The National Catholic Review

While participating in the "Occupy Wall Street" protests in lower Manhattan, I have begun to wonder what would happen if Catholics took this model and applied it to their passion for and grievances with their own church. 

Imagine a group of Catholics whose deep care for the future of their church is matched by their sense of responsibility to name, protest and change what is intolerable about that church today: in the form of nonviolent physical occupation of spaces, in the form -- necessarily imperfect and unruly -- of democratic organization, in the form of continued open-ended articulations of visions of a different Catholic Church, without prematurely forcing the movement to take on a specific agenda. And yes, in the form of consciousness-raising and of direct action. This would be the Catholic version of the Arab Spring, to combat the long Catholic Winter.

What would the compelling love be for you that would make you consider joining such a movement? Would it be your hope for the church as a sacrament of God's salvation in the world here and now, your faith in the prophetic call of the Spirit that assures a permanently unfinished character to every church arrangement in the name of God's future alone, or would it be your love for the gift of your faith tradition to which you find yourself inseparably wedded for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health -- or something else?

What would be the last straw that would make you join such a movement? Would it be the episcopal malfeasance and coverup known as the sexual abuse crisis, would it be the steady disaffiliation, deconversion, and detachment of your family members or friends from the faith as church structures, teachings, and practices become steadily more incredible in contemporary society, or would it be the failure of the church to practice in its internal affairs the justice it preaches to the world -- or something else? 

Or, like the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, would the precipitating awareness that would lead you to join such a movement simply be a recognition of the intractibilty of the near invisibility, in everyday church governance, of the overwhelming majority (all non-ordained persons) as compared to the small minority (the ordained)? 

Looking at the world and the church in this moment, I would say that now may be some kind of privileged time for such action. Will Catholics take it up?

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Beth Cioffoletti | 10/9/2011 - 9:26pm
Yeah, let's burn them at the stake, all those women and men who articulate the relationship between what we believe and how we live.

Catholic theology is deep and rich, risky and free-ing.  Much too dangerous. 
ed gleason | 10/9/2011 - 9:23pm
To suggest Solidarity of the laity brings out the 'spewing heretics' 'marginal heretics'
"laughing Satan' 'go elsewhere'.. How I remember JPII welcoming/blessing lay led  Solidarity without JPII getting right wing vitriol?
D Morgan | 10/9/2011 - 8:14pm
Satan must be gloriously laughing at the destruction he is causing in Mother Church. The reformation was childs play compared to what the liberal modernists in the west are doing today. No Masonic plot could have had as profound as an effect as the liberalization of Catholic Universities that now spew out heretics at an alarming rate. His Holiness +Pope St. Pius X could not imagine just how prophetic Pacendi Dominici Gregis was. The errors revealed are now the reality. I humbly pray that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will continue to reform the Chuch and restore the Sacredness we have lost.

The only thing i find "Intolerable" in the Church today are the disenters and marginal heretics that think "They" know better than the Holy Father and the Magesterium. If you do not believe, if you refuse to give obedience to the Church, go elswhere! Martin Luther, Calvin, Wesley and many others have left you a trail to follow. And may Almighty God have mercy on you.

Pax Christi
Thomas Piatak | 10/9/2011 - 7:22pm
Mr. Ryder's comment is both on target and important. 
Vince Killoran | 10/9/2011 - 6:42pm
Brett writes in #3 that the Wall Street protesters' message is "individualistic" but then in #20 claims they are "collectivists."  Which is it?

Here's a protest idea of sorts: simply filling the pews with concerned Catholics who would engage in round-the-clock praryer before the Blessed Sacrament.  Solidarity and faith-and not letting the hierarchy throw some bogus "disobedience" charge in our faces.
Crystal Watson | 10/9/2011 - 4:57pm
"Have you read any Aristotle or Aquinas or even Dante? There IS a hierarchy in this world"

