The Civil War In American Catholicism

An excellent article "Self-Inflicted Wounds" by Mike Aquilina appeared in "Our Sunday Visitor" (3/9/97) wherein Protestant historian Thomas Reeves was interviewed concerning his recent book "The Empty Church: The Suicide of Liberal Christianity" (The Free Press, $25).

Prof. Reeves recounts the self-destruction of the mainline Protestant denominations which have seen their congregations disappear. The Protestant scholar at the University of Wisconsin observed:

Christianity has to be at war with the world, or it isn't authentic. Liberal Protestantism has been accommodating the world since the 1960s – in biblical criticism since the late 19th century – so these churches proved to be no match for the poisons that poured into American life. They became echoes of 'National Public Radio' and 'Newsweek' magazine. They became worldly and embarrassed by the Gospel. They were un-sympathetic toward the claims of those who believed, as most Christians have always believed, that the supernatural is real.

Prof. Reeves also comments on the impact of a decadent Liberal ideology on the Catholic Church in the U.S.:

There are a good many Catholics who are trying to emulate liberal Protestants in all they do. They have made disobedience into a kind of ritual. They have told pollsters that they reject a great many of the Church teachings. Their participation at Mass is something like 28%. They do not honor the Sabbath any more than anyone else does. They want women priests. But, you know, liberals never bring converts to the faith. They bring disinterest... There is a civil war going on in the Roman Catholic Church.

None of this is surprising to any Catholic who knows the depth and scope of the unjust rebellion against the Magisterium of the Church which begun with the ferocious assault against "Humanae Vitae" (1968).  As a recent ad run in many Catholic papers noted:

The liberal, anti-doctrinal spirit is poisoning the Catholic Church in America... Liberal Catholics deny the binding character of Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium... Liberal priests don't explain Catholic teaching to their flocks... Liberal Catholics are just imitators of liberal Protestants.

It is quite interesting to look back at a little book published in 1979 by the William C. Brown Publishers. Entitled "Why Be A Catholic: The 1978 Albany Forum", it featured a dialogue between such liberal luminaries as Mary Reed Newland, Dr. David O'Brien, Dr. Monika (the "Modernist") Hellwig, and Rev. Philip Murnion who was given recently the task of promoting the "Common Ground Initiative" by the late Cardinal Bernardin. One meets in this volume the now stale liberal clichés and caricatures about: institutions, community, hierarchical elitism, imperialism, pluralism and social justice, etc.

Believe it or not, it is the 1976 "Call to Action" Conference held in Detroit which was clearly regarded by the "Albany Forum" as the welcome model for renewing American Catholicism.

It is simply pathetic to view in hindsight the illusions of the participants seeking to find a "new identity" for American Catholics and seeking to ground that new "self-consciousness" and Catholic identity on the shifting sands of a poisonous liberal ideology that is increasingly seen to have destroyed mainline Protestant denominations. Despite their pretense to maintain "the continuity" of the Catholic Tradition in America, the views expressed by "Forum" participants evidence the change taking place from involvement in the American Catholic Church with its own particular and unique contributions to world-wide Catholicism to an "American Church" challenging and defying the authority of the Chair of Peter.

  • Dr. O'Brien laments the "tragedy" of "black-balling talented clergy with gifts for leadership" because of their rejection of "Humanae Vitae".
  • Dr. Monika Hellwig does not believe the Church can establish "moral boundaries" for believing Catholics.
  • Philip Murnion shows sympathy for women priests and questions the advisability of having an Apostolic Delegate in the U.S. to deal with an American hierarchy that can no longer be "Roman dominated".

The editors of this 1979 volume were Brennan Hill, Ph.D., more recently notorious for his recent 1994 volume "The Catechism: Highlights and Commentary" that savages the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the late Mary Reed Newland who as Religious Education Director for the Diocese of Albany wrought havoc in both religious and sex education!

About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
He can be reached at:, or visit  Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage

Dissent from the Magisterium.... is not compatible with being a "good Catholic".
- Pope John Paul II -