“The beliefs of the church are not going to change by poll”

Preach it, brother.  David Quinn has this to say in the Irish Independent:

The findings of the survey commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) are not even in the tiniest bit surprising. We have known for years that on issue after issue many or most Catholics, even weekly Mass-going Catholics, do not believe what their church believes.

The press release by the ACP says the survey “reveals a significant disconnect between official Catholic Church teaching and what Catholics actually believe”.

That is absolutely correct, but the question is what should be done about it? Does the church alter its teachings in line with the latest opinion poll or must it instead do a much better job explaining to Catholics and the general public why it believes what it believes?

The poll zeroed in on the teachings liberal Catholics want to see changed, for example celibacy, women priests and on sexuality generally.

Huge majorities want the Catholic Church to allow married priests and women priests.
But two other questions arise here. First, would allowing married priests and women priests revive the fortunes of the church by making it more ‘relevant’, and second, should these teachings be changed regardless of the effect on the life of the church?

In answer to the first question, allowing married priests and women priests would not result in very much of an increase in vocations, nor would it lead to a rush back to the pews.

It has done this for no church anywhere. This point cannot be stressed often enough because hardly anyone seems to be aware of it. The Lutheran Churches of Scandinavia have changed teaching after teaching in line with liberal opinion. For example, they routinely allow same-sex marriages to take place in their churches. They have had women bishops, never mind priests, for years.

But in Scandinavia hardly anyone attends church services. Liberal Christians and their secular cheer-leaders need to think long and hard about this. Why is it that the churches where their every ‘remedy’ has been introduced are not thriving? Worse than that, why have they shrivelled up even faster than the churches that have not altered their teachings?

I have never heard a satisfactory answer to this question from liberal Christians. They don’t like the question because they find it impossible to answer.

There’s a lot more, so read the whole thing.

Catholics fundamentally misunderstand the role of the Pope and the bishops. They are not bold leaders forging bravely ahead into new theological realms. They are caretakers. Their role is to preserve what they were given and pass it on unchanged, links in a chain stretching all the way back to Peter. They’re not supposed to create some new kind of faith, nor respond to the whims of the laity for innovation. They provide, as Cardinal George said, a “reality check” for the laity, large numbers of whom would gladly to follow the same Magisterium of the Zeitgeist that has left mainline Protestantism a hollowed-out shell. I thank God that the Church is not a democracy. It only took a couple hundred years for democracy to dig America into its present hole. Imagine what kind of hole the Church would be in after 2000 years of it.

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • Noe’

    I’m not sure how accurate a sweeping statement about the emptiness of pews of churches OF denominations that allow female clergy, condone same-gender marriage (or any particular deviance from Catholic teaching – and I speak more to the ‘any’ plethora, not so much the same-gender issues), like this can be – given that most of Europe has a state-sanctioned Church, versus American religious success with “Separation” reading of the 1st Amendment. Charismatic, Pentecostal and to a degree Evangelical Christianity originating in the U.S., surges the world over – with much open leadership by women, open lack of hierarchy (or even denominational affiliation), non-liturgical modes of prayer, idiosyncratic interpretation, and on and on. I would like to see an *essay* query form used to poll lay KNOWLEDGE of basic Church doctrine; THAT would be something to compare with Church doctrine rather than mere opinions – informed or merely popular.

  • Jim978

    David Quinn wrote, “But in Scandinavia hardly anyone attends church services. Liberal Christians and their secular cheer-leaders need to think long and hard about this. Why is it that the churches where their every ‘remedy’ has been introduced are not thriving? Worse than that, why have they shrivelled up even faster than the churches that have not altered their teachings?

    I have never heard a satisfactory answer to this question from liberal Christians. They don’t like the question because they find it impossible to answer.”

    Like other defenders of a male-only priesthood, David Quinn misses the point. The question never was and never will be whether allowing married priests and women priests would fill the pews. The question is whether God is calling these people to the priesthood. If He’s not, it doesn’t matter whether seminaries open their doors to such individuals. Those who fail to demonstrate that their vocations are real will be sent away. This already happens to many men who claim to have a vocation.

    This line of reasoning only works if one assumes that vocations do in fact come from God, of course. One also could argue that this idea is a fiction created to serve the needs of the church. After all, if there is a shortage of priests and God does the calling, the problem can be laid at the feet of those rejecting His call. If it were a fiction manufactured by the church, then the church itself must accept responsibility for the lack of priests.

    I find the headline (The beliefs of the church are not going to change by poll) somewhat curious. One the one hand, Quinn argues that beliefs should not be judged based on “polls.” On the other hand he argues that there are more bodies in the pews in churches that have not altered their teachings. Counting bodies in the pews is itself a poll. I guess “polls” are only inappropriate when one doesn’t like the results.


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