EG 70: Problems Within the Church

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis is discussing challenges to inculturating the faith in Evangelii Gaudium 68-70. These paragraphs strike me as the beginning, or perhaps a restart, of this important discussion. At the core of it is how to make the Gospel message heard in the context of the world’s many cultures.

The Holy Father acknowledges a number of issues within the Church. There can be problems with subcultures within Catholicism or with individuals who present a charisma to others, but who “enrich” themselves, rather than place themselves at the service of the Church:

70. It is also true that at times greater emphasis is placed on the outward expressions and traditions of some groups, or on alleged private revelations which would replace all else, than on the impulse of Christian piety. There is a kind of Christianity made up of devotions reflecting an individual and sentimental faith life which does not in fact correspond to authentic “popular piety”. Some people promote these expressions while not being in the least concerned with the advancement of society or the formation of the laity, and in certain cases they do so in order to obtain economic benefits or some power over others.

And of whom might Pope Francis be speaking? The internet has spawned a new generation of “attractive” persons. Caveat emptor.

The breakdown in handing on the faith, it happens across the board:

Nor can we overlook the fact that in recent decades there has been a breakdown in the way Catholics pass down the Christian faith to the young. It is undeniable that many people feel disillusioned and no longer identify with the Catholic tradition. Growing numbers of parents do not bring their children for baptism or teach them how to pray.

One problem I see in much of North America over my years of ministry is the over-reliance on the parish as the locus of specialists who service (not necessarily serve) parents who are looking for babysitters catechists. No single blog post will address the entirety of the issue. And we shouldn’t wait on the pope to give direction either, unless we want to fall into a similar trap. Pastors and faith formation directors are best-placed to encourage and urge people to take responsibility for their children and to give them the tools they need to be fruitful in this.

There is also a certain exodus towards other faith communities. The causes of this breakdown include:

– a lack of opportunity for dialogue in families,

– the influence of the communications media,

– a relativistic subjectivism,

– unbridled consumerism which feeds the market,

– lack of pastoral care among the poor,

– the failure of our institutions to be welcoming,

– and our difficulty in restoring a mystical adherence to the faith in a pluralistic religious landscape.

How many of these touch on our personal situations? How many are realities in our parishes? I do know that many Catholics have latched on to the motto “dictatorship of relativism,” but that is far from the only or the most serious danger from within the Body.

That “mystical adherence to the faith,” that intrigues me. Your thoughts?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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