What’s Killing American Catholicism – 1

Reading Sherry Weddell’s excellent Forming Intentional Disciples is making me think about the American church and what ails her. Can anybody deny that there is a sickness in the body ecclesia? When 50% of Catholics vote for a man who stoutly defends same sex marriage and partial birth abortion can we say that Catholics in America are okay?

I don’t think so.

Thus a series of posts on what’s killing Catholicism. All the words begin with the letter ‘C’. I can’t help it. I was brought up as a Biblical Evangelical and our pastors always used alliteration to make their points memorable.

The first problem is cultural catholicism. The Poles, Italians, Irish, French, Czech, German and more Catholics came here from the old country and the bishops reckoned the best thing to do with them all was to allow cultural parishes. So in the same town the Irish Catholics went to St Patrick’s and the Poles to St Stanislaus and the Italians to St Anthony of Padua. Geesh, a man in my parish who grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania said that when he was a boy a girl from his Czech parish fell in love with an Irish boy and the Irish priest wouldn’t marry them because it was a mixed marriage.

I’m all for cultural customs and so forth, but the problem is that the immigrant Catholics–in a foreign land–clung to their culture for security and happiness and part of that culture was their Catholicism. The didn’t distinguish their culture from their Catholicism. Then, after a few generations, when they were all really American and stopped being Italian or Irish or German they also stopped being Catholic. The Catholic faith wasn’t much deeper than Mama’s special spaghetti sauce or stories of the Blarney stone.

Of course they didn’t all stop being Catholic. Something else happened which was even more subtle and insidious. They became Americans and because their mindset was that their Catholic faith was something which blended with their culture, instead of being Italian-Catholics or Polish Catholics they became American Catholics. Just as nationalism and love of culture blended with their Catholic faith when they were ethnic minorities, now it blended seamlessly with their new American culture. Just as Catholicism gave their former culture God’s approval, not their Catholicism gave American values and culture God’s approval.

Thus we have what I call AmChurch: the American Catholic church which is happily and blissfully blended with everything wonderful about America. Except that the “wonderful” values of most Americans are unapologetically materialistic, hedonistic and self centered. Thus at least 50% of American Catholics live like their American neighbors–going to the mall, getting as much stuff as possible, giving as little as possible, having a neat and tidy two children and a double income, and basically smiling their way to success like everyone else.

Now this grates with me because I was brought up as an Evangelical fundamentalist and I realize the roots are deep. More than that, I come from seven generations of sturdy Pennsylvania Dutch anabaptists–Mennonnites, Amish, Brethren and such. These people had exactly the other point of view. They were first and foremost Christians. They considered it the default setting that each person had to hear the call of Christ and leave their nets and follow him. The church was a pilgrim people–a people set apart. They were suspicious of the surrounding culture and very suspicious of officialdom of every kind. If the Catholics absorbed culture the Mennonite were deliberately counter cultural.

The Mennonite approach, however, has it’s problems. The gospel says we’re to be “in the world but not of the world”. We’re not actually supposed to be totally counter cultural. We’re supposed to be yeast in the dough, a light set on the hill. You get too counter cultural and you become a weird sect like the Branch Davidians

Being a happy Benedictine oblate I see the solution as being something more than both of these ways. The problem with cultural Catholics in America is that they have never come to realize that the Catholic faith transcends every culture. That’s what Catholic means for goodness sake! It’s universal. The Catholic faith is therefore embedded in every culture and takes from every culture what is useful and good, but because it transcends culture it is also automatically counter cultural in the right way.

The Catholic should always be in a constant tug of war with the culture around him. Here affirming what is good–there condemning what is bad. Here supporting all that is full of life, love, truth beauty and goodness and there condemning and avoiding all that is full of death, hate, lies, ugliness and evil.

The answer to Cultural Catholicism, therefore, is what I call Comprehensive Catholicism–a Catholicism that embraces all things for their essential worth. If their value is precious and eternal the more highly we love them. If their value is trash–well we love trash for what its worth too: to be thrown on the rubbish pile and burnt. This sort of constantly discerning Catholicism is what is needed at the individual and local level, but the reason people opt for cultural Catholicism is because it is easy.

