A Slow-Motion Implosion: There Can Be No Going Back

The Vatican and its defenders can argue that so closely associating women's ordination and sexual abuse does not make them the same. But Catholics in secularizing countries, many of whom understand that the form of the message is part of its content, will be at liberty to be critical -- when they are not exhausted already into indifference over the slow-motion implosion of an archaic clericalist structure. Just as the Second Vatican Council said that Christians share responsibility for making modern people atheists, those in Catholic power today share responsibility for making people secular Catholics. It is as if the more the purity and authority of Catholicism is defended from on high, the less Catholicism actually matters as a social and spiritual phenomenon.

This is far, far beyond a public relations issue. To cast things as a problem of public relations mistakes separates too cleanly the "content" of Catholicism from its "form" or "communication." Instead, the very form of communication should be thought of as a kind of theological content. It is not only that official Catholicism does not know how to communicate well in the contemporary media world. It is that too often what it has to communicate, and the way it does so, is not persuasive to an increasingly educated, worldly, and pluralistically-aware public. The victims, and the Catholic structures that created victimization, should have been the irreparable center of official Catholic focus. But the form and content of official communication about abuse and its structures shows that we have yet to witness that conversion of consciousness.

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It is not as if the occasions for thinking of abuse victims and structures are far from anyone, Roman official or not, who has Internet access. This morning, I heard a song called "Wash Away Those Years," by the Christian-influenced rock band Creed. This band has never been popular with critics, but popular taste is of course another thing. "Wash Away Those Years" is a song that seems to be about sexual abuse, using Christian symbols to frame the abuse ("crown of thorns") and hope for life beyond it ("wash away...").

Thinking this morning about the state of Catholicism as I heard the song, I wondered if there were homemade YouTube videos taking this song as the occasion to witness to abuse. Indeed, it did not take long to find them on the Internet. Here is one. Here is another. While neither are explicitly about Catholicism, it was easy enough to find, again through YouTube, self-filmed testimonies from victims of Catholic abuse. It was hearing raw testimonies of abuse by victims-survivors at Voice of the Faithful meetings in the summer of 2002, in Boston, that my own awareness about Catholicism began to be educated in a new, awful, but fundamental way. Catholicism will need to accept that there is much to learn about itself, in depth, from these testimonies -- in person, in print, on the Internet. (It is obvious that this does not mean simplistic agreement with every theological image, claim, or theme present in disclosures of, or video meditations on, abusive experiences or structures.)

Some of the lyrics in the Creed song, which seems to have spoken to many, seem to speak directly to many of us who are witness to this slow-motion implosion:

"My anger's violent, but still I'm silent / when tragedy strikes at home

I know this decadence is shared by millions / remember you're not alone"

Tom Beaudoin

Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, United States

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Peter Lakeonovich
7 years 4 months ago
Norman, your distinction between form and content is well taken.  However, Mr. Beaudoin's article states just the opposite, namely, that in a way you cannot separate the form from the content.

Of course, none of this, in an authentic and faithful expression, is a problem, in theory (except perhaps when it becomes the red meat fueling the dissenters).  However, one doubts that an authentic faithful expression is what is intended here when it is evident that Catholicism is being reduced to a worldview or a philosophy or even a religion (with a small, rather than a capital "r").  With that in mind, if Catholicism were simply a worldview, then perhaps I could agree with Mr. Beaudoin that it could be subject to, in his word, implosion.  But we are Catholics and our Religion (with a capital "R") is not a worldview but rather a manifestation of Jesus Christ in world, and not subject to implosion.  Subject to sin? Yes.  Subject to suffering? Yes.  Imperfect? Yes.  Necessary for the communication of God's love and the salvific message of Jesus Christ?  Absolutely.

It is based on the foregoing that I wonder if the author is aware of this or if he has encountered it in his formation.  Because what Catholic who has encountered Jesus Christ, and received Him in the Eucharist, which the Chruch makes possible, can honestly think a Catholic will ever be "exhausted into indifference."
Michael Cremin
7 years 4 months ago
What's more disturbing is how many people just don't know or care about this ruling. Living the the formerly Catholic Greater Boston Area, I can tell you that not a single one of my Catholic friends (none of whom attend mass anymore) or any of my Catholic family members (most of whom no longer attend mass) know or care about what the Vatican says. Catholicism has lost its hold on the children, the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren of the immigrants who came here in the last century. The Catholic heirarchy making these statements should be a hell of a lot more worried about complete indifference to Catholicism than ignorance about their rules.

