Truth to Power: The Journalism of a Benedictine Monk

Kingsley Publishing (2010)

This book, introduced and edited by Dennis Gruending, presents the best from twenty years of provocative journalism by Father Andrew Britz, a Benedictine monk at St. Peter’s Abbey in the hinterland of rural Saskatchewan, far from the centres of ecclesiastical and political influence. Britz was editor of the Prairie Messenger, a prophetic Catholic weekly news journal that has been published by the monks since 1904. He was fearless in speaking truth to the powerful in church and society — to popes and prime ministers, capitalists and clerics. The book confronts honestly and with clarity the issues that confront us: The papacy, the bishops, laypeople, women in the church, social justice, economic development, the environment, abortion, birth control, ecumenism, fundamentalism, Christmas, Easter, the mass, Vatican II.

Available from The Prairie Messenger or from the author at 613-730-6902

Reviewer Comments

How refreshing it is to discover this collection of editorials skillfully assembled by the journalist and biographer Dennis Gruending with accompanying essays/reflections by a Benedictine writer (Joan Chittister), a social activist (Mary Jo Leddy) and a sociologist (John Thompson). It all makes for an engaging review of the trends, challenges, crises and personalities of the last two decades as they pertain to the Catholic sensibility – social justice teaching, medical ethics, spirituality and theology. —  Michael W. Higgins, Telegraph-Journal newspaper, New Brunswick

Excerpt from Dennis Gruending’s Introduction

Andrew appeared as comfortable talking about church councils in AD 400 as he was about contemporary debates on euthanasia or American farm subsidies. His earlier studies in theology and philosophy, as well as in liturgy and church history, gave him an impressive breadth and depth. One former associate says, This was a continuation of his life as a teacher, except in this position he was teaching the faithful. In fact, this book will be a useful reader or textbook for students in university, seminary, or even high school.

Andrew was driven by the idea that the post-council church must be at the service of the world, particularly those whom he called the “little people– the poor, the oppressed, the defenceless — indeed, all the marginalized. A former colleague says that Andrew “was unafraid to confront the church’s flaws but was enthusiastic in celebrating its richness and diversity. He had his detractors, particularly among those who believed that in challenging the church and the hierarchy he was being disloyal.

Andrew writes in one of his editorials about the “hate mail” he received, mainly from those who believed he was not taking a strong enough stand against abortion. He responded by adopting from Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago the image of a seamless garment, in which all questions of respect for life are woven into one mental and spiritual fabric. According to this ethic, any abuse of the defenceless is unacceptable in war, prisons, hospitals, workplaces, and, as Andrew believes, in the womb. He was stung by the direct attacks on him and of those made against him to the bishops, to Rome, and often to his abbot, but the abbots held firm in their support.

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Dennis

Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based writer, blogger and a former member of Parliament