So glad you opened a thread on the great op-ed piece by Paul Elie.
If the remaining Catholics would just say NEIGH, something would happen. (No idea what.)
I must confess, I really don’t get it, and I’m a huge fan of Paul’s. I suppose it would make more sense to me if I thought I was somehow doing the Catholic Church some sort of favor or service by going to Mass. But what else is there?
perhaps he’d add a new chapter to his treatise on the Donatists.
I agree with Michael Garvey. I’m a fan of Elie’s, too, but I don’t get it either. He’s confusing his disagreement with the human deficiencies in the Church and the Mass as a trancendental experience that helps connect us more directly to God. I’ve got nothing against knowing more about our brothers and sisters of other faiths (or no faith)–my wife is a non-Catholic–but not going to Mass as a form of protest seems silly to me.
How dispicable of the NY Times to run that piece.
Well here’s hoping Paul Elie doesn’t actually try to go a Jewish or Muslim service on Sunday. The Donatists would really be put out.
I wonder if it could have been meant satirically. Hope so, anyway. It reminded me of the proposal made in the late 1960′s by some members of a newly formed national association of priests that priests go on strike one Sunday, that is, refuse to say Mass. “That’ll show them how important we are, that they shouldn’t take us for granted!” That was not said satirically.
It’s one thing to agree or disagree with the piece. But why do you find it despicable for the NY Times simply to have run it?
I think that Augustine would have said something like: “You are biting off your nose to spite your face.”
The comments show how we are wed to an Empire and forget the Spirit that Benedict and Co. have strayed from. “For the Catholic Church, it has been “all bad news, all the time” since Benedict took office in 2005: a papal insult to Muslims; a papal embrace of a Holocaust denier; molesting by priests and cover-ups by their superiors. When the Scottish cardinal Keith O’Brien resigned on Monday amid reports of “inappropriate” conduct toward priests in the 1980s, the routine was wearingly familiar. It’s enough to make any Catholic yearn to leave the whole mess for someone else to clean up.” Benedict messed up. Are we going to face it or continue the absurd rhapsody?
Yes it has been all bad news all the time.” Those of you who zero in on missing Mass have not thought it out. Ellie also promised to go to about ten other services on Sunday. Simultaneously!! Of course it is Satire. But do we get the point?
Ellie is trying to wake us out of our unconscionable sleep. Where we tolerate the most egregious behavior from the pope and bishops.
The scandals that continue are really our fault. Our heroes cannot be wrong. We can’t get out of idolizing humans. The Vatican is more important than jesus. We love the Empire over the church of Jesus Crucified.
I think Elie sees choosing not to attend as the ultimate protest. Yes, it would deprive the protesters of something, but protests often do that. When Southern black people boycotted businesses they deprived themselves of something, but in order to deliver their message. If many of us stayed away at the same time, if the churches were empty, then the bishops might quit ignoring our message — that we too need to be listened to.
Since we believe that there can be salvation outside the RC Church, it might be a salutary spiritual experience to go see what else the Holy Spirit is up to on a Sunday morning. A practice of a little Lenten humility in respect for our fellow Christians.
Lay Catholics have neither voice nor vote in the institution, except that which we manifest with our money and our presence. (And also an indirect influence via Catholic media, etc., but the weekly collection is a direct indication to leaders that they need us to show up to be Church.) Might be a salutary spiritual experience for Church leadership, too, and help them understand that the already dwindling numbers can dwindle right away.
I agree that it’s the ultimate protest. It’s hard to understand unless you’re similarly indignant, frustrated and worried about the future.
Attending a Quaker meeting could be very enLIGHTening.
apropos Lisa’s remarks:
In reading Elie’s piece, I was reminded of Pat Jordan’s article on Dorothy Day in the January 25th “Commonweal.”
Jordan writes: “She found daily Mass to be an antidote to apostasy, calling it the most important work of the day.”
And what would she say about the Eucharistic celebration on the Lord’s day, the dies Domini, the day of the Risen Christ?
Elie is too provincial. He should visit LDS and Sikh temples, the Ethical Culture Society, Zoroastrians, Swedenborgians, Comte’s Positivist Temples.
Also, there are websites that review places of worship in NYC, if he wants to save time and select only the most spiritually advanced communities.
How about if we all go to Mass and then on to the non-Catholic service(s) of our choice, if the aims are to express understanding and to practice Lenten humility? :) It doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. I fail to see how not going to Mass and taking part in the Eucharist is an effective way to protest the institutional faults that a person may believe are present in the Church. Put another way, depriving oneself of the Church’s sacramental life is, as Helen aptly noted at 12:35 pm, biting off one’s nose to spite to spite one’s face.
I’m afraid I don’t think Paul Elie was being satirical. If that were true, then his comments about the Quaker, Episcopal, Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim services/activities he specifically identifies as possible alternative choices could be construed as insulting, and I can’t imagine that Mr. Elie would intend that.
So Elie wants to “give up” Catholicism as a protest? Wasn’t my takeaway.
