Trouble in Mind

Trouble in Mind June 8, 2012

My last post elicited an interesting dialogue with David Nickol on the topic of worry. David thinks Fr. Martin’s prayer is too irenic, too reliant on the “God is in charge and he will provide” business. According to David, human freedom and the propensity to do evil, combined with what are only minimal guarantees of the Holy Spirit’s protection, give us plenty to worry about when it comes to the Catholic Church, which he views as being in decline, and possibly in crisis.

There is no question that the Church faces enormous challenges, including many generated from within, and even some whose origin can be pinpointed in Vatican City. It has ever been thus, a point Fr. Martin makes in his prayer, and the Church still stands. For myself, I don’t worry about the Church at all. But then, I don’t worry about much of anything, so you can’t go by me.

So, my question for everyone else is: Do you also worry about the Church? What do you worry about? What, in your view, is the worst that could happen? Is it the institutional Church you worry about, her reputation, power, or unity? Or is it Catholics in the pew; whether they’ll leave, perhaps? Do you worry about your own faith? Or do you worry about how the rest of humanity sees the Church, and what that means for her missionary work, and the works of charity? How do you square your worries with St. Paul’s exhortation to “… not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”?


"I knew a painter who said that Titian was the greatest painter of all time. ..."

Scattering Blossoms, Fallen Leaves: Titian in ..."
"How jaded must I be to feel the words of bishops against any atrocity today ..."

US Bishops Speak on Gun Violence
"I was also thinking of a song I heard, and in fact misheard, in childhood, ..."

The Church is not an Army, ..."
"I can actually see this text being read in two very opposite ways. Unfortunately it ..."

The Church is not an Army, ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I’m much too nonchalant about my faith struggles for the word “worry” to capture my concerns about the church and my own faith life, but my chief concern about the church concerns the loss of its moral credibility and the consequences that loss is having and will have on spiritual lives and the moral stature of society. The abuse scandal and cover-up has harmed the church’s name, but so too has the divergence between the church’s moral vision and the various moral visions of “the world,” which, in fairness to the world, are not (all) about rationalizing sin, but establishing a sense of justice and goodness incompatible with the church’s traditional sense. The church finds itself attacked on moral grounds.

  • Cindy

    Does any of it really matter? Does the modern day church care to help the sinner? I know this really sounds like a stupid question. But it makes me wonder. Why do you not see more priests beating the street in search of saving souls? Truth is, you have to come to them. Once you do, you must obey them. You are slaves to them. If you use your own rational thought on things, (or your conscience) then they come out with a leaflet on what they would prefer you to do. They make it vague, so you can make a mistake though. But now their bishops are making sure that you understand the churches relation to our countries nationalism. God is in charge? You must help yourself in this world and you can use the grace and guidance of Scripture or the Word of God. Yet in the end, you are in charge of your own destiny. What is the worst that could happen? You wake up one day, and think that you have been wrong. That the church is the wrong course. That you by listening to them against your own rational thought are indeed that slave. And you realize it, and you move on or away from the church. You still have our spirituality, but you leave it.

    • Wow. I and I thought I was cynical.

      Why do you not see more priests beating the street in search of saving souls? Truth is, you have to come to them.

      If you’re asking about diocesan priests, the answer is simple: numbers and the obligations of running a parish (or several). Indeed, these priests need to stay near the parish, generally speaking, so they can be quickly available for people’s spiritual needs. Yeah, you have to come to them, but you you know where to find them, and that’s a blessing considering alternatives.

      Once you do, you must obey them. You are slaves to them. If you use your own rational thought on things, (or your conscience) then they come out with a leaflet on what they would prefer you to do. They make it vague, so you can make a mistake though

      Please. You’re a slave to them because they might hand you a leaflet stating their preference? Your bar for “slavery” is an indicated preference? That’s absurdly low.

      But now their bishops are making sure that you understand the churches relation to our countries nationalism.

      Really? How so? Because their stance against the HHS mandate, well taken in my view, is a fight against the national ethos.

    • Mark Gordon

      Cindy, I appreciate your perspective, but aren’t we all called to proclaim the Kingdom of God and perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy? And aren’t we laypeople uniquely called to do so in the secular “streets?”

      “In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a oneness of mission. Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world.(2)

      “They exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.” – Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity

      • Cindy

        I read this the other day. “The most valuable asset is not a head full of knowledge, but a hert full of love, with an ear ready to listen and a hand willing to help.”

        The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

        27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

        I think Ronald King’s point is spot on. I feel left out. Lost. Maybe it’s my fault for that. Then again, maybe it’s not entirely my fault. Look at the world around you and tell me you see what Ronald King expressed. A compassion and an understanding or care for those that are lost? People are much more concerned about hearing themselves speak. They are much more concerned with policy and politics. Why are people taking a break? I don’t think I’m the only one.

        • Mark Gordon

          Why are people “taking a break” from the Church? Because they have itching ears and don’t like what they’re hearing. I can’t speak for Ronald, but I know one or two people who are taking a break because the Church won’t approve of homosexual acts or so-called “gay marraige.” I know a right-wing guy who’s taking a break because of our bishop’s stand on immigrants’ rights. Like children, these people will refuse the Bread of Life and the fellowship of the Body until they get their own way. This response is everything Ronald says he can’t abide: unloving, defensive, and narcissistic.

          An adult response would be to stop whining and worrying and go serve someone in need. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Attend to the sick. Preach the Gospel to the “lost” in the secular street. Don’t wait for “Father” to do it. Don’t wait for your bishop to do it. Don’t wait for Rome to change its teaching on whatever. YOU do it. Today!

        • Kurt


          I agree with you. I’m following your counsel here as best I can. I’ve also terminated all of my financial contributions to the Church and Catholic agencies. The beauty is that one can maintain fuil participation in the sacraments and the Mass and respond to the Gospel call for charity and justice without any mandatory dues or otherwise contributing to our Falangist controlled institution.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Yes, I worry about the Church all the time. This is not an existential worry: we were promised that “the gates of Hell will not prevail” and I take this seriously. But this does not prevent me from worrying that our leadership has really screwed up over the past decades and now has squandered most if not all of its moral authority; it does not prevent me from worrying about an ethos that confuses narrow orthodoxy and conformity with fidelity to Christ and His Church; it does not prevent me from worrying about a Church that is too willing to settle for mediocrity and half-heartedness.

  • Ronald King

    I do not worry about the Church but I am greatly disappointed in the institutional church which seems to lack the depth of empathy needed to develop a deepening compassionate understanding of human relationships especially when those relationships do not conform to the dogmatic beliefs developed through their concept of “natural law” and the philosophy supporting this myopic view. I say this with a very limited understanding of “natural law”. I am currently taking a break from participation in the institutional church due to the intrusion into my consciousness of a darkness associated with what I have interpreted as intellectualism substituting for love; defensiveness substituting for openness; paranoia instead of insight; narcissism instead of humility; fear instead of faith. There is more but that is a start.

    • Cindy

      Most beautifully spoken Ronald King.

    • Rat-biter

      If only there were a “Like” button for that post.

      The Church may last – whether the monstrosity governed by the Papacy does, is a separate question.

