Pontifications

Pontifications


The Bishops’ Dispirited Agenda

posted by David Gibson

Tom Reese.jpgThat’s the title of an “On Faith” column by Tom Reese, the Jesuit political scientist cited in the post below on the bishops spring meeting in Texas. Father Reese’s take is that the bishops’ agenda “will keep it busy but it will not deal with the real issues facing the church: how to interact with Obama and how to respond to the exodus of one third of Catholics from the church.”

Absent from the agenda is a discussion of how the bishops should interact with the Obama administration. Will the vocal bishops continue to set a negative tone or will the conference seek common ground with the administration on issues of poverty, health care, nuclear disarmament, immigration reform, global warming, the economy, peace, etc., while politely disagreeing on abortion and stem cell research?

Since there is no episcopal leadership pushing for civil engagement, the Obama administration should not hold its breath. The only thing that may turn the bishops around is a roaringly successful visit of Obama with the pope in July. Word is that the pope is looking forward to the visit. How many bishops would meet with Obama if he visited their diocese?

Nor do the bishops give any indication that they know they are on a sinking ship. One third of Catholics have left the church. Any other organization would try to find out why and develop a plan to get back their members or customers. Have the bishops commissioned a study of these former Catholics? No. Data doesn’t count.

The bishops, like the leaders of GM, Chrysler and the Republican Party, think that old strategies (emphasize orthodoxy and play to your base) will work. They blame the exodus on secularism, consumerism, individualism and sin.

 



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ed

posted June 16, 2009 at 12:51 pm


Reese is right using GM analogy.. Another analogy is the bishops being shut out at Nortre Dame. A loser team whould replace all the ‘skill’ positions = backfield and wide receivers.. Bishops are skilled in blocking and tackling.. but have no offense..



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JF

posted June 16, 2009 at 1:29 pm


I am very tired of Father Reese comparing the Church to a corporation or a political party. Only someone with the distinctly secular outlook of Father Reese would see the Catholic Church as a sinking ship. And, I assume by orthodoxy he means Christ’s teachings through the Church.
No wonder the Pope had to remove him as editor of America Magazine, he’s part of a dying breed of angry, dissenting clergy.
The bishops are working closely with the President on those other issues, just look at the USCCB website. However, there is no way to “politely disagree” with the killing of millions of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters in order to have a better working relationship on other issues.
As is so often the case, Father Reese is putting politics before truth.



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freelunch

posted June 16, 2009 at 2:07 pm


And, I assume by orthodoxy he means Christ’s teachings through the Church.
It used to be that way. President Obama would certainly have been, on balance, a politician who supported more of the agenda of the Catholic Church, than GWBush did, but that doesn’t seem to be of interest to today’s bishops.
Only abortion, something that Jesus never said anything about, counts as their current, exclusive definition of orthodoxy. The bishops have decided to get mad at Obama for being honest in supporting choice while they still yearn for the Republicans who talked a good game about abortion and did absolutely nothing.
Nothing about abortion demands that the Church turn it into an power-play with the state. The Church is perfectly capable of teaching everything it does about the sanctity of human life without insisting that there has to be a law that agrees with their doctrine.
Oh, I almost forgot the other secular obsession of the bishops, same sex marriage.



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JF

posted June 16, 2009 at 2:36 pm


If the Church teaches that abortion is the taking of a life, then the bishops have a moral obligation to fight for the lives of those being killed above all else. It is a matter of life and death. The bishops disagree with Republicans on a lot of things and frequently bump heads with them on issues such as immigration, but this is not about politics, it’s about issues that lie at the heart of Catholic moral teachings.
Christ did speak out about murder and the Church says that abortion is murder. Now, if you are rejecting the Church’s authority to speak on the morality of abortion, authority given by Christ in the Gospel, then there is a bigger problem in play.



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freelunch

posted June 16, 2009 at 2:50 pm


Yes, the Church now says that abortion is murder, but their words are religious doctrines that have been changing over time.
I reject the right of the Church to tell governments what to do. This once had been considered settled, but the current bishops seem to think that, now that they aren’t targets of the KKK, they can start to see how far to undo the First Amendment.
I don’t think any denominations other than the RCC think that the RCC was given authority to decide morality for everyone. I’m not sure every Catholic thinks that the bishops speak for God.



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JF

posted June 16, 2009 at 2:57 pm


The doctrines of the Church on abortion, or indeed any issues of faith and morals, have never changed. They have been better defined over the years as we have learned more about biology, but they have never changed. The doctrines don’t change. That is one of the proofs we have that the Church is founded on Christ.
You’re right that other Churches don’t think we were given authority to decide morality for everyone. That is why they are not Catholic. The Catholic Church believes that it was founded by Christ, is guided by Christ, and teaches His unchanging truth. It was given that authority in the Gospel by Jesus. Those are simple facts of what the Church is. Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It’s all in there.