Joyce Donahue
7 years 4 months ago
Lots of good points made by all, here - however, @ Pete Lake - in several senses you are begging the question. In a pluralistic, consumeristic postmodern society, it is hard for people who do not have a firm commitment to the Church or who are outside of it and observing, to distinguish that the Catholic faith is not just another choice on the menu of options for spirituality. 

You also seem to assume in your last comment that receiving the Eucharist is synonomous with experiencing an encounter with Christ, when for many poorly catechized people, it may, in fact be more habit or convention. In fact, the Mass may be so foreign to people's experience today that they may not have a clue as to what kind of encounter with Christ the Eucharist actually offers them... because they have not been evangelized to the point of real conversion.

I refer you to a recent speech given by Archbishop Chaput, as a keynote at the Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, IL.  He raised the issue of whether modern people can authentically celebrate the Liturgy because of the way our culture forms us... and he admitted there are issues. Here is the text of his speech:  
http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/4113  You would also do well to follow the current work of John Roberto.  His latest work-in-progress, Faith Formation 2020, deals head-on with how people in our culture perceive and experience Church - and what we can do as Church to invite them in ways that are culturally relevant at the same time remain true to the nature of the Church. http://www.lifelongfaith.com/faithformation2020.htm

What the Vatican has done,by ignoring the way the message might be received by those with the dominant postmodern worldview, simply shows they are out of touch with their own people. They underestimate the power of the world and culture to influence their own perceived relevance. I do not essentially disagree with the message delivered. I, along with many others, do take issue with the insensitivity with which it was delivered.

In a Church where  we sadly need a New Evangelization of our own people, do not assume that the behavior of the Vatican has no power to alienate people who grew up in an era of cultural relativism, where choice and customization are the dominant modus operandi. Don't make the mistake of thinking that negative perceptions of the actions of Rome have no effect on average Catholics. Certainly there are those for whom the Vatican can do no wrong - or for whom any negatively perceived acts of the hierarchy are irrelevant to their strong faith because they DO get it. However, I don't believe that Mr. Beaudoin, in his original post, was referring to them.
John Stabeno
7 years 4 months ago
Joyce, thank you for your comment. You clarified things very well. I believe Tom Beaudoin is correct in referring to Catholicism as social and spiritual phenomenon because that is what it is, basically. Jesus Christ supercedes the Church and God is bigger than any organization which claims the rights to Him. People are encountering God and Christ in many different social and spiritual forms. (The 12 Step Programs for example). I personally find much more Arrogance in Pete Lake's post and positions than in Tom Beadoin's post. The arrogance is that people believe that the Catholic Church is the only way to salvation or the only way to experience Christ. Well, it is not. The arrogance is when men, and yes CELIBATE MEN, beieve they are the spokesperson for God.
For me, personally, I chose to remain a Roman Catholic. I love the Church. It is my family. However, I do not always agree with it. As an ordained priest in this church, I believe we have a lot of work to do. The work of evangelization of Catholics and non-Catholics, of Christians and non-believers, is a full time job and it requires much more by way of example and sharing in the love of God than it does by quoting the Catechism and shoving doctrine down peoples throats than alienating them if they don't agree. Shall I refer to Mel Gibson as an example?
The humility of our faith, I believe, calls for us to love unconditionally. We need to become a Church of attraction, not coercion. We need to read the signs of the times and continually use the Gospels as a mirror to measure our lives and our evangelization. In my experience, people of this post-modern secularized world do not do things because they are told to or they will go to hell. They are much more educated and look at the results that doing things a certain way achieve. They also look at the people who are in leadership and the example they give. The most modern secularized world is not inherently evil. The Church cannot cut itself off from it. The Church exists in the world, always pointing to the world to come. We need to reform ourselves before we venture out to reform the world, but simultaneously let the world reform us. All for the greater glory of God.
Vince Killoran
7 years 4 months ago
Welcomed insight from John Stabeno.  His last paragraph reminds me of  Pope John XXIII locking horns with conservative prelates at Vatican II over their knee-jerk denunciations of the Modern World.
John Stabeno
7 years 4 months ago
Thank you, David. Your thoughts reveal a good understanding of history and the issues surrounding the church today. I value dialogue. I believe Cardinal Bernadin's Common Ground effort could be a great reconcilation point for many in the church. As John XXIII stated, that in the Church, more specifically, the pontiff, needs to know when to use the accelerator and when to use the brakes.

