Cause and Effect?

Reflecting a bit on Robert Putnam's warning that churches should resist the urge to act as political power players lest they risk alienating key demographics, especially millennials, I chuckled a bit to myself when I read two headlines from EWTN's newsfeed yesterday.

The first article:


Massachusetts Catholics Fight To Reinstate Defense Of Marriage Act

The U.S. Bishops and the Massachusetts Catholic Conference have joined a list of 17 religious groups moving to appeal the state's rejection of the Defense of Marriage Act last year."

Among the 17 groups who've signed the brief are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

The next story:

Short On Priests And Faithful, Boston Archdiocese Considers Parish Mergers

On Feb. 2, the Archdiocese of Boston announced plans for a reorganization that could change how many parishes operate. The changes are aimed at allowing the Church to cope with declining Mass attendance and a shortage of priests, without forcing parishes to close.

"The Archdiocese has been operating under a model decades old that was built for a time when 70% of Catholics attended Mass regularly," archdiocesan spokesman Terry Donilon told CNA. "Today less than 20% attend weekly Mass in the Archdiocese."

These numbers call for what Donilon described as a "total rebuild of the archdiocese," likely to include mergers between several parish communities.

Is there a causal relationship? Most likely not. But the juxtaposition of these two stories, on the same day, is striking and worthy of reflection.




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6 years 11 months ago
I think there's a cause and effect here, but not the second being a cause of the first, (as I believe the author is implying) but, rather, the first being the cause of the second.  That is, having learned over the last 45 years that caving to secular culture and liberal forces within does not lead to the gain of or retention of parishioners, the Church is holding fast to those remaining teachings on which she had yet to compromise (e.g. DOMA), and is returning to the teachings and rituals (e.g., the new Missal) of her pre-Vatican2 glory.

Vatican 2 reduced Church membership in at least two ways:  It chased away parishioners who loved the pre-Vatican-2 rituals; and, by projecting the Church as an entity subject to the whims of counter-cultural forces, weakened her in the eyes of those relying on her consistency and stability, leading them to question and doubt Her teachings and many to seek out other venues for worship.

Whether the Church will ever reclaim her membership is questionable at best; what's important is her return to serving God instead of the misguided demands of the moral relativists.
Jim McCrea
6 years 11 months ago
Pre Vatican 2 glory?  How about mind-numbing, ghettoised, lock-step, slack-jawed adherence to whatever father and sister said?

No glory, there.  Been there, done that.  No thanks. 
6 years 11 months ago
Defending marriage is not a "political act" - it is a cultural and religious act that the Church is right to speak out on (even if commenting on legislation). 

Should the Church have kept quiet in its opposition to the Iraq War or the death penalty (both can be seen as political stands) - or is it only certain topics that the author would like the Church to be silent on?

Martin Gallagher
6 years 11 months ago
It seems that the 20-somethings are stuck in an even more prolonged adolescent state than we experienced.  In my era, you embraced relativism in your university/grad school days and then sobered up in your mid twenties.  It's taking them a little longer today, but I suspect they'll be a lot more orthodox in their late thirties.  The truths of life catch up to you eventually.
ed gleason
6 years 11 months ago
I was at a funeral today, in a church in the round.  a Croatian/Irish family and friends of all ages; almost all could make the sign of the cross in imitation of the priest but less then 20% participated in the liturgy. The laity are slipping away with greater and greater speed and there is no plan or leaders in place to stop the slide. The charismatic priests who could do evangelization either left ministry in the late sixties or have passed on. Please stop blaming VatII, that's like talking about fileoque.   
Benjamin Alexander
6 years 11 months ago
What's never mentioned in these comments is the question of whose conscience matters on these topics, such as with gay marriage. It's always assumed that the traditional Catholic conscience is the only one that's under assault with reference to gay marriage. But what of those people whose consciences are bothered by being complicit in, supporting, and benefitting from a system that excludes certain persons from the benefits that they enjoy? Take a straight religious minister who is pro-gay marriage. Does it matter that their conscience is bothered that they cannot preside over a marriage that the state will also recognize, but the state will recognize and promote straight marriages? Or, take the justice of the peace that feels the same way and wants to preside over the marriage of gay couples-and is bothered that s/he cannot. 

So it seems that the state, if it is going to respect the consciences of both sides, needs to be able to enact legislation that doesn't just favor one side over the other. Usually the presumption of liberty adjudicates these matters in the courts, meaning that a practice that bothers you will be permitted so long as you are not forced to take part in it directly (although indirectly you may have to, if it is practiced in your society). That's not always a clean system, of course. A Catholic JOP might preside over a second, third, or fourth marriage for a non-Catholic, such as in the case of someone like Clarence Thomas for Rush Limbaugh. Here we have an example of a Catholic who (willingly) participated in a state-sanctioned event that his Church does not permit. But there are Catholic divorce lawyers and judges who participate in legal system, often against their Church's own teachings, because it is recognized that there is some distinction between the operations of the Church and those of the State and that's it's not an infringement on anyone's conscience (necessarily) to live in a society where that's the case.

My point: Figuring out these tough matters is where the discussion should go, not in the rather fatuous claim that it's only the poor traditional Catholics whose consciences aren't being respected.
Jim McCrea
6 years 11 months ago
Boo hoo.  Poor traddies who are sooooooooooo against same-sex marriage because it violates "the sanctity of marriage."  When you fight as much against the ease with which good Catholics and others can get a divorce, I'll take your concerns to heart.
The Catholic Church effectively gives tacit approval to divorce with what has become the charade of annulment.  In their 2002 book, “Catholic Divorce:  The Deception of Annulments”, Joseph Martos and Pierre Hegy state:
“Because the grounds for annulment have become so broad that practically anyone who applies for one can obtain it, many observers now regard annulments as ‘virtual divorces.’  After all, the same grounds for divorce in a civil court have ‘become grounds for the nonexistence of marriage in an ecclesiastical court.’  (Page 23)  To add to the deceit, many couples who receive annulments do so believing that their marriage was, in fact, sacramentally valid – that the marital bond did exist but that, over time, it began to break down.  These couples, understandably, choose not to disclose this part of the story to marriage tribunals so that they can qualify for an annulment.”
 In other words it is the Catholic game of nudge-nudge, wink-wink.
Until then, physicians heal thyselves.


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