Fr. McBrien parses Catholics into four camps: Ultra Conservatives, Moderate Conservatives, Moderate Liberals, Radical Liberal. He then illustrates a bit on the Ultracons:
Centrist Catholics do not view their moderate counterparts on the left or the right as an "ultimate threat" (Father Radcliffe's words) to their own place in the Church. Only Catholics of the far right view fellow Catholics that way --- in this case, moderately liberal Catholics and probably some moderate conservatives as well.
I beg to differ wih the good father, as his last column illustrates his terror at the conservative actions of conservative bishops. Fr. McBrien then shows some of the roots of his demoralization:
Father Andrew Greeley, a distinguished author and sociologist, has frequently pointed out that it was not the Council but Pope Paul VI's 1968 birth-control encyclical, Humanae Vitae, that opened the breach within the post-conciliar Church. If the pope had sided with the 2-1 majority of his Birth Control Commission and modified the official teaching on contraception, the post-Vatican II history of the Church might look entirely different.
And if his successor, John Paul I, had not died after only 33 days in office, the Church's hierarchy around the world might look entirely different as well.
He's absolutely right, it does go all the way back to Humanae Vitae, and the clergy's and laity's responses to it: Who can submit to the Church, and who will demand that the Church submit to the World. " If only the pope had sided with the 2-1 majority" is a crock, the Pope always has to side with the Magisterium, and guided by the Holy Spirit, he did just that. If, as Fr. McBrien fervently wishes, the Pope had sided with the majority opinion, we'd be in the same dire straits as the Anglican Communion and the divided United Methodist Church. Public opinion is the shifting sands on which no church can last.
Catholics of the far right, and bishops who share and enforce their ecclesiology, insist that obedience is one of Catholicism's primary virtues and that the teaching of the hierarchy, and especially the pope's, is the only sure guide to saving truth.
Obedience was one of Jesus' primary virtues as well, an obedience unto death, as with his mother Mary, by whose obedience unto life gave us our Savior. It's such an alien thought to the hippies, this concept of obedience. The article devolves from there into another gripe about Bishop Finn and his iron-fisted gardening style. Suffice to say, Fr. McBrien is still demoralized, and I'll bet that he'll continue to sulk in the future.