Here on the Canadian prairies, we experienced the dysfunctional church at her worst during the time of Archbishop Leonard Wall (1992-2000). He was a classic authoritarian cleric obsessed with power and control. Under his rule, heads rolled among priests and laity alike. He destroyed our tri-diocesan Catholic School Division to have more control over the wealthy schools located in his archdiocese. He tried to prevent Bishop Thomas Gumbleton from giving a presentation at our local Benedictine Monastery and Retreat Center. When the sisters stood their ground and refused to rescind Gumbleton's invitation, Wall sent letters forbidding employees of Catholic schools and parishes to attend.
The classic little dictator act was to ban our independent Catholic newspaper, The Prairie Messenger, from parishes and replace it with an archdiocesan newspaper. The Prairie Messenger introduced me to Fr. Andrew Greeley, Fr. Richard McBrien, Sr. Joan Chittister, Eugene Kennedy, Fr. Ron Rolheiser and others. They helped me see the bigger picture, to vision and dream of a better way of being church.
The archdiocesan newspaper was as myopic and about as inspiring as a small-town newspaper. Devoid of commentary, except from the archbishop himself, it was a thinly disguised public relations rag. You read it to see who's who and who's doing what. And the who's who was usually wearing a clerical collar.
Today, many Catholics would be unaware of the bigger picture in our church if not for the independent Catholic press. Like others, I read many online sources for international Catholic news. The National Catholic Reporter stands heads above the others for its diversity of voices, constant updating on significant news, thoughtful commentaries and lively discussion boards.
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And, unlike some other Catholic newspaper websites, its online version is free with full access to all. You will never click on a headline and get an annoying "subscribers only" message.
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