According to a poll by NBC/WSJ, 21% of Americans say that religion is “not that important in their lives.”
This isn’t a big surprise. It’s consistent with other polls. The details are pretty much the same as those in previous polls, as well. An NBC news article says that “Less religious Americans are more likely to be men, have an income over $75,000, to live in the northeast” and be under 35.
The only comment I have to make about this is that it’s something to consider as we contemplate how to approach re-converting this culture. Do we start with these “not that importants,” or do we begin elsewhere?
I don’t claim to have a decisive answer. But my personal opinion, based mainly on years of political campaigning, is that we should begin with our own people. I think the first great need for active conversion is to be found in the pews of our own churches.
There are over 1 billion Catholics on this planet, and almost all of us are laity. We are the Church. The need to educate, inspire and lead this laity to an active evangelistic fervor is so obvious that I’m not going to waste the words to substantiate it in this brief post.
I think the place to begin the great work of conversion that is in front of us is our own laity. The question I have is, does the laity have to do the work of converting itself?
We need leadership.
The media is hard-selling abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage and now polygamy and polyamory. It is also pushing farming women’s bodies for eggs and using women as pregnancy surrogates.
That is the real-world situation. We need to be aware of it. We need to do what we can to make other Christians aware of it, so that they see it for what it is. But what, beyond that, should we do?
We must learn how to communicate our message in today’s world. We can, you know. We’ve just got to stop bemoaning the situation and start thinking about what we can do.
This video gives a brief discussion of how Christianity has historically communicated its message. That’s a good place to start as we move forward to how we will communicate it in today’s world.
Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message.”
Our use of the phrase “the media” as shorthand for all journalistic endeavors reflects the truth of that.
This media/”message” is hard-selling abortion, euthanasia and the destruction of marriage.
This video contains a reflection about this situation.
Please pray for me.
That is Pope Francis’ tweet for today.
I think we should certainly pray for our Holy Father.
We should also pray for all priests.
I am part of a prayer group. It began when we were homeschooling mothers with small children and has held together through the years as our children have grown up, gone to college, married and had children of their own. Our daughters have now joined us.
The purpose of this Rosary group is to pray for our priests. This is a prayer we pray at every Rosary. I think it is a prayer we should all pray. I can think of no better practice to begin this Lent.
God our Father, please send us holy priests, all for the sacred and eucharistic heart of Jesus, all for the sorrowful and immaculate heart of Mary, in union with St Joseph. Amen
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.
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.