The National Catholic Review
William J. Byron
What exit interviews could teach us about lapsed Catholics
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Ever since Larry Bossidy, a former C.E.O. of Allied Signal and the Honeywell Corporation, raised the question of conducting interviews with lapsed Catholics, I have been giving it a lot of thought. Mr. Bossidy is a devout Catholic and the co-author (with Ram Charan) of a bestselling book, Execution, which Bossidy likes to explain is about effective management in business, not about capital punishment. He addressed a meeting of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management a couple of years ago and pointed out that if businesses were losing customers at the rate the Catholic Church in the United States is losing members, someone would surely be conducting exit interviews. His observation was prompted by data on declining church attendance released by the Pew Research Center.

Immigration, largely Hispanic, is still shoring up the aggregate numbers for the Catholic Church in the United States, but there has been a dramatic decline in Sunday Mass attendance and church life among U.S.-born Catholics, not to mention the drift of Hispanic Catholics toward Pentecostal sects.

The church in America must face the fact that it has failed to communicate the Good News cheerfully and effectively to a population adrift on a sea of materialism and under constant attack from the forces of secularism, not to mention the diabolical powers that are at work in our world.

An exit interview, if used creatively, could help church leaders discover ways of welcoming back those who have left, even as it helps leaders find ways to strengthen the current worshipping community. This interview could also help identify what else might need to be taught to those called to positions of parish leadership. The church would have nothing to lose by initiating exit interviews.

As a long-time writer of a biweekly column called “Looking Around” for Catholic News Service, I devoted a recent column to the exit interview idea and was inundated with responses from readers. Many indicated that they had been waiting to be asked why they left. The high response rate is all the more unusual because the column appears only in diocesan newspapers around the country. Evidently, respondents who claim to be no longer “in the boat” are still keeping in touch. Many of my respondents identified themselves as older persons.

I asked: Does anyone know why the ranks are thinning at Catholic weekend worship? There are several obstacles to finding out. First, pastors and bishops tend not to think like business executives, so the practice of conducting exit interviews is not likely to occur to them. Second, no one is sure how to reach those Catholics who are no longer in the pews. Third, we do not know precisely what to ask. This is not to say, however, that the problem cannot be investigated.

What Should We Ask?

Back in 1971, John N. Kotre conducted a study of 100 young Catholic adults. Fifty of these, by their own definition, were still in the church; 50 were not. All were graduates of Catholic colleges; all were enrolled at the time of the interviews in graduate school at either the University of Chicago or Northwestern University. Kotre published the results of the study in a book that has been reissued under the title The View From the Border: Why Catholics Leave the Church and Why They Stay (Aldine Transaction, 2009). It contains a 400-item questionnaire that could be helpful to anyone interested in designing a briefer survey instrument that could be useful now.

Assuming that it is possible to connect with those who are not showing up on Sundays, here are seven starter questions one could pose:

• Why have you stopped attending Sunday Mass regularly?

• Are there any changes your parish might make that would prompt you to return?

• Are there any doctrinal issues that trouble you?

• Does your pastor or anyone on the parish staff know you by name?

• Are you in a mixed-religion marriage?

• Do your children go to church?

• Did you ever really consider yourself to be a member of a parish community?

The point is to find a way to elicit honest answers to open-ended questions aimed at identifying specific Catholic doctrines or practices that may have been factors in the break. I presume that there may be misunderstandings of doctrine that require attention. Whether the respondent is male or female is relevant, as is an assessment of how the respondent regards the status of women in the church. The quality of preaching and the worship environment are also important factors that encourage or discourage attendance and participation. So what do those who no longer show up think about those elements of Catholic worship? If a person has stopped going to Mass, he or she is separated from reception of the Eucharist. Hence, it would be important for the church to find a way to re-educate (or, perhaps, educate for the first time) those who have left about the centrality of the Eucharist in Catholic life.

A good exit interviewer can find ways to detect secular political influences, as well as social class considerations, that might influence the decision to leave a Catholic worshipping community. Lay expertise in designing and implementing an exit-interview schedule is surely needed, along with a commitment on the part of parish and diocesan authorities to use it.

In the absence of good data, church leaders might be accused of sleepwalking into the future or walking with eyes and ears closed to those they want to serve.

What Readers Told Me

One reader of my column agreed that information gained from exit interviews might help in the training of parish leaders. He wrote: “We need top-line leadership—leaders who can think like business executives since they are running multimillion-dollar organizations. Tell them to read The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki (former marketing head of Apple Inc.) and the book that guided me through very tough times in telecommunications, namely, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, by John C. Maxwell.”

A woman who described herself as a “human resources manager and very well informed about the benefits of doing exit interviews,” said: “I just recently turned 50, and I can tell you that I am pretty much the teenager in my parish. Most of my friends have abandoned their faith. You hit the nail on the head! I wish the Vatican would listen.”

Another woman who identified herself as “a cradle Catholic, educated exclusively in Catholic schools, married to a practicing Catholic, raised five children in the faith, taught C.C.D., was involved in the marriage preparation program in our parish—in short, one of the active practitioners of the faith,” said she had opted out because of “the recent church teaching on end-of-life issues; the moving, instead of removing, of priests and bishops involved in the molestation of children; the headstrong opposition to the use of condoms in Africa to prevent the spread of AIDS; and the absence of any priest I can talk to.” She added: “I’ve stopped going to Mass because I can’t in good conscience say the Creed, as I don’t think this is a ‘holy’ church, and I don’t feel I can receive the Eucharist under these circumstances.”

“Exit interviews for departing Catholics or those just not attending Mass is a nice thought,” said a 69-year-old retired businessman, “but it is obvious to me that there are two reasons for the drop in Mass attendance and withdrawal of financial support: (1) the pedophile issue and (2) the exclusion of women and married men from the priesthood.”

“I miss the Catholic church I grew up with,” said a woman who once wanted to speak to a priest but was unable to explain precisely why to the person who answered the rectory telephone. “When you figure out what is wrong, give us a call,” she remembers the receptionist telling her many years ago. “Needless to say, I did not call back.” She recounted other bad experiences with her local parish and noted with a tone of regret: “Our priests used to walk the neighborhoods and stop and talk with the children, the teenagers and families. Back then, the clergy had time to talk with you about God.”

“Why did I leave?” wrote a retired business executive with experience on his parish council. “It’s simple. Dealing with the top-down organizational structure was like trying to change the direction of a bulldozer heading right at me. It was frightening, suffocating and frustrating. It went against my natural tendency to get involved in real change. I gave up on it like thousands of people have given up their right to vote.”

Another retiree, who recently re-read (approvingly) the documents of the Second Vatican Council, recalled his past experience at work of an organizational shift that did not meet its desired objective because “the leadership focused on the new thing but lost focus on the good old thing.”

“I am on the knife edge between staying and leaving the church,” he said. He offered these reasons: “(1) I no longer trust the management; (2) I have no way of influencing the selection or change of a priest or bishop; (3) the clergy sex abuse scandal continues to grow; and (4) the continuing lawsuits continue to drain my spirit.”

Is It Too Late?

“Personally, I think exit interviews are too late,” remarked a former military man. “The church can find plenty of ideas from those still in the pews.” As for himself, he wrote: “I only go to Mass to punch my ‘stay-out-of-hell-for-another-week’ card. I don’t celebrate the Mass; I endure it.”

Deploring the absence of any feedback mechanism to hear from the voiceless laity, another senior citizen suggested that the church should have a uniform job description for the parish priest. “How can you run any organization,” he asks, “when each leader brings with him his own set of rules?” In the absence of a published job description, he argues, the parishioners will have their own separate perceptions of the role of the priest. “No priest can live up to each perception; nor should every priest be free to create his own job description.”

“Aren’t you sorry you asked?” said one of the above respondents at the end of her e-mail message to me. Not at all. I just wish I could improve the organizational acoustics in the church so that leaders could hear what the people of God want to say. Leaders must try to discern the presence of the Spirit in what laypeople are saying and find the pastoral courage it will take to implement necessary change.

In 2010 the decennial U.S. census was conducted, and the term “census enumerator” became familiar in news stories. I wonder if dioceses could or would enlist and train volunteers to follow a uniform set of questions and conduct telephone interviews with persons who self-identify as no longer “in” the church. With expert lay assistance, the diocese would have to design the questionnaire and engage the parishes to find telephone numbers or e-mail addresses of those willing to participate. Then the diocese, again with lay help, would have to figure out how best to respond to the data it collects.

If there is no official interest at the parish or diocesan level for taking a page from the business world and employing exit interviews, one has to wonder about the quality of both diocesan and parochial leadership.

Have you left the church, or considered leaving? Why? Post your comments on America's Facebook page.

William J. Byron, S.J., is university professor of business and society at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, Pa. He is the author, most recently, of Next-Generation Leadership: A Toolkit for Teens, Twenties & Th

Comments

Tony Portillo | 1/10/2011 - 8:11am
Speaking as somebody who did memorize it many years ago, I would like to both defend and disparage the Baltimore Catechism.

The Balt Cat was good, as far as it went.  But memorizing a bunch of stuff does not, in itself, guarantee the material will be retained.  How many of you all memorized the Soldier's Manual of Army Training ("smart book") in basic training?  How many remember a single word of it?  Anybody cram for the AP Biology exam lately?  How many amino acids can you name off the top of your head now?  Ask any actor who played King Lear twenty years ago (and hasn't since) to perform the "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks" speech now.  Don't be surprised if he can't get beyond the first line. 

Most of my classmates flushed their memories within a year of confirmation and today have only the foggiest notion what the difference between actual grace and sanctifying grace is.  Not suprisingly, most of them have "drifted away." 

The Balt Cat is useful, but certainly not sufficient.
Veronica Harrison | 1/9/2011 - 11:06pm

From Walter, addressing Anne:
"Also, as you noted, Anne, you rejected easily the definition contained within of the Eucharist....In that you have joined a long line of dissenters. [Walter's word, NOT MINE.]  But the Church had the responsibility, which it provided to you, to explain what that doctrine was.  My concern is that 55% of those surveyed as quoted in America don't even inow what it is, something inconceivable to Catholics educated during our generation.  You can't serve, reform,, or vlaidly disagree with that which you don't know."

Amen.  I will add that many of the subsequent comments Anne made reveal that she and I did not learn the same thing, pre-V2.  Whether she had rotten teaching/teachers, whether she rejected the teaching, failed to understand the teaching, resisted it because of deep resentment over what she considered misogynous in the ancient & modern Church, I don't know.  But what I do know categorically is that she has misrepresented what I learned, and what all of my peers learned, such that this statement of hers is simple false:

"Even before Vatican II, few Catholics had any understanding of where so many Catholic teachings came from - they were not thought sophisticated enough nor educated enough (most did not go to college then) to understand the philosophical underpinnings of a doctrine like transubstantiation."

This is just such baloney.  Many of my fellow students did not attend college.  Yet in Catholic high school, they understood transubstantiation.  We were taught by Jesuits, and we got it prior to college.  It's just that I was privileged to extend that education into college and graduate theology school.

Another comment from Anne:
"So, I am not quite as ignorant as you seem to think." 

Anne, you extrapolate broadly, inaccurately, and with huge amounts of prejudice as your rationalization for demonizing and classifying people whose understanding of theology and Catholic academic history you are not acquainted with.  I neither treat you nor perceive of you as "ignorant."  I perceive you to (1) possibly having rec'd insufficient teaching in sacramental & systematic theology; and/or (2) selective about what you choose/chose to accept about that teaching.  That is not "ignorance," nor have I characterized you that way.   Nevertheless, like Walter, I will note that you reject the doctrine of transubstantiation despite your claim of many years of Catholic schooling, including college.  So clearly, this is not a matter of ignorance but of rejection.  Huge difference.  But your rejection of certain theological principles is not an excuse to misrepresent what the Church does teach and does not teach - whether in systematics or in the spirituality & tradition of prayer.

For example:
"You barely disguised your contempt for Thomas Keating (and also revealed you know little about him or why he started the centering prayer practice)...blah,blah..."

