Tuesday, April 30

Rod Dreher on the move to boycott the collection plate in RC Churches.
A fascinating story about religious conflict in Mexico: It's a little sketchy, but you get the idea:

Leaders of this Maya Indian town said Tuesday they have expelled Roman Catholic priests and broken ties with the local diocese, re-igniting one of the most stubborn religious controversies in the hemisphere.

Yown residents who observe a mix of Mayan and Catholic beliefs have been involved in a decades-long battle with both the official church hierarchy and rapidly encroaching Protestant groups.

Traditional officials in Chamula have driven tens of thousands of people out of the mountainous municipality over the past 30 years for abandoning the local faith. Local ceremonies use pine boughs, eggs, soft drinks, alcohol and candles in healing rituals held in the nominally Catholic church.

Welborn, Closet Clericalist?

Aren't you also part of the "clericalism" problem? Though your comment about religious orders and their role in past renewals is right on, you seem to be wondering what religious order will step up this time. Am I right in sensing a hint of the old if-priests-or-nuns-don't-do-it-no-one-will" syndrome? This too is a form of clericalism. I think it's time for faithful lay movements from Opus Dei to your parish Rosary group to come into their own. This renewal is OUR job. You and me, Amy, not some undiscovered Francis of Assisi.

I see your point. I take your point. But....

I think that predominance of religious orders and monasticism in church renewal is simply historical fact. And clericalism, as I've defined it here, refers to a sensibility marked by true "otherness" not simply a recognition of different roles. Lay people can be horribly clerical. If you've worked in the Church, you've seen it. Perhaps you've even suffered under it when a DRE told you if you didn't obey his or her rules and guidelines your child couldn't a) be baptized b)receive First Eucharist c) be confirmed or d) ever set foot in church again. Perhaps you've seen it when catechetical leaders and catechists have laughed at your desire to have your children learn more substance about their faith. The kind of clericalism I'm talking about is an outgrowth of the professionalization of ministry, whether ordained or lay.

I agree with the reader, too, that this moment is a potentially great one for lay movements - and not lay commissions, committees,councils, listening sessions, boards, advisory panels or programs. Lay movements. And it will probably happen, but not out of any positive welcome by the rest of the church. It will come because dioceses will go bankrupt, diocesan schools will close, chancery offices will be drastically reduced, and lay people will have to step in and take up the slack. They'll be starting new schools, taking charge of catechizing their own kids, and picking up the slack in terms of social services.

But I do think religious orders are, by their nature, and important part of this process, and it's not because some of them are ordained. In fact, the vast majority of members of religious orders through history have not been clerics. They have been brothers and religious women and tertiaries. None of those are ordained, none are clerics, despite what some contemporary religous women would like you to think. But what makes them unique is their voluntary association and commitment to serve God as expressed in a particular charism. The quality of their commitment is unique. It may or may not involve celibacy (the latter with tertiaries). But it does involve a greater conscious commitment of time and energy to living out that particular charism than most lay people with families have. But that's how it's worked: lay people of a certain age commit themselves to raising their children. In the raising of these children they are assisted by others who are committed to helping form these children in their own way: through liturgy, through education, medical care, through assistance if the family is poor, and so on. This latter group, for the most part, does not have children of their own, or if they do, those children are grown, leaving the parents free for a broader service. The renewing charism is then communicated to another generation, through the love of the parents, faith formation in the home, and the contributions of...Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Benedictines and so on outside of it. They're all part of a the whole.

I am an advocate of optional celibacy for Roman Catholic priests. But that doesn't mean I don't see a vital place in the Church for those called to celibacy as a sign of the Kingdom and a respons to God's call to them to single-mindedly minister in the light of the charism of a particular religious order. As the mother of four children, it is my call to let Christ live through me in every situation in which I find myself - in my marriage, with my children, in my job outside the home, in my dealings with everyone from the store clerk to my neighbor. This might involve a particular apostolate once in a while - teaching religious education. Volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center. Uh...writing. But my major call from God is to serve my children and the rest of my family. I can participate in the fruit of various religious movements. I can work on passing them on and making them a reality for the next generation or for others that I meet. But I can't take charge of a full-grown religious movement. But I can be grateful for those who do.

