Is it a Church or a country club with a cross on top?

The Church today is a victim of mixed signals from her clergy. Clarity is not only lacking; it is often studiously avoided.

Christ Pantocrator, National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC. (Image: commons.wikimedia.org)

For the past several weeks, we have been inundated with more stories about clerical sex abuse, this time emanating from the College of Cardinals. On several blogs, I weighed in to say that, as regrettable as that phenomenon is, I have not encountered a single Catholic who has left the Church over that issue (not that that is the ultimate criterion for dealing with the matter, but it is not infrequently put forth as the major cause for the ongoing hemorrhaging of Catholics). I proceeded to say, however, that I do know hundreds of people who have left the Church for other weighty reasons—and reliable statistics tell us that their number is actually in the hundreds of thousands.

The present crisis
First, though, let me reflect ever so briefly on sexual abuse in the Church. Prescinding from what caused the disgraceful behavior (that’s a topic for another moment), I believe that the bishops as a group grossly mishandled the crisis. By presenting it as an example of pedophilia, they were not being honest; the vast majority of the cases did not involve prepubescent boys but late-adolescent young men. Therefore, we were dealing with homosexual activity; ironically, I suspect the media would have given very little coverage to it if that had been the label due to their own proclivities. Following the “professional” counsel of mental health personnel, most bishops—often acting against their own better instincts—“recycled” offending priests. Of course, had they not accepted the recommendations of these “professionals,” they would have been deemed anti-science and stuck in a medieval mindset.

Violating the ancient Roman legal principle of testis unus, testis nullus (one witness is no witness), most bishops took the word of an alleged victim, without supporting evidence. Which, in turn, generally led to out-of-court settlements—this time at the urging of lawyers and insurance companies. This had the effect of draining diocesan patrimonies but also throwing priests under the bus; after all, wouldn’t any thinking person presume that a diocese wouldn’t shell out a million dollars if it didn’t really believe the alleged victim? The pattern was thus set back in 2002 with the Dallas Charter. Could any reasonable individual not suppose that after lawyers and others had exhausted the pool of “foot soldiers,” they would not then be emboldened to go after the “capos”? But, as I said, the loss of parishioners, amazingly and to the immense credit of their faith, has been infinitesimal.

So, in my estimation, why have as many as half of adult Catholics left the Church? Horrific abuse of the Sacred Liturgy for over fifty years. Toleration—and in some instances—even encouragement of aberrant theology in the classroom, especially in the universities, and from the pulpit. The evisceration of the Catholic school system (with some notable exceptions). The promotion of “Catholicism Lite” by training at least two generations of priests to “lead from behind.” So, if a bishop is interested in genuine reform and renewal, these are the areas demanding his attention.

I shall now offer some specific prescriptions—none of which is “retrograde” or “anti-Vatican II”; indeed, they are all completely consonant with the documents of the Council.

Liturgy
Eliminate altar girls, Communion-in-the-hand and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. All of these practices entered the mainstream in direct violation of liturgical law, were winked at by bishops, and then codified as normative, thus rewarding disobedience. In keeping with the recommendations of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict and Cardinal Robert Sarah, re-introduce celebrations of Holy Mass ad orientem, which would have a major effect on the atmosphere of worship and the mentality of the priest. Needless to say, a healthy dose of Latin and Gregorian chant is likewise in order.

The vast majority of priests under the age of forty would move in this direction tomorrow. However, they are inhibited from doing so by pastors still living in the 1960s and by chancery bureaucrats who are similarly enmired. Fidelity to the rubrics, truly sacred liturgical music, and a deep sense of the sacred are essential if we are to bring back those who have been scandalized by abuses over the long haul, abuses which have been deeply ingrained, institutionalized and normalized. That’s the “zero tolerance” that is needed. Not a few good bishops are supportive of these liturgical changes but are cowed by their own bureaucracy and/or by their fellow bishops.

