Cincinnati Director of Formation Issues Broadside Against the Association of Catholic Priests

Fr. Martin Fox, writing in his personal blog, Bonfire of the Vanities, has issued a broadside against the Association of Catholic Priests and their upcoming meeting in Seattle, calling it the “Sad-funny-ironic swan-song of the ‘Spirit of Vatican 2’ crowd.”

Calling their agenda “pointless,” his dismissive remarks about the group, which has 950 members, highlight not only the generational differences between age cohorts in the American Catholic priesthood, but also the increasingly acerbic and derogatory tone that younger priests feel free to take in public when speaking about their elder brothers.

In fact, it would be hard to tell from Fr. Fox’s remarks that he regards older priests as brothers at all, much less valued older colleagues in ministry. They are described more as if they are either enemies or a pathetic nuisance to be gotten out of the way. Younger priests such as Fr. Fox, confident that they hold the whip hand, now seem ready to snap it — on other priests.

This attitude toward older priests and indeed toward an entire generation of the Church as blameworthy targets to be attacked, is of course nothing new to blogs. Significantly, Fr. Fox writes in red letters in the midst of his blog post “Welcome Fr. Zeee….ians!”

All of this would be of little interest, except for the fact that Fr. Fox is director of priestly formation for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Generally, priests who are placed in positions of trust and authority in priestly formation are also regarded as role models for the young. (Fr. Fox, judging from his picture, is middle-aged.) Sadly, one reasonable inference may be that his Ordinary, Archbishop Schnurr, approves of his conduct and manner of expression and wishes to see it replicated in those who are drawn to the ordained ministry. Or does he? It’s not always clear that bishops read the blogs of their priests or approve of everything they do.

Personally, I think this blog post illustrates a deplorable state of affairs in the priesthood today. Nothing of substance said here is new. But the spectacle of angry contempt speaks louder than the content of the argument. To demean anyone because of age is inhumane. It’s un-Christian. I don’t know of any other Christian community in which the younger generation of ordained would mount an attack on their elders as elders. Whatever happened to respect? Have younger priests (I won’t say young, because many of them are now middle-aged) surrendered to the spirit of the age so much that scoring points with like-minded readers is now more important than modeling respect for their brother priests?

Clerical culture, once known as a bastion of solidarity, would seem to be cracking.


  1. Thank you for this post. I am a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for the last 29 years. I am so sorry that Fr. Fox regards those as wasted years. Our diocese had a priest convocation on building the unity of the presbyterate. It appears to have failed.

  2. Ah, the not so subtle joys of egoism that personal blogs allow to be revealed in the pursuit of Noble Intentions…..

  3. Maybe we should tell this priest that Paul VI used first the expression “spirit of Vatican II” – in a positive way

  4. Thanks for the plug.

    I’m sorry you choose to impute motives and make charges that are false and uncharitable.

    First, the obvious: this group has put itself forward publicly. Their stated agenda and purpose is public. So why is commenting on it so awful? I’m not allowed to disagree?

    Second, anyone can see that in all the accusations you make against me, the only words you quote are my welcome to visitors to my blog from another site.

    Third, who is “dismissive” of brother priests? This group is expressly dismissive of those priests who don’t see things their way. In the article published at the National Catholic Reporter, the spokesman for the group describes his cohort of priests in terms of their dedication to Vatican II (really, they love V2 more?), and how they are devoted to “service” and “washing of feet,” contrasting younger priests as “rulers.”

    So, if you want to complain of priests who don’t respect other priests, let’s start there. Which, by the way, was one of my points.

    So, my post addressed whether this question is even true? And I contend it isn’t; it’s outrageously not true–and my post develops that idea. That’s “dismissive”?

    Fourth, you might have cited the constructive suggestions I gave these priests on how they could step away from this divisiveness and actually unite priests across generations.

    You say of me: “They are described more as if they are either enemies or a pathetic nuisance to be gotten out of the way.”

    You accuse me of “angry contempt.” And that I am “demean(ing)…because of age” in an “inhumane” way. And you say that I’ve “mount(ed) an attack on their elders as elders. Whatever happened to respect?”

    None of these accusations against me is true. You offer no support.
    On the other hand, my post examines this group in terms of its stated aims.

    I think engaging with this group’s words, actions and agenda–all of which are public–is entirely respectful. They want to be taken seriously and I have done so.

    1. @FrMartinFox – comment #4:
      Fr. Martin,

      No one reading your initial post would think that you have much respect or love for AUSCP. If in fact you do, you might want to think about how your word choices are giving the wrong impressions – you sound pretty sarcastic and dismissive.


      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #6:
        “No one”? That’s a mighty magisterial voice there, Father.

        Again, what’s so hard about actually quoting me? There’s something kind of weird and passive-aggressive about accusing me of a series of terrible things, without quoting anything I said in support, and then…

        I’m the one issuing a “broadside”?

        What’s so hard about saying, “You said ____; I think that’s factually wrong or unfair, because ___”?

      2. @FrMartinFox – comment #7:
        I’m not sure if you’re replying to me or you’re still on Rita’s post, but I’ll stick with my comments, not hers.

        I’m talking about your overall tone and my impression of it. That’s my point.

        From the tone of your posts, I gather that it would be pointless to try to argue about the details.


      3. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #8:
        Father, did you mean to be so funny?

        I wrote a post about the AUSCP in which I quoted its purposes and examined its arguments; I gave reasons for my observations. And I offered constructive suggestions to the group.

        This site rakes me over the coals–I’m terrible–but can’t quote a single thing I said in support of any of the accusations against me. Doing so is “pointless.”

      4. @FrMartinFox – comment #9:
        Fr. Fox,

        To clarify, I’m not talking about about winning an argument and citing chapter and verse to prove anyone wrong. I’m talking about the tone of your comments and the impression they have on others. I hope you can sense for yourself what I mean about your original comments – I’ll leave it to your own sensitivity to detect what I do in your comments, if it’s there. No need for me to catalog it for you – we’re talking about “emotional intelligence,” not winning debating points.


      5. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #16:

        Except it is very clear you disagree with the substantive arguments, and are using the tone to try and discredit them, rather than engage with them directly.

        That this is disingenuous is pretty clear, once one considers what is allowed in posts and in comments here, when you agree with it.

        For example, in this very thread supposedly in support of charity between priests, there is a comment suggesting Fr. John Zuhlsdiorf is odious.

      6. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #42:

        You have argued quite strongly in the recent past that, in relation to Vatican II itself, the tone (in part) was the substance.

        Equally, I suspect it is the substance here you find truly offensive, as you don’t seem to find similar tones as objectionable when you agree with the author.

      7. @Scott Smith – comment #49:
        Exactly. In both cases – the original post of Fr. Fox, and Vatican II – the tone gives its own substance, apart from the specifics jots and tittles of what is prescribed. That’s my point.

      8. @Scott Smith – comment #37:
        Dear Sir,

        Please re-read said comment. And consult a good dictionary on the traditional meaning of “odious”. I never said Zuhlsdorf was odious, but that Martin Fox’s association with him was. With very little imagination you should be able to work out the inference.

      9. @Robert Mickens – comment #58:
        “arousing or deserving hatred or repugnance”, “deserving or causing hatred; hateful; detestable”, “highly offensive; repugnant; disgusting”.

        As far as Fr. Fox’s original blog post was concerned, his “association with John Zuhlsdiorf” was that Fr. Z linked to Fr. Fox’s blog, and Fr. Fox was welcoming the readers of Fr. Z’s blog to his own. What’s odious about that?

        Or was the inference that Fr. Fox and Fr. Z must share many similar sentiments, and those sentiments are odious, and so the association between the two priests is also odious?

      10. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #63:
        “What’s odious about that?”

        “Odious” is a strong word, no doubt. Father Z, despite his popularity, is a fringe player in the Church. He’s known to play to his crowd and whip up frenzies over his pet issues. He strikes me as ceaselessly negative, and more than a bit narcissistic in his manufactured conversations. I can attest that he was a no-show for an audio internet liturgy discussion that I took part in a number of years ago. Some people have their schtick, and I don’t think inconveniences like truth, charity, dialogue, and sharing faith are of much interest to them.

        It wasn’t until Fr Fox mentioned his “welcome” of Fr Zee … ians” that we got an explanation for a rather curious interruption in what the man admitted was an “acerbic” piece.

        I don’t have a problem with a person giving a knowledgeable critique of the AUSCP or their agenda. I found Fr Fox’s essay to be full of caricature and mostly pointless, except to drum up the passions of his readers and those of Fr Z.

        Personally, I would find more fruitful a back-and-forth discussion on any of the single points Fr Fox attempted to raise. I suggested Penance Form III, but no response as of yet.

        Blogging seems made for dropping a bomb and watching the dust settle. Or not. God knows I’ve been guilty of it myself. But at some point, it would be interesting to attempt to build something more lasting, more befitting people of God.

        So, what do you say Fr Fox: pick one issue and let’s cross blog it.

      11. @Todd Flowerday – comment #65:
        Fr. Z is positive about some things (not just the EF), and negative about others. He may be negative about things you are positive about (and me too). I don’t know about the audio liturgy discussion you’re referring to, so I won’t comment there.