I do not believe the Church should always change to be more acceptable to the swing of the "secular world." It needs to continue to be a witness, but with deep reflection on the Gospel and the signs of the times. It needs to meet people where they are and move them forward. It seems, in recent times, to chastize people for where they are and tell them where they should be. This seems to have the effect of alienating people who, in so many instances, are starving for the spiritual gifts the Church has to offer through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Peter Lakeonovich
7 years 4 months ago
Mr. Stabeno,

My apologies, I did not realize that when you were attacking leadership you meant to attack others but not the Pope (the "lesser" leaders, not the Leader).  You were attacking the "shadow" of leadership, perhaps in Platonic sense (e.g., the idea of leadership).

In any event, you say: "My faith is strong. It does not rely on pronouncements from on high."  And then immediately after that you say: "My faith is strong because I believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings as revealed in and through the scriptures."

I am grateful that your faith is strong.  But I must say that your statement as a whole is contradictory. 

Who do you think gave us the Sacred Scriptures? 

Answer: the Church (last I checked, Jesus wrote no books). 

Who do you think has the authority, alone, to interpret Divine Revelation? 

Answer: the Church.  Yes, the Church led by the Vicar of Christ, the successor of Peter.

* * * * *

To say that Jesus Christ is the Truth is to bear witness to my faith, it is not a claim to any sort of equality with God.  Please, Sir, you're better than to resort to such dishonesty.

And of course the Church does not make any final judgments on where a person will ultimately go, nobody believes that the Church does.  But the Church is responsible for tending to the sheep lest they put themselves on a track leading other than to Eternal Life.  To do this, the Church must stand up for the Truth, whether it be popular or not to do so.

AMDG

7 years 4 months ago
Hey Pete -

If I'm understanding this post correctly, Mr. Beaudoin is not advocating that the church should change its teaching and positions; rather, he is saying that it needs to deliver its messages differently to a world that receives and processes information differently.  

It's somewhat analogous to how parents bring up children today: the old ''do it because I said so,'' while perhaps effective in its day, must be replaced or at least supplemented with reasoning because today's youth live in a different world, a world where authority is suspect and questioned outright.  For parents, this is not a big deal for most of what is demanded of their children is based in solid reasoning.

Similarly, the church needs to recognize that people today think differently from years past.  Authority is questioned as a rule.  Delivering its message to this enlightened audience should be no big deal as most of what is demanded of Catholics and would-be Catholics is based in sound reasoning (albeit with a leap of faith).

Parents retain the authority over their children; the Pope remains the head of the Church.  How this authority is exercised and communicated requires tweaking if one wants the best outcome for his children/followers.


  
Peter Lakeonovich
7 years 4 months ago
Michael,

I agree with you whole-heartedly that the Chruch can and should find effective means of communicating the mission of the Church. 

In point of fact, however, I think the Chruch does do this.  For example, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston has a weekly blog and, so too, does Archbishops Dolan of New York. 

But, of course, it is only the negative that gets highlighted and when folks (from every end of the ideological spectrum) get whipped up into a frenzy, they tend to take a firehose to entinguish a match. 

This is why St. Ignatius tells us in the Spiritual Exercises that we should never make decisions in moments of desolation.  (Tangent: Does this principle in the Exercises get violated in the high speed information culture in general and in blogs in particular?  I don't know, but it's something to think about.)