This is the core problem with Cultural Catholicism: by its very nature it goes with the flow. In its love and acceptance of the ethnic culture it is uncritical, and because individual cultural Catholics are uncritical of their culture they are also uncritical of the level of their Catholic faith. They chortle along quite happily living the unexamined life.

When the test comes this kind of Catholicism will simply wither and die in the heat. “When the test comes?” We are in the middle of the test already. What I see in the American Catholic Church is a huge “F” on that test. The opportunity to stand up and be counted and to stand against the culture of death in this country has already been lost by the majority of so called Catholics because so blinded by the love of their culture, they didn’t even realize there was a test to start with.

Next installment: “Complacent Catholicism”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507507270 Ryan A

    I saw a bumper sticker once that read, “Jesus is coming soon…look busy.” While amusing on one level, I found it incredibly disturbing on another level. I find that fairly indicative on American Christianity in general.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507507270 Ryan A

    I saw a bumper sticker once that read, “Jesus is coming soon…look busy.” While amusing on one level, I found it incredibly disturbing on another level. I find that fairly indicative on American Christianity in general.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507507270 Ryan A

    I saw a bumper sticker once that read, “Jesus is coming soon…look busy.” While amusing on one level, I found it incredibly disturbing on another level. I find that fairly indicative on American Christianity in general.

    • msmischief

      Heard that story in a sermon, once. A trifle off, since the point is to be busy at our vocations, but close enough to hit hard.

  • fondatorey

    The ‘C’ words I would use for this phenomena are ‘Cultural Cringe.’ Back in the 1980′s when I was in grade school there was a definite inferiority complex among Catholics. The ‘normal’ religion in America was mainline Protestantism and the Catholic church was something different – but getting better – after all we had had a Catholic President!

    • athelstane

      So much of what changed in the Church, even starting back in the 50′s, does seem to have stemmed from a kind of envy – envy of mainline Protestantism – and desire to have the approval of those cohorts.

      And that was especially the case in the two countries that arguably had the most impact on Vatican II and its implementation: Germany and the United States.

      • jtnoble

        It’s interesting to me, as a Reformed Sunday School boy who came to Catholicism via the American Evangelical church, that VII, in deciding to copy or incorporate something Protestant COPIED THE WRONG DAMN THING! Not the love of Jesus, not the immersion in scripture, not the witnessing, etc, but the outward FORMS of Mainline worship, thereby impairing the treasure of the liturgy and getting nothing in return.

    • bzeealbub

      Who in the Lord’s name do you think was the CATHOLIC President, in the 1980′s?? Ronnie Reagan, certainly wasn’t and neither was George H. Bush and even if you stretch back to Jimmy Carter, he wasn’t either. And if you were in grade school in the 80′s, the first Catholic president was dead long before you had been conceived. And being vilified pretty often too.

  • nitnot

    “A DEAD thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” ~G.K. Chesterton: ‘The Everlasting Man.’

  • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

    As an immigrant, it pains me to watch the Hispanic community in my parish go through this process, though with a disturbing twist.

    I found out that in the same way that many parents are not teaching their children Spanish besides English, because it’s the language of the “help”, many parents are not passing on the faith either or, if they are, the same faith that’s accepted by the “masters”: AmCatholicism.

    That’s because when Americans say that immigrants should be assimilated, they mean that their cultural heritage will be tolerated only to a point and only for some time, for they are expected to abandon their ways and adopt the American ways, in the best Know Nothing and Whig traditions that permeate the culture of this country.

    I think that this pressure is very real and I’d be interested to know your views on this, Fr. D.

    TIA and God bless us.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      I’m not Fr. D but your comment intrigued me. Allow me, if you will.

