Coming to America

Monday, April 14, 2008

Peter Steinfels, religion columnist for the New York Times, co-director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture at Fordham University, and the author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America, previews the Pope's visit to New York. He's joined by Deacon Jorge Gonzalez, director of deacon formation in Brooklyn and Queens.


Jorge Gonzalez and Peter Steinfels

Comments [73]

Yet another woman from Manhattan

It's not always helpful to tell women to watch the calendar and know their bodies. I was nearing 30 before my cycles became anything close to regular, and believe me, for all my attention, I never knew until it was obvious at what phase I was, whether I was about to or had just or in another week and a half might be ovulating. Plotting my "safe" days would have been as effective as throwing salt over my shoulder. Few men, let alone priests -- have an inkling that some women's bodies do not function like clockwork.

Apr. 17 2008 02:54 AM

71, Protagoras,
I guess that's why the country with the biggest overpopulation problem is totally Catholic - China! That's right, when I want to take confession, I'm headed to Beijing.
Or, uh, the other country with the biggest overpopulation problem - India! Er. well, you get my point.
Sorry, but not everything is the fault of the Catholic Church. many things, but not everything, not even the biggest things. I'm personally grateful for all those monks who kept busy transcribing so many documents... who knows what we'd be missing from the world library without them.

Apr. 14 2008 08:46 PM
Protagoras from Tribeca

Yes, the Catholic church *could* be a wonderful positive thing. There is much beauty and some good works in it as has been pointed out above.

All it would have to do to unveil those aspects to us all would be to accept that the world's resources are not unlimited and it is wrong to force all women world wide to have as many Catholic children as possible. That and allowing priests to marry would allow the church to become the positive force in the world that it could be but, alas is not.

Apr. 14 2008 05:16 PM

Thanks for an enlightening two posts. I wish you'd been one of the callers.
The viciousness of some of the anti-Catholic statements here are kind of... impressive. And I'm not even Catholic.
Most religions, perhaps every religion, has some crazy aspect to it, even, yes, Buddhism, which is regarded as above everything in "enlightened" coastal crowds.
Not everything the Catholic Church does is bad. I'm interested in hearing what the Pope will say about Iraq during his visit...

Apr. 14 2008 02:46 PM
Julie from BROOKLYN

#56 And yet "natural" birth control has a higher rate of failure to control births, than "unnatural". Do I understand that this is just a god's intention?

Apr. 14 2008 02:41 PM
Kristin from Brooklyn

Continued: I am a member of Pax Christi of Metro New York which is a wonderful organization that has tirelessly opposed violence, war, and social injustice. We spent Good Friday calling attention to social injustices in our own community as we observed the stations of the cross on the streets of midtown.

Why can't we ever hear about Roy Bourgeois and SOA Watch; John Dear; Phillip and Dan Berrigan (who is my hero and married my husband and I)... Many wonderful examples of Catholic activism for social justice and opposition to war and violence.

We Catholics need to address hypocrisy and backwardness in our church, but we also need some more media attention for the positive aspects of our widely varied community. I hope this pope will either experience a great enlightenment and open his heart to the broader, diverse spiritual communities of the world, and help the church's social policies to adapt to the modern era.

Public perception of Catholicism and Catholic communities should include more than the ceaselessly-fascinating images of early 20th century Catholics with dozens of children, and horrific child sexual abuse conspiracies. So I will sign off longing for a pope more like Pope John XXIII and a public interest in the Catholic community that is a bit broader and more balanced.

For interested persons, here are some inspiring examples of Catholic activism:

Apr. 14 2008 12:07 PM
Protagoras from Tribeca

Anyone who cares about people, animals or the planet should absolutely protest and oppose this reactionary out-of-touch-or-ignorant pope.

In the past century the world's population has gone from 1 to 7 billion humans, crowding out all other beings. There are now worldwide food shortages, global warming, mass extinctions of species and all kinds of other problems caused by human overpopulation.

The pope is completely immoral and actively causing incalculable suffering and damage as long as he advocates that humans should continue breeding as many more humans as possible.

The only way this pope could vindicate himself in the eyes of anyone who is knowledgeable and really cares about this world would be to do a "180" and not only condone but also actively promote birth control.

