Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

The Third Rail

February 8th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

I recently was prompted to recall a couple of 2 1/2 year-old comments on Rich Leonardi’s Ten Reasons.  I’ll get to what prompted me in a bit, but first those comments …

Kit, a frequent visitor to Ten Reasons, posted the following comment in October, 2008.

Readers should know that diocesan priests are treated like mid-level employees at the DOR. They are at the mercy of a number of lay administrators, financial auditors, and HR types who run the show. It is the latter who show up unannounced at rectories and Masses, and who report to the Bishop on the supposed “wrongdoings” of the more conservative priests.

As employees of a religious organization, priests (and other “renegade” conservative employees) are not subject to the same protections afforded most of us under State and Federal anti-discrimination laws. So yes, the DOR can fire these “at-will” employee priests for the iniquitous infraction of being, well, more Catholic than the Bishop.

Pray for us, that we are rewarded in 4 years with a successor who will undo the damage and heal the sucking chest wound that has been inflicted by the shepherd of Sacred Heart.

When another reader asked for “examples of what sorts of things a conservative priest might do which would be considered inappropriate by DOR,” Kit added these details.

… without causing trouble for or invading the privacy of those involved:

My first-hand sources advise that generally, any homily that forcefully sets forth traditional Church teachings on homosexuality (i.e., the idea of loving the sinner but acknowleding and calling the acts involved “sin” vs. total inclusion up to and including marriage), morality, modesty in behavior and Sunday dress, explaining why there will be no nuptial Masses for “mixed” (Catholic/non-Catholic or second (non-annulled) marriages, supporting the Church’s stance on female ordinations are inherently suspect. These topics can cause one to be privately counseled, particularly when a parishioner kicks up a fuss or is offended by it and calls Buffalo Road – such callers usually involve parents of gay adult children (who don’t like hearing that their actively homosexual child is living in a state of mortal sin), or people who are angry and blame the Church and/or the individual “hardliner” or “old fashioned” priest for refusing to marry them/a family member to a non-annulled or non-Catholic person.

Unfortunately, I can’t divulge further or be more specific than these rather commonplace occurrences – trust me, what I could tell you would be deeply shocking to most reading this – but I hope this gives you a sense, anyway.

Essentially, because the Diocese and its Bishop have been putting out the message that rules are meant to be broken, and have ratified and condoned the public statements and actions of [F]r. Joan, Charles Curran, and others of that ilk, anyone who tries to be a bulwark of the Truth is seen as an obstacle that must be disdained, humiliated, and ultimately removed. Worse, this Diocese’s laxity has led to a dilution of the “Brand” and an expectation that the person’s, and not the Lord’s, will shall be done here – that the Church must conform to the erosion of the culture in order to survive, and not the other way around. Embracing that disordered way of thinking has led to the mess the DOR is in today, whether those in charge deign to acknowledge it or not.

(The organ’s great, though, isn’t it? Heh.)

What prompted this trip down Memory Lane was one of Michael Voris’ most recent Vortx pieces.  In this episode he presents a report sent to him outlining the reception received by a transitional deacon who dared to preach a homily against contraception.

This response took place in what Voris’ correspondent termed a “good” diocese.  I shudder to imagine what might have happened had the diocese been DOR.


By the way, the “recent Vortex episodes about contraception and its link to abortion” mentioned by Voris would appear to be this one and this one.

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33 Responses to “The Third Rail”

