KEEP THE FAITH, CHANGE THE CHURCH, by Dr. James E. Muller and Charles Kenney. Published by Rodale, Inc., and distributed by St. Martin’s Press. 310 pp. $24.95.
Reviewed by JOHN F. FINK, author and 50-year veteran of the Catholic press
DR. JAMES MULLER was one of the founders of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. He is also the founding president of Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), a controversial organization begun in suburban Boston after the sex abuse of children by Catholic priests and the cover-up by Boston archdiocesan officials were first revealed.
Keep the Faith, Change the Church is Muller’s account of the problems VOTF encountered after its beginnings in the basement of a church in 2002. It has since become a national organization with a membership in excess of 30,000, with 200 affiliates from Florida to Alaska. Along the way, it has met considerable opposition from conservative Catholics and from the Catholic Church’s hierarchy.
Muller did not expect this opposition. He was convinced that VOTF was a legitimate organization of dedicated mainline Catholic lay men and women whose only goal was to rebuild and improve the Church after the sex-abuse tragedy. He is typical of devout Catholics who were angered by the sex-abuse scandal. He graduated from St. Joan of Arc Grade School and Cathedral High School in Indianapolis before attending the University of Notre Dame and Johns Hopkins Medical School.
The book’s title is VOTF’s motto. The organization has three goals: be responsive to sex-abuse survivors, support clergy of integrity and shape structural change within the Church.
The first two goals were not controversial, but the third was. Although members emphasized that they wanted to change only the way the Church conducts its business—“changing structure, not doctrine”—it was this goal that provoked opposition.
Muller details Cardinal Bernard Law’s antagonism toward VOTF, as well as the cold treatment members of the organization received when they attended the November 2002 meeting of the U.S. bishops.
He also reports on meetings he had with Chicago Cardinal Francis George, Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel Buechlein and Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk. Both Cardinal George and Archbishop Buechlein “expressed concern over our goal of changing the Church.” But Archbishop Pilarczyk told him that he was satisfied that there is nothing contrary to Church teaching in VOTF’s stated goals.
Muller said that he told Archbishop Buechlein that VOTF did not want to change the Church’s core doctrine but admitted that, had they pursued the topic further, they “would have disagreed about what is open to discussion.”
Eventually, Cardinal Law resigned and Muller says that his successor, Archbishop Sean O’Malley, “set a new tone that we believe holds much promise.”
The book includes a section titled “The Historical Case for a Democracy of the Laity.” Among other things, it shows how the Second Vatican Council encouraged lay involvement in Church affairs. In the interest of full disclosure, Dr. Paul Muller (Jim’s father) asked me to review that section prior to the book’s publication. I did and made a number of suggestions, most of which were accepted.
Jim Muller professes not to understand why some Catholics oppose VOTF since the organization is open to all Catholics. It’s true, however, that many Catholics who do want to change some of the Church’s core doctrines were the most eager to join. And, although there is no reason to doubt Muller’s sincerity in believing that he is in the mainstream of Catholics, he quotes Garry Wills, Father Richard McBrien, Sister Joan Chittister and James Carroll—some people likely to cause antagonism from conservative Catholics.
Another problem VOTF faces is that it cannot control the local affiliates that have sprung up around the country, many of which are not led by mainstream Catholics.
It should also be said that conditions in the Church in most places in the country are not as bad as they were in Boston in early 2002. Laity in other dioceses, especially in the Midwest and the West, play a much greater role in the governance of the Church than they do in Boston.
Muller’s account of the founding of VOTF and the problems it has encountered is a highly readable book.
You can order KEEP THE FAITH, CHANGE THE CHURCH from St. Francis Bookshop.
JUDGED BY LOVE: A Biography of William X. Kienzle, by Javan Kienzle. Andrews McMeel Publishing. 432 pp. $22.95.
Reviewed by TOM McCLOSKEY, who studied at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and holds a doctor of ministry degree from St. Mary’s University in Baltimore. He lives with his wife and family in Bloomingdale, New Jersey, and serves as an adjunct professor of Spanish and philosophy at William Paterson University.
THE AUTHOR tells the inspiring and entertaining story of a well-known Detroit priest who served in parishes from 1954 to 1974. During the last 12 of those years, his principal assignment was as editor of The Michigan Catholic. His span of ministry gives a snapshot view of the “booming ’50s” growth of Detroit and suburban parishes, the changes which the Second Vatican Council brought about, followed by social turmoil and the destructive riots of 1967.
