Battling the Church

The Coalition of Concerned Catholics (CCCC), the group of “progressive” Catholics who want to remake their Church in the current feminist image, met in Toronto on May 2 and 3, 1992, for their third annual meeting.  Some 300 were in attendance.


The choice of American key speakers, Fathers Bill Callahan and Richard McBrien (for latter see Interim, May 1992, p. 5), was meant to emphasize the group’s current effort to become part of the international network of Catholic dissenters’ organizations in Europe and the U.S.A.

A representative of the German feminist group Maria von Magdalena attended the conference.  Earlier, in 1991, Joanna Manning visited Europe and established contact with Dutch dissenters.  Subsequently, representatives of the Dutch groups Eighth of May and Marienburg visited Toronto.

In November 1991, CCCC become a founding member of the American-sponsored umbrella group CORC (Catholic Organizations Renewing the Church).  The participating groups in the United States include the well-known Call to Action, various feminist groups including the National Assembly of Women Religious, Catholic lesbians, homosexuals (Dignity), former priests (CORPUS) and others.

The purpose of it all is to establish a strong network of groups ready to criticize the local and international Church, to publicize this through friendly newspapers, and extend mutual support and information in doing so.

Promoting homosexuality

In line with the above, panel speakers at the plenary session on May 2, were feminists, including Heather Eaton of the University of Toronto Newman Centre, and a homosexual named John.

John, in line with the earlier writings of former Augustinian priest Gregory Baum and former Jesuit priest John McNeil, represented the biblical condemnations of sodomy as the result of errors in translation and misinterpretations.

Gays and lesbians are today’s true Samaritans, he said, while today’s great sin is “homophobia,” a word meaning hatred of “same,” and therefore not applicable here, but interpreted nevertheless as meaning the rejection of the homosexual lifestyle.  In John’s view, the Church must be changed to accept homosexuality and hence he explained his intention to remain part of the Church in order to witness against her oppressive policies.


Keynote speaker Richard McBrien was low key, his main message being that he and his audience were the true representatives and interpreters of Vatican II.  The others, the Pope, Rome, bishops here, there and everywhere, represent the backlash against the principles of Vatican II.  However, he assured his audience all that will end with the death of the current Pope.

The conference had several “gatherings,” moments for spiritual reflections.  The one on late Saturday afternoon included a politically correct opening song, intercessions, eucharistic prayer, memorial acclamation and the Lord’s prayer, which opened with “Oh God, our Mother and Father in heaven.”

Six round loaves of bread were brought out by “Allan,” dressed in priestly robes which he jokingly referred to as “a Star-Trek outfit.”  “Allan” asked twice: do you accept me here amongst you?  Presumably to confirm his status as “priest.”  Then a group of twelve, six men and six women distributed the loaves and wine.


On May 13, CCCC members made themselves available for the demonstration and “alternative service” to the Mass for men and women religious held at St. Paul’s Church, Toronto, on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Archdiocese of Toronto (See June Interim, page 11).

On May 23 a number of the same people also attended the sixth Celebrate Women Day, against held in Toronto.

Once more, Heather Eaton helped explain the now familiar theme of struggle against “Church sexism,” “reactionary patriarchism,” and “misogynism.”

The remainder of the day was devoted to various expressions in liturgy, lecture or workshop, of the “celebration of self.”


Literature made available at the May 23 conference included material from one of the movement’s favorite theologian, the pro-abortion, anti-Rome, anti-Church, heretical Rosemary Ruether.  Others represented were Canada’s Tom Harpur, the Catholic New Times, but, above all, the irrepressible Torontonian, Joanna Manning.

Joanna’s personal memoir, Spirit of the West: Reflections from a journey (through Western Canada) February 18 to April, 1992, 62 pages sold at $10.00.  The text includes copies of press releases and newspaper articles as well.

The daily press articles are a perfect example of how a “progressive” Catholic like Joanna Manning uses the anti-Catholic media to abuse her Church and sow dissent, hostility and even hatred against the Church.

“Violence of patriarchy sparks outrage among lay Catholics,” Victoria Times-Colonist, “’Concerned Catholic’ says Church off base,” Nanaimo-Daily Free Press; “Coalition fighting for change,” Calgary Herald; “Catholic Clergy are ‘obsessed with sex,’” Winnipeg Sun; “RC’s aim at church structure, abuse allegations motivate faithful to demand change,” Winnipeg Free Press.

Sexist Sins

At the end of her publication called “Conclusion,” Joanna Manning lists the Church’s sexist sins as seen, she says, by the great majority of CCCC women across the country who usually say: “How dare they…”  These include opposition to abortion, contraceptives and condoms.

She writes, for example, “How dare they (Editor: i.e., male, patriarchal churchmen) continue to condemn women in the Third World to lives of grinding poverty, and threaten the survival of the planet, by opposing the use and distribution of contraceptives?”

I mention this particular one because this slander found form in an article in the Toronto Star (May 29), on the page opposite the editorials, entitled “Vatican plays roulette with fate on Earth.”  It was too much for reader James Bissonnette who wrote, “In a shameless invective that uses the very serious agenda of the Earth Summit as a platform to defame the Church, Manning offers no new light, only the murky reflection of misguided self-interest and half-baked theological sloganeering.”

Amen to that.  Joanna Manning’s writings come to little more than just that: defaming the church.

And so ends this chapter in Canadian Church history.  Most likely the CCCC will be with us for some time to come, but as it stands now it will contribute nothing to the ever-needed renewal of Church life.