  1. Mary-Kathleen says:
    Boy, this would wipe out many parish teachers and plenty of lay leaders in the DOR.

  2. Gordon Barnes says:

    One of the principal difficulties with this post, as with many others on this site, is that there is no acknowledgment or discussion of the arguments, both theological and philosophical, that have been advanced by philosophers and theologians on the other side of these issues. People like Father Curran have spent a lifetime studying the history of Catholic philosophy and theology, and they make reasoned arguments for their positions. To condemn someone like that (as you clearly do) without ever reading or responding to their arguments, is intellectually irresponsible. Without going to far off topic, let me just say that many liberal Catholics believe that the magisterium of the Church has committed grave errors on many important issues throughout history — errors like the endorsement of slavery for more than 1,000 years, and the condemnation of Galileo for simply telling the truth about the solar system. Anyone who is aware of these errors must face the fact that the magisterium can be wrong. In order to remain Catholic, one must then conclude that the documents in which these errors were made were not safeguarded by the Church’s charism of infallibility. Somehow they failed to be covered by it. But then, recognizing that fact, one is forced to conclude that many of the statements of the magisterium today might also fail to be safeguarded by the charism of infallibility. That is why liberal Catholics refuse to abrogate their own reason, or violate their own consciences. If the Pope decides to define a doctrine “ex cathedra,” then that is another matter, but none of the issues referred to above meets that criterion. This is all consistent with Catholic teaching.

  3. Louis E. says:

    Gordon Barnes…I’m a non-religious (not atheist) reader here who’s on “the other side” from the RC Church on contraception and abortion among other things.But the thesis that contradictory opinions can be accommodated under one teaching authority is illogical.On homosexuality,for instance,the auithority is Biblical…if you want to believe the Gospels reliable,you have no room to consider condemnation of same-sex sex unreliable.

  4. Gordon Barnes says:

    I should say, for the record, that the positions that I am defending here are not necessarily my own. I have close friends who are liberal Catholics, and I believe that their views are much more defensible than the views of orthodox Catholics. With that said, here is how a liberal Catholic would answer your question. There are errors in scripture. But it does not follow that nothing in scripture is inspired by God. God speaks in and through both scripture and the tradition of the Church, but sometimes the human beings who act as the medium for that message garble it and mess it up. There is no contradiction in this idea. Now, it certainly raises the question “How does one know what is inspired by God and what is not?” However, this is a question that orthodox Catholics must answer as well, and their answer is not the only possible answer. Another possibility is that one accepts what is clearly Church teaching unless it contradicts one’s own conscience. The first part of this answer, “what is clearly Church teaching,” is not as simple as it seems, as the history of Church teaching on usury, slavery, and religious liberty demonstrates. (The Church has changed its tune on all three of these issues.) Finally, I would just add that I believe that several epistles in the New Testament itself implicitly endorse slavery and the subordination of women. So I think that those issues arise for the New testament itself. Thus,I think that the only rationally respectable way to be a Christian, whether Catholic or Protestant, is to accept the fallibility of both Scripture and Tradition.

  5. Galileo says:

    We have considered and have evaluated CC’s reasoning and have dismissed it as the reasoning of the beast. We strongly and disagree with the professor who has spent a lifetime studying a philosophy and history and there is a great chasm that can’t be breached. The things that have been justified in my name.

  6. snowshoes says:

    All Catholics believe that the Catholic Church is the indefectable Bride of Christ established by Him, and that the Magisterium, contained in Scripture and Tradition and the teachings of the Church and the Popes on Faith and morals, are inspired and true. Those Catholics who obstinately refuse to believe this teaching of the Church are heretics. (This is opposed to the gentle reader who is new to the whole idea, I do not mean to implicate you.)

    The truths of the Church have been collected and lately published in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Please get a copy and read it. Catholics must know, believe, proclaim and live these teachings. It’s all quite simple. It is congruent.

    Mr. Barnes, you offer some common mis-perceptions of actions of the Church in history to prove your contention that the Magisterium is fallible, or that the Pope is not infallible in the areas of faith and morals. You can do your own research, but your examples are mistaken.

  7. Gordon Barnes says:

    Snowshoes: If I supply evidence in the form of historical facts, then it will not suffice to say “Everything you say is false, and Evil, and Sent by Satan, and against the HOLY CHURCH, … .” If you are going to remain a rational, thinking being, rather than a mouthpiece for someone else, then you really have to respond directly to the evidence that I supplied.

    Look, ask yourself this question. Is there anything that you said above that could not be said by an adherent of any religion or cult whatsoever? Let’s test that and see. I’m going to quote you verbatim, except that I’m going to replace every reference to the Catholic Church with a reference to the Mormon Church. Let’s see if I can say everything that you just said, but in defense of the Mormon faith. Here goes.

