I have little to add to 100-post threads and the usual hand-wringing. At the risk of some overlap, I’ll sum up my thoughts and experiences:
The bishops are as blameless as anybody, but then again, they don’t exactly provide leadership in evangelization, or more importantly, in maintaining Catholic culture in parishes. Witness New York and Los Angeles, where conservative, institution-preserving bishops have sliced away at campus ministry and young adult outreach in the name of balancing budgets. No worries there, I guess, as long as the immigrants keep rolling in. And you have large cathedrals to build/maintain.
Parishes are where young adult ministry happens or not. I was thinking about all the young people I know getting married this summer. I haven’t seen a summer like it since 1985, when I was invited to thirteen weddings of friends and parishioners. In the good ol’ days, we didn’t have hordes of conservative youngsters bowing and nodding. Our outreach was far more broad. If parishes began talking and (more importantly) acting like all were welcome, they’d actually start making inroads.
My parish is far from perfect, but we welcome everybody, even non-Catholics. We strive to make the parish a comfortable environment for people to come. What’s that you say? Too comfortable? What about challenge? Yes. Committed Catholics need to be challenged. They need to grow in their faith. They need to set aside old ways and embrace conversion. Even conservative Catholics. But more, Catholics, especially those not well planted in their faith, need the encouragement and back-up to live a Gospel life in a world that is not always amenable to Christian choices.
When Archbishop Dolan and others start talking tough on same-sex unions, it’s tempting to give up. Aside from the likelihood that his idelogical opponents are drooling over episcopal pronouncements, this is not helping marriage at all. There are so many challenges to spread the Gospel today, and we’re piddling away resources and time on what non-Catholics (mostly) are doing.
And can we dispense with the “ignorant laity” meme? For heaven’s sake? In the minds of some Catholics, there’s nothing wrong that a little head knowledge wouldn’t solve. It could be that two Catholics have the same set of information and knowledge. One toes the line and draws up a sign “We love our holy bishop.” The second is disgusted at immoral leadership and has long since left to join a community (hopefully) where some semblance of faith can be practiced.
That’s about all I can contribute to this discussion, except to say that if we had taken Vatican II more seriously, these issues would have been headed off years ago. Instead we are saddled with a sense of entitlement that seems happy enough to say, “To hell with the ones that haven’t stuck with us.”