Friday, May 27, 2011

VOTF Fan/Obama Advisor Invited to USF

The 2011 Summer scholar-in residence at the (Jesuit) University of San Francisco’s Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought will be Professor Mary Jo Bane.

Professor Bane currently serves as the Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Management and Academic Dean at Harvard Kennedy School. From 1993 to 1996 she served the Clinton administration, under Donna Shalala, as Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. From 1992 to 1993, under then-Governor Mario Cuomo, she served as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Social Services, where she previously served as Executive Deputy Commissioner from 1984 to 1986 (also under Cuomo). In April, 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama named Professor Bane as one of his “Catholic Advisors.”

The theme of Professor Bane’s lecture series is “Economic Justice for All? Catholic Social Teaching and American Policy 25 Years Later.” The series consists of three lectures: “The Context: Poverty, inequality and Catholic Social Teaching in the 21st Century on July 6; Policy and Politics Then and Now, on July 13; and The Role of the Church, of Catholic Parishes and of Catholic Universities on July 20.

The first two lectures would seem to be within Professor Bane’s field of expertise, but the third should give faithful Catholics cause for concern. In 2002-2004 Professor Bane played a significant role with the Boston area “Voice of the Faithful.” Respected Boston-based Catholic blogger Domenico Bettinelli wrote at the time “Bane is a vocal leader of Voice of the Faithful” and noted that VOTF’s sister organization, the “Boston Priests Forum” turned to Professor Bane to draft their mission statement.

“Voice of the Faithful” was developed as a response to ecclesiastical mishandling of the sexual abuse crisis, but it quickly became apparent that certain members of the group were at least equally interested in radical alteration of Church structures. One of the early observers of the Boston area VOTF was Boston attorney David Zizik. On August 9, 2003, Mr. Zizik wrote in the National Catholic Reporter:

“I have felt unsettled about Voice of the Faithful since I attended its inaugural convention in Boston on July 20, 2002. Like so many, I had hoped the group would be a harbinger of unity and renewed understanding in a church badly shaken by scandal and division. I was wrong … Voice of the Faithful's Web site says: ‘VOTF does not seek any change in church doctrine.’ This is clearly not so. The group has taken an unrepentantly adversarial posture toward bishops in particular and ecclesial authority in general. It neither recognizes nor respects the authority of bishops to govern dioceses. Voice of the Faithful certainly does want to change church doctrine. In fact, the group's existence is predicated upon a view of ecclesial authority and lay-episcopal relations that rubs against the grain of Catholic doctrine and tradition. To suggest that the group is not after fundamental doctrinal changes reflects a misunderstanding of the meaning of "doctrine," a desire to spread falsehoods about the content of the Catholic faith, or both.”

USF’s Lane Center has a history as a welcoming institute for VOTF. On June 13, 2008, defying an Archdiocesan-wide ban on his presence by Archbishop George Niederauer (a ban shared by Bishop Tod Brown and Cardinal Roger Mahoney), the Lane Center hosted a VOTF-sponsored lecture by retired Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson. Bishop Robinson’s subject was on "Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus."

Previous summer scholars-in-residence at USF include Jesuit Fathers Thomas Reese (who spoke at the VOTF 2009 national conference), and James F. Keenan, best known for his testimony before the Massachusetts legislature in 2003, where he opposed the Church’s position on same-sex “marriage.”

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