    • Ronald King

      The Love God revealed to me within the Church is what influenced me to return to the institutional church in 2005 after a 40 year absence. I was naive of course to believe that it is God’s Love which directs the Church to a deeper understanding of human suffering and what is needed to heal the wounds of that suffering. My life in the secular world as a psychotherapist outside the institutional church gave me a better opportunity to understand the existential crises we humans experience when we live in an environment which is not loving. Violence against women and children through the influence of a male dominated world have continued to increase no matter how many laws have been created to protect them. Wars have continued no matter how many armies and weapons of mass destruction have been developed. Greed continues to be the source of motivation. Lust is what powers all that is harmful. In the last 7 years since returning to the institutional church I have seen many opportunities for the Pope and bishops to be examples of a sacrificial offering just as Christ had done in order to help those who have no voice and a massacred daily. When I look at the history of WW1 and WW2, I become extremely disappointed in the reality of Christians and Catholics killing each other, while the holocaust was right under their noses and all the while the Pope directly knowing this did not offer his life for the suffering and death of all the innocents.
      Now here in the U.S. where there is NO THREAT to religious liberty we have the leadershiip of the institutional church taking a “courageous” stand against an “enemy” who they have created within their own minds. It is like the institutional collective unconscious of the hierarchy and their followers found a way to rid themselves of the collective historical shame of not living the sacrificial love which Christ instructed us to do by identifying a group, a health law and a government which will not kill or torture them for “fighting the good fight”.
      I am not separated from the Body of Christ. Once Christ allowed me to take Him in, my faith tells me that I will never be separated from Him as long as I love Him and Love His Creation.

      • Cindy

        I’m with you. Thank you for your words.

        • Ronald King

          Cindy and Rat-biter(now that cracks me up!}, Thanks for your comments. For me it is easy to see the position of orthodoxy because when I returned to the institutional church I was orthodox and agreed with everything being expressed on EWTN and other Catholic networks. Then it began to occur to me that being orthodox one must put orthodoxy above the mystery of God’s Love. One must be predictable within the institution, one must fuse and in essence give up the freedom to question the teaching authority and actions of the hierarchy. As I learned a little more about the hierarchy, i began to realize that there is a history of dependence on intellectualism which indicates to me a strong influence of left-brain dominance regarding matters of faith. It is indicative of left brain dominance to be linear, logical, with strong linquistic ability, but most importantly, it is literal in thinking. So, it seems to me that when we have a hierarchy influenced by left-brain dominance we will have leaders who are more concerned with theology and logic than with the mystery of human relationships. They will begin their theology and philosophy with the cognitive distortion of “the fall” as a rebellion against God. This perspective clearly demonstrates to me a lack of empathic understanding which is indicative of left-brain dominance. From this mistaken beginning the institutional church is structured and is historically a source of much suffering, while the saints who inhabit the institution do the real work of sacrificial love. Hopefully, I will live to see a Pope who will go to countries where there are massacres of innocents and offer himself in place of them. I had written to Pope Benedict in 2007 asking him to do something similar by leading us on a pilgrimage to Darfur to care for the refugees as an example of the sacrificial love of Chirst working through His Vicar on earth. It seems that this is what Love would do. Other saints go and offer their lives and are held in high esteem and rightly so. If the institutional church wants to be the Light that draws people into Love then it is extremely critical for the Pope to be Christ-like in his actions.
          I must stop now.

        • Cindy

          Ron did you ever see the movie Of Gods and Men? You should watch it. I don’t think you have to martyr yourself to show you have love.

      • Kurt

        we have the leadershiip of the institutional church taking a “courageous” stand against an “enemy” who they have created within their own minds.

        The “enemy” was created by Ann Dunham and B. Obama, Sr. The Catholic Church financed “Stop Obama” signs at the Fortnight rallies made that clear. If teh bishops don’t have a personal hatred towards teh President that goes beyond policy differences, they have made a calcuated decisions that they are going to fan the flames of other people’s hatred to advance their cause.

      • Julia Smucker

        For me it is easy to see the position of orthodoxy because when I returned to the institutional church I was orthodox and agreed with everything being expressed on EWTN and other Catholic networks. Then it began to occur to me that being orthodox one must put orthodoxy above the mystery of God’s Love. One must be predictable within the institution, one must fuse and in essence give up the freedom to question the teaching authority and actions of the hierarchy.

        Ronald, if this is really your definition of Catholic orthodoxy, you are making the exact same mistake as the right wing of the Church. I share some of your concerns to a certain extent, especially the confusion of some loss of social privilege (which the Church never should have claimed anyway) with an attack on religious freedom in certain vocal factions of the episcopacy (though certainly not all US bishops). But to concede a faulty definition of orthodoxy to a particular ecclesial fringe (and here I’m referring to laypeople no less than hierarchs), and to give up on the whole Church based on that, is truly tragic.

        Instead of defining the Church by its fringes, may I plead with you to help build the center? This is what the Church today most sorely needs.

        • Ronald King

          Julia, Thank you for your concern. I am not leaving the Church, I am taking a break from the intrusion of political agendas motivated by fear and ignorance sprinkled with a dash of rage(hate) being promoted in the Mass I love.

    • Jimmy Mac

      I took a break … and will continue to do so … because of the manner in which way too many people say “gay marriage” in snarky quotes.

      One of the most uplifting things I have discovered in life is that a lack of physical membership in Roman Catholicism has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on my spiritual life nor my hope of salvation in the end. This was tough for someone who was raised and indoctrinated in the days that “extra ecclesia nulla salus” was preached with absolute literalness. 1 Cor 13:11 helped me to get beyond that and it has been one heck of a great ride ever since.

      • Mark Gordon

        Sorry, Jimmy Mac. I didn’t mean to be “snarky.” Let me be plain. As a civil matter there may be such a thing as gay marriage, but from a Catholic perspective there never will be. By your own testimony here, you have absolutely no need for the Church. Good for you. But then, why do you keep hanging around Catholic blogs? Are you trying to convince Catholics or yourself?

        • Kurt

          As a Catholic who affirms that divorce and remarriage is not possible, I’ve come to refer to Ronnie and Nancy Reagan’s “marriage” the same way.

        • Mark,

          Don’t you believe a Catholic should try to draw people to the Church rather than drive them away?

        • Jimmy Mac

          It’s a bit arrogant on your part to equate Catholic with Roman Catholicism. But, to keep you happy, I’m just a “Roaming” Catholic these days. I lurk because, whenever I weaken, I just need to visit “catholic” blogs to reassure myself to just keep on roaming.

        • Mark Gordon

          David, unfortunately the Church will always be repellent to some people because it requires them to give up something. The rich young man couldn’t give up his possessions, so he went away sad. Jimmy Mac and others who walk away know how to return, and they know what to give up in order to do so. As someone born outside the communion of the Church, what I had abandon was the Protestant principle, a 500-year tradition of private judgment set in opposition to the the teaching of the Church. It cost me something, both intellectually and personally. But what I gained, the Eucharist, was worth worth it all. What galls me about cradle Catholics, and why I equate them to spoiled children, is that they’ve had it all since birth but walk away so easily for the cold comfort of the Protestant principle.

        • Cindy

          What galls me about cradle Catholics, and why I equate them to spoiled children, is that they’ve had it all since birth but walk away so easily for the cold comfort of the Protestant principle….. “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” For me I simply disagree and I don’t believe you are actually eating the body. Now I do believe when you eat it, the Spirit comes into us, and we are filled with it. But I don’t believe I’m eating flesh.