        But when you say vaguely that “some people have their schtick, …”, and we’ve been talking about Fr. Z, why not just come out and say, “Fr. Z is not interested by such inconveniences are truth, charity, etc.”? Unless that’s NOT what you were saying. I’m not claiming any special wisdom (especially due to age) or epiphany, but I’m growing tired of beating around the bush in speech. I wish we could all speak our minds plainly. I will attempt to do so, with (or in?) charity.

        Fr. Fox’s blog post seemed to be of two minds: one of addressing the goals of the AUSCP (showing them to be fruitless), and one of addressing the person in the AUSCP (showing them to be a minority in one way or another). It would have been better, I think, to be only of the first mind. I understand that he brought up age primarily to show that the movement does not seem to inclusive or representative of newer/younger priests, but it does not surprise me that people quickly charge him with ageism.

      12. @Robert Mickens – comment #58:

        The inference is both clear and offensive, as is your tone towards myself, at least by the standards to which Fr. Fox is being held here.

        That being said, by any reasonable standard, your comments are just robust discussion. But the charity to recognise that in others seems to be lacking today.

      13. @Scott Smith – comment #80:
        Hey Scott, you’re missing the entire point.

        Fr. Fox is director of priestly formation for a major American archdiocese, and his remarks, which many have found sarcastic and dismissive and ageist, were about other priests. He is not just any old private citizen like you or me or Bob Mickens (who was perfectly polite, by the way, and didn’t imply you were a has-been because of your age, or that your views are sad-funny).

        Yes, Fr. Fox IS being held to a higher standard, and rightfully so. The reason is that his example concerning his brother priests is important to his job. The issue on the table is not general blog etiquette.

        As I said in the post (please read before you comment) “All of this would be of little interest, except for the fact that Fr. Fox is director of priestly formation…”

        Now, do you get it?

      14. @Rita Ferrone – comment #82:

        Firstly, neither Mr. Mickens or your inference that I am unable to read, is particularly respectful or polite. I understand what you are trying to say, I just think like most of us, your bias is making is hard to see why you are being unfair.

        You say that Fr Fox is being held by a higher standard because of his role. However, if someone in his role had suggested, say more traditional priests were “prissy” because of their liturgical preferences, I would not expect anywhere near the same level of outrage.

        Accordingly, it seems to me the higher standard is for people you disagree with, rather than those with greater responsibilities.

  5. “Clerical culture, once known as a bastion of solidarity, would seem to be cracking.” Given the clericalism and careerism of the past, we should be thanking Fr. Fox for calling a group of aging priests to task for wanting to return to the past, the 1960’s and 70’s rather than moving forward as Pope Francis desires. Perhaps, though, it would have been better simply to use Pope Francis’ words that he has used for other groups in the Church, clergy, religious and otherwise who are creating their own agendas and building careers on them, “be obedient to Holy Mother Church and her Magisterium, the Successor of Peter and the bishops in union with him.” That would be good for all of us, the Association of Priests in this country and elsewhere as well as rank and file religious and laity. It would be radical too and solve a lot of problems with those claiming bogus authority in the Church and seeking adherents to their ideologies. But we should keep in mind that St. John the Baptist called the elders in his religion, the Pharisees and Sadducees “a brood of vipers” which seems worse than the terms Fr. Fox uses.

  6. Rita – he is joined by another of our regular commenters which posted:

    These Careerist Priests With Their Own Agenda Are Downright Sad, Disgraceful

    Opening paragraph mimics/repeats Fox:

    “I think that Pope Francis would consider the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests as careerists with their own agenda and in complete opposition to the Magisterium of Holy Mother Church. Their age, 70 and older betrays the mindset and their arrested development, still stuck in the 1970’s. It is sad, sad. This article is from the National Chismatic Reporter, aka, NCR which you can read there too.”

    (note they both have snark in terms of changing/labeling the National Catholic Reporter)

    Does appear to fit into Francis’ categories of *ideologues* and *self-referential*

    The level of fear and emotional stunting is alarming (not sure it is just about age differences – there is much more going on here). One could have a field day analyzing these two using the DSM IV Revised – the Axis Two possibilities are endless.

    And to be honest, not sure that clerical culture was ever so one-dimensional and always such an *undivided front*. Diocesan politics has been around forever and internal wranglings over positions, parish assignments, bishops’ favor, competition with the next pastors, etc. But, there weren’t blogs around to advertise and draw attention to these types of parlor games.

    Last week, Fr. Robert Imbelli addressed the Catholic Theology Society – one of his key points about the church today was summed up in this description:

    “polarization among members of the Catholic community where some blogs “serve as a house of horrors mirror”

    That does sum it up well!

  7. It’s really quite appalling that he disregards Jim Coriden, who is dean of U.S. if not international canonists.

    Jim Coriden was a prof I had at CUA and he was amazingly impressive in every possible way. To see Fox disparage him because of his age clearly reveals the ugly underbelly of the true personality of the typical JPII priest.

    I supposed Ladislaus Orsy and Avery Dulles ceased being productive once they reached the age of 70?

    1. @Fr. Jim Blue – comment #11:
      Father, I did not “disregard” or “disparage” Father Coriden. Shame on you!

      “…the typical JPII priest”–nothing dismissive or disparaging there.

      The reason I pointed out the ages of those involved was to show the generational aspect here. As I said: “This is not a youth movement.” And it’s not.

      But it could be. Here’s what I suggested to the group:

      …here’s a suggestion that would actually make a difference. Instead of claiming to be the true embracers of Vatican II, not to mention being more humble than your fellow priests, how about this? How about:

      > Seek out laity and clergy who disagree with you, and seek to learn from them?

      > Acknowledge openly that a lot of what happened after the Council was misguided.

      > Show respect for the fact that those Catholics (lay and clergy) who disagree with you, love Vatican II as well.

      What’s so hard with engaging my arguments?

  8. When will people, on either side of the divide, stop using the Council as a divisive tool meant to split, rather than with the spirit of unity and wholeness which it is meant to have brought forth. I often think of the image of Satan as the divider in these matters, and we are our own worst enemy.

    I’m interested to note that comment #12 from Fr. Fox asks about showing “respect for the fact that those Catholics (lay and clergy) who disagree with you, love Vatican II as well.” I am wondering how that works itself out in light of the original missive from his blog.

    With all due respect for his office, Fr. Fox certainly seems to be awfully angry and more than a little smug. If you are for building up the church Father, please build it up. If that can only be done by demeaning others, that is a sad day for all of us. And if you, or anyone else wishes to pull out the “they started it” card, please reconsider. You are the one who brought that up in the first place… why bother? You can always just shake the dust from your shoes and move in in peace. Clearly you have chosen otherwise, what a pity. And with that, I shake the dust off of my own sandals, and move on.

  9. Fr Fox,

    I am one of the invited speakers at the AUSCP assembly and I am extremely supportive of the service these priests have given to the Church and the People of God. I am 49 years old (born in April 1964, in the “cradle” of the Council) and I find your sarcastic and dismissive tone, based in large part on an ageism, to be insulting. That you don’t even know who Catherine Clifford is speaks volumes of your ignorance of contemporary theological studies on Vatican II. I also find you tone to be clericalist and your association with John Zuhlsdiorf odious.

    You insult many fine priests who have laboured far longer than you, though I suspect you are, in fact, older than I — and even older than some of the members of the association.

    To use a phrase common among some, I will pray for you.

    Robert Mickens

  10. It seems a lot of the ‘incomprehension’ between the ‘Vatican 2 veterans’ and the ‘young men (?)’ is the difference between those who have lived through the ‘events and the transition’ and those who are ‘caught in the backswing of the pendulum’ taking place sometime afterwards. The ‘young men (?)’ are enthused in the effects of the ‘liturgical and theological inertia’ of resistance which has been the common experience after most of the Ecumenical Councils. They do have to gain the insight of their elders who lived through the exciting times and choices and digest it for themselves.

  11. I read the article, and I can see why Ms Ferrone and some others found it inflammatory.

    Fr. Fox – as a younger, moderately conservative priest, I sympathize with some of what you wrote, but its tone came over as polemical and hostile. I didn’t see much evidence of Ephesians 4.4. There have got to be better ways of discussing these issues with fellow Christians.

    I disagree with Ms Ferrone on one thing, though. I don’t think it was inappropriate or ageist to point to the generational composition of the AUSCP membership. The demographic divide is real enough and deserves to be openly aired and discussed.

  12. Having looked at the website in question it seems the “tone” is mild compared to what we occasionally see here. Just mention the cappa magna and watch what happens.

    1. @Daniel McKernan – comment #17:

      Thanks. It seems remarkable–I was going to say “funny,” but perhaps that’s the wrong tone?–that this site can issue a broadside against me, and fail to quote anything I said except welcoming visitors (and I’ve since posted a welcome to visitors from here too). If my post was so terrible, it ought to be a target-rich environment.

  13. A comment regarding “tone:”

    Rev. Fox resorts to “shame on you,” which I have always considered violent and vile speech. To shame another person is to entitle one’s self to inappropriate power over another. Shame speech is abusive speech. It is not appropriate. We’ve had more than enough problems in the church with priests shaming people. I would have thought that a person involved in forming future priests would have a clue about this elementary principal.

    Aside: Is a “formation director” sort of like a “spiritual director” to which seminarians are accountable in the same way but without any promise or presumption of confidentiality?