I wonder if you even listen to yourself.  The person showing "contempt" is not the person writing this response.  Never once did I speak contemptuously of Thomas Keating.  You have continually tried to put me in the camp of Keating-disapprovers, admitting as you did in a previous post that I must have been some kind of despised stand-in on your part for "conservative Catholics" [whom you apparently have little regard for].  I stated specifically that I neither condemn him nor follow him - a remark that apparently enraged you so much that you felt the need to lecture me condescendingly by saying inexplicably, "Instead of dismissing it out of hand, perhaps you should look into it." 

Please.  Spare me your lectures.  I have practiced and been educated in many kinds of contemplative prayer.  I "get" Keating, OK?  No need to pretend superiority to others.  I take it that the readers of America mostly consist of educated people, and despite Dominic's insult that we intelligent people are perhaps not "smart" because we understand that there's more than one scandalous issue in the Church, I assume that my debaters are as intelligent as myself, and hopefully quite educated.  If they weren't, I frankly wouldn't bother to engage in lengthy debate.

As for the reach of Keating ["whose contemplative prayer movement has had far more impact on the current generation than has, for example, Ignatian Spirituality"], again this is just your way of dividing the Church against itself.  To you, the Church is made up of black-and-white dividing lines, and by golly, you're going to tell people where you see their "place."  Well unfortunately your perception is off, way off, and I'm not allowing you to define people based on their lack of full, 100% embrace of your beliefs and choices.

I actually wasn't raised on "Ignatian spirituality."  (Surprise!)  I was raised on lectio divina, on the great mystics of the Church - all of them - on the Church Fathers (and Mothers), Thomas a Kempis, Thomas Merton, and as Bruce reminds us, adoration. I actually believe in transubstantiation, so being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament is pretty powerful to me.  I don't need Thomas Keating for that, for whatever different good he brought to the faithful.  And if Keating had such a lasting effect on Catholics remaining Catholics (as opposed to choosing variant spiritualities), we wouldn't be hemorrhaging members in the Church right now.  They would have stayed in the Church and continued with their preferred Keating-style contemplative prayer.  But the facts are, they didn't; they haven't. Many who have left are practicing nothing.  Others are in a Christian church of some kind.  Still others are practicing alternative traditions such as Eastern spiritualities.  

Two or three times now you have assumed (again with your prejudices) that the people flocking to the prayer experiences I mentioned (at my parish) were looking for a Thomas Keating experience, or that the religious sister I referred to was providing that.  She wasn't.  Nor were they looking for that.  She provided traditional guided meditative prayer, out loud.  No one was told that "it was only for clergy & religious" and that supposedly she was either breaking some rule or getting special permission.  I have no idea where you get some of your myths.  Not once, in grade school, high school, college, or grad school was there ever the slightest attempt to prevent me or any other Catholic from the great tradition of Catholic contemplative prayer.  But when Anne finds out that there might have been some movement or branch in the Church that actively discouraged that, the entire apparatus of pre-Vatican 2 teaching must be discredited - all of the teaching, all of its priests, all of its theological tradition, all of its prayer tradition.

I find it fascinating that Anne refuses to acknowledge my scathing indictment of the Roman Church, in several posts.  To her, I'm one of the "conservatives" she has little regard for, because she's not comfortable (apparently?) doing anything but labeling people and putting them in boxes.   Again, I suspect that's because I actually dared to register both a great deal of approval and a great deal of value in pre-V2 teaching & tradition.  (Mustn't do that, according to Anne; one must reject anything except "how the Church redefined itself in V2.")  Except that the teeny tiny error about that is that that in itself is a short-sighted understanding of V2.  Vatican II did not reject everything or even most of what preceded it.  In fact, many of its documents reaffirmed and clarified tradtional Church teaching.  It was wishful thinking by many who interpreted V2 (lay and clergy and religious) that suddenly theology was a free-for-all (Hey, believe in transubstantion if you want to, or not), and ecumenism meant not mutuality but permission to engage in an eclectlic, invented form of Catholicism, absorbing Eastern, Protestant, and other practices.

Walter, I don't feel like debating abortion because it's a subject that's beaten to death elsewhere, in many, many Catholic venues.  I don't approve of elective abortion, if that's your point.  But there are so, so many internal & external challenges to the Church at the moment, that the singular moral focus on abortion goes about 80% unheeded by the laity.  This is one of the points underscored by Dominic's focus/obsession on clergy sexual abuse.  The Church hierarchy will never have the moral high ground on abortion (which is based on the protection of The Innocent), when she herself has failed to vigorously protect The Innocent in her midst, and failed to persecute/condemn those who violate born innocent life.  But that isn't even my main frustration with the issue.  My main frustration is that the tactics/strategies for dealing with the issue do not look at the roots of abortion and instead focus on the end-stage of it.  Secondly, language used in the abortion debate is ineffective for a wider audience for the most part.  The whole effort on the Catholic Church's part is enormously inefficient & ineffective; that, combined with the neglect of the clergy abuse question, makes it appear to insiders & outsiders that the Church is not terribly serious about persuading the public, nor in actually promoting pragmatic, realistic strategies to reduce the number of abortions.

6466379 | 1/9/2011 - 6:35pm
Veronica, thanks for elaborating on post #146, related to post #75 to which I say AMEN!

Anne C. As usful as it may be I'm not talking about Fr. Keating's Centering Prayer, or about the spirituality of Fr. Rohr again as useful as it may be. I simply mean for everyone to sit before the Blessed Sacrament and let Faith's enlightenment relative to the "holey spirit" of the Church to take hold. Nastiness cools, quiet reassurance about t Catholic Church reenters the soul/mind/heart picture and vitriol whithers. 
Dominic Tomasso | 1/9/2011 - 3:58pm
RIGHT ON SUZANNE.

Dominic Tomasso
Advocate For Bishops Accountability
tomassotucson@cox.net
8262969 | 1/9/2011 - 3:08pm
Walter, did you know Merton got kicked out of recent updated edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia becuase of his trip to Asia (which had been sanctioned by the Pope) and meetings with Buddhist and Hindu leaders. Too ecumenical - not a good example of a Catholic! 

Thank you conservative Catholics! (who did Merton connect woth in the 60s - Dorothy Day and the Berrigans! Reformers! )

The only hope the Church has left is its reformers, not its apologists. This is always true of every manmade institution - guided by the Holy Sprirt or not. 

Our country is now spending more money on military than ever in U.S. history - the ugly side fo capitalism - materialsm, consumerism  (no Christian values here) and an ever growing disparity between the haves and the have nots. attacks on Christians and coptic churches in Iraq, Afganistan and Pakistan. The abortion rate is40% per year in New York City. The usual high divorce rate. Dead parishes with second rate clergy and an unenthusiastic, unconnected laity whose prayer life is nonexistent (we all agree on this it seems!)

What does the church say about these things? Except for abortion, not much really. Oh there is some lip service to be sure, and there are always the exceptions whose shining example keeps many people in the church, but the church focuses on:

 - money and sex abuse lawsuits (since we now reap what we have sown)
-containing the scandal related to the Legion of Christ and  its leader, the sadistic, drug addeled child rapist who  was a very close ally and  favorite of JP II's.
-trying to contain an unruly laity
- the sins of homsexuality and the horror of civic unions

And even in this blog it devolves into ridiculousness over centering prayer  How could anyone possibly care about the validity or lack of validity of Centering Prayer when as this article points out, the Catholic Church is hemorraging members?

C Walter Mattingly | 1/9/2011 - 1:34pm
Tomasso, you are to the heart of the matter when you ask what would happen to me or you if we abused a child (at least after 1980). Unless we were a priest, bishop, teacher, principal, or superintendent, we would likely be prosecuted. And as you imply, this is a civil crime. And as I have tried to point out, it won't happen regardless of church/state relations and limitations, because the current administration, although it hates the Church as much as you (albeit for different reasons, the difficulty it provides its agenda to finance and promote abortion and the embarrassment parochial schools cause so many inner city public schools in their scholastic outperformance and the voucher movement), it will not subject many multiples the number of school employees to the same criminal prosecution that relatively tiny number of priests and bishops represent. And the easy money has already been dispersed to the victims in the parishes and their lawyers, if not the public school system.  So your prosecutorial zeal will be defeated not by enemies of the church such as yourself but by the state.
In that sense, along that line, that issue is as dead as the predator priest who was murdered in prison by his fellow inmates.
What can be affected is what happens henceforward. I note that prosecutions for current public school sexual offenders are now becoming more common. Likewise I have reason to believe that since 2003, there have been very few credible charges of sexual abuse by priests here in the US. Again, I am referring to events after the Dallas conference of 2003 forward, not earlier occurrences. There I think we can have an influence both in the church and larger school system and address the disheartening situation Janice described that has existed unaddressed for so long. Or put another way, is this basically an historical or a current problem.
Anne, goodbye again. There is nothing wrong with centering prayer as followed by Keating and others, although it didn't work for me, and unlike the other spiritualities you mention it does not necessarily involve the Christian seeker in relationship to the NT and Christ's ministry, which limits it for me. But Merton and others saw it otherwise.
Dominic Tomasso | 1/9/2011 - 12:36pm
VERONICA, ANNE C  & WALTER M, I know you all mean well. Your all very, very intelligent but your about as smart as a rock...

There are many things wrong in the Catholic Church and most of them that are mentioned, I do agree with. But they have been going on since forever. The people responsible for them are popes, csrdinals, bishops, priests, nuns, and churchgoers themselves. Not everyone of them but they're all resonsible to a certain degree.

Now we have a new situation. Well not really new but finally brought out into the open. Priests that have raped, sodomized and molested God's children. We have bishops that secretlely moved these bastards from parish to parish, ignoring the fact that more children would be in harms way. Allowing these  sexual abusers to leave the ministry without having to register as sex offenders. ( Did these bishops consider what they were doing or care?

These same bishops have done so much damage to the Catholic Church financially as well as spiritually that it is beyond belief.

Now the bottom line. Read my lips. They have committed crimes and if you can't see that, STOP RIGHT HERE.  Crimes, you or I would be put in jail for and they are still in control of everything Catholic,.

What are you very, very intelligent people going to do about it? These are criminals within the Catholic Church. Is it OK to continue listening to them. It's the whole bishops organization. Do you think that they will change how they do things? Do you think they will allow you to change things?
Do you think your pastor or parish priest will support you if you try?

I read some time back when a priest or bishop said, kick your bishop out of your Cathedral. Another priest said take over the finances of your parish.  Start separate accounts so that the bishop or priest can't touch the money. Go ahead parishioners try that and see what will happen.

One posting asked, how can we change things, who will lead us. Come on you very, very, intelligent people, let us hear from you. Where do we go from here or lets all pray for the holy spirit  to help us.

Dominic Tomasso
Advocate For Bishops Accountability
tomassotucson@cox.net






J B | 1/9/2011 - 10:26am
Veronica,

Iam fascinated by your response.  I did not intend to attack you - and apparently you did not attend to attack "liberals."  However, your comments did rub me the wrong way - they came across as condescending towards 'liberals" and, obviously my post got your back up and you lashed out quite openly.   This clearly demonstrates again that cyberspace is a difficult venue for these discussions.  I suppose I reacted to some of your comments because of the attitude of so many "faithful" Catholics towards "dissenters,"  attitudes which seem to be evident in your post, although expressed with a higher,more sophisticated use of language., You barely disguised your contempt for Thomas Keating (and also revealed you know little about him or why he started the centering prayer practice), whose contemplative prayer movement has had far more impact on the current generation than has, for example, Ignatian Spirituality. Perhaps you don't know why he chose to find a way to revive what was ancient tradition in the church - one he felt had long been ignored by the official church, which had at some point in history, decided that contemplative prayer was properly reserved to the clergy and religious, and did not promote it among the laity - discouraged it, in fact.  He saw 20th century people embracing other religions, especially eastern religions, because they sought this kind of interior prayer, and, yes, did not know of the christian tradition of interior prayer - which was the deliberate policy of official church actions in earlier centuries.   Instead of dismissing it out of hand, perhaps you should look into it. If you looked into it, you might discover that you and Keating have a similar outlook on this.  Personally, I have no problem with teaching people about the entire range of Christian spiritualities. It would be a very good thing, in fact.  Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, Benedictine spirituality, lectio etc - but, the contemplative prayer groups that adopted Keating's quite simple method have spread like wildfire, are ecumenical, and clearly are satisfying a hunger that the hierarchical church has not satisfied for a very long time.

