Gilbert Chesterton famously said, “The problem with Christianity is not that it’s been tried and found wanting, it’s been found difficult and not tried.”
If you change the word Christianity for Catechesis, you have a description of the problem with the “unfaithful laity” in many parts of this country, if not the world.
As exhibit A, let me point you toward the mess at Eastside High School in Seattle. This school, which is nominally Catholic, appears to cater to rich little kids and provide them with a full blast of self-actualizing claptrap with a layer of do-gooderism and little c catholicism on top to make them feel good.
When their openly-gay vice principal “married” his partner, the school, in what was probably a stunning display of unexpected fidelity to Church teaching, decided to enforce its school contract and employee guidelines and dismiss him. The student body, which had clearly been catechized more by the vice principal and his supporters than anyone imparting Catholic teaching, reacted by staging a walk out.
Instead of expelling the students for walking out of class, the school pretty much caved on a later problem with another teacher.
Now, for all their what’s-happening-now weak-as-water Catholicism, the school is being sued by said vice principal.
Exhibit B would be the Seattle priest who wrote a column for a national magazine, taking a public stand against the teachings of the Church whose collar he wears.
Exhibit C would be the many Catholic politicians I know whose knowledge of what the Church teaches on issues such as the sanctity of human life and the sacrament of marriage is limited to slogans, and most of them come from the media which is openly hostile to their Church. You can place the parish priests who’ve told them it’s ok to vote against pro life legislation and for gay marriage, even while their bishops are begging them to do the opposite, alongside the politicians on the exhibit table.
What’s wrong with catechesis?
1. It stops at the little-kid-in-Sunday-school level.
2. Despite the fact that most priests are faithful to the Church, nobody with authority in the Church says a word to disagree with those who aren’t. Don’t any of these guys answer to superiors in this hierarchical Church of ours? How, exactly, can the bishops expect the laity to respond to their leadership when their own priests are either ignoring the bishop or flat-out telling their parishioners that their personal ideas trump Church teaching in matters of mortal sin?
3. Nobody seems interested or able to answer the onslaught of attacks from the world at large that the laity is facing. We need leadership, and we’re not getting it. At the very least we need an acknowledgement of what the laity must endure in this post Christian America.
4. Too much catechesis in more liberal parishes preaches a little g social gospel that is almost totally silent on Church teaching about justice. On the other hand, too much catechesis in conservative parishes focuses on sanctity of life and marriage to the exclusion of social issues. Worse, they do this in a political, rather than a moral manner.
The American Church has grown soft. It is no longer the Church Militant. It seems more like the church self-indulgent.
I keep wanting to shake people and paraphrase the line from the movie Aliens, “Maybe you haven’t been keeping up with current events, but we’ve been getting our rear ends kicked.”
There is no reason to panic or sink into depression because of the recent losses in the courts and at the polls on social issues. We can turn that around. All it takes is the will and determination to do it on the part of the laity.
That is the key, you know: The laity.
We’ve got the task of changing the world. The clergy has the task of catechizing/inspiring/leading us so that we are equipped to do that. Unfortunately, before the laity can convert the world, the laity itself needs to be converted. Too many Catholics treat Jesus as their cop-out instead of their Lord.
I know that’s a tall order for our priests. I also know that it most decidedly is not what a good many of our men in collars thought they were signing up for when they took their vows. Most of the priests we have today entered a priesthood rolling in automatic respect and trust for their calling which spilled over onto them personally. They saw themselves giving homilies, administering parishes, providing comfort, healing hurts, taking on an occasional pilgrimage and basically doing predictable and rewarding work throughout the long slide to safe and predictable retirement.
What has changed is that they now have to do all those things, with a call to battle heaped on top of it. They must somehow find a way to deal with demoralized and angry parishioners while they play catch up in preparing their people to be strong in their faith in the face of hostility, and learn how to convert a self-dissembling culture.
They’re not up to it. I know that.
But this is the our time. These are our challenges. And the job in front of us is the one the Holy Spirit has chosen for us.
