Fr. Paul Mankowski: The Void in Church Leadership: Is Damnation Possible?

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By Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture,  Oct 31, 2022

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at

Today I am offering a “guest post” by the late Father Paul Mankowski, SJ, taken from the new collection of his pseudonymous works, Diogenes Unveiled, now available from Ignatius Press.

This column originally appeared in our “Off the Record” section, which we later discontinued. I reproduce it here not just to call attention to the “Diogenes” collection (although that would be reason enough), but also to offer readers an explanation of how we might approach what is clearly a crisis in our Church.

The column was written nearly fifteen years ago; Diogenes often saw beyond the horizon. It explains the approach taken in “Off the Record” (OTR) at a time when we often worried about wayward bishops, but still had full confidence in the solidity of pronouncements from Rome. Today—when Vatican statements often raise our eyebrows, our blood pressure, even our righteous anger—the logic that Diogenes laid out is all the more compelling.

If I were asked to explain what I hope to achieve with my own commentary on Catholic affairs, I might repeat the final sentence of this guest column, as I present it today.

—Phil Lawler

Off The Record has now been in existence for a span of five years and to the extent of forty-six hundred postings, and it may be opportune to do what we’ve heretofore left undone, namely, to explain what we think we’re up to.

Though sub-tagged “Notes from the Newsroom,” OTR had its beginnings in an ongoing exchange of e-mails between half a dozen correspondents wryly exasperated by the failures of senior ecclesiastics to conduct themselves as Catholics, and by their even more distressing failures to permit others access to the Church’s spiritual bounty. Many of our exchanges took the form of routine grousing about the flakiness of this or that homily or pastoral letter or interview, but underneath there was a deeper sense of unease. Bad churchmen are a vexation, but an understandable and probably unavoidable vexation. Harder to explain—and progressively harder to deny—was The Void at the center of the Church’s activity: the absence of concern for souls in jeopardy. …

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