Even before Vatican II, few Catholics had any understanding of where so many Catholic teachings came from - they were not thought sophisticated enough nor educated enough (most did not go to college then) to understand the philosophical underpinnings of a doctrine like transubstantiation.  They were taught that what the church taught must be believed and its laws obeyed - without question.  Catholics were even discouraged from reading the bible (they might become "confused").  Eating a hamburger on Friday was a guaranteed ticket to hell, should one be unfortunate enough to be hit by a car walking home. 

 I won't engage any further.  Just for the record, I was educated mostly in Catholic schools, including college and graduate school (both Jesuit).  I was required to take six semesters of theology and six of philosophy, including a semester exclusively on Aquinas.  I have also taken individual courses at a graduate level seminary.  So, I am not quite as ignorant as you seem to think.  I do not have "contempt" for Catholic intellectual tradition - it is superior to all others that I am familiar with - however, having spent an adult lifetime of self-study on the issues that gave me increasing difficulty to accept in conscience, I concluded that embracing all Catholic teachings simply because they originated with Aquinas or Augustine or the desert fathers, or Jerome, or Paul etc is not desirable either, and has resulted in some church teachings that have distorted the hierarchy's understanding of its own authority, its views of women (really, the concept of the circumstances that led to "original sin"  is imbued with the patriarchal misogny that typified the early centuries of christianity, including the thought of that brilliant theologian - Augustine), and thus everything related to women and sexuality.  And these distortions, founded in the views of Aquinas et al, have directly and indirectly been entwined with other factors that have caused great harm done to innocent people by the institution's own leadershp.

 As far as the "distorted" presentation of what the church taught before Vatican II to children and ordinary, everyday, unsophisticated Catholics, well, perhaps you think it is distorted, but I am not lying about what I was taught.  And millions of other Catholics of my generation will tell you the same thing. I don't know how old your are - it had been my impression that you are old enough to clearly remember the pre-Vatican II church, but perhaps not. Or perhaps you grew up in a more-enlightened-than-typical pre-Vatican II parish. You must be aware that Vatican II represented a very dramatic change in how the church defined itself - and represented a dramatic (although, unforuntately brief) turn away from the many of the stultifying notions and teachings of church of the 19th and first half of the 20th century (the Sylllabus of Errors was only one example).  Using pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II is a useful shorthand when discussing the multiple issues and teachings that divide the church today.

I am no longer an active member of the Roman Catholic church. I loved my parish and my community. But, I can no longer enable the hieararchy nor pretend to assent to teachings that not only seem false, but which appear to have contributed to a great deal of harm being done to the most helpless of God's people.
C Walter Mattingly | 1/9/2011 - 7:23am
I guess I have to identify myself as being, to the best of my knowledge, Anne's conservative cretan who brought up the Baltimore catechism. If you go back to the post, you will note my acknowledgement of the need of the time to update it, just as the Deharbe and the Maynooth catechisms had been updated before it. My complaint was it was discarded and replaced, basically, with nothing.
I scarcely remember the many questions and answers contained therein, but after the first, necessarily establishing God as our Creator, the next question was, why did God make us? Answer: to show forth His goodness and to share with us His happiness in heaven. So was established the first and most important charateristics of God to mankind: He is in a loving relationship to all men, and His creation is an act of Gift to mankind. Here, in the simplest format to a young child, the idea of Relationship in the free gift of love, out of want of extension of love and self-communication, Anne, is established right out of the box. Also, as you noted, Anne, you rejected easily the definition contained within of the Eurcharist, and that was your prerogative. In that you joined a long line of dissenters. But the Church had the responsibility, which it provided to you, to explain what that doctrine was. My concern is that 55% of those surveyed as quoted in America don't even know what it is, something inconceivable to Catholics educated during our generation. You can't serve, reform, or validly disagree with that which you don't know.
Since change in the Church, for better and worse, comes slowly, I tried to also clarify what reforms, which all here agree in general are needed, might be most compatible with the NT and also traditions of the Church. I suggested that married clergy exists within the tradition of both the apostles and the Church itself, and would seem to me a reform with possibilities. Likewise women's positions in the Church. The advantages to pursuing these reforms, as I implied, would be that in doing so the Church would not be untrue to itself, whereas the very difficult problem of divorce, which Jesus Himself so clearly speaks out against, would create a rift between the Word in the NT and doctrine. Likewise denying Jesus' definition of marriage as existing between a man and a woman poses very difficult problems in denying that definition. These were meant as practical suggestions for those interested in reform to so focus their efforts where change seems more compatible with Gospel and tradition.
Veronica, I have a demural with you on your point 7, as well as an observation. Your objection that the church overemphasizes the issue of abortion to me falls flat before the enormity of the problem of taking of innocent life. We must recognize that 36% of all African Americans  conceived in the US since RoeWade have been exterminated prior to birth. I use the harsh word exterminate rather than, say, aborted, because that is a greater number of deaths caused as a percentage of the population over 2 generations than National Socialism and Hitler produced in France during the war. No doubt there is politization of the issue. Catholics of a liberal bent who protect innocent life, such as our own Fr Kavanaugh and Fr Martin, are likely sensitive to this and attempt to approach the subject gingerly, but there is no denying the depth of their convictions on the subject.
Secondly, as the attempt to sweep under the rug and affect a denial of the problem, we can see in these responses, mostly from disaffected and liberal Catholics and former Catholics, the far greater social injustice of sexual abuse occurring in the public school system and their "politicizing" of the problem. These same commentors, who claim to promote social justice as an unmet need of the Bishops, are quick to ignore the most fundamental issue of social justice for all sexually abused children when they perceive it dilutes their agenda. In this they assist our government in avoiding the issue for so many of the children in the US.
Veronica, a word of encouragement. The current leadership seems to be genuinely interested in improving catechesis. At our parish, an African priest recently replaced our departed priest for a few masses. In his sermon, he asked us, yes, questions. What is the 4th commandment? What are the 3 theological virtues? etc. You should have seen the laity, for the first time in months, suddenly wake up and become attentive. Then Fr Peter told us that next week he would be back and asking us these same questions again. I'm telling you, the whole congregation was energized. I wish all readers here could have observed it or something similar.
A final comment, on centering prayer. We have it. It is called the Ignatian Meditation, a valued child of the Reformation.
 
Veronica Harrison | 1/8/2011 - 10:21pm
Well I just respectfully disagree with you, Anne, or perhaps it is you who has misunderstood me.   I don't make the categories and connections you believe I make.  Or perhaps, rather, you are projecting onto me unequal connections others, not I, have made.

I think you are the one being divisive here.  Why does it have to be either V2 or pre-V2?  Pre-V2 or Post-V2? etc. 

I'm not one of those you classify with apparent disdain as a "conservative Catholic."  While I have heard some conservatve Catholic programming that condemns the practices of Fr. Thomas Keating, I neither condemn him nor follow  him.  Gee, I'm glad that V-2 "kept you from leaving."  Why do you think I condemn V2?  Why do you connect me with someone else or others who introduced the name of the Baltimore Catechism?  Why do you think that those of us who did benefit greatly from a deep theological education prior to V2, also believe that V2 had little value?  Wait:  don't answer that.  I'll answer for you:  because you seek scapegoats, that's why.  And I'm your whipping girl this evening.

Suffice it to say that I'm conversing with someone who stakes her credibility on classifying Jesus' presence in the Eucharist as one with quotation marks. 

I didn't say anything about the social conscience not needing prayer, or benefiting from it.  I said that this particular group in this congregation had formerly rejected any expression of Catholicity except that which could be exhibited publicly.  Yet, when introduced to a particularly dynamic and effective prayer leader, they eagerly responded.

You seem to have contempt for the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church prior to Vatican 2.  That's your privilege, but don't expect others to respect or accept a distorted version of pre-Vatican 2 teaching, and then to debate you on what was not taught.  What that earlier era consisted of was a grounding in the fundamentals of Catholic philosophy, including but not limited to Thomisitc thought, including also the great tradition of Christian mysticism which easily surpasses, comprehensively, anything that Fr. Thomas Keating later taught as a prayer practice - despite varying opinions of its authenticity.

I won't be interested in debating with you when you misstate my views, invent connections I never made, and represent to others here a distorted interpretation of what the Church did and did not teach before Pope John XXIII.  What it did teach is the philosophical basis of Catholic theology, and the system (principles) of moral theology.  That certainly is not what is being taught today in catechesis.  Rather, absolutist laws and regulations are being taught, wiithout context.  Give a newly catechized Catholic a challenging moral dilemma, and they could no more provide a defensible answer than they could argue a Supreme Court case, whereas any well-catechized peer of mine in my teenage years could provide a coherent argument for a novel moral situation that had not specifically been taught in catehcism or Catholic school.  By contrast, give a modern, newly catechized Catholic a challenging moral dilemma, and they become speechless, except to answer, "Whatever the Bishop says."  And they wouldn't have any ability to discern whether the Bishop was in fact answering in the tradition of Catholic moral teaching unless that lay person had done a tremendous amount of independent reading - not the kind that would even be mentioned in a modern catechetical class.
J B | 1/8/2011 - 8:37pm
Veronica

You talk about neglect of the interior life, and specifically mention "guided prayer."  You express surprise that many "liberals" are interested in prayer and the interior life.  As a "liberal" former RC (I am religiously liberal, not politically liberal most of the time), I have found that most "faithful, orthodox" Catholics slander one of the great revivals of interior prayer in our times - that of Centering Prayer (as Thomas Keating calls it).  The antagonism towards centering prayer expressed by "conservative" Catholics mystifies me.  Do they think that they cannot pray without "guided" prayer, or rote prayers?  They don't seem to understand that they can do as Jesus told us we should - he never told us to go to "mass" - he told us that instead of praying in public, we should go into our rooms, close the door, and pray. So many seem dependent on liturgy, ritual, rote prayers, guided prayers such a the Office, etc.  God asked us to be still so that we know him. 

You also seem to negatively categorize those "social conscience" liberals in the church. I am also one of those; I am an introvert - extraversion is not a requirement for being a "liberal" Catholic nor for following Matthew 25.  And I agree with Richard Rohr, OFM that interior prayer, especially silence, is required if one wishes to be able to stay the course when going out into the world to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick. 

Also, those who think that pre-Vatican II catechesis was "superior" to what came later may have different understanding of what catechesis should be - someone mentioned the Baltimore catechism - I was in the generation forced to memorize it, and it sure didn't keep my peer group generation in the church. It taught us nothing about love, or compassion, or the gospels.  It taught us a lot of rules, and gave us the impression of a very mean, old, nasty, judgmental God who would condemn us to hell for the most trivial of reasons. We were not taught the difference between man-made rules and doctrine (most of RC teaching) and God's.  It was Vatican II that kept most of us from leaving when we were young; the "reform" of Vatican II (along with all the other things mentioned in this thread), is among the myriad of factors that together have convinced us to finally walk away - in our 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s - after a lifetime as active, involved, participating Catholics.
Michael Barberi | 1/8/2011 - 8:25pm
Veronica:

Much of what you say is true and well argued. However, change in any organization starts at the top especially in the Catholic Church. The many issues enumerated by yourself and others will not be adequately addressed until profound disagreements within the Church itself are resolved. Too many bishops, priests and theologians silently dissent to many sexual ethical doctrines since Humanae Vitae and ecclesiastical reform. The Phoenix Case is a good example of classicism taken to an extreme.

Many in the heirarchy believe the world is a finished product and the truth has already been revealed, taught, and known. The truth as professed in past papal encyclicals is universal and unchanging. There are no exceptions for contraception, abortion, the role of women in the Church, invitro fertilization, etc. While there are other more serious issues such as sexual abuse, a Church divided has no real power to change. Only the pope can bring about solidartiy within the Church itself. It is a necessary first step.

