Pod people: Time for liberal Catholics to quit?

In recent weeks, there have been a number of major news stories that have — to one degree or another — pivoted on the sharp doctrinal divisions among American Catholics. Think religious liberty vs. the Health and Human Services rules. Think about the case of Father Marcel Guarnizo and the Buddhist-Catholic-artist-gay-activist Barbara Johnson.

In the midst of all that, the top brass at The New York Times decided to accept an extremely blunt advertisement from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that, well, urged liberal and nominal Catholics to walk out of the pews that they were rarely if ever visiting anyway.

The overarching image? Liberal Catholics, argued this advertisement, are like wives caught in abusive relationships who are afraid to try to escape. The text contains virtually every image that you would ever see in classic anti-Catholic literature. Here’s a key clip from a longer version of the basic text:

You’re better than your church. So why? Why continue to attend Mass? Tithe? Why dutifully sacrifice to send your children to parochial schools so they can be brainwashed into the next generation of myrmidons (and, potentially, become the next Church victims)? For that matter, why have you put up with an institution that won’t put up with women priests, that excludes half of humanity?

No self-respecting feminist, civil libertarian or progressive should cling to the Catholic faith. As a Cafeteria Catholic, you chuck out the stale doctrine and moldy decrees of your religion, but keep patronizing the establishment that menaces public health by serving rotten offerings. Your continuing Catholic membership, as a “liberal,” casts a veneer of respectability upon an irrational sect determined to blow out the Enlightenment and threaten liberty for women worldwide.

You are an enabler. And it’s got to stop.

If you imagine you can change the church from within — get it to lighten up on birth control, gay rights, marriage equality, embryonic stem-cell research — you are deluding yourself. If you remain a “good Catholic,” you are doing “bad” to women’s rights. You’re kidding yourself if you think the Church is ever going to add a Doctrine of Immaculate ContraCeption.

Some were shocked, shocked to see the Times leadership publish this ad and wondered if the nation’s most prestigious newspaper would accept a similar item that, well, urged progressive or moderate Muslims to flee their ancient and dangerous faith. Sure enough, one of the usual suspects quickly produced an advertisement that, in terms of images and rhetoric, was a line-by-line tribute and/or satire of the anti-Catholic screed. Click here to see it.

To no one’s shock, this anti-Muslim screed was rejected by Times executives.

(Cue: audible yawn) All of this was highly predictable, of course.

However, I thought there was an interesting subject lurking just below the surface of these boiling waters. Here’s the key question: Why DO so many doctrinally liberal people remain members of the Catholic Church? Why don’t they do the logical thing and join, oh, a visually Catholic Episcopal parish down the block? I once put that question to Andrew Sullivan in an online exchange and there was immediate silence on the other side of that exchange in cyberspace.

At the same time, statistics produced by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life have made it clear that millions of people are leaving Catholicism — roughly four people headed out the Catholic doors for every one who comes in through conversion. The bottom line: One in 10 American adults is an ex-Catholic, of one form or another. Many simply join the masses of unchurched Americans. Many head to conservative churches and a few head into liberal Protestantism. Click here to see the specifics.

While surfing through some reactions to the anti-Catholic ad in the Times, I bumped into some America commentary by theologian Tom Beaudoin, who teaches at the Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York City. He is currently doing research into “deconversions” among what many call the “secular Catholics” on the doctrinal left.

Pay close attention:

Whatever one thinks of this ad, it seems to mark a particular moment in the unfolding history of the Catholic Church in the United States. That a full-page ad in one of the most influential newspapers in the country would ask members of a major religious group to walk away from that group is an extraordinary occurrence.

I hope that before people take sides pro or con on the ad, before the tendency to separate into “evil vs. good” or “good vs. evil” here, we might be able to take this opportunity for some serious thinking, and ask: What is happening with religion in general and Catholicism in particular today that would make such a moment possible?

The ad trades on the newly widespread awareness that Catholicism is shedding adherents: that most Catholics live on the “lower” end between moderate and marginal affiliation, instead of high affiliation, and that a great many are actively disaffiliating. It trades on the widely understood distance between most Catholics’ beliefs and practices and official teaching on certain matters. Most important, as far as I can tell, is its remarkably confident appeal to a kind of personal agency that would make Catholics, who so often see religion as something akin to an ethnicity, walk away from it.

Whatever you think of the Freedom From Religion Foundation advertisement, and whatever you think of Fordham, the Jesuits and what not, the numbers indicate that there is a huge story looming over these debates (and I’m not talking about the wisdom of ad policies at the Times).

Once again, we are dealing with the myth that there is one body of Catholics in America with one set of beliefs. Truly, the spirits that drive the various camps within American Catholicism are legion.

Beaudoin responded to my emails and discussed what he sees happening on the Catholic left. That conversation became the hook for my Scripps Howard News Service column this week and then the weekly GetReligion “Crossroads” podcast. Here’s a bite or two of what the Fordham theologian had to say:

“Secular Catholics are people who were baptized as Catholics, but they find it impossible to make Catholicism the center of (their) lives, by which I mean Catholicism as defined by the official teachings of the church,” said Beaudoin. For these believers, there are “things that they learned about faith from Catholicism. Then there are things they learned from their jobs, from school experiences, from their music and from their favorite movies.

“They are hybrid believers and their faith comes from all over the place.”

And what about those Pew Forum numbers?

In the end, it’s impossible to ignore this mass of “secular Catholics” because it’s such a large chunk of today’s church, he said. In some parts of America, various kinds of “secular Catholics” now constitute a clear majority, while those who affirm traditional dogmas and doctrines are a minority.

Some of these “secular Catholics” eventually leave the church. Others choose to remain on membership rolls, on their own terms, because they find it hard to walk away, said Beaudoin. After all, there are parts of Catholicism that they affirm and they know they can ignore the parts that they reject. They have changed the church for themselves.

From his perspective, Beaudoin said it’s important to believe that this trend is “not the result of lethargy, laziness, relativism, heresy or apostasy. … There will be Catholics who insist on saying that these secular Catholics are falling away from traditional Catholic norms. But I think it would be more helpful to talk about them not as having fallen away from the Catholic faith, but as having created new, evolving spiritual lives for themselves.”

That sound you hear is traditional Catholics screaming in protest.

However, think this over. If roughly 3 to 5 percent of American Catholics are going to confession on a regular or even occasional basis, then how many Catholics are left who are actually attempting to live according to the teachings — most of the teachings, let’s say — of their faith?

I remain convinced that it’s impossible to write about Catholic life today without taking this into account in the vast majority of news stories and columns.

Just saying. Enjoy the podcast.

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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.

