Call to Action Turns Twenty: From Bicentennial Celebration to Excommunication

Author: E. Michael Jones

Call to Action Turns Twenty: From Bicentennial Celebration to Excommunication

by F. Michael Jones

On March 19, 1996, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska issued a piece of "Extrasynodal Legislation" which was published three days later in the diocesan newspaper announcing that "all Catholics in and of the Diocese of Lincoln are forbidden to be members" in a list of organizations which included: "Planned Parenthood, the Society of St. Pius X (Lefebvre Group), Hemlock Society, St. Michael the Archangel Chapel, Freemasons, Job's Daughters, DeMolay, Eastern Star, Rainbow Girls, Catholics for a Free Choice," and, last, but not least, "Call to Action, and Call to Action Nebraska."

"Membership in these organizations or groups," Catholics from the Lincoln diocese were told, "is always perilous to the Catholic Faith and most often is totally incompatible with the Catholic Faith." As a result,

Any Catholics in and of the Diocese of Lincoln who attain or retain membership in any of the above listed organizations or groups after April 15, 1996 are, by that very fact (ipso facto latae sententiae), under interdict, and are absolutely forbidden to receive Holy Communion. Contumacious persistence in such membership for one month following the interdict on the part of any such Catholics will, by that very fact (), cause them to be excommunicated. Absolution from these ecclesial censures is "reserved to the Bishop."

Thus began what was the biggest ecclesial furor of 1996 and, arguably, of the as yet unfinished decade. It wasn't the first time a bishop had threatened people with excommunication in America-a group in Louisiana faced the same sort of threat because of their advocacy of segregation-but it was the first time an American bishop had done something like this since the Second Vatican Council. And in some quarters it was portrayed as a violation of the council. It wasn't, of course, as Bishop Bruskewitz's supporting documentation showed. Not everyone was making this claim, of course. The St. Michael the Archangel Chapel of the Society of St. Pius X applauded the bishop's action but felt somehow that they were the victims of mistaken identity, that they were unjustly associated with groups that deserved to be excommunicated. The Freemasons, as far as I can tell, remained largely silent throughout, as did the Rainbow Girls and Job's Daughters, who, like their namesake, were probably accustomed to suffer in silence.

The uproar surrounding the interdict focused almost exclusively on one organization, namely Call to Action. This was probably the case for a number of reasons. To begin with, the organization was a Chicago-based group that took its name from a conference called into being by the American bishops themselves. History provided a neat sense of both closure and irony here. The organization which took its name from the conference organized by the American bishops to celebrate this nation's Bicentennial ended up being singled out by one American bishop 20 years later as both perilous to and incompatible with the Catholic Faith. How then did history come full circle like that?

The inclusion of Call to Action in the list of forbidden organization was significant for a number of reasons. It wasn't just one more anti-Catholic organization, like the Masons, it was an organization that was anti-Catholic while claiming to be Catholic. In this regard, it was like Catholics for a Free Choice, but it was also different in its way, because it was composed of actual people and not just a front for money from pharmaceutical firms. Call to Action had become the institutionalized organ of dissent in the United States, and in order to understand dissent and especially why it continued so long unmolested by this country's bishops, we would do well to understand Call to Action, especially as it now celebrates its 20th anniversary. But to understand dissent we also have to understand the Cultural Revolution which begot it. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that every institution was the lengthened shadow of one man. This is true of Call to Action as well, although we might have to modify Emerson's dictum to include more than one man and a few women as well. Dissent in the Catholic Church grew out of the Cultural revolution, as the continuity of dissent and cultural revolution in the lives of Call to Action's , makes clear. The Cultural Revolution's main goal was the destabilization of the Catholic Church, because the Catholics were the main obstacle to universal acceptance of sexual liberation, particularly the widespread dissemination of the contraceptive. The agents of this destabilization would be the Catholic clergy; the means, sexual passion.

To begin with, the actions culminating in the Call to Action conference began two years before the conference took place in Detroit from October 20 to 24, 1976. The bishops were interested in participating in a celebration of the nation's bicentennial, but, as those of you who were around in 1974 remember, the nation was not in much of a mood for celebration. Watergate, the impeachment of President Nixon, and the ongoing, never-ending war in Vietnam occupied the nation's mind for the two years leading up to the celebration. While this sort of fare filled the evening news and occupied the nation, perhaps by way of indirection, the cultural revolution, which had begun in the mid-'60s, was busy consolidating its gains in less visible ways.