          • Mark Gordon

            Ah, yes. People disagreed from the beginning, which is why the crowds left because he had said “…eat my flesh” and “drink my blood” five times! He didn’t chase those who left, crying “Come back, you misunderstand!” He let them go, turned to his disciples and asked if they would like to leave, too. Later generations of Christians went to their deaths over the accusation of cannibalism. Read Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Rusticus, the prefect of Rome. More importantly, you set your own opinion over that of the Church, including her reading of Scripture and 2000 years of sacred tradition. What’s next, Cindy? You “simply” disagree with the doctrine of the Trinity, or the canon of Scripture, or perhaps the Hypostatic Union? By placing your own, half-formed and ill-formed opinion above that of the Church you have embodied the Protestant principle.

  • I am very concerned about the diminishing moral authority (or, really, moral influence) of the institutional Church. But I am not really concerned about the bishops’ recent focus on a few hot-button issues, particularly gay marriage and abortion. Instead, I think the bishops are quite right to be worried about what is happening to the family in Western society and especially in the US. We have reached the point where only a dwindling minority of our children can expect to be raised in stable households with their own mothers and fathers. If strong family life is in fact the essential groundwork for building a just society, as our social teaching holds, then all Catholics who are committed to social justice should also be alarmed.

    The problem, though, is that every time the Vatican or the US bishops attempt to raise a family-related issue, the focus turns instead to the credibility and authority of the bishops themselves. This is partly because of continuing publicity about the child-abuse scandals, but also because of the manner and tone of the attempted interventions, a point that Kyle has raised in recent posts. I don’t have an alternative strategy that I would prefer to see our bishops adopt, but I cannot help but think that the effort to subsume the bishops’ concerns about family/morality issues under the rubric of religious freedom is a major blunder likely to backfire badly.

    • gadria

      I actually do not think that our families today are morally any more or less compromized than those wonderful ideal pious obedient catholic families and societies that seem not to help preventing the rise of facism, deadly anitsemitism and the kind of absurd violence that the world witnessed coming particular out of the central european ‘proper’ catholic heartland (Spain/Italy/Austria/Germany). Particular among the ‘conservative catholics’ here in the US it seems assumed that certain kind of morals – or lack of is at the heart of every problem – conveniently those morals seem all focused on the ‘sexual’ ones in one form or another while greed,violence and hate are practiced with even greater vigor.
      Plenty of kind loving families who measure up to the best of them among my agnostic and atheist friends.
      Yes ideally church does guide us to a morally sustainable path into the future – in reality in my view church is not the only show in town to do so and frankly in many regards does a very poor job in this these days.
      My gay neighbors family raising wonderful children has in my opinion a much better moral grip than the prelates pontificating why what they do is morally unacceptable.

      • LM

        The position of the Church (here I include Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism) in Europe and North America is sort of like what the imperial cult was in late antiquity; a decaying institution whose primary concern was bolstering an antiquated view of the status quo. The type of society described by CST sounds nice on paper, but the countries that have actually put those ideas into practice – Franco’s Spain, Dolfuss’ Austria, the 19th century papal states, mid-20th century Ireland – are not places that I would hold up to as shining examples of humanity or human institutions at their best. American Catholics on the blogosphere ask why Europeans have abandoned the Church. Even a cursory look at history should answer that question. Most churches really don’t have anything new or interesting to say to the Western individual. You don’t need to be a Catholic to be faithful to your spouse, raise kids, give to the poor, or be an example in the community. Christianity had its chance to be creative. Now it’s over.

        The Global South will not be the savior of the Church, at least not the kind of Church that many Westerners want. African and Asian Christians are attracted to charismatic forms of worship. The TLM or New Liturgical Movement is primarily the concern of Western church nerds. Christians in the Global South are looking for miracles, wonders, and prosperity, not a liturgy in a language that has no relation to their culture. I know that the FSSP and the ICKSP have some outposts in Africa, but those are miniscule compared to the churches, Catholic and Protestant, that are charismatic. Witchcraft is an actual societal ill in many, if not most African societies and people suspected of practicing it get killed on a regular basis. Similarly, homosexuality isn’t simply disapproved of, as it is in some quarters of the US, it can get you executed. In places like Nigeria that are located on religious fault lines, Christians readily massacre their Muslim neighbors and vice versa. This is why Westerners, like the dissenting Anglicans, who are hitching their wagons to the Church in Africa are getting in over their heads. The Church in the West and the Church in the South are on two different paths, and they aren’t going to meet anytime soon.

      • To “gadria”: Franz Jagerstatter argued convincingly that the political ills of Nazi Germany resulted from the moral collapse of “nominally Christian” German society during the Weimar era. Having accustomed themselves to letting nothing stand in the way of momentary pleasures–even the lives of their own children–his kinsmen lacked the character necessary to resist the totalitarian madness that engulfed their society.

        Similarly, our contemporary ethos of unlimited tolerance for any and every lifestyle alternative–even in the face of societal collapse–has no interest in (or room for) self-sacrificing love. Instead, we celebrate “families” in which “wonderful children” are deliberately deprived of a father or a mother simply because they repudiate a “certain kind of morals” we find too difficult or uncomfortable to follow.

        • grega

          Why am I not surprised that you talk about ‘nominal Christians’?
          I guess from your point of view most around here at VN are only ‘nominal Christians’ as well.
          In the meantime the proper Christians/ Catholics think that they can nurture a feeling of moral superiority without consequences.
          I find what I read from the catholic right particular here in the US raw and borderline violent.
          It is not an accident that folks like Fr Z. get a kick out of IMHO sick Biretta – Beretta jokes.
          In my view in these circles what was historically expressed as Anti-Semitism is now augmented with a very deep contempt for all in society and church who happen to have ‘softer’ stands regarding issues like birth control/Abortion and yes gay rights – not even including the rather chauvinist attitude towards women.
          Yes I get it – if you indeed think that Satan is ruling the ‘other’ side it is not difficult to take the logical next step to fight this evil in an all out fundamentalist war.
          History has seen plenty of those sorts of thing – and it consistently did not end pretty.
          In the meantime plenty of us average catholic family men have to make sense of the complexities of our actual day to day life’s – yes I have changed my opinion regarding homosexuality and gay families – I view this not as a wimpy moral cop out on my part but as a mature cognoscente attempt to deal with a complex reality.

        • The marks I used around the words “nominal Christians” indicates that they are quoted. They are actually the words Blessed Franz Jagerstatter chose to characterize the German Christians of the Weimar era. Perhaps those people also conformed to the mores of their age because they reasoned they were dealing with a “complex reality”; in any case, in Jagerstatter’s view, they rendered themselves quite incapable of recognizing that their whole society had boarded a train headed straight for Hell.

  • Julia Smucker

    What I most often worry about, which Ronald King’s comment capsulizes fairly well, is the Church’s internal tug-of-war between those with a fortress mentality and those with anti-instututional tendencies, both of whom increasingly (or is it more of a constant?) convey a lot of bitterness. On my better days, I describe such things as a vital tension that keeps the Church alive and growing at an organic pace (though too fast for the one side and too slow for the other), part of the big-tent dynamism that makes me love being Catholic. But sometimes it feels like the polemics are pulling against each other almost to the breaking point, and that worries and wearies me. Ultimately, I do believe that the Holy Spirit does not and will not give up on the Church, as much as we its members may be tempted to at times. But that is sometimes very hard to take for granted, and often too ambiguous to be much comfort.