  • Martha

    I think the newspaper is entitled to run any ad that it can get paid for (as long as it meets the criteria of “legal, decent, honest and truthful” as espoused by the Advertising Standards Authority over here or whatever standards the American self-regulatory body proposes).

    I think the Freedom From Religion Foundation is entitled to exist, to promote itself and its aims, and to purchase any ad space as above.

    Yes, it pretty much was the “same old, same old” list of accusations, but they may have have an unintended effect; was I the only one who had an objectionable smirk plastered on her face as she went “Hell, yeah!” at the part about “If you imagine you can change the church from within — get it to lighten up on birth control, gay rights, marriage equality, embryonic stem-cell research — you are deluding yourself”?

    I found the editorial cartoon the most annoying, because if it’s not such a big deal, if it’s such a small thing, then why can’t the Health and Human Services Department drop it? You could just as easily have the first panel replaced by a picture of Kathleen Sibelius or any of the names mentioned in this story (Barbara Boxer, Jeanne Shaheen, Valerie Jarrett, Tina Tchen, Melody Barnes, Judith L. Lichtman, whoever represented the Planned Parenthood Federation of America); if it’s only a small little nothing, why all the fuss from that side?

    You’re right that a follow-up story on why don’t liberal Catholics leave, or who is the Catholic left, or does the Catholic Left (whoever they may be) actually represent the mass of nominal/cultural/individual-spirituality Catholics? That’s the part that would interest me: it’s all very well to say that there is an overwhelming majority of Catholics who don’t follow the bishops or the hierarchy, but that does not necessarily translate into automatic support for all the activist groups. Joe and Maggie Lapsed may be cohabiting, use contraception, and sleep in on Sunday mornings, but that doesn’t mean they want to see a lady priest on the altar instead of Fr. Mike when they attend St. Petunia’s for the wedding of Joe’s cousin.

  • dalea

    tmatt asks:

    Here’s the key question: Why DO so many doctrinally liberal people remain members of the Catholic Church?

    I would love to see more coverage on this. I have known many people who disagreed with virtually all the teachings of the Catholic Church, were very vocal about this their disagreements and still remained nominal or even active members of their local parish. My suggestion that if they did not agree with the church, they should leave was also met with silence. This is a very strange phenomena that really needs in depth coverage.

  • midwestlady

    “…it’s all very well to say that there is an overwhelming majority of Catholics who don’t follow the bishops or the hierarchy, but that does not necessarily translate into automatic support for all the activist groups”

    This is huge and it’s the thing that the dissidents haven’t ever been able to get their heads around. Many people would, in fact, like to be better Catholics but being a good Catholic is difficult and the sacrifices are large. So there are many Catholics who profess, but their performance may be flawed, and even they know it, and hope daily for God’s mercy. However this does not mean that they are dissidents, who are something else entirely. They are merely rather normal people who are trying.

  • http://gottagetgoing.blogspot.com Kunoichi

    Semi-related, this “comic” is popular among the atheist/Secular Humanists (that’s their own definition of themselves) are getting giggles out of.

    http://a7.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/s720x720/417053_408833055808794_153786011313501_1533640_842886091_n.jpg

    What I notice about groups that makes things like the ad written about here, or comics like the one I linked to, is that they like to reframe religious positions into characatures of the actual positions, then mock them for the characature rather then what the actual position.

    I’m seeing that a LOT right now, as I live in Alberta and our provincial government is changing our education act that ties it to the Alberta Human Rights Act and gives educational power over our children to the government. The media and proponents of the changes are painting opponents as being religous extremists who want to teach their kids to hate gays. :-/

  • http://SyteReitz.com Syte
  • Bern

    There is an assumption here that all “liberal” Catholics are not weekly churchgoers. I can assure you this is not the case. The “mocK” ad aimed is not at all the same thing, anymore than it would be if aimed at, say, Baptists. Yes, it’s religion but it’s also about structure: the RCC is pretty unique in it this. It’s also pretty unique as it’s a REALLY REALLY BIG target. I don’et have a problem with that.

    Look, the traditionalist Catholics would excommunicate all the “non-traditionalists” in a heartbeat. The bishops would do it, too, but they simply can’t afford it–not now anyway. Once the traditionalists outnumber the “liberals” then maybe they will. I should be pushing up daisies by then.

  • http://www.anotherthink.com Charlie

    I think it’s fascinating to consider that there are “secular” Catholics. It feels like an oxymoron, but we have long accepted that there are a great many secular Jews who self-identify culturally with Judaism but embrace atheism or Buddhism or… as their primary faith framework.

    It would be interesting to find out just what the faith practices of a typical secular Catholic look like. Do they attend mass? Do they have their children baptized? Do they pray? Do they look for support from their church in times of need? It seems like a topic that might interest the folks at the Pew Forum, especially given the stats on the exodus from the church.

  • Dave

    Once again, we are dealing with the myth that there is one body of Catholics in America with one set of beliefs.

    Are we, now? Seems to me that the advt explicitly targets one ideological/practical cohort of Catholics in a way that implicitly distinguishes them from others — ie, those who do willingly embrace what the Church does.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    There should also be some honest look by the media into the effect their constant biased reporting and constant anti-Catholic entertainment (especially comedy) has on Catholics and others.
    Is there a comedy show on TV that doesn’t positively portray those who regard sex as a recreational sport and negatively portray those who regard sex as a sacred component of marriage???
    In the short run the anti-Catholic, anti-traditional Christian morality crowd can seem to be winning by seducing Catholics into being secularist fellow-travelers and to turn their backs on their Church.
    But in the long run, the Catholic Church’s 2,000 year old struggle on behalf of life is a winner even if it takes 2 or 3 centuries for the truth to out: That forced sterility in marriage, sterile gay “marriage,” abortion-on-demand, divorce and the destruction of the family unit, etc. are genocidal dead-ends for those families or cultures that embrace anti-life values and practices.
    Oddly enough, it was a media analysis of a media poll that brought this home to me a few years ago.
    A poll had been published showing that younger people were more anti-abortion than middle-age people. But why??? a Wall Street Journal reporter tried to figure that out. Did people just get more conservative as they got older???
    So who were these pro-life young people??? Answer: many were children of pro-life parents (note-the Romney’s 5 and the Santorum’s 7 and the Palin’s and the Bachman’s, and the TV Dugger’s very large families by modern standards).
    And why weren’t there more anti-life young people in the poll?? Well, it is hard to respond to a poll when you have never been conceived or have been exterminated in the womb because those who would have been your parents decided that they didn’t want to be part of continuing the chain of life. My wife and I have 4 children (double the national average). A doctor, because of blood problems, wanted to kill our youngest in the womb. Now,HE, along with our other kids are extremely pro-life (a candidate better be pro-life to get their vote) and raising large families.
    In otherwords anti-life secularism can only succeed if it is drawing “lapsed” Catholics into it’s anti-life web. For an anti-life culture and society has no biological future although it may take centuries for the truth to out.That is also why, in spite of the media’s trying to make all these only “women”s issues”, reproductive issues are of serious societal consequence to both men and women.