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ann

posted June 16, 2009 at 4:29 pm


I think what he is saying is true though. Instead of looking at why people are not feeling connected enough to thier church the institution chooses to recoil in an “us against them” manner. It isn’t “us against them” though. It has become so frustrating to those people who look to the church to truly be the Church of Christ, to those people who work tirelessly in the name of the church. We are not a one issue people. Christ’s unchanging truth were the two commandments that were given to us by him. Where we fall short is within those two commandments. Self-reflection is a tough thing, but the institutional church needs to ask itself…what is happening here and be willing to be open to the painful responses.



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Apostate

posted June 16, 2009 at 8:03 pm


Let it waste away. We do not need a powerful Catholic Church. The last time the CC had power was during what we now call the dark ages, when they committed genocide against gays, Jews and women, cooking them alive in the public squares in cities and towns, and they were charging money to the rich for ‘indulgences’ in exchange for supposed forgiveness of sins and charging a tax to the poor. Why are people forgetting history? The Catholic Church is decadent, it paid 2 billion dollars (in the US only, we do not have the data for other countries) covering up the crimes of their clergy while ignoring the protection of the victims. The Catholic teachings are also out of touch with popular and accepted notions of reality, its entire doctrine is irrelevant and outdated. Christians should produce new, democratic, and progressive models for human relations and for spiritual practice.



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Your Name

posted June 16, 2009 at 8:48 pm


JF, Either you never studied Church history or you have swallowed what some reactionary Church leaders have dished out to you, hook, line and sinker. The Church has had many different teachings on abortion over the centuries. In fact, any doctrine, or dogma—-evolved over the centuries. Jesus did not issue a “Play Book” to the Apostles! And God does not appear in the Pope’s bedroom each day to direct him how to direct the Church. And JF, politics are just as much an important part of the Church’s dealings as anything else they do. Please remember that the Vatican City is a City State. And if you don’t believe that—-there’s a bridge in Brooklyn that’s waiting for you to buy it.



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Your Name

posted June 16, 2009 at 9:01 pm


The comments here miss the boat when they talk about the ‘Catholic
Church’ – The Roman Catholic Church is ‘universal’ covering the whole earth. The American bishops are saying they don’t care if the ‘CC’
in this country shrinks – the ‘CC’ will survive and do well elsewhere.
Fr. Reese cares for the ‘CC’ in this country – the bishops have given up on it.



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Lone Star Vanguard

posted June 17, 2009 at 10:56 am


Borrowed from John Chuchman:
Divine Right
The laity must try and understand the Doctrine of Divine Right Hierarchical Pre-Conceptualism.
God has bestowed upon church hierarchy
the ability to reach conclusions before any research or study,
apart from any irrelevance to the real world as it is,
and the authority to dismiss anything contrary to their pre-conceived ideas.
If you disagree with this Doctrine, your objection is divinely dismissed.
Or another:
Pay, Pray, Obey . . . or else . . .
That takes care of those parishioners;
Imagine wanting to dialog key life issues when all the answers
are in the Baltimore Catechism!
Finally:
Rearrange the deck chairs
What about an advertising campaign
welcoming back “fallen-off” Catholics?



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DML

posted June 17, 2009 at 11:25 am


These minor liturgical tweaks really do seem to be akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I suppose they realize that their will always be a subpopulation of Catholics that are prone to scrupulosity/OCD or other liturgical fetishes, things that are downright silly to the average person.
Keep up the good fight Fr. Reese for issues that really matter.



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C3

posted June 17, 2009 at 11:30 am


yourname
The bishops DO care about the decreasing size of the “CC”. they just aren’t willing to sacrifice orthodoxy for numbers, nor should they. That being said I do believe while an important issue, abortion definitely has taken up way too much airtime.
Many MANY more issues need be addressed and the manipulation by a few individuals who seem to of taken over the limelight and placed the issue of abortion as priority #1 perhaps need to take a strategic withdrawal. While these organizations working fervorously in the background on the issue need to remove themselves from the heat of the lamp while allowing the heat from their heart to continue to radiate. Too heated and pitched has this battle become. Almost to the point that the people the CC is attmpting to instruct on this issue are so tired of hearing about it that they turn a deaf ear or run further from the Church so as not to hear anymore about it.
Perhaps another organization whose main concern isn’t abortion need to push forward. Homelessness, child abuse, poverty any of these and countless of other issues are also deserving of our time and attention. While all our shouting is used to protest abortion, the murder of the unborn, where is the voice for those who are alive and suffering?