The cultural revolution was a struggle between the Enlightenment and the Catholic Church. This is not the standard explanation of the '60s, most of which are proposed as a form of mystification by the winning side in that struggle, but it is the most accurate. The winning side invariably uses terms like "liberation" when it describes the terms of the struggles of the '60s. The real struggle was something else. Right around the time of the Call to Action Conference, which is to say in the fall of 1976, Pfeffer travelled to Philadelphia to give a speech entitled, a bit immodestly but not inaccurately, "The Triumph of Secular Humanism." Or, in a term he used as its synonym, the triumph of "Enlightenment" values in America. Pfeffer saw the cinema as part of that revolution. In this Pfeffer was not alone; Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud's nephew and an heir to the Illuminist tradition of controlling people without their knowledge, wrote at the end of Propaganda:

The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today. It is a great distributor for ideas and opinions.... The motion picture can standardize the ideas and habits of a nation. Because pictures are made to meet market demands, they reflect, emphasize. and even exaggerate broad popular tendencies, rather than stimulate new ideas and opinions. The motion picture avails itself only of ideas and facts which are In vogue. As the newspaper seeks to purvey news, it seeks to purvey entertainment (p. 156).

By the early '60s, Bernays' program for "invisible government" through control of the instruments of culture had become part of the common intellectual patrimony of a number of Jewish organizations, who put the information to use in a campaign to remove prayer from public schools. Later, the same tools were used by Hollywood in its war on the Production Code and the Legion of Decency in their battle over who was to control the film industry. The crucial issue at the dawn of the '60s was nudity on the screen. Hollywood was feeling financially threatened by TV on the one hand, which was stealing its family audience, and the new skin magazines, like , which got founded in the wake of the Kinsey reports and the perfection of glossy color photography and were testing the borders of pornography in wake of the decision of the Supreme Court. In many ways, it was the Weimar battle over all over again, except that this time there was no effective conservative reaction. The Catholics tried, in their way, to play this role, but were hindered by Jewish dominance in the media of communication and division in their own ranks following the Second Vatican Council. (For a detailed account of this struggle, cf. again )

Leo Pfeffer described the contending sides in this cultural struggle this way: "American Jewry. . . partly too because many Jews, far more proportionately than the other faiths, are commercially and professionally involved in the cinema and publishing, has been overwhelmingly antipathetic to the crusade for morality and censorship in the arts and literature" which, by mid-century, had been taken over by Irish Catholics. Because the mainline Protestant denominations had abdicated their role as moral arbiters in matters sexual by the '60s and the Evangelicals were not yet a significant political force, the battle over the Hollywood Production Code came down to an essentially Jewish- Catholic struggle, a fact noted by Pfeffer in his speech on the triumph of secular humanism:

After World war I, Irish-oriented American Catholicism began taking over leadership in anti-obscenity militancy.... Catholic organizations such as the National Office for Decent Literature and the national Legion of Decency. . . became the nations' most militant and effective defender of morals and censorship.

After a number of unsuccessful attempts with vehicles like Billy Wilder's , released in 1964, Hollywood finally succeeded in breaking the code in 1965 with the release of the Eli Landau film . During the course of the film, a woman playing a black prostitute opened her blouse and exposed her breasts to the camera, breaking, as a result, Section Seven, subsection two, of the Motion Picture Production Code and one of Hollywood's last remaining taboos. I have told the story of the breaking of the code elsewhere, primarily from the perspective of the Legion of Decency, which saw The Pawnbroker, not as the harbinger of serious cinematic art but, rather, something that, in the Legion's Msgr. Thomas Little's words, would "open the flood gates to a host of unscrupulous operators to make a quick buck." The next seven years of cinema were to prove Msgr. Little and the Legion right, as a trickle of bare breasts eventually became a flood of on screen nudity, culminating in 1973 with the release of and the , two porno epics which made it into the list of the industry's ten top grossing films for that year.

The summer of '65 saw, as a result, two great victories for the forces of "liberation," which were immediately transmuted into instruments of social control. The film industry was now able to use nudity to draw people into its theaters, and the government could now use the contraceptive as a solution to social problems. The first led to the exponential growth of the pornography industry, which redefined the universe of sexual expectations in a way that would prove devastating to women; the second eventuated in the destruction of the concept of the family wage and the emigration of women from the home into the workforce, where, over a 30-year period, the male as provider would be replaced by both husband and wife earning what the husband alone earned before. Behind both examples of "liberation" loomed the specter of control, a fact which was true in a broader sense as well, because the result of both "liberalizations" was a sexually destabilized society, where more and more people succumbed half-unwittingly to the financial exploitation of their passions, and became, as a result, sexual and financial helots. Reason, as the classical tradition pointed out, provides the only point of stability in any social order. The more people that the Enlightenment could persuade to exchange a life based on reason for a life based on passion, the more people the "invisible rulers" could control through the Illuminist science of advertising and its adjuncts. Of course, part of the fallout from any sexual liberation is social chaos based primarily on family disruption, and so, once again, in the wake of the '60s' cultural revolution, horror began to make its appearance as a significant popular genre.

