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A leading scholar in the history of Christianity predicts that a widening chasm between the laity and leaders of the Catholic Church will lead to schism in the not too distant future. Diarmaid MacCulloch, a professor at Oxford, said that while the future of the Christian faith as a whole is bright, the Catholic Church should expect fracture. From Religion News Service:

MacCulloch said in an interview that "there are also many conflicts" within Christianity, "and these are particularly serious in the Roman Catholic church, which seems on the verge of a very great split over the Vatican's failure to listen to European Catholics." He predicted that Catholicism faces a division over attempts by popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to "rewrite the story" of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council by portraying it as a "minor adjustment" in church governance, rather than as a "radical move to change the way authority is expressed."

"Conflict in religion is inevitable and usually healthy -- a religion without conflict is a religion that will die, and I see no sign of this with Christianity," MacCulloch said. "But the stance of the popes has produced an angry reaction among those who want to see the council continue. No other church in history has ever made all its clergy celibate. It's a peculiarity of the Western Latin church, and it looks increasingly unrealistic."

The Vatican's refusal to allow Roman Catholics to talk about married or female clergy was "not the reaction of a rational body," MacCulloch said.

Do you see schism on the horizon? Do you agree with MacCulloch’s assessment that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have tried to roll back Vatican II reforms? I wonder if Catholics unhappy with their church would go through the trouble of forming a new group, or simply join one of the many denominations that might fit their beliefs more closely?

Michael J. O’Loughlin

Note: An earlier version of this post was deleted unintentionally.


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Thomas Piatak
10 years 8 months ago
MacCulloch is quite hostile to the Catholic Church, as his writings make clear.  But if he wants to focus on a Christian body with disabling divisions, I suggest he turn his attention to his own Church of England and its progeny.  The Episcopal church, for example, lost 23% of its active participants between 2000 and 2010:  http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-episcopal-churchs-collapse/
Juan Lino
10 years 8 months ago
The Catechism of the Catholic Church – a great fruit of V2 – defines schism as follows: “schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.” (Paragraph #2089 in the CCC which is extracted from #751 of the current Code of Canon Law.
So, regarding your first question: “Do you see schism on the horizon?” It’s already here! Do I expect it to become a formal declaration (i.e., a formal acknowledgment of a reality that already exists)? No, because the wolves in sheep’s clothing currently in the Church want to stay hidden so they can undermine Her - the Church - from within.
Regarding your second question: “Do you agree with MacCulloch that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have tried to rewrite the history of Vatican II, or are they interpreting in a slightly different way?” Absolutely not! I believe that it’s those that justify aberrations by citing the “Spirit of V2” that are the revisionists. Both Blessed John Paul II the Great and Pope Benedict are the authentic interpreters of V2 and I would not have become Catholic if not for JP2 and would not have as deep a relationship with Christ without the writings of the current vicar of Christ.
Jeanne Linconnue
10 years 8 months ago
Tom, I guess you would rather not look at the reality that 1/3 of those raised Catholic in the US have left the church. Nor do you wish to look at the reality that only about 10-20% of those who were baptized Catholic in western Europe are active Catholics today. And I'm quite sure you don't want to look at the current trend in Brazil where the self-identified Catholics have fallen from 90-% of the population to 70+% of the population today, projected to be only 50% of the population of Brazil in another 10-20 years. The same thing is happening throughout Latin America, but the pope seems fixated on Brazil - the single largest Catholic country in the world and a country that recently elected a woman as its President. Brazil is apparently living in the 21st century, not the 19th or the 16th.

Does denial change the reality that the Catholic church in America has lost more members in both sheer numbers (the largest denominatin to begin with) and in % terms?  Does pointing the finger at other denomination's problems change the reality of what has happened and continues to happen to the Roman Catholic church?  Why is avoiding looking at reality so popular with ''conservative'' Catholics? Do you think if you don't look at it, it will just go away? Not likely, given that the research shows that the young adult Catholics are walking away in even greater numbers than their elders.  There is nothing ''anit-catholic'' about pointing out the truth.

''Schism'' is already here. The monolith church has been breaking up for some time now in the west.  As the third world countries develop economically and their populations become more educated, as the population, especially women, gain more freedom and access to decent jobs, they will most likely begin to follow the same pattern that has been established in Europe, now in Ireland and Poland too, in N. America and increasingly in Latin America. Taking the church back to midaevil times doesn't work with an educated populace.  ''Schism'' - at least if meaning the departure of a significant number of baptized Catholics  has been happening individual by individual, family by family, for at least 20-30 years now.
10 years 8 months ago
Renowned Church Historian, D. MacCulloh   predicts   schism within the Catholic Church in the near future. I think he’s right! Indeed, I think the   Church is already in schism, (God help us!) or perhaps   in a type of schism, which for want of a better word I call “embryonic” schism. It’s developing and pretty soon may come to full birth.
 Right or wrong, its my humble opinion that the  lethal mix of fear-driven nostalgia for the way things were, along with tightened clamps  on power, that runs through the veins of the modern Institutional Church   in all its parts, lay and clerical, is the ecclesial virus that causes the moral sickness called schism.
Like a “GP” I may be able to identify the “probable cause” of illness, but   to   effect a cure the patient must go to a “Specialist.” Respectfully, I choose to leave to the few “Specialists” in the Church today  who are not fear and power obsessed, to reset the compass on the bark of Peter which seems to be spinning wildly! Does the   Church  need  another Angelo Roncalli?  “Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on us!”         
david power
10 years 8 months ago
The professor is predicting these things on the known data.
This is natural but dangerous.
In a wonderful essay Cardinal Ratzinger explained how the new evangelization will not come about.It will not be about crowds and big statistics etc but will follow the ageold path of personal encounter .He took some words from Teilhard De Chardin  "les blanc des origines" basically the "whites of the origins which is what each new living organism is under a microscope.Nothing more than white.It is indistinguishable in any real sense.So , he explained that History still belongs to God.The very next ten minutes before us is a mystery.
I think his comments on the 2nd Vatican council are a little off   , it was not just about authority but also about witness.Wojtyla was an unmitigated disaster and it may take the Church decades to recover from his egomania and fear of reality but Pope Benedict has a far more humble approach and who is to say that the we will not have a future pope who will reach out to all of the baptized and make room for all of God's children?.
I think that before schism we will see a reformed church. 
The protestants are teaching the catholics on a daily basis of the wonder of the Gospel.Of how it can be so much simpler.This will all eventually bear great fruit and we will in a few decades all be praying to St Martin Luther. 
Tim O'Leary
10 years 8 months ago
Jeanne #3
You are talking about something different than schism, which usually applies only when bishops leave and continue to ordain new clergy. You are right that individuals are leaving, but many are also returning (reverts) when they mature and have families. But those who are leaving are also having few children, and those who are converting, or staying, are having more children, so your demographic claims do not hold up (so much for denial). Also, see the recent CARA study showing that of all Christian denominations in America, the one with the lowest rate of loss (68%) are Catholics, followed by Baptists. http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/reverts-catholics-who-left-and-came.html. It is the liberal Protestant Churches that are losing the most, proportiionately. Also note that 70% of children born Atheist become religious later in life.

