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Truth To Power TOC and Foreword


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Truth to Power presents the best from twenty years of provocative journalism by Father Andrew Britz, a Benedictine monk at St. Peter’s Abbey in the hinterland of rural Saskatchewan, far from the centres of ecclesiastical and political influence.
Britz was editor of The Prairie Messenger, a prophetic Catholic weekly news journal that has been published by the monks since 1904. He was fearless in speaking truth to the powerful in church and society—to popes and prime ministers, capitalists and clerics. “It is easy producing a prophetic paper year in and year out,” he writes in one of the editorials published in this book. “Prophets call us to a new age.”
The new age for Britz is one that resists an imperial papacy, one in which his church honours and takes seriously the gifts of all the baptized—lay people as well as clerics, woman as well as men, and the poor, especially the poor. Britz’s world is also one where the abuses of liberal capitalism are held in check, where militarization is curtailed, where the earth and all its peoples are treated with respect, and one where all religions act in unity for the common good.
Although Britz is best known for provocative editorials, there is also a deeply contemplative dimension to his writing, the legacy of his life as a monk and a trained liturgist who is deeply steeped in church history.
In Truth to Power, Britz confronts honestly and with clarity the issues that confront us:
The papacy, the bishops, laypeople, women in the church, social justice, economic development, the environment, abortion, birth control, ecumenism, fundamentalism, Christmas, Easter, the mass, Vatican II.
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Truth To Power TOC and Foreword

  1. 1. Truth to Power The Journalism of a Benedictine Monk
  2. 2. Truth to Power The Journalism of a Benedictine Monk Andrew Murray Britz, OSB Edited and Introduced by Dennis Gruending
  3. 3. Copyright editorials © 2010 Prairie Messenger Copyright other articles © 2010 The authors First published in the United States in 2011 by Kingsley Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval sys- tem, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording, or oth- erwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review to print in a magazine or newspaper, or broadcast on radio or television. In the case of photocopying or other reprographic copy- ing, users must obtain a licence from Access Copyright. Cover and interior design by Rob Muench, Lucille Stewart Project management by Kingsley Publishing Services Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Britz, Andrew, 1940- Truth to power : the journalism of a Benedictine monk / Andrew Murray Britz ; edited & introduced by Dennis Gruending. Includes index. ISBN 978-0-9784526-8-1 1. Catholic Church. 2. Catholic Church--Doctrines. 3. Church and social problems--Catholic Church. I. Title. BX1753.B75 2010 230'.2 C2010-903117-2 Printed in Canada by St. Peters Press 2010 / 1 Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Ordering information: All proceeds from the sales of this book are donated to the Prairie Messenger Sustaining Fund. Cover art by Greg Schulte In stark black, a Greek cross stands as the mark of Christian paradox over the Maltese cross often associated with the Benedictine community. This cross, with its rounded arms, signifies the openings to the north and the south, to the east and the west, openings to the absolutely surprising humanity of the kingdom. Seeing the world as Jesus did makes us realize that every- thing opens for those seeking the kingdom. Biblical references printed in concentric circles connote the Good News pulsating outward to the ends of the earth. This is not dissimilar to the manner in which North American Native elders treasure the whole earth — for them everything in time reveals the Holy. — GS
  4. 4. This book is dedicated to two great mentors in my life Rev. Leonard L. Sullivan a priest for the church in Regina (1929-1999) Rev. James Gray a monk of St. Peter’s Abbey (1927-2009)