    1. @Fr. Jim Blue – comment #21:
      OK, Father, how about this?

      You accuse me of things. I think it’s eminently fair to ask you to demonstrate the truth of your–I repeat, your–accusation against me. My point was that making charges that are unfounded and thus, derogatory, is shameful.

      But, OK, I’ll take back that expression.

      Meanwhile, I repeat my reasonable request that you substantiate what you accuse me of. In what way did I “disparage” or “disregard” Father Coriden?

      Or, please explain why my request is so unreasonable?

      1. @FrMartinFox – comment #22:
        I do have mass at 5, so it will have to be later.

        Others have brought up the ageism. That sounds good to me.

        Have you ever met Father Coriden or sat in one of his classes or read through his brilliant commentaries on the code?

      2. @Fr. Jim Blue – comment #30:

        I have not met Father Coriden, but the edition of Canon Law I studied in the seminary included his commentary.

        Once again, you claimed I “disparaged” him. I did nothing of the sort. I did not make the slightest negative statement about his work, which speaks for itself.

        Jonathan Day highlights a failure on my part to edit that section. Fair enough. I could, indeed, have made my point less verbosely. I accept that.

        Trouble is, once posted, it’s a little tricky to go back and rewrite things. One is susceptible to the charge of trying to cover ones tracks. So if someone wants to say I pounded a point too hard, as Jonathan said? Well, OK.

  14. I love visiting ocassionally this site so I can see how the holy priests ofJesus Christ are tearing each other apart. Does this Fr Fox really have a major job in Cincinnati archiocesis? The arcibishop must love war other than peace .

    What kind of “formation” does he make for seminarians and priests in his diocese? Are they all combatters and sarcastics?

  15. (I am a contributor to Pray Tell but speak solely in a personal capacity here. And because of the character limit I am going to do this in two successive posts, a practice generally not appreciated here. Mea culpa.)

    Fr Fox, you could choose to regard Rita’s opening post as honouring you.

    At Pray Tell we tend not to engage with voices that are effectively self-deconstructing. Michael Voris comes immediately to mind. Father Z, in the same way, has no formal accountability, other than to an unnamed bishop in a suburbican diocese of Rome. So he can butcher the English language, indulge in sarcasm and guilt by association and make dozens of historical and philological blunders. He can mock the sisters of the LCWR for their age, even though his balding head, pouchy cheeks and spreading waistline make it clear that he is no spring chicken. As long as his followers sling gifts and cash his way (his current “goal” is $72,000 per year) he has nothing to worry about.

    You are different. You are a diocesan formation director, accountable to your bishop and fellow priests. I have experienced you, in NCR comment boxes and on your blog, as a conservative who genuinely tries to engage with fellow Catholics of different sensibilities.

    Your post on the AUSCP is disappointing because your role and your work thus far leads me, at least, to hold you to a higher standard.

    There are many things we could point to: sarcasm, guilt by association – the AUSCP endorses the LCWR, leading you to reply “Mm-hmm” and unqualified, bald assertions, e.g. “When Pope John Paul II proposed a new catechism, remember who resisted it? Yep–the same crowd.” This was not my experience at all.

    To be continued.

  16. (Continued)

    The biggest issue I have with your post is the one that Robert Mickens points to. Again and again, you harp on the age of the AUSCP members, and of anyone who supports them, in some cases with no knowledge of their age.

    You calculate Fr Brennan’s age: “… approximately 65-66, depending on his age at ordination.”

    “Father Coriden was ordained in? 1957!”

    “Robert Blair Kaiser”, you quote, and then add, “… born in 1930.”

    “I don’t know much about [Robert] Mickens,” you write, “except he’s frequently described as a ‘longtime’ Vatican correspondent. Are you getting the picture here? This is not a youth movement.”

    “I don’t know anything about [Catherine] Clifford,” you say, “other than she has earned a lot of degrees and enjoys full tenure as a dean at Saint Paul University. It’s fair to say she hasn’t just started her work – she’s been at it for some time.” Old, in other words.

    And then, the crowning blow: the average age of the AUSCP member is 70. So what?

    To your credit, you don’t yuck it up like Fr Z does. You don’t use his disgusting term, “the biological solution.” But why go on and on about the generational difference you observe? Why use rhetoric and mild sarcasm to make this the central theme?

    You are a priest, a πρεσβύτερος of the Catholic community – that means, first of all, an elder. I won’t waste words citing scripture or the church fathers to demonstrate that age and the wisdom that comes with it are to be respected. Tossing aside the elderly is for marketers proclaiming the latest Yoof fad. It isn’t traditional, it isn’t Catholic, it isn’t particularly Christian.

    I don’t see Rita or Fr Ruff saying that you are a bad person, as you assert on your blog. I am not saying that. I am saying that you could have done a lot better.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #25:

      I appreciate your comments, and I appreciate your analysis of what I wrote.

      “Ageism”? No, I don’t agree; because, for one thing, I never disparaged any work of any of the people whose age I cited. Not once did I say a word against anything they did. I acknowledged their accomplishments.

      But: I pointed out that, as it stands, this group in its agenda and approach seems more about the past than the future.

      If that’s not clear enough, I’m glad to clarify it.

      I might also offer this context: the whole point of discussion was a group that is describing itself as seeking to unite priests, and yet–from the original article at NCR–it wonders why it’s not doing better with newer and younger priests. I gave an answer why. And I gave suggestions, in all sincerity, that might make a difference.

      As Ms. Ferrone said herself, there’s an interesting generational difference here. I highlighted it.

  17. Dear Adam, please don’t use that kind of language here.

    It does not help; and the moderator will have no choice but to delete your comment.

    Your contribution will thereby be lost to the group. Fr. Jim

    (PS, I am certainly not a moderator, but being time for the Vigil Mass it’s safe to assume that moderators are not available at this time.)

  18. Fr. – as you state, let’s break down some of the heat here and let in some clarity:

    First – the NCR article being quoted:

    One of the key lines that seem to have *set you off*:

    “Asked how he might respond to those who would say the 15 resolutions sound like a party platform for the progressive wing of the Catholic church, Cooper said, “Well, that’s what Vatican Council II embraced.”

    Interesting – this was Cooper’s opinion in response to a question about the group’s agenda (15 proposals). Yet, you interpret and base your reply upon this? Suggest that Cooper was talking about VII’s directives in terms of subsidiarity, collegiality, ability to raise questions, open discussion, etc. rather than any *direct link between the 15 proposals and what the fathers of VII did or did not do- over reaction on your part? a more careful analysis might have elicited this distinction?

    Then, Cooper was asked other questions and in one he replied with his opinion about VII priests vs. JPII priests. Note, the NRC writer states:

    “Alluding to recent studies that have pointed to differing views of church and authority between older and younger generations of Catholic clergy, Cooper used the VII vs. JPII priest example. (this is the other point that appears to have *set you off*)

    Unfortunately, you skipped over the reference to (“alluding to recent studies pointing out different views of authority….”) and *jumped* to a broadbrush & negative interpretation of Cooper/NRC writer’s description.

    Would suggest a couple of things:
    – fact (to use your term)…..there are differences in how authority is viewed. You may not like Cooper/writer’s choice of descriptive language or their use of *service applied to VII priests* and “ruler clerics to other priests* (note – no mention of JPII priests)
    Suggest that you will find priests on all sides of the authority question and it is unfair or simplistic to just label them into two groups – it becomes the usual blog failure – *either/or*. Reality is much more complex. But your reply skips over the studies and defines *service* in terms of *work production*…..suggest this misses the very valid point of the studies (whether we agree with the use of VII priests/service or not….we know that there are serious differences and approach to *service* (i.e. cultic model; service model; models that blend both; sacramental model; community leader model; circuit rider model; etc. These are labels that attempt to drill down on realities that priests/bishops face every day)

    Again, your blog reply chose to interpret Cooper/NCR writer in one way – suggest that you over-reacted; denigrated some of the 15 agenda items (which really had nothing to do with your key complaint other than mis-characterizing folks by lumping them together and jumping to conclusions). Even your suggestions to the Association are violated by your own blog reply:
    – you fail to engage Cooper/NRC writer following your first suggestion- “seek out clergy & laity who disagree with you and learn from them” (did you do this?)
    – acknowledge openly that a lot of what happened after the council was misguided (what does this have to do with the NRC article – rather, you seem to try to imply condemnation by association based upon age, or when you were ordained, etc.?
    – show respect that those who disagree with you, also love VII (not sure that Cooper/NRC writer stated that others did not love VII….again, you jump to a broadbrush conclusion without any facts in evidence)

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #32:

      Thanks for engaging my argument and offering a critique.

      I’m not seeing why I’m wrong in responding to Father Cooper’s own characterizations of what his group stands for, what he thinks Vatican II is about, and how he himself characterized different groups of priests?

      The division of different groups of priests into fairly simplistic categories begins with his own remarks, as quoted. Indeed, had he himself made the point you make–that “you will find priests on all sides of the authority question,” I’d have had no basis for my response. (And you might have noted, I made this point myself, when I offered counter-examples to Father Cooper’s division of V2 priests are like this, later priests like this.)

      I said it in my piece, and I’ll say it again: the notion that one generation or group of priests is more entitled to the mantle of, we love Vatican II, is simply wrong. It’s unfair, and even more, it’s in many cases counter-factual.