William X. Kienzle was the product of 12 years of an “old-time” seminary education whose foundation goes back to the Council of Trent. This system produced a strong fraternity of men who became “brothers for life”—both in and out of the ordained priesthood.
There are many stories of humor and some of tragedy which became part of the “lore” of brotherhood of that era in dealing with difficult pastors, faith-filled parishioners and parish councils.
Bill left the priesthood to marry Javan, a journalist from the Detroit Free Press. It is she who tells his story here, chronicling his early life and their 26-year marriage.
Javan explains: “Bill Kienzle liked stories. He liked to listen to them and to tell them. Over the years, he made a present to me of the life he had lived before he met me. He told me stories of his family, his childhood and his seminary days. And from his accounts of his life as a priest, I grew to know his love for the priesthood and his fellow priests.”
After he left the priesthood, Bill and Javan moved to Minneapolis, where he worked as editor of MPLS Magazine. Later, in Texas, he held the position of associate director of the University of Dallas’s Center for Contemplative Studies.
As kind of a lark, he wrote The Rosary Murders in which he drew upon his work in parishes and his life in the Detroit area. The book uses these Detroit roots to develop his detective-priest character, Father Robert Koesler. The Rosary Murders became a best-seller and later a movie with Donald Sutherland.
That first mystery grew into a series of 24 novels before Bill’s untimely death in the year 2001. Javan served as his editor during this time and some of the material came from their extensive travels together.
As a couple they maintained a close relationship with priest friends in ministry, as well as those who married and had families.
For those with no special interest with the priestly culture of the ’50s and ’60s, the first part of the book may seem a bit slow. The latter part of the book moves very quickly with the stories of love, friendships and Bill’s “new career” as a writer of detective fiction.
The writing is sometimes a bit stiff for this reviewer, but the general reader will discover wonderful stories of love, faith and humor which come from the heart.
You can order JUDGED BY LOVE: A Biography of William X. Kienzle from
St. Francis Bookshop.
CHRIST IN THE MARGINS, icons and biographies by Robert Lentz,
Reflections by Edwina Gateley. Orbis Books. 144 pp. $25.
Reviewed by JEANNE KORTEKAMP, art director of St. Anthony Messenger.
LARGE BROWN EYES stare out at me behind hands with punctured wounds grasping a barbed-wire enclosure. This arresting image seizes me before I even open the book Christ in the Margins. Who is this man who looks at me so? A prisoner, a detainee, Christ himself?
I open the book to find that this icon, named “Christ of Maryknoll,” is dedicated to Maryknoll missioners who work throughout the world with people on the margins of life. I find out that the ambiguity in the icon is intentional. When I look at the man, I see not just a prisoner but Christ himself.
The iconographer, Robert Lentz, explains in his commentary that there is an additional ambiguity to this icon. Is it the man who is imprisoned or is it the viewer? These thoughts propel me to look closer and deeper at the image. I want to know more.
Christ in the Margins is designed to do just that. Amply illustrated with the icons of Robert Lentz, 41 colorful representations in all, the book explores how Christ is revealed to us in the lives of men and women living and working at the margins of society. The icons are grouped into nine sections with themes that tie them together, such as founders of religious orders, crusaders and prophets, outcasts, visionaries and mystics, and so on.
Each icon is accompanied by a commentary written by Robert Lentz, which includes a biography of the person represented and insights into the visual details, symbolism and meaning of the image. Every section begins with a quote from Scripture and concludes with an insightful reflection by Edwina Gateley.
I liked the rhythm of this book, a pattern of looking at the big picture and the small details.
I enjoyed looking at the icon first to see what struck me about it or what surprised or puzzled me. Robert Lentz does a wonderful job of presenting familiar saints in new ways. Why, for instance, is St. Clare holding a cat on her lap or likewise St. Philip Neri a little dog? These details are never accidental but instead a revelation of some aspect of the person’s relationship to God.
Edwina Gateley weaves the threads of the individuals’ stories into a pattern that reveals deeper truth and meaning. She illustrates how their lives viewed in unison unveil lessons that can be applied to our own lives.