Catholic education
One of the most distressing disasters has been the virtual loss of two or even three generations of Catholics because of the decimation of our schools. Most of the bishops of the nineteenth century realized that without the schools, the Church would be at sea. For this reason, Pope Paul VI in 1975 declared that “the strength of the Church [in America] is in her schools.” At the elementary and secondary level, genuine improvements have been made since the 1960s and 1970s; indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find a Catholic school today in which outright heresy is being taught. The problem more often is a less-than-full-throated and challenging presentation of Catholic truth in all its splendor. As my own work demonstrates, there is also a renewed interest in promoting Catholic identity. So, although, in many areas, new schools are opening, why are so many others still closing?

The big elephant in the middle of the living room is that we lack children. Fifty years of either open dissent from Humanae Vitae or, minimally, a failure on the part of bishops and priests to teach its principles has resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of Catholic children—and schools need children to operate!

Another taboo topic is the evil of so-called public education. The public schools of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century were anti-Catholic, but they were not anti-Christian or anti-religious. We have witnessed a quantum leap in aggressive and hateful secularization. When was the last time you heard a priest or bishop state publicly that the government schools endanger the souls of children every day?

The clergy are afraid to make such a declaration for two reasons. First, because they are afraid to alienate parents who use the state schools or teachers who work in those institutions. A few years back, I was invited to preach at a parish about the importance of its school. Half-way through my homily, an entire pew got up and walked out. “Who were those people?” I asked the pastor after Mass. “The family of the local public school principal!”

The second reason for timidity in telling the truth about the government schools is clerical fear of the entrenched religious education lobby within the Church. The average DRE has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo; in all too many dioceses, their salary is commensurate with that of a Catholic school principal. Furthermore, all too many clergy—when praising Catholic schools (on all too few occasions)—feel compelled to conclude by saying, “Now, none of this should be interpreted as a critique of our wonderful religious education program!” If the religious education program is so wonderful (and none can deal adequately with the massive doses of godlessness fed to its children thirty to forty hours a week), then why should any sensible, prudent parent “waste” thousands of dollars to send a child to a Catholic school?

And how can we forget the near-total abandonment of the Hispanics in regard to our schools? That realization has made Cardinal Sean O’Malley to comment frequently that there are more black Baptists in our schools than Hispanic Catholics. For the first time in American Catholic history, a new immigrant group has not been given a Catholic education—and some can foolishly ask why more than half the Hispanic population has left the Church and why Hispanic vocations are almost as rare as hen’s teeth.

Which leads us to the financial question. In too many places, tuition is beyond the reach of the average, middle-class Catholic family. The maintenance of our schools is not the responsibility of parents who use the schools, or of parishes that have a school on their property; it is the responsibility of the entire diocesan community. Hence, Catholic elementary and secondary schools ought to be tuition-free—as was largely the case up to the 1950s. I love to ask a very embarrassing question: How is it that most of our Catholic institutions were built by penniless immigrants but cannot be maintained by the most affluent Catholic population in the history of the Church? Our problem is not financial; it is faith—actually, the lack thereof. Even though the financial issue can be a block for some parents, we must also observe that all too many families have priorities that are out of whack. And so, once again, where is the bishop or priest who challenges parental priorities? The silence is deafening.

If the relatively small Diocese of Wichita can sponsor tuition-free schools, what is the problem with everyone else? What is stopping priests or bishops from adopting the stewardship model that has been so successful there? Is it worth pointing out that one of the effects of the Wichita school system is priestly ordinations in abundance—ten men for several years in a row? Conversely, three contiguous dioceses in the Northeast with a combined Catholic population of nearly seven million had only twelve ordinations among them this year.

Perhaps the most damning piece of data is the suburban parishes that have hundreds and even thousands of children in religious education programs but have no school (or a school that is under-subscribed). Where is the bishop to demand that the pastor open a school? In the final years of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth, Philadelphia Archbishop Patrick Ryan removed any pastor who refused to open and maintain a school; by the time of his death, he had doubled the number of schools. The current reality is an example of nonfeasance in a major key. Interestingly enough, tiny Lefebvrist parishes or small Fundamentalist Protestant communities do sponsor schools, with minuscule resources, compared to the average Catholic parish.

