Just published in the June 2009 issue of the Catholic World Report, here are some excerpts from my review of Ms. Kennedy's book:
What does it mean to be Catholic in early 21st century America? In order to answer this question, Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, has compiled in this volume thirty-seven essays authored by a variety of public figures and ordinary people who are or were practicing Catholics.
Included among the contributors are Anna Quindlen, Andrew Sullivan, E. J. Dionne, Jr. , Nancy Pelosi, James Carroll, Bill Maher, Bill O' Reilly, Tom Monaghan, Peggy Noonan, Robert Drinan, Douglas Brinkley, Dan Aykroyd, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, and Martin Sheen. As one would suspect, the range of opinion, not to mention the style and depth of writing, differ widely. Nevertheless, all the writers, even if you find yourself disagreeing with some of them (as I did on more than one occasion), have undoubtedly made a sincere effort to present how they believe the Catholic Church has shaped their lives and how they would like to shape the Catholic Church....
Kennedy, like so many of us, is from that generation of early post-conciliar American Catholics that were offered, among other "innovations," liturgical dance and the clown mass so as to make the faith "relevant" to young people. But, as should have been expected, just as a river cannot rise above its source, the Church of Cirque Du Soleil could not ascend higher than Bozo theol-ogy....
Kennedy rightfully singles out for condemnation Bernard Cardinal Law, the former Archbishop of Boston, for his reassignment of predator priests to unsuspecting parishes and the cardinal's lack of transparency in cooperating with the victims and their families as well as law enforcement. But, ironically, she diminishes the power of her righteous anger by sharing with the reader personal affronts she claims to have suffered at the hands of the cardinal. Here is one of them: "When my sister and her fiance' attempted to have their wedding by the sea of Cape Cod, the characteristically authoritarian Law put a halt to the plans, calling outdoor weddings forbidden and instead choosing his man-made building over God's creation as the appro-priate place to celebrate the union" (xxix). Oh, the humanity.
Yet there is no word of harsh judgment for the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Cardinal Mahony, whose settling of the numerous predator priest lawsuits is legendary in the amount of money the cardinal's archdiocese was willing to dole out (nearly $700 million) in order to keep its and the cardinal's secrets hidden from public scrutiny. Kennedy does mention Cardinal Mahony, but only as an object of high praise for how the cardinal has advanced the cause of "social justice" by welcoming illegal immigrants into his archdiocese and petitioning the government to grant them amnesty or something close to it.
She credits the cardinal with "reviving the Church's reputation for a commitment to outcasts with meaning, and bravely taking on rage at foreigners at a highly volatile and politically sensitive moment in the political life of the country" (xxxi). Thus, for Kennedy, embracing the politics of La Raza, like charity, covers up a multitude of sins, even if those sins seem to require a type of justice that was once suggested by none other than the Prince of Peace: "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin." (Luke 17:2 - RSV)
You can read the whole thing here. The Catholic World Report's website may be found here.
(Cross-posted on Southern Appeal)