MacCulloch is a homosexual activist (in the Gay Christian Movement since 1976) and his claim is wishful thinking. As Tom #1 says, he has it backwards. He can’t even accept the much diluted Anglican moral discipline, although he is an Anglican deacon. This story reminds me of an event in the Woody Allen movie Zelig, where a doctor emphatically but falsely diagnoses Zelig (the human chameleon) with a brain tumor, only to succumb to the same illness himself a few months later.

All the major schisms presently in sight are in the Protestant churches, and all revolve around sexual and gender disputes. This is most especially the case in the Anglican church, where most of the active (church-going) members are Africans who remain strongly opposed to the gay agenda. In the Catholic Church, the disgruntled are unlikely to have the organizational wherewithal to leave as a schism, since their disputes are largely confined to sexual morality and they can find protestant churches that will meet their moral doctrinal needs (and those Protestant factions are the ones most in need of members since they produce so few by natural means).

As regards Michael's question on Vatican II, Popes JPII and BXVI, by their amazing intellectual productivity and saintly lives have largely settled the legacy of this marvelous council as within the continuity of the conciliar history of the Church. The aging VC II deniers on the left and the right find this hard to take, but from a purely organizational viewpoint, their combined appointment of 90% of the current bishops and all the cardinals settles this for at least a century.
david power
10 years 8 months ago

Wonderful movie.Do you remember why Zelig finally broke with Freud?That was the best line of the entire movie.
I think your comments on wojtyla are funnier than Woody Allen.But we will agree to disagree.
It is important to know where people are coming from though and Michael Loughlin should have supplied the information about his homosexual activism rather than pass him off as some impartial academic.
Anne Chapman
10 years 8 months ago
Tim, if you wish to be technical and call schism only the departure of bishops, then go ahead. It's another avoidance mechanism. Your focus on birth rates is another avoidance mechanism.  

Most of the current bishops were appointed because of the fact that they are anything but independent thinkers or actors. They are pale clones of their bosses. There will be no leadership or move coming from Roman Catholic bishops, who are little more than parrots for Rome, but generally less colorful and less witty than real parrots.  I do not have time right now to look up  the research and point you to it. Your focus on birth rates is silly and mostly irrelevant.  And the reality is that for every person who joins or "reverts", four are leaving. Perhaps you don't really care. But, as more churches close, more schools close, more and more parishes have no resident priest (already 3000+ not counting closed parishes), and fewer and fewer in the pews are able to support the rapidly deteriorating structure/infrastructure, you might decide that somebody should have paid some attention before it was too late. If your desire is for a smaller church, then you should be quite content. Pointing to the African Anglican churches as some kind of model for Anglicanism is disturbing. Some of those bishops are advocating the criminalization of homosexuality,  support imprisonment, and sometimes execution for homosexuals. They are hardly models of Christ-like values. Frankly, if these bishops want to walk away from mainstream Anglicanism as schismatics, it would be a good thing for Anglicanism.  Diarmuid MacCullough's sexuality is totally irrelevant to what he is pointing out. He is a well-known and highly respected scholar. If some discount his scholarship due to his sexuality (unbelievable almost, but apparently some do), they say a lot more about themselves than about him.
John Barbieri
10 years 8 months ago
There wll not be a formal schism. It is not worth the effort.
The pope and the hierarchy appear to be going the way of the British monarchy and aristocracy.They will still be treated politely which they will take as aquiesence. But fewer and fewer people will take them seriously.They will be regarded as ''quaint' or as a nuisance. Eventually, people will not care about their pronoucements. But clerical criminality will no longer be tolerated.
Tim O'Leary
10 years 8 months ago
Jeanne #8
MacCullough is not just a homosexual by the way, but an activist for over 35 years. He is a liberal in the Anglican church (if that is really possible), so it has a huge impact on how he sees the Catholic Church and the world. If someone quoted a writing from Karol Wojtyla without indicating he was a Catholic pope, you might think that strange.

Anyway, how quick you are to dismiss the African Anglicans, in favor of the more enlightened Westerners. Every demographic decline you report on the Catholic Church in the West (exaggerated in my opinion) is even worse for the liberal Protestant Churches.

David #7
Many funny lines in that movie, including this one: ''I'm 12 years old. I run into a Synagogue. I ask the Rabbi the meaning of life. He tells me the meaning of life... But, he tells it to me in Hebrew. I don't understand Hebrew. Then he wants to charge me six hundred dollars for Hebrew lessons.''
Jim McCrea
10 years 8 months ago
“MacCulloch is quite antagonistic to the Catholic Church, as his writings make clear.”

Au contraire:  to hold up a mirror that shows your warts and wrong thinking is not antagonistic, it is truth-telling, painful that it might be.

He, along with Philip Jenkins, makes Catholics uncomfortable because they challenge delusions that are treated as gospel.

To make but one point from Jenkins’  "The Lost History of Christianity."  In it you'll find, among other things, that Latin Rite (i.e., European or “Roman”) Catholicism is better described as the largest survivor of the original Churches as opposed to being "the original."  A virtually total purge of Christianity, mostly by Islam and most particularly in Asia, left Europe as the geographical heart of the Christian faith.  Whole areas were made devoid of Christian communities and believers elsewhere were reduced to a tiny fraction of the population.

To quote Jenkins’ work (page 25):  "The uprooting (of the Asian Churches between 1200 & 1500 by Islam) created the Christianity that we commonly think of today as the true historical norm, but which, in reality was the product of the elimination of alternative realities.  Christianity did indeed become 'European', but about a millennium later than most people think."
Thomas Piatak
10 years 8 months ago

I'm hardly avoiding reality.  Yes, the Catholic Church has lost many members in the United States, but it is still growing, unlike the Episcopal church, which has lost so many members that it is actually shrinking.  Indeed, as Tim O'Leary points out, the Catholic Church has a higher retention rate than most other Christian bodies.  Yes, levels of Catholic practice have declined in Western Europe, but levels of Protestant practice-among Anglicans in England, the Reformed churches in the Netherlands and Switzerland, and Lutherans in Germany and Scandinavia-have declined even more. 

These examples are instructive because they show, definitively, that the solution to the problems within the Church is not to emulate the example of liberal Protestantism.  The denominations I mentioned all have married clergy and female clergy, are more or less accepting of homosexuality, are generally tolerant of divorce and abortion, and have a large measure of lay governance.  Yet each of them is losing members rapidly.  Conforming Christianity to the spirit of the age, as these denominations have done, is a recipe for stagnation and decline. 