    “All Mormons believe that the Mormon Church is the indefectable Bride of Christ established by Him, and that the Teachings of the Mormon Church, contained in Scripture and Tradition and the teachings of the Church and the Leaders of the Mormon Church on Faith and morals, are inspired and true. Those Mormons who obstinately refuse to believe this teaching of the Mormon Church are heretics. (This is opposed to the gentle reader who is new to the whole idea, I do not mean to implicate you.) The truths of the Mormon Church have been collected and lately published in the Catechism of the Mormon Church. Please get a copy and read it. Mormons must know, believe, proclaim and live these teachings. It’s all quite simple. It is congruent. Mr. Barnes, you offer some common mis-perceptions of actions of the Mormon Church in history to prove your contention that the Teaching of the Mormon Church is fallible, or that the Leader of the Mormon Church is not infallible in the areas of faith and morals. You can do your own research, but your examples are mistaken.”

    Do you see how this sort of reply can be made by anyone, and in defense of anything? And that very fact proves just how worthless it is to any rational, thinking person.

  8. Louis E. says:

    As someone who is not a Christian because of a sincere belief that the defining claims of Christianity are incorrect,I consider the fallinility of “Scripture” to come under the heading of reasons not to be a Christian…to reconcile belonging to a religion with skepticism for its rationale is hypocritical.
    (I do not believe that the Infinitely First Cause of existence writes books about itself,or has an official fan club…there are incidentally true things in the Bible but it’s not a divine work).Neither is secular “liberalism” or “conservatism” an infallible creed…I hew strongly to the “liberal” view on abortion rights and the “conservative” view on homosexuality.

  9. Gordon Barnes says:

    Louis: There is an interpretation of divine revelation that you are dismissing without good reason. On a liberal Catholic view, the Church is moving slowly towards the truth, with Divine assistance, and it will eventually get there. The Church is to be trusted in matters that are clearly defined and do not contradict reason or one’s own conscience. As I said before, there is no apparent contradiction in this view. So if you want to claim that it is hypocritical, then you have to earn that claim with a good argument. Mere assertion is not helpful. Why should we think that God would not work in this way? That’s the question that will need to be answered if you are to make you case here.

    Again, for the record, I do not, myself, presently believe what I described above, but many family and close friends do, and I believe that theirs is a respectable faith, even if I do not share it.

  10. Ben Anderson says:

    simply put, Gordon – that’s not Catholicism. It’s fine if people want to believe that, but they shouldn’t profess to be Catholics.

  11. Gordon Barnes says:

    simply put, Ben — I think that what you practice is not following Jesus. It’s fine if people want to believe that, but they shouldn’t profess to be followers of Jesus.

  12. Abaccio says:

    Simply put, Gordon, you’re not qualified to make that decision. I have heard every single ‘liberal’ argument that can be made, and at one point in my life, I agreed with many of them. I’ll pray for your conversion as well, Gordon. Might I ask how you found our site, and why you spend so much time here? Surely you have better things to do at Brockport State than comment on some blog with which you disagree.

  13. Nerina says:

    The Church is to be trusted in matters that are clearly defined and do not contradict reason or one’s own conscience.

    Mr. Barnes,

    Do you believe that an individual conscience can be malformed? How are we, as individuals, to hold ourselves to anything resembling Truth if we can make it up as we go? In other words, I know that I could rationalize away many, many sinful behaviors to the point where I could justify any act including violence against a person, or lying, or stealing or any other number of destructive things. Is this following Jesus? Does He say somewhere in Scripture to “follow your conscience?” Or does He rather say, “pick up your cross and follow me.”?

    No one is saying any of this is easy. My goodness, I follow the Church’s teaching on birth control and I know how hard it can be. But I also know about the joy and freedom associated with it. I know how it has improved my marriage. I know that I have 3 more children than I would have had if I had followed the world’s message. I’m pretty well informed on Charles Curran’s views about birth control, abortion, homosexuality and women’s ordination. He is somewhat of a cult hero himself in Rochester :). I think he’s wrong and I also think he has misled people away from the Truth to wisdom of the world. As Ben notes above, he is welcome to have his opinions, but they do not reflect the long-standing teaching of the Church.