  5. 5. Table of Contents Foreword xiii By Joan Chittister, OSB Introduction: 1 Andrew Britz and the Prairie Messenger By Dennis Gruending Chapter 1: The Catholic Press 11 A prophetic vocation, February 6, 1989 11 Role of the Catholic press, February 20, 2002 12 The Messenger is 100, February 11, 2004 14 Chapter 2: Magisterium: People, Bishops, Pope 17 Ecumenism a weathervane, July 25, 1988 17 The Word was made flesh, December 19, 1994 20 The bishop as leader, June 19, 1995 23 Ministry and authority, April 8, 1991 26 We are an Episcopal church, June 13, 1988 28 Papal primacy, November 11, 1998 30 A living magisterium, April 3, 1989 32 Simple Gospels, July 20, 1987 35 Celebrating Pentecost, May 8, 2002 36 Dream for the church, March 12, 1997 39 Cardinals differ, February 9, 2000 41 Theological debate, July 7, 1999 43 The new catechism: Maintaining orthodoxy, January 15, 1990 45 Runcie prepares for Rome visit, October 2, 1989 46 Papal office, June 27, 2001 48 The Spirit given to all, May 8, 1989 49 Post-Vatican II church, September 8, 1986 50 A sinless church, April 8, 1998 51 United in charity, July 5, 2000 54
  6. 6. viii Truth to Power Chapter 3: The People of God 57 World Synod on the Laity, September 14, 1987 57 Secularity and the synod, October 19, 1987 59 Gospel and the world, January 31, 2001 60 Faith and culture, November 2, 1987 61 Inculturating the faith, July 15, 1985 62 Recognizing holiness, March 23, 1992 63 Ordinary time, January 15, 2003 64 New lay spiritual movements, October 26, 1987 66 The synod on the laity closes, November 9, 1987 67 Devotion to Mary, July 17, 1983 68 Knights of Columbus (Fourth Degree), February 16, 2000 70 Cookie monitor, October 15, 1997 71 One with the earth, April 23, 1997 72 Chapter 4: Women and the Church 75 Women’s voice needed, August 28, 1995 75 Women’s gifts essential, March 14, 2001 78 First witness to the Resurrection, April 9, 2003 80 The language of liturgy, November 7, 1994 82 Powerful scrutiny, March 4, 1998 84 Pointing out sin — at home, April 18, 1988 86 Women’s ordination, April 2, 1997 87 Women hearing confessions, September 10, 2003 88 Dysfunctional church, July 19, 1993 91 Neither male nor female, September 30, 1985 93 Women and the faith, November 3, 1999 94 Chapter 5: Religious, Priestly Vocations 95 Specialized vocations, April 25, 2001 95 A prophetic call, April 9, 1997 98 Vocations to the religious life, May 4, 1992 99 Bishops seek married priests, September 27, 1993 100 Priests for the North, October 22, 1997 102 Regularizing the Czech church, April 27, 1992 104 Crisis in priestly vocations, January 23,1993 105 Receiving disgruntled Anglicans, May 3, 1993 107
  7. 7. Truth to Power ix Roman fever revived, November 30, 1992 108 Priests for the community, February 4, 1985 109 Corpus Christi, June 7, 1993 111 Chapter 6: Pope John Paul II 115 Pope is PM churchperson of the year, January 2, 1989 115 John Paul and the papacy, January 30, 2002 117 Pope as ecumenist, May 23, 2001 118 Unity with the East, May 15, 1995 120 That they may be one, June 12, 1995 121 Pope an Orthodox Christian, January 16, 1995 123 Prophetic journey, May 9, 2001 124 Pope on the attack, June 4, 1990 126 Does the pope have Parkinson’s? January 10, 2001 128 Should popes retire? November 5, 2003 129 Cheering the pope, September 3, 1997 131 Chapter 7: That They May Be One 133 Proclaiming the kingdom, June 20, 2001 133 Catholics today need ecumenism, January 23, 1989 135 The faith of Peter, August 10, 1984 137 Unity of Christians, January 22, 2003 139 Healing the churches, January 16, 2002 142 Pope serious about ecumenism, January 21, 1998 143 Christian unity revisited, January 21, 2004 146 Christian unity sought, January 22, 1997 149 Catholic/Lutheran healing, November 22, 1995 151 Diversity in the church, October 7, 1998 152 Eucharist in ancient “Iraq,” October 31, 2001 153 A 1,500-year misunderstanding, November 28, 1994 154 Ukrainian Catholic Church, June 9, 1984 155 Vocation of Ukrainian Catholics, May 2, 1988 157 Salvation of non-Christians, October 30, 1995 159 Jewish brothers and sisters, July 13, 1987 160 Ghetto mentality, September 18, 1989 162 Christendom and Islam, December 12, 2001 163