The truth does not rest in the heirarchy and those loyal to the Magisterium, nor is the majority of Catholics and those that support a different opinion within the Church the object of invincilbe ignorance. Until the Church moves away from extreme centralization and classicism, and the exagggerated fear of reform, the Catholic ship of faith will continue to sail into ever increasing storms of discontent.
Veronica Harrison | 1/8/2011 - 7:39pm
Let me clarify Walter.  You are correct, i.m.o:  The bad catechesis started right after Vatican 2.  However, JP2's contribution (indirectly, not directly) was his over-emphasis on numbers of members, via evangelization efforts, rather than the quality of knowledge of any of those members (let alone those poorly catechized after V2).  I am not a V2-basher; however, I recognize the 'holes' of which Bruce Snowden also speaks.

Bruce, I do not disagree with you, which will not surprise you.  In horrendously corrupt, fearful, absolutist eras of the Church, the Holy Spirit nevertheless produced Saints, many of whom directly challenged that corruption, heroically.  Marrying your thoughts & Walter's, I believe this was one of the worst unintended effects of V2:  the neglect of The Interior Life, which is a unique feature of Catholicism, barely replicated elsewhere, save possibly Chasidism & Sufism.   V2 was too often interpreted as an excuse to neglect the vertical in preference for the horizontal.  This imbalance has not entirely vanished among parish priests, I will note;  it's my belief that either this is because (1) some parish priests are fearful that parishioners "don't want to hear about prayer," preferring instead a feel-good, extroverted, practical & social Catholicism, and/or (2) priests themselves have lost their own appreciation of the interior life, given so little modern opportunity to practice it, due to competing duties.

Priests (any of you reading), large percentages of your parishioners are hungering for a developed interior life.  They need to be catechized in this, to be given reading materials and opportunities for guided prayer.  In one local parish here, there was a religious who was so gifted in this that the congregation (while nevertheless extremely modern & considered "liberal") flocked to the opportunities she provided like bees to honey.  Even I was surprised at her popularity in this most "unlikely" of environments.    Build these edifices; they will come.

Dominic, I apologize for coming on so strong and for causing any offense.  It is important, though, in your righteous efforts, to understand that the failure of others to be as single-issue as you are does not mean they are less passionate about the issue.  It's just that, while they see the members of the Church as unholy, they continue to believe that the Church as an institution, guided by the Spirit, remains a source of holiness for those who seek her resources apart from her sinful members.  I wish you God Speed in your efforts toward justice.  I am one of thousands of reverts who left more than once largely on account of revelations of clerical sexual abuse & the incomprehensible trivialization & denial of that, by the hierarchy.  But there are additional issues as well.
Dominic Tomasso | 1/8/2011 - 11:57am
drwho, in response to your question as to how many priest that sexually abused Children  were relived of their minstry by their bishops without having to register as sex offenders, my answer is all of them.

This does not include priests that  were tried by the courts. When they were convicted they had to register as sex offenders.

No one will really ever find out what the real amount were dismissed without having to register as sex offenders because the bishops have never revealed that number. As to how many have continued to recieve any financial assistance, again, the bishops will never reveal that information either. We do knoiw that any bishop that has been involved in the movement of pedophiles from parish to parish and have retired, get all the perks available. That's a kick in the head, and no one can do anything about it.

I'd also like to take this opportuninty to point out that ," If  someone started killing people in a city or town, there are people that would be writing letters to the editor complainig about ,gun laws, the fact that most people do not know how to handle a gun, the national gun association, the number of gun available all the various types of guns etc. Thank God there would be enough people that would writing letters to the editor asking law enforcement to capture the killer before more peopl are killed.

The problem with the Catholic Church is that most of our bishops have committed criminal acts, and they're still in charge and Too many Catholics are complaining about , homolies, exit interviews, people that do not behave properly in churcch, parishioners that leave the church just because of the abuse scandle or they are mad because their are no women priests, or there is no one at the front entrance of the church to greet them. That beats the hell out of me.

No wonder there isn't any attempt to rid the church of the failed leadership. Get rid of them and you'll see how fast people like me will return to tthe Catholic Church

Dominic Tomasso
Advocate for Bishops Accountability
tomassotucson@cox.net
6466379 | 1/8/2011 - 11:12am
Just adding to my #75 posting to say, it has become very distressing to read the multiplicity of postings on the article, "On The Way Out" telling of all the horrors of being formerly Catholic, which practically always has to do with the modern sins and crimes of the clergy. I don't think that the Holy Spirit ever tells anyone to leave the Church he founded! Instead, too many are led by the "holey spirit" of the Church, the "holes" of  its crimes and sinfulness and see it as inspired. 

What's the real reason for the exodus from the Catholic Church? Dispite pursuasive and scholarly reasons by many, it's my opinion (not applicable in every case) that the exodus is not fundamentally caused by the Faith-trauma of criminal and  sinful Bishops and priests, but by an anemic, non-intimate prayer-life with Jesus, through which the Holy Spirit's Gifts of Wisdom and Understanding enlightens the soul and instructs the heart and mind. "Come to me all you who labor and are heavily burdened and I will refresh you." We have the Lord's promise, yet many rather than raising their hands in prayer seem more ready to cover eyes and ears! Simplistic? That's the way I see it. And forgive me if you are offended.
C Walter Mattingly | 1/8/2011 - 8:54am
Veronica,
While I don't agree with a couple of your points, particularly the negative impact on catechesis by JPII  (that began after Vatican II, I believe), you have presented a coherent overview that has got to resonate for many here. It is the best of the perhaps overmany comments, particularly insightful of the laity's responsibility in cooperation with their priests.
Ed Kardas | 1/8/2011 - 8:15am
Paul #140,  "...the gates of Hell" "...will not prevail against the Catholic Church."

As things stand now, I'm not sure that this is true, at least for the Catholic Church as it is currently defined.
Ed Kardas | 1/8/2011 - 8:01am
Dominic T., in #80 you state, "Do you know that these same bishops have allowed these sex abusers to leave the ministry without having them register as sex offenders?" I understand that is a rhetorical question, but yes I do.

You seem well informed; so I'm asking you some non rhetorical questions, do you know how many have bishops allowed these sex abusers to leave the ministry, and currently provide them with retirement benefits even prior to retirement age?  I believe that this occurs in the Diocese of Albany; is this true? Do you know of other dioceses that have the same policy?

Now my rhetorical question, how could anyone in good conscience put money in the collection until that practice is stopped?
Veronica Harrison | 1/8/2011 - 2:39am
Tomasso, I'm not even going to respond to your rhetorical questions in post 139, because it's obvious that you didn't bother to read my much earlier post, in which I condemned the corruption of power and finances in the Roman Catholic Church, and further, illustrated why celibacy (non-parenthood) exacerbates clerical emotional distance from the gravity of child sexual abue.  One problem when we have one-track minds about any issue which consumes us, is that we often fail to read/listen/absorb the statements of those "at" whom we are flailing.  Here's a clue:  I don't represent the clergy of the RCC; to begin with, I'm female, so I am unable to represent clergy, and your rage is not OK when it's generalized to innocent others than the institution/persons against which the rage should be directed.  So the guilt-tripping toward me is inappropriate and not appreciated.

Lots of people in & out of the Church, and including me, are enraged about the clerical abuse scandal & the prolongation of it & lack of accountability for it.  That is a completely separate issue from the issues I was mainly addressing.  The article addressed lots of issues, only one of which was clergy sexual abuse as an exit trigger.  You would prefer to reduce all dissatisfaction with the RCC to this one single issue, but if all exiting Catholics agreed with you, they would simply say, when interviewed, or when offering reasons, "Clergy sexual abuse combined with corruption of finances."  And then, after that, you would like to attack & condemn commenters who don't support such a single-issue preoccupation.

Commenters on this very thread have brought up (again) multiple issues.  Included in these were complaints about (1) liturgical music and (2) Mass homilies.  Regarding these points alone, my point is that the laity bears much responsibility for the interest by the pastor in creating a meaningful liturgy, as lots of his congregation wouldn't know a great liturgy if it hit them in the face - and particulalry because they arrive for Mass as if they just rolled out of bed, cum sleepwear.  There are others who would undoubtedly be inspired by liturgies which transform, if those were offered.  I'm just saying I refuse to put all the responsibility for a bad worship environment on the pastor.  I have seen far too many priests who have prepared well and been greeted by unappreciative, inattentive, apathetic congregations.  It's hard to know which came first:  the chicken or the egg.  In many parishes, members are dying for more scheduled Confession opportunities, yet priests are unresponsive to those requests.  In other parishes, priests are eager to offer the sacrament, but no one shows up, believing that they "haven't committed any serious sins."  (Right.)

The biggest burden of change & inspiration always falls to the leader(s).  Pastors should be leading the movement toward an enriching spirituality, of which liturgy is only one element.  However, the pastor's attention is often directed elsewhere  - toward administration - given thinness in the ranks, combined with (now) rapidly decreasing parish funds, which in turn prevents staffing of musicians and reduces the number of Masses (& their variety).  In addition, bishops have become increasingly politicized - some by choice, some by pressure.  That emphasis results in less shepherding of their priests for pastoral work, and more emphasis on expecting priests to engage in political activism.  That consumes the priest's time away from spiritual tasks such as spiritual direction, great homilies, reflective liturgies.  In one of the best local parishes near me, full-time lay staff has been cut by 80%, due to money alone.  Who do you think is picking up the slack for that?

In another parish near me - one with a decidedly different flavor - all the priests do is sacraments, and they do them practically 24/7.  They do not get involved in politics (local or national) or in endless "busy" parish committees. That's exactly what that congregation wants, btw.  That congregation responds to the availability of sacraments because they are not under the illusion that they "have no serious sins to confess."   Masses are full, including on Holy Days, and there's almost always at least a short line during the approximately 17-18 confession opportuniites/week.

To lay the entire blame for the depletion of practicing Catholics on clergy sexual abuse is to ignore the complexities and dynamics of many factors which brought us to where we are today.  To put it another way, if there had been no clergy sexual abuse, there would still be problems engaging Catholics, not nearly all of which can be blamed on the pastor.  In order to rectify the non-abuse problems, a whole list of causative elements have to be addressed.

(1) mandatory celibacy (see my earlier post)
(2) overwhelmingly male environment in virtually all key decision areas in the church.  (Creates extreme imbalance, distortion, left-brained & over-intellectualized approaches to morality & even much of spirituality.)
(3) the corruption of absolute power especially in the Vatican
(4) the legacy of legalism, increased by the previous Pope who favored 'strict constructionists' for bishops
(5) the culture of secrecy in decision-making & policy-making in this all-male environment, as opposed to transparency which encourages humility & dialogue
(6) the very imbalanced focus on evangelization (particularly emphasized by JP2) at the cost of quality catechesis.  This is the same catechesis which leads lay people to believe that they never/almost never commit serious sins.  It has led to 'speed' RCIA programs led by poorly prepared (& often newly converted) directors.  When you don't catechize well, you cannot expect much in the way of commitment or of understanding.
(7) the politicization of the episcopate and particularly the extreme emphasis on abortion above all other moral issues of the 21st century - including (ironically) the grave offense of clerical sexual abuse
(8) the reactionary (witch-hunt) atmosphere regarding Catholic fidelity itself, in which increasingly, the threat of excommunication is being thrown around like a weapon of terror against lay people, all Catholic politicians, and even many sincere theologians.
(9) the displacement of classic Catholic Thomistic thought with the New Catholic Fundamentalism of black-and-white juridical compliance, which has informally elevated bishops to 'infallible' status.
(10) the failure of the Church - or the inability of the Church - to withstand the competing influences of modern materialism and the illusion of self-sufficiency.  People who don't perceive that they need Church do not attend, whether or not the perception is accurate.

In order for the laity to help effect change, let alone take responsibility for some change, they have not only to be invited by someone like Reese, but be empowered in specific areas.  Finances would be one of the first wonderful ways to start.  (Lay oversight of finances)  But in general, the entire structure of the way things are decided & administered is going to have to change if there is going to be a significant Return of the lost sheep.