Clerical leadership
A mantra in the business world informs us that “personnel is policy.” The current crisis in Catholicism is precisely one of leadership, a problem that begins in priestly formation programs. It is a most unusual seminary that trains its young men to be leaders; in point of fact, instead of raising shepherds, most seminaries raise weak, little sheep—who can be “controlled” for life. Seminarians are discouraged from “thinking outside the box” because that is perceived as a threat to the institutional model. Zeal is frowned upon, confusing zealous young men with zealots. Priests are educated to cause no offense; and if they do, they face serious repercussions from the diocesan rulers or worse, get sent for “re-education” to clerical gulags.

It seems to be forgotten that Jesus didn’t end up on the cross because He made people happy; on the contrary, He landed there because He made many people very unhappy. The model for the priest (and bishop) ought not to be the Pillsbury Dough Boy or even the Infant of Prague. If you’re looking for an image of Jesus to inspire, give a glance to the Pantokrator in the apse of the Sistine Chapel or the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. A Jesus without the Cross is a false Jesus, producing “Catholicism Lite,” which is flaccid, ineffectual, and off-putting.

Seminarians not given leadership skills become priests without leadership skills, some of whom then become bishops without leadership skills. That results in the sad phenomenon of “sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36). Wasn’t that why St. Paul could ask what he thought was a rhetorical question: “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Cor 14:8). The Church today is a victim of mixed signals from her clergy. Clarity is not only lacking; it is often studiously avoided. Cardinal Newman warned more than a century ago that no one is willing to give his life for an opinion. Yet we are awash in just that kind of “leadership—one which refuses to believe the Christian life to be a battle and warfare—and thus to present it as such.

One final difficulty in this area: Not infrequently, when a pastor does attempt to exercise his charism of governance, he is slapped down either by diocesan bureaucrats or by laity who have “stole-envy”. Is it any wonder that many priests now regularly reject pastorates? And, oh, there is one other matter: Unequal enforcement of policy. It is not unusual that when left-leaning priests do something wrong, nothing happens. On the other hand, when “conservative” priests do something that is even permitted (but not “mainstream”), they are hounded and even threatened with removal. Authority figures often exercise authority only with those they know or suppose will obey them. This incarnates the Irish proverb: “The willing horse gets flogged the most.” Which, in turn, breeds gross discontent.

Of course, a fundamental problem is the episcopate itself. No true reform of the Church can occur without a reform of the episcopate. The appointment process is terribly flawed as members of “the club” bring like-minded men into “the club.” The career path is always the same, even though Pope Francis promised a different approach: A young priest becomes a bishop’s secretary, is sent for further studies, comes back as either a seminary or chancery official. Having learned not to “rock the boat” as a seminarian, he makes that a life plan, so that when he is offered a diocese, he informs the media at his requisite initial press conference that, in fact, he has no plan—he is merely here to listen and learn. Imagine that line coming from the CEO of IBM? The board of directors would fire him on the spot. It is also disturbing to have to say that it is nearly impossible to identify a bishop who, as a priest, distinguished himself for efforts at reform of the liturgy, catechesis, priestly life or Catholic education. “Safe” candidates are the ones who “make it.” With such criteria, no Father of the Church would have been admitted to the episcopal college.

Another problematic dimension of the episcopate is the transfer of bishops from diocese to diocese. This aids and abets careerism, whereby a bishop can regard his present diocese as a mere stepping stone to something “bigger and better.” Aside from being a distinctly unevangelical mindset, it also causes him to decide to do little to effect change or allows for clergy and laity to “wait out” the bishop, resisting any program he might promote.

