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Polarization and the Church [Catholic Caucus]
Inside Catholic ^
| September 18, 2009
| Russell Shaw
Posted on 09/18/2009 10:34:06 AM PDT by NYer
American Catholics have endured internal polarization for many years, but lately the split has become more visible, vocal, and vitriolic. For this we largely have Barack Obama to thank.
Before Obama's admirers start screaming -- itself a sign of the polarization -- I hasten to say I don't particularly blame the president. Obama has only been doing what politicians always do, seeking allies and votes where he can get them. In the process, however, the divisions among already divided Catholics have unquestionably grown wider and deeper.
Now even bishops have taken to advertising their differences. Maybe it's healthy that they should, since this allows the rest of us to evaluate their arguments instead of leaving it to them to scrap over things that concern us all behind the closed doors of increasingly secretive general assemblies of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
But the results are dismaying all the same. Consider recent public comments by Archbishop John R. Quinn, retired archbishop of San Francisco, Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe, and Bishop John M. D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana.
Here are three serious senior bishops committed to the best interests of the Church. Yet when it comes to events surrounding Notre Dame University's decision to give Obama an honorary degree last spring and have him as commencement speaker, despite his well-publicized support for abortion, they could hardly disagree more profoundly.
Archbishops Quinn and Sheehan hold that their 80 brothers in the American hierarchy who publicly criticized Notre Dame were flat-out wrong.
Writing in Americamagazine, Archbishop Quinn argued that "sanctioning public officials" like Obama by denying them honors "undermines the church's transcendent role in the American political order," since it looks like partisanship and alienates many Catholics. Archbishop Sheehan, interviewed by the National Catholic Reporter, castigated "hysterical" reactions to the Notre Dame incident while citing as a model for others his own success in persuading pro-choice New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to support abolition of the death penalty.
(In passing, it's noteworthy that Archbishop Sheehan declared the 80 bishops who criticized Notre Dame to be a minority within the hierarchy. At last count, there were 424 American bishops, active and retired. Subtract the 80, and that leaves 344. But nearly all of those in this group said nothing publicly about the Notre Dame affair. Archbishop Sheehan did not explain how he knows what they think.)
Bishop D'Arcy is ordinary of the diocese in which Notre Dame is located. Kept in the dark by the university about the Obama invitation until it had been extended and accepted, he protested strongly and boycotted the commencement. Like Archbishop Quinn, he explained his reasoning in an Americaarticle.
His objections, he wrote, were "not about President Obama," "not about Democrats versus Republicans," not about the appropriateness of providing Obama with a platform, and "not about . . . 'sectarian Catholicism.'" Rather, as he saw it, the problem with honoring a pro-choice politician was its betrayal of the fundamental mission of the Church, laid out by Christ in the gospel of Matthew: "Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good works, and glorify your heavenly Father" (Mt 5.13).
This exchange among bishops illustrates the old truth that he who gets to define the issue can be sure of winning the debate.
Archbishops Quinn and Sheehan define the Obama-Notre Dame affair -- together with the separate but related question of communion for pro-choice Catholic politicians -- in political terms: to withhold an honorary degree or refuse communion because politicians support abortion are, in Archbishop Quinn's word, forms of "sanctioning" intended to coerce politicians into toeing the Church's political line on abortion.
Bishop D'Arcy defines what's at stake in religious terms: defending the integrity of the Church and its mandate from Christ to preach the gospel.
Archbishops Quinn and Sheehan make some interesting points, but Bishop D'Arcy is right. The fundamental issue here is religious and, specifically, ecclesiological. Keeping that fixed clearly in one's mind doesn't by itself settle the question of whether to honor pro-choice politicians or give them communion, but it does make it possible to discuss these things in the correct context.
The consequences of not doing that were patent in some of the comments at the time of Sen. Ted Kennedy's death last month. Make no mistake -- Kennedy died in the Church as a practicing Catholic. God rest his soul. But however much his views may have converged with Catholic social doctrine on some issues, on abortion he and the Church were miles apart. It made an enormous difference.
A Los Angeles Times op-ed writer named Tim Rutten was right in saying Kennedy showed his fellow Catholics that they too could be pro-choice while remaining Catholics in good standing. Rutten thought that was swell. Others do not.
But let's be realistic. On the whole, the polarization of American Catholics isn't a split among practicing members of the Church.
