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Volume 2 Issue 1
June 2004

LINK TO TEXT ONLY VERSION

Robert Blair Kaiser:  A Letter from the Editor

BOOKS

Reviewed by
Don Foran: A Dying Breed of Brave Men: The Self-Written Stories of Nine Married Priests Edited by Robert J. Brousseau

Reviewed by
Doug McFerran: Papal Reich by Arun Pereira

Reviewed by
Leonard Swidler: Ignatian Humanism: A Dynamic Spirituality for the Twenty-First Century by Ronald Modras

CHURCH REFORM

Thomas P. Doyle: The John Jay Report and The National Review Board Report

Bruce Russett: Conclusion of Governance, Accountability and the Future of the Catholic Church — Monarchy, Democracy, or "Decent Consultation Hierarchy"?

Leonard Swidler: Desperately Needed: Catholic ‘Americanist’ Heroes — The Model of Bishop John England of Charleston

FEATURED CONTRIBUTORS

Morgan Zo Callahan: Two Zen Dialogues:
Change Your Mind Day — June 7, 2003 — Ciudad de Los Angeles
Distant & Close


Geraldine Glodek: One Day on the Way to the Time Room

Paul Kelly: The Kelly Kollection

JESUITS THEN & NOW

Robert Brophy, Don Cordero, Doug McFerran, Robert R. Rahl, Jim Torrens, SJ, and Dave Van Etten : Convocation 2003

Peter Henriot, SJ: Letter from Zambia

Joseph E. Mulligan, SJ: A Faith and Justice Pilgrimage in Rome ... and Related Reflections at Home


LITERARY CRITICISM


Frances A. Della Cava and Madeline H. Engel: Catholics under the Magnifying Glass: Views in American Mystery Fiction

Ramón Rami Porta: El teólogo itinerante: Un comentario sobre Monseñor Quijote de Graham Greene

Ramón Rami Porta: The Itinerant Theologian: A Commentary on Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene


 

 


 

 

A Dying Breed of Brave Men:
The Self-Written Stories of Nine Married Priests

Edited by Robert J. Brousseau

(1st Books Library, 2003)

Reviewed by Don Foran

The nine profiled married priests in this moving volume often mention Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae as a watershed moment in their decisions to either leave the active priesthood or speak out against the pathology of the papacy and be “fired.” It is, as poet W.H. Auden said in a more general context, “the crack in the teacup” which “leads to the land of the dead.”  As Jim Drane, a particularly gifted, Rome-trained, Ph.D. put it: “Sex undoubtedly is important and serious, but based on my little experience, it was neither the evil act nor the source of all other human evil.”

The diverse accounts Robert Brousseau assembles in A Dying Breed were painful and exciting reading for a former Jesuit and married priest like myself who had relatively few “run-ins” with the episcopacy or even the clerical caste during seventeen years as a Jesuit, three and a half of them as an ordained priest. Some of the nine writers struggled not only against authoritarian pastors in parishes, classmates consciously climbing the clerical ladder, monsignors, and seemingly oblivious prelates at every turn; they also found themselves in various states of arrested development both in their dealings with women and with the entire culture of the Church. The late Anthony de Mello, no stranger to ecclesial censure, put his finger on one of the saddest aspects of Church failure: "Religion as practiced today deals in punishments and rewards.  In other words, it breeds fear and greed -- the two things most destructive of spirituality." And herein lies the bravery of the eight priests Brousseau knows and in his book gives voice to. Each refused to remain complicit with the fear and greed which was diminishing him.  For some, their lives were decidedly happier. For others, loneliness, bitterness, and family ostracism were their only rewards for inviting or at least receiving the stigma of “failed priests.”

Jim Drane realized that since infallibility means that “the Church in the sense of the Pope does not err, consequently every error must be covered up.” He left, married, and, after he and his wife raised five children together, she walked away from the marriage of twenty-five years. He hopes he has learned enough about dialogue to keep relational bonds strong in the future, but, obviously, there are no guarantees this will be the case.

