Monday, July 20, 2009

Putting faces on the numbers

On the way home from Mass Saturday evening I stopped by Wegmans to pick up a few things. There I bumped carts with a lady I knew from my days as a parishioner at Our Lady of Mercy Church. We had served together on the parish council and I remember her as being quite active in several of the parish's ministries.

It turns out that she now regularly attends Spiritus Christi, is quite favorably impressed with "former Father" (her words) Jim Callan and enjoys worshiping with the "vibrant, energetic community" (again, her words) there. The fact that she is now a part of a schismatic group did not seem to faze her one bit.

Earlier in the week I had run into a married couple from OLM or, rather, formerly from OLM. They now attend a local Methodist church and are very happy with the "Christian fellowship" they have found there. When I asked if they missed the Eucharist I was told that their church also has Holy Communion. (According to their web site they do offer what they call "The Lord's Supper" or "Holy Communion" - on the first Sunday of every month.)

All three of these folks admit to leaving OLM because they were turned off by the personality of the pastor then in charge and each sees nothing wrong with letting his or her feelings dictate where he or she now worships, even if that happens to be outside of the Catholic Church. (The same is also true of another former Catholic and now Lutheran couple I blogged about last year.)

If Bishop Clark wants to know where his AWOL Sunday Mass attendees have gone he doesn't need to look to the sun belt, but just down the road. Decades of abysmal catechesis have "formed" thousands of Catholics for whom one church is as good as another, just as long as it "feels" right.


Anonymous said...
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Interstate Catholic said...

Years ago when you didn't like the pastor, you had an opportunity to like the associate pastors.

Now if you don't like the pastor, you just leave.

Mike said...

Dr. K. said, "Woe to all those who would turn to their back on their faith because of a pastor's personalities."

I have to wonder how many of them could legitimately plead "invincible ignorance" due to the catechesis - or lack thereof - they have received.

Mike said...


How true!

Bernie said...

Quite frankly, the Greek Orthodox are looking pretty good to me! But they have their problems as well.

Anonymous said...

Dr. K -
Sheep who are starving will leave their flock to find food elsewhere.

It's easy to say that people aren't trying hard enough when your faith is strong to begin with. But I sympathize with those who are struggling in their faith and really want and need guidance and inspiration and are not finding it in their catholic pastors. And with the state of finances in the Rochester diocese, there are pleas for money nearly every week at my parish as well.

People who leave the Catholic church for another are not necessarily turning their backs on their faith--they may be searching for it. Those who stop practicing anything at all because it is "inconvenient" are the ones turning their backs on their faith.

I go to mass regularly, and although I'm always hungering for some nugget in the homily that will feed my faith, more often than not, I come away disappointed. A lot has to do with the personality of the priest, and his ability to reach his congregation.

-Catholic girl

Nerina said...

Catholic girl,

I'd say the problems go deeper. While it's true that having a strong faith helps a person "stay the course" in spite of poor homiletics and less than reverent liturgical worship, many times people are being given the "okay" buy their pastors to look elsewhere.

My priest, a good, honest and earnest man, has said that he is happy for people wherever they find God. And I think he means well, but he can't understand when faithful Catholics are upset about parishioners leaving Catholicism for another Christian faith. He truly doesn't see the problem as long as "they find a way to worship God." So many have been formed to believe that the Catholic faith is just one of many ways to worship God. And they have their priests giving them the green light to boot!

My friend once said in a PPC meeting that she was truly sad when people left the Catholic church. My priest was shocked and asked, "why would you be sad if they are happy in another church?" She said, "well, for one, they are leaving the Real Presence of the Eucharist." Our priest replied, "I'm not. They found God." Meanwhile, in my head I'm thinking, "uh, Father, they HELD God in their hands, they CONSUMED God in the Eucharist!! How can good child care or better music at another church possibly make up for that loss?"

It is very frustrating.

Rich Leonardi said...


What is it that's "good, honest and earnest" about your priest? He is derelict in his duties to his flock and imperils their souls.

Nerina said...

Hi Rich,

You'd have to meet him in person to understand, I guess. What I mean is that he is someone who mistakenly believes being "nice" to everyone is the paramount virtue.

Last year I objected strongly and publicly about letting the local Masons use our parish center for their annual dinner. He could not understand my objections. He said I was violating the call to be charitable by not welcoming the Masons in our church. I presented church documents and statements and provided a little history, too, but to no avail. And I took flack from other members on the PPC who said, "Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors" (the standard response, BTW).

I know this example fails to demonstrate his earnestness and honesty. But I do feel like he THINKS he is doing the right thing. He is completely a product of his priestly formation. All I can do is pray for his faithfulness and fidelity to Christ and the Church.

Anonymous said...

Ahh Nerina

Another Catholic who confuses Charity with niceness, etiquette or politesse. It's very common and happens in many fora and blogs, cf., Catholic Answers simply can't get it right.

It's banal and trite, but the road to hell is paved with the skulls of priest, or, alternatively, with good intentions.

Steven P. Cornett said...

Re: Nerina,

He may be earnest and sincere, but that doesn't mean he can't be both and still wrong. It sounds from that conversation you have that he doesn't even believe in the Real Presence himself.

If he really believes their going to an non-Catholic church that gives them feelings of grace without the Eucharist is "finding God", what does that tell you about what he thinks of the Eucharist himself?