According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, only 23 percent of Catholic adults in the United States now attend Mass every Sunday -- which is to say 77 percent do not. Moreover, reports CARA, 75 percent receive the Sacrament of Penance -- confess their sins, that is -- less than once a year or never.
This isn't American Catholicism at some point in an imagined future -- it's a snapshot of where we are now: three out of four adults seldom or never participating in the central religious acts of their Church, while only one in four does. Here's the real polarization of American Catholics.
In the Notre Dame dust-up, 56 percent of Catholics who don't attend weekly Mass thought the university did the right thing by honoring Obama, but only 37 percent of the weekly Mass-attenders agreed. More polarization. Instead of criticizing the university's critics, bishops would do well to address this pervasive crisis at its roots, while at the same time considering the possibility that the views of people who go to Mass every week are the sensus fidelium at work.
TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Moral Issues
KEYWORDS: catholic; moralabsolutes; notredame; prolife
posted on 09/18/2009 10:34:07 AM PDT
To: Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...
posted on 09/18/2009 10:34:34 AM PDT
( "One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone"- Benedict XVI)
bishops would do well to address this pervasive crisis at its roots, while at the same time considering the possibility that the views of people who go to Mass every week are the sensus fidelium at work.
That's something that seems to elude the good bishops.
posted on 09/18/2009 10:39:53 AM PDT
“bishops would do well to address this pervasive crisis at its roots, while at the same time considering the possibility that the views of people who go to Mass every week are the sensus fidelium at work.”
Three words; Ted Kennedy...
...the middle word is censored...
posted on 09/18/2009 10:41:29 AM PDT
("Integrity is the lifeblood of democracy. Deceit is a poison in it." - Ted Kennedy (D-HELL)
Sorry, I stopped reading here:
“Writing in America Magazine, Archbishop Quinn argued....”
posted on 09/18/2009 10:46:10 AM PDT
Forunately, I have a non-political archbishop who seems to be more concerned with our souls than currying favor with politicians.
As a convert, I simply shake my head at this division. I THOUGHT that one of the tenets of the Church, and particularly holy orders, was OBEDIENCE.
Well, I suppose God will sort this out eventually. I am keeping my head down and following the lead of Pope Benedict.
Polarization is between Republican and Democrat. The fault line has always been economics. That line was blurred for a while as people were doing well. Economic bad times bring it back into focus.
posted on 09/18/2009 11:40:38 AM PDT
("Above all things, truth beareth away the victory.")
Make no mistake -- Kennedy died in the Church as a practicing Catholic.
I'm afraid I have to question the author's definition of "practicing Catholic".
posted on 09/18/2009 11:47:22 AM PDT
(Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
This is my biggest beef with the abuses that occurred after Vatican II, which, I believe, was authentically convened, directed, and informed by the Holy Spirit, but botched, nay, “derailed” terribly in its implementation by opportunists in the Church.
After Vatican II, the liturgy was placed on a secular trajectory. I’m not referring to colloquial Mass - there’s room for Latin masses, English masses, Spanish, etc. - I’m referring to the dumbing down of the “mystery” of the Mass, the Eucharist, all of the Sacraments. Even as a child of the 70’s, I could see that transition taking place - as nuns stopped wearing the habit, as priests started inviting us, as children, up around the altar during consecration, as kneelers began disappearing, and a gigantic Christmas tree completely concealed the Crucifix at my childhood parish during Advent. They mystery was disappearing. The priest, for me, was always the emcee of Mass. He was there to “perform” the Mass, like an entertainer. Priests became known not for their holiness, but for their particular style of delivering a homily. Was he the cool priest that walked up and down the aisle with a microphone? Was it the priest that told lousy jokes? Was it the priest that talked to everyone like they were all children? Was it the erudite priest? Etc. Etc. Etc. The consecration was just a part of the program. Almost like a sporting event. The offertory was like “half-time”. Standing up for the “Our Father” was like the 7th inning stretch.
As the mystery faded - as the focus of our faith was gradually shifted away from what was invisible to ONLY what was visible, it seems like it was a natural progression those who were weaker in faith than others to start questioning all those mysteries. To question the consecration. The grace received in the confessional. The importance of prayer. The very nature of Christ Himself. It only makes sense that, once the faith could be defined in earthly terms (as the clergy facilitated), it could be attacked and betrayed and shunned for earthly reasons:
I don’t have time to go to Mass
I don’t see how the bread becomes the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ
I don’t believe he multiplied all those loaves - they merely shared what they had.