Some think that the hierarchy will instead be content with a smaller, more compliant body of followers.  The problem with that assumption is that it will still leave priests burnt out, because small congregations cannot sustain themselves financially.  Clusters have to result, which in turn overburdens priests and results in lackluster homilies & liturgies by exhausted priests, deprived of their own time for spiritual renewal. 

So I go back to my premise that the Church can be renewed, and dramatically, but only from within, and from within the power structure, because 'external' attempts will be perceived as rebellion and apostasy, thus disregarded.
PAUL DION | 1/7/2011 - 10:30pm
Tomasso and Company:
All else will pass but the gates of Hell and the accumulation of time will not prevail against the Catholic Church.  That's what you are up against.  Enjoy yourselves.
Dominic Tomasso | 1/7/2011 - 6:51pm
Veronica, I appreciate your comments.  Your absolutely right about the behavior of many parishioners  during Sunday or Saturday mass. It is a shameful problem but one that is not impossible to correct.

You are also absolutely right about my attitude. I have not tried the hide my anger, and my rage. There are so many reasons many Catholic have been leaving the Church, some reasons bother some people more than other reasons. I don't have to list them. If I did, it would turn on my get angry sign. It's just that the reasons I sight, involve sins that are also crimes. Sins committed by the people that God said we should follow. Yet these sinners ( I'd feel more comfortable calling  them criminal) have not been held accountable and are still in complete controlof the Catholic Church. 

I will not accept that. I will do everything in my power to continue reminding anyone that reads my angry comments that our bishops have failed us, failed God and they are crimials. Yes there are good priests. (maybe too silent) and maybe there may be a a few good bishops but not enought of them that are as angry as I am, that will have any effect whatsoever in making any change in what has happened. I can only think that their committement is to the bishop and preservation for their own comfortable little  neck in the Church keeps them from truly serving God's people by speeking up.

Have you have forgotten how many little children have been raped, sodomized, molested and the molesters have not been punished. Have you forgotten how many of them have left the ministry without having to register as sex offenders. Have you forgotten that the bishops have used over 3 billion dollars of Church funds without any accountability to settle abuse claims.

I haven't and I will continue to remind as many people that I can so that it isn't forgotten.  In my opinion most everything else that bothers Catholics( with a few exceprions)  like women priests, the right for members of committees, Board of Directors and Councils have the right to vote etc. can be resolved.

.Dominic Tomasso (still angry)
Advocate For bishops Accountability
tomassotucson@cox.net



C Walter Mattingly | 1/7/2011 - 6:32pm
Veronice, I am close to agreement with you. Sexual abuse of minors, after the 80's at least (see Janice's post), if not before then, has been a crime in the US and therefore such offenders should be turned over to authorities for civil prosecution. It should, however, equally apply to all schools, parochial, private, and public, priests, teachers, bishops, principals, and superintendants. And I don't understand how anyone could think otherwise. Imagine a Catholic social worker going into a house where child abuse is clearly suspected. The first thing the worker would do is make certain the children currently in the house are and will be safe and take such action as necessary to assure that. Next, determining that both the catholic and noncatholic spouse have participated in the abuse, he obviously needs to start the charges to bring civil proceedings against both, not just the Catholic one. Anything less would be unjust.
President Obama likely would love to do anything which would weaken the Church, which hinders his agenda significantly. He is along with Pelosi the most stridently proabortion of current leaders, and fears that the demand for vouchers among the inner city minorities is so strong that it might threaten his plan to consolidate all power in the government, but he won't pursue these prosecutions because for every priest prdosecuted there would be 50 public school employees, mostly his voting support, along with them. That, I think, is the reality.
You are right about our own past Pope failing to face the truth about a horrible priest until very late. But of course while that is true it is by no means all that is true. He also took two bullets in the gut through his fine white linen (some here think he should have been wearing a work shirt or perhaps a hair shirt) for the cause of religious and political freedom of 50 million people and 20 nations, and went forward immediately afterward with unaffected resolve and faith.
Veronica Harrison | 1/7/2011 - 2:17pm

Well, as I tried to explain (Dominic - sorry that I followed the wrong comment authorship sequence), the comment never registered as having been posted.  I apologize for the completely inadvertent multiple posting.  Perhaps the editors or moderators can do us a favor, if they haven't already, and delete the duplicates.

However, I have to say something a little bit about your attitude.  I get it that you're angry, and even enraged.  There's some justification for rage, but this is not a one-way street, and I'm not particularly appreciative of your lifting one quote from a deceased pope, while ignoring more modern (more aware) undertandings of clergy toward the responsibility of laity in the pews.

Docility is not the operative word in Catholic spirituality - except for the classic docility one can look forward to, and welcome, in some stages of prayer, and the docility toward receptivity of graces in daily life.

So now you've told us repeatedly what irks you (mostly legitimately, no doubt) about the hierarchy, and large numbers of Catholics share some of those viewpoints, at least in part. And I'll tell you what my biggest turnoff is, the rare times I go into a 'typical' Catholic Sunday Mass:  the inattention, casual attitude, & seemingly clueless awareness of at least half of the parishioners.  What are they doing?  Usually, people-watching all throughout the Mass, adopting the body posture one would have at a movie theater or football game, and talking with each other as if they are far more important than anything that's going on in the sanctuary.  They don't even attempt to become engaged, regardless of the quality and preparation of the homily, regardless of the beauty and preparation of the music, etc.    They're not listening to the homily, so they couldn't tell you whether it was adequate, excellent, phenomenal, or none of the above.   And I do not exaggerate when I state that they people-watch all through the Mass.  Unbelievably to me, they do so in the communion line and after communion.  Then, when Mass is over, they engage in loud, disrespectful, gratuitious social conversations in the nave of the church while other people are actually conscious of the sacramental presence and would like to extend the communal experience.  

In addition to their losing their own opportunity, it's extremely distracting and rude to those of who are are in fact focused and do actually want to be there.  Lay people share in the responsibility for an engaging liturgical experience.  Were I the celebrant, this would be a major turn-off to me.  I wouldn't necessarily assume that half of my parishioners even cared about the quality of the liturgical experience, including my homily.
Dominic Tomasso | 1/7/2011 - 1:40pm
You might have known that I wasn't going to stop there.

Remember what pope piusX said,"the duty of the laity is to allow themselves to be led like a docile flock,to follow their pastors."

And he got away with saying that. Who oblected?

Please allow me, in my simplistic way, I'm not Tom Doyle, and say, what we have here are failed leaders. No, Criminal leaders and we have no way of removing them according to Canon Law. Mind you, Canon Laws were created by the hierarchy to protect their organization and their unquestioned authority. God had nothing to do with the formation of Canon Laws.

Like a community, where the Builder Developer included a swimming pool to be used by the homeowners in that community. So, to go along with the pool, the builder developer made up a set of rules. Membership had to pay a membership fee plus monthly dues. The BD appointed himself as President of the the pool organization and he decided everything.

Years went by and the BD decided to build another pool because there were many more homes built in that complex. The present membership was required to fund the cost of building the new pool or lose their present membership.

A. Many members decided not to continue their membership because they believed that the BD should pay for it since he was listed on the property deed and he owned the property.

B. Since a large number of members decided not to continue their membership, the President decided to open membership to other homeowners in other communities.

C. The members decided to take the BD, (President) to court because for years they had paid for all the expenses and if fact, they were the real owners of the pool property. Hopefully, the court would rule in their favor,

D. Not enought members of the pool agreed with the BD's request to fund the building of the new pool, they gave up their membership, the pool was not built and the BD had to close the present pool for lack of money. The taxes for the pool property went unpaid and was taken over by the City. The BD lost his pool property and his pool rules no longer held any water. (sorry about the pun) The homeowners then had to decide to go without a pool or find some other pool to join.

So you ask, what is the bottom line

You decide.

Dominic Tomasso
Advocate ffor Bishops Accountability
tomassotucson@cox.net.

8262969 | 1/7/2011 - 1:39pm
Tomasso - You are right of course, the Church is not the problem in that the Church is the people of God - BUT as you point out the Church has been essentially hijacked by the hierachy and have justified this by misuse of power and canon law for their own purpose.

But unless the laity begins to organize serious protests and turn out in large numbers- nothing will change. So who is organizing that? Who are the leaders? What is the best way to mobilize Catholics and express dissent?

I read Fr. Reese's comments in NCR last night but I was annoyed that he did not explain the role of parish priests and bishops of sound minds in all of this - what is their role in reclaiming the Church?
Dominic Tomasso | 1/7/2011 - 10:19am
Suzanne, why do you say that the Church has failed us? The Bishops, the Cardinals and the pope have failed us. None of them are the Church. The Churchgoers are the Church but the hierarchy, THROUGH CANON LAW, have set up the rules of the Church for themselves. They have used canon laws for their own purpose., and the sheep have accepted it because since birth, they have indoctrinated all of us to follow their teachings or we will go to hell.

Please, don't blame the Church.

They have , through Canon laws, created an organization that rules everything Catholic, Controls everything Catholic. Money , Church properties our souls.

They made us believe that all our lives. Even the Goverment ( the Justice Department) is afraid to interfere with their criminal activities. I don't have to tell you that,

Your absolutely right, ACCOUNTABILITY IS THE ANSWER. Un til they are removed, there never, never, never will be any healing.

Dominic Tomasso | 1/7/2011 - 10:00am

THANK YOU VERONICA, i GOT IT.

mY NAME IS Dominic, not Walter.  Your Computer studders Veronica.

8262969 | 1/7/2011 - 9:56am
Walter, you write "Sexual abuse and harrassment of our children is the first order to me. I am far  less interested in imprisoning the bishops and teachers and principals and superintendents who "passed on the trash," though I think they should be accountable, than I am seeing to it that it is stopped"

But this only stops when the crime is treated as the crime that it is and those who are engaged in are punished. Forgiven yes, but also punished. Bishops did not take the rape of children seriously. They saw it from the POV of the priest - not the raped child. They served the hierachy and not the people - and herein lies the great failure of the church. It has failed to lead and minister to the people of God. Again, we must  hold our priests and bishops to a higher standard than our secular leaders or school teachers - even though I acknowledge that clergy of course have faults and weaknesses as humans. The culture of misused authority in the church is a sign of evil. There is a worm in the apple.  The church is not a perfect insitution and attracts false prophets (Legion of Christ anyone - even our pope was misled by this evil! though he was warned over and over). Perfect obedience does not require obedience to that which is the worst, most corrupt and pernicious aspects of our church.  We must be obedient to the Holy Spirit at work in our church. Not deviants and weak willed bishops.

Accountability is the first step in removing the worm from the apple.
John Hydar | 1/6/2011 - 6:33pm
I have read William SJ's article and a sampling of the comments.  I am a formerly canonical priest from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  I am now a married priest, there being nothing "ex"about me.  After marriage, we managed to attend regular parishes for a long time.  The experience was always mixed.  We usually got to know the pastor and other priests because I made it a point to do so.  We made a contribution as "lay" ministers in each parish.  The pastors all knew our backgrounds.  For some 38 years it was an uneasy association.

Three and a half years ago we moved to our present home.  After visiting the 3 parishes here, we were ready to take a hike because of indifferent liturgy, but also because of heretical teaching/action on the part of the priests.  For all these years, I have read and kept reasonable abreast of theological changes and currents.
Fortunately, at that time, we learned that an intentional Catholic community in a nearby city was still active and alive (it has been there for over 40 years).  The very first Sunday, we were made to feel welcome and appreciated.  It is a deeply spiritual community committed to the very best of Vatican II.  This past year, the older order priest who was our presider had to retire due to his inability to stand and walk any longer.  True to what the order had said, there was no priest to replace him.
The community did not wish to go out of existance, so they asked the married priests of the community to become their leaders in worship.  We have done so and the community is taking on a new life.  I personally have been give, invited to a new ministry with the people of God.