  • Jeff

    It was redundant to take out an ad like this in The New York Times.

    As usual, the “brights” are rather dim …

  • Will

    What I notice about groups that makes things like the ad written about here, or comics like the one I linked to, is that they like to reframe religious positions into characatures of the actual positions, then mock them for the characature rather then what the actual position.

    Not only that, but their debating style is to assert “This is what YOU believe.”

  • Roberto

    Why DO so many doctrinally liberal people remain members of the Catholic Church? Why don’t they do the logical thing and join, oh, a visually Catholic Episcopal parish down the block? I once put that question to Andrew Sullivan in an online exchange and there was immediate silence on the other side of that exchange in cyberspace.

    In some ways, you are asking, if not the wrong question, a question that only makes sense in a Protestant context. If the MSM doesn’t “get” Catholicism, neither do many of its non-Catholic friends.

    Catholicism contains, to borrow a line from Whitman, multitudes that other western Christian bodies don’t. (I will not presume to speak about Orthodoxy.) Being fissiparous is the protestant response to disagreement. In Catholicism, schism is arguably the biggest sin — it negates the catholicity of Catholicism.

    So, the response to disagreement is to slug it out, for centuries if need be. (Catholicism is about taking the long view.) The Jesuits and Dominicans argued vehemently about grace and free will for centuries. (The Jebbies accused the Dominicans of being Calvinists and the Dominicans returned the favor by calling them Pelagians.) It got so heated that several Popes told them to cut it out. But they didn’t.

    The point is that, if this had been protestants, you would have had at least 28 dominations come out of the fracas. Instead, since neither could go anywhere, they slugged it out.

    Why don’t liberal Catholics leave? It’s their church, too. Why should they unless “liberal” is synonymous with “indifferent.”

    Yes, people are leaving Catholicism but, most of the time, it’s not about doctrine and it sure as heck is about politics: it’s about the marketplace of religion. Other churches, or no churches at all, “meet their needs,” at least until they don’t. As Ross Douthat has pointed out, in this respect, Marco Rubio is very typical.

    My personal theory is the suburbanization of America has been especially bad for Catholicism, which requires proximity and routine to create the kind of “thick” connections that sustain it. It’s not made for a car-dependent lifestyle.

    You keep on bringing up the whole confession thing. As one of the “3 or 4 percent,” let me tell you that going to confession as a suburban Catholic can be a pain in ***. My parish, which is more Catholic than the Pope, has confession at 9:30 on Saturday mornings and 7:30 Wednesday night. Think about what that means logistically for working parents. My solution is to make an appointment, which I can do since I work out of my home. Others aren’t so blessed.

    When I was a kid, St. Theresa’s was, one, walking distance, and, two, a lot of the kids attended the parish school. Logistical problem solved. No car or special trip needed.

    To me, it’s not a coincidence that the population were Catholicism is strongest in the US is among immigrants who tend to live in the same communities, often the ones left behind by the parents of today’s suburban Catholics. We don’t talk about them but, hey, they’re Catholics, too.

  • Maureen

    To people who stay Catholic, the question “Lord, to whom can we go?” is not best answered by “Down the corner, second steeple to the left, you’ll recognize that the rules are easier.”

    Conservative Catholics may complain about their more liberal, secular, or dissident brethren, but everybody involved knows what’s going on. There isn’t any other Church to join, for us.

  • Jeff

    Maureen,

    Actually, there are lots of other churches to join, you simply choose not to join them — which is fair enough.

    Those other churches consider your church to be *a* church, just not *The* Church — as indeed it’s not, but just a part of it, as all the other churches are.

  • Jerry

    Those promoting that ad and some people are missing an elephant in the room (aka “the blind men and the elephant”). The Catholic church cares about many things including things that political liberals care about. To ignore those things is why so many go offbase. For example:

    The Catholic Church and the Department of Justice have filed lawsuits to stop the enforcement of Alabama’s new immigration law,

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/church-and-justice-department-bring-lawsuits-over-ala.-immigration-measure/

    Then there is the death penalty http://www.gazette.net/article/20120309/NEWS/703099624/1016/death-penalty-opponents-speak-up&template=gazette

    Then there are social justice and union issues

    As lifelong Catholics who are interested in a bit more than Catholic teachings on contraception and traditional marriage, we enthusiastically support the Rev. Michael Seavey’s excellent Maine Voices column (“Egg farm workers’ rights should not have an expiration date,” March 5) decrying the recent Republican-led partisan vote in the Maine House of Representatives stripping collective bargaining rights from workers at the former DeCoster egg farm in Turner.

    http://www.pressherald.com/opinion/catholic-social-justice-concerns-eclipse-culture-war-rhetoric_2012-03-14.html

    So a true “sweat the details” Catholic would presumably be against birth control, the death penalty, abusive anti-immigrant laws and for social justice/union activities because Catholic Priests and Bishops have voiced their concerns in all those areas.

    And for all I know, there are a number of Catholics who agree in theory with the Pope about birth control but think that mankind is too fallen into sin right now to generally adhere to the Pope’s teachings.

    So I think that anyone who tries to cast what is going on in the Catholic church in simplistic terms is ipso facto making a mistake.

    As an aside, I think Roberto’s point about commuting to church is a good one. And his point about there being other factors involved in the low confession rate also has merit.

  • Jeff

    “Those promoting that ad and some people are missing an elephant in the room … The Catholic church cares about many things including things that political liberals care about. To ignore those things is why so many go offbase.”

    Well, I beg to differ a little bit, Jerry.

    The *real* elephant in the room is the fact that political liberals don’t really care all that much any more about issues like the death penalty and “social justice” that are important to The Catholic Church.

    There are two and only two non-negotiable tenets of contemporary liberal politics:

    (1) Support for and promotion of abortion.

    (2) Support for an promotion of homosexuality.

    On those two matters, contemporary liberal politics and The Catholic Church are implacably opposed.

    That is why political liberals from Freedom from Religion to The New York Times to The Democratic Party are presently attacking The Catholic Church.

    The Catholic Church is perceived as an enemy of the only two things to which political liberals are committed in an absolute way.

  • http://revolutionofhearts.wordpress.com Katharine

    Probably one of the worst things from this ad was the number of blogging Catholics who agreed with them. Many of these bloggers are young. As a young Catholic who is a liberal Catholic, It’s incredibly insulting that within the Church we’re viewed as not needed. We’re negotiable. So many “traditional” Catholics would rather us be gone. So why stay where I”m not wanted?

