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Truly “Progressive” Catholics Will Love Pope Benedict

By Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
Catholic Online


A recent editorial entitled “Orphaned by the Church”, written by Joan Vennochi, of the Boston Globe, made the rounds nationally last weekend. It was based upon a premise that is being repeated in many places these days. In an age where the mere repetition of a mistaken idea can be confused with accuracy, I must respond. Unlike most Catholics in America, Ms. Vennochi is unhappy with the selection of Pope Benedict XVI. To set up her claim that she is a “progressive” Catholic” and that all “progressive” Catholics will be unhappy with the leadership of our new Pope, she begins her article by making a statement and asking a question:

“With news of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's selection as the new pope, the phrase ''progressive Catholic" sounds more and more like an oxymoron. Can you be one during the reign of Benedict XVI?”

First, I disagree with the statement. The phrase “progressive” Catholic is not an oxymoron. Then, I answer the question with an enthusiastic “Yes”. One can be a truly “progressive” Catholic under the dynamic and forward facing leadership of Pope Benedict XVI. I support this claim first by a reference to the dictionary. It defines “progressive” as an adjective, meaning “Moving forward; advancing.” That is precisely what has happened to the Church, and the world, under the wonderful dynamic leadership of Pope John Paul II. It will continue under the faithful service of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Of course, in making this claim, I totally reject Ms. Venocchi’s definition of the phrase “progressive” Catholic. That is because I disagree with her over a more fundamental question, the nature of true progress. First, let’s examine the artful and strategic misuse of words, then the historic evidence. Both lead to the same conclusion, truly progressive Catholics will love Pope Benedict XVI.


We have lived through this kind of word game many times in the last few decades. For example, I, as a faithful Catholic Christian, have been very actively involved in promoting legal recognition of the inalienable right to life at every age and stage for decades. I have tried to inform my political and social participation, as I seek to inform my entire life, by the values derived from my faith. I try to live a unity of life. I am pro-life, pro-family, pro-freedom and pro-poor. I oppose the killing of innocent children in the womb, which is always and everywhere wrong because it is the taking of innocent life. I oppose euthanasia, period, no matter how it is disguised. It is never compassionate to kill someone. These strong positions have often led to efforts to label me “conservative”, and, in some instances, to marginalize me further by connecting me with the “religious right.”

However, I oppose Capital Punishment. I always have. It is no longer justifiable because bloodless means are available to punish the malefactor, to defend society and to serve the common good. Therefore mercy should trump justice. I opposed the current foray into Iraq as morally wrong, unable to be justified under any effort at applying the “Just War” Theory. I have long been deeply concerned about - and written extensively concerning - our obligations in solidarity to the poor, calling for economic reform. I believe that the market economy must be at the service of the person, the family and the common good. In these matters, even some who agreed with my unqualifiedly pro-life bona fides, began to insist that I sounded “liberal” or used the term “left” in reference to some of my articles concerning these subjects.

I called for moving beyond “liberal” and “conservative”, insisting that faithful Catholics who understand, believe in and seek to apply Catholic Social teaching in order to effect genuine social justice are not “left” or “right”, “liberal” or “conservative”, in the political sense of those limiting words. They are simply being faithful Catholics.

The same kind of political terms have been mistakenly applied in the realm of fidelity to the Magisterium of our Church. Those who believe that the teaching office is a gift from God; who embrace the full teaching of the Catholic Church and believe that it should be followed by Catholics, are called “right wing” or “conservative”, or, even “traditional”. I rejected all of these labels. I have long insisted that “Catholic” is a noun.” If anything, the more accurate question to be posed in examining how an individual professing Catholic approaches living their faith is whether they are being faithful or unfaithful. What the Catholic Church teaches on matter of doctrine, faith and morals is clear, consistent, cut from a whole cloth, can be known and must be followed by Catholics. What she teaches has been handed down by the Lord and passed on through the ...

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