      As a second generation immigrant daughter to Hispanic parents… I am Hispanic racially but American culturally.My father too, even though he was not born in the US. His mother demanded her children learn English and assimilate. I don’t consider this as adopting the habits of the “master” but as accepting that this is our new home and embracing that. There are traditions we keep, yes, but our ways are wholly American now. Even my Abuela’s who lived the first 30+ years of her life in another country is American. Any pressure she and my dad and his siblings may have felt was purely ambition. Clinging to the third world they left would not have made them the prosperous family they are today. In fact, it’s why Hispanics come to the US.

      I do live in the southern part of the US where the Latino population is large. I don’t know where you are from; however, here we are very accommodating to Hispanics and the very distinct style of charismatic worship. It’s not my thing but it’s not discouraged either.

      • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

        My very point: trading your heritage for a bowl of lentil soup. Impoverishing yourself in order to gain material advantage, which is essentially American indeed.

        The problem is that then no one is richer, including America or the Church, which it seems to me is what Fr. D is talking about and I am interjecting: immigrants eagerly climb the social ladder in order to settle in an unreflected life in a McMansion with 2.1 kids and 2.5 cars like the rest of contemporary America.

        • Jacob Suggs

          I don’t think that’s a fair analysis. A culture isn’t a sacred thing in itself, and there is nothing wrong with the old “when in Rome do as the Romans do” thing – to a point. I mean, all cultures have their good and bad but for the most part, most customs are fairly neutral.

          Assimilation is a good thing (to a point), and almost an inevitable thing. People hold onto those customs which they find good, discard those that they don’t care for and were only participating in because everyone around them was, etc. And some of the customs will spread to the culture they moved to. That’s fine.

          The only problem is when things like faith and morality become considered to be the parts of the culture that can be held onto or discarded – which is in fact what Father was writing about. The issue wasn’t that the Irish became American, it was that some of them thought their faith was Irish rather than universal and so let go of it during the process.

          • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

            That was my initial point: the ambition to not be a member of the “help” leads immigrants to jettison not only their culture, but also their faith, in order to adopt those of the “masters”.

            In my analysis I’m trying, perhaps poorly, to argue that the internal and external mechanisms are the same leading to the cultural and spiritual impoverishment of immigrants: the American zeitgeist that demands a Borg-like assimilation and that has values incompatible with Christianity which would be devoid of any power were America poorer than it is.

            That is: at the moment, America has Mammon’s baton, but Mammon is a cruel master and demands sacrifices.

        • Christian LeBlanc

          But I see them doing this less than the native Catholics.

      • Mary Parks

        People come to America to be free to be who they are. The American Constitutional system gives them liberty to realize themselves, retaining all that is essentially good in their culture and faith. This enriches America. When we start demanding that immigrants retain their homeland here, or start demanding that America alter her system to be protective of immigrant culture, we are robbing both sides.

  • MeanLizzie

    This aligns well w/ Russell Shaw’s American Catholicism: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2013/04/23/dark-joy-inclusion-mad-men-conceit-accommodation-and-the-american-church/ you should check it out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charles-Mac-Kay/1623305232 Charles Mac Kay

    My family are from Scotland. My aunt emigrated to New York. She went to church often including the sacraments. We are hereditary Roman Catholics which means we are pig – headed so she picked the church she liked the best and went to it for months. Easter came and she did her duties. Aunt Helen went to confession. At the end she said to the priest, “Will you pray for me father and my family?” and from behind curtain he said, “Yes Helen and I’ll get my wife to pray for you as well!”

  • athelstane

    “Here affirming what is good–there condemning what is bad.”

    There was time, once – perhaps even within living memory of some – when there was more to affirm than to condemn in American society. At least in most places.

    But that society is mostly gone now. The water has gotten a good deal hotter, but the Catholic frogs haven’t always noticed. Today, I’m afraid, there’s more to condemn than to affirm.

  • http://www.facebook.com/justin.white.7146 Justin White

    Sadly, American Catholicism boils down today more to superstition than anything that can truthfully be called faith. Looking forward to the rest of this series, the complacent one should be good.

    • Stevelsn

      This is far too sweeping a generalization. Now as always, within the church are an infinite gradation of devout to skeptical. And what do you mean by ” more superstition than faith”? Do you regard the creed as superstition?