  • tausign

    I have no fear for the Church, indeed I am quite confident of her ability to carry souls to safety. Scandals have always plagued her mission, but she continues on. 25 years ago I professed a vocation as a layperson in the Secular Franciscans. Francis of Assisi is a great example of how to deal with corrupt hierarchy and institutional decadence. He simply overwhelmed obstacles in his ‘minority’. In short his great influence was in his conformity to Christ and the transparency of his own skin, so to speak. This talk of the institutional church not being worthy of Christ is old news that has always been with us. Nevertheless, she still has the power and authority to proclaim, ‘the Good News’. Finally, I never despair for those who stray from her ranks, but I do pray for their return.

    • Mark Gordon

      Thank God for you and this response, tausign. St. Francis and St. Clare, pray for us!

  • May I offer this from Carlo Carretto’s, “The God Who Comes:”

    “How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you! How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you! I would like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand what sanctity is. I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and yet I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.

    No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, though not completely. And besides, where would I go? Would I establish another? I would not be able to establish it without the same faults, for they are the same faults I carry in me. And if I did establish another, it would be my Church, not the Church of Christ. I am old enough to know that I am no better than anyone else. …)

    The Church has the power to make me holy but it is made up, from the first to the last, only of sinners. And what sinners! But is made up of men (sic) who are stumbling in the dark, who fight every day against the temptation of losing their faith. It brings a message of pure transparency but it is incarnated in slime, such is the substance of the world. It speaks of the sweetness of its Master, of its non-violence, but there was a time in history when it sent out its armies to disembowel the infidels and torture the heretics. It proclaims the message of evangelical poverty, and yet it does nothing but look for money and alliances with the powerful.

    Those who dream of something different from this are wasting their time and have to rethink it all. And this proves that they do not understand humanity. Because this is humanity, made visible by the Church, with all its flaws and its invincible courage, with the Faith that Christ has given it and with the love that Christ showers on it….

    And what are bricks worth anyway? What matters is the promise of Christ, what matters is the cement that unites the bricks, which is the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit is capable of building the church with such poorly moulded bricks as are we.

    And that is where the mystery lies. This mixture of good and bad, of greatness and misery, of holiness and sin that makes up the church….

    The deep bond between God and His Church, is an intimate part of each one of us….To each of us God says, as he says to his Church, “And I will betroth you to me forever” (Hosea 2,21). But at the same time he reminds us of reality: ‘Your lewdness is like rust. I have tried to remove it in vain. There is so much that not even a flame will take it away’ (Ezechiel 24, 12).

    But then there is even something more beautiful. The Holy Spirit who is Love, sees us as holy, immaculate, beautiful under our guises of thieves and adulterers. (…) It’s as if evil cannot touch the deepest part of mankind.

    He re-establishes our virginity no matter how many times we have prostituted our bodies, spirits and hearts. In this, God is truly God, the only one who can ‘make everything new again’. It is not so important that He will renew heaven and earth. What is most important is that He will renew our hearts. This is Christ’s work. This is the divine Spirit of the Church.”

    Blessings and obliged.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    “Why are people “taking a break” from the Church? Because they have itching ears and don’t like what they’re hearing….Like children, these people will refuse the Bread of Life and the fellowship of the Body until they get their own way.”

    Mark, I think you are being unfair to the complexities that lie behind people “taking a break.” The examples you cite are real, but who overlook other, more poignant situations: the person sexually abused by a priest who, instead of receiving support and compassion from his bishop gets stonewalled by a hard-nosed lawyer; the divorced and remarried couple who want to remain Catholic but do not find any support; the parents of a child with celiac’s disease whose pastor simply refuses to make any accommodation for her first communion. To tell such people to suck it up and stop whining does nothing to bring them closer to Christ.

    • Mark Gordon

      David, these other, “more poignant” situations have a completely different dynamic, usually involving an actual injustice done to an individual by someone representing the Church. That is quite different from someone who “takes a break” from the Church because they don’t like this or that teaching, or this or that liturgical reform. Such “breaks,” are, in my opinion, a reflection of our throw-it-away consumer culture, where everything is reducible to individual choice, including the durability of solemn commitments.

      • jordan st. francis

        But I think you also ignore the vociferous calls of a great many clergy and laity who want a purified, orthodox congregation and are quick to tell us to ‘join the episcopalians’. This image of ‘our way or get lost’ or ‘the church belongs to the orthodox’ strikes me as an attempt to protect the validity of their own ‘consumer choice’. The Church as the voluntary assembly is the political model that precedes choice-culrure.

  • Rat-biter

    @Mark Gordon:

    “Why are people “taking a break” from the Church?”

    As someone in that category, my answer is that the CC is, in the words of Douglas Hyde about Communism, “The God that Failed”. It promises bread – only to give a stone, or a serpent. There is so much wrong with it, that knowing where to start is impossible. Matters are only made worse by the superficiality (& much worse) of so-called apologists to try to defend it: either they attack the morals of the sacred cow’s – sorry, the CC’s – critics; or they say something to the effect that people who leave “must be” ignorant of Catholicism; or make some other equally threadbare excuse for the spiritual nakedness & poverty of the CC.

    What is missing, is any honest attempt to meet the objections. Mother Church Is Always Right – even when she is clearly, disastrously, wrong. The CC is essentially a totalitarian organisation:it has the same mental physiognomy as Soviet Communism. It is a Fundamentalist cult – again, like Soviet Communism. It is not Christian, except superficially. Believing a few dogmas is not Christianity. But Rome thinks nothing of people – unlike Jesus – and sacrificeds them to the Moloch of orthodoxy: as did JP2. No wonder he has been beatified. Doubtless he will be canonised with Isabella the Catholic. That she even has a cause for canonisation is a disgrace.

    Those are a few reasons why. In the words of the Sybil in Book Six of the Aeneid:

    “Not if I had a hundred tongues, a hundred mouths,
    a voice of iron, could I tell all the forms of wickedness”

    which the CC has practiced. It commits the crimes – & and we are left with the impossible task of trying to persuade others that the CC is a Christian Church; or rather, the true Church. How is that not satanising Christ, and making Him the Author of the evil committed by the CC in His Name ? It’s blasphemous – sorry, but blaspheming Him in order to vindicate the CC is utterly unChristian. To save Rome’s ego, Christ must be dragged in the mud. That says everything. Its only God is itself, whom it adores with unfeigned & measureless devotion. Christ can go to blazes – just like the rest of us, for only Rome matters.

    • Jimmy Mac

      Maybe (I think so) James Joyce was right all along:

      “There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being.”

      Letter to Augusta Gregory (1902-11-22), from James Joyce by Richard Ellmann (1959) [Oxford University Press, 1983 edition, ISBN 0-195-03381-7] (p. 107)

      “I confess that I do not see what good it does to fulminate against the English tyranny while the Roman tyranny occupies the palace of the soul.”

