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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