    • http://xcatholic.yuku.com/ gerald nichols

      True– so true!

  • http://twitter.com/RyanNX211 Thomas J. Ryan

    It is so difficult for an American Covert to understand this subject.

    “Ethnicity is the form of Catholic content. Ethnicity without Catholic
    religious universality leads to racial narcissism and collective self
    worship. Catholicism without ethnicity is deracinated, ghostlike and is
    always vulnerable to ideological colonization.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.petek.9 Michael Petek

    Let me guess what comes next:

    Contracepting Catholicism – If you take control of human fertility, you take control of something which belongs only to God if he’s to be Lord in the sense that Scripture says He is.

    Couldn’t-care-less-we-know-Barack-Hussein-Obama’s-a-Muslim-but-we’re-still-gonna-vote-for-him-coz-he’s-an-awesome-guy Catholicism.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1235643522 Faith Roberts

      We know he is a Muslim because all Muslims support gay marriage right? No? Really, we can criticize Catholics for voting for Obama on plenty of grounds so we really don’t have to pull out fictional reasons to drive the point home.

      • http://www.facebook.com/michael.petek.9 Michael Petek

        You have to remember that Barack Obama is an emissary of Satan. He is a Muslim practising taqiyya – deception – passing himself off as a secular humanist or as a Christian, depending on whom he is trying to fool. He is similar to Spanish Muslims who received baptism and pretended to be Christians, so that the Spanish Inquisition had to be set up to root them out. As a Muslim, he would not support gay marriage if the USA were the Islamic state he’d really like it to be. But in the meantime, Obama finds gay marriage useful for keeping America under God’s displeasure. When that becomes irreversible, the divine punishment for rejecting Christ will be that America will be conquered by Islam.

        • bzeealbub

          And they will know we are Christians by our LOVE?? How about bearing false witness? Why not check out of history book and see what people thought of AL Smith or even JFK.
          The Spanish Inquisition, was also set up to drive out Jewish converts. Oddly enough many families in both Mexico and our Southwest States, are finding that their heritage and family customs of sometimes 15 generations in the New World, are Jewish in origin. By the way when the Muslims, were in Spain, it wasn’t against the law to be either Jew or Christian(but you did pay an extra tax). But when the Spanish Catholics, took over then the real killing started. Like I wrote before open a history book or two, you may learn something.
          I would also suggest the gay marriage thing is like a lot of other laws that have come from the grass roots and are passed because of the small “d” word democracy.
          Our Founders of this country wanted to keep separate church and state. Which is why as groups came to this country you would find Separatists in one area and Catholics in another et cetera. The closest thing to state religion this country had was what is called Main-line Protestant. And that is because in the “old country” they had all ready rebelled against the Papacy, and wanted no major spiritual leader. America, wasn’t to be restrained or constrained by an Official Religion.

          • http://www.facebook.com/michael.petek.9 Michael Petek

            My point wasn’t about the Spanish Inquisition. It was that Barack Obama is a Muslim pretending to be something else, much as Spanish Muslims did six centuries ago. He may even be a Muslim Brother, albeit a Muslim Brother from another mother.

        • http://twitter.com/ignatzz Ignatz

          You’re a nutjob.

          • http://www.facebook.com/michael.petek.9 Michael Petek

            Hardly. Christians and most sensible people affirm that marriage is a lifelong union of a man and a woman. Muslims affirm that it’s something else, and so do some militant secularists. So does Barack Obama.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=594383758 David Persyn

    Interesting. My ancestors split over Anabaptist and Catholic, and were at the nexus of the “auto da fe” episode of King Philip (Spain) in the Netherlands. I’m a convert to Catholicism. Plenty of irony here.

  • Bob Waruszewski

    I highly recommend Evangelical Catholicism, by George Weigel as a way for reform in the 21st century Church.

    • ColdStanding

      I highly recommend prayer, the sacraments, the CCC, and the Holy Rosary.

      • dimmek1

        ColdStanding I believe what you said is a given, obvious: the sacraments, prayer, the Rosary, the CCC. Mr Bob was kindly suggesting/offering a good read, no need to one-up him.

