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American writer: “No matter what, I’m still Catholic”

February 26th, 2013
05:07 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Mary Elizabeth Williams thinks the Vatican is strict, dogmatic, and backward-looking. She is also a committed Catholic.

With so much scandal and conservatism on the key issues of today, it is not unreasonable to ask why progressive Catholics stay in the Church.

“I think to be questioning, and to call out hypocrisy, and to illuminate injustice when you see it is about as Christ-like as you can get,” Williams told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

After Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation earlier this month, Williams, a writer, penned an op-ed titled “No matter what, I’m still Catholic.”

“What I would hope, and what I think we see based on just the stepping down of this pope, is that the Church realizes that it is in a moment of extreme crisis,” she said. “I don’t expect to see gigantic change, but I do expect to see a message that says, ‘Our priorities are going to be different from now on.’”

As cardinals begin to gather in Rome to elect a new pope, Williams says she is hoping for more consistency between the Vatican and the reality of life for the billion-plus Catholics around the world.

“What we see in parishes across the world, certainly I see it in my own parish, is so different from what we hear coming out of Rome,” she said, which she described as “very strict, very dogmatic, and a very backward-looking worldview.”

As a child, Williams recounted, she fought and lost a battle to become an “altar girl.”

“When I now go to my church and I see girls up there on the altar,” she said, “that to me represents an understanding, and a little bit of progress.”

It is progress she has not seen reflected by her pope.

“We live in a different world now,” she said, “and I think that the Church has revised itself philosophically in the past, there’s no reason that it can’t revise itself philosophically in the future, and take an attitude that’s just more encompassing.”

It is important, she believes, for Catholics to keep up their pressure on the Church’s leadership to change.

“We need,” Williams said, “to have people understand that for a lot of us, Catholicism isn’t about towing some backwards-looking line. It’s about living a faith that is about service, and is about love, and is about compassion.”

READ MORE: Too liberal to lead his parish?

CNN’s Meredith Milstein produced this piece for television.

soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. CyPhy

    I propose a Liberal Catholic Sunday. We pick a Sunday, and all disaffected Catholics attend church that day, fill the pews, and stuff the offering basket. Just one day. Next week, back to normal...just so the Roman Catholic church in America can see what they're missing.

    February 26, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Reply
    • GMak

      Hmmm! Very interesting idea! I like it. Really! Could be good for both sides of the altar! Worth discussing, for sure!

      February 26, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Reply
    • RJ

      I understand the point you want to make, but your suggestion that money will produce changes in the Church is way off.

      February 26, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Reply
    • Ikenna Okorie

      If it was liberal then whats the difference between those in it and those out of it? For God's sake, the church isnt a democracy! GET WITH IT OR LEAVE IT. Its that simple. Over the centuries, people shed their blood for this now you have "liberals"trying to undermine it.

      February 27, 2013 at 8:17 am | Reply
      • Jennifer Peterson

        Amen, my dear. Amen.

        February 28, 2013 at 2:07 am |
      • ZeroProfit

        And this, Ikenna, is how wars start. If the Church doesn't change, it will simply die out. Now tell me, oh perfect Catholic, what will you do when all your churches shut down for lack of attendance because the "liberals" tried to "undermine" it but you resisted change? Ikenna, you might want to pray about redemption and acceptance, and open your heart to change, and the gifts and talents "liberals" if you call them, may bring back to the Church. Ikenna, what would Jesus do?

        February 28, 2013 at 8:46 am |
      • ZeroProfit

        One more note, Ikenna. I work for someone who says "G

        February 28, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • ZeroProfit

      That is an excellent idea!

      February 28, 2013 at 8:43 am | Reply
  2. mustafaelsahli

    the religious conflict in the West ,when compared w\that of the muslims ,we find a big difference,in the West it is based on rationalism ,in Islam on irrationalism ,,the Islam has a problem,the West a crisis,,no defined concepts at all in Islam ,,&evolving concepts as knowledge changes in the West ,,,this is why the West is always gaining victory ,while Islam is failing ,,,KNOWLEDGE IS A DECISIVE FACTOR IN REMOVING THE RUST AWAY FROM THOUGHTS ,MAKING THEM BRIGHTER

    February 26, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Reply
    • fjvegac

      For saying something similar to what you are saying, Benedict XVI was vehemently attacked by both the liberal press and the Muslim world. And yet, you are telling the truth about the reality of Islam from the eleventh century onwards ....