I thought he just wanted a little peace in some other faith group for a time where he could distance himself from the sorrows of RC for awhile.
Sorta like when you have a crisis in your marriage, so you go stay with your old college roommate for a week or two and then realize you need to go back home because they’re dumb and sad, and you promised all those years ago that you’d love them in spite of it.
William C. -
One person’s not attending is not a protest and would be useless. There would have to be so many that the clergy would notice the empty pews and small collection, and there would have to be an announcement beforehand so that the reason for the protest would be known. Such happenings need planning.
We’re already losing the millennials and it doesn’t seem to matter. Stop the cash. Now that would get attention. Think up alternative funding methods besides the collection baskets. It isn’t rocket science.
This just show that we have a very basic misunderstanding of the Eucharist. Quintessentially the Eucharist is all the Captives/downtrodden joining with us to reconcile with the Father. When we hardly talk or do anything about them then we do not know the Eucharist. So we might abstain perhaps to meditate on the meaning. “My Body” means the whole church which includes the victims, those “Beyond the Beautiful Forevers” and the Africans etc. As I repeatedly say we nonchalantly accept Indian and African priests here (who are paid for by our bishops to their bishops) while they leave the most “Captives” in their countries–then we don’t understand the Eucharist.
Gene – it’s an anti-Catholic hit piece. It’s a call to leave the church.
Elie’s was one of the most frustrating articles I have encountered since Pope Benedict announced his decision a few weeks ago. As both a Georgetown alum and former researcher at the Berkley Center, I am personally disappointed to see this representing us in the pages of the NYTimes.
Elie’s assertion that, “Most ordinary believers have given up hope that the church will change its ways,” strikes me as astonishingly arrogant and short-sighted. For starters, I very much doubt Mr. Elie’s ability to speak on behalf of “most ordinary believers,” so some qualification (e.g. “with whom I speak,”) would be appropriate. Furthermore, the content of the charge is remarkable… these ordinary believers apparently have placed reform of the Church beyond the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s quite a stance to take, particularly given the Spirit’s penchant for intervention in manners previously inconceivable, Vatican II being among the most recent examples.
This article really is so pervasively problematic that it deserves a line by line refutation. Starting with the fact that the act of “resigning” is not generally undertaken as a temporary move. But easily the most offensive single string of syllables is the breathtaking assessment that: “For the Catholic Church, it has been “all bad news, all the time” since Benedict took office in 2005.”
If Mr. Elie meant that sincerely, his position is so far beyond reasonable that refutation seems pointless.
If Mr. Elie meant that sincerely, his position is so far beyond reasonable that refutation seems pointless.
Why not give it a try?
“Elie’s assertion that, “Most ordinary believers have given up hope that the church will change its ways,” strikes me as astonishingly arrogant and short-sighted.”
Michael, even Cardinal Timothy Dolan acknowledges that the “Church is a whore.” So what is new about Elie’s remarks? Most ordinary believers ignore the shenanigans of the pope and bishops and make sure to follow Jesus. Why can’t the Holy Spirit be working through Elie, anyway?
As I observe the reaction to Ellie’s remarks I am all the more supportive of them. We do need to be jolted out of our lethargy.
Um, Bill, I’d like a citation on that ostensible attribution to Cardinal Dolan, if you don’t mind.
Happy to, Gerlyn, but I’m working on it for another platform, since I think posting all that here in the comments would be pretty obnoxious. I’ll link once I’ve got it up.
Paul Elie is giving us a pretty depressing performance of The Intellectual Suffering Angst. “Most ordinary believers” haven’t given up anything; they are only passingly aware of what troubles Elie’s sensitive belief system.
If he wants such folks to join him in a boycott (and I’m not so sure that’s what he is asking for), he needs to know that successful boycotts must have definable goals, and they require organization. Putting one’s angst into the New York Times will — possibly — organize 40 upper West Side intellectuals for part of a morning, but you will lose half of them in Starbucks for a great conversation before they ever get to the designated alternative religious institution. Unoccupy Fifth Avenue it won’t be.
The subject of that interesting conversation might well be “Do the pope and bishops have all that much effect in how we feel about The Father, Son and Holy Spirit?” Or maybe it will be: “So the church has a bunch of third-rate leaders at the moment. So what else is new?”
Surely, it was meant to be provocative. But with a point.
Here’s what I think the point is: Don’t sink into a depression. Do something to shake yourself out of it. Better some creative anarchy than numb acquiescence to “all bad news all the time.” We are, you know, getting used to it, and lowering our standards. The scandal du jour has numbed us. We are used to it now.
The unfortunate thing is that people are leaving the pews already, and not just for one Sunday to make a protest and shake themselves out of their lethargy. Of course, the influx of Latinos keeps the numbers from alarming our bishops, so everything remains the same.
Wasn’t Peter Steinfels saying the Church needs some “shock therapy” a week ago?
At the same time as I understand this, I don’t endorse it. We shouldn’t go to Mass either to applaud or boo the hierarchy. Participation in the Mass is not about that.
