A Catholicism for journalists?

Two weeks ago, the Sunday Boston Globe magazine ran an essay — not a news story, I admit — that I have been thinking about ever since. It was called “What I Believe” and it was written by Charles Pierce, a staff writer at the publication.

This long essay covers a lot of territory and it’s possible to criticize it — either positive criticism or negative criticism — in several different ways. Most of all, it is a stunningly American look at the earthquakes that have rocked the Catholic Church in the decades after Vatican II and Woodstock.

The key is that Pierce believes that the Catholic hierarchy’s claims to unique religious authority are gone. Period. Thus, consider these two important passages in the piece, as he explains that the Catholic Church in which he worships is his alone. He has a personal church and, he states clearly, he does not need a personal Savior:

In the church of my youth, with the priests reciting incomprehensible Latin, their backs to the people, walled off by an altar rail and two millenniums’ worth of imperial design, the purple always came out at Advent and at Lent. It was the color of penance, we were told. And so it is, and penitence begins within, in one mind and one soul and in what the nuns used to call an informed conscience. That’s where my Catholicism is now. It is a penitential faith. That’s where you can look for it. It is possible, I have come to realize, that I’ve grown up to become an anti-Catholic Catholic.

And then the passage that is being quoted most often:

The Vatican can beg. It can plead. But it can no longer demand.

Which brings me to the most fundamental rule of my Catholicism — nobody gets to tell me that I’m not a Catholic.

Those of my fellow Catholics who remain loyal to the institutional structure of the Church don’t get to do so. People who talk glibly of “cafeteria Catholicism” don’t get to do so. People who seek to coin Catholic doctrine into political advantage — be they left or right — don’t get to do so. No priest gets to do so, and no bishop, either, and that especially means the bishop of Rome himself. No pope can tell me I’m not a Catholic.

Now, it is possible to see this article only through the lens of Catholic faith, practice and doctrine. If you want to see critiques of that kind, they are easy to find. You can start by clicking here and heading over to the conservative site CatholicCulture.org, where you can find this quick and easy linkage between Pierce’s faith and, surprise, his employer:

… (For) decades the Globe has operated on the assumption that the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic. At the opening of his article, Pierce cheerfully identifies himself as an “anti-Catholic Catholic.” Thus he qualifies perfectly as the man who will tell Globe readers what they should believe. …

Nobody can tell Charles Pierce that he’s not a Catholic. Nor can anyone tell him what the Catholic Church teaches. The Church teaches what Pierce wants it to teach. And he believes it all.

Or you can read a blunt post on this topic by Rod Dreher, who, it must be noted, made the difficult and painful choice to leave the Catholic Church in a crisis of conscience. If one does not believe all the claims of the Catholic Church, Dreher would say, one should have the integrity not take its vows and not to receive its Sacraments.

One should, in other words, make a serious, informed decision and then hit the exit door. Thus, Dreher writes:

Hey Charles — you’re not a Catholic! Man up and admit it. You are a Catholic by birth and cultural identification, but you have ceased to believe as Catholicism teaches. Why do you lack the courage to be what you are: a non-Catholic Christian? … A Catholicism in which you have no obligation at all to believe what the Church authoritatively teaches, or to act as it prescribes, is not Catholicism at all. At all. It’s one thing to say that you struggle to accept this teaching of the church intellectually, or have trouble living that teaching out. Everyone does, even the saints. But it’s entirely another thing to say you don’t have to try, and that that’s okay, because you are your own pope. If you don’t believe this stuff, but like to come by the church for the music, or the camaraderie, okay, fine — that’s between you and your priest, and God. But to reject the Church’s authority entirely, as Pierce does, but to still call yourself a Catholic in good standing, is either hypocrisy, or insanity — the insanity of the solipsist.

In other words, Pierce is a congregationalist in a one-man congregation, which is a very American thing to be.

