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Where the Media Failed the Catholics

1/30/2006 - 5:00 AM PST

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By Fr. Robert J. Carr
Catholic Online

I have dealt with the call several times from media organizations such as the Associated Press and even from Church journalists.

"Fr. Carr we wanted to get your opinion, because you are a conservative."

"I am? Who told you that I was a conservative?"

The problem is that Conservative and Liberal are political terms and the Church doctrine is not conservative or liberal, it is church doctrine.

Further, these journalists portray Catholics as a monolith of people who can either be left of center, centrist or right of center. Indeed, as one of the groups attacking the church, Voice of the Faithful, attempted to do to get more acceptance, they stated they are a centrist organization. In Catholic terms that is like saying "We are radioactive." Centrist implies lukewarm. Jesus says literally in Revelations that the lukewarm make Him vomit. Therefore, only the most stupid of manipulators would come up with such a ridiculous position for the Catholic: "Don't worry we are centrist."

However, if we look more closely at the American Church, it is not along liberal/conservative lines that we identify ourselves. It is rather on lines of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. How do we understand what it means to live our faith?

Putting this in simple terms: Are we following a more Christocentric, Ecclesiocentric or Anthropocentric theology? This means are we more man centered, Church centered or Christ centered in our understanding of the faith?

What the media calls liberals are usually better described as the anthropocentric. Many of these Catholics lean towards Unitarian-Universalism because that is a man centered theology. (Granted they would be inclined to say human centered, but I am not a Unitarian Universalist.) However, the political term "liberal" still only describes one small group of the more anthropocentric of theologies. It also does not do it well.

Those the media calls conservatives are actually a far more diverse bunch than can be described with one word, even more diverse than those labeled liberals. This group would include those with a more Church centered theology and a more Christ centered theology.

Let me give you an example. There are many ways to live the Catholic faith, but two that are mutually opposed are neither conservative nor liberal, they are more politically oriented (anthropocentric) versus spiritually (Christocentric) oriented. Those two ways are liberation theology and charismatic spirituality. The expression I hear often among Brazilians, who hail from the home of Leonardo Boff, is that Liberation Theologians hate Charismatics. Boff was silenced in the late 1980's for his form of liberation theology, the most violent of the American forms.

This is a reality that is not addressed at all by the media. So, often times what the media calls liberals are not liberals, they are liberation theologians. This is a theology that politicizes the Gospel. The most extreme and radical form used at one time in Brazil included Eucharistic ministers who instead of saying "Body of Christ" when distributing communion, would say: "Vote For . . ." naming their candidate of choice.

Here in the Boston area, we are not dealing with a clash between liberal theology and conservative theology as there really is no such thing. These are after all political terms. We are dealing with a clash between liberation theology (VOTF, the universities and the media), traditional Catholic theology and Charismatic spirituality.

Yet, even within each of those groups there are different understandings of these expressions of Catholicism.

On my own blog, there is a woman named Janet attacked me for what I wrote about Archbishop Oscar Romero. Yet, I was only describing in positive terms the praise given of the assasinated Archbishop by the members of my Salvadoreņo community.

Writing as a member of the Paulist Center Community in Boston, Janet cites her bias towards liberation theology and the bias of the Paulist Center community towards it. She also assumes that because I am American and not a liberation theologian, I know nothing of Archbishop Oscar Romero. She assumes wrong.

The media simply describes the Paulist Center as a home of liberal theology. That is grossly inaccurate. This is really a place to find Liberation Theology. The Paulist Center is not some benign community. It is John Kerry's home parish, the place where he attended mass (with press entourage) during the political campaign. Not far from 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, the pastor of that parish was invited to give the invocation.

It is clear that we are dealing with Liberation Theology when we are dealing with this and other understandings of the faith embraced by the media. It is also clear that ...

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