Nothing else new?
Mr. Blackburn, have you not noticed that things are going downhill? Yes, the Church has lived through other bad periods. That doesn’t mean things aren’t deteriorating or that we have no responsibility to do anything about it.
I should qualify what I said @4:11. “Responsibility” is such a fraught word. I know very well that we cannot do very much about the trajectory of episcopal appointments, the politics of the curia, or the abuse scandals. But there is something, some way forward, that God must open up to us; we cannot simply lose hope or resign ourselves to the total mismanagement of our church.
What we can do is to continue to celebrate and live according to the Eucharist, because this is our vital connection to the power of the Holy Spirit that will guide us. OK, that’s a statement of faith, not a practical program, but I think it’s important.
Margaret, what is your of the great op-ed by the great Paul Elie.
(I noticed you deleted my comment pointing out that Commonweal has published Paul Elie’s work on many many occasions. I wonder which of your “commenting ground rules” that violated.)
(I left out “opinion” after your. Sorry.)
We are popeless, but not hopeless.
Here’s something I sent to our local diocesan rag (and it IS a rag.) I’ll be surprised if it is published, but I got my 26 cents’ worth in nonetheless:
The Vatican has recently given approval to the German bishops’ proposed “Plan B” that hinders conception after rape. This plan reflects an “ ‘unassailable rule’ that has been proposed by the Catholic Church the past 50 years, said Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. ‘To consider the possibility of using a drug whose active ingredient is a contraceptive in the case of a woman who has been raped seems acceptable to me.’
The Council on Society and Family of the Bishops of France has endorsed an improved “Pact of Civil Solidarity” for LGBTs as an alternative to instituting homosexual marriage.
In his new book, George Weigel (no liberal, he!) lays out recommendations for restructuring the Curia to make it more representative of the faith and more effective in advancing the church’s mission.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, retired Archbishop of Westminster, said the successor to Benedict XVI would need to be able to tackle reform of the Roman Curia. Two British bishops, Tom Burns (Menevia in Wales) and Kieran Conroy (Brighton and Arundel), have publicly called for a more collegial approach to church government including a call for decentralization in and the Curia, echoing the 2004 call of Cardinal Carlo Martini, retired Archbishop of Milan, to do the same.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna recently told the Austrian weekly Profil that there is “scope for reform as far as the administration of the Vatican was concerned.”
The papacy is over-centralized, and the principle of collegiality, one of most important ideas to emerge from the Second Vatican Council, has been effectively shorn of any force because of Apostolos Suus, par. 23 (1998), drafted by Josef Ratzinger when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II. The laity also have to be brought fully on board and more than one apparatus created for their voices to be heard – particularly the voices of women.
For whatever reason, many church officials have appeared to be reluctant up until now to “go against the grain” as they saw it being promoted in Rome. Now they are apparently beginning to rediscover their voices. One can only hope that the US episcopal leaders will follow suit sooner rather than later.
Lisa said: “Might be a salutary spiritual experience for Church leadership, too, and help them understand that the already dwindling numbers can dwindle right away.”
And, equally importantly, said leaders might be interested to see where so many of the bodies who no longer darken Catholic pews are going … and why.
He should visit LDS and Sikh temples, the Ethical Culture Society, Zoroastrians, Swedenborgians, Comte’s Positivist Temples.
I also want to know more about the Swedenborgians. I drove through their community in Bryn Athyn and remarked to my sister how prosperous and beautiful it looked. (My sister thinks they’re a cult; if they are, they seem to be doing alright. )
Sometimes bishop threaten to withhold Holy Communion from politicians and sometimes lay folk threaten to boycott the Eucharist. It is sad when the Eucharist is used a weapon whether from the altar or the pew
G@5:11. Did not delete your comment. Must have been a higher up. [6:02 Just checked...someone covering their tracks...must have been the fifth bureau of the Holy See.]
My rules for deletion of comments on my posts? repetitive, boring, nasty beyond necessity, pushy beyond tolerating, too much direct address, lack of paragraphing. There are probably a few I’ve forgotten. Rest assured, you have broken all of these at one time or another.
Michael, Dolan acknowledges this usually quoting DorothyDay. While he did not originate the phrase, he does agree. Here is Dolan’s quote taken from this speech. http://www.osvdailytake.com/2010/11/six-insights-from-dorothy-day.html 6. “Dorothy was a woman of the Church. She loved being a Catholic. She loved the Catholic Church. I’m not talking about some nebulous, generic Church. She loved the one, holy, catholic, apostolic, Roman church…She was proud to be Catholic.”
Finally, Archbishop Dolan went on to say that our greatest pastoral challenge as Catholics today is to “respond to those who want Christ without his Church, and their name is legion.” Saying that many people don’t have a problem with Jesus but have “tons of problems” with his Church, he pointed out that Dorothy knew full well the flaws of her Church and loved it anyway:
“She loved the mystical body, but she knew the mystical body had warts galore…Here’s one of her saltier quotes, and there were many: ‘Yes, the Church is the spotless bride of Christ, but at other times, she’s the whore of Babylon.’ Dorothy was well aware of the flaws, the wounds, the imperfections, the ugly side of the Church, but she loved it all the more.”
