"The beginning of wisdom for your fellow bishops would be to realize that you and your statements are utterly worthless, save perhaps as means for currying favor with the Vatican."

From ............... National Catholic Reporter

June 14, 1996

page 21



Dear Bishop Pilarczyk:

I note with interest that you and your committee have issued a "review" that is a quasi-condemnation of Notre Dame Professor Richard McBrien's book Catholicism. The argument seems to be that the book will confuse many Catholic laity.

I leave aside the question of whether, with a couple of hundred thousand copies of the book in print, you are not locking the barn door a good decade after the horse escaped. Rather I want to know how you and your colleagues know what will confuse the laity. I submit that you know nothing about the laity and that you project into an imaginary laity your own fears and misgivings.

If the laity are confused by anything it is by the church's dislike of women, by the excommunications flung out by your colleague Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz and by the succession of semiliterate incompetents the Vatican has imposed on American dioceses during the past decade - of whom Bishop Bruskewitz is by no means the most dangerous. It is arrogant, gratuitous and insulting that you and your committee presume to know what goes on in the minds and hearts of the laity. The only ones you know anything about are the right-wing fanatics that write you letters.

Moreover, what do you think your review is going to accomplish? Do you imagine that a single teacher or religious educator is going to put aside Fr. McBrien's book because you and your committee have warned about it? How blind can you be? Do you think anyone listens to bishops anymore? If you can't deliver Catholics on abortion, birth control and immigration, for example, what makes you think you can influence anyone about a book?

The beginning of wisdom for your fellow bishops would be to realize that you and your statements are utterly worthless, save perhaps as means for currying favor with the Vatican.

If you had the courage of your convictions, you would take a leaf from the page of Bruskewitz and go totally medieval. You would issue a solemn condemnation of Fr. McBrien, demand that the book be withdrawn from circulation, that Notre Dame dismiss him, and warn him that if he does not comply he, too, will be excommunicated. That's the way bishops used to act in the old days when bishops were really bishops instead of wishywashy compromisers.

You wouldn't influence anyone with such tactics, but at least you would satisfy the right-wing letter writers and feel the satisfaction that comes from exercising ultimate, if irrelevant, power.

I wonder, however, Archbishop, if you'd do me a big favor. My new novel, to appear this month, is called 'White Smoke,' and is about the next papal conclave. While it isn't theological, it does tell a lot about the history of the papacy, much of which is less than edifying. It will certainly confuse the laity you and your buddies have created in your heads as an excuse for issuing your stupid and patronizing statements.

Do you think if I send a copy of it to you and your committee, you could have your hired-gun theologian write a review warning against it? I don't think it fair that only McBrien benefit from your condemnations. It would certainly make my publisher's day.

This is not a very respectful letter Archbishop. But then, I don't have much respect for you or most other American bishops. Among the many things you have yet to learn is that respect now must be earned. It is not granted automatically. The office of bishop is extremely important in the church. That's why it should be occupied by virtuous, humble, sensitive men who are capable of listening and sympathizing with the real laity and not the laity you create out of your own political and emotional needs.

But instead, we are led in this critical time by proud, arrogant time-servers and careerists, men who couldn't care less about anything save their position in the Vatican political game, men who don't do good things but rather do the things they do well. Like issuing warnings and condemnations.

You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Fr. Andrew Greeley is a sociologist and novelist.