturday, April 21, 2012

VIDEO: Christendom's Donna Bethell vs. Fordham's Jeannine Hill Fletcher on LCWR Dust-up

Video Snapshot: Christendom's Donna Bethell is unable to contain her laughter as the segment ends with  Jeannine Hill Fletcher of Fordham University displaying blatant ignorance of authentic Catholic teaching on several points.

[Note: Actual video is further down]

Before getting to the video, embedded at the bottom, let me provide a lead-in.  I almost didn't watch this PBS video interview because the secular talking-heads usually go down a line of questioning that only gives part of the story, and it ends up shorting the true Catholic position. I was pleasantly surprised, however, with Judy Woodruff's interview of two women: Donna Bethell of Christedom College in Front Royal, Virginia and Fordham Universitiy's Jeannine Hill Fletcher.  Woodruff asked the questions, and let each of them talk, which is unusual these days. I liked her followup with Bethell a couple of times, but it's unfortunate that they ran out of time just as Fletcher showed her real colors at the very end, revealing a number of beliefs that are incompatible with Catholicism.  To that, we see Bethell unable to contain her laughter at the nonsense as the segment phased out.

Bethell is a lawyer, and is the Chairman of the Board of Directors at Christendom. The National catholic Reporter is showing it's tolerance for diversty in worship and subjects in which good Catholics may disagree throwing a nutty over the fact that she goes to the Latin Mass and doesn't agree with Al Gore, and others, on climate change. That dissident rag is so far gone they really don't know what the Church teaches, spilling virtual ink in ways that are contrary to what anyone can find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Fletcher is a self-proclaimed catholic theologian at Fordham University* who teaches, among other things, religious pluralism and "feminist and postcolonial thought".  Pluralism was condemned in the First Vatican Council (Vatican I), back in the late 1800's, but dissenting theologians seem not to consult it.

Jeannine Hill Fletcher uses the typical dissenting talking points and plays a little bait-and-switch by making the Assessment seemingly about the LCWR being picked on despite the good work of the sisters. There is no consideration for the real doctrinal matters raised in the document.  Fletcher's position was kind of like arguing that it is okay to say there are four persons in the Trinity as long as you feed the hungry; or, you do not have an obligation to correct someone who says there are only two persons in the Trinity because they recycle ink cartridges. Donna Bethell counters by pointing out how the document acknowledged right in the beginning, all the good work done by the sisters in areas like helping the needy and in education (we'll leave discussion of Catholic education aside for now).  Bethell then explains that the Church expressed concerns over the lack of work in other areas of social justice, like pro-life work, especially abortion and euthanasia.  What is amazing is that Fletcher could bill herself as a catholic theologian and not speak to very specific doctrinal concerns also raised in the Assessment.

In the interview, I am also shocked at the apparent ignorance of Fletcher about the Church's social doctrine, given how much she emphasized social justice. Surely, she couldn't have read the Compendium on Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church.  Does she even know it exists?  Perhaps she is consulting documents and books written by others who use the "make it your own" approach to Catholicism.  I don't know how you speak, as a Catholic, on Catholic issues, and not consult the Catholic Church's documents.   She would have noticed that protecting life from conception to natural death is a huge part of the Church's teaching on social justice.  Watch Fletcher's non-answer to Woodruff's followup as to whether those things (the life issues) are compatible with social justice.  She looked surprised by Woodruff's question and didn't quite know what to say so, she asked for it to be repeated.  She never answers the question.  At the end, Fletcher becomes somewhat unraveled and spews a litany of complaints so outside of Catholic teaching that Donna Bethell is unable to contain her laughter in the parting shot.

The LCWR has effectively worked against the bishops in these "culture of life" issues, and on sexual morality. I say, "effectively" because they, and those with whom they collaborate, have worked the media and the White House like a well tuned orchestra.  In fact, it was so effective, that the Obama administration admitted it didn't go to the US Catholic bishops to work through the Catholic issues on the HHS mandate; rather, it consulted "other groups" of Catholics.

Bethell also made the point that some teachings allow for prudential judgment while others are not open for debate.  This is fact.  Fletcher says Church teachings can change over time.  This too is incompatible with Catholic teaching because it is incompatible with Scripture, which says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever and we should not be carried away by all sorts of strange teachings (Heb 13:8-9).  Truth is timeless and unchanging and the point of that passage was to warn us against conforming to the popular trends of any given age.  Our understanding of truth grows organically, but truth itself does not change.  She errs on her example, but this post is already too long for me to go into that.  If someone wants to explain in the combox, I'll post it. 

Here is the video. Below you will find a number of links related to this interesting interview and the subject of the LCWR doctrinal assessment.   Here is a transcript from PBS.

Watch carefully what dissenting voices do in the public square with this issue.  They will paint this as, "the Vatican is being political".   People need to read all eight pages of the Doctrinal Assessment themselves and you will see right through the baloney.  As I said in my post yesterday, some issues are not just political  in nature; if they also have components of morality and justice, then how we respond must be aligned with the Gospel and there is no such thing as a personal interpretation of Scripture.  Using a case from history, segregation of blacks and whites was political, but it was also unjust and immoral.  A Catholic bishop took decisive action in 1962 in excommunicating several Catholics who were hindering desegregation, as well as inciting others to disobedience after the Church explained such segregation was incompatible with Scripture.  Few people in their right mind today would argue that the bishop was being "political".  Whether it is segregation or abortion, the Church sees both as immoral and unjust.  It is the world which then makes them political subjects.  The bishops cannot ignore a matter of morality or  justice, simply because it has become political. 