This discussion is certainly useful, as I said in my initial comments, when it is conducted as an authentic and faithful expression.  In doing so, we must be careful that the language we use is not theologically misleading, such as reductions of Catholicism as simply a philosophy or worldview, or statements that pronouncements from above do not matter to the faith.
7 years 4 months ago
Pete -

I just re-read the article, and I see your point.  Whereas I interpreted my first read-through solely as a call for better communication by the Church, on closer reading it's clear that, like almost every post I read on this "Catholic" blog, Mr. Beaudoin is attacking Church authority, suggesting that the Church change even its very essence to seem more relevant to the enlightened masses.  I always end up asking the same question: why force the Catholic Church to change when there are plenty of Protestant sects out there that already embody what they seem to think the Catholic Church should be?  Surely it's not their unshakeable belief in transubstantiation or the priestly forgiveness of sins?
Jim McCrea
7 years 4 months ago
Once the Tighty-Righty ecclesiastics and fellow travelers get their "smaller" church, they will be in for a financial shock.  Ermine, watered silk, princely palaces, first class jet travel and general subsidized indolence are expensive!  Some of them might even have to take a part-time job - clean convents, etc.
Vince Killoran
7 years 4 months ago
I think that if your adhere to the "pray, pay, & obey" model of Catholicism than, yes, Beaudoin's points are threatening.  This is a fundamental divide in our Church today and is reflected in the comments section of just about every AMERICA web posting.
Jim McCrea
7 years 4 months ago
John Stabeno @ 12:30 said:  “The arrogance is when men, and yes CELIBATE MEN, believe they are the spokespersons for God.”

One of the former darlings of the Theocons had this to say (before he “poped” and learned the Errors of His Way, of course):

“The problem of clericalism is composed of several problems.  It is the problem of a caste that arrogates to itself undue authority, that makes unwarranted claims to wisdom, even to having a monopoly on understanding the mind of God.  The consequence is the great weakening of the Church by denigrating or excluding the many gifts of the Spirit present in the people who are the Church.  The problem of clericalism arises when ‘the church’ acts in indifference, or even contempt, toward the people who are the Church.”     Richard J. Neuhaus, June 1989.
John Stabeno
7 years 4 months ago
Pete,

I do not understand why you continue to misrepresent and add things to what I have originally stated. Where do you get that I attacked anyone in my original post? Concerning leadership, I merely stated, "They also look at the people who are in leadership and the example they give." I put no qualifiers on it. It could be positive or negative. You read your own agenda in to my statements because you go over it like an attorney looking for something you can attack because you seem to view me as disobedient and dissenting. As Michael Brooks stated, I am merely making an observation about what people generally do in any system or organization.

Further, I do not know if you have done any formal study of scripture. I am grateful that I have had some of finest professors in the field who have taught me the history of scriptural interpretation and exegesis. Scripture predates the Church. The scriptures were handed down through communities who began to record the oral stories. Throughout the following centuries, certain books were presented as "canonical" meaning listed as authentic part of the Old or New Testament.

There is also "Tradition" in our church. This has held a position of great authority within the Roman Catholic Church. There seems to be a lack of clarity in your understanding between authentic scriptural interpretation of the text and its place in the teaching tradition and authority in the church. Your simple answers to your own made up questions reveal an cultic understanding of ecclesiogy. The Church is all the baptized. Those who wrote and handed the scriptures to us believed themselves to be devout Jewish individuals and the concept of a Roman Catholic Hierarchy as we have today would be totally foreign to their understanding.

Please understand, I am not questioning your faith, your love of the Church, or your sincerity. I ask the same of you on my part. Theology to me is "faith seeking understanding." I am a seeker of wisdom. I believe the Truth is only revealed to us in the next life. I do not believe that any one individual or organization can possess or know the Truth with 100% certitude. To do so or to believe so, in my understanding, is to equate oneself with God. It means that you know the Truth therefore, you know what God knows. Which I believe, is tantamount to proclaiming oneself (or one's organization) God's equal.

We will all be a little surprised on the other side! Our INFORMED Conscience needs to be our guide on this side. It is not a sin to question. It is a desire to have a greater informed conscience. Differences are not evil. Please do not see me as less than you because I chose to question some things that your faith allows you to accept. Allow me my own path to the next life and the freedom to explore it in this life.
Peter Lakeonovich
7 years 4 months ago
John,

May the Lord bless you and keep you as you carve out your own path, and may you experience joy and consolations on your journey.  (Even St. Ignatius tells the director of the Spiritual Exercises that he should always go at the exercisant's own pace.)

I would just ask that you return the well wishes to those of us who feel not the need to carve out our own paths, but instead, choose to journey on the paths paved by Mary, Our Mother, and illuminated by the Saints and their love of Christ and His Church, and decorated by the richness of our inexhaustible Tradition.

