Saturday, October 23, 2010



The Catholic Magazine, Commonweal, has an article by Peter Steinfels who also writes/wrote for the New York Times religion department. He has also written several books and is a practicing Catholic. It is a long article, but well written and with a bit of a different perspective than my rantings in posts below this one, but what he writes is certainly related and does seem to speak of causality, but his causality is a bit different. He speaks of the sex abuse scandal as the nail in the coffin of the Church in Crisis. He blames the hierarchy for not addressing what the people want or ignoring it altogether. I'm not sure where he stands on all the hot button issues that are besieging our Church, the two greatest being the Church's exclusion of women from Holy Orders which thus makes the Church in the eyes of the world to be archaic and anti-women and the Church's teaching on homosexuality and marriage as between one man and one woman only and for a life time, which thus makes the Church look to the world like bigots and anti-gay, fomenting violence against them psychologically and socially. Catholics who are feminists and progressives in terms of the "rights" of "gays" will not participate in the Church if the Church IN THEIR EYES is presumed to be fundamentally flawed and prejudiced in these areas. Your can read the whole long article by pressing the words below to the Commonweal link.

October 22, 2010
Further Adrift
The American Church’s Crisis of Attrition
Peter Steinfels
An excerpt:

"Liturgical language, decorum, and participation. Quality of homilies. The shortage of priests. Celibacy. The role of women and their ordination. Transparency and consultation in church governance at every level, from the parish to the Vatican. Anti-Catholicism in the media. Religious identity and the role of the hierarchy in Catholic higher education and health care. Monitoring of Catholic theology. Abortion and same-sex relations, and the even more combustible demand that Catholic citizens and civic leaders be answerable to episcopal judgments about laws regarding these matters."

When Pope Benedict was Cardinal Ratzinger, he would say that in our current hyper-secular culture which has little or no use for traditional, historic Christianity based upon Scripture and Tradition, that the Catholic Church of the future will be a smaller but purer Church, meaning we'll have Catholics who are believing, practicing Catholics bringing their faith, morals and ethics unabashedly, but peacefully, to the secular world. This may in fact be what is occurring if Peter Steinfels is current in his assumption.

I have terrible mixed emotions about this smaller but purer Church. The Catholic Church has always been like the "dragnet" of Jesus' Gospel parable, collecting all kinds of people which our Lord will sort out at the Last Judgment. Those 70 to 80 percent of Catholics who no longer practice their faith and may in fact describe themselves in terms of the religion as "NONES" need to be with us, to experience God in our worship and to allow God to crack them open to His love and way of life.
How do we do it? Is it hopeless? I think not. We should not be so myopic to think that all has failed and wallow in doom and gloom. But we must be realistic about the smoke of Satan, the secularizing influences in the world, the mass media as the preachers of the Gospel of Secularism and their great success in this, with their news programs and socially progressive television and other media programs. These influence those who watch them more than the Church, the Bible and Tradition.


pinanv525 said...

We live in a culture that is becoming a total "id." People have a natural tendency (called sin) to want to live like psychopaths. The Catholic Church says, very clearly, "Hey, you cannot do that!" Is it any wonder that scores are leaving?

We have heard, for decades now, from the secular media, the marketeers, the minions of "situation ethics" and "moral equivalence that "anything is ok as long as you don't hurt anybody" that any suggestion of self-restraint by the Church is considered "oppression."

I think it is far simpler than the tortured analysis seen in the above article. "They know not, neither do they understand, but walk on in darkness..." "The Light shone in the darkness, and the darkness knew it not." Should we really be surprised?

Frajm said...

PIN, excellent point, any analysis of our current situation must include the biblical analysis which we are reluctant to use and Peter Steinfels article fails to address that as well as many others in and out of the Church.

Anonymous said...

I recall when I first heard then Cardinal Ratzinger's comments about the smaller, purer, Church and wondered if he was crazy or a prophet.

The only part that disturbs me is that some of this smallness was the result of good people being misled and disillusioned with Christ and the Church through the official actions of the congregation or hierarchy. The sex scandal is only the most identifiable of these issues, but in other examples, as pinan gave, members of the Church will succumb to external pressure and either try to qualify obedience or outright oppose Church teachings.

I believe we, in the Church, do not rely on each other enough. We seek approval and not strength from each other. Likewise, we freely offer criticism but not much actual help. There is distinct difference in not having the strength and choosing weakness.

The article can't frame the issue in biblical terms because the author wants to build the same house without God. People love Christian ethics, they don't want Christ; they love being cared for like children, they don't want the Father coming in the room telling them to pick up after themselves; they want to connect with each other 'spiritually' but without the sanctity of the Holy Spirit. They decline accountability. At least they think they do.


pinanv525 said...

Excellent post, RCG. This whole "Christian ethic" thing is nonsense. There can be no "Christian ethic" in the sense of Plato, Spinoza, or JS Mill...and certainly not in the absurd modern sense of a "situation ethic" (that used to be called sociopathy).

Christ taught a highly individualistic "ethic" based upon being attentive to the will of God and, later in the various Epistles, the freedom of the Holy Spirit. The attempt on the part of neo-Protestantism to distill a "Christian ethic" that is separate from Christology has been a total failure and has led Protestantism into the relativistic swamp it now inhabits.

The Catholic Church has rightly insisted that proper Christology and the freedom of the Holy Spirit are inseparably embodied in the Mass, the Sacraments of the Church, and the devotional/confessional life to which participation in these things leads. Christian ethics is nothing other than the Christian life devoutly led. We cannot allow ourselves to make the same glaring mistakes that are clearly evident in neo-Protestant, post Reformation theology.

Jenny said...

For a bit of hope that those voices of dissent (that, I believe, diverted the Church from her true mission), are perhaps beginning to die, please see:

Fr. Curran was one of the first and most vocal to drive the American Church into its present secularism and chaos (dare I say "heresy"?). There is much to be hopeful about; let us pray, hope, and try not impede Love and Light...

Templar said...


Well, obviously no, neither secularism or the gates of Hell shall prevail against her, because Our Lord said it would be thus.

As for is she on the brink and just who is to blame? I suspect a case can be made that the Church has always been on the brink of some tragedy or another, yet here we are 2000 years on. I don't know who to blame, and I guess in the big picture it doesn't matter. For all of the recent discussion about casuality I would only add this: if we can't be sure that the changes caused by the "spirit of vatican II" are responsible for the lose of Catholic Identity, can we just try 40 years of doing things the old way and then we'll have a nice set of evidence to compare the past 40 years to and we can know for sure.

Anonymous said...

A Templar should know how rare the virtue of patience. An easier 'experiment' ala Philosophy Student, would be to allow certain parishes to alternate OF and EF mass, pretty much as they do know, but with strict sampling of attendance, tests of parishioner's knowledge of important areas, and external behaviour in light of Catholic values. Compare parishes over a ten year period and you'd have pretty solid idea of how people responded and the relative worth.