Apr. 14 2008 11:55 AM
Kristin from Brooklyn

I am a practicing Catholic in my twenties and I am a member of a mostly Polish parish in Greenpoint Brooklyn. The sad thing about this lingering, backwards, out-of-step teaching is that it inevitably dominates public discussions about Catholics and media coverage of the church. I don't know anyone at my parish with 12 children. It is no secret that most of us Catholics simply disregard the church's stand on family planning (not to mention homosexuality etc.).

The truth about the church and birth control is that the only time most of us Catholics hear anything about the church's teachings on the matter is during a very brief (obligatory) segment of the pre cana (marriage preparation) course. They played us a short instructional video that was quietly listened to and widely snickered at. (BTW, the rest of the course was a truly life-changing experience for my now husband and I so it's sad only to be talking about the ridiculous birth control treatment).

I wish Brian would have a show about some of the wonderful aspects of the Catholic church that I am proud of and that keeps me in the community. What about all of the admirable labor causes that American Catholics continue to commit themselves to? What about the Catholic Worker community right here in the city? What about the Catholic peace and social justice movement that is so active in NYC? to be continued...

Apr. 14 2008 11:55 AM
7 years a listener from Ossining

This is the first WNYC show blog I've read.
All I can say is thank g-d for the on-air call
screeners for keeping it all so enlightened


Apr. 14 2008 11:14 AM
David from NYC

hjs, if you can get me tix for the pope's visit to The Stadium, i might be interested in heading up the club.

actually, you couldn't pay me to go, but i wanted to keep this on topic!

send me an application for the position, please. :->

Apr. 14 2008 11:11 AM
hjs from 11211

61. pope - mccain - end of days

all on topic. big picture stuff.

Apr. 14 2008 11:07 AM
hjs from 11211

david, i'm looking for someone to run my fan club!

Apr. 14 2008 11:03 AM


Tragic isn't it? I don't think they see they are throwing it all away

President McCain? (shudder)

but topic...

Apr. 14 2008 11:03 AM
hjs from 11211

58, it's dangerous times, indeed. watching the dems destroy any hope of winning doesn't help.

Apr. 14 2008 11:00 AM
David from NYC

#44--If you were serious, let me pose this: why is every sperm sacred and not every egg?

57--You deserve an award for that one. Hey, BL Producer, how about making a Hall of Fame for outstanding posts?

Apr. 14 2008 10:58 AM


ah but in this age of mainstream corporate media inspired moral relativism where the crackpot who thinks evolution doesn't exist or thinks the world is flat or whatever nonsense is given equal time with someone who believes in proven facts, rejecting totalitarianism is bigotry...even rejecting bigots is bigotry! Up is down, down is up

we're living in the Bizarro world, don't you know?

Apr. 14 2008 10:56 AM
hjs from 11211

44, the guys at christopher st agree

Apr. 14 2008 10:54 AM
Mollie from Manhattan

#29 - I think you misunderstood what the caller (Kay?) was saying about women's knowledge of their bodies. She was saying that through promoting Natural Family Planning, the Church encourages women to learn how their bodies work. You're right that ignorance is very common -- and no artificial birth-control method requires or promotes the level of knowledge that NFP does. Learning to practice natural birth control methods -- which, today, are extremely sophisticated and a very far cry from the long-outdated "rhythm method" -- requires a woman (and her husband!) to learn exactly how her body works. That's what makes it "empowering" -- and I speak from my own experience. Most of what I know about fertility and my own body I learned from studying NFP.

I'm afraid the woman who spoke next misunderstands the Church's teaching on families and artificial birth control -- the Church not only allows but requires couples to make responsible decisions about when and if they should have children. By inviting them to do so via NFP, the Church hopes to nurture marriages and families -- and, again speaking from experience, as a happily married and thus far childless NFP-practicing Catholic woman, it works.

Apr. 14 2008 10:53 AM
Michael Gradess from Queens

On a side note, I find it quite interesting that many Catholics that appose abortion support the Death Penalty. Nothing could be further from the teachings of the Bible and of Jesus and especially the Catholic Church today. If you appose Abortion, you do it because of believing each life is sacred. That doesn't stop because children become adults, whether they are another religion, in another country or otherwise. This is another opportunity for the Pope to set the record straight.