There are plenty of Baptists like that and, obviously, scores of Unitarians. This was the stance of a devout Episcopalian I once interviewed — head of the vestry at the church right behind the U.S. Supreme Court — who was also an atheist. He took his confirmation vows with his intellectual fingers crossed and, Sunday after Sunday, said the creed while redefining the words inside his head. People do things like that and, in his parish, that was what being an Episcopalian was all about.

But the Globe essay would not have stuck in my head like a bad disco tune (and I would not be writing this post) if I didn’t think there was a religion-news angle to this, something linked to what GetReligion is all about.

You see, elsewhere in his essay, Piece writes about some of the details of the current crisis in Catholic sanctuaries in this land and elsewhere and then he says:

Church attendance in the United States is down.

A survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, released in April 2009, found that one in 10 US adults has left the Catholic Church after having been raised Catholic — with Catholicism having had the largest net loss in members of all the major religious groups in the United States. About half of those who departed and now identify themselves as “unaffiliated” left the church because of its views on abortion, homosexuality, and birth control. (In 2009, the American Religious Identification Survey by Hartford’s Trinity College found that, between 1990 and 2008, the percentage of people in Massachusetts who identified themselves as Catholic dropped to 39 percent from 54 percent.) The sexual-abuse scandal, then, erupted within a church that already was struggling with serious demographic pressures.

The implication is that if the Catholic Church would only modernize on these kinds of social issues, these people would not leave and, thus, the church would enter a new era growth and prosperity. New, progressive Christians and young people would flock into the pews.

Right. Right. I hear the voices of the traditional Catholics out there who have a quick response to that argument: “Yeah, just like the Episcopal Church is growing (surf in this file) and all of the other liberal Protestant churches.”

Many traditional Catholics are just as sure that their pews would be full, once again, if only the Pierces of this world would pack up and leave. They note the vitality and growth of a few conservative Catholic orders and the number of men seeking the priesthood in zip codes served by more traditional seminaries and bishops.

But, you see, that’s only half the story, too. Neither side of that debate seems to want to talk about all of the facts. There are ghosts and skeletons in Catholic closets on the left and the right. This era of sweeping changes — think birthrates, the rise of the Sunbelt, suburbanization, immigration and a host of other factual changes — is more complex than that.

At the same time, however, I worry that many journalists think that Pierce’s view is accurate in terms of history, that many journalists truly believe that Catholics — to name one example — truly do not need to go to confession and struggle to live out the teachings of their faith in order to remain practicing Catholics in the sacramental meaning of that word. In other words, the Catholic Church gets to define the borders of the Catholic Church (ditto for the Unitarians, Baptists, Episcopalians and others).

Thus, it would help if the Globe ran another piece by another Catholic in the newsroom — the same placement, the same length — entitled, “What My Church Teaches and Why I Believe It.”

Surely there are Catholics in that newsroom who would welcome the chance to write that essay?

Surely the Globe newsroom is diverse enough for that to happen? Or was Pierce actually speaking for his newspaper, as well as for himself?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • dalea

    This is a beautiful, moving, thoughtful essay. Whose conclusion I really don’t understand. Had I not heard the same general line of thought from numerous Catholics of my acquaintance, I would have just dismissed this as quirky. But there are lots of people out there who simultaneously remain active members of the RCC and reject most of the teachings of the institutional church. Dreher’s position makes sense, in fact it is the most sensible conclusion. It’s what I would do in this position. This is a subject that clearly needs more coverage. Why do people remain members of an institution whose teachings they reject?

    If one in ten adults have left the RCC, that is a number verging on 20 million people. Which is about a third of the entire membership. Could that many have left the church without widespread press coverage? Or is it the old inumeracy problem again?

  • Martha

    The pertinent part of “informed conscience” is “informed”. That does not mean “Well, I think for myself it’s perfectly legitimate to own slaves if the law of the land permits it, so I don’t see what the fuss is”, it means informing oneself of the teaching of the Church and acting in obedience when a Papal Encylical such as “In Supremo Apostolatus” condemning slavery and slave-holding is issued.