      “Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages,” lecture, Università Popolare, Trieste (1907-04-27),printed in James Joyce: Occasional, Critical and Political Writing (2002) edited by Kevin Barry [Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-192-83353-7], p. 125

  • Kurt

    I’ve come to terms with the reality that the Church today in America is akin to the Church of Spain under Franco or the Church of France during the height ot Catholic attacks on Captain Dreyfuss. And that she is making mistakes in judgment that will have long lasting and negative pastoral implications.

    I recently saw data from a Midwestern diocese governed by one of the bishops who has been out front on conservative politics. Over the last ten years, 24% drop in the number of church going Catholics (even with population growth that was disproportionaly Latino). Oddly, with other denominations, the conservative, confessional Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod declining by the same number. And a strange bag of Mormans, United Methodists, Unitarians and American Baptists increasing along with evangelicals not tied to the relgious right.

    • Jimmy Mac

      Some people born Catholic are a bit slow to see reality, but they are not stupid! Au contraire: some of the brightest, most “spiritual” Catholics that I have known have simply gotten up, dusted off their shoes, and gone elsewhere.

    • Jordan

      re: Kurt [June 10, 2012 7:32 pm]: I’d say it’s a bit premature and even alarmist to compare the American Church with Francoist Spain. The American hierarchy does not “enjoy” the patronage of a psychopathically violent integrist dictator who couched his many human rights violations under a false veneer of “Catholicity”. Our republic is still nominally secular and democratic. At best, some American bishops might perceive themselves, perhaps incorrectly, to be players within the Republican Party. The forthcoming “Fortnight of Freedom” pseudo-political campaign will demonstrate just how much “pull” Right-politically-affiliated bishops have within the GOP.

      I agree with Ron Chandonia [June 10, 2012 4:36 pm] that the “Fortnight of Freedom” will fail to advance Catholic morality in the public square. Politicization of morality always fails, whether in the hands of a despotic confessionalism such as Franco’s regime or even witihin the conflation of christianism and American political conservativism which began with Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Although we stand about five hundred years after the Reformation, more than three hundred years after the French Revolution, and almost fifty years after Paul VI relinquished the papal tiara, the hierarchical Church cannot at last grasp that moral action is God’s work though the individual hands and hearts of God’s children. Instead, there will always be present the very human, and very tragic, temptation for leaders to present their self-aggrandizement under the (false) terms of others’ betterment.

      I stay in the Church because I know that most leaders cannot resist the pull of power and ego[t]ism. The challenge is to remain committed to individual moral action even if the temporal institution which represents belief creaks and cracks under the strain of hypocrisy.

      • Kurt

        I’d say it’s a bit premature and even alarmist to compare the American Church with Francoist Spain.

        A fair point. How about the Church as anti-Dreyfusard France?

  • grega

    Well -I certainly sense a pretty broad sentiment among my catholic friends of not really caring one way or the other. Church is just one of the things one does – but it is not the core of ones existence.
    Right now around here in the US clearly (from my perspective Jerks) Priests like Fr Z. rule the roost.
    Priests that care foremost about implementation of traditional texts anno 1950, re-establishing of the worst form of clericalism and on a personal level they seem to replace traditional caring for the poor by concerns about ones financials – particular related to personal travel and technology needs – great pious leaders that they are.
    In my view we witness the rise of a generation of technological Borgia’s. This tack will fail miserably. The average catholic is pretty good at decoding ‘Schein und Sein’.

  • dominic1955

    The gates of hell shall not prevail against it, thus I do not “worry”. I also figure that the Doctors and Saints have always taught on the fewness of those who will be saved, so all the problems and heresies and moral failures of those inside and outside of the Church are not surprising or demoralizing in and of the least. Especially since we have Satan gunning for us, is anything really and truly scandalous to a real Catholic?

    I get annoyed at hearing people talk of leaving the Church because of the sexual abuse stuff or because this or that pet doctrine gets a short shrift or because Father wouldn’t let our daughter have her wedding in the botanical gardens, etc. etc. They run the gammut from very serious and complicated to profoundly narcissistic and silly. Granted that people have some serious pastoral problems out there but ultimately-Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus and “To whom shall we go? You have the words of Eternal Life.”

    I could care less about statistics or numbers in the pews. People are leaving the Catholic Church and joining liberal Prots and groups big on “community” falsely so-called. A “sense of belonging” has become an idol and who doesn’t like to be told that those things we have done that make us feel bad are A-OK? Souls like snowflakes, not surprised.

    I am a litle put off by the fact that a group like the SSPX has been treated like lepers for the past 40 years and a group like the leadership of the LCWR is just now maybe getting a little slap on the wrist and a tongue click. If the Vatican is really full of goosesteppingly conservative prelates and they are really trying to “drag” the church back into the Dark Ages, Lefebvre would have died a Cardinal and the other three would be in the Sacred Purple as we speak but that’s obviously not the case.

    At the end of it all, the Church is in the awful state it is in because of my sins and heresies and your sins and heresies. If we want the Church to be in a better state, we need to worry the most about our own souls and our own conversion/reformation first.

    • Ronald King

      Why get annoyed with the talk of people leaving the church? Why not have an interest in why people leave the church? The desire to belong is something inherent in how we are created. Those who are most sensitive to this lack of belonging are reacting to the lack of love in the environment.

      • dominic1955

        Well, its probably my own fallen nature but to me it seems obvious what needs to be done. If we really believe in what the Church is, these issues are not insurmountable at all. If one wants to be saved, they know what needs to be done. If there is something in their life that is an obstacle to this, they need to change it. I have my own issues with the Church, but at the end of the day I know I need to die to myself and put my own sinfulness behind me. Its tough, certainly, but that’s what needs to be done. Personally, I go to a church where I get proper liturgy and the teaching of the Church but I could care less who else goes there. After being there for awhile, I’ve got to know people and have gotten a certain sense of “belonging” but even if that wasn’t there, I’m not there to hang out.

        I don’t judge others because I do not know where they are at or what is going on but I cannot relate to leaving the Barque of Peter. Also, I do not think its necessarily a lack of love but rather a lack of emotionalism on the part of some people. People, in general, do not have a proper sense of what love really is so I’m not terribly concerned about their perception. At some point, grace will take effect.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      “Will the last Catholic left in the Church please turn out the lights before leaving?”

  • tausign

    The differing perspectives presented here are spiritually useful to the extent that they focus on dialogue and avoid debate. The goal of a spiritual dialogue is to listen, understand others, bring compassion to those in need and effect change if possible. The goal of debate is to affirm ones own views while discrediting others: to find weakness in ones opponent and exploit it, search for the flaws of others while standing in opposition to them.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Perhaps a little strangely — only because at least superficially I don’t often seem to agree with his views — I am with Mark Gordon on this question for Catholics. In my opinion, one should always ask in life : “Compared to what?” If the opposite of “what me worry?” is a life of cynicism and nihilism, then maintaining of a faith is almost a no-brainer. The real question is, are cynicism and nihilism the only alternatives, I really don’t think so at all. But for some it may be.

    For the average believer that is the level it is all on. A different set of questions comes in when one uses influence in some way to support particular aspects of corruption. There is a more precise zone for culpability in the keeping-on of simple and untroubled belief.

