Today's print edition of the D&C features a locally edited column by Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer. A longer and inexplicably chopped up version is online.
Locally titled Organized Catholic left is pushing back hard, the column opens by mentioning that 54% of American Catholics voted for Barack Obama, despite his having been "assailed" as "anti-life" by many of their leaders.
It then goes on to mention the almost certain failure of "Church leaders and traditional Catholic groups" to derail the appointment of pro-abortion Kathleen Sebelius to the Obama administration, as well as the protests of "conservative Catholic bloggers and many prominent bishops" over Notre Dame's invitation to the President to deliver its commencement address.
Push back from "a well-organized Catholic left," including Catholics United (in the online version), is credited for the Sebelius failure and "considerable resistance from the rank and file" to the Notre Dame/Obama protests is also mentioned.
Catholics for Choice and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good also earn mentions for their opposition to the hierarchy, an opposition they claim is grounded in conscience (but which ignores the proper formation of conscience).
Near the end of the column Polman gives us this observation,
But what's most striking, in a new Gallup survey that looks at aggregated data from 2006 to 2008, is how the moral views of Catholics are pretty much the same as everybody else's — on abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, divorce, you name it. In fact, far more Catholics (67 percent) than non-Catholics (57 percent) believe that sex outside of marriage is morally acceptable.
No wonder the church hierarchy's campaign against Sebelius has collapsed like a bad souffle.
This is really nothing more than the fruits of 40 years of abysmal catechesis overseen by the American hierarchy. In their attempts to be more "pastoral" - to be "nice" - they lost sight of their primary responsibility. For far too many of them the words of Paul to Timothy were treated as a quaint relic from an earlier time and not as the Word of the Lord:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:
Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.
As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
When I was younger this seemed to be the approach taken by pretty much all our bishops, priests and Catholic educators. We even had a Catholic bishop with his own prime-time TV program, a program that frequently had better ratings than the shows it was up against.
Fortunately - or rather, thanks to the Holy Spirit - this tide seems to be showing signs of turning. Most of the recent appointees to American episcopal posts seem to be orthodox men who understand both the problem and their responsibilities.
Things most likely will not change overnight and I don't believe we'll ever see another Bishop Sheen holding down a prime time slot, but we seem to be headed in the right direction. It took 40 years of wandering in the wilderness for things to get this bad, so a slow trip back is to be expected. But we do seem to be on our way.