A sadly humorous development over the past half-century is bishops (and by extension, pastors) who present themselves as CEOs, rather than successors of the apostles. Adopting that model is not only anti-theological; it is laughable. Most bishops don’t have a clue about how to be CEOs, and that is demonstrated on a regular basis by bad business decisions and even worse personnel decisions. Given the sad statistics of the plummeting of “market share” and the concomitant loss of income, they would be handed a “no-confidence” vote by a corporate board and invited to hand in their resignations. That applies equally to pastors, who waste untold hours on useless meetings with lay hangers-on, who garner out-of-control salaries.

Bishops of courage and vision (unconcerned about public opinion within the Church or society) will foster such virtues in their priests; they will also seek out young men to form into priests after their mind and heart, which is to say, priests after the mind and heart of the Great High Priest.

Faith and conviction
These are the weighty matters which have been neglected and which are most responsible for the loss of Catholics to other denominations or to no faith at all. If the clergy attended to these matters, a clear and attractive signal would be given that we are not simply a country club with a cross on top. Nothing of what I have suggested endangers faith or morals, nor any change of church law; indeed, everything I have highlighted enforces faith, morals and existing church law.

Bishops and priests need to be encouraged to move in the direction of faith and conviction. The laity need to “step up” and take a mature role in the life of the Church, cognizant of the fact that no reform in the history of the Church has ever taken place from the top down; it has always been from the bottom up. Thus, Canon 212. §3 explicitly speaks about an important task of the lay faithful:

According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

When the Church’s pastors—bishops and priests alike—fail to fulfill their responsibilities, even after issues are brought to their attention, the laity should vote with their feet (go to parishes and other Catholic institutions that are faithful) and with their pocketbooks (don’t support weak or unfaithful projects and ministers). This should not be taken as a call to a revival of the lay trusteeism of a former sad era in American Catholicism; on the contrary, it is a summons for clergy and laity to take a strong, hard look at the mess of the past fifty years and to join forces to bring about the renewal envisioned by the Second Vatican Council but which died aborning.

About Peter M.J. Stravinskas 76 Articles
Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas is the editor of the The Catholic Response, and the author of over 500 articles for numerous Catholic publications, as well as several books, including The Catholic Church and the Bible and Understanding the Sacraments.

38 Comments

  1. Father Stravinskas:

    I am in general agreement with all of the concerns you have pointed out.

    But I would go further.

    There is a powerful nexus between the pervasive cancer of sex abuse in the Church and many of the other problems you point out, beginning with one direct connection: “bad Catholic education.”

    The same man Theodore Mccarrick who is now exposed as a total fraud, a monstrously narcissistic sex abuser, who targeted altar boys and seminarians to disintegrate their sexual identity as men in Christ, is the self-same man who, in 1967, as President of the U. of Puerto Rico, joined presidents and administrators of Notre Dame, Georgetown, Fordham, BC and other “Catholic” universities, published the “Land of Lakes” statement, a manifesto declaring that they would no longer commit to teaching the Catholic faith in union with the Church.

    Hence, for example, the chair of the theology faculty at Fordham, Prof. Hornbeck, is a non-catholic man in a “same-sex-marriage” to a man. And Prof. Liew of the theology faculty of the SJ’s College of the Holy Cross lectures on the homoerotic ecstasy of Jesus being crucified. And Bishops and “Catholic” colleges disobey the direction of JP2 to require mandatums for theology professors to teach the theology at “Catholic” colleges.

    The very same people who establish the network of sexual depravity and abuse have authored the utter destruction of Catholic education.

    And like the abusive atmosphere you experienced at seminary, the same people have run a systematic campaign of corrupting the catholic priesthood at its very source: by disintegrating and destroying the sexual integrity of altar boys and seminarians. Which of course quite naturally leads to disintegrateion and destruction of the prayer and liturgy of the Church.

    These are not separate problems – they are all part of the same giant cancer.