I don't know if that makes complete sense. I imagine I'll come back to it later.

From a reader:

I was raised quietly Catholic in the Midwest, then went East for college and became a hard-boiled "scientific" atheist. At 25 I re-converted
joyfully, unexpectedly, a gift outright. The next year, Bernard Cardinal Law confirmed me as part of a group of university catechumens. I remember the vigor
with which he spoke at our confirmation Mass about what it meant to be Catholic in the world. He spoke stirringly about Peter Singer and the encroaching culture of death. He made us renounce Satan and all his works with full throat; no pro forma muttering "I do" would do. He wanted us to fight! I admired him so much, then.

Few people reach 30 without undergoing piercing sorrows; that's life. But this is a new sorrow to me, different from the ways that one's faith is tested by
things outside the Church. It's not the end of the world, but it's hard in a new way. A gut check. Faith has to bear weight these days. We cannot look to
some of our bishops for examples, so we should look to the saints and martyrs, as in Garry Wills' recent piece.

Anger is dangerous but it is a rational passion. The best thing that could happen is for young(ish) Catholics to get justly angry at the iniquity and use that impetus constructively, to help build a more faithful, trustworthy, upright, grounded, joyous, serious, clear-eyed American Church. Not overnight (nothing good ever comes of that), but in the course of a generation or more.

Indolent lay yuppies like me had better get off our duffs. We don't need a Reformation, but a Counter-Reformation. Our
Lord said, "How I wish it were already blazing!" Luke 12:49.

My husband found a nice new template for his blog. Now if only I could do the same....
How can you tell if a Blog's Catholic?

Chances are, it's got a Latin name. Check out the new Blogs on the Block over there on the right.

From a reader:

I think the search for humility in the bishops is a vain search, for the humility gene is one they simply don't have. They are politicians, and
we know that an admission of guilt from a politician requires a DNA-stained dress. The best we can hope for (and I think it HAS been achieved) is that they will not shuffle bad priests any more. They have gotten that message, even if they will not publically confess their sins. I have come to peace with that because I confess my sins in the privacy of the confessional and therefore will give them the right to do the same.

I think clerics look at the laity the same way a customer service manager looks at customers. Lay people require work; we are needy. My uncle is a pharamcist and he says they all secretly loathe working with 'the public'. Isn't that what clerics do? But isn't that quite human? The customer makes demands, often unreasonable. As one customer service manager I know says, "The customer isn't always right, but the customer is always the customer". I'm not excusing this mentality whatsoever but I think anyone who works with the public everyday has to fight against an "us against them" mentality.

Very true, don't you think?

Don't remind me.

There's a new Catholic Blog out there called Veni Sancte Spiritus offered by a Catholic high school teacher named Anthony who's adopted the moniker of "Progressive Catholic." If my experience holds true, Anthony's time with Catholic adolescents will propel him towards Catholic un-progressivism quicker than a month with Mother Angelica. Post-Vatican II catechetical leaders sought to reform Catholic religious education in light of their own dissatisfaction with their own experiences: too rigid, they said. Too cognitive, not affective enough. Too much head, not enough heart.

I daresay what we're discovering is that kids need much more than twelve years of "God loves you" and "God made you" and "You're special" in order to a) even care about being Catholic and b)be equipped to actually grow in faith in the context of real life, which is complex, mysterious and requires more than slogans and aphorisms as a foundation.

Anyway, Anthony writes,

My last period class always drains the life of me. This particular block of students loves to waste time and energy attempting to find loopholes in Church teaching or just a plain old vicious attack the Catholic Church on any number of issues. It is not that they are not Catholic, 12 of the 14 students come from Catholic families. Only two admit to any regular Church attendence. It is tough teaching the faith in the school if the parents are not being good role models of faith at home. My hope is that ten years down the road they will remember what we tried to do when they face the inevitable crises in their lives.

As I said, don't remind me.

Guess what. I'm going to be interviewed on Vatican Radio next week. I'm not sure exactly what that means. Will I be squeezed in between "JPII's Top Hits" and "Countdown with the Curia?" I don't know....


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