Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Short History of the USCCB

From The Fifth Column:

Follow this link, and see what the USCCB says about itself.

Then read below and discover a few of the details the USCCB omitted from its own history.

To understand how the USCCB came into existence, we must first understand the spiritual background of the man who essentially provided the impetus for the foundation of the organization.

Father John J. Burke was a Paulist priest, and therein lies a tale. Whether rightly or wrongly (and here the reader should research and judge for himself) the Paulist priests have a history that is closely associated with scandal.

Fr. Isaac Hecker founded the Paulists in 1858, and Father Hecker himself was a definitely controversial figure, but a discussion of his life is outside the scope of this essay. The Paulists, like most religious orders, like to believe they were founded by an extremely holy person, a saint. And like most religious orders, they worked hard to demonstrate the sanctity of their late, great founder after he passed away in 1888.

By 1897, his biography had both been translated into French and been given quite an eye-opening foreward. For various reasons peculiar to the age, his biography became quite popular in France, and French priests were urged to take up the ideas Father Hecker was said to espouse.
Word of these ideas reached Rome.

Pope Leo XIII was so struck by them that, by January 22, 1899, he felt compelled to compose an encyclical letter, Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae, in which he condemned seven of the propositions that seemed to emanate from America – a suite of ideas Pope Leo condemned as "Americanism":

The condemned ideas:
  1. The Church should shape her teachings in accord with popular custom, relax her disciplines or omit or de-emphasize doctrines that non-Catholics find scandalous, that is, a tendency towards silence that omits or neglects Catholic doctrine;
  2. The Church should grant to the faithful the same kind of freedom in spiritual matters that the state grants in civil matters;
  3. Catholics need only adhere to infallible teachings of the Roman pontiff;
  4. License is coterminous with liberty;
  5. External spiritual guidance is not necessary;
  6. Active virtues are superior to "angelical virtues, erroneously styled passive" virtues;
  7. Religious life and vows are harmful to human perfection and/or society.
The American bishops agreed with one voice that such heretical ideas could never be found in America. Yet, despite the bishops' protestations, the ideas seem somehow rendolent of Father Hecker's "social justice" spirituality. In fact, Americanism was the first heresy in 300 years to be named after a specific geographic region.

In any case, events at home and abroad were moving forward. The mainstream Protestant churches formed the Federal Council of Churches in 1908, and many Catholics looked with a certain degree of envy upon the organization. The Federal Council seemed to have a certain amount of clout and Catholics were desirous of emulating their success...

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