  • Greg

    If any one cares to investigate, Philip Jenkens has a wonderful study titled “The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age” in which he chronicles the rise and demise of Eastern Christianity that rivaled Western Christianity in both scope, size and missionary activity. Jenkens’ study is instructive for those who rely on the assurance: I will be with you always, even to the end of time. In this age of rapid change, the institution could degenerate quite suddenly, as noted in Ireland. I think there is plenty to worry about for those inclined to anxiety. From what I’ve read, the demographics of Western Christianity is moving to the southern hemisphere. Furthermore, Islam is the rising star among world religions and is poised to dominate in the 21st century. These are just numbers and guesses of course, but they are indicative of something amiss in the Christianity we’ve grown accustomed to.

  • Ronald King

    Dominic, with all due respect, I get the impression from what you have written that your understanding of the role of emotions in human relationships is inaccurate. This is an extremely important point for the institutional church to understand. A lack of love will inhibit the expression of emotion which is needed in healthy human relationships. Whatever inhibits love is what needs to be understood so human relationships can flourish. Being saved is a selfish endeavor. Loving others passionately nourishes every soul.

    • dominic1955

      I do not necessarily disagree with you, but this issue of love and relationship is secondary to salvation. Being saved is not selfish, it is the only thing that matters. That said, we are not saved alone, we are saved in and through and by the Church as Christ has founded it.

      Ubi caritas, Deus ibi est. First of all, it is supernatural charity-sanctifying grace. Without this, we have nothing. Secondly, love understood within the interpersonal relations is a choice we make, not a feeling we have. Thank God it is so, otherwise we’d fall in and out of love as often as our fickle emotions drug us this way or that.

      However, in much of society, this is exactly how they think of love. Whether it is sexual attraction/desire thought of as love or the sacchrine smiles, handshakes, and other such things that people use to be “welcoming” in various modern parishes or churches of non-Catholics. This stuff makes you feel good, but it is not love in and of itself. Any apostate or heretic can smile, shake hands, and single out a stranger for a kind word. Those things are all nice, don’t get me wrong, but without the true love which is only doubtlessly found in the Catholic Church, the rest of that is just so much straw. That is a natural good, but what is then truly negative is the kind of “love” or “compassion” people want from the Church or their chosen non-Catholic group to confirm them in their errors so they feel good as opposed to feeling bad. There is absolutely no love in some non-Catholic minister (or bad Catholic priest) telling someone that their sin really isn’t sin at all and that they are “accepted” or whatever in that place. They might feel good about themselves for a space, but ultimately that sort of “compassion” is downright demonic.

      As such, if people are willing to trade their birth right for a mess of pottage, how pathetic.

      • Ronald King

        I am not talking about the “love” you describe above. However, what you describe above is worthy of a deeper investigation rather than a superficial judgement of people being “pathetic” in their search for love.

        • dominic1955

          Maybe you should look up the word “pathetic”-it has more than one usage…

      • elizabeth00

        If true love is found only within the Church, surely this is only because in her we are hammered into a new kind of “I” for whom personal salvation is had in, with and through others, but in no sense over and against them. Love is the embodied action of this “I”, a literal, creative “forbearing” of one another in Christ.

        • dominic1955

          Yep, and that’s why I paraphrased the common saying amongst Easterners that we are not saved alone.

    • “Being saved is a selfish endeavor. Loving others passionately nourishes every soul.”

      Fortunately the latter is one way of accomplishing the former, so everybody wins!

      • Julia Smucker

        Thank you, Agellius! To say that love and relationship are “secondary” to salvation reflects a fundamentally distorted understanding of what salvation is, one that would indeed make it a selfish endeavor. Thank you for bringing back the good old Catholic both/and! Though really, in this case, it’s beyond both/and – more like an equivalence. The false dichotomy (“being saved” vs. “loving others”) is not just a separation of two things that should be held together, but a splitting into two things of what is really one. No holding-in-tension is even necessary on this.

        • Ronald King

          Dominic, Your use of pathetic was pathetic. It is very clear.

  • You ask a very interesting question. Faith is a gift of grace, it is not given by the Church. To often we neglect to under stand this. Is the Church the faith? In my opinion, it is not. The faith will be transmitted by the Holy Spirit the Church is a conduit nothing more.

    The Church has a choice it can be guided by that spirit, or it can choose to guide the spirit. The later is a losing proposition, and that unfortunately is what we are seeing in this organization we call the Church. It has replaced the wonder of truth, with man made authority of truth.

    What will the future hold for the Church? That depends on our understanding of Church. If the Church is all about rules and regulations, and not about us and our frailties than we have replaced fact with fiction. I think we have lost our direction.

    However, if the Church is about connecting the essence of who are as the person of Christ than I see much hope.

    • dominic1955

      Faith, objectively, is the sum of the truths revealed to us by God in Scripture and Tradition which the Church is the sole guardian and custodian of this Depositum Fidei. Subjectively, it is the habit or virtue by which we assent to those truths.

      As such, it is not accurate to say that the Church is a conduit, the Church is THE ONLY conduit. The theological virtue of Faith is not given outside of the Church or without the Church. All graces flow through the Church, the Church is the universal sacrament of salvation-no one is saved without reference to the Church.

      The Church, as such, is infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit in matters of Faith and Morals (cf. Vatican I) and the Holy Spirit also gives the negative protection to all of the Church’s official dogmatic pronouncements that even if they are poorly set forth or badly argued and from bad motives that they cannot be erroneous or heretical. Thus, no one can introduce a dichotomy between the Church and the Holy Spirit as if the Holy Spirit operates outside, independent and even at odds with the one Church of Christ, which is One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman.

      • Jimmy Mac

        Lordy, lordy, Miss Scarlet! I haven’t heard stuff like that since my days in minor seminary back in the dark days of the late 1950s.

        • Peter Paul Fuchs

          Jimmy Mac,

          You really made me chuckle, thank you!! I love this set of thoughts especially:

          “The Church, as such, is infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit in matters of Faith and Morals (cf. Vatican I) and the Holy Spirit also gives the negative protection to all of the Church’s official dogmatic pronouncements that even if they are poorly set forth or badly argued and from bad motives [!!!!!!!!!!] that they cannot be erroneous or heretical. ”

          With your seminary experience you are no doubt aware that for the the blinkered like dominic1955 the more the ancient institution is wrong and even guided by the most perverse motives, the more it is right.

          Dominic the Dominican ensconced in the Rome, who sometimes chimes in here, is a much more subtle and canny defender with apologetical agility-tests than this divine canine.

        • dominic1955


          Too bad you didn’t pay closer attention or absorb some of it better. Maybe some of your teachers failed you at some point? Who knows? Oh well, its not over until its over.


          Is that at all what I said or is that what you like to read it as? FWIW, I was in the seminary too. Maybe since I actually “tow the line” you’ll just chalk that up to me having been brainwashed or some such.

      • I don’t think the Church should be idolized in such a manner. The Church like the rest of us has a beginning and end, and is frail and at times makes mistakes. Is not idolatry still sinful?

        • dominic1955

          Idolatry is sinful, but the point you are seemingly trying to make is that such a description is making the Church an idol. Of course, it couldn’t be idolatrous if its actually Catholic teaching. Since that’s what you would get cracking open the CCC, manuals, etc. it is not idolatrous and thus not sinful.

          Now, denying the papacy and the magisterium existed for the first 300 years of the Church on the other hand…

      • Julia Smucker

        “One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman” – and on what authority are you adding a 5th mark of the Church? Good luck breaking the news to all the Catholics in the other 22 rites that we RCs are in communion with.