    Or we could all emulate Mr. Pierce, as the Catholics of Maryland and the U.S. bishops of the time apparently did, and decide for ourselves that the Vatican is not the boss of us:


    “The Bull was not well received among slave holding Catholics in Maryland which was the center of American Catholic population and governance until the late 19th Century. To avoid penalties from Rome while still supporting the status quo, American Catholic clergy often interpreted the bull as denunciation of the slave trade but not as a denunciation of the institution of slavery itself. To avoid apparent contradiction with Rome, the Catholic bishops in America remained publicly silent on the issue.”

    Oh, and Pope Gregory XVI who issued this condemnation was not a fuzzy liberal by any means, but an Ultramontanist; I have no doubt there were some in his day who referred to him as the equivalent of “Pope Ratzinger”.

  • Susan

    Surely the Globe newsroom is diverse enough for that to happen? Or was Pierce actually speaking for his newspaper, as well as for himself?

    I wonder if a large part of the problem is that a majority of people are clueless about a sacramental Christian faith and about an Augustinian two kingdom perspective that keeps secular politics outside of the historic faith.

  • Passing By

    a stunningly American look

    There it is in a nutshell. Making up your own religion is a fine American tradition, but this guy wants the Catholic label without the Catholic cloth. It’s tempting to call him a “hypocrite” or “self-righteous narcissist”, but “American” says it all. At least the Know-Nothings of the 19th century were openly anti-Catholic. I doubt it will come to the same level of violence as before, though you never know.

    There are plenty of Baptists like that and, obviously, scores of Unitarians.</

    Except that Unitarians, and to a lesser degree, the Baptists, are acting consistently within their theological traditions when they reject the corporate dogmas of their denominations (if the Unitarians can be said to have any dogmas, that is). An atheist Episcopalian is sort of silly, I suppose, but I went through a doubting phase and remained an active Episcopalian on the premise that I might be wrong about the non-existence of God. Charles Pierce, on the other hand, appears to have no doubts about his own theology; in fact, he appears to arrogate to himself a level of infallibility no pope of Rome ever claimed.

  • http://www.opinionatedcatholic.blogspot.com jh

    A good article and I agree if the Boston Globe is going to run a piece like this then there needs to be counterpoint

    I suppose there are few people like Mr Wilson in comment two but for most the issue of child abuse in the Church is just being used as talking point for preconceived ideas. Lets face it we sort of went through this in 2001 and much of what has been reported is old news. I think the Church has started to recover in the USA.

    However I think what you touch on and perhaps what Rod is touching on is this is far than just a Catholic attitude. I know people in Evangelical communites that have the ideas they are their own “Pope” and their “informed conscience” are the ultimate guide.

    Of course one finds that their “informed conscious” is not too informed at all.

    The Charles Pierce’s of the world are abundant all over the place but if you set them down with a informed Catholic or just a informed Christian period on many issues they could not back their arguments based on scripture, tradition, Philosophy, history, natural law, Theology, or consistent Church witness.

    Have we not seen this in numerous stories at just the religious literacy problem most Americans have. Even the agnostic Camille Anna Paglia has ranted how horrible it is because she sees it her class room

    The fact that so many Chrisitian’s think they are experts on everything under the sun is pretty amazing. It brings to mind the Chesterton’s quote:

    “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.” Chesterton goes on to say: “Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”

    Returning to the Globe article is that not really what is going on here. Charles and Bill in comment two might be talking about Popes and stuff but what about the above. That is one reason they leave and become Eastern Orthodox or if they have problems with that become Traditional Lutherans, or Traditional Anglicans.

    Heck maybe they don’t need a Catholic respond. What about just a well informed Eastern Orthodox. Take the Pope and the “opulence of the Vatican” out of the question and I suspect he would not like them either.