Bill M “enough to make any Catholic yearn to leave the whole mess for someone else to clean up.” That’s what BXVI did …leave a mess for others… …unless you believe the phony press releases. ‘He hit his head in Mexico’ ‘He is blind in one eye’ ‘he had a pacemaker three years ago’ Revealing secrets is an old diversion for the gullible
BXVI bailed because of the dossier. ‘Bugout’ will be the cry from the priest class too if a clone is voted in.
No Mass on Sunday? … so go twice in the weekdays..try three times. no census count on weekdays.
Peggy asks what would Augustine do. Augustine would say that we should not miss Mass because at the end the Lord will separate the wheat from the shaft. But this was Augustine’s problem. He stressed unity within the church more than virtue within the church. Some say he introduced mediocrity into the church. As long as you are in you are ok without challenging Catholics to be perfect alla the Sermon on the Mount. Thus the Donatist’s main sin was that they were not joined to Augustine’s faction.
“That all may be one.” One, holy, catholic, apostolic. No picking and choosing
Ed, one way of looking at it is that BXVI left the mess to others. Another way of looking at it is that he, having seen and smelled the Augean stables, decided it would take a younger man, and a nastier one than he is, to clean it up. If we want a clean-up, and I do (pace, Rita Ferrone), we had better be praying for a real Rottweiler this time.
But if we don’t get one, the Church will still be the repository of the truths which must be evoked to criticize matters when its leaders become deplorably inept and irrelevant. I don’t think Sikhs or Quakers can help us much with our internal ineptitude.
Maybe one reason to suggest people skipping church is to get them to think about the issues. I honestly don’t think it will have a practical effect on the hierarchy, though, unless a large percentage of people stay away. I don’t see that happening, unfortunately.
“Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.”
@ Lisa Fullam. Why limiting ourselves to just visiting other Christian churches? What about visiting (and maybe) joining other religious traditions? The Spirit (or whatever we wish to call it or her or him or them) blows there too, no? No religion has more truth than another. So why not abandon Catholicism altogether? It can make no truth claims on us, but for feelings of nostalgia we may feel tugs at our hear if we go. But then again if they close the Catholic Church for lack of interest, we may both be out of jobs as employees in Catholic/Jesuit schools
Anthony A.. ” both be out of jobs as employees in Catholic/Jesuit schools’
we lost our employment with the Archdiocese after 10 years and it was a blessing , in spirit and financially. Don’t sweat it.
As someone who spent many years on sabbatical from Catholicism, I can tell you without a shadow of doubt that during that time the world did not end, God did not smite me, nor did I break out in boils.
I think Augustine would yawn. To be honest, there is just not much here to think about. Perhaps Elie should go to Starbucks on Sunday morning, because that is where “justice and peace will kiss” for most people.
To my understanding, Elie is suggesting that we step back from our perhaps unreflective Lenten routine and truly examine our church and our faith. His stated goal is the deepening and strengthening of faith and commitment not the rejection of the Eucharist. I find nothing offensive in his article, unless the challenge to be more conscious of and responsible for one’s own faith development and religious commitment is offensive!
O, Serendipity! Look at what turned up in this morning’s reading:
“I loved the Church for Christ made visible. Not for itself because it was so often a scandal to me. Romano Guardini said the Church is the Cross on which Christ is crucified; one could not separate Christ from his Cross, and one must live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the Church.” Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness, near the end of the chapter titled “Love Overflows”
Hey, I think Elie got it right. The mood of the faithful is as he describes, and I like Jean Raber’s comparison. When are we going to throw open a window? So rather than sitting around in a funk over lack of action, why not do some visiting? (But who has time?) However, metaphorically, he is right. Stepping back can refresh; it’s not abandonment! I’m just hoping that we do get a pleasant surprise with a new Pope and a major change–like (real) married priests for starters.
Prayer: “Give Up Your Pew for Lent.”
Charity: “Stop the cash. ”
Fasting: all we need now is for someone to suggest, say, “Eat some lamb”, and we’ll have a nice alternate plan for Lent.
1) Who is Paul Elie?
2) Do Op-ed contributors get paid?
Paul Elie is a talented writer and an admirer of Flannery O’Connor. The drift of his piece brought to mind a letter written by O’Connor on June 16, 1962. In it she said:
“One of the effects of modern liberal Protestantism has been gradually to turn religion into poetry and therapy, to make truth vaguer and vaguer and more and more relative, to banish intellectual distinctions, to depend on feeling instead of thought, and gradually to come to believe that God has no power, that he cannot communicate with us, cannot reveal himself to us, indeed has not done so, and that religion is our own sweet invention.”
Good luck attending Shabbat services this Sunday, bro.