Apr. 14 2008 10:52 AM



Apr. 14 2008 10:52 AM
hjs from 11211

51, i know it was be right and u know that's what he meant.

Apr. 14 2008 10:52 AM
hjs from 11211

rejecting totalitarian is not bigotry

Apr. 14 2008 10:51 AM


Well...he would happen to be 100% right if he said that

Apr. 14 2008 10:50 AM
David from NYC

#44--just wondering, you are pulling from "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life", aren't you?
If not, there's a whole lot of sacred coming from a lot of flawed people, including myself.

Apr. 14 2008 10:50 AM
Lisa from Brooklyn

It's amazing to me that listeners are so very 'crazed' about all of this. As a regular Church-goer (Episcopalian), I find those who castigate anyone with a strong faith to be as narrow-minded as those who claim that their faith is the only path to salvation. Just be sure you are aware of all sides of a religion before you spew such a high-handed, condescending view of faith.

Apr. 14 2008 10:50 AM
Robert from NYC

Open-minded!!! What like the pope? LOL

Apr. 14 2008 10:48 AM

It's nice to see so many open minded people posting. Talk about bigotry...

Apr. 14 2008 10:46 AM
Robert from NYC

Well Katie, what upsets me isn't the religious side of this, I am not a of any religion and don't want to be because I am areligious and I don't attack the religions but the people "who run them". I am upset over the politics of this whole thing and the attention given to this person and his position by the media: on Easter, on Christmas, having him on our airwaves saying mass and spewing his daily spew without any questioning from the media all done with the fact that he is a head of a state, as it were, and leader of a very large religious institution that imposes itself into other states and attacks other religious institutions without any questions from the media. He is "given" infallibility by the media and treated like a god all in the name of a story and inside acceptance. The Vatican is a superb PR group of very old men with very old ideas. That's what I object to and get upset over.

Apr. 14 2008 10:46 AM
Michael Gradess from Queens

The discussion that the Pope should have should include the enormous problems that are going on in this world that, rather than being taken as politicized commentary from the right or left but as world community issues. The human rights violations of China should be discussed in a way that doesn’t polarize the issue as well as the issue of global warming. Many Catholics ask “What Would Jesus Do?” but refuse to follow through when they get the answer. Every life is sacred and all the earth is sacred and the minute that one of the world’s most powerful leaders addresses the issue through religion and not through punditry and news organizations, Catholics worldwide will finally have a new perspective of these issues and how they can help. Otherwise, Darfur, Tibet and the soon to be millions of displaced environmental refugees will be the lepers of the new millennium.

Apr. 14 2008 10:46 AM
another woman from queens

anyway, it's still a "sin" to have sex without the intention to procreate. trying to have sex while avoiding pregnancy will send you to hell, because every sperm is sacred.

Apr. 14 2008 10:45 AM
JoannaW from Brooklyn

As a woman, mother and wife who has used just about every form of birth control, this "theology of the body" stuff about natural birth control is just so much BS. Yes, it's good to be aware of your cycles and know how your body works, and it's pretty interesting, and I guess it could appeal to those who enjoy the ritualistic approach to life, but I can assure it does NOT make you a better person. Just a person who better know how to use a calendar and and remember to insert a thermometer first thing in the morning ;-)

Apr. 14 2008 10:45 AM
hjs from 11211

33 undemocratic?

god picked him, and the bishops voted for him.
what's undemocratic

Apr. 14 2008 10:45 AM
Maya from Brooklyn

And the Catholics never spread their faith through violence?! Albisgenian Crusade? Inquisition? Hello?!

Apr. 14 2008 10:44 AM
Caroline from NJ

The Pope is wasting his time and ours. We should not be moving backwards with his teachings but move foward with the 21st Century.

We should look around... look deeper into our society. Our society today is made up of people who have abortions, are gay, and liberal. Is there anythinig wrong with this? IT is not the church who judge people but God himself.

