Liberal racism bares its fangs

Given the politically-correct hysteria that typically surrounds any discussion of racism these days, I hesitate to use the term. But it’s hard to find another that fits certain reactions to Synod-2015 from the port side of the Barque of Peter.

Exhibit A: Shortly after the Synod concluded, the Web site of the German bishops’ conference posted an article by one Björn Odendahl, proposing that the great success of the New Evangelism in Africa is “because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith.” Moreover, Herr Odendahl wrote, this “romantic, poor Church” is growing “because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions.” As for all those African vocations, well, “the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.”

Exhibit B: In the aftermath of the Synod, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop-emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, looked down his nose, cleared his throat, harrumphed – and then told the Church in Africa that it ought to stop criticizing the infidelity and rampant individualism of post-Christian Europe, because “it is possible that the crisis we have had here will spread there, too, with all this entails. Africans may also experience a situation similar to ours. Then they might call us up to see how we dealt with it.”

Exhibit C: Five weeks after the Synod, Paul Vallely, author of an admiring biography, Pope Francis: The Struggle for the Soul of Catholicism, took his subject to the woodshed in a New York Times op-ed column entitled “The Pope’s Failure in Africa.” What was that failure? Pope Francis didn’t challenge what Vallely regards as African homophobia. And that, pace Mr. Vallely, was a missed opportunity, because Africa must “embrace” a “message of love, mercy, and inclusion” if it is “to become an accepted member of the universal Church.”


To Herr Odendahl: It may be unfashionable in German Catholic circles to read the New Testament as any sort of reliable record of early Christianity, but do give it a try. Then, you might find out that the Lord Jesus himself chose apostles of a “rather low” educational level, and that many people, perhaps simple by your standards but not by the Lord’s, flocked to him, and later to his apostles, because they found in the community of the friends of Jesus new forms of “social security.” (P.S. The term “dark continent” has certain malodorous connotations. Do try to avoid it in the future.)

To Cardinal Danneels: If we begin from the fact that Sunday Mass attendance in your country is something on the order of 4% (as I’m told by one of your brother-bishops), it does seem somewhat cheeky, and perhaps downright preposterous, to suggest that Africans take lessons in churchmanship from their putative Belgian betters. African Catholics are not interested in learning what to do with empty churches, convents, and seminaries. As for blaming the ambient cultural environment for Euro-Catholicism’s collapse, that’s bad form, especially among those for whom learning to make an examination of conscience was an integral part of their sacramental formation. Please consider another possibility: that Belgium, and other Catholic wastelands in 21st-century Europe, did not hear the Gospel and reject it because of cultural pressures; might it be that these faith-free zones haven’t heard the Gospel preached for quite a while?

To Mr. Vallely: You and those of your ideological tribe do not determine who is “an accepted member of the universal Church.” Moreover, if such acceptance requires retrofitting the Gospel, ignoring the Magisterium, and diving into the quicksand pits of moral subjectivism, I don’t think you’ll find too many folks interested: in Africa, or elsewhere, for that matter. And for you to describe Cardinal Robert Sarah as an exponent of “bigotry” because he doesn’t accept the New York Times’ view of the moral life and cautions against the dictatorship of relativism borders on calumny.

Thus a proposed new year’s resolution: no more of these Stepin Fetchit knockoffs from progressive Catholics, or indeed any Catholics, in 2016.

COMING UP: From the wilderness to the Promised Land: Learn your faith in the SJV Lay Division

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One of the famous episodes in the Old Testament is the wandering of Israel in the wilderness. The descendants of Abraham, whom God promised land to come to his descendants, wander for 40 years before they enter that land. A time of great miracles, to be certain – the manna in the wilderness, the rock that gushed forth water. But also a time of hardship and death – many battles that were lost, plagues that come up on the people. All of which is why the wilderness is associated with a time of great testing in the Scriptures.

We may seem like we are in our own wilderness today, aimlessly wandering without a sense of where life is going. Know that we, too, at the Lay Division of the Seminary, particularly our Biblical and Catechetical School instructors, intimately felt this great testing this past academic year. For the first time ever, we had classes online, by sheer force of circumstance in a world of coronavirus restrictions. In many ways, we felt our own desert wondering – unable to see students in person, unable to have normal interactions with students, lecturing to a little dot on a computer screen, seeing black screens with everybody muted, with no idea if students were smiling, laughing, crying, sleeping, or whatever else may be! This was, in many respects, wandering in the wilderness institutionally. Thankfully, the one thing that we can say for certain is that all of our lives fall under God’s infinitely wise, lovingly providential hand. It’s not merely cliché to say that God will bring good out of evil, but a true statement. And so we trust. God knows, and God takes care of all those who are faithful. And God works all things for good for those who trust in Him.

This upcoming academic year will be the start of a slow reintegration of our classes into parishes. However, we will still keep an online presence, with half of our classes returning to in-person locations throughout the Archdiocese of Denver and half remaining online. Certainly one of the positives about teaching classes online, and perhaps the good that God will bring for us institutionally out of our wilderness of this past year, is that it allows for expansion to reach potential students who otherwise aren’t capable of attending our in-person classes. Given that, taking a class with us will never be easier! It doesn’t matter what part of Colorado you live in — you can take a class online with us!

If you’ve never heard of who we are, then let me briefly introduce our institution: we are the Lay Division at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary for the Archdiocese of Denver. This makes our seminary unique: not just the formation of future clerics, but also a division dedicated to the formation of the laity. Our mission is to put people in contact and communion with Jesus, who alone leads us to the heart of the Father in the Spirit. We do this through various offerings which study God’s call to each and every person to have a personal relationship with him in the Church that he established with the Precious Blood of Jesus. Our two flagship programs are the Denver Catholic Biblical School, a four year study of the Sacred Scriptures, and the Denver Catholic Catechetical School, a two year study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We also offer various other programs of study – year long “Enrichment Courses” in different topics of the faith, short courses throughout the year, lecture series throughout the liturgical seasons, and day-long workshops. Wherever you’re at in your faith, we have something for everybody!

Classes for this upcoming year begin on Monday, Sept. 13. Visit to see all of the options for classes, locations/online times, information sessions, and to register. Make the choice to study with us to learn your faith and come to know and love Jesus Christ!