    But why do I stay? I’ve asked myself this a lot lately. I stay because of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. I stay because I see hope, at least hope in the Social Justice encyclicals. The Church I know and love extols faith, charity/justice, and love. Unfortunately, the broader church has an isolationist view, one that has room ONLY for Catholics who are JUST LIKE THEM.

    But I stay. A friend told me I could change the Church from the inside. I pray I love my Church enough to be like St. Mary MacKillop–she loved it so much she was excommunicated by it.

  • http://gottagetgoing.blogspot.com Kunoichi

    “I think it’s fascinating to consider that there are “secular” Catholics. It feels like an oxymoron,”

    It’s actually not an oxymoron when you know the word is actually religious in origin. The word meant “in the world.” When an aspiring priest, nun, monk, etc. took their vows, they had a choice to live a “religious” life, isolated from the world, or a “secular” life within it. The term extended to include others who worked within the church but did not take vows. It is only in relatively recent times that the word has come to be used as “not-religious.”

    So technically, virtually all Catholic priests are “secular” becuase they live and serve “in the world.”

  • teahouse

    Kunoichi,

    it actually is an oxymoron if you take Catholic in a religious sense.

    Saying that “secular” has a meaning that might fit is not enough. Sure, “secular” traditionally meant “not belonging to an order” just like “religious” meant “part of an order”. These denotations are still valid but in the context given, they are not applicable.

    However, “Catholic” in the context of “secular Catholic” refers to a general attachment to Catholic culture without a similar attachment to the actual religious content of that faith.

    PS. Technically, sentence beginning with “technically” are daft.

  • teahouse

    Katherine,

    it’s not that anybody is not wanted (narrow-minded people notwithstanding) but neither the Catholic Church nor any religious body is a free for all.

    The Church has not “weeded out dissidents” for a long time and I applaud that (at least in regard to laypeople*), but the question remains that the Church has its body of doctrine which is non-negotionable.

    So, a layperson disagreeing with this and that (and it is disagreements that are the issue, not agreements) can of course stay (but should ask him/herself why) but he/she may not demand a change to doctrine.

    Whether “Changing the Church from within” is the most obnoxious intention imaginable depends on what change is desired: is it a change towards a deeper understanding and a fuller application of the gospel and Catholic religion, including sometimes overlooked parts of it? That’s good! Or is it a change away from biblical and Catholic values? Towards likening the Church to the world? That’s not a valid change to pursue from within!

    *With clergy, things stand differently: the Church should have to endure its own personell railing against the Church and its core of doctrine and values. In no environment would this be accepted, but the Church is expected to hire, keep and pay dissidents. Unfortunately, this all too often happens, which is why the “liberals are not wanted” complaint is a bit odd.

  • Chris

    Jerry (in #13):
    Thank you for pointing out that there are “seamless garment” Catholics. Those who have gone beyond politics. They are not liberal or conservative. They can admit when they are wrong–they have conversions of the heart! They are always in the minority, but from among them come the saints and martyrs. The saints are one reason people stay in Catholicism–even Andrew Sullivan. Saints drop your jaw. They engage the whole world. They challenge everyone across the spectrum. They are not comfortable. Some are well known. Mother Teresa, Bishop Romero, Maximilian Kolbe, Francis of Assisi, Augustine of Hippo, Damien of Molokai. Some are unknown, or known only to a few.

  • http://revolutionofhearts.wordpress.com Katharine

    teahouse: the kind of change I meant was the first kind–just to be clear!

  • Julia

    Speaking of Catholics to the Left – the National Catholic Reporter has done a comprehensive study on “Catholics Today” that addresses a lot of the topics/issues mentioned in that NYT ad and in this comments thread.

    http://ncronline.org/AmericanCatholics

    One section of the survey concerns “committed” Catholics and whether there are fewer of them these days.

    American Catholics continue to maintain a moderate to high degree of commitment to the church. As in past surveys, we assessed our respondents’ commitment by combining their responses to three separate questions: “How important is the Catholic church to you personally?”; “Aside from weddings and funerals, how often do you go to Mass?”; and “On a scale from 1 to 7, with 1 indicating you would never leave the church, and 7 indicating you might leave the church, where would you place yourself?”

    http://ncronline.org/news/catholics-america/trends-catholic-commitment-stable-over-time

    The survey also addresses reactions to the abuse scandals, the changing life of parishes, access and content of Catholic education, etc.

  • Julia

    Kunoichi said

    It is only in relatively recent times that the word has come to be used as “not-religious.”

    It’s fascinating what has happened to words like “scandal” and “secular” in a time when news reporters have never been exposed to the original meaning of these words.

    In addition to “secular” denoting diocesan clergy as opposed to “religious” order brothers, sisters, nuns and priests, “secular” could also distinguish between laity and clergy/religious. A “secular” university or government had no church affiliation or involvement. It might employ or have leaders who are individual Christians, but no official church participation.

    It’s my understanding that is what France’s “laicite” means – no clergy or official church participation in government. It doesn’t mean “atheist” or “agnostic”.

    It’s my guess that the phrase “secular Jew” set off the drifting of the meaning of “secular” to mean “non-religious” or “unbeliever”.

  • Craig

    Look beyond (while considering) all the stats and news stories: We are [simply] in a time where only a minority attempt to follow Holy Mother’s teachings. Plain and simple. You may fail at times, like all of us, but you try, try, again. That’s why we have the Sacraments, eg, Confession. There is no need to accommodate anyone-just obey your loving Mother and Her Church.

  • Roberto

    Look beyond (while considering) all the stats and news stories: We are [simply] in a time where only a minority attempt to follow Holy Mother’s teachings.

    Agreed, with one proviso: there has never been a time when this was not true. To be Catholic is to understand that Jesus meant what he said about “sheep and goats” and “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord.’” It’s to understand that those who you consciously or unconsciously assign to “goat” status may be “sheep” and vice-versa, starting with you.