I don’t need to tell my sins to a priest.
I don’t need the help of the saints.
The greatest source of the Church’s wealth is its artwork (not its infinite storehouse of grace)
I’ll only go to churches where the priest gives a good homily.
Why can’t a woman be on the altar?
Why can’t priests marry and live like the rest of us?
Who says the fetus is a human being? There’s no proof it has a soul.
Etc. etc. etc.
This was decades in the making - this abandonment of the mystery, the dogma, the things that REQUIRE faith. It doesn’t require faith to like someone’s homily. It requires faith to believe Jesus is present on the altar as He was at Calvary. The clergy began to de-emphasize the “hard sayings” and began handing out lolipops, instead, so we wouldn’t have to stretch beyond the visible, the tangible, the profane. 22% attend Mass? I believe it, and wouldn’t be surprised if it’s less than that. Why would anyone formed by the Church and the mis-implementation of Vatican II justify getting up every Sunday morning to go listen to a fifteen minute speech? For those that stay home, that’s the definition of the Mass - not the sacrifice, not the worship - but the monologue. This was my attitude for my highschool and most of my college years. Mass was a big waste of time to me because there was nothing special, there.
Until lukewarm and fallen Catholics are evangelized in the MYSTERIES of the faith, religion, to them, will be a contest won by who has the best social functions and the coolest facilities.
This is what we’re up against, when I think of “division”.
posted on 09/18/2009 11:50:40 AM PDT
(Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, et ubi ecclesia vita eterna!)
And let me just say that, yes, there have been religious who never wavered from orthodoxy, even in the implementation of Vatican II. But the vast majority of parishes, dioceses, and seminaries in the U.S. went straight down the drain at the hands of people who had their eyes on the “world” instead of “God”.
posted on 09/18/2009 11:55:10 AM PDT
(Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, et ubi ecclesia vita eterna!)
The fault line has always been economics. That line was blurred for a while as people were doing well. Economic bad times bring it back into focus.
Especially when economics is so poorly understood by the clergy. I think I've met maybe five priests over the years that really understand economics. Two of them are now bishops who spoke out against the Notre Shame incident.
The reality is that envy comes into play. It comes into play for everyone. The clergy's job is to teach the message of Christ and how, through virtues, we in the pews can help those who are less fortunate. They haven't done that very well of late. And the sad truth is that while publicly disdaining the "haves" to the have-nots, the haves are chased for their cash.
posted on 09/18/2009 11:59:17 AM PDT
(True Christianity requires open hearts and open minds - not blind hatred.)
To: Miss Marple
I try to take my lead from two bishops” my own and the Holy Father.
posted on 09/18/2009 10:03:21 PM PDT
During the ‘70s, many priests became ashamed of being a priest. Notice how they abandoned the collar and the black suits and shoes that were their “uniform.” As for the soutane....
posted on 09/18/2009 10:07:53 PM PDT
A thesis exists which I have not yet heard a rebuttal for:
There exists a defacto schism in the American Church. At some point, it is likely to become a formal schism, with Bishops separating themselves and declaring themselves to be The American Catholic Church. A minority, the Roman Catholic Church will separate.
Some parishes really are “the United Church of Catholic Democrats.” There is more to the thesis ... but the schism is deliberate and well-organized. I am not the proponent of the theory, but it hard to argue with it.
To: campaignPete R-CT
A thesis exists
Would appreciate a link or pointer to more information on this thesis so as to read more.
At some point, it is likely to become a formal schism, with Bishops separating themselves and declaring themselves to be The American Catholic Church. A minority, the Roman Catholic Church will separate.
Well ... there are some inconsistencies in that statement. First off, there already is an American Catholic Church which is in schism. Secondly, the USCCB includes bishops from the Eastern Catholic Churches which are in full communion with the Magisterium. My RC bishop falls into the category of "progressive" while my Maronite Catholic bishop is traditionalist.
the schism is deliberate and well-organized ...
If that is true, then it is probably world wide. We have seen the same divisions in Austria, Germany, the UK and several South American countries. Hence my interest in reading more from any links you can provide.
Thanks for the ping and post!
posted on 09/20/2009 3:33:05 AM PDT
( "One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone"- Benedict XVI)
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