That is a long way around to an exit interview.  I would love to do an exit interview.  It would be an opportunity to speak on so many issues.  My opinions are clear and strong.  They might need to handle what I would say with fire tongs, but that is fine with me.  Will we ever go back to a regular parish?  NO!  Have we left the Catholic Church? NO!  We function so far out on the fringes that the area bishop and the official church do not even bother about us.  But, we are authentic Catholics living in the light of Vatican II.  We are free at last!
Michael Barberi | 1/6/2011 - 5:43pm
While I deplore the sexual abuse of children by priests, it seems that the Church has got the message. They have revamped their guidelines on reporting suspicion of sexual abuse to civil authorities and have made clear their intolerance of those that commit such crimes. The Church is paying for their abuse financially as a result of the many civil law suites filed.  They are also paying for the coverup in many other ways including the profound damage it has caused to the credibility and reputation of the the Papal and Episcopal Magisterium.

What is the point of destroying everyone repsonsibile for managing God's house further?  Clearly, there is still a mentality of arrogance and indifference within the Church Heirarchy, but you cannot reverse that but only hope that it will be limited  and insignificant.  Most bishops and priests are doing a great job.

As for finanical accountability, there is a good argument for transparency in terms of the reporting of financial assets, liabilities, income and expenses.  I am not familiar with those issues or problems.
Dominic Tomasso | 1/6/2011 - 4:44pm
Veronica, I'd love to. Can you give me some help in locating it it?
C Walter Mattingly | 1/6/2011 - 3:09pm
Suzanne, I am really comparing those entrusted with the welfare of our children, the Church, which has failed in the recent past to put a stop to sexual abuse, with that of the public trust of the school system, which has failed, on perhaps an order 50 or more times larger. Sexual abuse and harrassment of our children is the first order to me. I am far  less interested in imprisoning the bishops and teachers and principals and superintendents who "passed on the trash," though I think they should be accountable, than I am seeing to it that it is stopped, not just the 2% or so of children in parochial schools but the other 90+% as well. I don't see how one interested in preventing abuse could think otherwise. If you believe that isn't the proper Christian response, I don't understand your reasoning at all, either.
Anne, Peter certainly reformed faster than the current leaders of the Church, but then again the Reformation took a century or more. I am hopeful this will progress faster.
Jack, what you say about the long delay in reporting abuse may have been the case in the 70's, but what with the attention given to the subject, the huge amounts of compensation being handed out, and the number of lawyers and advocates going after abuse cases in the Church and calling forward those mistreated such as in these comments, I doubt very much that there is that sort of time lag now. But as I suspect most of the commentors here are not interested in whether sexual abuse in the US Church has been brought under control since 2003, nor the fate of the other 90+% in the public school system, I won't expect it here.
Veronica Harrison | 1/6/2011 - 2:38pm
Tomasso, for a more hopeful vision (potentially), check out the NCReporter article about Reese and his encouragement to the laity, as well as the comments below that article.
Manuel Munguia | 1/6/2011 - 1:46pm
I have never considered leaving the Church, nor I am doing so now.  Precisely because the Catholic Church is my home forever-God willing-I care enormously about what is happening and about the people who have left.

For about 20 years I was too busy working, learning, building, loving to pay attention to the state of the Church.  One day I woke up, and I could not recognize my Church.  I could still hear the echoes of Paul's teaching in his letter to the Galatians: "I don't reject the grace of God, because if justification could be attained through the Law, then Christ died in vain", while the authorized speakers of the Church are announcing what seems to be, not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but the Law of Moses and are almost exclusively focused on a cluster of issues, important ones indeed, that have a clearly partisan political resonance.

Well-intentioned preachers within the Church are calling the faithful back to the "truth" and invite them to grow in the "faith".  But they don't mean faith, that is to say the human response to God's grace that leads to justification, but rather the obedient acceptance of "doctrine", primarily as it was formulated in the 13th century. 

Some preachers call this "the new evangelization", referring to John Paul II's encyclical "Redemptoris Missio", but their work seems to be-at best-catechesis with a slant.  A political slant.  I don't know how they think that they can bring the world to God in this way.

Fortunately, God is a winner.  We won't make him fail in his plan to bring all people into his Kingdom.  Will he do it without us?  He will find a way.  The Internet may be part of it.
8262969 | 1/6/2011 - 12:07pm
I also wonder why Walter, you are comparing the church to the Dept. of Ed, The church is supposed to aspire to a good deal more - even with all of our failures and our weaknesses. If a church aspires to nothing more than other secular institutions then why be a Catholic at all and where is the Holy Spirit? I cannot follow your reasoning at all.


Tania writes: "The Catholic Church, especially in the First World countries, is facing the great challenge of losing its members because it is trying to adjust to the current cultural, social, and political trends."

  The Church has always  faced intense social and cultural challenges - this is nothing new. Some challenges they handle by reforming doctrine, others by holding the line. Nothing much here that is news. Celibacy will eventually be optional and women will eventally serve as priests. That will all happen at some point - maybe not in te near future but it will.

Here is the question I have: A  few years ago a priest I knew who had spent time teaching in a seminary said that a large number of the candidates were all overly fixated on morality- real law and order tyes with a lot of emotional baggage - without much compassion or creativity or maturity. That was his concern: The priesthood was not attracting the best and the brightest.

The same I would ask of Catholicism. As so many leave, who is attracted to it - what kinds of people, thinkers are joining the church? Disgruntled Episcopalians? Years ago, we had an episcpal priest at the Catholic church I used to attend. He and his wife came to Catholicism over the issue of ordaining women. He didn't last a year. He was way, way too conseravtive for the Catholics at our church (and it wasn't even a particularly liberal church!)  Is that who is coming in? Highly conservative refugees from other denominations?
Dominic Tomasso | 1/6/2011 - 11:55am
Postings 108 & 109, both very interesting. Now can we get back to what we can do about it or just throw up our hands and let fahter time resolve it. That won't do. The abuse goes on.

Have you read about all the Bishops and a few Cardinals that are of the age of retirement.  Naturally the pope will ask them to stay on for a few more years but just think of how many of them have been involved in the sexual abuse scandal. Yet, if they choose for retirement, think of what it is going to cost the Church (parishioners) in pensions  and all the other perks they'll get when in fact, most of them should be in jail.

Just another kick in the butt. I can just see all of them in procession whenever one of their buddies celebrates their retirement Mass.  It just makes me sick to know that there is nothing that can be done to put a stop to it.

The abuse goes on. What can be done in order to get Bishops Accountability?????? I can not accept the fact that many believe that nothing can be done. That the Bishops are untouchable. Let's get together a Think Tank Group and see what they can come up with. Can anyone hear me??????

Let me hear some names of persons you think should be considered and I'll try to contact them.

Dominic Tomasso
Advocate for Bishops Accountability
tomassotucson@cox.net


J B | 1/6/2011 - 11:05am
Walter, you mentioned a "reformed" Peter.  There has not been even a hint at "reform" among the leaders of the church - including the pope.  They choose to blame everyone and everything except themselves. They ask the laity to repent and pray and do penance - but do not ask the bishops to do the same.  They enact policies that extend to lay teachers, staff, volunteers, etc, but no policies that extend to the hierarchy.  They literally seem to believe that they are above the law - above the civil laws of the countries where they live, and above the moral law of God.

 I don't look to the Dept of Education for moral guidance.  The church asks me to turn over my conscience to their leadership to "form" and to forsake using my own God-given mind and conscience, to "obey" all that they teach without question.  I'm sorry - they have not shown themselves to be worthy of this role. They have not demonstrated that they are honest, responsible, or even minimally moral.  My local Supt. of Schools has earned far more trust by the way he handles sexual abuse in the school system. The pope and bishops have not.  You refer to an 'isolated' case. I assume you mean Cardinal George. First, it is not isolated. But, the more important thing about that case is what it signalled - AFTER DALLAS, George ignored the guidelines in order to protect a priest who had committed sexual crimes against the young, and again protect the institution.  Not only that, on the heels of his renewed betrayal of young victims of one of his priests, the USCCB elected him to as their top leader.  The message - spitting in the eyes of every Catholic in the US - was unmistakable.  Business as usual.  Rome whisked Cardinal Law out of the U.S. before he could be put under oath again and maybe more filth uncovered, gave him a plush assignment at a top cathedral and, to pour salt in the wounds, has him as part of the group who vets and recommends new bishops.  Not only that, ordinary people in the pews pay for his very expensive Rome apartment, with servants, car and driver, as well as all the cognac and cigars he cares to use.  Are you aware that while the John Jay study indicated that the rate of sexual abuse by priests was roughly the same as in the general US, in the couple of dioceses (Boston, Philadelphia and maybe another) where the courts forced the dicoese to turn over its records the rate of abuse was double that reported in the John Jay study?  Are you aware that the John Jay researchers were not give full access to files and records - but had to use only what the diocese provided to them?  Did they receive all records? Not likely.  Have you even wondered why so many dioceses (such as Los Angeles) suddenly agreed to massive financial settlements right before a court-ordered deadline to turn over records?  Have you noticed the same pattern among bankrluptcy declarations - they occur very close to when the church would be forced into opening its records.  Does this pattern indicate that they will go to almost any extreme (and expense - your money, remember) in order to avoid opening their files? Why do you suppose that is?  Do you truly wish to continue supporting this?

If you are happy supporting this system, with no voice in it at all, then you are happy with it.  Many are not.  It's each person's choice.
C Walter Mattingly | 1/6/2011 - 10:38am

Anne,
As you have called me back from my final post with a question in your post-final post, I will try to comply and answer your explicit question and your implicit ones, although that may make liars of us both. Any other readers who find this tedious and have seen enough, please feel welcome to move on.
Yes, I do understand your point of view, although all I share with you is that I am in the same decade of life as you are.  I don't have your depth of knowledge on Christianity. But I do think about things. Here is a thought.
One of the great gifts the Spirit in His wisdom gave the Church was the guidance to found it on human failure and weakness. You mention that you don't believe the Church has been true to the gospel of Jesus but has deviated from its message since Constantine. I would agree with that but would push back the date of deviation from the 4th century to around 32 A.D. or so. You'll remember the Church's founding upon Jesus's words: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church." For "rock," as we all know, He could have just as well said "upon this proven liar, coward, abandoner, and false servant proven untrue to My Church," who literally ran away from the Body of Christ. Most of the original members of this Church jumped ship at this point, I would guess, and yes, I understand that, although a few returned, including a reformed Peter.
He had as much, perhaps more, reason to hang himself as did Judas, or alternatively to simply fade away. He didn't. While squabbling with Paul, he accomplished a metanoia. Like St Francis, St Ignatius, Charles Borromeo, and to an extent John Paul II, he took the spiritual bullets.
But none of these took those bullets lying down. And so it goes for me after a tiny fashion. 
You state that I seem to want to address sexual harrassment and abuse everywhere except the Church, and perhaps it seems to you that way, as it seems to me you (as well as the NYTs writers such as Maureen Dowd and Christopher Hitchens) want to address it only in the Church. And of course everyone is trying to downplay the US Dept of Education studies. Who wants to recognize that truth, or even talk about it? Certainly not the government or the school unions. Unfortunately it contains relevant feminist studies which come to the same conclusion from various other groups. My own approach is that it is unchristian not to address the entire problem, including the over 90% of sexual abuse in schools that is unrelated to the Church and its priests. I start here, with my church in the US, with the question of how many credible cases of abuse have occurred in the church since 2003, which no one has answered. I am interested not in one isolated case, as an individual case can have twists and turns, but the total number, and how they were handled. As cases of sexual abuse are crimes, I don't think the handling of such cases as you describe is adequate. My personal opinion is that as civil crimes they should be handled by the civil authorities.
But again, as that is only a tiny percentage of cases in the overall school system, I want follow up studies to the 2005 Dept of Education report. That is where the coverup on the grand scale still exists, and children in the public school system deserve the same protection as in the parochial schools. We shouldn't duck any part of the issue. My faith conviction is that the Spirit is guiding us to reform our entire community of citizens through this evil.
I had the honor of having dinner with a retired bishop, well into his 80's. I asked how he was enjoying his retirement, and he said it was wonderful, describing his apartment, etc, and the joys of being able to return directly to ministry. I asked him what he enjoyed most.His eyes twinkled, and he answered unhesitantly, his biweekly ministry to the prisoners on death row.
So we take different paths. Perhaps they all lead to Rome, or where the Body of Christ resides.