  • Deblette

    Catholics leave the Church because they do not know their faith. They do not know the history of the Church or of Christianity. They do not know Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist and most likely, they do not know Jesus Christ at all, beyond stating he is the son of God. That is why they can leave and go to any of the other 20,000 presumably Christian sects. Nothing is really required. They have no Sacraments, they have no Jesus present, they (man) decide what Jesus meant and then they argue it, bend it, twist it and attempt to make it fit their lives. If anyone who is truly a follower of Christ or truly a member of HIS Church, can state that the Lord God taught us to kill his unborn creations or that homosexual sex is normal and should be applauded, that marriage was not meant for one woman and one man, then they do not know Jesus Christ in the least. If they call themselves Catholic and they follow the Democratic party, who no longer care anything about anything other than extolling the worst of humanity, then please, leave the Church. Go until you can actually discover God and then want to receive his Grace via his Sacraments and his Church. I was a Democrat up until the age of 51. I did not leave the party, they left me. They are not the party of Catholics. They are not the party of Christians. If you want to be a part of the people who take out ads attacking God’s Church. Go. We will pray for you as we pray for all souls who have not found God and we will welcome you back with open arms when you do. Just please, don’t show up each Sunday and pray the Creed with me, when you don’t believe it and don’t receive Jesus if you don’t believe he is present or if you work actively against his teachings. You don’t have to care what I think about you either, you have to focus on what the Lord thinks. It is your soul and there is a battle being fought for it. It is not of this world, but your choices in this world will determine where whether or not you are a winner or a loser for all eternity.

  • Jeff

    “They can leave and go to any of the other 20,000 presumably Christian sects. Nothing is really required. They have no Sacraments, they have no Jesus present, they (man) decide what Jesus meant and then they argue it, bend it, twist it and attempt to make it fit their lives.”

    This is a grotesque statement and an insult to the half or more of the worlds Christians who are not Roman Catholics.

    Orthodox Christians, Anglican Christians, Lutheran Christians, and Reformed Christians do indeed have Sacraments and Jesus Christ is indeed Really Present in the Eucharist even when celebrated in parts of The Church that are not parts of the Roman Catholic church.

    What half or more of the Christians in the world do not have is the mistaken assumption that the Roman Catholic church alone is The One True Church.

    They don’t have that or the various scandals within the Roman Catholic church — though, of course, they have scandals of their own.

  • Alejo

    “But I think it would be more helpful to talk about them not as having fallen away from the Catholic faith, but as having created new, evolving spiritual lives for themselves.”

    What? Why can’t some of these Jesuits call a spade a spade? It’s like some priests (especially Jesuits and Maryknoll among others)just can’t be honest with themselves or others. When someone blatantly disobeys the Faith, no longer has Christ as the center of his or her life, does not attend Mass, and hardly knows the basic tenets of our Faith then they have effectively left the fold. Canonically they are still Catholics but if they continue that path they will end up in Hell just like anyone else who rejects Christ. It may be uncomfortable (not sure why if you really are a Christian) but it is the Truth. My observations would lead me to believe that only 20-30% of Catholics that attend mass actually follow their faith. It is very sad but I agree with the Ad. The Church is a hospital for sinners so not everyone will be holy or even strive for holiness. Still, it would be nice to see this hospital have a few people take their pills and follow the health plan.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    What is happening with religion in general and Catholicism in particular today that would make such a moment possible?

    No, what is happening in journalism that a leading newspaper can print pure hateful bigotry? Throw in the bit about refusing the anti-Muslim ad and one can only wonder at the hypocrisy.

    But I think it would be more helpful to talk about them not as having fallen away from the Catholic faith, but as having created new, evolving spiritual lives for themselves.”

    The absurdity and incoherence of that statement is breathtaking, but probably not directly relevant to journalism.

  • Mr. Hitchens

    “What is happening with religion in general and Catholicism in particular today that would make such a moment possible?”
    It’s called the “internet.” Millions are now exposed to the logic of atheism/humanism. Once you go here, religion dies real fast.

    “Here’s the key question: Why DO so many doctrinally liberal people remain members of the Catholic Church?”
    Answer: $$$$$$$$ and Democrat Party politics.

  • Jerry

    Chris made an important point when he mentioned the Saints. Many Protestant churches have women as ministers but don’t have a theology which really includes the feminine. The Catholic Church does not allow women to become priests but honors the Mother of God and recognizes many women as saints. Saint Catherine even had a role in the “Great Schism”, a time of three Popes.

    There are undoubtedly women who would like to see women as priests but who stay within the Church because it recognizes women as Friends of God (saints).

  • Martha

    “Here’s the key question: Why DO so many doctrinally liberal people remain members of the Catholic Church?”
    Answer: $$$$$$$$ and Democrat Party politics.

    Please expand: why would voting Democrat and being doctrinally liberal go with remaining Catholic and not becoming a Lutheran (ELCA), Methodist or Episcopalian, all of which permit female ordination, divorce, remarriage in church, and leave the question of contraception and abortion up to the individual conscience at the bare minimum, as well as not being believers in transubstantiation and other mediaeval superstitions?

    If you’re trying to say that historically, for instance, a lot of Irish Catholics voted Democrat and that the Democratic Party feels it can appeal successfully to a liberal Catholic base, that still doesn’t answer why Joe Lapsed who votes Democrat continues to call himself Catholic instead of ‘nothing’ or ‘Christian’ or ‘spiritual not religious’.

  • SouthCoast

    “going to confession as a suburban Catholic can be a pain in ***.” Amen to that! My closest confessional open during the week is an 85-mile round-trip to downtown San Diego.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: It feels like an oxymoron, but we have long accepted that there are a great many secular Jews who self-identify culturally with Judaism but embrace atheism or Buddhism or… as their primary faith framework.

    Ummm it is an oxymoron. Catholicism, like all other Christian churches, is defined doctrinally and credally, it’s not something that you’re born into (unlike, say, Judaism or Hinduism). It may make some sort of sense to be a secular Jew or a secular Hindu, but it makes no sense at all to call yourself a secular Catholic or a secular Baptist.

    Re: Here’s the key question: Why DO so many doctrinally liberal people remain members of the Catholic Church?

    The big question I have is a related one: why is it that so many people, when they *do* leave the Catholic Church, end up being atheist/agnostic/apathetic instead of joining the Anglicans, Lutherans, Orthodox, or some other body that’s at least somewhat similar to the church they left. Some do, of course, but it seems to me the most common pathway is for people, when they give up on Catholicism, to give up on Christianity as a whole at the same time.

    Re: Please expand: why would voting Democrat and being doctrinally liberal go with remaining Catholic and not becoming a Lutheran (ELCA), Methodist or Episcopalian, all of which permit female ordination, divorce, remarriage in church, and leave the question of contraception and abortion up to the individual conscience at the bare minimum, as well as not being believers in transubstantiation and other mediaeval superstitions?

    That’s actually not quite correct.

    1) Anglicans and Lutherans believe in variations of the Real Presence, and some Anglicans accept the Catholic teaching about transubstantiation wholesale. I don’t know what Methodists believe, but in general Anglicans and Lutherans subscribe to a view of the eucharist that, while it may not line up with the Catholic view, is still much closer to Catholicism than anything a secularist materialist would accept. It isn’t perceived to be symbolic.
    2) Anglicans, ELCA Lutherans and Methodists today are generally (unfortunately) divided about abortion, but they do generally treat it as something undesirable and morally problematic, and they don’t dogmatically pronounce it to be a matter of individual conscience. The Anglican Communion as a whole has taken a pretty firm line against abortion, and there are a great many Anglicans, Lutherans and Methodists in this country who are strongly pro-life.