The answer to the problems in the Church is to be found, I believe, in the other example you mention, the growth of evangelical and Pentecostal groups in Latin America.  These groups are characterized by the intensity of their belief:  they believe that the supernatural is real, that our actions in this life have eternal consequences, and that Christians must convert non-Christians.  These beliefs have also been characteristic of Catholicism, though they are less characteristic today than they once were.  They are still more prevalent among Catholics than they are among liberal Protestants, which is why the Catholic Church is faring better than  liberal Protestant bodies are, but they are less prevalent among Catholics than they are among the type of evangelical and Pentecostal groups that are flourishing in the Third World, which is precisely why those groups are flourishing.  To solve the problems in the Church, we need a fresh infusion of Faith and a new focus on evangelization, which is why Pope Benedict has proclaimed a Year of Faith and has urged what he calls the New Evangelization.
Carlos Orozco
10 years 8 months ago
Diarmaid MacCulloch? Never heard of him. No matter. What does the good professor have to say about the Anglican Church and its embrace of priestesses and homosexual priests and bishops? What future lies ahead for that schism-ridden Christian (?) denomination? Why would we expect otherwise if the Catholic Church adopted such ruinous European ideas?
Jeanne Linconnue
10 years 8 months ago
Tim, there is no relevant way to compare not mentioning that Wojlyta was Pope in reference to something he writes with not mentioning that a historian is gay.  If he was Archbishop of Canterbury, then one might mention that. But there would be no reason to mention that he is gay unless his premise about schism is based on the RCC's teachings about homosexulty, which does not appear to be the case. The sexuality of scholars is not normally included as something worth mentioning unless the person is specifically discussing sexuality issues. 

If you agree with the Anglican bishops in Africa who support criminalizing homosexuality, and seek to imprison those who don't "stay in the closet", then there are absolutely no grounds on which we can carry on even a semblance of a discussion. 
Patricia Bergeron
10 years 8 months ago
While we're at it, why not have everyone who posts on this blog declare his/her own sexuality, just to be clear? We would not,of course, because to do so would be disrespectful. So let's not disrespect other people by making irrelevant and uninformed comments about our perceptions of their sexuality. (Which is all we liberals are really saying.)

And by the way, what child is "born Atheist?" I heard we were all born children of God.
10 years 8 months ago
"The protestants are teaching the catholics on a daily basis of the wonder of the Gospel.Of how it can be so much simpler.This will all eventually bear great fruit and we will in a few decades all be praying to St Martin Luther."  David (#5), your post strikes a chord in me.
A dear friend and mentor, who is an Old Testament biblical scholar and a poet, wrote to me recently of his conviction that we are at one of those times in history where a seismic shift it taking place. The last one, he believes, was in the 1500s with  the Protestant Reformation.  Every 500 years or so, he thinks, the world undergoes such a shift. He went on to say that the Catholic Church will look very different once that shift has taken place:  we who are now living at the beginning of the 21st century would not be able to recognize it. Your comment about protestants teaching us is very true, David. 

The Fathers of Vatican II, in their Dogmatic Constitution on the Church - Lumen Gentium - make an earth-shaking statement: "the CHURCH OF CHRIST is composed of ALL WHO BELONG TO CHRIST BY REASON OF BAPTISM ... and that this CHURCH OF CHRIST SUBSISTS in VARIOUS ECCLESIAL COMMUNITIES" (ONE of which is the Roman Catholic Church).  Although the Council Fathers write that the CHURCH OF CHRIST SUBSISTS IN ITS FULLNESS in the RCC (i.e., all the essential elements of the NT Church are present), they do no write that the RCC is IDENTICAL with the COC. 

This statement is the bedrock of the ecumenical relationships that have developed since Vatican II.  If we take this to heart, we can no longer assert that the Roman Catholic Church is the ONLY TRUE CHURCH, although there are some among us who still do.  Mind you:  this is the teaching of an Ecumenical Council.  The cat is out of the bag!

My hope (and my dream) is that the Church in the future will be a much more inclusive one in which a future generation of Christians will see that ALL OF US WHO BELONG TO CHRIST BY REASON OF OUR BAPTISM are found in diverse ecclesial communities and express our faith and life in diverse ways ... if this comes to be (and it is, recall, the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper in the Gospel of John: that they all may be one), we will then truly be a 'catholic' Church.  

Jim McCrea
10 years 8 months ago
"Yes, levels of Catholic practice have declined in Western Europe, but levels of Protestant practice-among Anglicans in England, the Reformed churches in the Netherlands and Switzerland, and Lutherans in Germany and Scandinavia-have declined even more."

But, but, but ... The RCC is supposed to the the One True Church and all the rest of the cited organizations are but lowly sects .. right?

How can the OTC's decline be explained just because the Sects are experiencing the same thing?

Can it be ... no, it can't, can it? ... that the OTC isn't the OTC, but just another denomination in the fractious amalgam called Christianity?  Hmmmmmmmmmmm.
Jeanne Linconnue
10 years 8 months ago
Tim, you have still not told us if you agree with the African Anglican bishops who wish to criminalize homosexuality - you seem to believe that they are ''right'' and mainstream Anglicanism is ''too liberal''. Is that your belief?  As I stated before, Anglicanism will suffer no loss if these bishops become schismatic under the ''official'' terminology. They are an embarassment to the entire Anglican communion.

Your broadbrushed treatment of fertility rates, etc are not even discussable -  they are exceedingly broad statements with no nuance nor context. Basing any projections on them is meaningless without a great deal more refinement.

You dismiss out of hand the critiques (hardly unique to Dr. MacCullough and extensively discussed within the RCC as well as outside it) because he is homosexual and an ''activist.''  Well, if I were homosexual I would probably also be an activist - until such day comes in history that homosexuals are no longer the victims of discrimination both outside and inside the church. 

Without having read Dr. MacCullough's statements in any depth, so based only on a one or two sentence summary, I tend to agree with him that the Roman Catholic church's teachings on gender and sexual issues are among the primary reasons the Catholic church has lost tens of millions of Catholics in the US, probably more than 100 million in Europe, and well on the way to losing 100 million+ in Latin America. Dismissing his ideas because he is a gay activist is nonsensical and is evidence of prejudice rather than objective analysis. To call disagreement with church teachings on gender (teachings which many call ''self-serving and patriarchal'') and sexuality ''self-serving gender politics'' shows a blatant lack of understanding and knowledge of an enormous body of serious theological scholarship on these issues. Those who reduce these issues to ''self-serving gender politics'' display appalling ignorance. But, then again, I am a woman, so my viewpoints are as dismissable as those of gays.  Apparently only the ideas of male celibates are  trusted by some.