Now, I have added this to my other links at the bottom, but it is worth pointing to here for added attention.  Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP, PhD, at his blog, has looked at an excerpt from a keynote speaker at an LCWR Assembly.  The title of his post says it all: This is just embarassing... 

Links Related to the PBS Interview (may be updated)
Newer Links Related to the LCWR Doctrinal Assessment
Post updated for clarity, and re-formatted.
*corrected post which errantly indicated Fordham was no longer a Catholic institution.

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NBW said...

Thank you for posting this, Diane. Fletcher does show her true colors at the end of the segment.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

Just a quick note. As a recent Fordham graduate I must say that Fordham, despite some dissidents in the theology department, is still firmly (and officially Catholic), contrary to what you have written above. The President is a priest, as are many high level administrators, and there are at least 20 Jesuit Scholastics (seminarians)on campus. There is a strong Catholic life and it may also interest you to note that Mass is offered in the EF weekly on campus.
Thank you for your article.
In Christ,
a Recent Fordham Grad

Fr. Philip Powell, OP said...

Ouch. That was painful to watch. Mizz Fletcher wasn't expecting a PBS talking-head to ask her a real question. . .frankly, neither was I!

Good find, DMK!!

Fr. Philip Neri, OP

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

Just a quick note. As a recent Fordham graduate I must say that Fordham, despite some dissidents in the theology department, is still firmly (and officially Catholic), contrary to what you have written above.

I stand corrected after going back and looking at the source of information I used. I see that I confused the word "independent" for having ended formal Catholic status. Thanks for pointing this out. I will correct my post.

In any event, Fletcher has made a fool of herself on national television and ought not be teaching even basic catechism with the blatant ignorances and dissent that were on display in that interview. That should be a pure embarassment and if Fordham is truly a Catholic unversity as opposed to a catholyc institution, that president will take care of business. But, given what is on the bio page I linked to at Fordham, I won't hold my breath. The president has a responsibility to protect the faith from perversion like that. That said, I would not send my child to Fordham on the basis of what I saw on that interview, and on the bio page for this so-called "catholic theologian". There are plenty of truly loyal Catholic institutions to choose from, and the list is growing.

Peadar Ban said...

Dear DWK,

I haven't yet seen the interview. I am reacting here to your comments about it. You write Fletcher uses a "bait and switch" by making the Assessment seemingly about the LCWR being picked on despite the good work of the sisters. I think you used the word "seemingly", implying that might not have been her intent. I do not know Fletcher or her work, but from your description of the kinds of position she takes and "scholarly" interests she has, I would bet you a ham sandwich that there was no bit of seemingly involved in Fletcher's responses. Call it what you will, Liberal, progressive, Alinskyite-secular or Marxist-Leninist, the tactic is the same, to deflect attention from the real issue, and the real goal, (which in this case is the demolition of Holy Church in favor of a new structure in line with so-called modern ways of thinking). And that tactic is to demonize the opponent and make yourself out to be a victim of powerful and malevolent forces. She may have appeared stupid to someone like yourself who knows something...but, she is not interested in you, or people who think like you. The Academy is full of Fletchers. So is the media and most of modern society.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

I use the word "seems" and "seemingly" because I can't read the heart of another person. I'll often use the word "apparent", or that something is manifest, even when I'm 99% sure the person did have intent. It's just my way.

Wendell said...

Clearly, Ms. Fletcher has not mastered the ability to remain on topic, nor even do a decent job of obfuscation.

If this is the level of intellectual rigour among professors at Fordham, Fordham can and should do better.

Peadar Ban said...

Dear DWK,

Thank you for your reply. I have watched the short video since my first comment. I thoroughly understand your position. I am unable to read hearts either. I suppose I am more cynical, and perhaps should think about that. I cannot get beyond past experiences with folks like Fletcher, though, and the evidence of their tactics in many places. I still don't know what a feminist-Theologian is or what business it has at a Catholic University. I have friends in such places who tell me about decades long battles to prevent literally everything from being politicized and radicalized. Alas. They would do the same to the faith had they the opportunity. LBGTQ, and reproductive health indeed!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the video. I like Judy Woodruff in general but Donna Betthell just made it a little easier to write out those checks to Christendom College each month.

Steve M

Anonymous said...

Wow, Fletcher really fell apart at the end and revealed herself. How many times did she begin with "As a feminist theologian" or "As a scholar of feminism and theology". Every single time she opened her mouth, she had to first credentialize herself: "listen to my opinion, because I'm this..." That betrays an insecurity. She knows she is weak on this issue, so she must constantly trot out her titles. Sad.

Craig said...

My goodness. What next? Let's dialogue about if the Host really becomes Christ or if Hitler is in Heaven. I think Fordham has some "theologins" who received their degrees from the back of a cereal box. My God preserve those [their] who are "Catholic".

ScottF said...

I was struck by Donna Bethell's statement on her NPR interview on this same topic this week, that "the church is Christ on earth." Is this really the Catholic view--that it *IS* an immortal and divine being, the avatar of Christ, identical with it? If so, this would explain a LOT.

Unknown said...

See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in particular n. 795:

Christ and his Church thus together make up the "whole Christ" (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ. The saints are acutely aware of this unity:

Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God's grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man. . . . The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does "head and members" mean? Christ and the Church.230

Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the holy Church whom he has taken to himself.231

Head and members form as it were one and the same mystical person.232

A reply of St. Joan of Arc to her judges sums up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer: "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter."233