  • Dave

    [...W]hy is it that so many people, when they *do* leave the Catholic Church, end up being atheist/agnostic/apathetic instead of joining the Anglicans, Lutherans, Orthodox, or some other body that’s at least somewhat similar to the church they left. Some do, of course, but it seems to me the most common pathway is for people, when they give up on Catholicism, to give up on Christianity as a whole at the same time.

    Perhaps they feel that those other communions don’t “do church right.” They want it done right or not at all.

  • Julia

    If roughly 3 to 5 percent of American Catholics are going to confession on a regular or even occasional basis, then how many Catholics are left who are actually attempting to live according to the teachings — most of the teachings, let’s say — of their faith?

    Actually, Confession is required if conscious of a mortal sin on one’s soul. Otherwise, frequent Confession is highly encouraged, but not a requirement. There are probably specific frequencies for priests and religious, but not lay people.

    Tied in with this is the Easter Duty, which is the obligation to receive Holy Communion worthily at least once a year – during the Easter season (or by the end of the Easter season, I forget which it is). This cannot be accomplished unless the person has no unforgiven mortal sin. Sometimes the state of a person’s soul makes confession a necessity to fulfill one’s Easter Duty and sometimes it doesn’t.

  • TeaPot562

    Re: Sacraments: I believe that most of the “main-line” protestant denominations recognize the Sacraments of Baptism and Marriage, and have pretty much the same understanding as practicing Catholics. Having been an Episcopalian until my 10th grade year, some Episcopal churches had confessionals, but I was unaware of anyone having actually used them. No discussion of Confirmation or Eucharist was included in any depth in the Sunday Schools I attended.
    Their moral teachings were subject to interpretation – the lack of a Magesterium (so evident in the splits occuring in the Anglican denomination over gay clergy and women clergy) left large gaps between individual parish churches with a more traditional understanding and those who felt that if Jesus had been living circa the year 1995, he would have adjusted His teachings with the prevailing winds. Division is sad.
    TeaPot562

  • Charles

    Re: The Jesuit

    For a member of an order whose practices of spiritual direction are its lasting legacy, one would think he would do better than claim doing Catholicism on their own terms is enlightened. How does one do self-sacrificial Christian service on their own terms? If anything, they’re using Catholic practices in their worship of their deities of Narcissism and Self-Affirmation. I’m quite sure they think their new narcissistic faith is enlightened.

    On their own terms? My goodness. Every word of that is wrong. On? – no, we depend upon God, not on anything else. Their? – no, you don’t own your live. Your life has been granted to you for service to God. Own? – again, and ‘on their own’? – we are social beings, we are part of a larger mission of service. Their is no on our own whether it be our terms or his terms. We are together. Terms – terms and conditions sow disunity and erode love.

  • Tom from West Virginia

    For winter has now past; the rain has decreased and gone away. The flowers have appeared in our land; the time for pruning has arrived. As the pruning of a tree reveals its fruit, so does a word reveal the thoughts in the heart of a man. And the next day, as they were departing from Bethania, he was hungry. And when he had seen a fig tree with leaves in the distance, he went to it, in case he might find something on it. And when he had gone to it, he found nothing but leaves. For it was not the season for figs. And in response, he said to it, ‘From now on and forever, may no one eat fruit from you again!’ And his disciples heard this. And when they passed by in the morning, they saw that the fig tree had dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to him, ‘Master, behold, the fig tree that you cursed has withered.’ And in response, Jesus said to them: ‘Have the faith of God. Amen I say to you, that whoever will say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and who will not have hesitated in his heart, but will have believed: then whatever he has said be done, it shall be done for him. For this reason, I say to you, all things whatsoever that you ask for when praying: believe that you will receive them, and they will happen for you. And when you stand to pray, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father, who is in heaven, may also forgive you your sins. But if you will not forgive, neither will your Father, who is in heaven, forgive you your sins.’ ” (The Song of Solomon 2:14; Sirach 27:7; Mark 11:12-14,20-26)

  • Jeff

    Methodists DO recognize the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

    From The United Methodist Eucharistic Liturgy:

    “Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.”

    From Charles Wesley’s hymn “Come, Sinners, To The Gospel Feast:”

    “Come and partake the gospel feast,
    be saved from sin, in Jesus rest;
    O taste the goodness of our God,
    and eat his flesh and drink his blood.”

  • MWT
  • Rex H

    Call me “slow”, but I don’t get what they want. If they believe God does not exist, what does it matter to them if someone else believes that he does? Are they trying to get rid of religion because they believe that he DOES exist, and are trying to get rid of their guilty consciences, because they know they are wrong, and fear the eternal consequences? I do agree with them on one thing: I don’t want “but” Catholics next to me in the pew. You know, ‘I’m Catholic, but…..”blah, blah, blah. Be Catholic, or get out. Make life more pleasant for those of us who DO want to be Catholic, no “buts” about it.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: Having been an Episcopalian until my 10th grade year, some Episcopal churches had confessionals, but I was unaware of anyone having actually used them.

    Umm, I’m an Episcopalian. I go to confession three times a year.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Generally, Episcopalians of the more Anglo-Catholic persuasion stress the importance of private confession, whereas more liberal or more Protestant Anglican parishes don’t.

  • Jeff

    @ MWT: The link you provide is entirely consist with my characterization of Methodist theology regarding the Real Presence during the Eucharist. So I don’t know what point you’re trying to make.

  • Mike O.

    Rex asked:

    I don’t get what they want. If they believe God does not exist, what does it matter to them if someone else believes that he does? Are they trying to get rid of religion because they believe that he DOES exist, and are trying to get rid of their guilty consciences, because they know they are wrong, and fear the eternal consequences?

    It’s really not too different than an ad asking people why they support a certain political party if they disagree with a majority of what the party supports. The FFRF isn’t an atheist organization but is a very secular one that is looking to limit the influence of religious organizations on the populace at large. With this ad they are trying to show people what GR has been saying for a while: That Catholics are not single bloc with a single opinion on issues.

    Obviously the organization and their ad are controversial (we wouldn’t have 45+ comments here otherwise), but I hope it helps gives you an idea where they’re coming from and why they placed the ad.

  • Hieronymus

    The so-called “secular” or “liberal” Catholics are simply not Catholics. This is not a subjective judgment but a matter of logic and common sense. They fall into the categories of heretics, schismatics and finally apostates but once they have disagreed with even a single statement of the Magisterium, they certainly ceased to be Catholics. I believe that such non-Catholics constitute now up to 90% of the Church membership. In historical context, this situation is parallel to that described in the messages to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation.