  2. Father you are correct on many points with one glaring exception. The norm in the episcopate is the active homosexual whose aberrant lifestyle pollutes his judgement: primarily his relationship with God, his theology, relationship with fellow priests, and leadership. This is why liberalism is destroying the Church it is the rationalization for active homosexuality in the celibate lifestyle

    • That is a calumnious statement that, lacking sure evidence, needs to be withdrawn. Civilly speaking, bishops could institute a class action suit against you for defamation. That SOME bishops may have this tendency is one thing; to say that it is NORMATIVE is beyond the pale.

      • Nobody knows how many bishops have that tendency. That the problems persist decade after decade, scandal after scandal, indicates that the number of bishops with that tendency is significant. If there were just a handful of them the upright majority would have been able to purge the Church of the vile few long ago.

      • Do not dare to threaten a woman who speaks her mind with a lawsuit. NO.She cannot be sued for airing an opinion. You do not know what a class action lawsuit is. You just exhibited a terrible example of clericalism.You should apologize.

        • The truth is the truth. Pointing out a fact is not a threat. Writing something untrue that causes damage to a person or group of people is illegal (libel). You can call it just “… speaking her mind” (even though she put it in writing), but it still could also be illegal (libelous/slanderous) if what she wrote/said is untrue and causes damage.

      • While Letitia’s comment is more than a little strong for me, the bishops could not institute a lawsuit against her. They are public figures, which means that the common law gives people much wider birth to make exaggerated comments about them. Why don’t you pipe down (and grow up), Fr. Stravinskas? More broadly speaking, I fail to see the point in this article. Being orthodox in belief isn’t a guarantee against scandal and corruption. There are deep questions here that go to moral corruption in the clergy. It goes to secrecy, clericalism, a lack of checks and balances, and outright abuse of power. In my place of employment and, more broadly in life in general, I don’t grope, sexually harass, or rape people in a subordinate position. Why is it that far too often the episcopacy ignores outright predatory (and even sociopathic) behavior among their ranks? Why is it that it almost always takes things getting to a boiling point before malcontents are removed (Pope Francis is included in this category)? *That* is the question. How dare you lash out at some random woman in a comment box that way.

      • Dear Father,
        Thank you for attempting to clarify the reasons for the horrific decline in Catholic Worship, Faith, and practice. We all have our own opinions why such a drastic change happened in our Catholic culture, from the great expansion and growth, especially in building schools in the 1950’s, to its current retraction, but stating that the admittance of homosexuals into the priesthood was not a factor is extremely naive. Another factor is the lack of Catholic vocations after the failure of the Bishops to teach Humanae Vitae, and actually to exhort against the prophetic tome. Without children there are no sisters to teach the next generation. Your threatening remark to Ms Velasquez betrays your alliance with the legal speak of the diocesan bureaucrats who perpetuated the decline.
        God bless,
        tom

  3. Please open your eyes,as to the impact of the sexual abuse in the laity.my sister in law,her family of five,an uncle and his wife,my ex wife all left the church in total disgust at the permissive,pervasive,long term cover up.total,shuddering,throw up in a corner,how could they,disgust.that is 8 people i know of.So sad.blind leaders .

  4. The answer to the question that captions this article is self-evident. It is a country club with a cross on top. A country club composed of cardinals, bishops, and priests who are 40% to 60% homosexual. And that does not count the massive numbers of psycho-sexual clerical deviants who are pornography addicts, drug addicts, alcoholics, chronic masturbators, and, yes, even heterosexual fornicators and adulterers. The “fruits” are the results that this article summarizes. The Church today in America and in fact the world is a cesspool of corruption, perversion, and hypocrisy.