PS: It should be a woman's choice to choose whether or not to have an abortion and not the church or by a male.

Apr. 14 2008 10:43 AM
andrea sandvig from nyc

Everyone should watch the documentary,"The God Who Wasn't There". Very interesting about the early Christians..who didn't seem to know anything about Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church, along with Islam, is the largest force for evil in the world.

Apr. 14 2008 10:42 AM

Why do people argue about the tenets of their religon. If you don't agree with isn't that a sign that your religon might be crap.

Apr. 14 2008 10:42 AM

This Buddhist Has A Question...

Catholicism is a religion of compassion and understanding, so why has the Pope made disingenuous comments about Islam?

Let us flash back for a moment to September 12, 2006, to the University of Regensburg in Germany, one day after the five year anniversary of the September 11th attack. While giving a lecture on faith and reason, Pope Benedict XVI stated that Islam allowed "spreading the faith through violence". I am not an expert, but I am familiar with both European History and the Qur’an. The Islamic teaching, that "there is no compulsion in religion", aligns with the Catholic belief that religious conversion should take place through the use of reason. Historically, both religions used violent coercion to convert others. Later, both religions officially condemned the practice.

So why did Pope Benedict XVI mischaracterize Islam as continuing to allow violent proselytizing? I would hate to believe that the spiritual leader of millions was engaging in post-911 fear mongering. No, I believe it is because the Pontiff is unfamiliar with the majority of Muslims. The Muslims I know, spanning three continents and several different ethnicities, are compassionate people that work hard to build peaceful lives for themselves and their families. They do not want to convert others, they just want others to understand the truth about their religious choices, and accept them for who they are. Nowhere is this truer than in the United States.

Apr. 14 2008 10:41 AM
Jean from New Jersey

I believe very strongly with the last caller. I am Catholic, but there are a lot of problems with this church regarding families. I did not like being dictated to by men in robes, that have no family, no real touch with the outside world telling me what I need to do, how to do it and when.

Apr. 14 2008 10:41 AM
RCTB from Westchester

To Poster #33: Nobody (at least not in NYC) takes that stuff seriously except non-Catholics who think that Catholics take that stuff seriously.

Apr. 14 2008 10:41 AM
RCTB from Westchester

I am a pro-choice woman, raised as a Roman Catholic, who grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood where the local Catholic Church offered masses in both Italian and English. Although I moved to Westchester a couple of years ago, I continue to contribute to and, when in town, attend mass at Holy Name of Jesus church on W.96th Street and Amsterdam.

Masses at the Church are said in English, Creole and Spanish, and there are three choirs, one for each language, that come together on Christmas Eve for a tri-lingual midnight mass. The Holy Name Catholic School has been educating the kids of working families on the Upper-West Side for over 100 years. While I am not deeply religious, and view Catholicism as a matter of tradition and commitment to community rather than a religious belief, I think that Holy Name represents the future of the Catholic Church, particularly in urban areas such as NYC.

P.S. When the archbishop of Chicago threatened to excommunicate Sen. Kerry for his pro-choice views, our pastor got up on the pulpit and denounced the Bishop, saying that, before they received communion, Catholics said "Oh Lord, I am not worthy," not "Oh Lord, my neighbor is not worthy." The pastor got a standing ovation from the tri-ethnic and racial community.

Apr. 14 2008 10:40 AM
a woman from manhattan

By the way, all you have to do is read the Church's own founding fathers' literature to know what a bunch of unhealthy, if not completely mentally ill, people were coming up with the basis of the Church's approach to society.

Read the Patrologie Latina (even better to read it in Latin, so you can read it without any euphemistic translations), or the confessional guides. Especially interesting is the "Hammer" or the Malleus Maleficarum, by Burchard of Worms.

If you read enough of the Church's own writings since its beginnings, you'll never walk into a church again. I can't believe we're making such a big deal over this king of the Catholics. His very position is undemocratic.

Apr. 14 2008 10:39 AM
hjs from 11211

scientists now tell us women ovulate more than once a month that's why rhythm doesn't work. use birth control

Apr. 14 2008 10:38 AM
Maya from Brooklyn

Meryl, I don't get why any self-respecting woman with a brain needs the Pope to tell her what birth control she can use. Any woman who takes family planning advice from a celibate male is insane.

