Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Fr. McBrien remains a favorite columnist of the Catholic Courier in 2012

February 17th, 2012, Promulgated by b a

Consider this a guest post by James Likoudis

It would be interesting to find out, if it were able ever to do so, how many Letters of laity to the “Catholic Courier” attempting to defend the doctrines and discipline of the Church were never printed!

Note: I see that in the year 2012 Fr. Richard P. McBrien remains a favorite columnist in the “Catholic Courier” of the Diocese of Rochester. It is really incredible that a priest who continually writes to contradict Magisterial teaching remains without protest or contradiction by the Bishop of the diocese. Other bishops have acted to remove his column from their newspapers and rightfully so. This 2003 Letter sent to the “Catholic Courier” of the Diocese of Rochester was not printed but remains relevant since Fr. McBrien has never retracted his false teaching that since Vatican II Catholics no longer believe the Catholic Church was the true Church of Jesus Christ.
-James Likoudis

June 12, 2003

Letter to the Editor
Catholic Courier
P.O.Box 24379
Rochester, NY 14624

Dear Editor,

In his Catholic Courier column (6/12/03) Fr. Richard P. McBrien once again urges dismissal of the Catholic Church’s discipline of mandated celibacy for priests of the Latin rite. It is clear that he is an apologist for rejecting its maintenance as “a possible solution” for the shortage of priestly vocations. “The rule of celibacy”, he sneers, “is regarded, at least implicitly, as more important than making the Eucharist available to every Catholic”. While ostensibly praising Pope John Paul II’s new Encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia”, he ignores everything the same Pope has written in praise of and defense of the Church’s present discipline on priestly celibacy which is of apostolic origin. “The lack of priests”, the Pontiff noted, “is certainly a sadness for any local Church”, but to be utterly rejected is “the framework of systematic propaganda which is hostile to celibacy. Such propaganda finds support and complicity in some of the mass media.” The shortage of priests that has afflicted the Church in the post-conciliar period, he pointed out, “was based on an erroneous understanding of- and sometimes even conscious bias against- the doctrine of the Conciliar Magisterium. Herein lies undoubtedly one of the reasons for the great number of defections experienced then by the Church, losses which did serious harm to pastoral ministry and priestly vocations, especially missionary vocations.” (Address 11/5/90) It is ironic that writers like Fr. McBrien who presume to speak for “the spirit of Vatican II” are at complete odds with the actual teaching of the Popes and the most recent Ecumenical Council supporting mandated priestly celibacy for priests of the Western Church (See Vatican II’s “Life of Priests”, 16)

Fr. McBrien is indeed a “professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame”, but, interestingly, has not received or even requested a “mandatum” from his bishop to be regarded as an authentic theologian. Moreover, the very concept of the Church presented in this same column is not faithful to Catholic doctrine. Non-Catholic Churches and ecclesial communities may indeed possess a “certain, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church”, as Vatican II declared. But, contrary to Fr. McBrien’s erroneous view, such dissident Churches and ecclesial communities cannot be said to be “within the Body of Christ” in such manner that the visible unity of Christ’s one and only Church (which is His Mystical Body) is lost sight of. One of McBrien’s favorite (and false) ideas is that the whole Body of Christ and not the Catholic Church alone is the one true Church of Jesus Christ. But then McBrien’s theology in many respects is not faithful to Catholic doctrine and the Magisterium. The U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine noted exactly that when in April 1996 it censured McBrien’s major work “Catholicism” which he never bothered to revise as requested.

Sincerely yours,
James Likoudis


20 Responses to “Fr. McBrien remains a favorite columnist of the Catholic Courier in 2012”

  1. Raymond F. Rice says:

    I guess I don’t understand how mandatory priestly “celibacy has an apostolic origin” since most of the apostles were married. Please clear up my confusion.