Waiting for someone to notice the elephant in the Times: Hans Kung 2/28 issue.
Yes, the New York Times is on a tear vis a vis Catholics.
Paul Elie, as far as I have ever been able to ascertain, is a serious and earnest Catholic as well as an enterprising writer. I would guess that he is perfectly sincere in his op-ed piece; that doesn’t make him right. He can, of course, defend himself, but I don’t think it is accurate to imply that he is a Protestant and/or that he is likely to go off and become a Buddhist, Sikkh, etc.
As one who “gave up the [Catholic] pew” in protest some time ago and not just for Lent, I am sad that several of the “professional” Catholics among the commenters don’t seem to understand what Paul Elie is saying. Nor does it seem that they want to. Instead they have put up their fists and adopted a defensive stance. Perhaps their professional pride is hurt by what Elie says, but Elie speaks for tens of millions of Catholics, both those currently still in the pews and those who decided they could no longer enable the dysfunction of the hierarchical class and the system of governance in the church through contributions of “time, talent and treasure.” Are they “anti-Catholic” as Jim Pauwels charges? No – anything but. They love the Catholic church so much that they refuse to continue to enable the dysfunction in their family, hoping that if enough Catholics stop enabling that dysfunction, it will force the PTB to really look and really listen and really think about all that is wrong with the institutional church and maybe begin to consult THE church about what should be done .
Bill Mazella has it right – reread his comments, especially those about the eucharist.
Ann Olivier also has it right – “One person’s not attending is not a protest and would be useless. There would have to be so many that the clergy would notice the empty pews and small collection…”
Especially the small collections – as the bishops continue blindly on their way closing parishes and schools because too many Catholics have already “given up the pew.” And the only thing they can think to do is what Cardinal Wuerl said in Rome this week – “preach to them”. Not “listen to them”. Not “consult with the faithful on matters of doctrine” as Newman counseled.
According to those who study these things, more than 30 million cradle Catholics in America have walked away in the last 20-30 years – one by one, family by family. Nobody is paying much attention because they focus instead on absolute numbers and the immigration from Latin America has helped fill those empty places in the pews. But the signs show that this is likely to be a short-term boost…. And in 25 years…?
And really, is there NO concern about WHY those who have walked away – one by one and family by family – left? Is there nobody in a clerical collar who is willing to actually LISTEN to them without judging them as “anti-Catholic” and calling “despicable” those who publish the lament of those who so love this church they are willing to take drastic actions to demonstrate how much they love it by refusing to continue to enable the sickness, the dysfunction? The laity have no voice other than their presence and their money. So they have to use what voice they have or simply resign themselves to being the doormat on which the hierarchy walk and the wallet that buys their food and shelter.
Ellie wrote a great book; “The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage (2003)
“This long, unusual book consists of interleaved biographies of four mid-century American writers—Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Walker Percy, and Flannery O’Connor—who, though they rarely, if ever, met, are connected by the fact that they were all serious Roman Catholics and therefore alone: isolated both from literary circles (anti-religious) and from the Church (anti-literary). Except for O’Connor, they were converts; they “read their way” to religious experience, and then became writers, so that others could pick up the trail. They were very different—Day was devoted to social service, Percy to philosophy, O’Connor to literature, Merton to the inner journey—and Elie doesn’t love them all equally. O’Connor is his favorite. Merton is the one he struggles with, but, by virtue of his warm, clear writing (better than Merton’s), he makes us care about the self-involved friar, too
Margaret, thanks for that link to the Paul Kennedy piece. I feel much better :-).
Does the Yale Chaplaincy have its own Lectionary for Mass? Professor Kennedy recalls hearing the Gospel of the Good Samaritan (Luke, 10:25-37) a few weeks ago. I don’t. Perhaps because that passage is read twice, but later, this year: the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 14 July, and Monday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, 7 October.
But always a rich passage to preach on.
Also in The New York Times (2 March), a letter of Father David Tracy, University of Chicago:
“I hope the cardinals who are gathering at the Vatican to choose the new pope take to heart the persuasive article by Hans Kung about the state of the deeply wounded Catholic Church (“A Vatican Spring?,” Feb.28).
As statistics demonstrate the majority of Catholics in industrialized countries call for some necessary reforms: an equal role for women at all levels of the church (including women as priests), married priests (male and female), remarriage in the church for divorced Catholics, the election of bishops, a sustained rethinking of many elements of the Catholic sexual code and other needed reforms.
None of these desired changes are likely to occur unless the stranglehold by the Roman Curia on the institutional church is finally broken. But a new reforming pope allied with so many Catholic lay people, religious, clergy, bishops, cardinals and perhaps even some Curia members can together dismantle the Curia and institutionalize the collegiality demanded by Vatican II.”
@ Peggy. I couldn’t agree more with your comment: “New York Times is on a tear vis a vis Catholics.” This week one of Laurie Goodstein’s articles (which appeared above the fold) was subtitled: “A Fallible Conclave.” Come on. Cheap shot.