  • http://www.opinionatedcatholic.blogspot.com jh

    Correction the above should have read
    “That is one reason they DON”T leave and become Eastern Orthodox or if they have problems with that become Traditional Lutherans, or Traditional Anglicans. “

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I thought Catholic clergy could sometimes get overbearingly arrogant. But Charles Pierce’s broadside is sadly breathtaking in its arrogance.
    As one commenter mentioned here it would be interesting to see how Pierce would handle a dialogue with someone who truly knows the Catholic Faith. Maybe Mr. Pierce might come to realize that he is the quintissential American believer whose spiritual beliefs are just the religious fip-side of the American culture of “rugged individualism.” where it is only natural for a person to set himself up as his own “pope.” While on the other hand the Catholic Faith is what is called a “revealed faith.” It is particular message and set of teachings in a community setting above and beyond the musings of a loner.
    And when one can make a good living from the media giants like the Globe–Times for being an “anti-Catholic Catholic” one is clearly on a lucrative path upward. Unfortunately,the religion of many Catholics is formed by the media which bombards them 7 days a week 24 hours a day compared to the one hour a Sunday Catholics are exposed to the True Faith.
    And so often the secular media preachers present themselves as experts on religion and the Catholic Faith even though all that many have done is spend a night at the right hotel chain.

  • http://goodintentionsbook.com Bob Smietana


    Did you this piece the Globe did on attempts by the Boston archdiocese to bring lapsed Catholic back into the church?

    Thought the Pierce essay highlighted two big new event — the collapse of Catholicism in my home state of Massachusetts and the lack of faith in the hierarchy of the church in the wake of the priest scandal.

    This line from Pierce says it all: “The Vatican can beg. It can plead. But it can no longer demand.”

    That broken trust between lay people and the hierarchy is addressed in the story about Catholic evangelization efforts:

    They can be very effective,’’ said Mara Einstein, a professor of media studies at Queen’s College at the City University of New York and author of “Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age.’’

    “Whether or not people stay is another issue,’’ Einstein said.

    Einstein was skeptical, however, about the “Catholics Come Home’’ campaign’s potential effectiveness because of the damage the church suffered from the sexual abuse crisis.

    “This feels like gloss, like putting a coat of paint on a house that has fallen apart,’’ she said. “You have got to start with the very basics, rebuilding the trust with people.’’

  • Brian Walden

    Bob Smietana, I don’t get the broken trust thing. If you were born after 1970 and you’re Catholic you already know that you were lied to during your entire upbringing. You were brought up on felt and wishful thinking and told it was the Faith. If you managed to survive that you trust the doctrine, not the hierarchy. What I don’t get are the Catholics like Pierce who trust neither the hierarchy nor the doctrine of the Church. Why would you want to belong to a Church who requires it’s members to accept lies as truth? Why don’t they do the logical thing and leave, or at least try to kill thing – how can you reform an organization like that?

  • Dave

    Pierce is a congregationalist in a one-man congregation, which is a very American thing to be.

    There are plenty of Baptists like that and, obviously, scores of Unitarians.

    Unitarian Universalists do not need to go to such lengths, not in an Association with no creedal tests for membership, and adult religious education curricula like “Building Your Own Theology.”

  • Northcoast

    Off the subject of the posting, I’m having trouble reconciling the description “devout” with an Episcopalian who is also an atheist. It appears that the individual was devoted to the church organization but not to its faith.

  • Martha

    JeannieG, I’m not sure whether your comment is meant seriously or sarcastically :-)

  • Alex Garver

    I live in South-Central Texas and every Catholic Church I have attended has been packed full to the point of standing room only, except for a couple of downtown parishes that no longer have residential areas attached to them. We lack the resources and clergy to grow. I converted from the Episcopal church and have been amazed at how large Catholic Churches really are. If Catholic in my town came to mass we would be standing far outside the doors to the church. Which happens every Ash Wednesday. But we have only 1 Priest, and he came from Poland. We are primarily poor and cannot afford more clergy or facilities.