This is so for the reasons we have already mentioned, but also because the control of the human person that "population control" allows is far more intimate and, therefore, far more complete than any previous form of political domination. Michael Schooyans makes the point that even "Marx's proletariat still had their children as their only riches.... On the other hand, the contemporary problem forces the individual into the most precarious situation, since it deprives him of all control over , over a real future for his offspring: a kind of heretofore unknown" (p. 36).

The result of "birth control" is not only more radical than the slavery of classical antiquity, but the means to that end are different as well. Instead of forcing people to act for the ends of those in power, the "invisible rulers" now induce the ruled to do so by getting them to act according to the rulers' unspoken sexual guidelines, because, in controlling the agency responsible for the transmission of life, the controllers control human life at its source and, therefore, most crucial point. "This kind of domination," according to Schooyans,

is, at once, more cunning, more pernicious and more fatal in its effects. It is not at all new, but it has grown in an unprecedented way because of two decisive factors. On the one hand, it has benefitted from the use of the most sophisticated techniques of propaganda and indoctrination. On the other hand, its effectiveness is assured by the media's guarantee of publicity.... For contemporary totalitarianism the question is no longer one of exercising physical coercion; henceforth, it is a matter of destroying the Ego in what is most profoundly personal in me. This is why contemporary totalitarianism has intellectual life as its target. It pummels the masses, but the intellectuals it reeducates by filtering, directing, and dealing in information. It inculcates a portable ideology, for ideology can encroach upon intelligence and disarm its critical ability, imprisoning it in a "gulag of the spirit." Bit by bit, intellectuals are ensnared by manipulators of knowledge who are in the pay of the party, the race, the army, the powerful. Science is fostered to the degree that it delivers new technologies that can be integrated into a global strategy for domination (p. 55-6).

As always, the instrument of control is passion: "Man, under the guise of being liberated and excited by the possibility of maximizing individual pleasure, disregards the stakes and consequences of sexuality." By taking control of pleasure at its source in sexuality, the neo-Illuminists simultaneously take control of human life, which has the same source, and, as an added bonus, the controllers also dominate the human conscience, by manipulating its guilt as a way of defending the actions that enslaved the person in the first place. Liberal politics becomes then first, the incitation to sexual vice, then the colonization of the procreative powers that are indissoluably associated with sexuality, and finally, the political mobilization of the guilt which flows from the misuse of procreative power in an all- encompassing system that gives new meaning to the term totalitarian. Schooyans is one of the few people who sees the full ramifications of this biocratic revolution:

We are at the dawn of a total war beyond the limits of anything we have known, and the horizon is already aflame with it. The present war is truly total in the sense that, by means of power over life, it aims at control over human beings in what is most inalienable; their existence, their personal capacity for making judgements, and decisions, and their responsibility before their conscience. The present war simultaneously involves each of these aspects as the stakes, the means, and the goal (p. 59).

This is what meant in America in the 1960s, and this was why Leo Pfeffer came to Philadelphia in 1976, on the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, to claim victory in the cultural wars and to proclaim the triumph of secular humanism. Divide and conquer was the strategy which the Enlightenment, under the direction of people like Leo Pfeffer, used against the Christians in this country, and the social order of the republic was the first casualty of this campaign.

The cultural revolution was essentially a struggle between the Enlightenment and the Catholic Church, over whose values would become the default settings of American culture. In many respects, the cultural revolution was a replay of the same struggle that had taken place following the unification of Germany in 1870. Many Germans were Catholic; Bismarck, however, felt that they should all behave like Protestant Prussians, and the Kulturkampf of the 1870s was his attempt to unify German cultural under the banner of the Enlightenment. The difference between Germany in the 1870s and America in the 1960s has largely to do with the Catholics. In Germany, Bismarck found essentially no Catholics willing to collaborate with his campaign against the Catholic Church and so was forced to expell the nuns and priests who refused to go along and put Old Catholics, who had just broken with the Church over Vatican I and the doctrine of Infallibility, in the positions they had vacated in places like the Braunsberg Gymnasium.