        • ColdStanding

          Mr. Bob is only the accidental target of my rebuke.

    • Christian LeBlanc

      I thought it was rather dry and generic; an idea better suited to a long essay in, say, First Things, than a free-standing book.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    A word that starts with a t is far more important- transparency. Cultural Catholics in New Jersey did an end run around their archbishop and caused a convicted child abuser to hear teenager’s confessions in private because the archdiocese wasn’t transparent enough with their handling of the sex abuse scandal.

    But this just leads back to your point that we need *comprehensive Catholicism* that is honest.

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  • OldDadJon

    Pope Leo called it in 1899: TESTEM BENEVOLENTIAE NOSTRAE
    Concerning New Opinions, Virtue, Nature And Grace, With Regard To Americanism
    Pope Leo XIII

    His concern was to call down American Churchmen who were trying to finagle the American Church to “fit in with protestant America”. Too bad the powers that be didn’t listen too well to the Holy Father, Leo. Here’s a link to the encyclical: http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/L13TESTE.HTM

    Hey Father its a small world. I’m a descendant of the Dunkards (anabapitst sect) in Sommerset County PA. Thanks for covering this.

  • Stefanie

    nitnot quoted: “A DEAD thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” ~G.K. Chesterton: ‘The Everlasting Man.’
    ….this is exactly what Pope Francis said at Sunday’s Confirmation Mass when he was urging us to strengthen our hearts by going against the stream: “This is the secret of our journey! He gives us the courage to swim against the tide. Pay attention, my young friends: to go against the current; this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide. Jesus gives us this courage!”
    What I tell my RCIA students is that the Church is Roman Catholic — but this is only to identify where Peter and Paul died. We do not call ourselves Jerusalem Catholic — where our Lord died. We do not call ourselves American Catholic. We are Romans without an earthly nation; thus the ‘catholic’ – universal, not cultural.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003586781928 Magdalene Prodigal

    My ancestors came to this country about 400 years ago. I would say that the other ethnic part of the family tree is well blended into America. I am a Catholic. I know my faith and I live it. I am not a cultural Catholic but part of those renewing and reviving our patrimony. I am not young but young at heart and recently earned a Master’s Degree in Moral Theology and am a Third Order religious. I am not alone. There are more of us coming and we are not sitting back or just accumulating stuff. And the young faithful Catholics are coming of age too. Right now they are busy with their large families but a corner has been turned. Their children are even prepared to be martyred as was I as a young child.

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  • http://twitter.com/ignatzz Ignatz

    What’s harming American Catholicism is that two many bishops have tried to replace it with American Republicanism. While suffering has increased because of greed and income inequality, they decided that the most important thing was to attack gay people. The new Pope may help to change that. I would LOVE to see American Catholics reminded that both Capitalism AND Communism are considered wrong. And I would love to hear someone mention Distributism to Paul Ryan.

    • littleeif

      Silly comment considering the number of Catholics voting Democratic in the last two elections. Following your line of thought, as the article premises, we have been delivered to this pro-death president supported by a pro-death party and clueless Catholics so enamored of labor unions they are preferred literally to life itself. You are the Catholic this article is about. Please re-read it.

      • http://twitter.com/ignatzz Ignatz

        I said “Bishops,” not “Catholics.” There is a chasm between the bishops and the people in the pews, and the bishops should pay attention to what the laity are saying.

        • littleeif

          Depends on where you’re sitting in the pews. The entire point is that many Catholics need to listen to what the Church and its bishops are saying. Do Catholics such as Mr. Biden or Ms. Pelosi more closely mirror the Catholics you’re sitting in church with? Seriously? You continue to make the point.