        • dominic1955

          On what authority? No less than Vatican I, Session 2, January 6, 1870 in the Profession of Faith and Mystici Corporis of Pius XII, especially paragraphs 13 and 91.

        • Julia Smucker

          Dominic, the consistent inconsistency with which you appeal to one Vatican council as authoritative and dismiss the other as unauthoritative is getting really tiring.

          And you still haven’t addressed how you square your interpretation of Romanness as an essential mark of the Church with the existence of the 22 non-Roman rites.

        • dominic1955

          I have happened to refer to Vatican I “frequently” because 1) it happens to be relevant and 2) it is clear and to the point. Show me where I’ve denied Vatican II or said it is “unauthoritative”. I do not appeal to it as frequently because it isn’t as clear and to the point and largely just rehashes what was said in other conciliar or papal documents such as Vatican I or Trent, not because it isn’t legitimate.

          Secondly, did you even look at what I quoted? Isn’t it enough that Vatican I and Pius XII say it that way, not to mention other popes? That said, the reason is quite simple. We are of the Roman Rite, and thus uniquely Roman in liturgical expression. Other non-Roman Latins and all of the Easterners are Catholic non-Roman in their liturgical expression. All of us, however, are Roman in that the Pope is in charge of all Catholics. In this way, the Ukranian Catholics (for example) are just as Roman as we are. The True Church, which is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic is necessarily Roman. A Church which would try to claim the other four marks without the Pope as earthly head is not the true Church.

        • Julia Smucker

          You denied the authority of Vatican II all over the comment thread of my previous post. And isn’t the Bishop of Rome classically said to be “first among equals”? Whatever primacy Rome has claim to, Rome itself knows that you don’t have to be Roman to be Catholic.

          Look, I don’t know why Romanitas is such a central ecclesiological issue for you, and I doubt I can say anything to alter that, but let me explain where I’m coming from. For several years as a Mennonite considering entering the Catholic Church, the “Roman” factor was one of the biggest obstacles, since for Mennonites this symbolizes an alliance with empire that compromises the principles of the Gospel. I recognize certain misconceptions as well as triumphalism in the anti-Roman narrative I inherited, but I still see ostentatious Romanitas as sometimes a counter-witness to the catholicity of the Church and the humility of the Gospel. I have often wondered whether “Roman Catholic” should be an oxymoron, considering that “Catholic” means universal. I have also wondered if someplace like Nazareth, the humble city laughed off by Nathaniel (John 1:46), would have made a better geographic center for a Church following a humble, self-sacrificing servant king.

          What ultimately convinced me that Roman Catholic was indeed a livable paradox was the realization that catholicity, being bigger than Romanitas, is also big enough to include those nostalgic for it, as uncomfortable as that may be for me. And living with what we’re uncomfortable with is, of course, also part of what it means to be Catholic.

          • Ronald King

            I like the oxymoron statement and you have much more acceptance than I. It is hard not to be like those who are hard.

        • dominic1955

          I’m sure I made the same distinctions I just made in the previous post concerning the authority of Vatican II. It is legitimate in that its a valid Ecumenical Council, it is authoritative in that its an excercise of the Magisterium but it also never defined anything. Its truly dogmatic statements are rehashes of previous statements, sometimes said in different ways or with different applications than from previous ones. Some of the rest is social commentary. Like Joseph Ratzinger (as theologian) said of Councils, not every valid one was a fruitful one, some were just a waste of time. I think once we all settle down (since the Church thinks in centuries) and we can examine the last Council soberly (like the likes of Mons. Gherardini have been doing), it will take a place along with the “waste of time” Councils.

          The Pope of Rome is said, by Eastern dissidents, to be “Primer inter pares” in the sense that he’s just one Patriarch amongst the others, one bishop amongst many with maybe a certain primacy of honor. However, Vatican I (sorry, but its pertinent) clearly taught that which was always held by orthodox Christians that the Pope has universal jurisdiction over all of the Churches-East and West. Rome knows very well, as I already explained, that one does not have to be liturgically Roman or under Roman Canon Law to be Catholic, but you do have to be in communion with the Roman Pontiff to be Catholic-whether Eastern or Western. In this way the Church is inextricably Roman.

          I understand we all have our biases, but you do see I have clear precedence from the Church Herself in my usages? Romanitas, as in, loyalty to the Apostolic See is virtuous and is in no way contrary to catholicity. I myself frequent my local Eastern Rite parish and have great respect for the legitimate diversity within the Church

        • Julia Smucker

          If you are unwilling to acknowledge that Vatican II was as era-defining an event as Trent (and much more so than Vatican I, although I am not among those who hasten to dismiss it altogether), this puts you on the fringe in relation to the Catholic mainstream. I for one could never have dreamed of being Catholic if Vatican II had not happened, and I’m quite sure I’m not alone in this, so you can at least be glad that it got (and kept) a few people in.

        • dominic1955

          I have no problem with acknowledging that Vatican II was an era-defining event. Of course, that is more of a sociological assesment than anything and thus, largely irrelevant vis a vis doctrinal issues. Was Vatican II more “era-defining” (at least for Catholics) than Vatican I? I’d say yes, but so what?

          If you say I’m on the “fringe”, what does this matter either? St. Athanasius was on the “fringe”. The concept of being “Mainstream” in Catholicism is likewise irrelevant. Does where the numbers lie constitute orthodoxy these days?

          I’m glad you converted, that is certainly a good thing. I also do not doubt that Vatican II (or what people perceive about it, like anything its more complicated) helped some people into the Church, but how many did it drive out? Neither assertion has any more backing than anecdotal hearings and cause/effect connections that are not necessarily there. I’ve had converts tell me they probably wouldn’t have joined had it not been “for Vatican II” and I’ve had converts tell me they might not have joined afterwards had they not already coverted pre-Vatican II (or amongst traditionalists). Who is “right”?

  • Jayne Horne

    Ron, it is wonderful to read your thoughts. Thank you~

    • Ronald King

      Thankfully, you cannot read all of my thoughts:)

  • What galls me about cradle Catholics, and why I equate them to spoiled children, is that they’ve had it all since birth but walk away so easily for the cold comfort of the Protestant principle.


    It seems to me that “lapsed Catholics” are very much to the Church today as “sinner and tax collectors” were to Jesus. They were nonobservant Jews, just as some people today are “nonobservant Catholics.”

    Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said to them [that], “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

    A great many “cradle Catholics” never got to make the choice you made. I envy people who have actually chosen their own path. When you are thoroughly indoctrinated from childhood in a religion or ideology, especially in a religion like Catholicism (the “one true Church”), it is very difficult to know as an adult what you really believe and what was so thoroughly inculcated in your developing consciousness that you can’t break its grip.

    • Are we talking of faith? If we are it is my opinion that faith could care less weather you are a cradle Catholic or a convert. Faith is a gift and it is up to Giver to make that decision who receives that gift. I did not ask for faith, and sometimes it is a cross to carry. I struggle with it, wonder sometimes is this a gift or a curse. But the choice of faith is not up to me. While I struggle with this gift at times I now know I am not alone.It allows me to once again view creation with wonder. of child’s view. For me faith is an ongoing struggle to see the face Christ where I am told Christ cannot be.