Dominic Tomasso | 1/5/2011 - 2:00pm
Normaly, I wouldn't even respond to someone that posted such a naive lack of understanding as to what is going on in the Church or what reasons people have given  for making the  decision to leave it.

Religious laziness, the clergy are not behaving, the Church is there to teach us how to lead a good human life and to make us aware of the deepest realities of it. My God Tania, take a few minute and read a few of the reasons people have given.

Your comment,"the clergy are not behaving. That's a gem.I can't image that there still are Church goers so uninformed. No wonder the bishops have nothing to worry about.

Dominic Tomasso
Advocate for Bishops Accountability.
tomassotucsonAcox.net
Tania Santander Atauchi | 1/5/2011 - 11:19am

It is a very interesting topic and I applaud your ability to articulate this difficult issue in the Catholic Church.  It is true, there are many who are leaving the Church.  They attribute their abandonment of the Church to many factors, they do not feel comfortable, or they do not find what they want in the church, or because the clergy is “not behaving”.  All of this is legitimate.  Who, in his/her right mind would go to a place where he/she does not feel comfortable?  Or trust someone who has transgressed the principles of trust?  Yet, the Catholic Church is not about feelings or desires.  If someone is considering leaving the Church he/she should ask himself/herself why he/she should stay; not why he/she has to leave.  The question: Why should I leave?  Only translates into, “I do not feel like going to Church anymore.”  In order to justify this attitude (which I would call “religious laziness”) the person finds millions of excuses.  Finally, I just would like to add something concerning the Church itself.  The Catholic Church, especially in the First World countries, is facing the great challenge of losing its members because it is trying to adjust to the current cultural, social, and political trends.  Just remember, the Catholic Church is not a business enterprise or a psychological therapeutic place.  The Church is there to teach us how to lead a good human life and to make us aware of the deepest realities of it.  Ultimately, there may be many people leaving the Church; but, the PewResearch Center may not be aware of it,  there many more people, especially young people, coming in or coming back.

J B | 1/5/2011 - 10:31am
Walter,  I simply do not have the time to address all your points - far faster to read than to write.  I appreciate your thoughts, while disagreeing with you.  Child abuse in all parts of society must be addressed. I read the report you refer to several years ago, but do not remember the details.  As I recall, there were many defects in how the study was done. And frankly, those who keep trying to excuse the church's horrors (continuing - see the recent reports of bishops and cardinal in Belgium - their callousness towards victims is reprehensible and never invokes the slightest correction from Rome) by saying "Everyone else does it too. Nanny, nanny boo-boo.  This is not a child's blame-game, it is a tragedy of the greatest kind, wherever it occurs, but especially when it occurs in the church and is protected by the church's alleged leaders) are refusing to face the facts. Of course these crimes exist elsewhere.  But that doesn't mean that Catholics should just roll over and say "Yes, Your Eminence."  Those who actually believe what the church teaches about itself - that it is literally God's voice on earth - must begin to doubt the nature of that God, if they are not to admit the depth of the venality of the church's leadership.  The church's response to horrendous crimes does not reflect Godlike understanding, or love, or compassion  - it reflects human beings more interested in preserving their own positions and power than being concerned about innocent victims.  I recommend that you read Bishop Geoffrey Robinson's book if you haven't - he understands that the distorted moral judgments of the church's leadership are rooted in church teachings that must be changed.  Few conservative Catholics are willing to face up to the need to change both teachings and the structures of governance.

One reason I left the church was because so many Catholics seem to not care about the victims of the bishops negligence, do not wish to hold the church accountable, and continuously find excuses, such as "everyone does it," and "There has always been sin and scandal in the church's leadership".  Jesus did not teach us to roll over passively in these cases - his example was to speak up and to act.  In secular society, we have a voice - we can bring down a negligent school superintendent, we can vote for candidates who will enact change and vote out those who abuse their privileges and power. We have no voice in the Catholic church - pay, pray and obey.  That the bishops and the pope have abused both power and privilege is without doubt - but so few Catholics care. You care passionatley about children in every venue EXCEPT the church it seems - in families, in public schools, in the Episcopal church.  Perhaps you are unaware that when bishops in the EC are shown to be negligent, they are brought to trial =- publicly, openly with the entire church (laity) fully involved - one such trial was held just a year or two ago.  This does not happen in the RCC which seems to put secrecy and lack of either accountability or transparency on the same level as protecting its own power. You wish to direct the discussion to others, not work to clean up the mess in your own church.  I, for one, cannot respect nor trust the moral teaching authority of men who clearly have no moral sense themselves, men who chose to protect sexual molesters (including Cardinal George just about four years ago - Dallas seems to have been lip-service), protect the institution, protect their own power and privileges.  Perhaps you look to them to guide your own moral decisions, but, to me, trusting these men makes no more sense than trusting  someone like Kenneth Lay - a smooth, "respecta ble", educated white collar criminal - to tell the truth.

One more point - I cannot get into discussing church doctrine with you - I have studid and formed my own conscience on these matters over an entire lifetime - I am in my 60s.  You wrote:

As far as your suggestion, as I understand it, that the Church should not primarily be concerned with being true to itself, the words of Jesus as they exist on marriage and divorce, for example, and many other issues, but turn from them, I see that as an act of dissolution, not reformation, which perhaps some of the commentators here desire.

I do not believe that the church is true to Jesus or the teachings of the gospels, but began deviating from the gospel messages once the church itself became an instrument of the emperor's power in the Roman Empire.  Sadly, we look at Rome today and still see this same, sad embrace of secular values in the luxury and power that characterize the lifestyles of the men who claim to be the descendants of the fishermen and the carpenters.  So much of what the church teaches is an attempt to preserve their own control and power, especially over women, whom they have considered less than equal beings throughout its history (read desert fathers, early church fathers, Augustine, Aquinas etc to see where these teachings come from).

This really, really is my last post!   I understand where you are coming from and respect your right to decide for yourself - do you understand where I (and many others who have responded here) are coming from?
C Walter Mattingly | 1/5/2011 - 8:39am
Ed and Anne,
Although you are right that there are precious few extensive studies of sexual abuse in US public schools (school and government officials and union leaders don't want to deal with the horrible publicity, angry parents, powerful union lawyers, lawsuits, and general disgrace exposing the issue would bring upon them-sound familiar?), the one major study financed by the US government's Dept of Education is the Shakeshaft study. Of course it is being contested; we are familiar with a similar denial process. Dr Shakeshaft, with a long list of feminist credits to her name, was likely the most candid and qualified person to oversee the study, which in itself was an overview of the most solid existing studies. For example, she references a survey by the American Association of University Women, a women's advocate group since the 19th century with over 1,000 branches, which covered 2064 public school students from kindergarten thru 11th grade, and from the survey determined that 9.6% of public school students reported sexual harrassment or abuse by public school employees. 57% involved teachers, the rest other employees such as aides, bus drivers, etc. Another one was by Shakeshaft herself, a 4 year study covering 1990-94 of 225 sexual complaints, mostly from New York, against teachers made to federal authorites. All of the accused in the study admitted to sexual abuse. Only 1% lost their license to teach. 39% left their school district, most with positive recommendations ("passing the trash"); some were given early retirement packages, etc., but most went right on teaching and 99% retained the right to continue teaching. Ed, in response to your comment that there are many times more public school teachers than Catholic clergy, certainly true. Shakeshaft concludes that her overview suggests that sexual abuse and harrassment issues are at least 100 times more common in the public school system that the estimate for Catholic schools (and the system many times larger, no doubt). All of this is available to you from the report itself and on the net, if you have an interest.
My point is that while in one sense it makes no difference that the problems are worse elsewhere; it is the Church's failings that we are concerned with, in another sense, it is important to realize that the Church's failings were paralleled by the public schools, that it did not live up to a higher standard and was guilty of the same failings as the public school system. Why? Consider this.
In the NY diocese, while the Church was busy paying out 100's of millions in liability to past sufferers of abuse, a group of lawyers who also represented the teachers' unions filed a motion before the state senate meeting the following Monday to serve justice by doing away with the statute of limitations in cases involving the students in the NY parochial school system. This motion was delivered to the Church's lawyers on Tuesday. The Church's lawyers responded on Thursday that if the statute of limitations on child abuse were to be removed for parochial school students, it should also be amended to remove such limitations on abuse of public school students. The result?
By Monday morning the proposers had withdrawn their motion.
Obviously the concern was not justice for the children, but (along with selfaggrandisement) to further undermine the parochial school system in NY, which had been embarrassing the school unions there that controlled the system with outperformance in inner city schools for some time and by making excuses for continued failrue as well as tenured life without regard to performance more difficult for union leaders to maintain.
So the points above are that Janice's career-long observations are not anecdotal but confirmed by the best studies the government has provided.  I also suggested that our first obligation is to assure that the coverup and treatment of sexual harrassment and abuse within the Church has been effectively dealt with here in the US since 2003; I appreciate your comments Anne but I want to know the numbers-how many credible charges, and how were they dealt with? And as Christians, whatever faith, worthy of the name, we have the obligation to confront this social justice issue everywhere, especially in the public school system where the problems our own government has determined are far worse. They are our children too.
Anne, I'll pass on an anecdotal comment of my own to you. The Christmas season before the present, I was at a party having conversation with an Episcopal minister. He brought up the sad subject of sexual abuse within the church. I responded with my belief that there are no excuses, that there was a systemwide failure involved which all Catholics shared in. At that point, he leaned over to me and said that his church lawyers had spoken to him and several other ministers informing him that the Episcopal church was guilty of the exact same thing as the Catholic church, and that if they did not reform their actions in this regard immediately they would be financially ruined. I have no idea how widespread such conversations are, but if this is the case a good had come from this mess of sinful mismanagement, that is that it will be more difficult for all these groups to sweep child sexual issues under the rug. If so, that could be the presence of the Spirit working through, yes, even the sins of the Church.
Anne, in my comment on the Church's need to be true to itself in regard, for example, to the Eucharist and my passing reference to the Baltimore Catechism were not so much that only a minority believed in the doctrine, but that over half of those in the survey identifying themselves as Catholic did not even know what the doctrine meant! How can anyone believe, or meaningfully disbelieve, in something of which they are ignorant? I have no problem with the BC being updated or replaced, but this would not be the case if it merely still existed as it was: disbelievers would disbelieve out of choice and not out of mere ignorance. The Church is correct to recognize the loss of catechesis, which was not part of Vatican II, but has coincided with that time.
As far as your suggestion, as I understand it, that the Church should not primarily be concerned with being true to itself, the words of Jesus as they exist on marriage and divorce, for example, and many other issues, but turn from them, I see that as an act of dissolution, not reformation, which perhaps some of the commentators here desire.
Like you, Anne (if you are there), I have spoken too long, and will now take leave of this lively and valuable discussion America has fomented. I do so with a final image. A scholar once told me of a church of the High Middle Ages, with its generations of love, labor, humility, and no doubt pride mixed in to produce the unbelieveable, breathtaking cathedrals, many of which remain today to inspire and astound us. Atop ne of these churches, I was told, above the layers of meaning, stained glass, architectural marvels meant to instruct, inspire, and reorient the churchgoer to a higher spiritual plane of concsiousness, had been placed out of view of the generations of laborers and hundreds of years of supplicants, two figures looking up to the heavens, clearly visible to the heavely viewer only. The two figures were two trolls, abusing themselves, faces contorted at once with pleasure and misery, turned upward toward God. It is an architectural prayer of honesty and humility, contrition, frank admission of despite our 100 years of labor and most of our surplus resources, we are still the same sorry sinners as before we started, and we submit to You, to Your view only, that all this work is as much as anything else a confession of vanity, sin, and unworthyness on our part, from the top of our cathedral and the bottom of our hearts, this humble truth of our total inadequacy.
Would that we could attain to this level of faith, truth, devotion, and love in the present circumstance.
Now however the Church, to both good and bad effect, has helicopters and paparzzi buzzing about all its spaces. The trolls are visible to CNBC. This commentary is but a part of this unavoidable, and to my mind healthy, openness.
Blessings to all, and welcome if you should return, and best wishes should your spiritual journey take you elsewhere.
Ed Kardas | 1/5/2011 - 7:34am
I have not officially renounced my Catholic faith, but I am so disillusioned that my heart is now far from it.  During my time in a religious order, I came to believe that the Church is too far gone to be fixed in my lifetime.  I was responsible for uncovering and reporting a pedophile priest.  He is now in prison, and many (not all) of my former superiors despise me because of it.  That's what I did for the "People of God."  I am now too tired and frustrated to invest anymore of myself into "fixing" the Church.