We’ve got to support our priests who are trying to be faithful while learning how to do a whole new job and add it on top the job they already have. As for Catechesis, the parish and diocese which needs it the most are probably also the ones which will mount aggressive resistance to it. When priests try to teach what the Church teaches, parishioners who are also faithful to the Church need to stand by them absolutely, especially in the face of hostility from parishioners who have grown accustomed to the Church teaching what the world teaches.
Catechesis as we’ve been doing it is failing our children, our families, our Church and Our Lord. The evidence is all around us.
That’s the first fact we have to face. The second, which is that we must change our way of doing Catechesis, follows on its heels. Everything after that is detail.
American Atheists have filed suit to block inclusion of the ground zero cross in displays at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
An earlier lawsuit against use of the cross in the memorial was tossed out of court. The basis of that suit was the extreme trauma atheists experience when they view a cross. This suit is filed on the grounds that there is no projected monument for atheists at the memorial.
Perhaps we could have an empty box for atheists. Since modern atheism is a militant unbelief system in nothing, expressed as nihilism, what else would represent it?
As for atheists who died in this tragedy, and atheists who helped in the rescue and clean-up, we should list their names and give them the respect they deserve. But there is no reason to erect a memorial to nothing.
More to the point, the ground zero cross is a historic artifact. It is part of the actual history of 9/11. Are we to re-write history and edit out those portions which might accidentally pertain to Christianity? Is that the new interpretation of the First Amendment?
Most people were horrified when Muslim extremists blew up ancient statues of buddha a few years ago. The ground zero cross is just as much an artifact of history —albeit, more recent history — as those buddha statues were.
Atheism has become a dogmatic unfaith of sorts. It insults those who disagree and seeks by all means available to silence opposition. There is a tyrannical underpinning to the overbearing insistence that no one anywhere can include artifacts which might have linkage to established Christianity in public displays. There is also a tyrannical underpinning (and a good bit of what is either extreme ignorance or deliberate misinformation) in proclaiming loudly, rudely and incessantly that any elected official who uses the name God in their converse is violating “separation of church and state.”
I personally have lost count of the number of times that zealous Christian bashers have tried to censure my speech and writings, or to direct my votes as an elected official, by this ruse.
Suppression of other people’s free right to speak of their beliefs in public, or vote according to their conscience, is tyranny. Using verbal hazing and bullying tactics to silence people of faith is also tyrannical.
Atheists advance the idea that any artifact, statement or idea that has its aegis in Christianity is, by their overbearing and tyrannical definition, a violation of what they call “the separation of church and state.” By the logic of their arguments, the militants who blew up the buddhas were right to do so. I suppose we should also remove the Thunderbird from the historic insignia of the 45th Division.
From 4New York:
A group of atheists is seeking to stop the 9/11 museum from displaying a cross-shaped steel beam found among the World Trade Center’s rubble because they say it is an endorsement of Christianity, and an appeals court heard arguments in the case Thursday.
A judge last year tossed out a lawsuit on the cross, rejecting the arguments of American Atheists, which sued the National September 11 Memorial & Museum’s operators in 2011 on constitutional grounds, contending that the prominent display of the cross constitutes an endorsement of Christianity, diminishing the contributions of non-Christian rescuers.
The 17-foot-tall steel beam was found by rescue workers two days after the terror attacks. It is scheduled to be displayed among 1,000 artifacts, photos, oral histories and videos in an underground museum that will also house the staircase workers used to escape the towers as well as portraits of the nearly 3,000 victims and oral histories of Sept. 11. The museum is still under construction and scheduled to open this year.
Edwin F. Kagin, a lawyer for the atheists group, said the cross “violates the First Amendment because atheists are not represented equally.”
My friend Kathy Schiffer, who blogs at Seasons of Grace, has an inspiring story about how Christians in the community of Stratton, OH are staging a private resistance to this type of bullying. I think we should all take a page from their book.
Pope Francis has given another interview and the internet is ga ga.
According to things I’ve read, the Holy Father has come out in favor of civil unions for homosexuals.
Cardinal Dolan gave another interview, and, again according to reports I’ve read, he agreed that the Holy Father is favoring civil unions.