  5. Many thanks, Father Stravinskas. In your last sentence you mentioned the “mess of the past 50 years.” And what was the big ecclesial event of 50 years ago? Well, of course, the promulgation of Humanae Vitae and the immediate priest-led rebellion against it. That was followed by the US Bishops “Human Life in our Day” that gave apparent support to HV but also included “Norms of Licit Theological Dissent.” Father John Ford SJ and others in the Minority position had already pointed out that the principles of the Majority acceptance of marital contraception could not say a logical NO to sodomy. So a dissent against marital contraception was, logically speaking, also dissent from the
    Traditional teaching against sodomy. And that includes everything else such as incest and spouse swapping, etc. Now, despite the concern over sodomy practiced by priests, the USCCB has published a Humanae Vitae 50th anniversary booklet and included their 1968 statement with its norms of licit dissent! So maybe a starting point for reform will come when they reject the idea that there is valid dissent against the teaching of marital contraception, sodomy, spouse swapping and the rest. Much more can be said, but this is enough for now.

  6. Good article, but interesting that Fr. Stravinskas lovingly and respectfully calls various Protestant groups by their preferred names, yet calls the SSPX not by the name that the Vatican, Bl. Paul VI, St. JP II, Benedict XVI, or Francis calls them – instead, he terms them “Lefebvrists” after their founding bishop. Sure, there’s an implicit critique of nearly every bishop in the Western World since the SSPX can sponsor very affordable schools, but the rude appellation is still there.

    Interesting it is, because in an article wherein bishops, overwhelmingly, are blamed, there’s the name of a bishop whose order has had statistically no problem with this otherwise ubiquitous problem (especially in the Americas, North, Central, and South).

    This is not to excuse the SSPX’s disobedience (not schism, as recent Popes have reaffirmed) to proper hierarchical authorities and ignorance of Canon Law, but their own self-discipline of an errant Bishop (Williamson) should have been a model for others in the Americas, no?

  7. As a priest, I know personally those who have left because of this evil of the sexual abuses, cover ups, etc…and I know many less people than yourself… how about all the seminarians and priests who have left because they were abused, do we not know these…? Mercy, Lord, mercifully come to our assistance…. Mary, Help of Christians, be our refuge

  8. I think Fr. Stravinskas is right (with the addition that two commenters above have pointed out: “sexually active” bishops, whether homosexual or otherwise. I’m so thankful I now live in a diocese with the kind of bishop Fr. Stravinskas thinks we all need.

    • To clarify, I don’t have any idea of the percentage of US bishops that are not living chaste celibacy. When we lived in a different archdiocese our auxiliary bishop was removed when it became public knowledge that he had a long-time paramour and two adult children in another state. Bishops and priests not living the virtue of chastity explains a lot about why we have heard almost nothing about it or anything related to it for the past 50 years.

  9. As a priest, I know personally those who have left because of this evil of the sexual abuses, cover ups, etc…and I know many less people than yourself… how about all the seminarians and priests who have left because they were abused, do we not know these…? Mercy, Lord, mercifully come to our assistance…. Mary, Help of Christians, be our refuge…

  10. What a wonderful explanation of what has happened to our beautiful wonderful church. Hit it straight on the nail. Thank you for making me think that I am the crazy one.

  11. In regards to “Education”, dear Father, maybe they are not educated in heresy; but they are not educated in the faith.
    One of my grandsons, who attends St Rose of Lima Parish in N Miami thought that St Joan of Arc was just the base for an story, not a real person, like some many other stories we are told at at school.
    At St Brendan Catholic School, in the catalog for the School, the uniform for pregnant students is shown. So, I do not thing they teach abstinence.
    At the school of the Catholic Cathedral here, the practice of vodoo is rampant (Haitian neighborhood, the Arch. Wenski preferred ethnic group), so much so that a catholic teacher left the school.
    I’ll finish here, but there is A LOT that could be said about ‘Catholic’ education.
    AJ

  12. It’s not just a sexual abuse problem, it’s deeper than that, and everyone so far failed to pin point the exact root of it. with more and more people turning their backs of God, what we have witnessing during t he 20th century until now is the re-appereance of the ancient paganism, only recycled with new terminology. With it, come the normal disrespect pagans have for others in general, specially towards those they know are weaker than themselves – it’s called the law of the stronger, which catholicism got rid from the 5th century onwards (after the roman persecutions had ended).
    The influence of freemasonry in society and the actions of eccclesiastical freemasons inside the church is crucial to these sexual abuses. Good priests don’t abuse anyone, a good priest doesn’t turn pedophile, but a pedophiles have become priests through infiltration.