But, unfortunately for those who prefer to dismiss the ideas of ''gay activists'' simply because they are ''gay activists'', the reality is that few people leave the Catholic church because of the teachings on the eucharist or the incarnation or resurrection.  To deny they leave because of church teachings on gender and sexual issues is to have one's head in the sand. There are many in the church today who are happily holding the door open so that all of those who disagree with the church's current teachings on these issues will leave, and as fast as possible. I assume you are among those who really don't want anyone to stay who disagrees with the Catholic church on ANY teaching at all - especially those related to gender and sexuality.  You are well on the way to seeing your wishes come true. Those who count the days until all the ''dissenters'' are gone will then be able to relax in self-satisfied contentment, heads comfortable cradled in the sand, never forced to have to deal with either people or ideas that might make them leave their personal comfort zones.  This may be totally un-christlike, and definitely not what we are called to by Jesus in the gospels, but it seems that a nice, safe, traditional little country club where everyone thinks alike, is what many Catholics seek these days. Enjoy.
Tim O'Leary
10 years 8 months ago
Jeanne #21
A gay activist has of course a right to express his or her opinion, but there should be truth-in-advertising. It puts into context the bias in the opinion. In fact, the journalism and academic professions would be far more honest if they would publicize their political opinions, and not pretend to hide behind a false objectivity.

As regards fertility rates or demographics science in general, you obviously are uncomfortable with the data. But, at least you seem to agree that the majority of people leaving the Catholic Church are choosing sexual liberty over the faith. And look how unhappy they are - full of rage for the successors of the apostles. I may be wrong, but I think sexual liberty is insufficient to build an alternate church.

I am not for criminalization of adult homosexuality but I am for strict age of consent laws and strict anti-pornography and anti-prostitution laws (sex trafficking is a modern form of slavery that the sexual revolutionaries are blind to). I am also for religious freedom, meaning practice and worship, which the left is so uninterested in, presently. And while you try to claim the high moral ground for the Western heterodox Christians over the Africans, think of the millions of abortions the nice civilized liberals are promoting. I expect that killing children will be a harder sin to overcome on judgment day.

Bill Mazzella
10 years 8 months ago
"Loyalty to the Vicar of Christ separates the men from the boys. No getting around it fellas, however hard you try ;)"

Why Maria!! What separates the women from the girls? Or don't they count.
Beth Cioffoletti
10 years 8 months ago
Dunno, but the perspective here - that one can "join" the Catholic Church, or separate from it, seems backwards to me. I think Flannery O'Connor says it well with this:

"I am glad you are going to Mass because along with study there should be no better way of finding out if you are really interested in the Church. You don't join the Catholic church. You become a Catholic." Flannery O'Connor Letter, Dec 12, 1960

Catholicism is not something that you join as much as an awakening, a realization and awareness of the underlying truth of who we are.  The Church dogma, rituals and liturgies affirm and nourish that awareness.

Or - as Richard Rohr said it in this morning's email: 
"We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking."
Jeanne Linconnue
10 years 8 months ago

This forum is not a good place to discuss these issues, which are multi-layered and very complex.  It is not even possible to establish definitions on which to continue a discussion.

 "A gay activist has of course a right to express his or her opinion, but there should be truth-in-advertising. It puts into context the bias in the opinion "

 In the post here, and in the Religion News Service story, he discusses the different interpretations of Vatican II, especially in how "authority" is currently defined and exercised in the Roman Catholic church, as well as specifically mentioning mandatory celibacy and the church's refusal to ordain women. I am not a gay activist. I am a woman, wife, and mother of three young adult children. Like Diarmuid MacCullough I disagree with the church's current stance on all of those issues. Should every poster here begin with a statement _ "I am a straight/gay, married/divorced/single, male/female, liberal/conservative, activist/passive supporter/indifferent to this issue..."?  Should you begin your posts with "I am a conservative, straight male who is VERY uncomfortable with the reality of homosexuality and I believe that homosexuals should wear some kind of identifying mark and/or identify themselves when writing or giving interviews so that the rest of us can put everything they say or do into "proper" context". 

Unfortunately you are unable to see past the man's sexuality. It is totally irrelevant and not something he needs to disclose unless he is predicating his entire conclusion about possible "schism" in the Roman Catholic church on the Roman Catholic church's teachings on homosexuality - which he didn't even mention.

So, could you please point out specifically where in the post above or in the RNS story you believe that Dr. MacCullough's "gay activism" points to "bias" in his conclusions about church authority, mandatory celibacy (except for former Protestant priests!), and denial of a sacarament based only on gender? 

As regards fertility rates or demographics science in general, you obviously are uncomfortable with the data. But, at least you seem to agree that the majority of people leaving the Catholic Church are choosing sexual liberty over the faith.

Please - refrain from putting either words or conclusions into my mouth. I am not "uncomfortable" with data on fertility. The demographic trends of the last few decades are a positive trend, because they are leading to a more sustainable growth rate in human population. Perhaps you could explain specifically what you are discussing as "undesirable" in the reduced rate of global population growth. Are you (like Rome), upset because Muslims in Europe have more children than Christian families are having? Are you upset because young women are choosing to exercise their talents and follow their interests outside of the home and thus choosing to have fewer children than earlier generations did in order to balance home and career?  What specifically upsets you about lower birth rates?  Perhaps if you clarify your concerns, it will be possible to discuss them. However, if you want to go into an in-depth discussion, perhaps you should send me an email (just click on my name at the bottom of this post).

As far as why people leave, the research shows that there are many reasons, not "sexual liberty".  Do you wish to discuss the nuances and complexities of this trend also? Then please send me an email.

I am not for criminalization of adult homosexuality but I am for strict age of consent laws and strict anti-pornography and anti-prostitution laws (sex trafficking is a modern form of slavery that the sexual revolutionaries are blind to).

Once again, you are over-generalizing. Are you implying that homosexuals as a group are opposed to age of consent laws? Or against laws restricting pornography and prostitution?  I'm really not at all sure what you are trying to imply with this particular statement.  Who exactly are you talking about? Anyone who doesn't believe as you do?  Do you believe that all homosexuals, all couples who choose modern contraception within their marriages,  all who believe that divorced people should be admitted to sacraments, or believe that women are equal to men and should not be denied a sacrament because of gender, etc, etc  may be assumed to support eliminating age of consent laws, laws restricting pornography and prostitution and also support sex trafficking? (from what we have observed in the church in recent years, it does seem as though a lot of members of the hierarchy might support getting rid of age-of-consent laws for the priests under them who molest kids and maybe even laws against sex trafficking. After all, they failed to report them to police and allowed them to remain in posititions where they could have access to under-age kids).  Who are the "sexual revolutionaries" who are "blind" to the evils of sex trafficking?  Please define "sexual revolutionaries", so that the rest of us can read your posts within the correct context. Full disclosure, truth in advertising and all of that.

 I am also for religious freedom, meaning practice and worship, which the left is so uninterested in, presently.