  8. 8. x Truth to Power Chapter 8: The Ethic of Life 165 Immaculate Conception, December 7, 1987 165 Need for “seamless garment,” July 1, 1984 166 Gospel of life, April 10, 1995 168 Birth control and the Gospel, January 30, 1989 171 Differing on birth control, March 22, 1993 172 Humanae Vitae: 25th anniversary, August 2, 1993 174 Condoms, February 26, 1996 177 When does life begin? March 27, 2002 178 Accepting human sexuality, July 10, 1989 179 Strengthening marriage, May 26, 1999 181 Changing laws, changing hearts, February 8, 1988 182 Abortion as violence, March 14, 1988 184 Addressing sexual abuse, June 12, 2002 186 Dignity in dying, February 28, 2001 188 Sue Rodriguez, February 21, 1994 190 Honouring the dead, March 6, 1995 191 Capital punishment revisited, February 23, 1987 193 Applying capital punishment, April 27, 1987 194 Chapter 9: Call to Justice 197 A spirituality for justice, September 12, 1994 197 Ten Days for Development, February 3, 1986 199 The Berlin Wall comes down, November 20, 1988 200 Cold War camouflages neo-colonialism, November 20, 1988 202 Progressive taxation, May 27, 1985 202 U.S. farm subsidies, May 15, 2002 204 Feeding the hungry, June 19, 2002 206 Same dignity given to all, April 15, 1998 208 Racism in the church, June 18, 1983 210 Futility of violence at Oka, September 10, 1990 210 Ovide Mercredi’s tears, December 18, 1995 212 Tracy Latimer, November 28, 1994 215 Penal reform, April 15, 1996 216 Turning play to violence, April 11, 2001 218 Events of September 11, September 19, 2001 221 Waging a “just” war, September 25, 2002 222 Nuclear weapons, June 5, 2002 226 Depleted uranium weapons, January 17, 2001 227
  9. 9. Truth to Power xi Protesting in the streets, April 18, 2002 227 Morality of the marketplace, August 28, 2002 230 An alternative to capitalism, June 21, 2000 231 Chapter 10: Heroes of Faith 233 Pope John XXIII, June 6, 2001 233 Canonization of Dorothy Day, September 4, 1983 236 Karl Rahner: Where he needed to be, April 15, 1984 237 Canonizing Archbishop Romero, March 26, 1990 238 Who is a martyr? March 22, 2000 239 Cardinal Henri de Lubac, September 16, 1991 241 Christiane Brusselmans, November 18, 1991 242 Dom Bede Griffiths, May 24, 1993 243 Cardinal Yves Congar, July 13, 1995 246 Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin, January 8, 1995 248 Rev. Bernard Häring, July 15, 1998 251 Cardinal Basil Hume, June 23, 1999 253 Dom Helder Camara, September 1, 1999 254 Rev. Jean-Marie Tillard, November 22, 2000 256 Mother Teresa beatified, October 22, 2003 258 Mother Teresa’s demons, September 12, 2001 261 Cardinal Franz König, March 24, 2004 261 Sparring cardinals honoured, January 2, 2002 263 Chapter 11: Revolution by Tradition 267 By Dr. John Thompson Chapter 12: Discerning the Signs of the Times 275 By Dr. Mary Jo Leddy Epilogue: 277 Pessimism too easy an out, March 20, 2002 Appendix: Prairie Messenger Editorial Policy 281 Index 283 About the Authors 291
  10. 10. Foreword Truth to Power “One man with courage,” Andrew Jackson wrote, “makes a majority.” Father Andrew Britz, OSB, is a man whose courage and commitment to the truth has helped all of us to be more courageous. He gave us material we could trust, with integrity we could swear by. Readers everywhere knew that what they read in the Prairie Messenger came with a hallmark. What’s more, it came wrapped in sharp argument and fair dealing — tasting of justice, sounding like the Gospels, and rooted in faith. And just as importantly, these essays bear reading for the sake of the writing alone. William Zinsser, well-known writer, editor, and teacher — master of the craft — teaches that there are “four basic premises of writ- ing: clarity, brevity, simplicity and humanity.” If ever those criteria ap- plied to a body of writing, it certainly applies to this one. The writing in this collection will carry you to new heights of understanding and evalu- ation if for no other reason than they are, first, crafted so well. The pieces ring with a kind of sparkling clarity. There is no attempt to drown a topic in words and phrases to the point that by the time you finish reading it, you have no idea of what it is supposed to be about. Andrew Britz says of the church in an essay on the laity, “While it is true that the church is not a democracy, it is equally true that it is not a hierarchy ac- cording to the principles of the world.” Clearly, he is to the point and starkly clear. If readers have any problem at all with these pieces, it may well be that there is no escaping the point that’s being made. Britz’s ar- guments demand attention, which, of course, is where the reader’s own conscience and conviction come in. More than that, each of the pieces presents complex ideas with incisive economy. The very brevity has its own impact. By reducing each topic to its marrow, it focuses the idea and holds it in a veritable laser beam of