        • Phil Steinacker

          You speak nothing but fiction. Your ilk didn’t accuse the bishops of being Democrats during the years of Bernadin’s so-called “seamless garment” when most of them cast their lot with the unions and gradually tolerated contraception and abortion, so calling pro-life bishops Republicans because Catholic Democrats abandoned the Faith on pro-life issues when the Republicans didn’t is total hypocrisy – not to mention dishonest.
          And NO – the Church as NEVER taught capitalism was “wrong” like communism, but She has taught that unbridle capitalism is wrong without ever suggesting any form of communism is acceptable.
          On homosexuality, the pew sitters are split; there is no homogeneous view from the pew on that one. However, you are singing from the hymnal of falsehoods continually pushed by the phony Catholic Left.
          Your ignorance of the Catholic Church is appalling.

    • http://twitter.com/spiffy74 Ron Turner

      Name the page in the Catechism that states that “capitalism is wrong” or …

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jambe-dArgent/100003865893919 Jambe d’Argent

    I believe that the core problem with modern (and not only American but world) Catholicism goes much deeper than that. In short, it arises from describing Christianity as a “religion of love”, especially of the love of one’s neighbor. But we no longer understand the true meaning of love – nowadays the majority of people perceive love in completely sentimental terms, a fuzzy-warm feeling that approves of everything and forbids nothing. The real Christian love is “tough love”, love that is inseparable from truth and justice – yet many Christians forget this basic truth. They also forget that “the first and greater commandment” is to love God, the second to love one’s neighbor. The Church must continuously clarify this misunderstanding or suffer the consequences.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jambe-dArgent/100003865893919 Jambe d’Argent

      A pertinent fragment of an article about a Brazilian Catholic priest having been excommunicated for publicly supporting homosexuality:

      “[Fr. Robert Francisco] Daniel claimed that modern science has disproven the teachings contained in the Bible regarding homosexuality, asserting that “today it will no longer do to categorize a human being as homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual,” adding that “love can arise from any one of those
      levels.”

      Source: http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/brazilian-priest-excommunicated-for-heresy-for-denying-catholic-teaching-on

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    Spot on!
    It seems to me that Good Catholics are neither Fundamentalists nor ‘Moderates’ (Cultural Catholics).

    The dominant Secularism (the epiphenomenon of the Protestant Revolt) drives our language and cognitional structures into Either/Ors, and wherever it does, there are ‘rivers of blood and mountains of corpses’ (Weigel on totalitarianism). The root is in Platonism, and as I see it, the path is Nominalism > Protestantism > Nihilism.

    Secularism has to categorise (nominalise) and therefore, objectify everything. It is an extremism (Relativism) although it’s blind to the fact, and so it attracts extremisms because it is just as binary (‘black and white’/’who’s in, who’s out’): just like Scientism – the ‘Protestantisation’ of Science – and just like the Muslim who’s been ‘radicalised’ (Protestantised). They all want to bring heaven to earth, and they all posit an ‘infidel’ who spoils their ideological crystal cathedral. However, they seem to miss the point that the very definition of Utopia (‘no place’) gives a clue to its impossibility.

    On the other hand, Good Catholicism is inherently Aristotelian. Aristotle’s ‘Mean’ (meson) isn’t trying to get the ‘centre to hold’ by putting everything on a Procrustean Bed and then chopping off what doesn’t fit, but by doing what is appropriate, subordinate to charity and the Eternal Law: the intellect judging, the will deciding, the body acting. It refuses to objectify (persons) just as it refuses to try to reify (ideas) as if the virtual is reality.

    My big concern is that there is a growing number of radicalised (‘Protestantised’) Catholics in the blogspere and comboxes who have apoplexy if black vestments and unbleached candles are not used at funerals, for example, and who constantly point out infidels, but rather than reach out in charity, lash out with venom.

    ‘Say the black, do the red’: does it matter what the second colour is? It’s the same principle – exemplified most in the tizzy about Pope Francis’ chasuble at his inaugural Mass – interestingly mostly by ex-Protestants. Are they that ‘ex-’? They’ve left the ideology, but not the worldview. Pastor Fellay would welcome them with open arms… :)

    I’d suggest Catholicism is primarily a way of being, a mindset about truth and reality, rather than a belief system. In other words it is a way of approaching truth and reality with docility and reverence, rather than trying to force it into my own categories and boxes.

