Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Poor formation is the fruit of poor preaching

As reported here last week, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver was asked to reflect on the results of last November's election as a theme for a talk at a recent Detroit conference. He said, in part,

November showed us that 40 years of American Catholic complacency and poor formation are bearing exactly the fruit we should have expected. Or to put it more discreetly, the November elections confirmed a trend, rather than created a new moment, in American culture.

Two days ago the Gallup organization released the results of a poll that shows just how far this trend has progressed in those two score years.

According to Gallup, Catholics in general seem slightly more liberal in their acceptance or approval of various behaviors the Church either condemns or about which the Church expresses strong reservations.

Many committed Catholics disagree with the Church

Gallup identified committed Catholics as "those who attend church weekly or almost every week." It turns out, sadly, that even a large proportion of these regular church-goers reject the Church's teaching on a variety of issues. These rejection rates vary from 24% for abortion to 67% for gambling (which, of course, isn't always sinful).

Most disturbing are the facts that over half of these regular church-going Catholics see nothing wrong with heterosexual relations outside of marriage, divorce, and using human embryos for stem cell research, while 4 out of 9 approve of homosexual relations.

Gallup's analysis

According to the Gallup report,

The data show that regular churchgoing non-Catholics also have very conservative positions on moral issues. In fact, on most of the issues tested, regular churchgoers who are not Catholic are more conservative (i.e., less likely to find a given practice morally acceptable) than Catholic churchgoers.

My analysis

Most adult Catholics receive the totality of their ongoing moral formation in those 10 to 15 minutes reserved for the homily at weekend Mass. Their bishops may write pastoral letters, the USCCB may issue statements and the pope may even write an occasional encyclical, but if those things aren't mentioned on Sunday morning they might just as well have taken place on another planet.

For the last 40 years we have been the victims of far too many homilies whose moral content could be reduced to "Jesus loves you. Don't litter." Most homilists, somewhat understandably, want to be seen as "nice guys" and preaching sin as sin is not a recipe for popularity, at least not in the short run.

Our priests and deacons - with the support and encouragement of their bishops - are going to have to overcome their aversion to preaching on the "hard sayings" if they are to lead us out of this mess. And, since they are the only points of contact between the Church and most of its members, they are the only ones in a position to do the leading.

It ain't gonna happen here

This is going to be well neigh impossible here in DOR, at least for the next 3+ years. There is absolutely no support and encouragement coming out of Buffalo Rd. for homilies clearly and forcefully laying out the Church's teaching on a variety of "sensitive" issues.

In fact, just the opposite is true. As one commenter on Rich Leonardi's blog wrote,

any homily that forcefully sets forth traditional Church teachings on homosexuality (i.e., the idea of loving the sinner but acknowledging and calling the acts involved "sin" vs. total inclusion up to and including marriage), morality, modesty in behavior and Sunday dress, explaining why there will be no nuptial Masses for "mixed" (Catholic/non-Catholic or second (non-annulled) marriages, supporting the Church's stance on female ordinations [is] inherently suspect.

Any homilist who dares to bring up these issues risks an invitation to Buffalo Rd. for a counseling session on how to be a more "pastoral" clergyman.

There is hope

But we do have hope. Our wandering in this arid desert should come to a close in another 3 years or so when the bishop turns 75 and has to submit his resignation to Rome. I pray that His Holiness then sends us a bishop who preaches the entirety of the Catholic faith and encourages his priests and deacons to do the same. Then the healing can begin.


Anonymous said...

This is what many of us suspected, or knew instinctively. It is stark to see it in print. We've discussed before about the effect of the fall of the teaching orders of sisters, and the rise of the Heretic Nun.

Again, the wisdom of the Lord having the Church have a magisterium rather, a do your own thing approach to theology. The only problem is that the attitude of do it your self or rather, let your conscious be your guide has dominated the last 30 years.

Last week I had 3 properly dressed and young Mormons show up on my porch. I have to say my first thought was "Where are our young men who KNOW their faith is right and are so secure in it that they can evangelize?" We don't have them anymore because have confused our young so much because we don't agree anymore as an organization what we should believe in to be considered a Catholic. How can we evangelize when our house is such a mess? We need our Leadership to be CRYSTAL CLEAR about what it is to be a Catholic. I would have us go back to the Baltimore Catechism as it is CLEAR on what we believe and is easy to teach and to remember. I base this on the fact that I used it with my daughter last year when she was getting ready for confirmation. The Heretic in Charge of Mis-Education, oh, I mean the Director of Religious Education, and her minions had so confused my devout daughter that I had to combat it with the Baltimore Catechism. My daughter not only got confirmed, and now is actively Pro-Life and evangelizing her friends who are marginal Catholics. She could have been lost if I left it to the Lay Heretics that control the Religious Ed in the parish.

Mike said...

CPT Tom,

I hear you, brother.

This year I have an even dozen 7th and 8th graders in my religious ed class. Although I have met most of their parents I can't say that I really know any of them. But after having spent some 25 classes with their kids I can tell you which of those families are truly Catholic and which are really CINOs. Unfortunately, the latter outnumber the former by about 2 to 1.

At the age of 12 or 13 most of my kids are not simply questioning some of the Church's teachings; rather, they are adamantly challenging them or, in one case, simply rejecting them.

Attitudes like these don't just result from the culture these kids are immersed in. Obviously these kids are echoing what they hear and see at home.

Of course, the formation they receive at the parish level can make a dent in some of these attitudes (and I think I have made some real progress with a couple of my kids). But when the parish staff is just as bad as their parents it's no wonder that we are turning out so many cafeteria Catholics.

Keep up your "home schooling" efforts and keep pointing out where the Heretic in Charge of Mis-Education is wrong. Obviously your daughter is interested in learning the truth and passing it on to her friends.

That's a very good sign.

Anonymous said...

I think the level of heterodoxy in this Diocese among the leadership (clerical, religious, and laity) and some of the laity was the biggest shock for my family when we moved here. Just out and out disregard for the Holy Father and the magisterium even disgust is just beyond anything I have ever experienced.

I'm glad to hear you are "in the fight." I would never be allowed to teach in this parish--they've got me pegged as a raging Traditionalist. Which I'm not, but I guess in comparison an actual Catholic would appear that way to such CINOs.

My daughter is my delight. She took St Lawrence for her saint as she felt that he had a sense of humor in the face of evil and was amazing in becoming a martyr for Christ. I pray for her and my sons in this time of evil. May God look after you too Mike.

If you're ever down Corning way, come to the 7:30am mass on Sunday. First Sunday I lead a small Schola in a mostly chanted mass. Brick by brick!