  • Tom

    Martha, me fears Jeannie is serious, JG you seem to be describing Quakerism, what is the value you see in mislabeling it Catholicism?? Some people seem to prefer confusion and vagueness over clarity; why else bend definitions of words beyond all recognition?

  • Michael

    Say what you will about the way Mr. Pierce expresses himself and his religious faith. But when far more than most American Catholic couples use forbidden birth control methods, I have to think he is on to something. My guess is that if the truth were told, 99 percent of professed Catholics, including clergy and religious, do not accept all the teachings of the church. I think the problem arises somewhere between the religious teachings of the church (the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception, the Crucifixion, etc), which people tend to accept, and the social teachings on gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, immigration, warfare, etc., which they do not. Add on a layer of clergy abuse and enabling bishops, and it is the second set of teachings, not the first, that are rejected.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Michael–That many Catholics find some Catholic teachings unpalatable and therefore unbelieveable, but keep identifying themselves as Catholic goes back to the very earliest years of the Catholic Church.
    The Church’s attitude is to not throw such people out but treat them as needing further education in the Faith, further evangelization. But also to oppose those attacking the Faith or misrepresenting it.
    One of the classic traditional Catholic scenes is the bedside return of the prodigal son when given the “Last Rites” (Sacrament of the sick).
    As for the social (moral) teachings of the Church–history will show who is right. Germany turned its back on the pro-life teachings of the Church in the 1930′s–with many Catholics disgustingly joining in. However, 3,000 or so courageous priests wound up in Dachau for not accepting Germany’s deadly version of modern morality nurtured in the genetics and eugenics laboratories–much of it originating here in America under the auspices of Planned Parenthood–the biggest promoter of the modern morality many Catholics have been seduced into accepting.
    However, finding the full scope of this history in the media is very rare. Also very rare in the media is honest speculation about what history shows usually happens to societies that embrace the modern anti-life morality in the list you gave. It may take centuries–but they die eventually.

  • Don

    Charles Pierce shows a view of Catholic dogma that is very “corporate” in its viewpoint. It’s as if he never heard that Christ founded the Church with Peter as the rock with the resulting apostolic succession etc. A bunch of bureaucrats in the Vatican do not sit around thinking up dogma and then sending it off to the Pope to proclaim it. Ergo the statement “The Vatican can beg. It can plead. But it can no longer demand” seems the product of an uninformed individual. Pierce should know that the Church’s dogma (as opposed to liturgical rites and many other things that get confused with dogma) is unchanging and based on 2000 years of Tradition.
    Lastly, pieces like Pierce’s are an excellent reason why people should not turn to the mainstream media for information on religious topics. The MSM simply gets it wrong way too often to be considered a serious source of information on that topic. The same can be said for their coverage of science as well.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Deacon John M. Bresnahan – The media also rarely covers the virulent strain of Christian anti-Semitism that had been endemic in that part of Europe since before Martin Luther, and its contribution to the Holocaust.

    Also very rare in the media is honest speculation about what history shows usually happens to societies that embrace the modern anti-life morality in the list you gave. It may take centuries—but they die eventually.

    How can the media cover a self-contradictory idea? I mean, if you’ve got “centuries” of history to evaluate something, how can it be a ‘modern’ innovation?

  • Dolly

    I read pierce’s essay when it was published and thought: oh, he’s just another one of those Joan Chittister Catholics, who will consent to being ruled by the church the instant the church does what he says. Baby Boomers are tiresome.