  2. Ben Anderson says:

    Raymond, try googling it. Haven’t read it yet, but this seems to be a good resource:

    It is clear from the New Testament (Mk 1:29-31; Mt 8:14-15; Lk 4:38-39; 1 Tim 3:2, 12; Tit 1:6) that at least the Apostle Peter had been married, and that bishops, presbyters and deacons of the Primitive Church were often family men. It is also clear from epigraphy, the testimony of the Fathers, synodal legislation, papal decretals and other sources that in the following centuries, a married clergy, in greater or lesser numbers was a normal feature of the life of the Church. Even married popes are known to us.1 And yet, paradoxically, one has to desist, when faced with this incontrovertible fact, from assuming that this necessarily excluded the co-existence of an obligatory celibacy discipline.

  3. Mike says:

    Raymond Rice,

    Here are a couple of 4th century references, one of which views clerical celibacy as apostolic.

    From the of letter Directa ad decessorem written in 385 AD by Pope St. Siricius to Himerius, Bishop of Terracina (reproduced here) …

    [The Celibacy of the Clergy]

    89 (7, 8 ff.) Let us come now to the most sacred orders of the clergy, which we find so abused and so disorderly throughout your provinces to the injury of venerable religion, that we ought to say in the words of Jeremias:Who will water to my head, or a fountain of tears to my eyes? and I will weep for this people day and night( Jer. 9:1). . . . For we have learned that very many priests and levites of Christ, after long periods of their consecration, have begotten offspring from their wives as well as by shameful intercourse, and that they defend their crime by this excuse, that in the Old Testament it is read that the faculty of procreating was given to the priests and the ministers.

    Whoever that follower of sensual desires is let him tell me now: . . . Why does [the Lord] forewarn those to whom the holies of holies were to be entrusted saying: Be ye holy, because I your Lord God am holy [ Lev. 20:7;1 Pet. 1:16]? Why also were the priests ordered to dwell in the temple at a distance from their homes in the year of their turn? Evidently for this reason that they might not be able to practise carnal intercourse with their wives, so that shining with purity of conscience they might offer an acceptable gift to God. . . .

    Therefore also the Lord Jesus, when He had enlightened us by His coming, testifies in the Gospel, that he came to fulfill the Law, not to destroy it[ Matt. 5:17]. And so He has wished the beauty of the Church, whose spouse He is, to radiate with the splendor of chastity, so that on the day of judgment, when He will have come again, He may be able to find her without spot or wrinkle [Eph. 5:27] as He instituted her through His Apostle. All priests and levites are bound by the indissoluble law of these sanctions, so that from the day of our ordination, we give up both our hearts and our bodies to continence and chastity, provided only that through all things we may please our God in these sacrifices which we daily offer.”But those who are in the flesh,”as the vessel of election says, “cannot please God”[ Rom. 8:8 ].

    But those, who contend with an excuse for the forbidden privilege, so as to assert that this has been granted to them by the Old Law, should know that by the authority of the Apostolic See they have been cast out of every ecclesiastical office, which they have used unworthily, nor can they ever touch the sacred mysteries, of which they themselves have deprived themselves so long as they give heed to impure desires. And because existing examples warn us to be on our guard for the future should any bishop, priest, or deacon be found such, which henceforth we do not want) let him now understand that every approach to indulgence is barred through us, because it is necessary that the wounds which are not susceptible to the healing of warm lotions be cut out with a knife.

    Five years later the North African Council of Carthage proclaimed

    It is fitting that the holy bishops and priests of God, as well as the Levites, i.e. those who are in the service of the divine sacraments, observe perfect continence, so that they may obtain in all simplicity what they are asking from God; what the apostles taught and what antiquity itself observed, let us also endeavor to keep.

  4. Raymond F. Rice says:

    Why are the Eastern rite Catholics, in communion with Rome, and the New Anglican ordinariate not bound by this tradition even though it was in place in the early Church.??

  5. Mike says:


    The Church has always seen clerical celibacy, not as an essential, doctrinal element of the Sacrament of Holy Orders but as a discipline – as well as a gift of God – which enables the cleric to more fully respond to the commitment to Christ and his Church entailed in his vocation.