      February 28, 2013 at 4:39 am | Reply
  3. doug

    "...Mary Elizabeth Williams thinks the Vatican is strict, dogmatic, and backward-looking...."

    The Church has its own world's vision while societies and culture are passing, the Christ's message remains the same. Technologically speaking, the world is in a giant burst....morally speaking, the old sins, vices, ways of life are coming back.

    February 26, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Reply
    • Ikenna Okorie

      I go with you Doug. If the Church changes, then it might as well become a political party. When you are given a mission...a commission, you stick to it. Amanpour should come talk to us...we are millions that would leave if the Church changes.

      February 27, 2013 at 8:20 am | Reply
      • fjvegac

        But if Amanpour comes to talk to you, she will not find you news-worthy. She is more interested in "controversial" views that will attract readers. The reality of the life of the Church all over the world, a reality of fidelity to Jesus Christ, which gives fruits of holiness and makes this world a better place (but silently and unobtrusively) is of no interest to her.

        February 28, 2013 at 4:21 am |
      • ZeroProfit

        Ikenna, do you think Jesus turned away disciples just because they might be different or change? No, He embraced them. Are you aware of how Jesus was hated because He, too, was viewed as a "liberal"? Yes, it was very political in those old days of antiquity. But, Jesus opened his heart to accept those who were different.

        So there you have it. The entire Catholic religion is really based on a VERY liberal fellow. Huh. Something to think about, maybe?

        February 28, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  4. joseph effiong

    True catholics always stand on their faith.

    February 26, 2013 at 7:49 pm | Reply
    • James Kohn


      February 28, 2013 at 11:31 am | Reply
    • SeekingTruth

      You should be a true christian before all else. The true christian church is interdenominational not a physical one with idols, icons + what not.

      March 8, 2013 at 2:41 am | Reply
    • SeekingTruth

      True christians stand on their faith.

      March 8, 2013 at 2:44 am | Reply
  5. peter

    1 Timothy 3:16 'All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work'
    I LOVE the word of God!! We are equipped and complete by studying it!!
    Why doesn't the pope ever bible study with the public?

    February 26, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Reply
    • Ikenna Okorie

      ...Peter Go read Tim 3.15. The Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. The Church pre-existed the bible..indeed it was the Church that collated the bible as you now have. The passage you just quoted didnt say "Önly Scripture". Besides...believe me, I have read one of Ratzinger's books and he certainly knows more scripture that you can reckon with.

      February 27, 2013 at 8:23 am | Reply

    When the Church apologizes for the millions they burned at the stake and erects a monument to them in St.Peters Square I will join the Church!

    February 27, 2013 at 12:07 am | Reply
    • Ikenna Okorie

      ...I believe the Church has apologized..countless times..particularly under John Paul II.

      February 27, 2013 at 8:25 am | Reply
      • fjvegac

        But never to the satisfaction of CNN...

        February 28, 2013 at 4:26 am |
      • SeekingTruth

        There needs to be true repentance.

        March 8, 2013 at 2:50 am |
      • SeekingTruth

        Continual apologies suggests a lack of true repentance.

        March 8, 2013 at 3:15 am |
    • anthonyhantonh

      You appear to have no faith nor love of the church. Why would the church want you to join when you clearly dispise it?

      February 28, 2013 at 9:22 am | Reply
      • SeekingTruth

        Catholics needed to be committed to Christ + not their RC church traditions.

        March 8, 2013 at 2:54 am |

    The reason there are so many gays in the clergy is because they aren'tallowed to marry. Change this rule and you will get more normal people in the clergy. Better yet, let women join!

