Fr. McBrien says what Church needs to hear


Every so often, we read letters in The Catholic Messenger that criticize Father Richard McBrien for “rejecting” or “misrepresenting” Catholic teaching. Just what these alleged doctrinal errors are, the letter writers never specify.

One recent writer was displeased with Fr. McBrien’s critique of Pope John Paul II in the Aug. 26 issue. For example, she was harsh on Fr. McBrien for claiming Pope John Paul II was in denial regarding the clergy abuse scandal. As far as I can see, Fr. McBrien was right on the mark. How else does one explain Rome’s refusal to investigate the scandal of Father Marciel Maciel of the Legionnaires of Christ until Pope Benedict XVI came on the scene, and the kid gloves-handling of Cardinal Bernard Law for his botched handling of the crisis in Boston? 

In criticizing the questionable quality of many of Pope John Paul’s appointments to the hierarchy, Fr. McBrien is only stating the obvious. As to the question of whether women should be ordained, a mass murderer or a despotic dictator doesn’t come under the same kind of fire someone gets for advocating women priests or challenging a bishop’s authority.

In a Church in which accountability of the hierarchy to the laity is absolutely zero, it’s essential that there be a vehicle for expression of divergent views. Fr. McBrien eloquently articulates the views of countless Catholics, and I contend that his writings are not deviations from Catholic doctrine. Criticizing Church officials for mishandling the sexual abuse crisis is no different and no worse than criticizing a president for his handling of the economy.


Such criticism doesn’t make you a disloyal American. Criticizing Church officials doesn’t necessarily make you a disloyal Catholic. We need Fr. McBrien, who says things the Church needs to hear rather than what it wants to hear.

Richard O’Neill

Rock Island, Ill.

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