In America in the 1960s, things were different. In America, the cultural revolutionaries found a pool of willing collaborators. In America, they found Father Ted Hesburgh and the University of Notre Dame. In early 1961, Cass Canfield of both John D. Rockefeller's Population Council and Planned Parenthood listened to a Notre Dame professor by the name of John O'Brien talk about the Catholic position on birth control on a TV program hosted by Eric Sevareid and he thought he detected an openness to change. Change, of course, was in the air then. Even the most rabid antiCatholic bigot had heard that the Vatican Council was getting started and had heard that change was imminent. He might also have heard that there was talk of change in the Church's teaching on contraception brought about mainly by the invention of a new birth control device, the pill, which seemed not to impede the sexual act in the way that previous mechanical devices did.

Not someone to let an opportunity of historical magnitude pass, Canfield wrote to O'Brien and invited him to a conference on religious views on birth control sponsored by Planned Parenthood in New York City. He got a letter back from George Shuster, then assistant to Father Hesburgh at Notre Dame, which made a counter- proposal. Cardinal Spellman, Shuster opined, would never allow O'Brien to attend such a conference in New York, but that didn't mean that such a meeting shouldn't take place. Why not have a meeting at Notre Dame? In fact, might not the Population Council be interested in funding such a meeting? Canfield could hardly believe his eyes when he got the letter, as his comments to Rockefeller and the other members of the Population Council make clear.

What followed from the original contact was an agreement to fund a series of "secret" (their word) conferences, at the end of which the Catholic theologians participating would agree to issue "a paper." As the negotiations proceeded, the outcome of the paper was pretty much a foregone conclusion. "He who pays the piper calls the tune" could serve as the motto of the Rockefeller foundations in particular and all the foundations in general in the period following World War II, when they consolidated their power over American universities. Catholic universities, under people like Father Hesburgh, were no exception to this rule.

The whole push to legitimitize the contraceptive, orchestrated by John D. Rockefeller, 3rd and others, had one major obstacle to universal success and acceptance, and that obstacle was the Catholic Church. The secret conferences at Notre Dame, beginning in 1962, were the Population Council's attempt to neutralize its greatest opponent in this battle. By 1965, their efforts were beginning to bear fruit. In April of that year, the Notre Dame scholars issued a statement announcing that they no longer found the Church's teaching on contraception "persuasive." They did this, of course, without telling anyone who had funded the conferences leading to this conclusion or that openness to arriving at this conclusion was the of being invited in the first place.

Then, two months later, the Supreme Court, in , struck down the statute making the sale of contraceptives illegal. During the summer of 1965, a lawyer from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania watched in disbelief as the scenario I am describing to you now began to unroll before his eyes. William Bentley Ball, chief counsel for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, focused his attention on one event in particular, the Gruening hearings, chaired by Senator Ernest Gruening of Alaska and a friend of Margaret Sanger, listening to one witness after another testify that it was now time for the government to get into the contraception business.

"Where was the Catholic Church?" Ball kept wondering both to himself and to Archbishop John Krol of Philadelphia. To be more specific, why hadn't the bishops' own organization in Washington had anything to say against the stacked deck that the Gruening hearings had become? What Ball didn't know at the time is that the same forces that had stacked the deck in the Gruening hearings were also busy undermining the Church's opposition to contraception. Ball didn't know about the secret meetings at Notre Dame and the effect they were having on key figures in the National Catholic Welfare Conference, who should have been fighting the government's involvement in promoting contraception but weren't, often because they were participants in the Notre Dame conferences.

During the summer of 1965, Rockefeller even took the extraordinary step of having his friend Ted Hesburgh get him an audience with Pope Paul VI, during which Rockefeller volunteered to write the encyclical that eventually came to be known as Humanae Vitae. It was a scene worthy of Henry James. The rich American, with his new invention, the IUD, telling the pope that he was in a position to solve the world's problems if he would just go along. I have an idea of what Pope Paul VI was thinking during his conversation with Mr. Rockefeller. When I was growing up, people used to ask me, "If you're so damned smart, why aren't you rich?" So, I like to imagine the pope saying, in his mind, to Mr. Rockefeller, "If you're so damned rich, why aren't you smart."

Needless to say, the pope didn't take Mr. Rockefeller up on his offer. But the U.S. Government did, and, in spite of the protests of Mr. Ball and Archbishops Krol and O'Boyle, the government was in the contraceptive business by the fall of 1965. In fact, the so-called War on Poverty became a war on black fertility as Planned Parenthood moved into the ghetto and the Great Society became a front for pushing contraceptives as part of the eugenic final solution to our race problem. Title X now spends hundreds of millions dollars of taxpayer money promoting the use of contraception. AID spends even more promoting the use of contraception and sterilization as part of our foreign policy abroad.