    • Dear Luis,
      Great comment! One thing that I have noticed in the cultural wars; is that the immoral side has definetly won in regards to semantics. They always seem to use the right word to describe themselves in the best light. Sometime we even help them; I don’t know who coined the term “modernism” but it is definitely a more favorable term than the “return to pre-Christian paganism” as you have accurately described the current situation. Contemporary society is going in reverse, returning to a more base and crude culture of an uninspired past, not moving forward to our true destination as children of God! May God send His Holy Spirit to inspire modern day prophets to proclaim the Truth to the world and extinguish the flame of obstinance.
      God bless,
      tom

  13. A remarkable summary of the many issues that have led to the current situation. For me, the central responsibility lies with the bishops who, over the years, have surely known about all the deviance in Catholic education at all levels, deviance in teaching of dogma, etc., but essentially have willingly allowed such. Why have the many, many, bishops in the US not announced that such and such “Catholic University” can no longer claim that title because of obvious deviance, etc.?
    Having lived in Wichita, KS for some 45 years, I can attest that the primary reason there are so many vocations (to both the priesthood and the religious life) is the excellent, faithful bishops the diocese has had over those years. Newman University there is a fine example of Catholicism.
    We will not see real change in the US Church until the body of bishops change, and that is only likely with tremendous response from the laity. Sad.

  14. One Bishop of “courage and conviction” which you speak of is the man currently serving in the diocese of New Ulm Minnesota.
    The Most Reverend John M. LeVoir is a man who shepherds his people so closely that he “smells like the sheep”, to quote our Holy Father.
    He builds a culture of life one couple at a time, one family at a time, one seminarian at time.

  15. Excellent article. As for tuition free schools – I fully agree. Here in the Diocese of Rockville Centre however such will not be done. You see, spending on feel-good programs that should be all volunteer are instead turned into paid positions. So the bedrock of the faith, the children, are left to shrinking then closing schools. Disgraceful.

  16. Father,

    Thanks for this discussion, it is on point and very helpful. Sorry you have to endure some of the unkind comments which have been made.

    I do have one question given your reference to lay trusteeism. The Church seems to lack the sort of institutional “checks and balances” that healthy civil societies have. Is there not some way that sound laymen could be given some role in overseeing personnel and being allowed, for instance, to see the files of seminarians before ordination and be able to weigh in before the decision to ordain is made? Just wondering.

    • Nothing of what you suggest requires any change to church law, merely moving toward a broader policy. Further, some of the “checks and balances” are already in place in the ecclesial entity for former Anglicans, enabling them to bring some of their former polity into Catholic life. Worth considering, again, with caution. We don’t want the man’s second state to be worse than his first!

  17. In the 60’s, Baltimore followed Washington DC in separating the Parish school from the finances of the Parish, thus separating the generational relationship and the responsibilities implicit in passing on the Faith. (The responsible person in DC moved to Baltimore to continue his work.) “Full tuition” for the families of the children became the mandated rule. The Parishes apparently needed the money they thought they were saving to pay for expensive “ministries” of the Clergy. And, what the heck, if the Diocese had no interest in helping parents afford children, why shouldn’t they . . . . The rest is history, but it includes an awful lot of empty buildings.