  19. Martin Fox, when were you born? When and where did you study? And when were you ordained a priest?

  20. Replies to Rev. Fox:

    First, I don’t see these as argument, I see them as statements, opinions or questions. Anyway, here goes:

    > Seek out laity and clergy who disagree with you, and seek to learn from them?

    I’m not typically drawn toward people who disagree with me, I am attracted to people who are smart. Some of them agree with me, some of them disagree with me. I listen to them all, and when appropriate include their ideas into my own synthesis. It really does not seem to be very human or natural for anyone to go out of their way to find people who they disagree with. I don’t think that’s how human interaction works.

    > Acknowledge openly that a lot of what happened after the Council was misguided.

    Why is that important? There were good things and not-so-good things that happened in the ’70’s and to a great extent they relate to upheavals in all areas of culture and society, not only religion. To view the ’70’s as merely reactions/responses to the council is absurd, the council did not take place in a vacuum.

    I am aware that catechetics come up for great criticism in the years after the council, but frankly that too was a response to tectonic shifts in society and culture, not only religion. Great advances were made in catechetics after the culture, including the development of Shared Christian Praxis.

    > Show respect for the fact that those Catholics (lay and clergy) who disagree with you, love Vatican II as well.

    I don’t have any evidence of that whatsoever, in fact what I see in many places is commentary espousing the dubious theory that “V2 was just another council, in fact it was not a very important council.” It’s not hard to find that mindset operative particularly among the JPII priests that I come across in these parts.

  21. Fr. Fox has made nine long comments defending himself in this thread (nine so far; there may be more before the night is over) demanding that his opinions be discussed on this thread, and evidently he has made other defensive comments on his own blog today in response to this thread as well.

    Yet he still hasn’t addressed his brother priest (comment #1).

    Not one word.

    This is a perfect illustration of what I am talking about.

    This post is not about the opinions of Fr. Martin Fox. It’s about his failure to model respect for his brothers, especially elder priests, and to honor them rather than showing contempt for them in public.

    I want to thank Fr. John Whelan for his comment (#17), and to note that if the age of those attending were discussed respectfully, I would have no problem with it.

    Fr. Philip Sandstrom (comment #15) was able to discuss generational differences with intelligence and without dismissing anyone because of their age. Again, fine.

    Fr. Fox’s quibbles over the word “broadside” are unwarranted. When you dismiss a group’s agenda, sneer at them in your headline, pick apart their ages one by one, presenters and attendees, then take issue with every point they make — all in a single post, that’s a broadside.

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #37:

      Are you complaining that I have posted too many comments or not enough? I guess either way,I lose.

      My response to Fr Silver was going to be private, because — we’ll, I’ll say it here — it seems to me he says I made a comment about his priesthood that I did not make. At no time did I say his 29 years were “wasted.” I ever said anything remotely like that. It’s one thing to discuss larger issues here, it’s another to get into one on one things.

      You tend to make rather loose claims. I never demanded my opinions be discussed here. Rita, that’s false.

      what i said was, if youre going to issue a broad indictment of me, how about quoting my words tosupport your indictment. So, for example, in my post, whatever its faults, I quoted the things I objected to and said why.

      If you are wondering why I saw fit to spend some time defending myself, it’s because your comments, to my mind, savage me — without basis — in a way you falsely accuse me of going after others.

      Once again, I defy you to show where I “showed contempt.” I critiqued this group’s agenda and messages. That is not contempt, it’s criticism.

  22. Speaking personally, it’s generally not the birth dates of priests that tend to make me wary, it’s their ordination dates.

    Fr Jim Blue (#36): it isn’t until Vatican II is seen as “just another council” that we will start to get an objective view of it. And that may start to happen in 25-30 years’ time; coincidentally the same point at which the AUSCP and similar groups in other nations will cease to exist in any meaningful sense.

    Why do you describe this viewpoint as “dubious”, anyway? What’s dubious about the view that Vatican II isn’t (or isn’t going to be) a particularly important council, all things considered?

  23. The night is over, here in London, so let me ask one last question before I turn in. And this is a general question: it touches on Fr Fox’s blog post but also on other recent discussions we have had here at Pray Tell.

    Suppose it turned out to be true, determined through rigorous, scientific surveys, that American priests younger than, say, 50 were notably more conservative than those 50 and up? And ‘conservative’ might mean that

    – They attributed relatively less importance to Vatican II than their older priest colleagues

    – They saw Vatican II as not introducing any substantial changes in dogma or praxis (‘hermeneutic of continuity’)

    – They preferred celebrating Mass in the new translation … or in Latin

    – They preferred the Mass of 1962 to the normative Mass

    – They felt it was important to emphasise the distinct character of the ordained priesthood, e.g. by wearing cassocks and birettas, or by preaching and teaching about the unique nature of priests

    – They were less interested in bringing feminist or inclusive ideas into worship, hence preferred to avoid inclusive language, or discouraged girls and women from serving at the altar

    – They privileged some matters of ethics and social teaching (e.g. homosexuality, contraception) over others (poverty, unjust war).

    I am sure we could all add to the list.

    Now: suppose that these ‘conservative’ attitudes tended to be much stronger in the under-50s. What would we conclude from that?

    My answer: not very much. Yes, a more ‘liberal’ generation may be replaced by a more ‘conservative’ one. Is this the end of history? When I was younger, it was older Catholics who were upset by the changes introduced at Vatican II. The pendulum swung and it will swing again.

    I am interested in your thoughts, though – e.g. Fr Whelan says that ‘The demographic divide is real enough and deserves to be openly aired and discussed.’ Here in the UK I would question the ‘real enough’.

    But stipulate that this is so in the USA. Why is the demographic divide so important? And how does it make the views of the older priests less valid, or less important?

  24. “What’s dubious about the view that Vatican II isn’t (or isn’t going to be) a particularly important council, all things considered?”

    Because it occured 1-2 generations after a renaissance in liturgical and Biblical studies.

    Because it occurred during the Cold War, and attempted to help believers make sense of a very non-sensical period in international relations (1914-1989).

    Because it attempted to respond to issues touching on racism, colonialism, peace and war, women’s rights, and ecumenism at a time when the blending of Catholics into the mainstream of Western societies presented particular challenges and opportunities.

    Because it began our tackling of modern media of communications.

    Because it has directed the Church’s response to a degree to the post-60’s disillusionment in both secular and ecclesiastical leadership.

    My informed guess is that it will rate much, much higher than Lyon I, and most certainly Vatican I. It’s at least as important as Trent. Matthew, may I ask which councils you would rate as higher? Just curious. I can’t think of one in the second millennium. And if could ever manage to lasso the Orthodox and Reformed Christians into the next council, I certainly think that might eclipse Vatican II. That’s my hope, anyway.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #41:

      Matthew, may I ask which councils you would rate as higher? Just curious. I can’t think of one in the second millennium.

      As a start, I’d say that Trent was more important than Vatican II will be in the long term.

      And I suppose it depends on what one classes as more important. Vatican II has been a catalyst for certain changes, but it didn’t define anything – it only restated already-defined beliefs in contemporary terms. (How successful it has been and will be in that declared aim of Bl. John XXIII is something that future generations will judge; I’m not convinced their judgement will be what the “Vatican II generation” hope it will be.) So I think it would be possible to argue that any council that solemnly defined aspects of Catholic belief and teaching is de facto more important than Vatican II will be.

      I think it’s notable that all of your reasons as to why Vatican II will be a very important council are all time and culture-bound. As influential as, e.g., a “renaissance in liturgical and biblical studies” happening around the time of an ecumenical council may be (as an aside, I suspect future generations may not use the term “renaissance” to describe it), the vagaries of modern scholarship aren’t exactly the sure, certain, dogmatic foundation that the Christian religion has and requires. Sure, they can help, but the point is that whereas the teaching of Vatican I about papal infallibility cannot be changed or revoked, the reforms that Sacrosanctum Concilium asked for could in theory be reversed (or re-reformed) overnight with no problem.

      So, Vatican II – important? Yes. Particularly important? I personally don’t think so, but the jury’s out.

      1. @Matthew Hazell – comment #88:
        You critique Todd’s assessment of why Vatican II is important. You state that you think Trent is more important. On what facts do you base your opinion?

      2. @Matthew Hazell – comment #88:
        think it would be possible to argue that any council that solemnly defined aspects of Catholic belief and teaching is de facto more important than Vatican II will be.

        I don’t think that argument will be settled until V2 has been fully assimilated, because it is a core issue of the Council: Dogma or prayer? A solemn definition or a living expression of faith?

        SC does not define, but speaks about the presence of God in the liturgy. Based on the liturgical formula Dominus vobiscum, it calls attention to God’s presence when priest and people pray, when the Gospel is proclaimed, during the Eucharistic prayer, and at Communion. This was not new, but it stood in contrast to a piety that focussed too often on just the consecrated Body of Christ.