  • Alyse

    Hmm, I think I have to take a middle road on this. Pierce’s article seems to address some of the confusion that exists today on just what the church is or stands for. On one hand we have the very orthodox Catholics who seem to want to throw the rest of us out. On the far left are those who want to rewrite the core beliefs and teachings of the church. In between are the rest of us who try to make logical sense of an institution vis a vis our own faith life. We had a somewhat difficult pastor when I was a kid with the result that many left our church (some to attend a nearby Catholic Church). My parents reaction was to say “this is our church and will be long after he is gone. He is not chasing us out.” Although the circumstances are quite different, that is my attitude toward the present crisis (or is it crises). Through my church, my relationship with God in three persons has been nurtured and continues to do so if I make an effort through prayer, reception of the sacraments, and dialogue with other members and our pastor. Another thing I remember from CCD was a prohibition against accepting organizations on “blind faith”. I think that means that I have a responsibility to think and evaluate, even when it comes to pronouncements from some of the hierarchy. I have to balance between accepting everything whole cloth, even when it seems unloving, and rejecting everything because it does not fit with my social conscience. Truth lies somewhere in the middle I think. I like that Mr Pierce was able to express his own dismay and, in the best tradition of the fourth estate, generate thought and comment. On the other hand, I will pray that his painful issues are resolved by a loving Christ.

  • j

    Beautiful photo; Where is it, and what Mass?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Ray–Only science came up with bizarre Master Race theories and all the eugenic and genetic ideas that tossed Jews into a sub-human category worthy only of extermination opening the door to the Holocaust. As bad as Christians were to Jews they never considered them as less than human or some sort of a non-human race. The usual goal was to convert and baptize them and they were regularly being protected by the popes (and many canonized saints) from the ignorant mobs. But most books and articles on the German Nazi era let science and medicine off virtually Scott-free.
    Actually the “modern” anti-life morality is the same anti-life morality that recurs in history and participates in destroying societies. Its “teachings” are at root not “innovations.” In fact there is an old line that seems to fit here: “What is old is new again.”
    It is just that “modern” people like to nurture the illusion that we are so unique that history can’t repeat itself on our watch.
    Yet we are at the stage of Germany in the 1930′s when it comes to eugenics and genetics. Parents are being promised by some a future era of blue-eyed, blonde babies by choice –while at the same time our government is gaining more and more power over the medical scene. Who knows how many Dr. Mengeles are in the wings waiting to do their brand of medicine if the stars align in their favor.

  • Dave

    Parents are being promised by some a future era of blue-eyed, blonde babies by choice

    Hands off that spike button: This is a journalism comment.

    Science is not promising a future of perfect babies. The Quest for the Perfect Baby is wholly a product of journalism, which rushes some bioethicist to print inveighing against that Quest whenever some advance in genetic medicine is announced that has nothing to do with said Quest.


    The other day I received a telephone marketing from a very lef-wing liberal newspaper (with the history of cCatholic bashing etc…) soliciting for subscription, I told the telemarketer, I am sorry but I am unable to subscribe because the newspaper you work with is too liberal for me. He repeated what I’ve said with a question mark, and we ended our conversation.

  • Ella

    Pierce writes,

    “And so it is, and penitence begins within, in one mind and one soul and in what the nuns used to call an informed conscience. That’s where my Catholicism is now.”

    In your criticism, I’m not clear on how one’s choice to obey his or her individual conscience makes him or her decidedly non-Catholic. After all, consider the words of a wise biblical theologian, decades before he himself would become Pope:

    “Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. Conscience confronts [the individual] with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official church.” (Pope Benedict XVI [then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger], “Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II”, ed. Vorgrimler, 1968, on Gaudium et spes, part 1, chapter 1.)

  • Norman

    Ella, the first sentence of your quote, in context, wouldn’t be “For Newman, conscience represents the inner complement and limit of the church principle”, (ie, not “I, Joseph Ratzinger assert…”)would it? And what would the sentences after it say?

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Deacon – read up on Martin Luther’s “On The Jews And Their Lies”, and (a) be very glad that virtually all of Lutheranism’s moved past that, and, (b) consider rethinking the idea that “they never considered them as less than human or some sort of a non-human race”. I won’t post quotes here, they’re easy enough to find. (Though I will suggest “full of the devil’s feces” as a search term…)

    And, er, ‘eugenics’ and ‘master race’ theories had about as much to do with actual science as anti-Semitism had to do with what you would term actual Christianity.