Have you read any of the gospels?
ROBERT NUNZ MR | 10/9/2011 - 4:08pm
The conservative/traditionalist side here are always in favor of things hierachic. The liberals continue to be dismayed at the chages that drive them or the young away (see the Valerie schultz piece.)
If we have an Occupy the Vatican, wil the conservatives favor pepper spray from the Swiss guatds or, like Fox, catafgorize the protestors asa mob or worse??????
Crystal Watson | 10/9/2011 - 3:49pm
I'm ready  :)  But I think unless the priests, bishops also get involved, we laity won't really be able to change much in the way the church is run - more's the pity.
ed gleason | 10/9/2011 - 3:15pm
The young are doubling up in housing, graduates are 200k in debt and no job,  the suburbs have the hidden unemployed... so recruits for Occupy Wall Street are growing. The Tea Party also had a diverse group. Those that saw gov. waste, those that saw public unions cutting sweetheart deals and of course 'the anybody but Obama' crowd.
I suggest the Catholic laity rally would attract some of the 1/3 Catholics who have withdrawn, the VatII older people who feel betrayed by the reform of the reform, the young who want to get a grip on a relationship/spiritually/religion. and those who are fed up with abuse cover-up.
This diverse group needs new leadership, VOTF, CTA, Womens Ordination, Survivors, etc all would have to give up their single agenda goals.
The organized Trads like the  Legion, SSPX, Opus dei, etc are busy huddling with their attorneys so they are not to worry about. 
The Pope just met with a national German Laity conference...and the 'radical' group did him no disrespect .. right?  so why the hell don't we have a national US laity conference.?  
Brett and David complain alot about ad hominum yet they have a quiver full themselves.  so duck as they launch a sky full of arrows at any laity initiative. .  
Stanley Kopacz | 10/9/2011 - 3:14pm
Of course, the teapees were more focused.  It was a puppet show organized by the Koch Bros. around a few simplistic slogans. It was well covered from the start by the corporate press and probably amplified beyond its importance.  Whatever coverage we see of ows is done to make them look like a bunch of neo-hippies and wiccans.  I'll have to make a visit myself just to see how accurate these depictions are or whether the corporate media are cherry picking.  I'm an empiricist.
Joshua DeCuir | 10/9/2011 - 2:19pm
Why not the Tea Party rather than the rather-unfocused Occupy Wall St?

The Tea Party was incredibly succesful from an objective (i.e leaving aside what you think of their claims) POV; they object to not just one over the other but the fact that government & Wall St. are so intertwined.  They had focused complaints, and targeted goals. 

And why the quick baptism of these protests compared with the quick demonization of the Tea Party?  Can we get any kind of critical analysis of the anarchical roots of these protestors?
Beth Cioffoletti | 10/9/2011 - 2:08pm
Interesting, I have read some bloggers who describe the OccupyWallStreet as a "Church" of dissent.  (Isn't that what the Church is supposed to be, anyway - a resistance to the "ways of the world"?)  People coming together seeking meaning, and finding that meaning in the very coming together.  They say that this gathering is somehow different from other "protests" (like the Tea Party, say) and no one knows what to expect from it.

Dunno, but this sounds a lot like the movement of the Holy Spirit to me.
Thomas Piatak | 10/9/2011 - 12:01pm
What a joke.  "Compelling love" would be the motive for such a stunt?  Not even the Occupy Wall Street people suggest they are motivated by "compelling love." 
C Walter Mattingly | 10/9/2011 - 11:24am
Well, it's been done successfully in an earlier time. Back then it was called Protestantism.
If tried today I would hope it would look a bit more focused and meaningful and a lot less silly than this current secular bunch. 
Stanley Kopacz | 10/9/2011 - 11:16am
The Church would be a good venue for growing the kind of lateral connectivity that could offset the world created by the neoliberal fundamentalists, a respite from the social darwinism.  The problem is, it still suffers from the imperial imprinting left over from the embrace of Constantine.  Enclaves of civilization and spirituality will require more democratic horizontalism.  It would be good to see some pooling of resources at a parish level toward the care of all, to the tithe level or beyond.  But could you imagine the corruption with the present fiefdom arrangement, the pastor controlling all?

As for occupy Wall Street, if I were there and a snotty NYT pundit asked me what I stood for, I'd say, for a start, bring back Glass-Steagall and don't tell me about wimpy Dodd-Frank.  All casinos should be regulated. 

I like Mr. Beaudoin's posts.
Michael Iafrate | 10/9/2011 - 10:55am
Tom, thank you for these updates and reflections!
Beth Cioffoletti | 10/9/2011 - 9:01am
PS - I appreciate your thoughtful and edgy contributions to this blog, Tommy.  The old farts among the commenters need the refreshing infustion of young ideas to wake us up some!
Beth Cioffoletti | 10/9/2011 - 8:47am
I don't know why, but this idea of a Church rebellion reminds me of St. Francis of Assisi, who, with a small group of wandering brothers devoted to poverty and caring for the sick and outcasts, really did reform the Church.  (and, Francis' stubborn single-mindedness, does remind me of Steve Jobs).
Anonymous | 10/9/2011 - 8:29am
I love Christ and His Church.  I look for support and strength so that I might be humble and submissive.  Saint Ignatius and Saint Xavier come to mind as good role models.  That is why I keep coming back to America Magazine.  Oh well...
Vince Killoran | 10/9/2011 - 3:16am
It's an interesting idea Tom.  Up until now U.S. Catholics had only protested specific moves by the hierarchy, mostly when they close down parish churches.