        Fr Fox cites a number of things V2 did not say, like turn your altars around, renovate your Churches, put the Eucharistic species in a side chapel, etc. He is right, those specific things were not said. But the renewed understanding of God’s multiple presences mandated those things. If God is present when priest and people pray together, why are we looking away, toward the East or up to the sky? The bishops sought to embody V2 in architecture and rituals which led to those changes. Any changes back to prior practices will have to be done in a new way, more aware of Dominus vobiscum and it’s implications.

        this type of change, presenting traditional prayer in new, more accessible ways, is more far reaching than solemn definitions IMO. The manner of teaching says “Prayer is important” in a meaningful way. More lives have been changed by prayer than by dogma.

      3. @Matthew Hazell – comment #88:
        “I think it’s notable that all of your reasons as to why Vatican II will be a very important council are all time and culture-bound.”

        You could say the same as to why I think Trent is important: the Reformation, the use of indulgences to fund Big Projects, the printing press, political shifts in Europe, the Western hemisphere.

        Human culture informs the way human beings live and attempt to be people of faith. We can’t escape our surroundings, our upbringing, our economics and politics, even if we were all to go off to the Desert. And I imagine that even monks and hermits are affected by deaths, postulants, natural disasters, personal illness and injury.

        While God may indeed inspire us on some personal divine whim, I see a lot more movement of the Spirit as believers try to tackle a shifting social climate, micro, macro, and in between.

  25. Jonathan:

    I’m happy to respond to you; I hope you can appreciate that I don’t want to be be overly long–I’ve probably commented too much already–but I don’t want to fail to give regard to your questions.

    I can’t comment on the UK. But for the U.S., I think the “demographic divide,” such as it is, is as good a starting point for these discussions as anything. And yet, of course it’s not an iron law; I know priests over a certain age of go one way, and others who go another.

    As far as the bullet-points you offered? I think they are reasonably fair “snapshots” of where the “older” and “younger” priests might line up; but they are “snapshots”–they don’t tell the whole story. I’d love to discuss each and every one of them with you, I really would. Hard to do here.

    One of the bigger narratives I’m pushing back against is the notion that an older generation of priests is more faithful to Vatican II. And, I think you asked me, earlier, what my basis for that is.

    My basis is both some of the things in the article I commented on, and the content of the AUSCP’s website, as well as a fair amount of discussion that goes on among priests and laity. One can find it at the National Catholic Reporter site: this idea that newer priests, as well as laity who tend to line up with their approaches, are not supportive of Vatican II. Heck, if you look, you can see allusions to that mindset in this very thread.

    If someone wants to say, oh that’s just an empty charge I’m making–well, I think I developed it further in the post that has Rita so upset. She didn’t talk about it, but it’s there. (It’s curious, to me, that I’m lambasted for being too aggressive, yet the characterization of me, above, is awfully aggressive, without a single quote. So I don’t think PrayTell’s hands are very clean in this.)

  26. I think the point is that most blogs that try to create discussion use examples to provoke discussion and this particular post here is a pretty clear case of it (the praytell post commenting on another blogger’s blog post). All of this is pretty much the pot calling the kettle black for on this very blog incendiary language is used and academic name calling to boot for the poor souls that won the day with the new translation. I don’t get scandalized easily but some of the rhetoric against them and the legitimate authority of the Church which promulgated it is rather awful. I don’t think any of us have a right to be sanctimonious about virtue in this regard especially here at praytell.

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #44:

      Father, as primarily an observer of this website, and numerous others, and as a recent initiate into the faith (in 2009), I think it is sad that, rather than deal in a more positive and constructive manner with the important issues within the Church, many blogs and bloggers, seem to relish engaging in a form of “debate” that is both unfruitful and actually harmful to the Body of Christ. The tone is often nasty, demeaning, and sarcastic . . . on both sides.

      Someone of prominence in the Catholic blogosphere will have to have the courage to break from this tradition, to decide that substance and honest dialogue, must come first.

      However, this reality greatly complicates things: As long as there are two factions in the Church, the continuity and discontinuity factions, literally competing for control of the Church, the human impulse toward disagreement and discord will take precedence. There is too much at stake, at least to many of the stakeholders, to alter this behavior. And it has increasingly become apparent that these two factions are virtually incompatible, so genuine dialogue and progress are nearly impossible. How can we break this cycle?

      1. @Tom Diebold – comment #47:
        Pope Francis is leading the way but has a nice way of calling a spade a spade. His insistence on obedience to the legitimate authority of the Church, the Magisterium, meaning the Bishop of Rome and other bishops in union with him is the only way out. But what I just wrote and Pope Francis’ insistence upon it falls on deaf ears depending on what he is saying. He is calling all Catholics, clergy, religious and laity to reform but adding more structures, even the various priests’ initiatives isn’t in his purview as more bureaucracy and navel gazing doesn’t seem to be in his outlook. That’s all we need is yet another competing group of priests with their own agenda that seems miles apart from the pope and the bishops’ agenda. Mostly though the Catholic Church is diocesan, so working together on the diocesan side of things in union with one’s bishop and not opposed to him in basic matters, such as the Roman Missal, who’s ordained and issues surrounding marriage and religious freedom seems to me the way to go. How can you go wrong being faithful to the legitimate authority of the Church in the areas of defined faith, morals and canon law? Why complicate things with competing visions at odds with the legitimate Magisterium no matter the age of the participants and no matter their religious political outlook, be it the SSPX or the Association of Priests in this post. I find both extremes divisive and contrary to the unity of the Catholic Church which is not in these groups but in following the Magisterium.

      2. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #50:
        Allan – your usual mantra and it grows tiresome.

        First – your *narrow* definition of Magisterium and description of the diocesan hierarchy (centralized, follow orders, be silent) minimizes exactly what the council fathers called for in the VII documents. In fact, in the later 1983 canon law, there are specific canons that call both clerics and lay to responsibly speak out when there is a concern for either the common good or the church.
        Key words that you interpret partially – legitimate, authority, magisterium, religious freedom. (your ideology always trumps your ability to understand comprehensively)

        Second – the church’s mission is not narrowly defined as *following the Magisterium (even in your minimized definition). Your tendency to put the institutional church first misses the gospel call, invitation, the Pope’s call to go out to the periphery; to go on mission. Your advocacy is self-referential.

  27. We social scientists usually try to make clear the differences between generational effects and age effects. Most of this article seems to be about generational differences, but the constant use of the word age makes it seem as if it were about older people because of their age rather than because of their generation.

    Dean Hoge, of course spent much time documenting the differences among pre-Vatican II, Vatican II, and more recent generations of priests. It was based on the sound idea that people are more influenced by what happens in their formative years (especially teen and twenties) and tend to change less in later life.

    The Vatican II generation of priests were of course influence by Vatican II events, events here in this country that happened at the same time, and by reaction to pre-Vatican II generation.

    The post Vatican II generations of priests have been influence by JP2 and B16, a different set of events in this country, and by reaction to the Vatican II generation of priests.

    Hoge’s distinction between the Vatican II Servant Model of the Priesthood and Pre-Vatican II and Post Vatican II Model of the Cultic Priesthood became too much of a rallying cry for generation differences in my opinion. We have always had in religious orders some (e.g. the Trappists) that emphasize the cultic side while others (e.g. the Jesuits) emphasize the servant side. Ultimately priesthood is both about God (cult) and people (service). I think we should welcome both emphasizes among the diocesan priesthood.

    The papacy of Francis may be helpful in this if we recognize that he has kept a lot of his Jesuit spirituality both as a bishop and now as Pope (as he should since religious do not cease to by religious when they become bishops and Pope).

    I like the recent way that Francis has been handling this. For example when he talked to the kids the other day he emphasized that his choice of staying in Domus Martha was a personal one, even jokingly a “psychiatric one” since he wants to be with people. Of course his actions are also emblematic of his identification with the poor. In this manner he gets the benefit of identification with the poor without saying that prior Popes or future Pope were “wrong” to live in the Apostolic Palace.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #46:

      Possibly one of the reasons for the excessive use of the word “age” in this article to describe generations was the idea that the older generation is dying off, and the younger generation is taking its place.

      However we simply have no idea of what future generations will be like. They will react to whatever is taking place in the larger church. I suspect Francis may be first of several Popes from the Global South who will push identification with the poor. I think Francis and perhaps his successor may prove to be both cultic and servant in regard to the poor.

      We have no idea what the coming decades will bring to the USA.

      And as the Vatican II priests die off, the newest generations will likely find as many things to fault with the present younger generations as they find fault with the Vatican II generation.

      Finally, as a lay person there may be a silver lining to having the priests “duke it out” in public. Catholic laity have been far too uncritical of their priests. The research evidence is that priests are far too self satisfied. So perhaps priests fighting over all these things will release needed critical voices from the laity.

      BTW as a social scientist I think good arguments (e.g. the religious Nones) could be made that the younger generations are now making just as much or even more of a mess that the Vatican II generation did. Too many self-satisfied priests in all generations.

  28. As a mere lay person with a general interest in my faith, I find this sort of thing discouraging and not very useful. There’s a lot of energy being spent on not much considering all the other problems we have. 10 or more ripostes by Fr. Martin (thanks, Rita for counting the first 9) seems like a lot of energy that might have been better used elsewhere. And I agree with Anthony Ruff that the tone is more of a concern than anything. I don’t like the “Any way you can pray, I can pray harder” (think “Annie Get Your Gun”) mentality. It is making us a house divided against itself. That can’t be good.

    Old priests? Maybe, but ordained priests, priests forever in the line of Melchizidek.

