After the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church had to circle the wagons; do we have to do it again with the Secular Reformation that we are now experiencing throughout the world? I report and opine, you decide your own opinions:
I post this with a disclaimer. I've had about 12,000 page views on Sunday for some very odd reason. My blog is a personal hobby and very opinionated. I try to uphold Catholic teaching as I understand it and I am very open to correction. But I do not have a staff; I have a full time day and night job as a parish priest in a small southern town in Georgia. In fact most of the small towns in the Diocese of Savannah don't have 12,000 inhabitants.
I am not a good editor of my own writing and thank God for spell check, my handy-dandy secretary.
But now to the topic of this blog, circling the wagons, is it time again?
I grew up as a Catholic in Georgia where Catholics are a small mustard seed minority. The predominant Protestant Culture, while somewhat hostile to us, nonetheless upholds our Judeo-Christian values, but the liberal, dying mainline Protestant Churches have given into the dictatorship of relativism. Of course there are these forces in the Catholic Church too. While they are winning converts, they haven't yet won the so-called patriarchal, monarchical leadership of the Church, for which I say thank God!
For example, Macon, Georgia which is a somewhat conservative, religious town, but not really very militant about it, is changing when it comes to social mores which are hot-button political issues today. For example:
1. Mercer University, a wonderful Southern Baptist University earned the ire of the Southern Baptist Convention for allowing gay rights organizations on its campus several years ago and lost significant funding from the SBC. Last year without a blink of an eye from the larger Macon Community or its news media (of course our local press does little to report on negative reactions to such, almost a liberal censorship) Mercer University began offering benefits to same sex couples who work for them, equal to what is given to married couples.
2. A small Episcopal Church in town recently hired a male permanent deacon to its staff. He is in a same sex union with his live in partner who is also a permanent deacon. He has preached about his lifestyle at his church and told me that his bishop in Atlanta is in full agreement with his lifestyle. The vestry at his church is too as is his church. He opined that one person on the vestry, while not opposed to his lifestyle, asked him if he intended showing public affection to his lover. She was concerned about that.
As an aside, I asked him if there would be any prohibition against a heterosexual priest or deacon living with an opposite sex partner without the benefit of marriage. He said it would not be allowed and frowned upon. I guess one could say that this is reverse discrimination.
Of course our culture has long sense abandoned natural law as the basis for moral judgments. Catholic teaching observes that natural law makes God's moral law accessible to everyone, believer or not--but that now is irrelevant for most believers and many Catholics too. In fact, I'm not sure if most Catholics understand what natural law is.
So, are we heading for a smaller but purer and more faithful Catholic Church that will be marginalized by the larger society and dissident Catholics within her midst? Will we have to head back to the Catacombs? Will bishops have to excommunicate Catholics who dissent from the Church and sow dissension in the Church and confuse rank and file Catholics so much so that they become ambivalent and stop attending Mass because of all the bickering?
While progressives in the Church want to dismantle the patriarchal, monarchical aspects of the Church to fulfill their own aspirations for a democratized Catholic Church that will bring about in the Catholic Church what has been brought about in all the main-line liberal Protestant Churches (all of which are in decline and on the brink of fall) I think the only hope for a faithful Catholic Church that will uphold the counter cultural teachings of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Deposit of Faith is a patriarchal, monarchical Church not a democratized one.
Pope Benedict's slow but certain "reform of the reform" within continuity and even his olive branch to the SSPX is part of the reformation of the Catholic Church some 50 years after Vatican II first met to chart the future course of the Church. While there have been successes and failures in the implementation of the Second Vatican Council, only a person with his head buried in the sand would say that everything is coming up roses for the Church. The Church, meaning all of us who are baptized, is always called to repentance and reform but based upon the sure and certain historical faith and morals of the Church. As far as institutional reform, we just may have to go back to the 1950's and look at the Council through the eyes of those bishops then and judge the "jack-rabbit" reforms of the last 50 years and say, is this what the bishops of the 1950's really intended; is this what God really intended? These are legitimate questions and not the opining of those who think the 1950's was the apex of Catholicism in this country.
We live in a culture where abortion is legal, divorce and remarriage very common and more and more people are forgoing marriage and simply shacking up and having multiple sex partners. Pro-creation is a bothersome side show to all the fun.
The government, at least the Democrats in this country, are mandating that the Church provide all the benefits of health care and preventative care to anyone who works for our institutions (except for right now, parishes--so considerate of them, no?)
We are now getting hints of government mandates when it comes to same sex marriage and benefits and the Church's hiring and firing practices being controlled by civil law. All of this is being couched within "civil rights" and the Church is more and more outside the parameters of what our secular government understands as "sacred" and "mandated by law." I foresee in the next 20 years that the Church will have her freedom of speech curtailed under laws protecting society from hate crimes. Time will tell, but of course much of this is already occurring in secular Canada which has always been more liberal than the USA politically speaking, at least, since the 1960's.
Do faithful Catholics need to exclude, make anathemas and circle the wagons? Maybe so, maybe we need the armor of protection of not only the gifts of the Holy Spirit but common sense for us to hold onto the truths that worldly temptations and powers and principalities both of this world and the occult would have us abandon.
The Second Vatican Councils desire that the Church dance with relevance, Protestantism, non-believers and religions of all sorts has created false expectations and aspirations amongst the elitist academics in university settings in our Church and confusion amongst rank and file Catholics as to what actual Catholic identity is.
I think it is time to circle the wagons, put on the amour of Christ and being militant Christian soldiers in the most peaceful, non violent ways, using reason and rhetoric as our sharpest sword. How about you?