Here is Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe interviewing the always-interesting, always-provocative, always-hardworking, always generous-with-his-time, always-worth-listening-to Richard McBrien, the Catholic theologian teaching at Notre Dame. I’ve always profited from Father McBrien’s writings, particularly his book "Catholicism" and "Lives of the Saints," and have found him always to be a gracious man, even on the rare occasions when we’ve disagreed. Others are not so generous. Paulson reports one Catholic blogger calling him a "heresiarch," that is, leader of heretics.
Here’s an excerpt of the interview:
IDEAS: Why are you such a lightning rod? Whenever I quote you, I get e-mails, and I see bloggers taking after you.
McBRIEN: That’s a good question. It might be because I have such a public image. I regard myself as a broad centrist. But to an extreme right-wing person, especially in religion, and within the Catholic Church, a centrist or a center/left person is automatically perceived as an extreme left-wing person, bordering on, if not actually in, heresy. But for every e-mail or blog that you would see that would condemn me . . . I can tell you I got a lot of e-mails and letters from Catholics who said that I had given them hope and that their teenage kids who had been alienated from the church said that, "If there were more priests like the guy we were watching on television, I’d still be a Catholic."
IDEAS: And why don’t you leave?
McBRIEN: Because it’s my church. It’s my home. And I was born in it. I’ve been a Catholic all my life. And I have affirmation from so many good people. I feel that I have a responsibility to them to continue working at it and doing the best I can.
James Martin, SJ