But what does all this have to do with Call to Action? On March 6, 1996, Bishop Bruskewitz received a letter on Call to Action Nebraska stationery announcing the formation of Call to Action Nebraska, "an affiliate of the national Call to Action organization." It was this letter that was the proximate cause of Bishop Bruskewitz's by now famous action. One co-signer of the letter was a John Krejci, a professor of sociology at Wesleyan University in Lincoln.

Thirty years earlier, Professor John Krejci was Father John Krejci, a priest on leave of absence while completing his doctorate in the sociology department at the University of Notre Dame. Krejci eventually received his Ph.D. in May of 1974, writing his dissertation on "Leadership and Change in Two Mexican Villages."

What interests us here are the changes that took place along the way. The matrix of change is just as significant and, in many ways, the first step in understanding the changes that took place in the individual lives that make up Call to Action as an organization. From a demographic point of view, Call to Action has a very specific profile: it is essentially an organization of clerics, ex-clerics, and people who make a living working for the Church (DREs, etc.), for the most part in their sixties (especially the former two groupings), who have adopted the sexual values, and oftentimes mores, of the dominant culture. Notre Dame had a crucial role to play in the formation of this group during the decade from the mid-'60s to the time of the actual Call to Action Conference in October of 1976.

To begin with, Notre Dame, in the mid-'60s, was a crucial part of two very different worlds. Dissent was as yet an unknown phenomenon and would not come out in the open until the summer of 1968, when Charles Curran organized the protest against . One year earlier, in the wake of Curran's successful tenure battle at Catholic University, Father Hesburgh engineered his Land o' Lakes statement, whereby he and a number of other presidents of Catholic universities, effectively alienated a large amount of Church property, namely those colleges and universities, from Church control. But no one seemed to know that was the effective meaning of Land 'o Lakes at the time.

As a result, religious orders continued to send their nuns, priests, and brothers to an institution that was no longer a Church institution and had, in fact, shifted its allegiance to the major foundations of this country, in a bid to get first their money and next federal funding, the sequel to foundation money as the government got more and more into the education business. During the summers of the late '60s, literally thousands of nuns, as well as other religious would converge on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, ostensibly to continue their education, but also to imbibe the Zeitgeist in an especially undiluted form.

As we have come to understand, the Zeitgeist at Notre Dame was heavily into sexual liberation for a number of reasons. To begin with, there was the effect the pill was having on the culture at large, and then there was the effect the pill was having on Notre Dame in particular. Donald Barrett was a professor of sociology at Notre Dame at the time. He was also on the papal birth control commission as well. So much was publicly known at the time. Not so public was the fact that he had been a participant at the Rockefeller conferences and, as a result, had applied to the Population Council for a grant to study contraceptive use. He eventually received around half a million dollars from the Ford Foundation while still deliberating on the papal birth control commission over the liceity of contraception. In any other venue, this would have been known as conflict of interest. In the Catholic Church in America, it was known as independent thinking and newfound maturity. William D'Antonio, head of the sociology department during the late '60s, was becoming well known as a result of his name appearing on Planned Parenthood ads condemning the pope.

One of the thousands of nuns who came to Notre Dame in the '60s was a lady by the name of Jean Gettelfinger. Like Father Krejci, she came to get her graduate degree in sociology as well. Unlike him, she never finished. Instead of getting a degree, she got a husband, and that husband was Father John Krejci. Jean Gettelfinger was one of the many nuns who left their narrow convent rooms in the '60s with the university, specifically the Catholic University, which was supposed to be contributing to their formation, as the enabling device for leaving.

One observer of the Notre Dame scene during the '60s said that this phenomenon was not uncommon; nor, we might add, was it particularly hard to understand. The general sense among religious that things were changing received powerful reinforcement at Notre Dame, primarily because the Notre Dame faculty and administration were one of the prime engines of change.

Add to that the fact that we are not talking about abstract forces of history but rather something as intimate as libido and its mobilization as part of the cultural revolution and we can get some sense of the ferment at Notre Dame during the late '60s. Nuns and priests could be seen strolling hand in hand around the lakes. There was much talk of a "third way," somewhere between marriage and celibacy, partaking of the best aspects of both, no doubt, like having your cake and eating it too. The impossible dream of a married clergy, of contraceptive sex, and most of the other ideas that make up the Call to Action agenda, got hatched like a new bacillus in the hothouse atmosphere of the Notre Dame summer school and similar academic institutes across the country, and since the growth of this impossible idea was congenial to the cultural revolutionaries' goals, it was fostered by their institutions.