Apr. 14 2008 10:37 AM

"theology of the body"???

everyone RUN!

if you want to see the "theology of the body" in action you need go no further than the abstinence cure for AIDS.


Apr. 14 2008 10:35 AM
a woman from manhattan

That woman on air saying "women know about their bodies" (and therefore do not need birth control other than observing their bodies) is delusional. Most women still call their vaginas by the general name "down there." They have no idea what their bodies are doing. And that is often DUE to religion imposing their ideas of chastity and modesty, not because of a "nurturing" attitude!

Apr. 14 2008 10:35 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

#9 Mike...Pope said he doesn't like chicken....

Apr. 14 2008 10:34 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

#22 the Pope just needs blog, he doesn't need to f up the streets...Oh and site with ecommerce so the vatican can sell those foamy Pope hats...I ope the Pope brings the Papal monkey...for the kids...

Apr. 14 2008 10:34 AM
hjs from 11211

19, i would pay $12 to see that with popcorn

Apr. 14 2008 10:30 AM
Meryl Salzinger from Brooklyn NY

Ok I am not catholic or even religious but I would really like to know why people need the Pope to tell them that torture is wrong - never mind the war that we are engaged in that is responsible for untold death and destruction.

Apr. 14 2008 10:29 AM
Kush from Brooklyn

Historically ,Ronan Catholcism has been a tool for world dictatorship. The institutions role in Nazism, Communism and, as far back as the slave trade is evident when one does the research!

I think the popes statement regarding non-catholics is UNACCEPTABLE! Its religious bigotry at its worst/best! His Mafioso's, Kinghts of Columbus, Knights of Malta are notorious criminal outfits. There is more to say and prove...but I'll leave it there.

Apr. 14 2008 10:28 AM
Hugh from Park Slope

In 2006, Pope Benedict quoted 14th century Byzantine emperor Manuel II who called Islam "evil and inhuman".

This is a pope who has shown contempt for Muslims. When Muslims expressed their objections to his comments, Benedict apologized -- not for his comments, but for the feelings of Muslims.

Apr. 14 2008 10:28 AM
bill from dover from dover, nj

Carlos on the air brought up the problem of two Cath. churches just 4 blocks apart. Our Lady, the hispanic church, is much too small for the growing hispanic membership, and Sacred Heart the long time anglo parish is in fact gaining a much larger hispanic membership but still has a non-hispanic pastor. A bishop with the wisdom of Solomon is needed to guide these two parishes into much greater cooperation. But the Vatican chooses bishops who first of all are 'safe', not visionary and not cross-culturally sensitive. Too bad.

Apr. 14 2008 10:27 AM
Nick Campanile from Long Island City, NY

Why is the Pope here? and why is it an inflated event? He speaks bi-weekly at the Vatican and delivers his opinions on "the issues", so why all of the sudden are people waiting for him to say something new or meaningful.

Apr. 14 2008 10:27 AM
Katie from Forest Hills

#2 Robert, Why are you letting this upset you so much? There are many churches that accept everyone and I think you would be much healthier to focus your attention on what you want, not on what you don't want or what upsets you. It is not worth getting upset over.

Apr. 14 2008 10:25 AM


yeah....but if you think about it....when the 2008 pope suddenly appeared in 1400....i doubt he would immediately be seen as "the pope".

in fact a more likely scenario would be that the 1400 pope and his followers would think the 2008 pope was some kind of powerfully magic witch.

hilarity would be sure to ensue.

Apr. 14 2008 10:25 AM
hjs from 11211

16, thank u david :)

Apr. 14 2008 10:25 AM
hjs from 11211

14, as obama says god is there for the weak to hold on to in bad times

Apr. 14 2008 10:23 AM
David from NYC


Rarely is there a segment where at least one of your comments fails to give me a good laugh. Thank you for your additions.

BTW, I must have worked for your boss a few years ago, because I had one of those infallible ones, too.

Apr. 14 2008 10:22 AM
hjs from 11211

#8 but then there would be 2 popes in 1400 and that would cause a war!!
are u supporter of war? this could alter our own timeline you know!