    February 27, 2013 at 12:20 am | Reply
    • Gussie

      What is it about the Catholic church that deserves saving? As a student of human culture and spirituality (including the worlds religions) I've found nothing of value - and for a woman to uphold this centuries long misogynistic stronghold of liars in drag, fascists and so much more . . . get a liberal arts education, little girl - you are surely not a woman.

      February 27, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Reply
      • James Kohn

        What is it about the Catholic church that deserves saving?
        Misunderstands who the Church is, she is the Bride of Christ and will remain forever until the end of time, thus nothing needs to be saved because its always there, its needs to be proclaimed in a more clear and direct manner.

        As a student of human culture and spirituality (including the worlds religions) I've found nothing of value
        I dont see how sitting through lectures on world religions would tell you anything. What you spent 5 mins on each, left it there?

        – and for a woman to uphold this centuries long misogynistic stronghold of liars in drag,
        Obviously never heard of Roman garb prior to the 21st this your best? Really?

        fascists and so much more
        Wow what a great arguement, whats next Bernays?

        . . . get a liberal arts education, little girl
        Yep the intellectual prowless of your work is prima face evidence of the worth of a liberal education

        – you are surely not a woman
        Another great argument

        February 28, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  8. raj

    religion is always a tricky subject to talk and debate though all religious practice talks of humanity and love but some how many turn voilent and full of hatred to impose so called one practise on another do we really need someone to mind wash us on some specific religion practise cant we decide what we want to follow and follow it peacefully why so much of a fuss and a global debate on the same wonder we say we are in the new century...

    February 27, 2013 at 1:20 am | Reply
  9. Milan

    Amanpour my dear friend you from Vaticn, welcome to Serbia my home,my syti Vlasotince 🙂

    February 27, 2013 at 4:35 am | Reply
  10. Erin Pascal

    Thank you for sharing this interesting and thought-provoking article. Since the church is being bomarded with a lot of issues, most of us (Catholics) already have doubts and some have even completely surrendered. But amidst all these, knowing that someone out there is still standing strong on their faith, hearing or reading these words–“No matter what, I’m still Catholic” makes me want to strengthen my faith even more. These words are truly inspiring.

    February 27, 2013 at 7:12 am | Reply
    • Jennifer Peterson

      I would have enjoyed the article a little more if the word 'backwards' wasn't used so many times. Counter-cultural - now that's an accurate description.

      February 28, 2013 at 2:13 am | Reply
      • James Kohn

        Counter Christ more accurate even more..."He who hears you hears me and he who rejects you rejects me and the one who sent me" The Church is neither mine nor yours to change it is the spotless bride of Christ given his Authority to proclaim Truth in and out of season

        February 28, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • SeekingTruth

      When the great white throne judgement + Jesus comes boasting "I'm Catholic" won't save you, it may be a final end in dismay for many because of pride + God knows what else .Surrender to Jesus not to the Pope.

      March 8, 2013 at 3:02 am | Reply
  11. Helen Baker

    You may not have known that there has been a prediction from a reputable man of God in Nigeria about the happenings around the world today.
    Take a look at the article below. – Take note of the word FAMOUS,POPULAR AND RICH MEN
    Prophecies For Individuals In 2013 – Prophet T.B. Joshua

    “Let me give you six out of many.

    The prophecies for nations, continents and for those at the helm of affairs shall be announced during the next Sunday Service.

    1. A year of surprises – I am seeing many great, famous, popular and rich men and politicians will become helpless and in need of help in matters of sickness, disease, finances, death, etc. One of the causes: They have failed to reward those who helped them to succeed. This is the year of judgment, especially for politicians who use youth to support their political ambitions without reward after winning power. Tell your neighbour: Reward those who help you succeed now.

    2. Those in the foodstuff business will have a field day this year. Farming and agriculture will be the order of the day and will help greatly to be the source of solution this year. People engaged in it will be greatly blessed.

    3. Those anxious about God and who hate sin – the faithful – your prayers for many years are not lost. This year, there will be instant answers to your prayers, especially those who have been seeking for the fruit of the womb. The long-time barren will become mothers of many babies this New Year.

    4. Natural disasters will be many this New Year, such as motor accidents, sea/flood/air disasters, fire, etc. Let us move to God. With God, all things are possible.