So, at some point, Father Krejci and Sister Gettelfinger left the religious life and got married. We have heard this story so many times, it hardly seems surprising anymore. In order to understand Call to Action, however, we need to understand both their story and all of its ramifications and the fact that the story didn't stop there either. It never does. To begin with, many priests and nuns became intimate and did not leave to get married. This group, combined with those that did leave, gradually coalesced into a group that began to lobby in an increasingly insistent way for change in the Church's discipline regarding both sexuality and the religious life, and more often than not both taken together.

It's not hard to see the attractions both had separately. As religious in the most affluent country the world has ever known, priests and nuns got to live the vow of poverty in what was, at best, a deeply attenuated, symbolic form. Some indication of the rigor of religious life at Notre Dame can be seen in the fact that many married couples with families came there for vacations during the summer to swim in the lakes and play golf. Did married couples with children head off into the desert south of Alexandria for a few weeks of R & R in the second and third centuries? I don't think so. A rigorous life teaching school for nine months, followed by the Sybaris of the Notre Dame summer school must have been quite a change. That change, coupled with the fact that everything else was changing, must have made this group of religious think that anything was possible. And if the inevitable was going to happen anyway, why not act on it in advance? Then when the Church didn't change, disappointment turned to anger, and anger to a determination to force the change that should have happened but never did. It must have seemed so tantalizingly close back then-the best of both worlds! The life of a religious, free of material cares, plus the sexual fulfillment of the married state. Third way indeed! It was, as the Germans say, a chance to slaughter the cow and milk it too.

By the time John Krejci received his Ph.D., which was also the time when the first consultations for the 1976 Call to Action conference began, this philosophy of the "third way," which is another way of saying dissent, which is another way of describing the beachhead the cultural revolution had made in the Catholic Church, had made deep inroads among the nation's religious, and the vector of transmission was largely the Church's educational system, the summer programs at Notre Dame transposed across the country. The Call to Action conference in 1976 was, in many ways, the sign that this group had come out in the open and wanted to run the Church according to its own lights.

"Us Catholics have spoken," wrote Mark Winarski in the , the newspaper that represented the interests of the Third Way clerics most faithfully. The idea of a "democratic" consultation was used to disguise the special pleading of the dissenters, who wanted, in effect, the best of both worlds: the resources of the Catholic Church and sexual liberation. So the Reporter's slant on the first Call to Action conference was that "Catholics" had spoken. The people of God had spoken and, , they wanted the same things the subscribers to the NCR wanted, namely:

ordination of women, married priests, remarried divorced Catholics spared excommunication, determination of conscience on birth control, a national arbitration board to control the bishops, [and] civil rights for gays.

In other words, the agenda of the third way, the agenda, not coincidentally, of Leo Pfeffer and the cultural revolution as well as a way to weaken the revolutionaries' main enemy, the Catholic Church. In addition thereto, those assembled in the name of the Church in Detroit, in 1976, demanded that "The NCCB and Catholic publishers should expunge all sexist language and imagery from official church publications after January 1978." Beyond that, they demanded that "The NCCB and every diocese should undertake an affirmative action program." Under "Personhood," the conference affirmed, among other things, that Communion should be given in the hand, in keeping with the dignity of the human person, that the Church should endorse the ERA as well as its political opposite pole, namely, a constitutional amendment to protect fetal life. And, last, but not least, under the heading "Humankind," they demanded that "Third world peoples should be invited to this country to raise the consciences of our people."

I'm sure the people of the third world were honored by the invitation, but before long, as the proposals became longer and more politically charged, many observers began to wonder just how representative this body was of American Catholics at large, and, if it was not, just whose interests, then, were these delegates representing? As even the unfailingly sympathetic Thomas Stahel wrote for , "Who were the people who passed all these proposals?"

Many bishops were equally curious. As if to provide an answer, John Cardinal Krol was overheard saying that the meeting had been taken over by "rebels." Bishop Kenneth Povish of Lansing, Michigan, compared the gathering to the 1972 Democratic convention which nominated Sen. George McGovern. "I remember my father," Bishop Povish said, "a Democratic voter all his life, asking afterwards, 'who was representing me at the (deleted) convention.'" Even the normally sympathetic Archbishop Joseph Bernardin disavowed the results of the conference, "the result was haste and a determination to formulate recommendations on complex matters without adequate reflection, discussion, and consideration of different points of view." Beyond that, "special interest groups advocating particular causes seemed to play a disproportionate role." Then, in typical fashion, Bernardin disavowed his disavowal two days later, issuing a statement to NC News Service saying he "did not repudiate" the conference.