  29. Well, that is some discussion so far and I am sure there is more to come. The emergence of the AUSCP in the States, ACP in Ireland, the Reform Movement in Austria and here in the UK, A Call to Action (ACTA), suggests that something is stirring in our Church.
    The encouragement to dialogue within the people of God can and should be achieved without some of the vitriolic language we have seen in response to Rita’s posting.I can’t help feeling that there is a strong element of desire for a return of control, so it is easy to blame the ageism of individuals in order to disparage their arguments. Maybe if Fr Martin Fox read the Tablet each week he would realise that Robert Mickens writes his column with great care and appreciation of current Church circumstances.
    And incidentally, I was born in 1941 and qualified to teach here in the UK during the years of Vatican II. Maybe I am too old to express an honestly held opinion.

    1. @Chris McDonnell – comment #51:
      I don’t think we should discount age when it comes to perspective and practice regardless of what the topic is. I was born in 1953 and knowing that will help some people understand why I go kicking and screaming into the world of technology compared to someone born in 1993 who seems to have the ability for technology hard-wired into their genes. Knowing that you were born in 1941 helps and in Europe I presume, helps to explain a great deal about perspective, experience and outlook. If one is stuck in 1941, though, I suspect we could excoriate that person but in a nice way.

  30. Pope Francis has said and done many things in his first few months as the servant of the servants of God. His statement about obedience to the teaching authority of the church is hardly reflective of the way he is impacting the world and the church. While he’s certainly no flaming progressive, there is little more than that statement to give any comfort to the folks who are in favor of monarchical control from headquarters. He was formed in the seminary during and immediately after the council. He is the first pope whose entire priesthood has been shaped by its influences. I am watching with interest the so-called JPII priests and bishops to see how they will adjust. It would appear from many of the comments in this thread that some of them aren’t adjusting well. I may be wrong.

  31. A wise author, his name now forgotten due to my advanced years, recently suggested how the different generations of priests might get along: The young priests should learn from the wisdom of the older men, and the older priests should take inspiration from the energy and commitment of the young.

    I don’t know of any of us older priests who are not inspired by the energy and vitality of the young, but I have yet to experience young priests who seem interested in any wisdom that might be available from their elders. Fr. Fox’s comments about the priests who are gathering here in Seattle is a case in point. His responses to the Association’s discussion topics are flippant and dismissive. And yes, it is the tone of the remarks, that subtle implication that older priests’ opinions must be held suspect because we have likely been tainted by “the spirit Vatican II.”

  32. Maybe the AUSCP’s upcoming convention could receive a post of its own here at PTB, where we commenters could all have the opportunity to demonstrate charity in writing on what is clearly a hot-button topic for many?

    (I, for one, am curious about the resolution regarding the collection for the Archdiocese for Military Service…)

  33. Two priest professors from my seminary days particularly stand out. Though I don’t like using labels, for brevity I’ll say one was younger and quite “liberal”, the other older and more “conservative”. And, as students will sometimes do, in class seminarians would try to prod one priest to criticize, censor or condemn the statements of the other priest. Neither priest gave in to this prodding. On the contrary, if a seminarian dared criticize the theology of one of those priests, the other would soundly discipline and give a short lecture on respect. Though, theologically, these two priests were at opposite ends of the spectrum, they were dear friends. We’d see them talking walks around campus together (no doubt, debating!). Nothing separated them at the altar. These two priests gave us seminarians a strong example of Rule #1: charity. I wish there were more of their kind.

  34. I’m flabbergasted by Fr. Fox’s strident criticism of AUSCP. I have pursued all of my graduate work at secular (state) institutions. I have encountered nearly every student cause in existence. I’ve had friendly debates with the Freethinkers. I’ve met people who are openly hostile to Catholicism whom I’ve learned to respect, despite no change in their hostility. I’ve bought veggie samosas from groups I later learned were associated with pro-choice organizations. (Three samosas for a loonie; forbidden fruit for a financially challenged student like me.)

    If I can be friends with colleagues and acquaintances which hold views diametrically opposed to my moral/ethical values and ritual beliefs, then why are priests of slightly different persuasions unable to break bread? I know that Holy Orders confers ontological change, but I was unaware that this sacrament also kindles an inordinate stubbornness in some who receive it. Surely, the latter isn’t a fruit of the Spirit?

    What could be the harm in listening to those who are opposed to one’s ideological “camp”? Perhaps, a conservative, EF-leaning priest might walk away agreeing with something that’s been said at the AUSCP meeting.

  35. Perhaps this resembles how the views of elder priests were dismissed as outdated by young priests in the years immediately following Vatican II?

    I don’t recommend that any priests be dismissed as useless or outdated. Even if the views of the “Vatican II priests” are wrong, younger priests need to understand the context in which the minds of priests of the 60s were molded. They obeyed what was in vogue in the Church when they were young. They’re the John XXIII generation, just as younger priests became the JPII generation. We apparently can blame the aftermath of the Council for creating generational conflicts among priests. When does one ever hear of a Pius XII priest or a Benedict XV priest?

    Having said that, it seems that many of the clergy and religious who complain about clericalism are, in fact, very clericalist themselves. The changes after the Council were often imposed autocratically, with altars donated at great expense by parishioners unceremoniously thrown into the dumpster despite outrage from parishioners. The aftermath of the Council exacerbated many weaknesses in the Church, the sexual abuse crisis being one of the most significant. The Church had enough problems before Vatican II and didn’t need more manufactured crises, such as rampant liturgical abuses.

    The more I read, the more I think that the real story of Vatican II hasn’t been told. Real renewal hasn’t been effected. Perhaps that task belongs to future generations.

  36. I read all this, including Fr. Fox’s post, having just gone to Mass with my three year old daughter this morning (simple, wonderful, with many of the reforms that Fr. Fox claims we were hoodwinked into believing were from the council because, I guess, the lay faithful are too stupid or lazy to read the documents themselves).

    All this confirms for me that ordained priests, whatever their theological inclinations, are less and less concerned with the spiritual well-being of the faithful. Priests on one side of the spectrum zealously fight for the protection a frozen doctrine, devoid of faith in anything except the magic authority of a small group of enlightened individuals. Priests on the other have now entrenched themselves for an attack on everything they believe in, that is advancing a liberal and yet narrow interpretation of the Second Vatican Council. And then there are the worst, the career opportunists, who play both sides to move up the ladder. There are of course lots of wonderful, good, faithful priests. And in my experience, they tend to not only have stagnant careers, but because they don’t pick a side, they are relentlessly attacked from all directions, and often left to fend for themselves. These are the guys that often get depressed, burnt out, and disillusioned.

    The greatest danger to the church is not from the “outside” (whatever that means… the idea of insiders and outsiders seems rather un-Christian to begin with). At this point in history the church is its own greatest enemy. It’s tearing itself apart, and though I know that it will survive, I worry that the beautiful sacramental life that I hope for for my daughter will be obscured in ugliness that very few in her generation will get past.

    Time to stop the civil war. Time to prevent a schism, or worse. We need the bright light of Christ to shine forth upon the church to reveal and melt away this ugliness. Perhaps, as it seems might be the case, Pope Francis is the beginning of this movement

  37. I sincerely hope (#50) that I have left 1941 a long way behind. It is precisely because I grew up in a pre concilliar church that I value the insights and encouragement that came about through Vatican II. Yet we get labelled often in a critical way, for wanting the Council to be a continuing event, for the Church to be open and for real dialogue to take place. That is only what AUSCP and other movements are asking for. That is the erssence of the UK movement, a Call to Action expressed in our Mission Statement:
    “We are a group of Catholics, some of whom are ordained, brought together by our love for Christ’s Church and anxiety about its future.
    Still inspired by the Second Vatican Council we want to contribute fully to the life of our Church so that we may be a more effective sign of the kingdom of God.
    To do this, we believe that an atmosphere of openness and dialogue both with each other and with our Bishops needs developing.
    We desire to help create a climate of trust and respect for all where this dialogue may be fostered”.
    That seems to me to offer open opportunity for an exchange of views that are centred on a common love for the Church. a way to reach the Lord in a difficult time. More information can be found on

  38. Todd:

    You made the caricature charge on my blog, and I challenged you on it, and invited you to substantiate it. When, at my request, you honed in on one example, the “point” you attributed to me, and then rebutted, was in fact a straw-man misstatement of what I said. When I corrected that, you didn’t challenge the accuracy of my actual assertion; shortly after, you said, time to move on–back to here, apparently. As Arsenio Hall used to say, one of those things that makes you go “hmmm.”

    So, thanks for the invitation, but I’ll do my thing and you do yours, and you’re always welcome to comment on my blog.

    1. @FrMartinFox – comment #66:
      And yes, when you invited me to substantiate it, I gave a list of several pieces, largely left unexplained by you, but touched on in a general litany of complaint. The caricature was not in the details, sir, but in the piling on: the general notion and misperception that everything went wrong sometime in the past fifty years, and you and people you like seem to have the answers for it all.

      I don’t really find that odious, but tiresome.

      “So, thanks for the invitation, but I’ll do my thing and you do yours ….”

      Let us know how the caricature thing runs its course in your bonfire, eh?

    2. @FrMartinFox – comment #66:
      I personally think that it is a pity that you won’t engage with Todd via cross blogging on one issue. This makes me feel more suspect that I would prefer. Why not engage – with charity and good will – on that level?