  11. 11. xiv Truth to Power light to such an extent that no one, least of all readers, can say they did not know and had never heard of such possibilities. “Without the effective voice of women,” Britz wrote in 1995, “the church has not been able to keep its balance in many, many areas — not just in its understanding and appreciation of women.” With great simplicity, with disarming honesty, these essays wrestle their way into our hearts until we, too, find ourselves poised on the teeter- totter of truth, forced to determine which way to fall: for or against the oppressed; in favour or not of the collusions; uncertain or decided about the justice of commonplace injustices; open or closed to information we would have preferred to avoid. “Fundamentalism,” he wrote in 1984, “has become very appealing. Rather than parables and paradoxes (good enough to carry the message Jesus meant to leave us), we want simple dogmas that can be written in stone. Rather than preach the cross of Christ, we want moral answers in black and white. Rather than find the kingdom in the necessarily ambiguous signs in our midst, we are prepared to run halfway about the globe to witness miracles that do not challenge our basic value systems.” It is precisely the honest, open, and searingly simple presentation of naked truth written too artlessly to ignore that stays with the reader for a lifetime. In the end, Britz’s humanity and the ongoing relevance of the situations he wrote about to the humanity of the reader makes this collection an en- during part of the spiritual literature of our period. But there is even more in this book to be wondered at, to be emulated. The fact is that these essays spare no one and nothing from the glare of truth and the impulse to grow. There are those who would say that the very term “Catholic journal- ism” is an oxymoron, the mixture of two unlike and equally contradictory terms in the same concept — like white chocolate or bitter sweet or square circle. But not here. Not in these essays. As Cicero said, “A man of courage is also full of faith.” It is the faith of Andrew Britz that underlies this book. Andrew Britz, OSB, the former editor of one of the best Catholic news- papers on the globe, has the kind of faith it takes to turn the best skills of his craft — the edge of sharp questions and the grace of doubt — on the church itself, on the unexamined ideas of the Catholic tradition, on our own distortions of those ideas. As a result, the written pieces in this col- lection are far and beyond the level of the local church bulletin board. Britz does not confuse public relations and journalism. He does not
  12. 12. Truth to Power xv write commercials and call them analyses. He does not barter truth for favour. He does not fall victim to the kind of loyalty to the institution that by failing to write the truth makes the growth of that institution impossi- ble. He does not swear the kind of fealty to the church that is more syco- phancy to the system than fidelity to the best of its ideals. That kind of writing from the very centre of a system is more than skil- ful; it is lovingly dangerous and dangerously loving. That kind of commitment, however, is neither easy to come by nor easy to achieve without failing in one direction or the other. After all, how can the communication arm of any centrally controlled organization really tell its own story? How can writers who are dedicated to the very organ- ization they’re writing about turn the light of truth into corners whose il- lumination might very well seem to damage the truths it purports to defend? “Whether we like it or not,” Britz writes, “there is a great variety of opinions in the church at large. A Catholic paper must reflect this reality to its subscribers — it is the only reality there is…. Readers of the Catholic press must come to accept this.” Britz does great Catholic journalism by being true to the essence of Christianity and to the Gospels upon which it is built. He also does it by being true to the image of the Jesus who walked from one end of Israel to the other, contending with the Pharisees, questioning the laws, recalling Israel always to the meaning of the Covenant and its implications for both synagogue and state. These pieces are not only the best of reflections. They are also, as a consequence of that, as spiritually relevant for readers today as they were when they were written. Read them for the sake of your religious development. Relish them for the honesty of heart they offer. Reflect on them for the sake of the future of the church in this new age to come. Joan Chittister, OSB March 21, 2010 Co. Kerry, Ireland