Thursday, August 29, 2002

Thanks to a posting (look for the section "Hands Across The Pew") by David Alexander , I interrupt my regularly scheduled mental meanderings to indulge in a tirade of hostile and sanctimonious indignation...

I Ain't My Brother's Keeper

Why is it that so many Catholic bloggers seem to share the opinion that the Troubles in the Church are someone else's responsibility? Apparently, our ability to accuse others somehow relieves us of any responsibility for the mess we are in. It's almost as though by accusing others, we excuse ourselves. I'm beginning to think that Church would do the world a favor if, at Baptism, we handed out mirrors as well as candles.

The very Catholic bloggers who are so quick to highlight pastoral dereliction of duty, pat themselves on the back for their deliberate and determined abdication of their own duties as Catholics. Instead of staying in damaged parishes and fighting the good fight, they applaud their own lack of courage and fidelity as demonstrated by their running away to some nice safe parish that meets their criteria of acceptable Catholicism. They accuse others of being cafeteria Catholics but it never occurs to them that they are 'white flight' Catholics who flee our troubled parishes because its too inconvenient or too demanding to live with (and reform) the riff-raff. Some bloggers are actually smug in their choice to neglect the greater good of the Church in preference to their self-indulgent sanctity. What can I say? Pats on the back all around ?

Sorry, boys and girls-- Catholicism 101: When a Catholic accuses the Church, he accuses himself. As you judge your bishops for their dereliction, so you too will be judged. At least, the bishops appear repentant, but you (who can judge the hearts of men)... you applaud yourselves. Whether you are converts or reverts or cradles ignorant of communion, you just don't seem to get it. We are not only persons before the Lord. We are one people in Christ.

A lot of today's faithful Catholics are severely deficit in this sense of the faith. They may be intellectually convinced of the Catholic truth but they seem to have a tough time dealing with the practical applications of that truth. Today, every one is 'a Catholic but...'

Gerard Serafin (Bless his blog) posted a link to A Crisis of Fidelity': George Weigel on Renewing the U.S. Catholic Church. In the article, Weigel claims "It's not a question of fidelity to institutional structures. It's a question of fidelity to the truth." Actually, it is a question of fidelity to the whole Church, including her institutions. If we had been more faithful to her institutions, we wouldn't be in quite the mess we find ourselves. If we had stayed in our home parishes and contested their destruction, we might now have home parishes in which we could celebrate our Faith.

Newsflash: For the most part, those errant priests weren't living next door to the bishop. They were living next door to us. If we weren't so busy parish hopping, we might have noticed, we might even have made a difference. This mess is our mess. It's the result of what we have failed to do and what we are failing to do. By hiding in the shadows of righteousness, many of us have abandoned the Church. Our refusal to be part of practical Catholic solutions, makes us a part of the problem.

Perhaps it is true that we live in an age when the Church in America is particularly corrupt. Or perhaps, we have simply been so corrupted as a people that we no longer recognize when we are being manipulated. The best and only way to judge this is to see what the situation is close to our own homes where we have the power to effect conversion. Whatever we discover within our own parish is fundamentally a matter for the exercise of our Catholic duty to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We transform and reform the Church one heart, one mind, at a time, We do this on a one to one basis with fellow home parishioners. If we don't do this, we ARE the crisis in the Church. We are sinful, arrogant, and slothful Catholics.

It's high time to stop patting ourselves on the back and to begin doing something useful with our hands. It's time to stop playing at Catholicism and to return home to the territorial parishes we have been neglecting and the duties we have shirked.

Hey...Roll up your sleeves, and clean out the stables. The Church, with or without you, is being reborn.

George Weigel in the same article suggests that "The Church is an earthen vessel carrying transcendent and eternal truths. It is certainly true that when the cracks in the vessel become so obvious, it's harder for the truths to be heard."

Our response must be: Ahh! but can't you see how much easier it becomes for God's own good light to shine through those very cracks....And in that startling light, we are made radically free to see our imperfections and to seek remedy for them.

Remember ... Spencer Tracy?... Boystown?... the Catholic refrain?

Instead of turning away from our sin-weakened brothers, it's time to tussle 'em to the ground, sling our arms around 'em, and limp homeward together. If others finds fault, we should have the heart to declare: "He ain't heavy, Fadda, he's my brother."

And yes, I do accuse myself ... Or my anger would be less.


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