In a recent interview, Cardinal Burke, an American serving in the Roman Curia, said that Catholics are losing their faith because of masses celebrated without due reverence. I think he has a point. What we would probably disagree with is what one means by “due reverence.” His Eminence has shown a preference for the pre-conciliar mass while he does not object to the Missal of Paul VI, the Novus Ordo, when celebrated appropriately. There is much disagreement today about how the mass of Paul VI is to be celebrated. We can look at that in some future entry, but yesterday I attended the Installation of a friend of mine as rector in an Episcopal Church where a fair number of parishioners are former Roman Catholics. At the dinner afterwards I asked a couple at my table why they had left the Catholic Church.
“Mostly we left because we have found the Church not to be family-friendly. Our experience was that the homilies or sermons were not speaking to the world of people with families. They were more theology lectures. We weren’t getting guidance for the real problems of real people; we were just getting a lot of “theology” and it was pretty esoteric stuff. I don’t need to hear about Aristotle and substances—I need to hear about how Jesus expects me to be a father to my children: what I need to say and do to bring them to a good and holy life. And I need to hear this from people who have their feet on the ground. I have to deal with real problems—why my kids shouldn’t expect to get everything they want just because we are fairly wealthy people. My daughter wanted a $1400.00 prom dress and when I told her that wasn’t going to happen in a world where most people go to bed hungry, she through a fit and said she didn’t care about the poor. I realized then that we never heard about the poor in our Catholic parish and I decided we needed to go to a Church where they talk about “the least of my brothers.”
This couple called another friend of theirs over and he said: “Frankly I find the priests in the Catholic Church too effeminate. I can’t stomach the fussiness of what the mass has become—the priests where I used to go to mass drape lace all over everything including themselves. When we lived out in the Midwest, the church was pretty simple. Mass was a straight-forward affair—the focus was on the scripture and the Holy Communion. But here it seems as if it is about ceremony. I know there are Episcopalian Churches like that too, but here at Christ Church we are what is called “low church.” I mean it is all very reverent—you saw that in the service today—but they don’t gild the lilies. When I am home in Indiana I still go to the Catholic Church, but out here I am just not comfortable with it."
My friend, the new Rector, told me that about twenty percent of his congregation are former Roman Catholics or Catholics who come to services there will still remaining technically Catholics. He himself is a cradle-born Episcopalian; his wife is still Methodist though she usually attends the Episcopal Church. He said in addition to Catholics, perhaps another twenty percent of his parish is made up of those who once belonged to another Protestant denomination and two people whom he knows who were raised Jewish. His parish has about 650 members which is a fairly large parish in the Episcopal Church. They have two services on Sundays, the early service draws about a hundred and alternates Sundays between Morning Prayer and Eucharist. The second service is always the Eucharist and draws between two hundred and fifty and three hundred. These figures show that a considerably higher percentage of his parishioners attend church regularly than Catholics, but it also shows that approximately 140 former Catholics are now Episcopalians. The Rector says they are among his most active and committed members. “Us cradle-Episcopalians are much more likely to have a long sleep-in on Sundays, or to chose brunch over the Eucharist—but not my Catholic parishioners—they are there every Sunday.” Something to think about. The image today is Cardinal (then Archbishop) Burke leaving mass in his cappa magna.