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Your Name

posted June 17, 2009 at 11:42 am


If you’ll show me where a doctrine relating to the faith or morals has been changed and the Church has contradicted something it taught earlier, then I will buy your bridge in Brooklyn.
Jesus did not give the Apostles a play book, he did something far more. He gave us the Holy Spirit to guide the Church through the magesterium, and the Holy Spirit does not change His mind on faith and moral doctrines. As God is immutable, so are His teachings, and that is a mark that the Catholic Church is that which was founded by Christ.



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C3

posted June 17, 2009 at 12:23 pm


“They blame the exodus on secularism, consumerism, individualism, and sin”
Well at least they know who their enemies are. Just this past Sunday, on the Feast of Corpus Christi my mother in law came up to visit as I invited her to take part in our parish’s procession that took place as custom around the neighborhood of the Church after Mass. One of our archdiocese auxillary Bishops presided over the Mass. So in my opinion it was a very cool thing.
My mo-in-law was dumbfounded when after communion nearly 1/3 of the Church disappeared! With no less than 3 cellphones going off in Mass she could only shake her head in disbelief. Then as the procession began she again was flabbergasted when 2/3 of the remaining people (which was about 1/2 of those who actually remained until Mass concluded)were busy conversing amongst themselves walking down the street talking about everyday affairs! Like they were going for a stroll in the park!
Yet it was these same people who had to disrupt the procession leaving the Church to be sure they got close to the front! That they get to have choice views. At least I’ll give them credit for shutting up at the alters along the way while intercessions where made. That was oh so thoughtful.
Now don’t get me wrong watching 60 or 70 people walking down the block is a spectacular thing, but how much more spectacular would it of been if all were singing in praise!
Now in a parish of about 1200 our priest repeatedly is burdened by the lack of those going to confession. I would almost guess that maybe 40 or 50 people tops actually partake in this sacrement monthly, who knows what the weekly count would be. 40 or 50 out of 1200! Now I wonder how many of those disappearing 1/3 of people were among ths 40 or 50 who go to confession? I’m guessing not 1.
So combine the cellphones, idle chit chat, the disappearing acts, and the mad dash to be close to the front for a birds eye view. That being their only involvement along with the lack of participation in sacrements to place themselves in a proper state to recieve the Eucharist and all of this from people who actually attend Mass, my question is this; what part of the blame the bishops have given for exodus in secularism, consumerism, individualism and sin doesn’t anyone agree with?
If anything the Bishops have hit it right on the nose!



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freelunch

posted June 17, 2009 at 2:29 pm


If anything the Bishops have hit it right on the nose!
Finding someone to blame is easy, whether the blame is accurately asserted or not. Anyone can come up with a list of their favorite villains. The point is that the bishops haven’t dealt with the problems that have been ongoing.
The cathedral in our city burned four years ago. The bishop was very slow about deciding about repair or replacement, so slow that they were running afoul city ordinances about maintaining a decrepit structure. Last year, the building was demolished after the bishop had said he would have a new one built. Nothing has been started. Nothing has been designed. No land has been designated or purchased. The bishop merged the cathedral-less cathedral parish with two other nearby parishes and calls the new parish the cathedral parish. The bishop’s most recent cost cutting was the unpopular decision to close the diocese’s multicultural center (now taken over by some local parishes). I strongly expect more promises for another year or two and then the designation of some other church in the area as the new cathedral.
The bishop doesn’t tell us he doesn’t have enough money to build a new cathedral, but his behavior does. Nothing has been done and no reason has been given for doing nothing. How does the bishop expect to have people listen to him when they don’t hear anything from him? Why would the bishop expect people to follow him when they don’t feel they can trust him?



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Ted S.

posted June 17, 2009 at 5:41 pm


The loss of 30% of Catholics to the Church should be a cause of concern. No doubt multiple reasons abound: some may have to do with the loss of orthodoxy, some may have to do with the mediocre tenor of Church life, be it preaching, leadership, liturgy, religious ed, other programming. What is discouraging is that the bishops — the shepards– don’t seem to want to know. The comparison to the management of GM is most apt.



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Your Name

posted June 17, 2009 at 6:08 pm


A little church history on “faith and morals” for those with short memories and/or failing eyesight:
• It was OK to own slaves. In 1866 Pope Pius IX declared, “It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.”
. Earning interest on loaning money was wrong. The church condemned usury at the Second Lateran Council in 1139, the Third Lateran Council in 1179, and the Council of Vienne in 1311.
• Anyone who wasn’t a Catholic was doomed to hell. You know, the old “extra ecclesia nulla salus” thing.
• Almost anything the church said about Jews prior to Nostra Aetate.
• It was OK to kidnap a Jewish child who was clandestinely baptized and not let the child go back to his parents to be raised as a Jew.
• Women are a near occasion of sin.
• If you eat meat on Friday and die before confessing, you will go to hell because to do so was a mortal sin.
• You were not allowed to read the Bible without prior church permission.
• You were not allowed to read any book on the Index of Forbidden Books.
• Do you remember the Galileo Affair?