  • teahouse

    Hector,

    >>”… as well as not being believers in transubstantiation and other mediaeval superstitions?”

    That’s actually not quite correct.

    1) Anglicans and Lutherans believe in variations of the Real Presence, and some Anglicans accept the Catholic teaching about transubstantiation wholesale. …”

    If you criticize a statement you should actually make your criticism relevant to that statement, not some statement that was never made. Martha is actually absolutely correct in her statement, which did not say that other Christians do not believe in the real presence but specifically referred to transubstantiation.

    No Protestant church accepts transubstantiation. Those that accept real presence (Lutherans and Anglicans, clearly a minority of Protestants) often condemn transubstantion.

    And even in churches were some form of real presence was taught, this is often no longer believed. OTOH, there might be some Anglicans that accept transubstantiation and thereby go against their Church’s doctrine. But again, they are clearly a minority and not at all represenative of their community.

    Martha was correct and “closer to Catholicism than anything a secularist materialist would accept” just doesn’t cut it. Is secular materialism now the measuring rod? BTW, a secular materialist would not accept a “symbolic” presence (whatever that is) either.

  • http://4freedoms.ning.com/profile/Kinana Kinana

    You say: ‘To no one’s shock, this anti-Muslim screed was rejected by Times executives.’

    I know that you most likely just copied the headline from other sources but the advert that was rejected by the NYT is NOT anti-Muslim but anti-Islam. There is a difference as I am sure you can appreciate. As this is a blog about the media getting it right or wrong I thought you wouldn’t mind a correction.

  • Hector

    Re: OTOH, there might be some Anglicans that accept transubstantiation and thereby go against their Church’s doctrine.

    Uh, Anglicanism doesn’t have a defined doctrine on exactly what happens at the Eucharist, beyond ‘Jesus is present’. There are plenty of Anglican parishes and individual believers who believe in transubstantiation, and they’re not getting kicked out anytime soon. The 39 Articles ceased to be required/normative belief over a hundred years ago, and they aren’t necessarily a good guide to what Anglicans today (especially in America) believe.

    And in practice, I don’t think many believers actually distinguish between transubstantion, consubstantiation, and the Doctrine of the Real Presence. The explanation of their beliefs I usually hear from Catholics is ‘The bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus’ which is, you know, what I believe too.

  • John

    JohN Allen over at the National Catholic Reporter has an article that give a lot of the the conventional wisdom about the state of the American Church some much needed perspective.

    Short version – a sixty percent retention is actually quite good by the standards of the American religious marketplace. Change in the Church historically has been a bottom-up affair, and never seen until after the fact. And the church in the west is increasingly a minority in a Catholicism that has gone global.

    Interesting read.

  • Rene

    Probably the best thing that can happen to the Catholic Church today is that the dissenters leave, and this includes a good number of bishops, priests, religious, and of course, theologians. This would allow a creative minority of orthodox Catholics to serve as leaven in a corrupt culture. This creative minority has a better chance of re-evangilizing the culture than the large mass of warm Catholics. Let’s remember what Jesus said about those with a warm faith and about salt that loses its flavor. Again, if the liberal Catholics leave in droves, I say to that GOOD RIDDANCE!

  • sparks1093

    I was reading a related article where a Bishop was asked “when is the Church going to get in step with the people”, which of course is a backwards question- the real question being “when are the people going to get in step with the Church”. Consider two athletic coaches.

    The first says “you can eat whatever you want; you can stay out as late as you want; you don’t have to lift weights; you don’t have to run; you don’t have to worry about getting a good night’s sleep; you don’t have to practice.”

    The second says “eat healthy food; get home early so you get a good night’s sleep; push yourself in the weightroom; run 3 miles a day; practice every day.”

    One coach is forming a future champion and the other is not. The Catholic Church is like the second coach. We don’t like to be told what to do, but nonetheless the Church tells us what me must do if we want to reach heaven. The first coach is like all of the liberal philosophies that tell people you can reach heaven regardless of what you do.

  • Nathan

    Peter Kreeft once said Americans “treat their religion like politics and their politics like religion.” This is true of BOTH “liberal” and “conservative” Catholics. You either put Christ and His Church at the center of your life and filter other worldviews through it, or you put conservatism, liberalism, feminism, Marxism (you name it) at the center and add an adjective in front of Catholic to describe yourself.

    In the end, you only have two types of Catholics, those faithful to the Church and her teachings (including those struggling to be faithful) and those who dissent and decide they are right and the Church is wrong on this issue or that. And remember, you can dissent as easily from the Right and you can from the Left (SSPX comes to mind).

    Those in the second group don’t need excommunicated, they need evangelized.

  • Ben

    As a liberal Catholic, I can cite a lot of reasons:

    * Refugee parishes. Sometimes you can find a priest who gives moving homilies which tend to either dwell outside politics or emphasize the social justice themes more. There’s palpable relief in these parishes at having found like-minded Catholics who were all on the verge of giving up, making the community aspect very close and alluring.

    * Catholic education. I actually disagree with some of the above statements that liberal Catholics just don’t know the teachings of the Church. Many in my experience know the teachings quite well, having gone through many years of Catholic schooling. Some leave conflicted — the education was of high quality and left positive feelings for the Church’s intellectual traditions, but the critical thinking skills brought us to different conclusions on some teachings.

    * The sacraments. The sacraments make it more difficult than in some other denominations to just drift away quietly. Catholic family members want and need you within a Catholic church specifically for those weddings, funerals, holidays, etc.

    * Lived religion. For a lot of people, religion is more than a set of doctrines. Doctrine is a part of it, to be sure. This used to be a very Catholic sensibility.

    I do have sympathy for the idea that liberal Catholics should leave. At times, I agree and I have.

    It’s interesting to me that so many people want a story trying to answer this question. I’m not sure if journalism is the right format for understanding the answer. A collection of personal essays maybe would convey the answer better.

  • Maria

    I appreciate those who consider themselves liberal Catholics and wrote in to answer the question, “Why do you stay?” (Katherine, Ben). I’m really curious about those who define themselves that way, and I think it’s important to understand their viewpoint.

  • http://revolutionofhearts.wordpress.com Katharine

    I wrote this on my blog, but thought it might be worth putting here.
    I’m really not a flaming liberal. Seriously.

    I don’t believe in birth control (unless the pills are used to treat diseases and things like extreme periods). I don’t believe in abortion. I really don’t care about gay marriage. I’m a French student, and I’m all for their system of allowing everyone to get a civil union and then if you want the marriage part you go to the religious organization of your choice.

