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Manual Crisis of Catholic Authority: Faith and Power in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska

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The deep crisis of faith within the Catholic Church

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The Church’s Coming Catastrophe

In March the Diocese of Lincoln announced that any member of Call to Action resident in the diocese who had not renounced his or her membership in the group by April would be excommunicated: expunged from the parish rolls and denied the sacraments, such as receiving communion or having a Catholic burial. That same spring, as it happens, Rachel Pokora was hired for a position in the Communication Studies Department at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln; she assumed her duties that fall.

Born and raised in the church, as she explains in her opening chapter, she had remained through her undergraduate and graduate education and the beginning of her teaching career an active and practicing Catholic a point worth emphasizing, since people in American academia who are serious about churchgoing come in for a certain amount of teasing, not all of it good-natured. Moving to Lincoln presented her with a dilemma. Obviously, she wanted to continue to practice her faith. She gradually discovered, however, that the members of Call to Action, excommunicate though they were, were closer in spirit to the religion she had grown up with than was the diocese that had decided to exclude them.

She joined the group and eventually took a variety of leadership roles, leading to the composition of this book.

‎Crisis of Catholic Authority on Apple Books

Now that we have come to the main subject of this review, let me note, in the interest of full disclosure, that I teach in the English Department of Nebraska Wesleyan and that Professor Pokora is a longtime friend and colleague, as are a few other members of Call to Action Nebraska. Like anyone who has lived in Lincoln for a long time, I also have Catholic friends and colleagues who fully support the decisions of the diocese, as well as a few who would rather just not talk about it. After her introduction, mostly cast in the first person, she devotes three chapters to a kind of precursor episode.

The most visible effect of this was the exclusion of women from this role, although many women had been doing so in Lincoln and elsewhere since the Second Vatican Council in the s. In response, some local Catholics formed the group Catholics for Active Liturgical Life CALL , seeking to be heard on this and other policies of Bishop Flavin, who seems to have sought to minimize or eliminate any participation by girls or women in church roles unrelated to cooking and cleaning.

He also disapproved of priests wearing sandals or beards. This episode sets the main themes of the later, more famous one: A group of Catholic laypersons hopes to be heard on some policy question of spiritual urgency to them; the local hierarchy responds by insisting on unconditional obedience. The arrival in of a new bishop, Fabian Bruskewitz, led to an easing of some of the policies set by Bishop Flavin—though Bishop Bruskewitz emphasized that the adjustments had nothing to do with pressure from CALL—and the group disbanded in Bede said she believed the church leadership had not been living up to its people.

Several said that if church leaders had trusted in the unshakable faith of the parishioners, they would not have engaged in such extraordinary cover-ups. But the leaders had fallen short, again.

Juridical Authority

In Boston, Barbara Bowe, a nurse who had grown up in Catholic schools, said she had fallen away from the church. And with the latest round of revelations, she seemed unlikely to return anytime soon. A few blocks away from the white cross towering above the pastoral center of the Archdiocese of Miami, Mirta Criswell, 77, was loading dollar-store provisions into the back of a sedan.


  1. Crisis of Catholic Authority: Faith and Power in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska.
  2. Publisher Description.
  3. McCarrick, the bishops, and unanswered questions.
  4. Criswell said the sex abuse scandal that began in Boston in had been painful enough, but the latest reports had left her ever more exasperated. While the scandals would not erode her commitment to the faith, she believed they showed that some of the church rules needed to be revisited.

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    Criswell said. Humans need sex. But others said the report was just more evidence of the frailty of humans, and that it would not shake their faith.