      • My understanding is that faith is a gift, but . . . it is given to everybody, so if you don’t have it, you turned it down!

        • Just how do you turn down a gift you sometimes don’t know you were given? Faith is not certainty, but I rather tend to think an openness to uncertainty. The first 300 years of Christianity had no papacy or Teaching Magisterium and yet the faith existed. Curious don’t you think.

  • Ronald King

    Cindy, That movie Of Gods and Men sounds familiar. Is it an old one? The point I was trying to make is based on research into the areas of the brain dealing with socialization. This system is named the mirror neuron system and it is connected to preconscious areas of the brain influencing feeling, thinking, planning and acting. Through this system we are conditioned to act think and feel through the observation of others in our developing years. The authorities in charge influence the expectations and behaviors we exhibit. I am convinced that we live our faith in general as it is modelled by the hierarchy until we begin to awaken through the Holy Spirit. I am convinced, that, if the Pope offered himself as a sacrifice for those being persecuted and abandoned, our faith would be the “light” it is meant to be and draw millions into the Body. The question is why doesn’t he do this? The answer I have is that he does not have the belief or expectation that he could do this. His identity is that of a theologian and an intellectual. Passion is repressed to act and is channelled into the abstract of theological development with the reward being associated with ideas.

    • Cindy

      Hi Ron,
      The movie Of Gods and Men came out in 2010. I saw it recently on one of the pay channels. What you were talking about reminded me of the very struggle in this movie. You have to watch it and let me know what you think. Not sure if you can find it or if you have Netflix or something, but watch it if you can. Thanks for your explanation, but you want the Pope to sacrifice his life? Is this what you are stating? Didn’t Jesus already do that? I think the hierarchy are simply to removed from everyday ordinary people. They are lost in their own worlds of study thought and prayer. Maybe that is what their role is to be. It’s interesting that Jesus got out there, and mixed himself right in with the people though. I could say today’s world is dangerous and they need to be protected from people that may try and kill the Pope. Yet, no more dangerous than the times when Christ walked the earth. Look what they did to him.

  • Andrew

    I am beginning to think from the above comments that I must be incredibly naïve, because I find that I don’t worry about the Church that much.

    Maybe it’s because I’m a cradle Catholic, but I tend to look at the Church as more of a really extended family than an institution. We are united by common rituals and a general outlook on life that sees the God that is Love present in all things, and these define us as Catholic more than any particular tenets of faith.

    And like my real family, the Church can sometimes be an embarrassment. I can disagree with some of its other members, and some can even become estranged. But none of these things actually cause me to fear for the existence or integrity of the Church, any more than I would worry about the dissolution of my family.

    And perhaps this is even more hopelessly naïve, but I tend to have faith that the members of the Church are doing the jobs that they are supposed to be doing. I feel that when the hierarchy speaks out against gay marriage or women’s ordination, that they are doing the jobs they were meant to do, regardless of whether I personally agree with their stand on any particular one of those issues. Likewise, I feel that when progressives speak in favor of those same issues, they are also doing the jobs they were meant to do. And when people talk about leaving the Church, I trust that God has an important purpose in mind for Protestants and atheists. Rather than be “galled”, I tend to be saddened by those who have lapsed or left, saddened that our beautiful Church (meaning all of us collectively) has somehow failed to make its case to yet another person.

    So, perhaps it is naiveté. Perhaps it is complacency. But I find that I am in a Church that mostly frees me from worry.

    • Julia Smucker

      Andrew, you are exemplifying a Catholic “long view” that I resonate with strongly. But I still worry quite a bit, because even among Catholics this perspective is too often getting lost in the culture wars.

  • Well, I can rightly pass as a ‘cradle Catholic,’ and when I’v spent a lot of time fellowshipping with Anabaptists and such I reckon some would have called me “lapsed.” I’v also spent time pissed at the church and God and other times swooning in charismatic euphoria (well it was just that one weekend and I’d had a bit of vicodin for a bruised shoulder, still I remember the experience fondly). I was reading a bit of Saint Briggita this morning for a project on women visionaries and her “revelations” begin: “God is disgusted by the fall and ruin of his holy Church…. drops of burning and smoking sulfur are dripping from the roof; the walls are as revolting to look at as pus mingled with rotting blood.” OUCH! Still, you gotta give the Catholic church some credit, even after a dozen pages of stuff like that they still made her a ‘Saint’ instead of sending out some albino assassins to whack her (not all ‘uppity’ women and visionaries were/are so fortunate, even today). Fun fact: It was under the unctions of Saints Catherine and Briggita that Mel Gibson (according to him) wrote his movie “The Passion,” St Briggita asked Jesus how many blows he suffered in his passion and Jesus told her that He “received 5480 blows upon my body.” I kept my eyes closed during most of that part of the movie and didn’t actually count them, so I will have to take Mel’s word for it.

    I find I resonate a bit more with Dave Mustaine of the metal band “Megadeath,” than with brother Mel, Dave writes in his biography: “Spiritually speaking, I was a creaky assemblage of broken, mismatched, parts: baptized Lutheran, raised by Jehova’s Witnesses, indoctrinated into witchcraft, dabbling in Buddhism, sampling new age doctrines. Nothing had worked, nothing had taken. I don’t know that you could have accurately described me as as an atheist or even agnostic, I was more of a drastically lapsed…something.” (“Mustaine,” by Dave Mustaine, pg 304 founder of the band *Megadeath.*

    I’v often experienced something of this broken, drastic, undecidable, something…well, I guess we could sill call it faith, but still, I am always seeking, even when I’m not, a family of pilgrims rather than a bus full of strangers just trying to find their way home back up to heaven all alone. I think John Howard Yoder speaks to this in his book “The Royal Priesthood.”

    “The work of God is the calling of a people, whether in the Old Covenant or the New. The church is then not simply the bearer of the message of reconciliation, in the way a newspaper or a telephone company can bear any message with which it is entrusted. Nor is the church simply the result of a message, as an alumni association is the product of a school or the crowds in a theater are the product of the reputation of the film. That men and women are called together to a new social wholeness is itself the work of God, which gives meaning to history.”

    Blessings sisters and brothers and obliged.

  • If we are the Church why are we (cradle or convert) so quite when the Bishops ignore the poor?

    Why is abortion, Gay Marriage, and birth control given so much attention by the Bishops this week in Atlanta? Is the Church becoming irrelevant in our secular society when it comes to discussing the issues that effect the daily lives of people not only in pews, but on the streets..

    Our Bishops appear cling to bad theology like the some cling to anti gun laws. This is exampled by the war on the nuns.

    • dominic1955

      Now, I can agree with you on this point-anti-gun laws are bad.

      • I must apologize it was not my intent nor belief that anti gun laws are bad. I support such laws. Sorry we do not agree.

        • dominic1955

          Darn. Thought there was some consensus being built.

  • Perhaps what is happening the Church is not a bad thing. The Bishops for to long believe that their role of Shepard of the Church in some way gives them precedence over the “Sense of the Faithful”. I continue to believe that in order for the Church have unity there must be dialogue between the three pillars of the Church: the Teaching Magisterium, Sense of the Faithful, and our theological community.

    I think one of Sister Margaret Farley profound questions was when speaking of the Vatican.”Should power settle questions of faith?”

    Or more importantly what is faith?