    I describe myself as liberal because I don’t believe the priesthood is the best vocation. I believe all vocations are equal, as God calls each of us to one that is just for us. I describe myself as liberal because supposedly, if you believe in Catholic Social Doctrine, you’re a liberal. I describe myself as liberal because I really don’t care if there are female priests or if priests could marry. I describe myself as a liberal because I don’t believe all of the undocumented workers in this country should be sent back to their countries. I describe myself as liberal because I don’t believe in the death penalty. I describe myself as liberal because I believe in evolution. I describe myself as liberal because I ask questions. My spiritual director told me it was ok to question the Church. In fact, he encouraged it. Why? Because he wanted me to know why I believe what I do, and not just blindly follow.

  • teahouse

    Hector,

    “Uh, Anglicanism doesn’t have a defined doctrine on exactly what happens at the Eucharist, beyond ‘Jesus is present’.”

    your statement is a bit surprising given that

    1. Article XXVIII. Of the Lord’s Supper holds that

    “Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.”

    2. Transubstantiation was the one Catholic doctrine that was addressed by discriminating legislation like the Test Acts to keep Catholics out:

    “I, N, do declare that I do believe that there is not any transubstantiation in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or in the elements of the bread and wine, at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever.”

    A more accurate definition of the traditional Anglican position on the Eucharist would be:

    “”Anglicanism doesn’t have a defined doctrine on exactly what happens at the Eucharist, beyond ‘Jesus is present’ and no transubstantiation taking place.”

    That this is not enforced is another matter – few things are enforced in today’s CoE.

    “And in practice, I don’t think many believers actually distinguish between transubstantion …”

    Maybe, but given that Martha in the commented orginally criticised by you addressed transubstantion, it is your mistake not to distinguish and lump this together with other concepts.

  • teahouse

    Katherine,

    Good comment but I don’t think that

    “allowing everyone to get a civil union and then if you want the marriage part you go to the religious organization of your choice.”

    is an accurate description of the French system.

    Last time I looked, it allowed for everyone to get a civil union – including not only homosexuals and heterosexual couples but also arragements devoid of any sex. (However, most couples chosing PACS are indeed homosexual.) Nonetheless, the traditional civil marriage does exist in France. It’s not just a “religious thing”.

  • teahouse

    Ben,

    I understand your reasons for staying and applaud your effort in explaining them, but must really question their validity:

    -Sacraments are not family occasions. What you describe is an abuse.
    -With all due respect for sensibility, but doctrine is needed too. “Critical thinking skills” should make that clear.

    I consider your “Refugee parishes” comment a bit odd: is it really that uncommon in the US to have non-political homilies? I can’t imagine that this is the case. Furthermore, “moving homilies which tend to either dwell outside politics or emphasize the social justice themes” – which way is it now? In my book, social justic is a political theme, so are you saying that you want political homilies but only those sticking to one topic. How about homilies putting the religious aspect first? One of the complaints about liberal clerics is that they focus more on political s than on spiritual matters.

  • Ben

    Teahouse,

    We’re getting a bit far afield from journalism, but I’ll respond quickly.

    Regarding sacraments, I understanding where you are coming from. I’m talking about a gray-area, where a person is genuinely conflicted about whether to keep going as a Catholic or pick another church that may be a better ideological fit. There is still much binding me to Catholicism, much of the belief structure that is fundamental to me. The sacraments and their connection to family events are an extra bond. I’m not talking about a situation where I fundamentally disagree with the religion but go through its motion for family’s sake.

    I said doctrine is important to be sure.

    I agree regarding politics. Social justice tends to be political — but those are politics harmonious with my own sense of what it means to live out Christ’s message. I’m also open to parishes where politics aren’t a big feature, but in practice I’ve found that hard lately. Around election times, there’s inevitably efforts to get parishiners to fight gay marriage, or an emphasis on fighting abortion above all other issues, or intentions for the troops but not for peacemaking efforts, etc, etc. The politics are subtle, often more about what tables get to be set up in the back or the basement of the church, but if you’re a liberal Catholic you start to feel out of synch and not welcome.

  • Mandi

    I believe we have so many cradle Catholics who were not Catechized properly. Theses cradle Catholics did not mature or grow in their faith and come to know it and practice it as an adult. I say this as a cradle Catholic who finally took ownership of my faith in my late 30′s. I am amazed every day at what I learn and about the depth Catholicism has to offer. Let’s face it being liberal is cool being faithful is not. We have an image problem. As well as a cradle Catechizing issue. I believe if Catholics knew their faith they would be faithful.

  • Patricia Flynn

    After reading these comments,the Church is in TROUBLE big time!
    I wonder which group,Liberal or Conservative will hear JESUS say as they stand Before Him the WORDS “I never knew you”As a Conservative I wonder!

    • Anonymously_Treading

      Oh, I don’t know. Sounds to me like you have already given an imprimator to your own question.

  • trad_cat

    “To no one’s shock, this anti-Muslim screed was rejected by Times executives.”

    I did not see anything in accurate in this “screed” perhaps you could point out to me how this advertisement mis-represents the classical teachings of islam?

  • John Pack Lambert

    The claim that there are “Catholics who have gone beyond politics” misconstrues the terms being used here. Liberal Catholics are not Catholics who support a single-payer health care system, or proactively work for an end to the death penalty and amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

    Liberal Catholics are those who have rejected the teaching authority of the Pope and the bishops and assumed to themselves the right to decided if a teaching is true or false.

    The question at hand is should the governmnet force Catholic institutions and individuals to fund operations that are morally wrong according to the teachings of the Pope?

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Teahouse,

    Again, the Episcopal Church today treats the 39 Articles as historical doccuments illustrative of the faith of the Anglican church in the 17th century, but not as a normative expression of what we believe today. I know plenty of Episcopalians, both clergy and lay, who believe in transubstantiation. And the Episcopal Church isn’t hierarchical in the sense that the Roman Catholic Church is, so the 39 Articles don’t have the authority to tell us that we are wrong.

  • Carrie Paroo

    As I scan the comments, I’m not seeing the word which most quickly comes to mind: Hypocrisy. You may not like the label, but if you claim to be Catholic while supporting abortion on demand & homosexual marriage, & 85% of the rest of what being Catholic stands for, you are a Hypocrite. Not a secular catholic-don’t insult my intelligence! Isn’t this what Jesus meant when He said: would that you were Hot or Cold; the lukewarm I will vomit out of My mouth?

  • http://revolutionofhearts.wordpress.com Katharine

    Thanks teahouse! We were taught that every is married civilly. This occurred back the 80s when my aunt and uncle were married. They were later married in the Church.

    I think it is very hard to be political and Catholic, as no party completely follows the teachings of the Church.


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