  14. snowshoes says:

    To get back to the original point of Mike’s post, thanks Mike for identifying a central problem with the structuring of the diocese, and some of it’s deleterious effects: the attempt to change the defined structure of the office Pastor of the Parish.

    Since VCII, there has been a discussion of the “models of the Church”, and so the DOR has attempted to change the model of the Pastor. To briefly review, and forgive me for not citing the CCC or Canon Law, but the Pastor of a parish is an ordained priest or bishop, period. He might not be in residence in a local parish church, but all parishes by law must have a priest pastor. Why? Because it is the divinely inspired Tradition of the Church. Grace flows through the Pastor.

    We are so blessed to have Fathers at every level of the Mystical Body: Our Holy Father Pope Benedict, our local Ordinary, and our ordained Priest-Pastor. No-one has the authority to attempt to change this reality of Christ’s Church. (Even if one attempts to change it, they will always fail, because it is specifically against the Will of God the Father.) The alter Christus is in the office of Christ in the parish, and with that office of priest, prophet and king, comes the authority of the pastorate to feed, guide and protect his parish flock, as Our Lord asked St. Peter to do in the Gospel of St. John.

    This wonderful Tradition has come down to us from Our Lord Himself, let us thank God for our Priest Pastors. Every parish has an ordained Priest Pastor, who is yours? God bless you.

  15. Gordon Barnes says:

    To Nerina: Whether you realize it or not, you actually trust your own reason and conscience absolutely, and you have no other choice. Here is why. Many people throughout history have claimed to have a revelation from God — Jews, Christians, Muslims, Mormons, etc. All of these groups say that theirs is the real revelation. Now, here is the problem. How do you decide which of these alleged revelations is the real one, and which are the fakes? You have to trust your own reason and your own conscience to determine which of them sounds the most like something that would come from God, right? So in order to choose which alleged revelation is a real revelation, you have to trust your own reason and conscience. All that I am asking you to do is to keep using your own reason and your own conscience in the same way. Of course we are all fallible, but if you are thoughtful and responsible, then you should trust yourself as much as you trust people whom you have never met (like the people who authored Catholic teaching thousands of years ago). Why not have the courage to use your own reason?

    To Abbacio: I’m still not sure why you won’t have the courage to come out from behind the pseudonym and state your real name. For a Crusader for the Truth, that seems a mite timid. As for me, I am here because I have family and friends who are liberal Catholics, and I respect their faith, and so I do not like to hear about them being denigrated and even harassed by people like the ones who read and write on this site. So I decided to get into the discussion, if only to remind you that liberal Catholics are sincere people who have reasons for what they believe and how they act. I think that you constantly misrepresent these people and their thinking. So I wanted to go on the record for the people who read this site. More generally, I am a philosopher who believes that human beings need to use their own reason, and follow their own consciences, to decide what to think and how to act. If human beings had done that in the past, then we would not have had the Crusades, or the Inquisition, or slavery, or any of the other evils that were facilitated by the sort of blind following of an authority that you advocate. Basically, I think that people like you teach others to be intellectually subservient and servile, and not to question tradition. I think that is harmful to the whole human race. So I decided to step in and give a few readers a chance to rethink these things. I’m not optimistic about the consequences. Indoctrination dies hard.

    With that said, this will be my last post for quite some time. I do, in fact, have better things to do.

  16. Matt says:

    Thank God

  17. Gretchen says:

    Dr. Barnes, you write, “Many people throughout history have claimed to have a revelation from God — Jews, Christians, Muslims, Mormons, etc. All of these groups say that theirs is the real revelation. Now, here is the problem. How do you decide which of these alleged revelations is the real one, and which are the fakes?”