@ Anne Chapman. While the reasons why many Catholics do not go to Church on Sunday are myriad, surely they are not all to exasperation with the sins of the hierarchy.
Other interesting letters in the NYT this morning:
Two about Bruni’s column, including one from John McCloskey III of Opus Dei, One about Elie’s op-ed piece. One about the Hans Küng piece.
(I wonder if the blackmail issue will be the deciding factor in the papal election. If certain cardinals know they are vulnerable, how will that affect their votes?)
Sorry. meant to write more @ Anne.
In our parish where Paul Elie (a very fine man) worships, I have often been told by parishioners that they will not be at Mass on a given Sunday because of things like kids’ soccer games, skiing in Vermont, a three-day weekend at the country house etc. And sometimes because their teenager just wanted to sleep in (which seems to be more of a parenting issue than one of ecclesiology). So let’s not delude ourselves. The modern world, economy and society may have more to do with why people are not at Mass on Sunday than because of the rantings of some dim-witted auxiliary bishop in Italy or the like.
In my dad’s village people will not be at Mass on Easter Sunday because this year there will not be a Mass there on that day. The people who do not have transportation will do without the Eucharist.
Those who want to go to Mass can’t while those who can go won’t.
Anthony, what you describe (people missing mass occasionally for soccer games or simply drifting out of the mass on Sunday habit because they have never truly internalized what the Catholic church wants them to internalize) is not what either Mr. Elie nor I am talking about.
@Anne. I understand that. But I got the sense that you meant that the corruption of the leaders of the Church is what kept millions away from Mass. Maybe I misunderstood
Anne, Elie associated “most ordinary Catholics” with his views. Anthony Andreass pointed out that the absences from the pews are not solely linked to the deplorable level of leadership we have and that probably the majority of them are not. That sounds about right to me. It’s the “most” and “ordinary” we questioned.
After one of our bishops departed for the new usual reason, a friend told me his Methodist church had 40 Catholic visitors the following Sunday. Most of them drifted back in a week or two. More serious has been the loss of our children’s choir (and, probably eventually our children) to Sunday morning soccer. Well, the parents are devoted to their little angels. Ain’t that family values?
John Page asks:
“Does the Yale Chaplaincy have its own Lectionary for Mass? Professor Kennedy recalls hearing the Gospel of the Good Samaritan (Luke, 10:25-37) a few weeks ago. I don’t.”
One day at Yale is like a thousand elsewhere!
I think that a case could be made that the sex abuse scandal is one cause of a decline in Catholic church membership and Mass attendance. For some it could be a convenient excuse; for others the straw that broke the camel’s back.
In addition, it seems to me that only a small minority of Catholics today believe that they will commit a mortal sin by not attending Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation.
Last week on one of MSNBC’s daytime shows I noticed that the commentator said: “I was brought up Catholic.” I have heard this statement a few times before and it makes me wonder if it can be interpreted as they still have some kind of connection to the Church.
Maybe, maybe not.
Anthony and Tom, Mr. Elie proposed a general strike (so to speak) on a specific Sunday as a way of communicating with hierarchy – or at least a way to try to get their attention with hope that it could lead to communication. TWO WAY communication (AKA, dialogue). I pointed out that some have left more or less permanently (not a one day strike but a long term “giving up the pew”) because of reaching the point of totally being fed up with the governance structure of the church as well as with the failure of the hierarchy to “consult with the faithful on matters of doctrine.” I also wanted to support what Ann Oliver was pointing out – it has to be a lot of people at the same time acting together if the bishops are to notice. Drifting away one by one, for whatever reason, doesn’t have the same impact.
However, it is true what you say – the majority of the millions who have left in recent years (decades), have left without a compelling specific reason such as the ongoing dysfunction of the hierarchy. It is my experience that even most Catholics still in the pews on Sundays haven’t a clue about very much of what goes on in the RC church at the level of hierarchy and Curia. Many don’t even know the name of their bishop. If they like their priests and parish, they see their friends at coffee after mass, they go to bible studies and the kids to CYO etc – they’re good. They like being Catholic, they are part of a huge extended family with familiar rituals and customs, and while often dissenting from official teaching on a range of issues, it’s part of their identity (that is the main reason many former Catholics never join any other religion even though giving up regular practice of their birth religion – their personal identity is too Catholic for that). Most Catholics – every Sunday mass Catholics and occasional or almost never at mass Catholics – ignore teachings (such as contraception) that make no sense to them with little angst, and most also pretty much ignore the bishops on political soap boxes for the same reasons (the bishops aren’t making sense).
But, even if not leaving on “principle”, millions have left and more leave every day. Don’t the PTB wonder why Sunday family activities outside the church are so much more compelling than attending church? Don’t the bishops and other professional religionists in the church want to know why so many Catholics are becoming “nones” or SBNRs? Can they do anything besides condemn and judge those who left as “fallen away”, a form of blaming the victim? Can they look into a mirror and ask themselves how they might be contributing to this exodus? The various studies done demonstrate repeatedly that most “nones”, SBNRs, and church-going (but not Catholic church-going) former Catholics believe in God, seek to live a moral life, want a closer relationship with God (which they usually call “spirituality’). And at this more general level of disaffection with organized religion, the Catholic church is not alone. Yet many religious “leaders” of various denominations again lash out at those who left with some rather extreme diatribes rather than looking in that mirror. But, that issue is a long way now from Elie’s concern and his suggestion.