Apr. 14 2008 10:21 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

btw there is no God...

Apr. 14 2008 10:20 AM
hjs from 11211

how can one exaggerate "infallibility" doctrine?

he can't make a mistake that's pretty impressive. of course my boss also is infallible

Apr. 14 2008 10:19 AM
David from NYC

#9, according to the "official" website: , the pope meets with the resident at the White House.

Apr. 14 2008 10:17 AM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

I would like the Yankee Management to take him over to the new stadium so that he can exorcise the Red Sox demons from the spot where they had to remove that David Ortiz jersey. After that he could do a general blessing of the place so that all future curses will be nullified. Perhaps he would also be willing to excommunicate that construction worker from the church (provided that he is Catholic). Just kidding on the excommunication.

Apr. 14 2008 10:17 AM
Zach from Upper West Side

I heard this on Bill Maher, so it is second-hand news, but he said that when this Pope was still a cardinal he encouraged the American Catholic parishes to block and stall any efforts to address the issues of pedophilia in the Church until the statute of limitations had passed and priests could no longer be prosecuted. Just putting that out there. I'm no Catholic but a person in the Pope's position can be a force for good and positive change. This one doesn't seem to fit the bill. Plus he was a Nazi.

Apr. 14 2008 10:16 AM
Mike from Bellport

Didn't the Pope turn down an invitation to meet Bush? Did he give a reason for that?

Apr. 14 2008 10:14 AM

if only we had a time machine back to the 1400s....and we could get the pope to drive the pope-mobile into it.....everybody wins!!

the pope gets his theocratic superstitious paradise....and we get a little less backward outdated dogma! hooray!

Apr. 14 2008 10:14 AM
David from NYC

#6, don't know about any organized protests, but the pope is parading up 5th Ave from st Pat's cathedral to 72nd st on Saturday.

Apr. 14 2008 10:08 AM
hjs from 11211

anyone know where i can protest?

will the pope call for the end of the war in Iraq?

Apr. 14 2008 10:03 AM

[[This comment removed for violating the WNYC posting policy. Please, keep your comments productive and civil. Thanks!]]

Apr. 14 2008 10:03 AM
RAI from Manhattan

In light of Pope Benedict XVI's recent undermining of interfaith dialog, respect, and understanding (e.g. - his remarks about Islam and his embrace of the Tridentine Mass with its call for conversion of the Jews), I consider him to be a loose "canon" in an already fragile world.

Apr. 14 2008 09:21 AM

i find it an offensive and backwards religion: anti-science, anti-women, homophobic (unless children are involved), anti-sexuality, and as for their theology, it can only be described as barking mad. that anyone takes the popes weird opinions seriously is a testament to religious brainwashing.

Apr. 14 2008 08:44 AM
Robert from NYC

I don't welcome the pope, I wish he'd stay away from the city. The only thing I see is unwanted traffic and crowds. Would his battery of cars have been charged the $8 below 60th Street fee if it had passed?! I think the man is a nazi and one day that nazi "past" will be made manifest to be more than it has been shrugged off to be, a mere mistake in his youth. I don't believe it. As a gay man I despise him, I despise what he represents and what he teaches and spews in the name of he who is a God of Love. He will ought to be dealt with in the Last Judgement he believes in.

Apr. 14 2008 08:29 AM
Julie from Hastings-on-Hudson

Thanks for having Steinfels, a journalist who actually knows something about Catholic teaching. Alas, most journalists covering the Pope
- have an exaggerated understanding of the
"infallibility" doctrine
- don't know about the basic doctrine that Catholics are required -- required -- to follow their (faithfully-informed) consciences
- don't realize that conservative Catholics pick and choose from among Church teachings just like "liberal" ones do; journalists get fooled because the so-called "strict" Catholics say they are totally "faithful" when in fact they ignore all edits that contradict those of the Republican Party.

Steinfels knows that the core teaching of Catholicism is love: love God, love your neighbor. Not that this is easy; not that we aren't sinners; as Dorothy Day said, quoting Dostoevsky, "Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams."

Apr. 14 2008 08:19 AM

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