Please provide specifics. Exactly how is "the left" (and define "the left" while you are at it) uninterested in religious freedom in practice and worship? Are they coming into parishes and telling the priest how to conduct the liturgy and throwing them out because of a priest changing some words (exercising religious freedom in worship?) as happened in Illinois a week or two ago. Except it wasn't the "left" that threw the priest out of his job, it was a "right-wing" bishop. Or are you concerned that women who are not Catholic but who work for a Catholic organization that is supported by taxpayer funds (many Catholic charities groups, universities and colleges, hospitals etc) might choose to exercise her own religious freedom and use modern birth control?  Let's get specific - all of these generalities that you use are code. Why don't you simply be upfront about it - after all, your  main beef with MacCullough is that he didn't "disclose" that he is gay and that he works to promote the rights of gays.  Those who are raising a ruckus about "religious freedom" in a pluralistic country sometimes seem to be really concerned only about their own "relilious freedom" and aren't really too worried if the religious freedom of others is trampled in the rush to protect their own.

And while you try to claim the high moral ground for the Western heterodox Christians over the Africans, think of the millions of abortions the nice civilized liberals are promoting. I expect that killing children will be a harder sin to overcome on judgment day.

You are again resorting to a straw man. You expressed contempt for mainline Anglicanism (no freedom of religlious belief for them is OK in your mind, I guess) while expressing admiration for the "conservative" Anglican bishops, some of whom advocate the criminilization of homosexuality.  You continue to dodge the implications of your statements and are again trying to divert the discussion by relying on that best of all red herrings - switching the subject to abortion. Your tactics - making assumptions about the beliefs of others which involve wild leaps, your avoidance of direct statements about your support of African Anglican bishops who sp demonstrates that your admiration for the most conservative (homophobic) African bishops says more about you than about Anglicanism.

We have "highjacked" this thread, which is not what it is for. To continue the discussion, please send an email.
10 years 8 months ago
Amen, Beth! 'Being Catholic' is awakening to who we already are. It's a journey of discovery, not simply 'joining a community'.  In our descriptions of faith commitment, we sometimes fall into the trap of using the current political descriptives, and in turn we find ourselves caught in a labyrinth of divisive adjectives.  It's all about awakening, not making a political decision.
Jim McCrea
10 years 8 months ago
If a gay theologian's/historian's sexuality necessarily biases his idea on the future of Catholicism, cannot one say the same thing about a straight theologian's/historian's biases?
Bill Freeman
10 years 8 months ago
@Maria Byrd - Again with the homophobic attacks.  I don't know if you intend it, but your posts come across as if yoiu are the sole interpreter of God.  You might want to consider another line of work, huh?
Michael Barberi
10 years 8 months ago
The schism in the Church today is not solely reflected by those Catholics or bishops that have left the Church. We have a schism because most Catholics, theologias and many priests and bishops simply do not believe that many of the doctrines of the church are the complete moral truth. These Catholics have not recieved most of the sexual ethical teachings of the Magisterium and pope, while remaining faithful Catholics.

Poll after poll by repectable Catholic theologians using accrurate methology (e.g, the late Dean Hoge) have been reporting that this profound division (schism) within the Catholic Church is profound expecially among the youngest cohorts. Many priests continue to give the Eucharist to people who use contraception, who attend weekly Mass and who represent the majority of young married adults, and many give Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried. This is not "cafeteria Catholicism" but a Catholicism based on conscience and reason depite those that continue to call these priests and Catholics unfaithful, dissenters or invincible ignorant.

The Magisterium has lost its credibiltiy and most of the priests during the papacy of Wojtyla-JP II that were made bishops had to demonstrate their complete submission in word and deed to all Church teachings. No priest who questioned a teaching was made a bishop. To ensure that Wojtyla-JP II's teachings would not change, he instititued a new category of teaching called "definitive" in his 1998 motu proprio that essentially said that all such teachings of the pope or bishops were "irreformable". This made the evolution of doctrine, something that history has taught us is how we come to know the truth and apply it in a changing world, a thing of the past.

As one priest-confessor told me recently, a Catholic should never allow a disagreement with a Church teaching, especially controversial teachings where both sides of the theological debate believe they are professing the truth, to prevent you from building and nuturing your relationship with Christ. This is exactly what many Catholics are doing. To many that have studied moral theology, there are legitimate philosophical and theological reasons for disagreeing with certain Church teachings. We live in a divided Church and as JP II said, also in a Crisis of Truth. This is the great schism in the Church today.
Tim O'Leary
10 years 8 months ago
Jeanne #25
This is funny. You keep asking me so many questions, and misinterpret or distort each of my answers. You use 1255 words to tell me “we” are hijacking this post? (Your comments are 40% of the total above vs. my 17%, word count). And you complain about me putting words in your mouth when you do so literally (with inverted commas even - para 3). Look to the ACLU, NAMBLA, EGALE, and other groups for pushing for lowering the age of consent and weakening anti-prostitution laws. Your slur that clergy might want lower consent laws for the very few actual perps in their midst is unbelievably uncharitable and Christophobic.

Authority is intimately bound up with the current rebellion on sexual ethics. Here is a quote from Christina Odone’s favorable and more honest review of MacCulloch’s major opus on Church History: “MacCulloch's idiosyncratic take … personal convictions are often persuasively argued and always heartfelt. When he writes of the present battle over homosexuality within the Anglican communion, MacCulloch, gay and Anglican, allows his dismay to ring in every word. His intimate involvement with the subject lends this history an emotional appeal usually absent from a scholarly work. It also allows for some peculiar foibles, such as the historian's puzzling emphases: why should we read more about the Jesuits than the Virgin Mary, less on Jesus's ministry than on John Wesley's? The effect risks distorting rather than illuminating aspects of Christianity.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/oct/25/history-of-christianity-diarmaid-maculloch

You ask what could be undesirable about plummeting fertility rates. I don’t really care about the future vitality of the Episcopalian Church per se but the NYT article Tom links to in #29 gives some more demographic data pointing to their collapse and near-term extinction. Extinction of a culture or group is undesirable to all but the suicidal. I don’t want Catholic liberals to go extinct. I want them to revert to the faith.

I leave you with a question you may decide not to answer. Is it homophobic to believe that anal sex is bad, medically and morally, for heterosexuals and homosexuals?

You are correct. Bias goes both ways. One can be correctly biased by the truth. The important point is that one is more honest to present one's view with an admission of one's bias.

Michael #31
I suggest you read the NYT story on the collapse of the Episcopalians (the original contraceptors )
Michael Barberi
10 years 8 months ago
Tim #32,

I don't need to read the suggested NYT article to gain some enlightenment, as you imply.