This is a real show-stopper for Catholics who depend on the Church to not compromise on the basic teachings of the faith. Is the Holy Father planning to overturn Blessed John Paul II’s teaching when he said,
IV. POSITIONS OF CATHOLIC POLITICIANS
WITH REGARD TO LEGISLATION IN FAVOUR
OF HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS
10. If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. Faced with legislative proposals in favour of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are to take account of the following ethical indications.
When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.
When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is already in force, the Catholic politician must oppose it in the ways that are possible for him and make his opposition known; it is his duty to witness to the truth. If it is not possible to repeal such a law completely, the Catholic politician, recalling the indications contained in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, “could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality”, on condition that his “absolute personal opposition” to such laws was clear and well known and that the danger of scandal was avoided.(18) This does not mean that a more restrictive law in this area could be considered just or even acceptable; rather, it is a question of the legitimate and dutiful attempt to obtain at least the partial repeal of an unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment.
If this letter by Pope John Paul II is now to be discarded, why should Catholic politicians pay attention to other letters by succeeding popes, or, for that matter, bishops? I’m here to tell you that I took it very seriously, and taking it seriously has exacted a great cost on me and my life. If the new story is basically April Fool, it was all a joke, I’m not laughing.
I honestly think that one reason so many other Catholic politicians have failed to heed what Blessed John Paul II and later, Pope Benedict XVI, taught us is that no one bothered to teach them about it. For reasons that I do not understand, Catholics are left to find these documents, read and interpret them themselves and then act according to them all on their own. The Church does not teach what it teaches to the people in the pews.
I think that if their pastors and bishops had taken the trouble to teach Catholic teaching — including what Pope John Paul II said in this letter — to our elected officials, a good many of them would have behaved differently in the past couple of years. I also think a lot of good Catholic people would not be so flim-flammed by what the world teaches.
Despite everything I just said, I don’t expect that we will see Pope Francis overturn what Blessed John Paul II taught in this matter. I think this is just another flap caused by a reply to a question in an interview. If you read what Pope Francis actually said, it becomes clear that the only definitive statement he made is that marriage is between one woman and one man. He then goes on to enumerate a few of the many manifestations of civil unions around the globe and ends with a political sounding “we’ll take it under advisement” type comment.
Now that I’ve said my say, I want to let you decide for yourself. Here is a video of the salient portion of Cardinal Dolan’s interview. Notice that the Cardinal says he hasn’t read the Holy Father’s actual words. He’s basing his comments entirely on press reports about the interview and not the interview itself. (Mistake.)
If you want to read the full text of Pope Francis’ interview, you can find it at Catholic News Agency.
If you want a quick take, here is the question on civil unions, and the Holy Father’s answer:
Many nations have regulated civil unions. Is it a path that the Church can understand? But up to what point?
Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care. It is about pacts of cohabitating of various natures, of which I wouldn’t know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety.
Jen Fitz, who blogs at Sticking the Corners, offers her take on the Pope Fancis/Civil Unions debate here.
Of course he is.
Mark Zamuda, former vice principal at Eastside Catholic School in Seattle, is now suing the school. The school dismissed the openly gay vice principal when he “married” his same sex partner.
Students at the Catholic school staged a walk out and at least one Catholic priest stood tall against the collar he’s wearing by coming out in support of the students.
Now, said principal is adding the cherry on top by filing a lawsuit against the school and the archdiocese. According to a Christian News article, Mr Zamuda’s attorneys are arguing that his position as a coach, teacher and vice principal was “administrative” and not “affiliated with the Church’s teaching.”
“I didn’t ask to be gay,” Mr Zamuda advises. However, he did, presumably, apply for employment at a Catholic School. Since he says he’s a “lifelong Catholic,” he also probably knew that the Catholic Church teaches that sex outside marriage between one man and one woman is a mortal sin. He may even have read the employment contract that he signed agreeing that his public behaviors would at all times be consistent with the values and teachings of the Catholic Church. He may also have read the same requirement in the employee handbook.
How will this nasty little dirt fight end?
Let’s just sit back and see if the renegade Catholics in Seattle can top themselves in thumbing their noses at the Church this Lent, or if they’ve reached their true bottom.