Insight Scoop gives a preview of an interesting, but misguided editorial in this month’s Homiletic and Pastoral Review. Why are Catholics hemorrhaging in such numbers over the past two generations or so. Father Joseph Sirba echoes a theme I found on Inside Catholic today. Blame the liberals for a declining Church and send them off to follow the homosexuals in the dark of night to wail and gnash their teeth.
Sorry, but I’m not buying it. The theocons, reform2 crew, and the other sulking Republicans still have me in the Church and there’s nothing they can do about it. Can’t get me fired. Can’t shut down my blog. I’m pretty sure other progressives aren’t shaking in their boots either.
That immediate pre-conciliar generation must have been really strong on Church issues to bail so quickly after Humanae Vitae, a reformed liturgy, television, the suburbs, the sexual revolution, and all. Maybe the seeming decline in Catholicism has something more behind it than the usual liberal/conservative politics. But if some of them are still steamed over the Republicans getting it handed to them this past year, I can empathize.
Now let’s get serious with Father Sirba’s proposals.
All remaining dissenters must be expunged from their positions within diocesan offices, major parishes and influential positions in the Church.
Fr Sirba preaches every leader in the Church needs to be presenting a clear message. I’m assuming that’s one simple, single message. Problem is that most challenging obstacles need more than one perspective. I think we’ve seen the results of a purged episcopacy over the JPII years: bishops and their cronies appointed to the episcopacy sheltered sex offenders and then didn’t even have the guts to admit they were wrong–they blamed select psychologists, stonewalled the victims and their families, and by the way … how many Catholic losses in Boston? Lots of Catholics are upset and concerned about the criminal and immoral behavior of some bishops, but I suspect Cardinal Law and others won’t be part of Fr Sirba’s purge.
Fr Sirba also is concerned about religious ed.
(O)ur parish religious education programs must be reformed. In our present culture, an hour a week in religion classes is not enough to make our young people Catholic … We should reconsider what role Catholic schools should play in the twenty-first century and where we can get the greatest bang for our buck.
Granted, I would agree there’s always room for improvement in faith formation. The editorial’s focus on the academics of religion betrays a fatal bias. We’ve seen over and over again in Church teaching, the council documents and the rites, that faith formation is more an apprenticeship than a school. Teaching young people about the faith is only a part of living the faith, and inviting them, side by side, to share it with adults. We need more mentors and less emphasis on “buck-slashing,” though doubtless some pastors would lick their chops at the thought of shutting down their school and freeing up all that money.
Aggressive steps to retain Hispanic Catholics? No problem there.
The overt and covert feminization of the Church must end. Men and boys need strong male role models to look up to and to emulate. Masculine approaches to the faith must be developed and affirmed if we are to erase the significant gender gap that now exists and retain more of our male members.
Another aggrieved man whining about too many women. One of the reasons why women are more involved than men in every major religion and practically every minor one is that there are “psychological and emotional differences” between the sexes. I suppose that cassocks, surplices, frilly vestments, magnae cappae, and the like will inspire manliness in young boys.
I will say that boys and young men do indeed need better role models. So do girls and young women. The fragmentation of the extended family in our mobile society has done significant harm to every generation since suburbia, the car, and the mobile career have arrived on the scene.
If you want a masculine approach to Catholicism, join one of Richard Rohr’s drumming groups or something. Liberals have had their manly groups for a long time. Maybe the theocons are just fraidy cats about joining them.
Finally, we must reach out to those who have fallen away.
Finally, a good point. Regarding inactive Catholics, one thing above any other single approach will bring people back.
My previous pastor once questioned when the parish communications director and I planned three weeks of print media ads welcoming people to our church for the Paschal Triduum. Practically every other church had Easter services. My colleague Bob and I thought, why not play up our Triduum? Why not invite people to the commemoration of the Last Supper, the Eucharistic procession, St John’s Passion, the veneration of the cross, and the Easter Vigil? After the fact we were told it was a waste of money.
Those kinds of attitudes: Catholics are entitled to full churches, our church is full anyway, why waste money on PR when we can give to the poor or the school instead–these are the errors that in part have landed the Church in this period of pouty decline.
If the situation is serious enough to merit purging liberals, shutting down Catholic infrastructure and go online, and sending seminarians out in cassocks to play football in the mud, I think Fr Sirba needs a lot more heads at the table coming up with ideas to reverse this decline, as he sees it.