    Since it is a disciplinary matter, regardless of the fact that it dates from the time of the Apostles, the Church has the power to change it. She is free to consider the times and circumstances and to “bind” or “loose” as she sees fit.

    That said, I do not know much about the history of celibacy in the various Eastern Rite Catholic churches. I suspect a bit of Googling might help.

  6. Richard Thomas says:

    From my eager understanding, it’s like being married to two wives, each requiring full attention. And if you add children, the burden only gets greater. I understand the divorce rate of married clergy in the protyestant denominations is high. I always make the analogy to “What do you do when you have a very sick child and a dying parishomer to care for at the same time. Who gets the attention?

  7. Raymond F. Rice says:

    “What do you do when you have a very sick child and a dying parishomer to care for at the same time. Who gets the attention?

    ANS: Your wife takes care of the sick child (who probably wants mommy rather than daddy any way) and you take care of the parishioner.

    Note: see miracle for canonization of St. Edith Stein and Father Emmanuel Mc Carthy’s very sick child and his staying on the retreat he was giving to nuns even though his daughter was

  8. Diane Harris says:

    Souls before bodies?

  9. Richard Thomas says:


    What if he is a single father?

  10. Raymond F. Rice says:

    I really think in the REALY big picture where God is present in all his power and might and not limited (?) by the perceptions of man, God will provide his grace in the situation whether the priest is married or not.

    PS: I sure as heck would hate to be Father Caton reading this article!!!LOL

  11. brother of penance says:

    “The rule of celibacy”, he sneers, “is regarded, at least implicitly, as more important than making the Eucharist available to every Catholic”. ( I can almost see Fr. McBrien sneering. )

    I have heard that statement for over 20 years. I am tired of hearing it.

    Perhaps in God’s Providence there is a shortage of priests to deepen our “hunger and thirst” for Christ and His Gospel.

  12. Raymond F. Rice says:

    “The rule of celibacy”, he sneers, “is regarded, at least implicitly, as more important than making the Eucharist available to every Catholic”. ( I can almost see Fr. McBrien sneering. )

    I have heard that statement for over 20 years. I am tired of hearing it.”

    I don’t know how you detected a sneer from Father’s written word but, that aside, I think one ought to rethink one’s position if they think a church discipline is more important than the availability of the sacraments. Christ instituted sacraments to give grace. He did not institute clerical celibacy to give grace to the laity. The “do this in remembrance of Me is an clear and forceful MANDATE!!

    And as to the last comment,I have seldom run into a mother who will deprive her children of food just to get them to appreciate her cooking.

  13. Bruce says:

    St. Paul considered celibacy better than being married. It also has proven to be the case, given the scandals involving married priests in the early Church. This will not change.

  14. Scott W. says:

    St. Paul considered celibacy better than being married.

    And confirmed by the Council of Trent and Pope Pius XII. Married life of course is good, but celibacy is better. And, given that worldly thinking regards sexual pleasure as an inalienable right, the rule is essential as a sign of contradiction more than ever. There are exceptions of course, such as the esteemed Fr. Longenecker, but exceptions should not ditch the rule. Also, I would suggest that priest shortages are not caused by celibacy, but liturgical disintigration, regnocentricism, and sometimes deliberate manufacturing. The last can be affirmed by the aforementioned Fr. Longenecker, who is on record as saying that he was told point-blank by diocesan officials in England that they wanted priest shortages precisely so that they could appoint female lay administrators as a cynical end-run around the all-male priesthood doctrine.

  15. JLo says:

    Having read Raymond Rice’s takes on a variety of issues over the past couple of years, I can only surmise that Mr. Rice has drawers and drawers full of wrenches, because he just loves throwing them!

    On this subject of the propriety of a celibate or a married priesthood, since you choose to question the Church’s wisdom (already spoken for now), why not at least read someone who knows what he’s talking about, Mr. Rice. Read someone who has embraced his celibate priesthood and loves it and sees the beauty in it. For instance, try reading Fr. Andrew Apostoli’s beautiful little book “When God Asks for An Undivided Heart”. Perhaps in the reading, your own heart (and head?) may actually perceive that it is not up to your problem-solving capabilities to provide the answers for more men in the priesthood. Our Faith teaches that it is Christ Himself who calls workers into that vineyard; and what humans may see as practical is far, far short the Lord’s take on things. It may not be settled doctrine, but just try giving over to the mind of the Church, Mr. Rice.