Gateley builds on the stories of the men and women in the icons with stories from her life. Her voice is one of authenticity as she tells of personal experiences with prostitutes, women with drug addictions and others whom the world has left behind.
Gateley’s reflections are the verbal corollary to Lentz’s artistic visual renderings and bring home how these people might affect my life.
You can order CHRIST IN THE MARGINS, icons and biographies by Robert Lentz from St.
FATHER FRANCIS M. CRAFT: Missionary to the Sioux, by
Thomas W. Foley. University of Nebraska Press. 195 pp. $45.
Reviewed by MICHAEL J. DALEY, a writer and teacher at St. Xavier High School (Cincinnati, Ohio). He recently co-edited (with William Madges) Vatican II: Forty Personal Stories, available through Twenty-Third Publications.
IT’S NOT EVERY DAY that you find a book whose author discovered his raw materials in a shoebox. Yet, for Thomas Foley, a retired labor-personnel executive, this is exactly how it happened. Rummaging through his Aunt Mame’s Chicago apartment, the then-teenager came across a shoebox. Inside, he found letters, newspaper clippings, journals and a lone picture. Now some 60 years later, the light of history shines brightly on the person discovered within: Father Francis M. Craft (1852-1920).
The path to priesthood was anything but ordinary for this future missionary to the Sioux. At age 10, Craft was bayoneted at Gettysburg and knocked senseless.
After completing medical training in Europe, but still too young to practice, he became a mercenary for the French in the Franco-Prussian War. Returning home, he found the life of a rural physician too boring, and joined the Cuban army in 1871 in its war for independence from Spain. There he gained the nickname “The American Devil.”
After his conversion to Catholicism in the mid-1870s, Craft took a decidedly “angelic” turn and joined the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1876. Struggling with Jesuit discipline since his entrance, the independent-minded Craft took off for Indian country.
After his ordination to the priesthood on March 24, 1883, in Omaha, Nebraska, Craft was sent to work at the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Cutting an “impressive, commanding presence,” he was welcomed warmly by the Sioux. Craft became an honorary chief and was given the name “Hovering Eagle.”
As Foley notes, however, “his popularity with the Rosebud Sioux...was at the expense of favorable acceptance by the Whites on the reservation.” He soon butted heads with the U.S. Indian agent in charge of Rosebud and the Episcopal cleric who had enjoyed exclusive missionary status before the arrival of Father Craft. His forced departure was not far off.
Though he found a place at another reservation, controversy and competition would follow Craft for the rest of his days. Foley comments that all this competition only confused the Indians, increased their suspicions of the “White man’s religion” and buttressed their reluctance to abandon traditional ways.
Despite the resistance, however, Craft was a firsthand witness to a culture in transition. One sees it humorously described in a journal entry of his observing “Mad Bear, Chief of the Yanktonai Sioux, purchasing green ribbons at the local store for his girls to wear in the school’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.”
From Craft’s earliest days on the reservations, he was driven by the desire to establish an Indian sisterhood, not for or among, but with them. In a Church still so young and European, the odds against Indian vocations were almost insurmountable. So invested would Craft become in this undertaking, though, that some would question his sanity.
During all of this, propelled by the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, settlers continued to encroach on Indian lands. About this time the Ghost Dance emerged. It “promised the final triumph of Indian ways over the ravages of the White man’s civilization.” This, of course, scared settlers and made the government nervous.
On December 29, 1890, acting as a mediator between a group of rebellious Indians and government officials, Craft was stabbed after an unsuccessful attempt to disarm the Indians. History remembers it today as the Wounded Knee tragedy. With the national notoriety this brought him, Craft tried to raise the visibility of the community of Indian sisters he started.
Unfortunately, though Craft saw “illusions of success,” he never received the ecclesiastical approval and support he needed. His experiment ended with the dissolution of the community. Far from the Sioux he loved, Craft spent his remaining years in relative obscurity serving the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
In Father Francis M. Craft: Missionary to the Sioux, Thomas Foley presents a multifaceted man—“hero and villain, soldier and statesman, doctor, journalist, priest, and prophet, a visionary and eccentric crank, an Eastern White man who became an Indian Chief.” It is a good story, well told.
You can order FATHER FRANCIS M. CRAFT: Missionary to the Sioux from St.