I worship Jesus each week, mostly at Mass (because of my wife), but at times I attend other christian churches.  I disrespect the bishops, and never give them money.  I simply want to save my soul, and I no longer believe that I need a priest or a bishop to reach my savior.  I may have become a Protestant without intentionally choosing to do so.
Veronica Harrison | 1/5/2011 - 2:58am

I respectfully disagree that civil jurisdictions will be willing, let alone able, to hold the Church as an institution accountable for all these (I agree) crimes.  Individual priests have been prosecuted, where such priests were turned over to authorities.  I saw one sentencing hearing on this, on Court TV.  The pathetically clueless (I do not mean that uncharitably, but sadly) mentally ill priest was sobbing weakly, helplessly.  It couldn't have been more clear that he didn't belong in the priesthood.  The priesthood, like certain other very personally demanding careers, requires emotional strength, wholeness, health for it to be a genuine calling.  Otherwise it is just an escape, a refuge a distraction, or an opportunity to indulge dark, secret tendencies.

It is the authoritarianism, combined with the civilly protected secrecy, of the Roman church, that promotes the status quo of power & of freedom from public accountability, including accountability to lay members of that Church.  The Church's lawyers are going to claim, successfully, institutional protection from prosecution.  The Justice Dept. is not going to touch this unless the Church voluntarily cooperates with civil prosecution and examination of financial practices.

I.m.o - only my opinion - conversion from within the Church power structure is the only hopeful path.  It has to get to the point that key players, or a key player,, has the insight and grace to transform the power structure by choice.  Lay involvement in policy-making and decision-making would have to be a key transforming feature of such restructure.  And that lay segment must include lots of women.  Why?  It has nothing to do with "equality" or even justice, although others could argue that.  It has everything to do with panoramic perception.  I don't have an issue with a male priesthood.  I have a huge issue, though, with an all-male power structure and influence.  There is nothing Gospel about that.  Jesus hardly forbade women from being part of his inner circle.  The fact that the early apostolic mission of evangelization made it impractical for bearers of children to do much of the "heavy lifting" (absence from home & physical hardship for weeks at a time) does not mean that women had no authority or significant presence.

This is not a digression.  It's central.  I am telling you that if significant numbers of women had a history of Vatican & local authority over the centuries, or even just the 20th, I can promise you that sexual abuse of children would never had risen to the level it has, let alone covered up.  That's because women, while no more perfect than men, operate differently, have different priorities, are (mostly) less concerned with issues of power, are less fixated on left-brain approaches to problems, have an innate (biological) protective instinct. 

Number Two change would have to be an optional married clergy.  Married couples give a darn about children; they react viscerally to revelations of abuse, of kidnapping, of exploitation, of trauma.  They're invested.  Celibate clerics are not, certianly not in the same way.  It's a head trip for them.   Secondarily, a married priest will have a daily feminine influence which would be fantastic indirectly for the church.  Thirdly, a married priest will be far more credible as a counselor of other marrieds and as someone who understands sexuality firsthand.

The Vatican and the episcopate is so entrenched in its own power that it will not give it up easily or bloodlessly, even should massive #'s of Catholics withhold money, strike, leave, protest, sue, etc.  It's an ego thing; they will just dig in further & claim that they have a core group of faithful followers and the rest can literally go to hell.  But if a leader among them sees the redeeming possibilities in transformation, he can persuade his brothers to go along, because I firmly believe that there are lots of silent Tomassos and Veronicas among parish priests, certain bishops, even a few Cardinals.  And maybe even a Pope, now or later.  These potential prophets are in my idealist mind waiting for permission to renew the Church in Christ's image, not their own.  Many of them know deep down that Jesus would never approve of the opulence, let alone the enabling sinfulness, not to mention the monarchical structure, that has been allowed to substitute for the non-hierarchical consciousness of which he preached.


 

Dominic Tomasso | 1/4/2011 - 11:52pm

This is going to be a very long posting but please take the time to read it you may find it interesting.

Thank God for the2 responses I've received, one from Ed Gleason and the oher one from Veronica.

Actually, I thought if I did get any responses they would be to tell me to drop dead. or to tell me how wrong I was to leave the Catholic Church and completely ignore responding to the reasons I gave for leaving. Maybe they still haven't arrived.

Ed, I spent almost 2 years writing monthly letters to most of the pastors of or 75 parishes, I also included a copy to our bishop Kicanas.

My letters covered abusive priests, bishops movement of sexually abusive priests from parish to parish, priests that the bishops allowed to leave the ministry without having to register as sex offenders, the millions of dollars stolen from Sunday collections, the security procedures that were sent out to all parishes but noted that they were not mandatory.

Some of my letters were 2 & 3 pages. I talked about poor sermons, the poor public address systems, the fact that no lay members of any diocesan or parish committee, council or board of directores had any right to a vote. Every one of these groupes were stacked in favor of the hierarchy.

Yes, for almost 2 years I reminded these pastors of what I tought. Remember, a copy of  every letter was sent to the bishop. In all that time I only received 2 very short response, One, to tell me the sex scandal only involved a few bad apples. ( He couldn't even call them sex abusers.) Bad apples my ass, I told him they were criminall and suggested he check the Bissops Accountability web site. The other letter said I was exaggerating my facts and to remove him from my mailings.

I finally told them that I was  going to stop my letter writing to them because their silence was deafening and it appeared that no one wanted to get involved in any of my accusations.  Ed I question what you said about there being thousands of dioceses more independent financially and administratively than I seem to suggest because I find it difficult to accept based on what I believe to e true. Lay members on any diocesan or parish committee, council, board of directors do not have any voting rights. Their presence is only as a consultative  member, according to canon law.  What meaningfull change can be made if it infringes on one iota of a pastor or bishops authority.

Veronica, I could have told that group that the civil court would rule in favor of he bishop since he has the deed to all Catholic property and access to all bank accounts and supported by cannon law which civil law is afraid to challege. Remember Rule #1, The ishops have complete control of everything Catholic. Rule #2. When in doubt, refer to rule #1.

Ed, the question, what can be done about it.

The pope is not the answer.
Leaving the Church is not the answer.
Withholding contributions is not the answer,
Publicly criticizing the bishops is not the answer.
Waiting for the po pe to die is not the answer. The nextr pope will probable be as bad or worse than this one.


The only hope is to get the Justice department involved. My proposal is to flood the Department of Justice
with  letters requesting that they investigate the USCCB'S organization for their criminal activities, such as ,secretely moving and protecting sexually abusive priests from parish to parish to protect them from law enforcement.
 
Also for allowing thousands of these sex abusers to leave the ministry without having to register as sex offenders,

Also for using more that 3 billion dollars of church funds  to make financial settlements to the abused or family members and law firms to protect these sex abusers from being prosecuted. The billions of dollars have never been accounted for to the membership of the Catholic Church.

All this information has been made public. Still the Justice Department has failed to act. Why, because the bishops organization makes the Mafia look like boy scouts and to prosecute the USCCB'S organization may be a challenge the J.D. does not want to take on. Politics also come into play and the bishops organization is a very powerful gang with plenty of church money and high priced law firms that will drive the J.D. crazy with their stalling and refusal to release reoords and files.

Unless we can get thousands of letters sent to the J.D. within a specific time frame, they will never get involved. This flood of letters will get national media attention whuch may just move them to act. We'll never know unless we try.

It shold be pointed out that a proposal such as this will never got off the ground unless a nationally known person  or organization gets involved. 

Just image what  would 1,000 or 2,000 or more letters sent to the J.D with copies to the White House, requesting an investigation of the USCCB'S organization have on the  National Media.

I'm not Tom Doyle or Sister Maureen or Frank Douglas. I'm just one pissed off Catholic that wants the healing to begin . and I sincerely believe that this proposal is the only way unless Jesus makes an appearance and announces, don't just sit there, do something. Maybe this dominc fellow has a good idea.

Sorry for using His name but I'll say and do anything if I cans possibly  see a light at the end of the tunnel.

The bishops are not untouchable they just have an organization with all the cards stacked against us. They have canon law we have the US Justice Department.  I love our Church. I am not trying to harm it but for the life of me I will never return to the Church untill these criminals are removed.

Sodomy, rape and molesting children are sins but they are also crimes. Confessing these sins is the right thing to do. Accounting for the criminal part of these  sins is for the United States Justice Department to investigate. If we are unable to get the US Justice Department to investigate these crimes, man we really are in  trouble.

Dominic tomasso
Advocate for bishops Accountability
tomassotucson@cox.net

Vince Killoran | 1/4/2011 - 10:26pm
We should spend the next ten or so years trying to figure this out.  This article and the accompanying comments are a good start.


I'm nearly 50 years old and I stay-mostly because I'm stubborn. On good days I still think the spirit of Vatican II will prevail.
Veronica Harrison | 1/4/2011 - 7:20pm
Tomasso, if you're referring to the unfortunate status of individual bishops as Corporation Sole, I for one have always regretted that.  There was a movement several years ago (maybe 3 years?  5 years?) in one diocese, by some national Catholic lay group, either to require full financial disclosure of that bishop and/or to transform the financial status such that he the individual bishop, would not be in sole control, let alone knowledge.  The effort failed.  I believe they tried going through the civil courts or something.

The secrecy is reprehensible, I agree.  What do you propose that Catholic lay people do to wrest control from sources of absolute power?  

Catholics could do a lot to "vote" with their pocketbooks.  For example, they could find out who the vendors/creditors are of the parish, and write checks directly to those creditors, rather than to the parish, diocese, etc.  Similarly, for any parish or diocese-sponsored "cause" (charity), they could write checks directly to that organization, not to the church.  Once you write a check or put cash in the basket, you have no guarantee where that is going.  

Here's the thing:  most of the Catholics currently contributing directly to their church coffers are not the ones about to leave - about whom that church might worry.  Most of the Catholics objecting to the way churches keep & spend money either no longer contribute, while attending, or have left entirely.

I agree with some of the earlier comments, that an organization with this kind of exit (& drop in revenue) would be examining its own practices - with or without exit interviews, frankly.  We did this on my last, most recent job, and we did it continually.  When we werent' making our bottom line, we were checking our priorities and making sure we were serving our clients, & we constantly asked them for their feedback (including but not limited to completion of their contracts). 

Rather, the Roman Church's reflexive policy is, i.m.o., to seek out more Third World converts and fewer First World ones, in the hope that volume of collective contributions will supplant the size of individual ones.  It also works because those populations tend to be more subservient/compliant/unquestioning.  I think by ignoring the mass exodus from the most educated & resourceful countries, the Church is rapidly losing much more than it realizes.  The old theologians will age, die, & who will supply a vibrant, engaging theology, liturgy, & spirituality for the 21st century which has so much spiritual emptiness & desperation in it?
ed gleason | 1/4/2011 - 12:05pm
Tomasso;
I forgot to mention that you have knowledge and passion. these are valuable assets to make change. If 10% od pew Catholics had your assets, change would have happened 5 years ago.
ed gleason | 1/4/2011 - 11:57am
Tomasso; Almost all posters here agree that the Church is experiencing a meltdown . Their question and mine is what can be done about it. where are the levers for change. There are worldwide thousands of dioceses. most are more independent financially and administratively than you seem to suggest. Think of how many states and city governments are not running as they should and how many people  are leaving the USA? Like you I have been very connected to the Church. I have chosen to 'stick' and find a way to advocate for reform. Find a support group of like minded Catholics and 'stick' and  stop yelling  'bug out' .and  don't run.  

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