There has been no widely respected scientific study in human experience, that the US Institute of Medicine or the Amerian Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologests (or any other respected organization) has accepted as conclusive evidence that contraception in the practice of responsible parenthood, for good reasons (Pius XII) is the "cause" of (as Wojyta-JP II asserted): every marital act between spouses is lustful pleasure, that their marital acts represent a false, evil and destructive love, and if contraception fails, these spouses will not accept a child born by accident but will abort it...[while couples who practice PC will accept a child born by accident into their families with unconditional love.] 

I also would like to point out to you that most Catholics, disagree with the conclusions of the Pheonix case...this is an issue of direct verus indirect abortion...to save the life of a mother whose life was threatened by a fetus who could not survive under any circumstances. The Church called this direct abortion and immoral. So, the Church would rather let two people die than to save the life of a young mother of 3 children. Tim, some people might believe that agreeing with all the teachings of the Magisterium is being a good faithful Catholic, but most people can think for themselves and reach a different reasoned and theologically sound conclusion. 

Tim O'Leary
10 years 8 months ago
Michael #33
The article from Ross Douthat was about demographic decline of the Episcopalians, not your two responses. There is a very funny line in the article about institution denial - ''a Monty Python-esque 'it's just a flesh wound!''' - that some of the readers above might get.
Michael Barberi
10 years 8 months ago
Tim #34,

I read the NYT article and in my opinion the decline or schism in the Episcopal Church is mostly over homosexual individuals being ordained and the thesis that if the Catholic Church would give into the so-called liberal end of the Church, it would collapse. 

There are many priests in the Catholic Church that keep their homosexuality hidden in the Catholic Church, and more importantly they have been doing God's work for decades. I think the article does not address the issues I raised and stand by....the schism in the Catholic Church is not merely measured by the loss of Catholics to other Christian Churches of the loss of bishops. We have a schism in our Church over sexual ethics that has resulted in a divided church and crisis of truth, as JP II asserted may times. Catholics are not all going to hell in a handbasket because we disagree with certain teachings, but the Church is certainly in a handbasket and it is not heading in the right direction.

Fortunately, for most Catholics these are not issues that prevent them from practicing their faith, attend weekly Mass, receive the sacraments, and strive to live morally upright lives in accordance with Christ's Gospel. To most Catholics, sexual ethics are a big Ho-Hum, they already made up their minds base on their informed consciences, practical reason, giving respect to the Church's teaching, guidance of their spiritual advisor while remaining open to further education and enlightenment by the Church and the Holy Spirit. We call these people faithful Catholics who stay in the Church and try to reform it as best the can. This will take decades or even centuries.
Tim O'Leary
10 years 8 months ago
Ken #18
When Jesus prayed for Unity (John 17:21), he meant a unity subordinated to the Truth. Earlier in the same chapter (Jn 17:17), he said “Sanctify them by the truth” (make holy or cleanse from sin). It is a sham of a Church that cannot preach if abortion is murder or a blessing, if sodomy is a good or bad for you, if the resurrection is a pious fable or really happened (all disputes active in the Anglican/Episcopal Church). Jesus wants us all to be one with Him in His Church, not one of our making, and certainly not one that doesn’t call us to repent of our sins.

MacCulloch’s whole point is that the Catholic Church’s sexual & gender teaching will lead to a schism, so the fact that he is a sexual/gender activist is highly relevant. If he said that the Church will enter schism because of its teaching on the Eucharist or the Resurrection, you might have had a point. But all his “critiques” of the Church derive from his own personal proclivities even if indirectly (his problem with authority, for example, is because he wants a different teaching). He is not an unbiased observer, by any stretch of the imagination. Michael quotes MacCulloch complaining about the institution of celibacy for the clergy as unique and “increasingly unrealistic”, almost as if this happened recently and could be the final straw. His critique is all about self-serving sex & gender politics.

In #8 above, you think all contrary arguments are avoidance mechanisms, but you have your head in the sand. You may think demographics are silly and unconnected to sterile sex, divorce, infidelity and homosexuality, but look at the Anglicans in the CARA report (retaining 45% vs. Catholics 68%), with the Episcopalian branch that is both the most liberal and the most in decline.

Patricia #17
Sorry I used the shorthand of “born atheist.” I meant that atheist parents have the poorest record of handing their convictions onto their children, landing at the bottom of the CARA graph at 30% retained.
Amy Ho-Ohn
10 years 8 months ago
The schism in the Church, such as it is, reflects the increasing distance between social classes in society. (This is predominently an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon; continental Europe mostly just has widespread and ever-expanding secularism.)

The Episcopalian Church appeals to the self-described "creative class." It offers dignified liturgy, literate preaching, good art and music, well-tended gardens for the parish soy-ice-cream socials, liberal politics, no questions asked about lifestyle choices and a strong preference for androgynous personal style. Professional people feel at home there; it's a kind of graduate/professional school ambience.

The Catholic Church appeals to the "working and service classes," small businessmen, immigrants and people with degrees in minimally intellectual subjects from third-tier colleges. It's a great place to go play your grandparents for an hour or two. (Life was better for the working class in your grandparents' day.) It preaches pseudo-bourgeois virtues (although Episcopalians usually live them better) in short homilies with lots of sports metaphors and not many polysyllabic words, and has tons of sentimental, plastic kitschy statues and paintings, toys and props and costumes and gestures to keep children, adolescents and post-adolescent children entertained during the talky parts and a strong preference for people who play their proper gender-conformant roles.

It's not exactly a schism in the technical sense, but a realignment. The Episcopalian Church gets fewer people than it loses, and it gets less-committed people, but it gets people who have quite a bit to offer in terms of time, talent and (above all) treasure. Joan Chittester and Margaret Farley can get invited to speak at Stanford and Yale; they have no business sharing a church with Timmy Dolan and Fabian Bruskewitz.

I completely understand why people leave the Catholic Church, because my parish is in a somewhat downscale neighborhood and it kind of drives me nuts. They're fat, they can't read music, they're tone-deaf, they don't wear real shoes in summer, the women come to mass half-naked (the fat ones too), they still haven't learned their lines from the new missal, their kids run all over the place screaming (in foreign languages) during the mass, and, not to put too fine a point on it, some of them are kind of smelly. The chapel is a gruesome little horror of gold-painted wood, spherical light-bulbs, fat-faced angels, bare-foot simpering saints. And when my co-parishioners (try to) sing the (never-varied) entrance hymn, they insist on putting in a completely inappropriate appoggiatura (of Haitian provenance, presumably) which always makes we want to kill someone. (And it's not air-conditioned.)

The only reason I go there is, if I went to an upscale suburban parish, I'm sure they'd think me very déclassé, and it's much more fun to despise than to be despised.

The Catholic Church has adapted itself to practically every culture on this planet. If it can't find a way to accommodate upper-middle class Western professionals, there will continue to be schism in fact if not in law.
Beth Cioffoletti
10 years 8 months ago
Another response of sorts to Ross's column:

Tim O'Leary
10 years 8 months ago
Oh Amy! (#37)
What a delightfully honest and politically incorrect post - very well written. It reminds me of James Joyce's description of Catholicism as ''here comes everybody,'' although a more apt description for your piece might be ''here comes everybody else.''

