[Author’s note: COMPLETELY BORING IF YOU’RE NOT A PRIEST, AND MILDLY DISTURBING IF YOU ARE AN NCR CLERIC.]
There are two main camps of NCR priests: one who’s primary source of information is the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), a liberal bi-weekly; and the other who use the National Catholic Register (NCR), a conservative bi-weekly. For both, primary sources and scholarly journals are nostalgic memories of seminary days. Sure, they may have a copy of St. Augustine’s Confessions lying on a bookshelf with an unbroken binding, but that is only the appearance of intelligence. Please don’t get me wrong, not all priests are intellectually inclined, nor should they be. The Holy Spirit gives many gifts to His people to assure the ministry is accomplished. However the NCR priests always seem to stand out.
You can always tell an NCR cleric by the use of language. He will generally sit on a word in every conversation for months that you are certain he last heard in seminary. Words like soteriology, ontological, supercallifragilisticexpealidotious (what can I say, it was the 80s and in a liturgy class; that should explain the last word). These are generally going to be the liberal NCR priests. Without fail, the liberal NCR paper in the last month had an article on soteriology, ontology, etc. This NCR priest is merely mouthing the latest liberal screed, good or bad.
By comparison the more conservative NCR priest is big on dates, popes and motu proprios of the Holy Fathers. Somewhere, out of the blue, this priest will declaim, “As Pope Boniface VIII said in 1302 in his Papal Bull [and believe me, the Protestants think it still is] Unam sanctum…” Invariably the conservative NCR published something within the last month concerning that document. Their perspective is that once you quote a pope, there’s nothing more to be said on the subject.
For myself, I subscribe to neither paper. The only reason for looking a copy up on line is to see where a priest got his new “word for the month,” or an historical papal reference. I am of a conservative bent, some say just short of ultramontanism, but research and study are a part of my life. To keep up on canon law developments and theology, especially under the present Pontiff, requires at least two hours a day. That’s not meant to impress, it keeps me from becoming an NCR priest.