Friday, February 08, 2008

No "Smiley Face" Catholic Report Here

Russell Shaw, a pre-eminent lay Catholic and high-level observer, suggests that the Pope could be told the truth about the Church in the USA during his upcoming visit to NYC.

...Since American Catholics are supposedly not only the most highly educated ever [a contention of James Davidson of Purdue U.] but are also loyal to the essentials of the faith, let's look at what these exemplary Catholics believe. American Catholics Today (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), a book by Professor Davidson and three other sociologists, sheds light on that.

A survey in 2005 found that 76 percent of the Catholics of the United States thought someone could be a good Catholic without going to church every Sunday. Other elements of Catholic belief and practice also fared poorly. Three out of four said good Catholics needn't observe the teaching on contraception; two-thirds said the same of having their marriages blessed by the Church and accepting the teaching on divorce and remarriage; 58 percent took the same view of giving time or money to the parish and also of following Church teaching on abortion. These numbers have gone up dramatically since Davidson and his colleagues began collecting them in 1987. And, by 2005, nearly one in four held that a good Catholic needn't believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead.

In 2003, the researchers tested American Catholics' views on the Catholic Church and other religions. Some results: 86 percent agreed with the statement "If you believe in God, it doesn't really matter which religion you belong to"; 74 percent said yes to "The major world religions are equally good ways of finding ultimate truth"; and 52 percent accepted the proposition, "The Catholic religion has no more spiritual truth than other major religions."

Apparently not all of those highly educated and loyal Catholic Americans measure up too well by the standards of Catholic orthodoxy....

Knowing that Davidson published that information AND that he thinks US Catholics are "A body of adherents who are not only 'the most highly educated laypeople in the history of the Church" but who "affirm [its] core beliefs and practices."' makes one wonder about what planet Davidson actually occupies when not on duty at Purdue.

But the above is hardly comprehensive. Consider:

--the decline in Sunday Mass attendance (from 75 percent of American Catholics to about 30 percent)

and the precipitous decline in other sacramental participation:

--In 1970 there were 426,000 Catholic marriages in the US in a Catholic population of 48 million, compared with 200,000 last year, when American Catholics officially numbered 67.5 million.

--Every year in the United States, several hundred thousand—perhaps as many as half a million—Catholic young people whose ages make them eligible to receive this sacrament skip being confirmed

Now you understand why the red-highlighted text above?

Shaw cites Orestes Brownson, who admonished Fr. Hecker (the Paulists) for his optimism about the Church's future in America in 1870:

Instead of regarding the Church as having advantages here [in America] which she has nowhere else, I think she has here a more subtle and powerful enemy to combat than in any of the old monarchical nations of the world….Catholics as well as others imbibe the spirit of the country, imbibe from infancy the spirit of independence, freedom from all restraint, unbounded license….I think the Church has never encountered a social & political order so hostile to her, & that the conversion of our republic will be a far greater victory than the conversion of the Roman Empire.

...somehow, John Paul II's definition of "freedom" as "the liberty to do what is RIGHT" has been perverted into "the liberty do do whatever I damn well please."

Not exactly Catholic--but then, given 'what Catholics think is right' is so filled with wrongs...

Oh, well.

Look no further than Marquette University, Notre Dame, and St Louis U. (inter alia) for the proof of Brownson's pudding. the 1960s something else began that worked hand-in-glove with the absorption of Catholics into secular America and was not inevitable at all. I mean the institutionalization of theoretical and practical dissent, a process memorably signaled by the 1967 Land O' Lakes declaration by the presidents of major Catholic universities proclaiming their schools' independence from the magisterium. The effects of the powerful one-two punch of assimilation and dissent are reflected in the figures above.

Our friend Mr. Shaw cites, approvingly, Carlin's frightful conclusion (Carlin, by the way, echoes Cdl. George of Chicago):

Reviewing the evidence of decline in his book The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America (Sophia Institute Press, 2003), David Carlin concludes that the outcome of the crisis will probably be the de facto collapse of the Church in America and the retreat of Catholics into the status of a "minor and relatively insignificant sect." Traditionalists will have won the internal Catholic power struggle, mainly because the progressives will have drifted away. But in the end, the small band of traditionalists will find themselves isolated in "a new Catholic quasi-ghetto," with about as much influence on the culture as the Amish and Hasidic Jews have now.

...Chicago's Cardinal Francis George, president of the US bishops' conference and probably the brightest member of the American hierarchy, unburdened himself (in an interview with reporter John Allen) on the disappearance of an American Catholic subculture and what that means for "those third, fourth, fifth, sixth generation Irish, Germans, Italians, some Poles, whose only culture is that of this country….We're in some trouble in terms of Catholic identity."

To his everlasting credit, it is obvious that Abp. Dolan got Cdl. George's message--Dolan has been virtually peripatetic in media appearances, and the Archdiocese is running ads on TV which highlight Mass attendance. Dolan is no "fire and brimstone" kinda guy, but there's little mistaking his message. Terry quoted an Archdiocesan planning document which sheds some light on the thinking of Abp. Dolan:

Archbishop Dolan "has stressed that we need to distinguish between the location of the places where worship takes place separate from how we organize ourselves to live the mission of the church."

Of course, Dolan's message is being squashed (or at least deflected) by the aftermath of the mal-administration of this Archdiocese by his two immediate predecessors, who blithely (or malignantly) ignored Rome's counsel about ordaining homosexuals.

Can Abp. Dolan and Cdl. George pull the chestnuts out of the fire?

Stay tuned.

HT: Dreher.


RAG said...

I think the church has been in a downward spiral which mirrors societal transgressions as well.

The internal scandals within the church do not help.

Respect has to be earned and the folks running many parishes and dioceses haven't always been good stewards.

It would be nice to see more attention placed on matters of faith and maybe the rest of things would work out.

Billiam said...

It's also a victim of the declining American culture. Kids are taught that moral judgements are wrong and mean. This twisting of the meaning of "Judge not, lest ye be judged" is a root cause. If moral judgements are not allowed, than virtually anything you wish to do is. This is destruction. Leaders of our society, from the local and church level, all the way up, have been cowed by those who would see religion destroyed.

Anonymous said...

I also believe that many Bishops are more interested in keeping what they have than preaching the Gospel. We have CEOs and not Pastors or Spiritual Fathers......Until the Bishops and their Priests realize this, I am not all that optimistic that things will change without the Church going through some very rough times.

RAG said...

It gets worse. Apparently Weakland lobbied Milwaukee Journal honchos to suppress a story on the abuse scandal 10 years ago.