    In other words Fundamentalism, like Cultural Catholicism, aren’t ‘religions’ (belief systems) as secularism likes to label and pigeon-hole them, but the use of a defective lens through which reality and truth are viewed. So, if this is the case, then any social expression of any religion ideology – however great and worthy – will be skewed, too.

    That is, healthy Catholicism isn’t defined so much by the content or belief as how ‘Catholics’ approach, appropriate, and articulate that content and belief.

  • http://www.facebook.com/reese.cumming L Reese Cumming

    While I can agree on the statistics of how Catholics vote, there is little else in your summary that either enlightens us to the real problems all Christians face in a modern, secular society, or encourages Catholics to think and act any differently than they are now.

    Regarding the cultural aspect, familiarity is just that; a genetic condition that all creatures employ in their behaviors in order to survive. Always have been and always will be. The majority of all Christian faiths in America have gone through the same experiences the Catholic have gone through.

    Yes, I do admire the select Anabaptist groups that have managed to maintain some purity, and I suggest that we take a much closer look at how they do it. The belief that Christians can walk both roads – the faithful and the secular – is a
    fallacy. To walk in true faith is to deny the world. To walk with the world
    is to deny persevering faith. You can’t have both.

    The real reason why Christianity is seemingly at a crossroads in America is simply that Christians are not a consistent example of practicing the faith. There is no allegiance to hypocrisy. The Amish and certain other Anabaptist groups are admired throughout the world for their faith simply because they walk the walk. After the refuse of false Christians are swept away by the secular tide, the world will once again see Christianity as salvation in this rugged and unforgiving world.

  • Father Anthony Cekada

    Don’t blame ethnic parishes. These existed in America a long before the rot set in. Blame Vatican II which told us to embrace the modern world rather than reject it. I’m old enough to have seen this happen.

    • Christian LeBlanc

      My recollection is we were supposed to engage the modern world; not embrace it. As it turned out, there was more embracing than engaging; but I don’t blame V2 for that.

      • Father Anthony Cekada

        If it was “engagement,” it’s one we lost! As far as not blaming V2, the same bishops who were Fathers of the Council also returned home to implement it. Presumably, they knew what its teachings meant — and they were the ones who promoted or at least acquiesced in the embracing.

        • LongIslandMichael

          Father imo there was and is nothing wrong with V2. I agree with you the problem was it was hijacked by liberal bishops, priests, nuns to advance their agenda not the agenda of the Holy Spirit. I was watching Journey Home on EWTN and Marcus Grodi last night and both he and his guest reaffirmed that both BJPII and PBXVI stated that intent of V2 was twisted into something the council never intended.

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  • Ben

    For one, the hierarchy is suffering from myopia in regards to the sex abuse crisis. Thry seem to think some apologies suffice for the decades of cover-ups and abuse.
    Archbishop Dairmuid Martin of Dublin said that one of the root problems in the Church is the “narrow culture of clericalism.” He is on the front lines of the collapse of western Catholicism, since the Church of Ireland has declined dramatically since the sex abuse crisis.
    It seems that when Rome talks of the Church, it only seems to intimate that it is the hierarchs, and not the Joe and Jane Catholic in the pew. Pope Francis is, frankly, the humbles.
    It’s so depressing, these state of affairs.

  • kcthomas

    Fr. Longenecker is a knowledgeable Catholic priest. He analyses everything scientifically. I enjoy reading . May God bless him abundantly teaching Catholic faith

  • Mary Parks

    Sorry, Father. You are right but you haven’t gone to the source. What is killing Catholicism in America is bad priests and bishops. Good evangelism and praxis would have prevented what has happened. Where were you in 1968? Of course, you weren’t Catholic yet. From 67-JPII, it was horrific.

  • Christina Thérèse

    Father, I can’t help but notice that you mentioned Brethren when you said this: “I come from seven generations of sturdy Pennsylvania Dutch anabaptists–Mennonnites, Amish, Brethren and such.” Having gone to a Plymouth Brethren church myself as a child, I just had to take note and wonder if you meant Plymouth Brethren. Did you? (Oh, and my dad was raised Mennonite…. ;) And now I’m Catholic. (And have been since Easter.))