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Your Name

posted June 18, 2009 at 10:43 am


I have studied politics and the History of the Presidency for over 45 yrs. I am sorry to say that Father Reese commentary is way off base, because this President doesn’t want any common ground on any of the topics he mentioned. A local study of Catholics who lessened or don’t attend Church services find that there is a myriad of excuses, but they all boil down to a “meism” attitude. The prevalent attitude is that, One can choose what he or she wants to believe with or without the Church. One most sparkling item of all the interviews of those surveyed was that 32% of them blame the Church change from Latin to a secular language as a cause of them losing direction in their faith. I found this view very interesting for it correlates precisely to the decline in vocations to the priesthood. Hope this is food for thought to every Catholic.
For over 25 yrs, I have done investigating research analysis on Global Warming, and Health Care. My friend from Northern Alaska has laughed about global cooling and polar bear comments. He has seen an increase in the Polar bear herd the last three years and a more definite cooling in the past ten years. He has lived and studied this at the polar region for 25 years. Health Care proposals used in nearly all European countries and Canada has seen a definite decline in satisfactory health care, especially for the elderly. One should tell the thruth about all. The Church in teaching thruths about the Faith and not speculate on how we can appease those who wish to water down the Catholic Church and her true teachings.



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Your Name

posted June 18, 2009 at 11:06 am


Your Name of June 18, 2009 10:43 AM –
Based on claims that you made that I know have been tested, I find that your claims are untrustworthy. It appears that your study and investigating has been poorly done.



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JF

posted June 18, 2009 at 1:20 pm


Well, I’ll address a few of the more common “changes” you have mentioned:
•At the time that Pope Pius IX was speaking, it was in very limited terms. The Church has always been opposed to chattel slavery. That is, the treating of human beings as no more than mere objects like livestock. The Church, including St. Paul, recognized valid forms of servitude which include such forms as selling oneself into servitude as a serf or the reasonable compulsory labor of prisoners.
•Likewise the form of usury condemned by the Church in the middle ages is fundamentally different from the loans of the banking industry today. In the past it was largely used as a way to exploit the poor and not a legitimate means of economic expansion. There is a great deal to the differences and I recommend reading the following: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2006/0607uan.asp
•Meat on Friday is a discipline not a doctrine. It is similar to the Holy Days of Obligation which can be changed by the local ordinary. The same is true for the List of Forbidden Books which could be changed by the Vatican.
•Declaring something to be near occasion of sin is not doctrine; it is advice given by the Church and is subject to error or, in this case, insensitivity.
•The Galileo affair was the Church speaking out on science which is not infallible and was a mistake. It is not doctrine.
•Extra ecclesia nulla salus is infallible. The Church has always taught this doctrine and continues to do so. It has, however, done a better job of explaining how those who are not officially in the Catholic Church are, in fact, capable of attaining the salvation that flows through Christ’s Church. Further reading: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2005/0512fea3.asp
Any claim that the Church has changed can be challenged quite easily. This is just a sample. It’s why we know that we carry the Truth of Christ which does not change. God is immutable and so too must be His fundamental teachings.



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ed

posted June 18, 2009 at 2:10 pm


EF has missed badly explaining the obvious changes in doctrine over the years .. Take a shot at this change , EF. The church taught for 200 years that democracy and small r republicanism was puke.. now ‘mikie’ likes it.Irish abuse just taught us that when the state and Church combine people suffer horrors.. keep’em separate and use force if necessary..



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JF

posted June 20, 2009 at 9:29 am


The Church never condemned democracy or republicanism. It urged caution that it is not the cure-all promised by the early adopters. While democracy can be a great thing, when not guided by right reason it can allow evil like any other form of government. This continues to be true today.
We have to guard our democracy and use the election process to guide our the government towrds the good.



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Your Name

posted June 26, 2009 at 9:26 am


It is always a challenge for Christians to be visible and vocal in the political process. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find a consensus among Christians as to what being visible actually means. Being distinctly Christian might mean praying in the name of Jesus, or it might mean praying in the name of thr Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It might mean that only genuine Christians vote Republican and yet there are many devout Christians who vote Democrat. A question that we may want to ask ourselves relates to what is meant by being distinctly Christian? When we are able to identify what being Christian is, then I think we will get a clearer picture of how vocal and visible Christians must be in forming the moral fiber of this nation. Until then, we have the example of 80 men to follow.



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