Our billion-plus Global Church is of course hard to pin down to any social or intellectual class or culture, and there is plenty of room for high culture in many parts of the world, even if we are mostly comprised of the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free - from sin (a la Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty).

They used to say the Episcopal Church was the ''Republican Party at Prayer.'' But today it is the ''Democratic Party's One-Percenters at Prayer.'' In fact, 1% well describes this aging church, in demographics, wealth and sexual habits.

The CARA report shows that Catholicism has the highest retention rate of any religion in America that is bigger than 1-2% of the population. It is probably not coincidental that it is the oppressed ''heretics'' from the Reformation churches - the Anabaptists (today's fundamentalists, Pentacostals and Evangelicals) that are closer to the Catholic Church in demographics and devotion.
Jim McCrea
10 years 8 months ago
Amy:  be nice to those somewhat smelly Haitians with whom you deign to worship.  One of these days one of them will be feeding you and wiping your incontinent bottom.  Be careful.  Be very, very careful!
Michael Barberi
10 years 8 months ago
Thanks Tom Piatak for that follow up article.

It appears to me that all of these authors are missing an important point. They claim that the modern secular culture has caused many Catholics, especially the post-Vatican II younger cohorts, to embrace their own sense of faith and morals and to ignore the teachings from Authority. They are incapable of describing any type of philosophical and theological argument in support of their viewpoints, and cannot explain the Church's position either.

The point I would like to make is that the Church has not put forth an intelligible and convincing narrative or theory in support of some of their teachings. When was the last time any Catholic heard a homily about sexual ethics from the Pulpit, or a series of lectures sponsored by a parish to this end? In truth, most parishes ignore these subjects like the plague. Hence, I fault the "silent pulpit" as much as our liberal secural culture for the attitudes of many younger Catholics.

People go to Mass to worship God, and most are influenced by what the priest says (often soft, loving sermons about Christ, redemption, doing good, helping neighbor, etc) but you never hear anything practical about how to grow spiritually, deal with moral dilemma and conflict, resolve issues of conscience, and how to understand and practice virtue and the heirarchy of values in concrete existential circumstances.  

As long as the Church does not own-up to being accountable for the sexual abuse scandal, resolve the disconnect between pastoral and doctrinal theology, and adequately address the suffering and pain of many Catholics (e.g, the divorsed and remarried, seriopositive couples, the limited and discriminatory role of women in the Church, imposed celibacy for same-sex individuals as the only way to their salvation, contraception for good and just reasons...to name a few), then the modern secular and liberal world will continue to have an disproportionate influence on Catholic thought, faith and morals.

As for Amy, I often love her sharp and nimble intelligence and I think she makes several good points. However, I would not characterize the parishes I have attended in the same way as she characterizes her own experiences. Nevertheless, the type of demeanor and attitudes in the parishes I have attended (except for my current parish) lacked what I would call a neigborly welcome if you were not of the same social and economic class that surround the pastor and run the Church's social agenda. 
Anne Chapman
10 years 8 months ago
Is there an ongoing ''schism'' - or at least a great leave-taking in the Catholic church? Of course. It doesn't take being a history scholar from Cambridge to be able to see that.   It's been going on for 30 years now. Is there a great leave-taking in mainline Protestantism?  Yes - also going on for some time now. There is a leave-taking in the Baptist churches also.  Playing a game of ''We're not losing as many as you are, nanny, nanny boo-boo'' seems to be a bit silly - and a preoccupation with meaningless comparisons between denominations is totally missing the point.  

Since this thread now offers links to lots of interesting commentary, here are two more links.  One is another rebuttal to the now-infamous column in the NYT. The other is simply  dry data - but very interesting dry data.   Trust in organized religion - of all sorts - continues to decline, and is even lower among Catholics than among Protestants.  Not too surprising that when asked about affiliation in various surveys, the biggest rise is in ''none'' or in ''spiritual but not religious.''  When the rise of the ''nones'' or the ''SBNR'' comes up in discussion or articles, the professional religionists get up on their high horses and snip at all of those ''immature'' and ''lazy'' and ''hedonistic'' and ''boring'' types for whom spirituality and a genuine religion that supports it is very important, but not easily found in organized religion so they are making their own way. At least the ''genuine religion that supports it'' part isn't easily found.

One must wonder when those in charge of all these various churches are going to stop blaming the dropouts and stop playing numbers games and excuses games, and ''We're better than you are'' games and take a good hard look in their various ecclesial mirrors and begin to figure out how they are contributiing to the ongoing disintegration of western christianity. Talking to the "nones" and the "SBNRs" instead of dismissing them as lightweights might be one place to start to gain a few insights.
10 years 8 months ago
Thank you, Anne, for expressing what many of us - especially those of us who teach students who are SBNR or "nones" - have come to know:  the youth of our day are not lacking in faith, but they are not finding a spiritual path in organized religion.  I teach both teenagers and undergraduates, and I learn so much from listening to them.  They know, without a doubt, that am a person of faith who takes that faith very seriously, but they also know me as someone who listens and who takes them seriously. I hear them describing their search for a 'spiritual path' - they recognize the "spirit" in life, that we are more than our bodies.  As I listen to them, I think of the contemplative, spiritual path I myself have found as a Catholic Christian, thanks to writers like Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, Martin Laird and others, but my experience is that majority of my fellow Catholics, who attend Mass every week,  never hear of this aspect of Christian life. 
I have tried to offer adult education in my parish about the 'contemplative dimension' of our Christian life, but I have found that people are generally suspicious of anything having to do with meditation or the prayer of the heart.  I am grateful our religious women, all over the country - contemporary Marys sitting at the feet of Jesus - who are raising the consciousness of contemporary Catholics  by opening up the treasure that they have experienced in contemplative living and offering it to anyone who is searching for a spiritual path.
Thomas Piatak
10 years 8 months ago
Ms. Chapman,

I think you have this backward.  This discussion didn't begin with Catholics criticizing liberal Protestants, but it  began because of a suggestion from an anti-Catholic Anglican that the Catholic Church is headed for a schism, essentially because it refuses to adopt liberal social views.  Many people regularly make this argument.  But the evidence is overwhelming that conforming Christianity to liberal social views does nothing to stem declining church membership.  Indeed, those Protestant denominations that have done the most to conform themselves to liberal social views have experienced the greatest decline in membership.