  18. It is unclear to me that most Catholics have followed the McCarrick crisis except those who read Catholic publications or blogs. If it is more are aware of the story than I expect you can thank the secular press that has shown some interest. Are we getting any messages from the parishes? I attend three different Churches because of an odd schedule. I’ve checked the bulletins from each and not one word about abuse. In the ten years since my conversion, I can’t remember a single homily that touched any point that you raised in your article – not one.
    If believers don’t keep up with events in their backyard what chance is there that many have followed the debacles enfolding in Honduras and Chile? (The Pineda affair in Honduras is more shocking and much more recent than the McCarrick issue.) I believe most bishops are doing their best, but even those with the purest of motives would hesitate to suggest that no serious reform will take place without leadership from the Vatican. What has Francis said about McCarrick beyond accepting his resignation. Does anyone believe that Cardinals Maradiaga (Honduras) and Cardinal Errazuriz (Chile)- both members of the Pope’s “Council of Nine” – know nothing about the scandals that have engulfed their own churches? I pray I’m wrong, but I consider it unlikely that Francis will be openly active on this issue. And if he is quiet, don’t expect big changes at the highest levels in the Church.

  19. A very well written and focused article on issues affecting our Church. With you Fr. on the liturgical changes you have touched upon. Sometimes when I enter our Church I feel I am in a Roman Arena with people in tee shirts and arms stretched out on either side of the back support mumbling something to the neighbor and waiting for the lions to come out and start their action. Yes Bishops too appear not to know the real pulse of their flock first hand and depend on people close to them clergy or otherwise, for feed-back. Sunday homilies are many times dry and lack the rejuvenation and sustenance that is required. This may perhaps because of the lack due diligence, preparation and prayer by the clergy. I do not know, may be they are too busy with other things.

  20. Great article, Father. As a pastor, I witnessed my parish’s steady growth due to several factors:

    First, a clear understanding of the mission of the Church to bring people to salvation in Jesus Christ, and to come to know Him and live Him, and an insistence that every member of the parish staff be on board with this, or move on.

    Second, the reverent and beautiful celebration of the liturgy (even in an ugly, 1970s church).

    Third, preaching the truth of the Catholic faith, and acting from a belief in the power of the Word of God to be “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

    Fourth, a confidence in the power of the sacraments, and in particular, offering the opportunity for Confession much more broadly, including additional, convenient times for people, and also offering all-day confessions several times during the year, including in Lent, Advent, and in the middle of the summer, and making school confessions available every Monday morning.

    Fifth, solid and clear catechesis in RCIA, the school and religious ed program, and in ongoing adult faith formation throughout the year, with the priests of the parish being the primary teachers (as they are ordained to do).

    Sixth, the introduction of masters of ceremonies at Sunday masses. These are young men of junior high and high school age who are bought cassocks and surplices, well-trained, and put in charge of altar serving at each mass. This is an obvious vocations program.

    Seventh, engaging in and making available opportunities for Christian service through working at and paying for meals for the poor and homeless, collecting food for a food pantry on a regular basis, and having a deacon dedicated to the caring for the material needs of the poor.

    This was a successful plan for building up the Church and the faith of the people. There was also a Courage apostolate, and a vibrant ministry to the youth of the parish with the goal of forming them as disciples of Jesus Christ. Many of our youth regularly attended Eucharistic Adoration together, and our youth minister was there with them, modeling a life of Catholic discipleship.

    All of this worked, and allowed the power of God to take over this parish and transform the people of the parish into committed Catholic people who loved and served the Lord.

    We also invited in a charismatic prayer group, which received formation regularly from the parish priests, and a traditional Catholic group called Apostolate of Family Consecration. We prayed the Rosary together every day as a parish, offered devotions such as the Divine Mercy devotion, and the deacons and priests were involved with these groups regularly. (We had two priests and three deacons).

    Sadly, many local pastors were completely disinterested in our experience.

    We have all the tools we need. We have the Lord!

  21. Father is very wrong.

    There are people who have left the church due to the abuse crisis. I am one of them. I was abused as a child, the churches response has and is woefully bad.

    It is not a homosexual problem, it’s a pedophile problem, I was not even 7 years old, the diocese had to have known the priest whom abused me.

    What Father leaves out is that Mcarrick was his bishop at one point

    I knew Father in his time at a Lithuanian church in Newark. I was an altar boy there.

    I find it ironic that you don’t mention fhat he was your bishop. Why leave this out?

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