  16. Raymond F. Rice says:

    J LO:

    Thanks for the kind response to my suggestions and attempts to think things out for myself and not delegate the source of my thoughts to someone else. However I do not have drawers and drawers full of wrenches in my home . I have 4 in the barn. If you do not believe me, kindly send me your telephone number so I can invite you over to look in my drawers.

  17. Raymond F. Rice says:

    I believe that the Courier no longer carries Mc Brien’s column.

  18. Ben Anderson says:

    I believe that the Courier no longer carries Mc Brien’s column.

    as of when? I know I’ve seen him in there recently. Also, James’ reference is to 2012.

  19. Mike says:

    As others have implied, the “priest shortage” in many dioceses is something of a self-inflicted wound. Bishops who don’t tolerate either dissent or liturgical creativity are having far less trouble finding worthy candidates than their more progressive brethren. Case in point: +Bruskewitz in Lincoln has, on a per capita basis, ordained 9 times as many diocesan priests since he took over in 1992 than +Clark has during the same time period. (BTW, I recall reading somewhere that +Bruskewitz has a policy of not accepting candidates from outside his diocese, so these are “home grown” vocations.)

    Bishops bent on accommodating the Church to the culture are, whether they realize it or not, seeing some (if not all) of their orthodox candidates testing the waters in more faithful dioceses. John Mallon noted this phenomenon in a 2005 article:

    This worldwide community of youth nurtured by John Paul II is acutely well aware of what is going on in the Church and in dioceses around the world. When a bishop makes a strong statement in defense of orthodoxy, those young people inclined to religious vocations talk among themselves as to whether his diocese might be a good one in which to seek ordination. If that same bishop does something perceived as compromising the faith, their interest is withdrawn. A bishop who tolerates dissent is not even considered. A bishop willing to excommunicate pro-abortion Catholic politicians is likely to receive much interest from these young people. A bishop who waffles will not. A diocese which punishes good, orthodox priests or lay professionals while coddling or protecting dissenters will not. A diocese which punishes whistle-blowers while protecting abusers and active homosexuals in the clergy will not. A diocese where the bishop is ostensibly orthodox in his words but where the chancery, departments and clergy are dominated or ruled by dissenters will not.

    The extent of this orthodox youth underground is truly worldwide. I have encountered it in all my travels throughout North America and Europe. I have bumped into students I knew in Steubenville in St. Peter’s Square and in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. A constant topic of discussion among those considering ordination or religious life is which dioceses and bishops are “good” (i.e. orthodox). It is also important that the seminary a bishop uses is committed to solid Catholic formation and free of harassment, either sexual or religious, and that the bishop monitor it closely.

    There is no secret to attracting vocations. There are plenty of them out there. A bishop who tolerates dissent and ignores abuses will not attract them. A bishop who boldly stands up for Christ and His Church, and Church teachings, despite all costs and opposition, will attract them.

    For the last few years CARA has been surveying those about to be ordained. For several years about 1 out of 6 of them reported he had been a member of his ordination diocese for less than a year before entering the seminary. (In 2011 that ratio fell to 1 out of 8 – see here.) Over the last 10 years that group migrants would represent some 300 priests. One can only wonder how many of them were originally from DOR.

  20. Raymond F. Rice says:

    If you really want to see religious men and women reaching out to the youth, look at some of the videos on “youtube” that show the Franciscans of the Renewal with their musical presentations for youth, soup kitchens, abortion protests carrying the 6 foot Image Of Guadelupe on the subways to get to the clinics, and marches down Broadway on Good Friday to show peope and particularly youth, what it is really all about to witness to the Truth.

    They are a strict order but are having candidates apply from all over the world for their novitiate in New Jersey.

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