  39. Fisking is a rhetorical form that indulges our egoistic blindspots; we proceed at our own risk, and the risk of how we are perceived by those whom we ostensibly wish to persuade. Which seems to be why fisking tends less towards genuine evangelisation and more towards preaching to the choir while pretending not to preen a bit (preening in this case often taking the form of “see how clever I am?”). For priests who are actually in pastoral ministry for a flock, it’s an unfathomable practice so far as I am concerned. (And, yes, I’ve seen this problem across the spectrum, just to be clear, though I will say the audience for this tends more towards a cluster of camps.)

  40. In the spirit of a classic TV ad: “I can’t believe I read THE WHOLE THING.” I also have whiplash from the radically different points of view here. But Rita Ferrone’s post, with its plea for civility, was fully justified, in my view, simply by the headline of the blog post in question: “Sad-funny-ironic swan-song of ‘spirit of Vatican 2’ crowd.” Are we not all — i.e., the fellowship of faithful Catholics — “the Vatican 2 crowd”?

    And, yes, I understand the snide reference to “spirit of …” that is intended in the headline. Personally, I used to use it sometimes (at least internally, silently) as a term of opprobrium. But, oh my, how times have changed. I used to think myself conservative, and now I wake up to find myself evidently extremely “liberal.” And my positions, my commitments, my beliefs, haven’t changed. The atmosphere around me certainly has. I see regularly what Rita Ferrone cites as priests “confident that they hold the whip hand,” treating other priests with contempt. Where will it end? However scandalized we are by it all, we need to try to hold fast to “the faith once delivered to the saints” and shore up other discouraged people around us!

  41. I just was sent this — it is from France and a new take on ‘processions’ accompanied by ‘ritual movements’. Such calm and dignity! When is the Church going to ‘catch up’ with all the changes in the past 100 years in ‘communications’? One can say that the ‘centralization’ focus of Vatican I was brought about by the invention of the telephone, and telegraph, followed by the electronic microphone. Vatican II has to be seen in the context of the developments written about by Marshall McLuhan and since. How will all this ‘work out’ for the Church cared for by the Risen Lord? Surely a major part of the ‘digestion’ of the aspirations and documents of Vatican II has to be a working out an answer to that question!


  42. Jeffrey

    Fr Z doesn’t have a flock. He has a program, but not a flock in any meaningful sense of the term. His blog enthusiasms – comestibles, birds, armed forces, good Latin and the ars celebranda of the EF, manifesting his connectedness with Right-Thinking People(TM) – are rather limited; his blog energy, however, is much more mightily ruddered by other things. Again, that’s his blog persona; in person, he might be different, but without a real flock it doesn’t really matter that much. I don’t find Fr Z’s blog persona odious, though he has on occasion done some odious things (so have I): most memorably over the long term was his effective silencing of any criticism of American torture (in the ostensible name of avoiding political rabbit holes, while happily allowing other political rabbit holes more to his liking; it’s his blog to do with what he wills, but folks are free to observe and critique as well). I only note that for illustrative purposes, to clarify. But his blog often reminds me of the dangers lone-ranger clerics can risk in the pursuit of Noble Intentions. (I almost felt sorry for how he had to engage the despair of his enthusiasts after the most recent US elections, as for weeks he had pumped them up and they were mostly not prepared at all for what transpired. A real pastor of a real flock would not readily get away with that kind of thing. But its something the blog medium enables, in a dysfunctional way.)

  43. While I am offended by the dismissive tone and the reductio ad absurdum argumentation of Father Fox’s critique of the AUSCP, I will acknowledge that the local Cincinnati group of AUSCP members may have failed in not inviting the Archdiocesan Director of Priestly Formation to our local meetings.

    We may be “dinosaurs” but we do love the Church we have served these many years and we are eager to promote the reforms initiated by the ecumenical council. The AUSCP meetings reflect that love.

    The possibility of ordaining women as deacons, the possibility of general absolution, the possibility of the local community selecting a man to be the bishop are verified by history.

    Yves Congar wrote years before Vatican II, “It is the job of the faithful to have some spirit of ‘prophecy’ to sound the alarm and to wake up their leaders, to speak prophetically to authorities, to tell the truth, and not let the hierarchy live in a gilded illusory world of disastrous routine or false security.”

    Even the Fathers of the Church recognized that Jesus did not say “I am the custom,” but rather “I am the truth,” and no matter how old or widespread a custom may be, it has to give way to the truth.

    The AUSCP (made up of the faithful) are simply asking the authorities to consider whether it is time to adjust custom to meet the truths of today. One must be hesitant to assume what Pope Francis will or will not do –who would have thought a few months ago that the Bishop of Rome would call for a council of fellow bishops to help in the assessment and reform of the Curia!

    We need to listen (the Spirit is speaking) and we need to talk like brothers eager to please the Father and His Son.

    1. @Norman Langenbrunner – comment #73:
      Fr Langenbrunner:

      When you put the word “dinosaurs” in quotes, someone might get the idea you are quoting me–which you are not. So, there’s a “tone” question.

      And no one, including me, ever questioned whether you love the Church. Another “tone” question.

      Look, the AUSCP puts forward an agenda, and that invites examination of it. That risks people, including fellow priests, not liking the offerings–even “dismissing” the offerings. That said, I took the time, both in my original post, and in my second iteration of it, to examine and comment on your proposals.

      That’s disagreeing, not dismissing.

      And, if I might add, your characterization of my responses sure seems “dismissive” to me. I’m not offended, but it would be nice to offer something more substantive.

      Your group is asking, why aren’t you recruiting more priests. I offered some reasons in my post, and some suggestions.

  44. From the generation that brought you “Don’t trust anyone over 30” comes a new hit: “Respect your elders! Don’t question our authority!” All of this without irony.

    Kudos also to Fr. Fox for revising, needlessly, his post. It’s worth noting that nothing here gets taken down for tone.

    1. @Randy Kim – comment #76:
      “It’s worth noting that nothing here gets taken down for tone.”

      You’d be surprised.

  45. Would it be fair to say that Vatican II called for Catholicism version 1.8 (i.e., Vatican I was 1.7, Trent was 1.6, etc.), not Catholicism version 2.0? Vatican II represents an update, not a new version.

    As it was the Bishops, in communion with the Pope, who issued the documents of Vatican II, isn’t it the Bishops, in communion with the Pope, who ultimately determine the manner of implementing the documents of Vatican II? The Magisterium ultimately defines the implementation of Vatican II. And isn’t the Pope ultimately primary among the Bishops? In this sense then, there must be an ultimate authority exercised in the Church by the Magisterium, with the Pope as its head.

    A primary issue at stake here is: When does “good” diversity become “bad” division and dissent? There needs to be, for growth in understanding, diversity within the Church. However, how that diversity is exercised and expresses itself is not of minimal importance, especially as it effects the laity through the words and actions of individual Bishops and Priests.

    By whom, and how, is the distinction made between “good” diversity and “bad” dissent? What responsibility do individual Bishops and Priests have to respect the authority of the Magisterium, when, as is necessary in the name of unity within the Church, to define the line between diversity and dissent? Does, for example, the teaching on the ordination of women represent such a distinction?

    What responsibility do Priests have to respect the decisions of the Magisterium, particularly with respect to their ministering within parishes and the comments they make and actions they take on a daily basis within the public realm?

  46. “I was born in 1962. I studied at Mt St Mary’s of the West in Cincinnati. I was ordained in 2003.”

    Oh, such a relief! I felt like a decrepit McCartneyan dinosaur (64 next week) scorned by a dashing jeune premier, and was anxiously scanning the mirror to count the wrinkles. But now I see that I am almost in the same age bracket as this champion of youth, though my years as an elder/presbyter has been four times as many — ecclesiastically a veritable Methusaleh. Perhaps our young friend does not yet realize how swiftly time hurries us on: “At this breakneck hurry, we are no sooner boys than we are adults, no sooner in love than married or jilted, no sooner one age that we begin to be another, and no sooner in the fullness of our manhood than we begin to decline towards the grave” (Stevenson, “Crabbed Age and Youth”). Men past fifty clutch at the fleeing shadows of their lost youth, but they might better cultivate the company of the elders to whom they now belong, and being to make their own the measure and ponderation of seasoned age.

  47. I remember Fr Martin Fox from a number of year ago at NCR. He hasn’t softened much since then.
    He is typical for “some” converts. As an observation, once they “swim the Tiber” they are going to tell us how wrong we cradle catholics have been doing things. I once responded in a heated blog post that when he swam the Tiber he forgot to leave behind some of that nasty fundamentalist “tone” baggage.

    My parish priest when in a heated discussion will state that he didn’t mean what he had said to be taken that way and would apologize. If you continue to argue he will simply say, I’m sorry if I offended anybody and peace with you. That’s the end of it.

    So what will it be for someone who is to be held to a higher standard?

    Will Fr. Fox take the “high road” and do what my parish priest does (yes, he’s in his 60’s) and turn the other cheek and apologize for any misunderstanding, division or hurt even if the criticism is undeserved in his eyes ?
    Or will Fr. Fox argue till the cows come home because in the end it is about being right, a take no prisoner approach, digging in until everybody sees it his way which is, in his opinion, the correct way?

