I see that some of my friends among the Katholic Krazies are all in a tizzy about a coming persecution in our secularized culture of Catholics who stay faithful to Church teaching regarding human sexuality. Janet of Restore DC Catholicism posted a video of Michael Voris who compares complacent Catholics with those Jews who did not take seriously the rise of Adolf Hitler and National Socialism with their program of exterminating the Jewish race. Voris gives a lot of detail about the German blitzkrieg but is vague about his data for foretelling the threat facing Catholics. He paints the situation of Catholic schools and health institutions with a broad brush but without giving specific examples. His agenda is to declare the real threat to the Church is the “Homofacist Hammer”—his term for those who are trying to break the cultural bias against the LGBT population and who see the Catholic Church as the main perpetrator of this prejudice.
Now I am not saying that just because it is the Katholic Krazies who are screaming doom and gloom from the housetops, that there isn’t something to be concerned about. Cassandra, the doomsayer of Troy, was as crazy as a *hithouse rat, but her warnings about the large wooden horse the Greeks had left behind was dead on. I do think that religion—not just Catholicism—is under attack in our western culture. I mentioned yesterday that if we want to weather the storm of a secular culture that is hostile to religion in the public square we had better take a serious look at the role we play in society. We cannot afford to cling to political, economic, or even moral power as it has been our abuse of power that got us trapped in this cultural fix. The high-handed arrogance with which Cardinal Law and other bishops refused to take responsibility for the sex-abuse crisis was an all but fatal misstep for the survival of the Church. Movies like Doubt, The Magdalene Sisters and Philomena exposed the vicious underbelly of Catholicism and the systemic abuse of power by the Church. To get out of this snare we need to embrace the role of putting ourselves at the humble service of society rather than trying to force society to conform itself to our values. In other words, we must regain our credibility by unstinting service to society and then hold up our Christian values as a voluntary choice rather than try to legislate a morality to which all must subscribe. Jesus never once told us change laws; his commission was for us to change hearts, beginning with our own.
I have been reading George Weigel’s Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st century Church. I have a bit of a mixed reaction to it and hope to discuss it in future entries. I would like to look at one quote, however, with which I fully agree.
The Leonine Revival that reached its fulfillment in John Paul II and Benedict XVI , heirs and authentic interpreters of the Second Vatican Council, is inviting the Catholic Church to Galilee, and then beyond Galilee. The Catholic Church is being invited to meet the Risen Lord in the Scriptures, the Sacraments, and Prayer and to make friendship with him the center of Catholic life. Every Catholic has received this invitation in Baptism, the invitation to accept the Great Commission, to act as evangelists and to measure the truth of Catholic life by the way in which Catholics give expression to the human decency and solidarity that flows from friendship with Christ the Lord.
We need to refocus our lives as Catholics—individually and collectively—on an encounter with Christ in the Scriptures, in the Church’s Sacramental Life, and in prayer. I think this is the problem with the Vorises and the Janets and others who want to “restore” Catholicism to the Church of the William O’Connells and Francis Spellmans where a call to a State Governor, or even the White House, from a Cardinal could cause a major policy change. Those days are over. We need, even in the face of a hostile secularism with its immense cultural and political clout, to renounce any and all power except the power of the Gospel. Is this change of direction judicious? Of course not. But it is putting our faith in God and in God’s word. And of course in this week, more than any other week of the year, we see the model of renouncing power and being vulnerable to our foes as being at the heart of the Gospel we believe and are called to proclaim. In God and in his Word alone is our hope for salvation.
Such a change in direction from power to service requires our bishops to reconsider the sort of houses in which they live, the diocesan structures by which they carry out their ministry, the people with whom they socialize, and their vision which they have for the Church in their care. It also requires the clergy to reconsider the way decisions are made in their parishes, the kind of homilies they preach, the style in which they celebrate the Liturgy and Sacraments, and their own relationship with their parishioners. It will make the religious consider again what is meant by their vow of poverty, how to fulfill their prophetic vocation, and the sorts of ministry to which they give themselves. But most of all it will require from the Catholic laity a radical decision to become more involved at the nitty-gritty level in hands on service to the poor and marginalized. It will require us all—hierarchy, clergy, and laity—to reconsider our response to those whose values are in fundamental divergence from our own. Will we sit in pious judgment with those who are “pro-choice,” or LGBT, or angry about how they have been hurt by religion, or will we approach others with an honest desire to hear them out and enter into a dialogue towards mutual understanding? Will we be willing to serve the needs not only of our own, but even of those who have come to hate us and hate the faith to which we are committed? Will we learn to respect others regardless of whether we agree with them or not? Will we open the doors of our churches, our schools, our health-care institutions, our social-service institutions, not only to those who share our beliefs and values but to all who come to us in need. This requires a radical change not only of policy, but of heart. But isn’t that precisely what God has called us to every since the days of the Prophets?