I don’t go to church anymore and I’m holding on just with my fingernails to still identifying as Catholic. Reading about Mahony calling himself a scapegoat and reading Levada justifying Mahony’s voting in the conlave – this is the kind of stuff that makes me want to completely give up on the church.
Andrew Brown had a post on all this, plus a video talk with Oxford church history prof Diarmaid MacCulloch on how the church needs to change.
Re Levada justifying Mahoney’s voting in the conclave
Levada and Mahoney are the same age, attended the same seminary, and are good friends.
As JAK never ceases to repeat, the Church is not the hierarchy! The hierarchy is just part of the Church, and some of them are admirable people, though not perfect. (Are we perfect?) Too much confidence in people is bound to be betrayed. Only the Lord is constant in His justice and love. And He is always available in the Eucharist and in His holy power, His grace. They are there for us always. Don’t let those ding-bats in the hierarchy distort your faith. They are not the sum of the Church.
@Anthony–You seem to be accusing me of religious indifferentism, when that is far from the case. And when you say (echoing and extending what I said,) that perhaps there’s no good reason to limit ourselves to visiting other Christian churches, but to look to other faiths as well, is that not in keeping with Vatican II and post-Vatican II teaching? Both Nostra Aetate and Dominus Iesus (which quotes N.A.), affirm the “ray of light” in other religions.
So, yes–Christians would learn a great deal about our own (and others’) faiths if we were to show up now and then. For example, there’s little that can rival respectful attendance at a Passover seder to reveal aspects of Catholic faith that may be obscured or invisible to us otherwise. Elie didn’t say “quit the Church, you dupes!” and neither did I. He spoke of a Lenten pause. I suggested that it might be spiritually salutary, both for those who go a-visiting, and for the leaders.
I wonder what a person thinks when they find out a friend has enabled pedophiles to harm new victims through covering up for them. Does friendship supercede ethics?
I don’t think we can say that the church is not the hierarchy and leave it at that. The church, based on decisions made by the hierarchy, is harming people. I think as long as we are part of the church, we are in a way complicit with all it does, and I’m beginning to feel ashamed of belonging to this church.
Crystal – I’m about 75% serious in saying this – don’t read that stuff if it interferes with your spiritual life.
“It goes without saying that a synodical model of this type would have to include substantial lay participation. By this means the neglected concept of a sensus fidelium, as a source of theological insight feeding into the magisterium, would be given new life. And that is what the Catholic laity are longing to see. The Church has put vast resources into producing an educated laity, and an educated laity demands to be heard.
The root of the problem is structural, not personal. An institution with 1.2 billion members all over the globe cannot be run by what is essentially an unreformed Renaissance monarchy and its elderly cosseted courtiers.”
(Thank God for the English: who else would use the term “elderly cosseted courtiers?”)
“Last week on one of MSNBC’s daytime shows I noticed that the commentator said: “I was brought up Catholic.” I have heard this statement a few times before and it makes me wonder if it can be interpreted as they still have some kind of connection to the Church.
I wouldn’t count on it. For one, Chris Hayes is the avowedly atheistic son of a former Jesuit priest.
Yes, I’m trying not to let my feelings about the hierarchy taint my spiritual life. Thank God for Ignatius Loyola :)
(Yes, the “reaonsed” part was very tongue-in-cheek)
There is no reason to be ashamed of the abuses and cover-ups unless you were complicit in them, which I have every reason to doubt. That sort of thinking is just another kind of tribal thinking (assuming that the tribe is responsible when only individual members are). We are responsible for own acts and chosen omissions — so sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (our own!). Yes, we have a responsibility to try to influence the thinking of the other members of our tribal groups (and we’re all members of tribal groups of many sorts!)
Yes, having found out about those horrible events we are responsible to try prevent their happening again if we have the means. Powerless as the laity is, we can still try to get our messages to the bishops anyway. Have you told any bishops what you think? Have you written to your bishop about how he has betrayed you? To the nuncio? It probably won’t do much good, but who knows, you might be an instrument of the Holy Spirit. And get your friends to write or speak, if they have the opportunity.
I don’t agree with Jim P. at all. Ignoring problem is sticking your head in the sand, and it would be wrong. Maybe the only think you can do is complain at dotCommonweal, but there are priests and even, I’ve heard, a bishop or two who sometimes reads what we say. So do you bit. It will all add up, and the good Lord will notice if no one else does.