As for Brett "laughing and laughing," I'll just take heart from something he wrote back in August on IAT:

"What a myopic description with the obvious intent to demonize those involved with the tea party (of which I am not involved). This is mere ad hominem against those who rightly see the current spending and centralization of power in washington as unsustainable and inhumane in terms of scale."
PJ Johnston | 10/9/2011 - 11:11am
Brett Joyce:

Listen up sweet child of mine
Have I got news for you
Nobody leaves this place alive
They'll die and join the queue, sing it
I'm, I'm gonna break right into heaven
I can't wait anymore
How many times do I have to tell you
You don't have to wait to die
You can have it all
Anytime you want it
Yeah, the kingdom's all inside (Stone Roses, Breaking into Heaven)

My regards!

Tom Beaudoin:

I know it's old stuff, but you someone probably write a great theology of contemporary culture essay on the Stone Roses album "The Second Coming".
Vince Killoran | 10/10/2011 - 11:39am
John's comment is over the top-from labeling Catholics who disagree with him as "hippie radicals" who will urinate on the carpet-to his threat that the Knights of Columbus will act as storm troopers.

I'll have to chalk this up to his frustration at his favorite NFL team losing yesterday.

I love the idea of a "prayer-in"! 
Beth Cioffoletti | 10/9/2011 - 6:14pm
I have the greatest respect for the Amish and other groups who form their own insular agricultural and trade communities.  My problem with them is that very insularity. 

Even monastics know that they must be part of the conversation of the world.

I am very aware that Francis (and Thomas Merton, by the way) were able to forge their way without officially offending the hierarchy - but if you read their stories, you will see that they both step on toes, and the dogmatic ones were scandalized.

I would guess that more Catholics no longer identify themselves as Church-going Catholics because of conservative control than because they want a more fundamental slant.
Stanley Kopacz | 10/10/2011 - 1:52pm
I guess the sit-ins in church are out of the question.  I would hate to see my K of C friends provoked to violence.  I don't think their constitutions would survive the episode.
Vince Killoran | 10/10/2011 - 1:46pm
If John et al. think this will be ineffective then why the long, angry postings?

As for his characterization on this post and one from yesterday of the TP as  "showed up waving flags and acting respectable, cleaning up after themselves and behaving with social decorum": this pure fiction. 

They disrupted meetings, made serious threats, and one spit on a Congressman.

The original TP engaged in vandalism and theft.  
Beth Cioffoletti | 10/10/2011 - 11:51am
"God is humble?  Interesting thought."

How else does God become incarnate?

I also like the idea of a "prayer-in".  At my weekly Contemplative Prayer group we are all over the map, politically.  And because we elect not to talk about dogma, we are getting to know and really like each other.  I think it's the prayer that unites (and bonds) us.
ed gleason | 10/10/2011 - 11:50am
Vigils in Boston's parishes  lasted very long without John Lyon's storm troopers ever being 'drafted/activated' ... getalife.
Finn Stone | 10/10/2011 - 11:26am
I occupy my church fairly regularly by attending mass.

I am all for protesting Wall Street but I don't really understand who is supposed to be playing that role in the analogous case. The Bishops? The entire hierarchy? Who's supposed to do the occupying, just anybody who hates the church or practicing Catholics only?

I think Prof. Beaudoin will probably be embarrassed by this very silly post once he comes down from his enthusiasm. 

Stanley Kopacz | 10/10/2011 - 10:58am
"you will soon see that the laws of thermodynamics and social dynamics agree: for every action there is an opposite reaction"

That's really a part of mechanics, not thermodynamics.  And it's "equal and opposite reaction".

Anonymous | 10/10/2011 - 10:21am
Given the sheer numbers of young Catholics in the Pro-life movement, who have attended WYD and are in the military, I don't think dear old Tom will like what will happen when he gets his wish.

Because two can play the "let's occupy the space" game. If a bunch of hippie radicals storm my local parish, then I'll lead a battalion to storm their homes, schools, haunts and hang outs.

You trash my Church and call it a principle of human rights to do so, then it's free game for us to trash your living room, class room, dorm room, etc.