    Might I suggest he listen to some of those old wise priests with whom he has issues. I have nothing against Fr.Martin, I don’t agree with him much but I just don’t think he realizes how he comes across.

    1. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #84:

      Actually, Dale, after reading some of the comments here, I went back and recast my post, acknowledging some criticisms were fair (others, I thought over the top). And I did apologize to those priests who were offended.

      I’m not sure what more you want.

  48. No one has asked but Fr. Fox was ordained at the age of 41 – in the past, that would have been described as an *older vocation*. Is priesthood a second or third career? Why the delay?

    Hoge and CUA have also done studies about the age at ordination and have drawn some conclusions and descriptions about this.

    So, Fr. Fox has been a priest for a little more than ten years – not long at all. But, am reminded that length of service does not necessarily mean that one has gained either experience or wisdom; only that you have spent many years in this specific role. OTOH, ten years is about the time most diocesan priests are assigned their first pastorate – even in these reduced priests time period.

  49. As a long time observer, first time poster, I wonder if it would be acceptable to suggest that the personalities here address the actual points suggested by the AUSCP.

    Such a discussion might be either one by one, as in Fr. Joncas’s approach to the individual articles of Sacrosanctum Concilium (my personal preference) or all in one place if that makes more sense.

  50. Sorry to go on so long, but I want to make my usual political point here.

    Vatican II was important because it came during the Age of Revolution, of Democracy. The social changes, like the end of royal governments, the defeat of the Nazis and the rise of Communism, were enormous, and V2 sought to address those issues.

    The only Council that was in a similar situation was Nicea, when the relationship between religion and state changed radically. Whether V2 is counted as important as Nicea probably depends on how important those social and political changes are seen. If European politics are dismissed as irrelevant to the church, V2 will be dismissed as insignificant. If a world emerges that is grateful to the Europeans for their trendsetting political struggles, V2 may be seen as more important.

  51. Todd:

    I do not find your description of our interaction on my blog accurate. As it is, you choose to disengage from there, and then come over here and repeat points, made there–but in a one-sided way. (And if since you still want to discuss it, why not come back and pick up where you left off?) I think that’s a questionable choice on your part.


    I don’t see where I owe you any explanation of why I choose not to accept Todd’s invitation. With all this discussion of “tone,” I’d say your comments have the tone of “shaming” and “bullying.”


    Actually, I was baptized a Catholic; at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Cincinnati; that parish is now part of Saint Clements, if you want to look it up.

    Yes, I had a conversion experience in adulthood, left and came back.

    1. @FrMartinFox – comment #94:
      I think it’s accurate to say that you and I each saw different things in your original post and in our conversation. I suspect there was a bit of misunderstanding on both our parts–which is why I suggested we tackle a smaller issue together and see if we could construct a dialogue with more clarity. The point would be to simply build a bridge. Not continue a conversation which, at least for me, was becoming a frustrating diversion of he-said/he-said.

      I repeat my earlier suggestion: you and I take one of the smaller points you made about the AUSCP and move from there. If we managed some degree of understanding, then perhaps hope is in the air.

      Your position as a director of formation suggests you have a ministerial and professional interest in forming people. Is this done by telling people things, or showing them how it can be done?

      I also want to state that I’m uncomfortable with bringing elements of Fr Fox’s personal background into the conversation. I think his “acerbic” tone to other clergy is fair game, as is his position as a formation director. His age, presumed non-Catholic or inactive background, and even his history as an NCR commentator isn’t germane to this discussion. The man deserves to stand or fall on his words in this particular essay, and his follow-up. He certainly owes me no justification.

  52. Todd:

    I appreciate your gracious words. And I appreciate your invitation, but for a variety of reasons, I think it would not work out.

  53. Todd – agree with your caution about personal history. But (and there is always a but) my experiences as a formation director; various studies done by CARA, etc. do shed light on some of the patterns of behavior that we find in some clerical groups e.g. older vocation, recent conversion experience, what seminary they trained at, what assignments they have held, etc. (to ignore this gives us a partial understanding – I also raised these facts because of the initial post’s caricatures of VII priests in the organization…if you are going to label their past and criticize it; then it is fair game to know the writer’s past and criticize that.

    Matthew – would suggest that your Trentan focus is really about dogma and on decisions (papal) that were made well after the end of the Council of Trent. In fact, the over-riding goal of Trent for pope and the majority of the theologians and bishops that attended was to address the current scandal of that time – bishops/pastors who collected diocesan/parish tithes but never spent a day in those places. In conjunction with this and already 300 years after a papal decree, this financial situation was worsened by bishops, pastors who were not celibate creating confusion, scandal, etc.

    In the eyes of Trentan attendees, these issues had to be addressed before the Trent council could, in good conscience, address any of the issues caused by the Reformation. (and, in fact, many of the speakers at Trent, acknowledged that the church’s behaviors had caused the Reformation leaders to speak out and that some of their *reforms* were needed. (quite a different approach than what you are appearing to refer to here).

    One example – all liturgical/rubrical decisions (Tridentine liturgy) were made by the subsequent popes – no decisions were made at the council. Yes, there were sacramental theological dogmatic decisions made but how these impacted the church’s liturgy were made after the council. It, in fact, was the same process used at Vatican II.

  54. Rita Ferrone : @Randy Kim – comment #76:“It’s worth noting that nothing here gets taken down for tone.” You’d be surprised.

    Maybe he would, but you’ve left up Jonathan Day’s offensive comments about Father Zuhlsdorf. Citing his age doesn’t require mocking him for a balding head and “pouchy cheeks.” Comments Robert Mickens endorses. It seems Pray Tell has some work to do on removing splinters.

  55. Todd – to follow up on the CARA studies:

    Previous post by JR on PrayTell:

    Summary of excellent study by Mary Gautier at CARA – “Same Call; Different Men”.
    – btw, Fr. Fox would be fall into the millennial group by ordination date but the post-VII by age.
    – note especially and scroll down to comments 19-25.

    What is interesting to me is that these studies surface much more substantial and significant issues impacting both the local church and the nature of priesthood – for some examples; Rahner’s statement that Vatican II was the beginning of a *world church* and the implications of that; the growing diversity in clerics – ethnicities, languages, born outside of the US, phenomenon of bringing in and using foreign priests; professional staff vs. clerics; collaboration vs. lone ranger approach; growing need to name priests as pastors before they are barely 5 years ordained; decreasing academic training for newly ordained, parish consolidations/closings, etc.
    Would suggest that all of these are more significant areas for discussion that off-handed remarks about communion rails, Fr. Z, latin in the liturgy, ages of priests, etc.

    Someone on this blog may also be able to access some of K. Schuth’s studies on vocations/priests at St. John’s?

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #1:
      On your suggestion, I wouldn’t disagree. But on the other hand, you have to start the dialogue somewhere. My own preference would be to tackle Penance form III. That seems to hit some good points, including some hot buttons of conservatives.

  56. The members of the priests’ association are for the most part men who have labored as priests for thirty or more years. They have served, then, during the time most impacted by Vatican II and its aftermath. Their agenda is driven by their interest in the continuing development of a Church as a sacrament, a herald, and as a prophetic sign of the powerful presence of the. Risen Christ living in our midst. Their predominant understanding of Christ is as a loving, compassionate, and merciful brother who has come to seek out and redeem what is lost. This is the same Christ in whom there is no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free person, no male or female. They know, for instance, that the Catholic faithful they serve are not persuaded by the arguments from authority concerning the ordination of women, or the exclusion of married men, or the assertion that the only moral expression of human sexuality for the married and unmarried alike is some form of abstinence. Any chance of their believing the latter were dashed by their discovery that many priests are sexually active, that some of them are criminal deviants, and that bishops thought that covering all that up was preferable to protecting children from pederasts.

    All of the above frightens those whose need for certitude in faith requires them to call for a restoration of firm papal control over every aspect of the church’s life. And with this kind of control comes the need to exalt the role of priests as authoratative teachers of the faith. This involves stripping priests of their personalities so they can preside at Mass ” like Christ himself”, fingers stiffly pointing to heaven and never departing from the texts. It is all ecclesiastically correct and in full conformity with the latest liturgical edicts from on high. Just noticed I’m running out of characters, so let me conclude by saying there is a huge difference of outlook among the most seasoned and senior members of the priests in the USA. Vive le difference!

  57. After 100 comments, discussion threads using our software tend to become somewhat unwieldy. Looking over the state of the discussion this morning, my thought was that — barring any great new surge of discussion — it seemed timely to draw this thread to a close either at noon or at 100 comments, whichever came first.

    As it happens, we reached both those benchmarks at about the same time.

    Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. A couple of you asked if we might start a separate thread or threads to continue the discussion of some of the issues that will be on the agenda of the priests’ association meeting. We will look into this over the next few days with our contributors.

    I had hoped we could end on a positive note, and I think we have one. In comment #95 Fr. Fox shared with us that he has rewritten his post and apologized to the priests who were offended.

    Thank you, Fr. Fox.

    Have a good day, everyone.

  58. Rita’s article regarding Fr Martin Fox is wonderful. He is in charge of priestly formation. It is painful to watch the erosion of trust in older priests by key personnel in Cincinnati. It is also painful to see growing mistrust of the laity toward younger priests.

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