    5. Stop praying against those who hurt you. This year, you will see clearly that God is God of vengeance. Instead, you should pray for them.

    6. Do charity work – feed the poor and the needy and give scholarships to those who deserve them. This year, there is great reward in doing this if you do it with all your heart. No matter how little, share it with others. Share their pain and share their joy.

    7. Our youth who think always of travelling should use the money to go into agriculture or foodstuff business because in the New Year, God will bless them. They will achieve greatness by transacting in agriculture and foodstuff and become successful in export and import business. The money I am talking about could be in the region of N100,000, N200,000, N250,000 ($1,000, $1,500, $2,000).

    Those who have been working for many years and have never been satisfied with the job and salary they receive, the little limited resources at their disposal should be invested in foodstuff business or agriculture, especially those already married. They should divide themselves in such a way that either the husband or wife should step down from service where they receive salary and face agriculture.

    Foodstuff business and agriculture or farming are anointed businesses this New Year, to revive the world from economic depression. This is the secret of God revealed to you today. Quote me; you will not regret doing it. My name is T.B. Joshua”.

    February 27, 2013 at 7:45 am | Reply
    • fjvegac

      Wow, thank you, mum, for giving us these prophesies from "the Man of God" who has managed to successfully deceived entire nations in Africa... His latest statement was that he had decided not to make football (soccer) prophesies any more (

      February 28, 2013 at 9:06 am | Reply
  12. Tamer

    LOL see what new brotherhood Egyptian Cleric did say about Christianity?

    February 27, 2013 at 9:48 am | Reply
    • John

      They should shoot him

      February 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Reply
  13. Tom

    She's a "Catholic."

    If the Church can't define what Catholicism is, then the term becomes subjective and meaningless. I might as well call myself a Muslim and be a pork eating atheist, because it's not like it matters if the meaning of words are my own.

    February 28, 2013 at 3:42 am | Reply
    • James Kohn


      February 28, 2013 at 11:50 am | Reply
    • SeekingTruth

      A menagerie of rituals, icons, power,pride, money, traditions and all that catholicism entails/ Generations of conditioning, never coming to know the full truth except for those Jesus has called to come out of there.

      March 8, 2013 at 3:13 am | Reply
  14. russell lee

    And , no matter what, I'm still not a katholick. "Ye must be born again", said the LORD Jesus.

    February 28, 2013 at 5:13 am | Reply
  15. fjvegac

    For Amanpour to find somebody who, after all the condemnations she makes of the Catholic Church on a daily basis, is still a practicing Catholic must be real news! Yes, Christiana, there are millions of Catholics out there, all over the world, who are trying to be faithful to the Church they believe to be the true Church founded by Christ, but whose views would be considered very boring to you, for they are not "controversial". In any case, thank you for breaking briefly your constant anti-Catholic propaganda.

    February 28, 2013 at 6:31 am | Reply
  16. anthonyhantonh

    She is what we call a cafe catholic, in that she picks on chooses doctrines that she likes. This is a religion not a club. It is not a democracy. You believe or you do not. We are not muslims, you can leave the church if you don't agree with it.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:19 am | Reply
  17. James Kohn

    Ok so because the article is misleading and needs correction on multiple parts I have done so:

    latinandabeer[dot]blogspot[dot]com[fwd slash]2013[fwd slash]02[fwd slash]response[dash]to[dash]mick[dash]krevers[dash]cnn[dash]article[dash]in[dot]html

    Hope that clears things up

    February 28, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  18. eyeclinic

    MEW is not a "committed Catholic" but rather a Catholic who needs to be committed!

    February 28, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  19. sbillinghurst

    If the two of you don't see "drone-using journos(of U MO, last night's fare)", as funny, that makes you mainstream. A dour twit once. Servers? I have a good chance the Amanpour'll read it with 48 comments ...
    @embeedub, darlin', the existence of evil which leaves its mark on a child's face excludes Catholicism as something to believe in. I believe in not fiddling with becoming those nothingness ciphers, Pope Roger and the rest. These guys'skills was being a number.

    March 10, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Reply
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