Bob Westerman is a relatively conservative priest who served the Church and humanity for many years in Guatemala, then literally built parishes back in the states.

He later fell in love, married, and continued to minister in his parish, wanting to prove that “a married man could serve very effectively as parish priest.” When he suggested as much to Bishop John Quinn, the latter turned from friend to foe and cut off Westerman’s medical coverage, withdrew priestly faculties, and told him he and his wife were not to attend the parish he had been ministering to. Westerman ends his narrative insisting that optional celibacy “should be recognized and accepted as a full Christian commitment.” Bob Westerman and Jim Drane, and a few others remain close to the Church, but excluded from it in fundamental ways. Several, like William Lally, have “no bitterness toward the Church because I see it as the people of God,” and “I am one of these people and the leaders are only temporary servants of us all. We will be Church despite them and not allow them to have power over us.”

Other writers in A Dying Breed, Thomas Cahill, Joseph Dillon, Walter Chaney, John Carl, and Robert Brousseau exhibit a wide range of behaviors.  Some seem like loose cannons, others slow to catch on to the manipulations of the hierarchy and the elitism of the Church “system.” John Carl, the youngest man featured in the book, says of his many friends still in the priesthood, “I see them as Dutch boys with fingers in the dike. I entered the priesthood to be someone special. I left when I figured out that I already was.”  

All are shown to be brave and good men who earnestly committed themselves to service in God’s name and found great happiness or great torment or a mixture of both.

Like all heroes, they challenged the dominant culture.  Those whose relationships thrived and whose families love them are happy men indeed. The others escaped with their consciences intact.  However scarred, they are like us all, doing their best, in virtually every case, conscious of working for justice for millions of oppressed people, including those whose lives have been negatively impacted by the Roman Catholic Church. This timely volume reinforces the call to action rumbling through the Church. It holds up a mirror to the clerical culture and to various manifestations of the spiritual sickness at the heart of that culture.


Don Foran is a professor of English and Philosophy at Centralia College and The Evergreen State College. He was named Professor of the Year for the state of Washington by the Carnegie Foundation in 1995. He and his wife, Maggie, live in Olympia, WA. His daughters Amanda and Erin are flourishing as college students.

 

 

Volume 2 Issue 1
June 2004

MOVIES

Vittorio Messori: A Passion of Violence and Love

POETRY

Robert Bagg: Chimera

George Keithley: Looking at the Man

Tom Sheehan: We Share A Universe

POLITICS

Edward M. Fashing: WTO Meeting In Cancun, Mexico, October 2003

Robert Blair Kaiser: Holy Words Holy War

Senator Edward M. Kennedy: "Leading This Country to a Perilous Place"

Joseph E. Mulligan, SJ: The Fight for Bread and Justice Goes On in Central America

ROME DIARY

Robert Blair Kaiser:
Latest Chapter
Rome Diary Index


THEOLOGY

José María Vigil, CMF: La opción por los pobres es opción por la justicia, y no es preferencial: Para un reencuadramiento teologico-sistemático de la OP

José María Vigil, CMF: The Option for the Poor is an Option for Justice, and Not Preferential: A New Theological-Systematic Framework for the Option for the Poor

Leobard D’Souza: There Are Many Mother Teresas

TRAVEL

Michael Saso: The Advanced Asian Research and Language Institute, Beijing, Announces New, Inter-Disciplinary BA, MA, & PhD Programs, 10-14 Day Tibetan Pilgrimages, and Opportunities To Help in Building and Sponsoring Schools in Greater Tibet

VITAL SPEECHES

Anthony Padovano: The American Catholic Church: Assessing the Past, Discerning the Future

 

 

Webpage Editors: 
Ingrid H. Shafer, Ph.D.

ecumene.org
Robert R. Rahl
westcoastcompanions.org
Posted 22 May 2004
Revised 5 June 2004

 

 


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