    God revealed himself to the Jews multiple times over centuries. Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection are predicted in the scriptures that became the Old Testament. Jesus fulfilled the laws of the Jews. There is continuity. On the other hand, Islam was founded by one man (Muhammed) who claimed to have had a personal revelation from God. That revelation contradicted much of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Mormon church was founded in much the same way as Islam – unsubstantiated revelation to one person.

    I’m curious why you think slavery would not have happened without Christianity, since slavery existed within Africa, not just Europe and the U.S.

    Also, I don’t know any orthodox Catholics who advocate “blind following of an authority.” The orthodox Catholics I know spend time studying the nuances of the faith, taking classes on the early church fathers, studying the New and Old Testaments, and trying to know and live their faith well. They provide good, thoughtful discussion. (I’d be happy to introduce you to some – I bet you’d enjoy them!)

  18. Abaccio says:

    Islam is largely a rehashing of the previous centuries’ Christian heresies…Monophysitism, Arianism, Docetism, Gnosticism, etc. It was always considered a great heresy until we became PC (sort of like Protestantism…) Furthermore, read the Qu’ran and look at Mohammed’s understanding of paradise. It strips away the inherent dignity of the human person with its portrayal of women. Every aspect of Islamic paradise reflects the desires of a depraved, misogynistic 7th century man living in the desert. It’s purely physical pleasure, with no true focus on their misconception of God. Instead, the focus is shifted on their own rewards. Instead of humility before God, there is hubris.

    Mormonism is very difficult to reconcile with any shred of actual Christianity…upon death you become gods of your own planets, and need to wear special underwear?! Come on, this is not Christian, it is superstitious and pagan. And, like Gretchen said…it showed up out-of-the-blue in the 19th century…a touch ridiculous in the grand scheme of history, a step below pastafarianism.

    Those who cling to Judaism confuse me. For centuries, you’re the chosen people of God, and authoritative religious texts are written until about 160 BC (give or take). Then it stops. You’ve got your land, you’ve got your temple…when you’re driven out or it’s knocked down, you eventually get it back in relatively short order…until the late first century AD. Your temple is knocked down, and never rebuilt in 20 centuries. Your land is conquered and never really your own. Now, 20 centuries later, diaspora Judaism looks nothing like scriptural Judaism. Nobody claims to be of the line of David anymore, thereby making their messianic claim suspect at best at this point. If only we knew what suddenly changed between 150BC and 100 AD. In the relatively short span of just over 200 years, everything changed, and in the relatively lengthy span of nearly 2000 years, it’s remained that way. If only there were some way to explain it…like, say, the Messiah actually CAME during that time period, established a new covenant, and…wait somebody who claimed to be the messiah actually showed up? And fulfilled hundreds of prophecies? Literally, every single one? Huh!

  19. Louis E. says:

    Or maybe…the whole “Messiah” thing was proved false?

  20. Ben Anderson says:

    what I can’t understand, Louis E., is why his followers would die for a cause they knew to be false. Can you explain that?

  21. Louis E. says:

    I didn’t say they realized from the historical context that it was false.Many people die for what they incorrectly believe is true.But various prophecies have turned out not to be accurate.

  22. Ben Anderson says:

    but Loius, the apostles (and other witnesses) would have realized it was false. They claimed they saw their risen Lord. They knew they were either telling the truth or lying. I don’t believe there’s any other comparison quite like it.

  23. Dr. K says:

    Are we to believe that all 12 Apostles were afflicted with schizophrenia or some kind of mental illness which led them to have visions of things that weren’t there?

    The witness and willingness of these twelve (and several others) to suffer gruesome deaths for Christ provides ample supporting evidence that Christ did exist, and that He was who He claimed to be.

  24. snowshoes says:

    After just celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I’m reminded that it’s the miracles that prove the reality of the Incarnate Christ. He came to save us, and heal us, and forgive our sins in the here and now, and thus, through our free turning to Him, in the Church, we become who we are. And the miracles continue to this day, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit continue to be poured out on us, and of course in the Sacraments, par excellence. I’m just re-reading a book on St. Padre Pio.