All of the accounts that I’ve read of what is going on among the cardinals right now is that they strongly agree that there must be some reform, especially of the Curia. People all over the world are complaining about Church leadership, or lack thereof, and there are members of the Curia who also see that it must change. I don’t expect things to change quickly, but now is not the time to waver! There is some hope that the hierarchy is at least starting to see that there are problems at least with its structure — and many, many bishops are in favor of curbing the power of the Curia, and they can influence their cardinals. That’s a beginning.
Feel disgusted, but be not afraid!
Jim McC. ==
Interesting that nobody here has posted the Kung. Hmm. I have never liked the man, even though he has had a great deal of importance to say. I think he exaggerates sometimes, which doesn’t help a bit. Ah, the irony! I feel more kindly towards Benedict the humble though sometimes mistaken theologian than towards Kung, the holier-than-thou liberal.
Jim McC =
In a review of George Weigel’s new book it says that *he* is proposing that the laity have a voice in a new governing structures of the Church! Wow! The times, they do seem to be a’changin’!
Jim, the two responders to Kung’s essay are so juvenile that they can only enhance the value of Kung. An editor of a high school newspaper would not have approved either of these robotic responses.
“Ah, the irony! I feel more kindly towards Benedict the humble though sometimes mistaken theologian than towards Kung, the holier-than-thou liberal.”
Ann, your sentiments as well as others is a result of the “damnatio memoriae” which the Vatican does so well. Indeed, I had to take a double take at feeling sorry for Benedict as he departed from the papacy. It is the power of “teflon” and staging. History will be kinder to Kung than all the theologians you cited. He stayed the course and did not relent under those who truly sought to undermine Vatican II. It would have been very difficult to have the constructive opposition to Rome without Hans Kung. In fact what is best about the great documents of Vatican II bear Kung’s imprint. Mostly everybody else caved in while Kung stuck to his principles. His masterpiece “On Being a Christian” will be read by future generations more than anything by JP II and Benedict XVI.
The Vatican can erase the memory, “damnatio memoriae”, of Haring, Guttierez, Kung, Curran and others. But the truth will come out in their favor.
Bill M. –
I don’t deny that Kung has made great contributions to the Church, and he no doubt has reason to be bitter about how he has been treated by the Vatican, but bitter he seems to be. Pope John he ain’t.
I just got back from Mass. I love the Eucharist. I love the readings, the singing (with exceptions), the preaching (with exceptions), and sometimes the company. I love receiving communion (always). I love being Catholic because of the Eucharist. Here I rant against ideas and people, but my real life is there, at the Mass, and I love being Catholic. I love the Mass! It makes me high. Love it, love it, love it!
But to each their own way to encounter Christ.
It wasn’t Chris Hayes. It was Alex Wagner.
Nope, I haven’t written to any church officials but I do rant a lot against them at my blog :)
I understand what you mean but for me it’s more a personal prayer life that = euphoria. Each to his own :)
Anybody who skips Mass who wants to swing by my place to worship my Cabinet Bull, I’m down. Just bring beer. And lots of it.
For Cabinet Bull.
Ann O: the problem is that Weigel, and, I suspect, you and I would have VERY different ideas as to (1) which kind of laity and (2) and whether any voice that their’our ecclesiastical betters would deign to grant them/us would be anything more than “advisory”, as are current Finance Councils (required by canon law) and Parish Councils (not required by canon law).
Abe: is a cabinet bull one that is issued during an interregnum?
Re Flannery O’Connor, above at 9:39: her description of modern liberal Protestantism is a religion of her own sweet invention.
Agree, Mark Preece. Offensive.
I think for people who identify as Catholic but have serious problems with the institution, Mass would be the very last thing they would give up. It’s at the center of our religion, and it isn’t at all part of the problem.
I can see giving up being Catholic, and I can also see being a pissed off Catholic who shuns everything but the Mass, but I don’t see how one can say they’re Catholic but they’re boycotting the Mass.
Crystal, “I understand what you mean but for me it’s more a personal prayer life that = euphoria. Each to his own :)”
Thank you – you speak for me and many others as well.
“… for me it’s more a personal prayer life that = euphoria. Each to his own :)”
That makes three of us.
I find that following the church year keeps me focused on Jesus and his teachings, and the celebration of saints’ days helps remind me of what Jesus asks us to do in many circumstances. I use Catholic and Anglican prayers, but I mostly identify myself as a “hoper.”
The institutional Church is too fraught with factions for me to know if I’m “good enough” to be at the table; who’s right? Until ALL sinners are welcomed, I’m not going to add possible insult to the injuries of my sins.
I never go to the local Catholic church during Lent, not because I’ve got an axe to grind, but because a) I feel the disapproval of my RCIA sponsors as the new candidates and catechumens go up for prayers and blessings in the run up to the Vigil, and b) the place reeks of fish fry from the Friday before.
Anne and Jean, thanks – it’s good to know I’m not alone :)
I usually read (or listen to) the gospel online at one of these Jesuit sites – Creighton u’sDaily Reflections or Pray-as-you-go or Sacred Space – so I guess I’m not entirely out there, but personal prayer seems like the basis of everything else.