See, the social compact works both ways..... the moment one group 'takes the law into their own hands' and insists that they can do whatever they want, things tend to go fluid and sideways very quickly.

The Knights of Columbus council in every parish typically has about 100+ men on the rolls... working men who care about their parish and won't take kindly to barbarians urinating on the carpets or trashing the sanctuary.

Virtually every parish has a Boy Scout troop - with an average of 50 or so boys...and 30 or so dads... all of whom believe in the motto "be prepared". It won't take more than a dozen dads with shot guns to keep any size rabble from storming their local parish.

So Tom, you need to think this through because once you light that fuse, once you go 'kinetic' rather than practice this "dialogue" you left-wingers always claim we need to employ with those we disagree with.... you will soon see that the laws of thermodynamics and social dynamics agree: for every action there is an opposite reaction.
Vince Killoran | 10/10/2011 - 9:33am
There is a connection between the individual and the collective or communal but that's not the same as equating "individualism" and "collectivism."  It's the "-isms" Brett spins out that makes his use of both confusing.

Thanks Crystal for the link to the insightful book review.  I was going to add that this is an old form of conservative nostalga that dates back to 19th century France when the bourgeoisie became entralled with artisan handicrafts-but did not confront directly the foundations of capitalism (and the industrial revolution that helped bring into existence). In many ways it's a feel good leisure activity.
Stanley Kopacz | 10/10/2011 - 9:19am
When the ancients wanted to say God was "beyond us", they said  "above us" which was the beyond of the time.  But God is certainly among us as creation is not something that happened long ago.  We exist now because God creates us now.  God is within and among and beyond.  Beyond hierarchy, too.
Beth Cioffoletti | 10/10/2011 - 6:55am
"There IS a hierarchy in this world starting with God, whether you like it or not."

And that God is one who, according to my Catholic faith, who is also humble and loving.  A king who serves his people, sharing in their humanity.

You know, there is room in this world and in this Church for liberal thought, theology and America magazine.  We are, after all, one people, one churh.  THat's why it's called "Catholic".

Conservative readers might consider listening to and pondering these ideas, learning something new or a new way of seeing. Rather they are very quick to point out the "wrongness" of these ideas while asking (or sometimes demanding) that we leave the Church.  I can't figure out whether they think that they are helping us or trying to convince themselves of their own "rightness".
Toby Lees | 10/10/2011 - 5:46am
"As long as obedience is flourishing, all other virtues will be seen to flourish and bear fruit" - St. Ignatius of Loyola
Crystal Watson | 10/10/2011 - 4:17am
For a different point of view on distributism and red toryism, see "Cameron's Crank" by Jonathan Raban in the London Review of Books ...
Tom Maher | 10/9/2011 - 11:16pm
Brett Joyce (#20)

I have to agree with you the idea of occupying the church is absurd and you analysis it very well as you always do.  I agree with your comments that some of the occupiers' words and deeds are comic.  Your analysis and judgement is excellent and very  worthwhile hearing. 

But your comments about recommending distributionist and Chesterton ideas seem unusually way off the mark.  You have repeatedly mentioned distributionism as an economic solution.  

I thought I as aware of most economic ideas but I never heard of distributionism before you mentioned it.  Distributionism definitely is not a mainstrem economic or political ideas.  The scant literature that exists on this subject seems very dated, going back to the eartly 20th century and seems associated with theology more than economic or politics where it is sometimes refered to as Catholic economics or "third way" economics - not socialism or captitalism but something religously rooted in some rare   Catholic prespective. 

The idea of a "Catholic economics" is scarier and as baseless as some of the stuff in this article.  The ideas having a unknown "third way" economics for societ to organize itself economically seems to be way out on the fringe and  worst than the vague anti-capitalist sentiments of the Wall Street occupiers. Even the Catholic encycploedia does not reference Distributionis or "Catholic economics". 

I'm curious. Where on earth did you get this idea of distributionist from that you are always pushing?  Is this a Catholic theology course topic being promoted by a some  Catholic collge theology department.  I do not believe you got the idea of "distributionist" from a economic course anywhere.  Is this just another utopian idea taugh in Catholic colleges outside of mainsteam economics?  Or is there some real economic science to "distrbutionist" that I have missed?  The few reference I have read on "distributionist" sounds like an essay in Catholic utopian thought in the early 20th century with no current audience.  Is promoting distrbutionist ideas some private ideas of one or two of your professors?  Is this "distributionist" idea currently being taught in Catholic colleges as part of a theology course ?  And if so why ?