    If you want to read about a great modern saint who died in the 1960s, read about St. Pio! He loved God very much, and in loving obedience, he suffered out of love for God and His Church, and brought many people to Christ. I hear he still appears to people on a regular basis as their personal spiritual director. St. Briege McKenna is another holy person who has the gift of healing.

    If you haven’t been to Lourdes, please go! I’m the only person I know, and I’m ashamed to admit it, who just “dropped in” on Lourdes, when I happened to be on le train de Carcasonne a Marseille, and I noticed that la gare de Lourdes was coming up! I was bumming around Europe… Alors, you couldn’t call me a pelerin but I just couldn’t pass Lourdes by. But I only had deux heures before the last train to the coast left the Lourdes station, so I had to make it quick. J’ai debarque le train and went immediately to the grounds of the shrine. I have to tell you, as I walked through the gates of the shrine, it was like entering a force field, I could literally feel la presence du Bon Dieu et Notre Dame. So I went to the lower church, and prayed the rosary with the people there, and I guess lost track of time. By the time I looked at my watch, it was nearly time for the train to leave, so I had to run back to la gare. I must go back and go to La Grotte et les piscines, I never got down there! The visit renewed my faith. Notre Dame de Lourdes, priez pour nous maintenant et a l’heure de notre mort, Ainsi soit il!

  25. annonymouse says:

    Gordon Barnes, where on God’s green earth did you EVER get the idea that unless a teaching is made ex cathedra, we aren’t obliged to believe it? That is patently false. There have only been two ex cathedra teachings, both Marian doctrines, and one was made before the First Vatican Council’s promulgation on infallibility. Does that mean that those are the ONLY teachings we as Catholics are obliged to believe? You are way way way off base, sir.

  26. Ben Anderson says:

    Louis E.,
    Have a listen to the lecture “Craig Blomberg on historical Jesus research 2000 MP3” found on this page

  27. Mike says:


    This is a pretty good summary of the three “quests” for Jesus, at least as I understand them. (FWIW, Scott Hahn had a similar lecture available on tape some time ago from St. Joseph Communications, but I don’t see it listed in their catalog any more.)

    One thing I did notice is that Blomberg mentions N.T. Wright’s 1992 The New Testament and the People of God and 1997 Jesus and the Victory of God but, this being a 2000 lecture, didn’t yet know of Wright’s 2003 The Resurrection of the Son of God. I’ve read all three and have to agree with Blomberg that the depth and breadth of Wright’s scholarship is just stunning. That, coupled with Wright’s clear writing style, make this series a “must read” for anyone seriously interested in the subject.

    BTW, I’ve also heard C.S. Lewis’ three options for who Jesus really was summarized as “Lord, Liar or Lunatic.”

  28. Ben Anderson says:

    Thanks for the info, Mike. I’d like to read those books… someday. Anyone else read Dawkin’s God Delusion? He thinks he refutes Lewis’ trilemma by providing a 4th option – that Jesus was flat wrong. Somehow I would think that would fall into the lunatic bin, but perhaps Dawkin’s intelligence is so far above mine that I just can’t comprehend.

  29. Mike says:


    If you’re pressed for time, N.T. Wright himself gives a quick (20 minute) outline of his book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, in the first part of this online debate with John Dominic Crossan.

  30. Mike says:

    … perhaps Dawkin’s intelligence is so far above mine that I just can’t comprehend.

    No, I think Fr. Corapi’s position that “a lot of people done been educated into imbecility” applies here.

  31. Ben Anderson says:

    awesome – thanks for that link, Mike!

  32. Mike says:


    When you get the time to look at his books, I believe you will find Wright’s writing style to be as lucid and concise as his speaking style.

  33. Ben Anderson says:

    I’ve listened to the debate a few times now (very dense arguments take a few listens to get into my dense brain). It is a great debate. Wright just completely blows Crossan’s arguments out of the water, but Wright’s patience and lack of triumphialism is quite commendable. This is how all debates should be. Thanks much for sharing that. I love audio because I tend to have more time to listen than I do to read. If you have any more resources – let me know in the forums:

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