  • http://xcatholic.yuku.com/ gerald nichols

    Difficult to understand why the author would leave his background which seems quite well grounded in scripture, to enter the Catholic priesthood which isn’t.

    • Phil Steinacker

      Wow! that just shows how little you know about that. You could not be more wrong. Perhaps you should do some serious research into what the Catholic Church actually teaches (in depth) about that, rather than make statements embarrassing to see anyone make when there is too much scriptural support to ignore.
      But I won’t do your work for you. I had to utilize my time to resolve my issues with the Church; you can do likewise. It only requires truly rigorous searching and sufficient integrity to work outside your closed circle/echo chamber.

  • Michael Wesolowski

    Not sure if I fit into your Cultural Catholic category but for me The Catholic Church has grown more exclusive and less welcoming.

  • Catholic Joe

    I don’t buy the premise of this article. In the late ’70s & ’80s, I heard tamborines & circular, hollow homilies. My ‘catholic’ college in RCIA taught nothng about the Mass, sanctifying grace, hell or need to grow in holiness. The Church became soft as the sexual revolution monster roared. What would have happened if the mass wasn’t turned into a little happier reflection on Jesus? if Humanae Vitae was proclaimed by ALL bishops? What if ALL Church teaching continued instead of tossing out the Baltimore Catechism with nothing to replace it? .
    I go to a Latin Mass parish that’s ethnically blended but very devout. My mom goes to a Novus oOrdo/Extraordinary form blend and the same thing. Teach the Truth & don’t dilute it, and the Holy Spirit helps us thrive regardless of race or culture.

    • Phil Steinacker

      Actually Joe, it’s both/and – not either/or. You are quite right and so is Father.

  • Dan Bodine

    First, thank you for blogging, father. Yours is a fresh voice in this political stew of ours, and I enjoy your posts. Your background is interesting — from an evangelical minister to an Anglican priest and then to a Catholic priest is a well to draw from that touches all the corners one could possibly ask for in one life, it seems. I admire your for it.

    I disagree with you on the drift of the Church, however. I think “the Church” in America (e,g., its ‘learned people’ in the pews, struggling desperately at times to stay abreast economically and hang on to their families as best they can thru God’s will, in both dynamically changing and challenging times), are in a better position to judge who’s best on top of this emotional issue–themselves or the institutional hierarchy.

    Coming into the Church fairly late in life, admittedly I lack the “clarity” from (and maybe even the privilege to comment on) the stable traditions and such, and, if so, I apologize beforehand for my boldness in saying this.

    But it seems to me — when weighed against imminent environmental dangers of climate change, diminishing natural resources and the simple fact the U. N. is predicting at the end of this century we’ll have 11 BILLION people on this crowded, worsening planet — bishops and priests taking such a hard-line stand on this simply are “missing the forest for the trees.”

    • Phil Steinacker

      Haven’t you seen how frequently the UN makes a bold proclamation on an issue, only to be decidedly proven to be completely wrong?
      The UN is hardly expert on anything except sucking down huge amounts of taxpayer funds without any accountability.

  • FrBill Peckman

    I hope you also have my favorite to deal with…and the essential cancer in every parish…consumer Catholicism.

  • Paxton Reis

    “…least 50% of American Catholics live like their American neighbors–going to the mall, getting as much stuff as possible, giving as little as possible, having a neat and tidy two children and a double income, and basically smiling their way to success like everyone else.”

    Amen, this speaks the truth.

    I see in our parish…”we need a sub for Johnny who is suppose to serve 11AM Mass on Sunday, but he will miss it to attend his cousin’s soccer game.”

    Well, you just taught Johnny that Church is not important. Our consumerism and materialism has distorted our relationship with God, and this is where our bishops and priests need to be leading us into a proper orientation with our spiritual life.

  • CatherineA

    WOW. That’s well said, Father. I may need to smoke a cigarette. If I heard this, or anything remotely like it, in a homily at my parish, I’d probably be unable to restrain myself from jumping up and shouting AMEN! PREACH IT!!


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