Talking with Peter McDonough (page 4)
Talking with Peter McDonough
page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4
  Do you see the Catholic Church having a role in the struggle between the Arab world and Israel? Should the Pope use his position to help find peace?
  Catholicism is said to be the oldest multinational corporation. The church is one of the few truly transnational organizations, and it has experience in brokering agreements. This makes it a valuable resource. What precisely it has to offer in the Middle East I’m not sure. It carries a certain crusading baggage that hasn’t been forgotten. “Evangelism,” which can be read as an updated crusade, has been a priority of John Paul II, and this offends some non-Catholics.
 
  You're aware that President Bush is seeking to send Peace Corps Volunteers into Afghanistan? Having been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bangladesh, having been an interested observer over the years, what do you think Peace Corps Volunteers can do to spread peace?
  I suppose the basic thing is to be competent at what they do and pass on skills, without condescension. If peace comes out of this, somehow, so much the better. At its best, the Corps represents a genuine innovation in humanitarian aid. The “Peace” in Peace Corps can also be used for political hype, as the good guy side of a good cop/bad cop Realpolitik. It’s hard to think straight about Peace Corps strategy without falling into the extremes of piety or cynicism.
What's next in the way of publishing for you?
  Maybe a series of articles or a book about Ireland, where I spent the first half of last year. It’s odd that traditional religious attachments have declined in Ireland but that they, or causes invoking denominational identity, continue to fuel sectarian conflict in the North.
     Another project would involve looking at the future of institutional Catholicism. My first book on the Jesuits examined the recent past of the order, and the second scrutinizes the present. By now I’ve overdosed on Jesuits, so I want to take a break. But the larger question of what will happen with Catholicism as a clerical enterprise and a religious movement remains. The multifaceted nature of the topic requires collegial work. An edited volume may be the way to go. Some observers of the religious scene are awaiting a “charismatic” or “prophetic” breakthrough to restore the promise of Vatican II. But for the moment anyway, I’m convinced that what’s needed is a series of town hall meetings on Catholicism, perhaps leading up to Vatican III. What we have now is a lumpy mishmash of interest groups and dissidents petitioning or ignoring Rome — in effect, a proliferation of mini-regimes and subcultures engaged in a sort of parallel play.
A final question and one about writing with another author. How did you “write” the book with a co-author? Did you rewrite each other or divide the chapters?
  There are many mysteries in Catholicism, and this will remain one of them.
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