How could the bishops own people take over the conference and turn it into the ecclesial equivalent of the tennis court oaths preceding the French Revolution? The question misstates the issue. The conference was so easily manipulated because the clergy were the manipulators. As in Germany in the 16th century, the clerics were the revolutionaries. By introducing sexual activity into the religious life, the cultural revolutionaries introduced a state of permanent revolution into the Catholic Church. Call to Action was the institutionalization of that fact.

At this juncture, I'd like to make two points:

1) the cultural revolution was a demographic attack on the Catholic Church, waged by people who studied demographics as their life's work. These people realized that if birth rates continued as they had in the '50s and '60s, the United States would become a Catholic country, in terms of sheer numbers, which would then have its effect on the culture, as the election of John F. Kennedy had already shown.

2) the method of control used by the cultural revolutionaries was the arousal, manipulation, and management of sexual passion. Celibate clergy, as history has shown, were not immune to this politically motivated seduction. They were, from the revolutionaries' point of view, the most important group that needed to be brought under control in order to influence Catholics at large and to weaken the influence of the Church over the culture.

The example of 16th Century Germany and the Lutheran revolt is apropos. Luther spent much of his time writing to various priests and clerics, urging them to marry and thereby break the solemn vows they had made. His motives in urging marriage on apostate nuns and priests were clear. Once that spiritual transaction had been accomplished, the apostate priest was firmly in the Lutheran camp, a fact that Luther exploited for is maximal political effect. Libido, culminating in broken vows, was the engine that pulled the Reformation train. It was a uniquely effective way of organizing ex-clergy in opposition to the Church. Once they had made two contradictory sets of solemn vows, there was no way out. The marriage vows were, of course, invalid; however, in the natural order of things, especially after children arrived, they seemed every bit as compelling. "Within me," one unhappy priest, who succumbed to the trap, writes to a brother who is still a monk, "a constant conflict rages. I often resolve to mend my course, but when I get home and wife and children come to meet me, my love for them asserts itself more mightily than my love for God, and to overcome myself becomes impossible for me."

The same psychological dynamic applies today; in fact, it fairly leaps off the page as the distinguishing characteristic of Call to Action. We have, in Call to Action, the same psychological dynamic described in Joseph Conrad's novel . The priests who jumped ship in the '60s found, to their surprise and dismay, that the ship did not sink, and now it is they, out there treading water by themselves, who are in danger of going down. What to do in a situation like this? There are two alternatives. The first is the historically more familiar. It is the path chosen by Call to Action: organize, agitate for change of the rules, commiserate with people in a similar predicament, bitch and moan, loin Call to Action.

The genius of this revolution lay in its use of sexual passion as a means of social control. By breaking their vow of chastity, religious became committed to sexual liberation, to the social program of the cultural revolution, and, as a result, to changing the Catholic Church from within. The sexualized religious became a permanent revolutionary cadre determined to make the Church conform its laws to their behavior, and, since the cultural revolutionaries controlled the religious by manipulating their passions, this meant that the Church would have to conform its teaching to their program for total social control.

Last year's keynote speaker at the Call to Action conference was Anthony Padovano. Like Professor Krejci, Padovano used to be a priest; in fact, he now heads an organization of ex-priests known as Corpus. Like most of his membership, Father Padovano can't forget he was a priest, perhaps because he still is a priest. Instead of the best of both worlds, however, he now has the worst. He has a family to support, which is tough enough, but he is also plagued by memories of the way it was in the '60s, when he was a sought after speaker, explicating the changing Church to large enthusiastic audiences of religious and religiously interested laymen also eager for change across the country. More than the memories of the time when he was somebody, when times were flush, when the sky was the limit, one gets the sense that Padovano is plagued by the sense that those vows that he took as a priest have left their indelible mark. As I said before, there are two ways out of this intolerable situation. The way Padovano and Call to Action have chosen is activism, organizing a group of people in the same predicament, because misery loves company, and, most of all, bad theology, lots of self-serving, theological rationalization.

For those unfamiliar with its tenets and practice, scripture scholarship does not distinguish itself by its intellectual rigor. For the most part, even more than "free verse," it is the quintessential intellectual version of tennis without a net. In a recent article in the NCR, ("Is it just possible that Jesus was married," by Anthony T. Padovano), Padovano shows that he has learned the discipline well. To begin with, there is the tentative nature of the title, followed by dubious premises, for example, his apodictic reference to Mark as the first gospel, a standard assertion of and Enlightenment since the time of Bismarck. Before long, we get a sense that there is a method to all this madness, and the method has a lot to do with Padovano's discomfort at his present state of life.