    If you want to discuss this further, feel free to email me. This isn’t the forum for this debate, but I’d really appreciate the opportunity to do so…

  • Jim

    Trying to define for oneself what constitutes Catholicism (or any faith, for that matter)and what doesn’t is not practicing that faith. Only the faith–any faith–can define what constitutes full correct practice of that faith, just as any group can define the requirements for membership.

    It is, rather, a kind of auto-idolatry, a self-worship in which there is no authority–even God–which is greater than oneself.

    The only question remaining is whether the individual is pulling God down to our level (God is merely man writ large) or raising himself to the level of god. Either way, it is an abandonment of Catholicism, of Christianity, and of religion in general.

  • TeaPot562

    Two thoughts:
    First, the largest two Christian denominations in the US have in recent decades (not years; decades) been 1. professing Catholics who attend Mass almost every Sunday; and, 2. those who identify themselves as Catholic, and attend mass no more often than twice a year. (Christmas and Easter)
    Second, inhabitants of Bavaria and Austria since WW II (say 1946) mostly identify themselves on census forms as Catholic; but only a small minority — less than 10 percent — can be found in Church on Sunday. These are, in effect, “cultural Catholics”, but neither active in the Faith nor even necessarily aware of details of Church teaching. Similarly, the typical description of Italian adult males is to be found in Church three times in their span on Earth: for Baptism, Marriage and their funeral. “Hatched, Matched and Dispatched.” This description is intended as humorous, but much truth is found in it, as most attendance at Masses on Sundays & Holy Days seems to be adult females.
    The problems in Europe may relate more to teachings in the schools since the enlightenment, or problems with adults trying to live the Faith since the Napoleonic era, let alone WW I and WW II. “If God exists, how could He permit such evils as …” (the millions murdered by Hitler & Stalin, e.g.; or those slaughtered in WW I)
    None of this deChristianization of W. Europe relates to either pedophile scandals or to failure to “modernize” teachings about morality.
    Perhaps we need more prayer for conversion of historically Catholic countries; both China and Russia seem to have evidence of Christian evangelization having some current success.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Ray—I don’t have your e-mail address nor a way to get it that I know of.
    I went to “full of the devil’s feces.” And found that all the references to that phrase were to Martin Luther’s use of the phrase.
    I read a biography of him many years ago and found him so foul-mouthed and repulsive that I never bothered to pollute my mind with any more of his fulminations by reading more biographies about him.
    Remember, this gross anti-Semitic statement of his was made after he couldn’t get the Jews to join his movement and he was finally thrown out of the Church. The scientists and doctors who were involved in Master Race genetics theories and practices were never “excommunicated” from the scientific “church” until after WWII. In fact, in Germany it was the few that opposed them that were fired from positions or sent to concentration camps–usually with the connivance of Nazi scientists and doctors.
    On the other hand St. Hugh, bishop of Lincoln (about 12th Century), England risked his life to save Jews from a vicious mob. And St. Bernard of Clairvaux left his strictly cloistered Cistercian monastery to put a halt to what some mobs were doing to Jews. And canonization as a saint means that that person’s most prominent saintly actions in general (noone is perfect) are being held up as an example to be followed.
    Incidentally eugenics and race engineering are now promoted on many college campuses and in many scientific-medical venues. And like Germany in the 1930′s -when the Church raises moral issues and questions the Church is told to shut up–and sometimes in just as ugly terms as in Germany. The U.S. even funds to the tune of billions of dollars the organization that first wanted to get rid of non-white races: Planned Parenthood. Some of their earliest leaders were big promoters of the Nazi eugenics programs. PP’s founder, Margaret Sanger, said her goal was to create a “race of greyhounds” here in America and she even addressed a KKK rally. Much of this never makes it into the media where, when they mention her–in a TV movie or elsewhere–is canonized and her virulent racism ignored.