I don't know why Ross Douthat's column is ''infamous,'' other than the fact that Douthat is a faithful Catholic writing for a newspaper that has little use for faithful Catholics.   But his argument is persuasive, and the rebuttal you linked to offers little in the way of facts to contradict Douthat.  Indeed, the Hartford Institute for Religion Research report cited in the rebuttal notes that ''Among historically white congregations, the membership of the typical Oldline Protestant congregation is much older than that of Evangelical Protestant congregations. For 75 percent of Oldline Protestant congregations, less than 10 percent are young adult.''
Beth Cioffoletti
10 years 8 months ago
Great comments, Ken and Anne (#44 and #45).  I think that the popularity of Yoga classes attests to the spiritual hunger of our time that is not being met by the parish Churches.

I am lucky that one of my local Churches offers a Centering prayer group meeting every week.  We hear talks from spiritual teachers who nourish the contemplative dimension of our faith - Richard Rohr, Keating, Cynthia Bourgealt, Suzanne Stabile, Sr. Joan Chittister, etc.  Even though our members range from "conservative" to "liberal" (whatever that means), we all love (and are committed to) the program and the group itself.

Occasionally someone comes and challenges our "prayer", saying that it is "of the devil" or some such thing.  We treat them with kindness and tolerance, telling them that we are not there to argue.  Someone from the group will go outside and talk to them so that they do not disrupt the group meeting.  So far, this technique has worked well.  Fortunately, the pastor and religious education facilitator at the parish strongly support our group.

It is my sense that this contemplative charism is the very heart of the Catholic Church that goes back to Christ, and this is what will hold the Church together.  More than the rigid dogma or Latin or rules, it will be the contemplative spirit that will attract the young people.

But I also know that this group is rare and special.  Looking for Centering Prayer groups in other locales has been disappointing.
Anne Chapman
10 years 8 months ago
Ken, thank you for sharing your experiences with the young. I was a practicing Catholic for the first almost-60 years of my life. I now attend an Episcopal parish, primarily to accompany my husband, for whom formal liturgy is important.  Otherwise I too would be ''SBNR''. Recent studies are showing that the move to ''none'' or ''SBNR'' is no longer found only among the young. Increasing numbers of lifelong Catholics (I haven't seen studies of other denominations) are beginning to show that many who have been active Catholics their entire lives are also leaving - fed up, and, given that they are unlikely to live long enough to see the church get back on course, are unwilling to spend the rest of their lives being angry about so much that comes out of Rome, the bishops, and, increasingly, the pulpits in their own parishes. Several people walked out of mass during the homily when a priest in my former parish declared a week or two ago that anyone who votes Democratic is committing a mortal sin and that if they were registered as Democrats, they were morally bound to change their registration.  My son and his fiancee were there and they were horrified. They are what the church wants - young adults who are still practicing Catholics - but for how long? When the church itself becomes an obstacle on the spiritual journey, some decide that their spiritual life is too important to give up for institutional religion and so detour around the obstacle.

There are many active contemplative prayer groups in the metro area where I live, composed of people from a number of different denominations, including Baptist, non-denominational evangelical, and Methodist, but most are Catholic and Episcopalian. Or SBNR. However, there are few young people involved - most are 50s and older, with an occasional 30-something.  I'm not sure why that is the case.  Do you teach in Catholic schools/college?  If so, have you tried to start a contemplative prayer group there for the young?  

The young are very interested in spirituality - but most are totally turned off by the institutions. However, are they ''ready'' for contemplative prayer?  Richard Rohr sometimes points out that people who are in the ''first half'' of life are often not ready for contemplative prayer.  He also points out that many never get past the first half of life in terms of religious maturity and continue to seek ''law and order'', black-and-white religion rather than a deeper spirituality.

But I'm not sure that he is right - that younger adults would really not be ''ready'' for christian contemplative spirituality if introduced to it properly.  It is the young who so often turn to the eastern religions in their seeking, or to New Age. The popularity of writers such as Eckhart Tolle shows the continued appeal. When a niece was living with us while she was in college, she wanted to talk about spirituality with me. She is repelled by organized christianity, which she sees as oppressive and hypocritical.  I read the books she was interested in - such as the Power of Now, and the Celestine Prophecy, so that we could talk. I went with her to a Buddhist center to meditate because she did not want to go to my christian centering prayer group.  She is now married, and a mother. Although her husband goes to church, she won't attend, nor will she raise her children in any institutional church.  She is not exceptional, as you know. She represents a significant portion, perhaps the majority, of her generation in her aversion to institutional religion.
Beth Cioffoletti
10 years 8 months ago
I admit that I'm probably not "mainstream", but this morning I've been reading about the Rule of Benedict which has been followed by Christian monastic traditions for more than 1500 years.  Benedict wrote this "rule" because he was seeking to live a holy (authentic) life, and what was going on Rome was making him nuts.

Benedict didn't overthrow Rome, or even "leave" the Church, he just sought a way of life that was authentic.

It it's true and if it's real, the next generations will find it and follow.  If not, they won't.

david power
10 years 8 months ago
Fascinating to read some of the insights here.
David Smith , wise  and pithy as always.
Ken,I can only add Amen to your words and the prayer of Jesus.
The state of affairs is not really that much different to other epochs.
I think that spiritual hunger is like tears , a constant quantity in this world as Beckett said.
The original question about schism has been well-answered I feel.The verdict is an emphatic no.Lethargy will be the order of the day along with a vague spiritual groping.
There is nobody here who is not looking for a guide.We all seek wise men or women to help us.
Even the older heads still need someone to turn to.As a guide to Christ we have been without a good teacher on a global scale for almost 50 years.
There have been good priests and we all know lay catholics that inspire us and show us Jesus but in general the world is starved of a Christian with a heart big enough for everybody.The politicians who have ruled the church for decades  basically lived out the Cardinal of Sevilles role.Dostoyevsky's nostrils got their every odour.


Instead of schism we will see the complete failure of the New Evangelization.
Those who are leading it are not at all convincing.
This will precipitate the needed rethink which will allow for the Church to once again proclaim Christ and not just sit in judgement of the World.
Jim McCrea
10 years 8 months ago
" - anti-Catholic Anglican -"

Repeating a canard does not make it any truer than the first time stated.
Thomas Piatak
10 years 8 months ago
Mr. McCrea;

I've read MacCulloch.  He obviously is antagonistic to the Catholic Church.  I'm not the only one who thinks so:  http://marymagdalen.blogspot.com/2009/11/why-is-new-bbc-historian-so-angry-with.html

His grasp of the facts regarding the Catholic Church is also poor.  For example, he claims that Karol Wojtyla opposed certain actions during Vatican II when the historical record is precisely the opposite.

Anne Chapman
10 years 8 months ago
#52. ''For example, he claims that Karol Wojtyla opposed certain actions during Vatican II when the historical record is precisely the opposite.''

Could you please provide a few specific examples (with source - article, book, whatever - direct quotes) of his claims about Wojtyla that are not true - and also provide sources for the historical records which demonstrates that MacCullough was wrong?

Thank you.


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