AMDG.
Jim McCrea
7 years 4 months ago
“Rather than say that I know what I believe. I think it is closer to the truth to say that I know the framework within which I believe, and doubt, and wonder.  - Christian faith must not be seen as a series of propositions to which one assents. When membership in the church is reduced to this level, it cannot provide us with a community within which people may be transformed. Faith has to do with a relationship with someone, not something. It is not a party line. Seeing who this person is, as clearly as we can, is the reason for dogma.     

John Garvey, “Doubt and the Community of Believers”, Commonweal, 2/23/2007



“Faith means doubt. Faith is not the suppression of doubt. It is the overcoming of doubt, and you overcome doubt by going through it. The man of faith who has never experienced doubt is not a man of faith.”         

Thomas Merton.
we vnornm
7 years 4 months ago
...each person works out their own salvation in fear and trembling.....sk

bvo 
James Lindsay
7 years 4 months ago
What one believes about the Church can of course give you individual comfort.  However, it won't stop the Church from changing around you.  Your belief that it won't and $3.14 will get you a Venti Americano at Starbucks.  Of course, my belief that change is inevitable and $3.14 will get me the exact same thing.

I predict that within this papacy the Catholic Church will conform to the organizational norms of orthodoxy and establish linguistic Churches - at which time many of the protestant sects will return to the one church.  I suspect the following great churches will emerge:  Gallatian Orthodox, English Coptic, French Coptic, Latin Orthodox, Germanic Orthodox and Nordic Orthodox.  I suspect that the Gallatian Orthodox Church will be a bit more organizationally progressive - and that the Latin Orthodox Church will have Metropolitans within it for those who don't go for that kind of thing.
Peter Lakeonovich
7 years 4 months ago
"[T]hose in Catholic power today share responsibility for making people secular Catholics. It is as if the more the purity and authority of Catholicism is defended from on high, the less Catholicism actually matters as a social and spiritual phenomenon."

"It is that too often what [the Vatican] has to communicate, and the way it does so, is not persuasive to an increasingly educated, worldly, and pluralistically-aware public."

Catholicism as a social and spiritual phenomenon? 

The Vatican as not convincing to an educated and worldy public?

This is a joke, right?

There is no where to go in any conversation that from inception assumes, as Mr. Beaudoin does, that Catholicism is "a" (i.e., one among others) social and spiritual phenomenon, that reduces Catholicism to a philosophy or a set of principles and teachings.  Catholicism is about encountering Jesus Christ in this world in preparation for the next.  Catholicism is about having authentic life in us through the Eucharist and the other sacraments.  Catholicism is about movement towards Trinity, period, and although I highly doubt the premise of an educated and worldly public, there is nothing that such "sophistication" can add to Catholicism by itself (i.e., anything that can be added must come from God). 

The arrogance in this post is staggering.  Where is the humility? 

Perhaps, Mr. Beaudoin, you would benefit from hearing the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians:

"Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise."
James Lindsay
7 years 4 months ago
The people called Church are eternally promised the Christ.  The forms of leadership have changed through time and will change again.  The appointment of Bishops has not been dominated by Rome for the entire existence of the Church and it need not be in the future.  Indeed, it can be argued that the See of Peter is whatever see the roman emperor resides in - and that when Constantine abandonned Rome and established Constantinople, the holy see moved with him.  That argument has not held sway in the western church - but it need not be accepted to be true.

It is by courtesy that Constantinople has refrained from seeking ecumenical relations with the Anglican Communion and the Protestant sects.  This is a product of diplomacy only.  If Rome continues to rot, this can change - as can the association of national synods and conferences with Rome.  While I don't expect the USCCB to simply abandon Rome this year - one must admit that doing so is neither out of the question or would in any way be sinful on the USCCB's part should the people of God demand it.

Rome needs to realize that society has changed.  The place it had in the political structures of Europe in times past no longer exist, nor were they scriptural.  Indeed, if the Gospels are to be believed, the way the Roman Church has operated is at cross purposes with the command of Jesus to not rule as the world rules.  The ritual of the washing of the feet is all the more empty because it is so at odds with how the Church is governed.

With an educated faithful, that bit of dissonence cannot last - and is likely the reason that the venacular presentation of the Bible was banned for centuries.