We are told, for example, that

It is instructive to realize that this sexless marriage is developed as doctrine in the same period when married priests are being warned by church officials to keep their marriages sexless. we must not miss this constant transferral from doctrine to discipline, from teaching about the virginity of Mary and the celibacy of Christ to insistence on the same for clerics, monks, hermits and nuns.

In warning us to be wary of the transfer from doctrine to discipline, what Padovano is really proposing is a transfer from discipline to doctrine; specifically the "discipline" of his own life as a married priest is now to be read backwards into the gospels to produce a Jesus who was both married and had children; in other words, someone just like Anthony T. Padovano. All of this is hung on some pretty thin scriptural hooks. For example, "In 1 timothy 4:13 we read that the prohibition of marriage is a demonic doctrine." And then, of course, there is the testimony of Martin Luther, who, since he is in essentially the same position as Anthony Padovano as a married priest, writes things he finds appealing, things like: "Next to God's word, there is no more precious treasure than holy matrimony."

But finally, we get to the main event, namely, the Gospels, where Padovano lets fly with his hermeneutical heavy artillery, to wit:

Why is the wife of Jesus, if he indeed married, not mentioned in the New Testament? Or his children? . . . If Jesus married, who was his wife?. . . We do not know.... Magdalene has been named at times throughout Christian history.... The second century noncanonical Gospel of Philip states that Madgalen was the wife of Jesus, as well as the fact that Jesus was conceived in the normal manner. [Which is probably why it remains noncanonical].

"I am merely noting this," Padovano concludes, "not claiming it. ... None of this is conclusive; all of it is instructive." It certainly is, but instructive more of the anguished state of Padovano's soul than it is of the alleged family Jesus fathered or his "wife."

So much for proving that Jesus was married. Now we move on to proving that Jesus had children, in similar fashion: "Did Jesus have children?" Padovano asks. "We do not know.... We do know that, if he did, they were not prominent in the New Testament Church. ... One would think, however, that if Jesus is fully human, then his humanity would generate human children."

This leads Padovano to conclude that "A married priest may, in the final analysis redeem sex from some of the negativity associated with it in the Catholic community." Or, if not redemptive for the Catholic community, perhaps for Father Padovano. He ends his article with a long peroration on the plight of the married priest, or, more accurately perhaps, the plight of the woman married to him:

Is it not a pity that we live in a church where we are taught to reject married priests and their ministry and to punish the women who have become the mothers of their sons and daughters? Is it not more the pity that we are told Christ is pleased with this policy?

Is it not a pity that the widows of married priests must fear even to the end that their husbands will not be blessed and buried with honor by this church?

Is it not a pity that the wives of married priests must proceed cautiously in this church, never celebrated for who they are, no matter how many children they bear, no matter how much they love even those who wound them, no matter how good they are?

It is a pity, father. But the answer to this dilemma is not conforming Church discipline to those who have turned their lives into an insoluble predicament by professing two sets of mutually contradictory vows. That is the solution proposed by Call to Action, the one they have been proposing for the past 20 years, representing the Catholics who jumped ship at the urging of the Cultural Revolution, only to ascertain on the next morning that the ship didn't go down after all.

As an alternative to the Call to Action vision, I would propose my, as yet, unspecified second alternative-the alternative proposed, not coincidentally, by Bishop Bruskewitz. On April 11, 1996, Call to Action representative James McShane met with the bishop to argue his case. By his own admission, he didn't get very far. In a memo written after the meeting, McShane described a man, in his words,

sensitive to his obligation to God to make an accounting for his stewardship of the Lincoln Diocese. He cannot permit any ambiguity that will lead any of his flock into peril. He believes that his action in creating this legislation will redound to his eternal credit at the final accounting. Such confidence can be intimidating, especially to a layman who has been excommunicated, lest someone else be confused.

When McShane complained about the severity of the punishment, Bishop Bruskewitz brushed his concerns aside by claiming that its "force could easily be lifted with obedience and repentance."

It was at that moment that Bishop Bruskewitz came up with the alternative to the Call to Action agenda that has been troubling the Church for the past 20 years.

"Obedience," he said, "is always possible, and it brings peace."

E. Michael Jones is the editor of Culture Wars. This article was taken from the December 1996 issue of "Culture Wars". Subscription price in U.S. is $35 per year; $45 per year outside the U.S. Address subscription requests to "Culture Wars" Magazine, 206 Marquette Ave., South Bend, IN 46617.