Such a view is not even at odds with traditional Catholic prophesy.  Both the prophesies of St. Malachy and our Lady at Fatima confirm that the next pope will be the last.  I suspect that the Holy Father is aware of this and is engineering a soft landing - meaning he is negotiating with Constantinople to take the lead - although he dare not say this publicly lest he undergo the same fate as John Paul I.
ed gleason
7 years 4 months ago
The Trads see no implosion of the Church. They prefer using the words sloughing off.. as in the useless, hanging-on of dead flesh. note their 'love it or leave it' ideas,  inbedded in every post.  I also think that the Curia trads who want the smaller purer church also have in mind the dead flesh ideology. How Christian is that for an evangelisation posture.? !!!  
Peter Lakeonovich
7 years 4 months ago
Mr. Stabeno,

Let the world reform us? 

Really, let the world reform us?

No thanks.

I'm sorry that you interpret as arrogance the affirmation the Jesus is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," and that He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Light decided to found a Church.

I'm sorry that you interpret the Gospels as merely a measuring stick (or, in your words, "a mirror to measure our lives") rather than as the inspired Word of God (again, like Mr. Beaudoin, reducing the faith to merely a philosophy or worldview). 

I'm sorry that you do not believe in Hell ("people of this post-modern secularized world do not do things because they are told to or they will go to hell"), even though Jesus Christ referred to it more than once and assured His - - - wait for it - - - Church - - - that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

I'm sorry that you do not believe that going to Heaven, instead of Hell, is a result that doing things a certain way can, with and by the Grace of God, achieve ("They are much more educated and look at the results that doing things a certain way achieve.")

I'm sorry that you are not able to see what a gift to the Church our leader, Pope Benedict the XVI, is, and that he will no doubt one day be counted among our saints.  Do you mean to tell me that the world would not be a better place if we all followed the living example of our Holy Father ("They also look at the people who are in leadership and the example they give.")
Finally, if you are an ordained priest, then I am sorry for your crisis of faith.  You are in my prayers and may the Holy Spirit strengthen you.  If something horrible happened to you to cause such crisis of faith, then I pray for your healing.  If something within you is causing the crisis of faith, then I ask Our Mother to pray for you and protect you.
James Lindsay
7 years 4 months ago
The world does not care about the structure of the Church, be it the ordination of women or our child protection policies - outside the duty of civil society to protect the innocent.  When the Church is at odds with such protection, there is more wrong with it than its public image.

Largely, the criticisms of the hierarchy come from within the Church.  They are not of "the world" but of the people of God, who are as much the Church as the bishops and clergy.  They are among the priesthood of the baptized.  I won't say the early church had no problem with its leaders.  The fact that the washing of the feet of the disciples made it into scripture shows that clericalism had already started - its a natural tendency in human organizations.  The Romanization of the Church has only worsened it. 

Who are you to say that the purification of the Church is not God's will?  Given both scripture and prophesy, as well as current events, it is obvious that changes are coming and that these changes are good in the way that creation is good.

There is a term in water skiing and recovery - let go or be dragged.  It applies here.

While I am sure some in the hierarchy would rather that those who call for reform simply go away, I can assure you that we will not and indeed should not.  Leaving the Church to rot is impossible, for it would betray the promise of Christ that the gates of Hell not prevail against it.  This promise was given to the whole Church as well as to Peter and I rejoice in its promise in the current situation for it means that the Sodanos of the world will eventually fall.
John Stabeno
7 years 4 months ago
To Pete Lake:

I am not in a crisis of faith. My faith is strong. It does not rely on pronouncements from on high. Which, over the past 2000 years, have contradicted each other many times. It does not rely on who sits on the chair of Peter, because of the past 2000 years, some of the men who have been on that chair have been murderers, thieves, liars, and other assorted criminals. My faith is strong because I believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings as revealed in and through the scriptures.

Don't feel sorry for me. There is nothing to feel sorry about. It merely comes across as condescending. The arrogance of your righteousness supersedes the compassion you seem to imply in your statements of feeling sorry. It is the arrogance of one who claims to possess the Truth, and so, one who claims equality with God.

You misinterpret my statements and then, as many traditionalist appear to do, make quantum leaps to conclusions that simply aren't there.

1. I do not interpret the Gospels as merely a measuring stick or mirror. That is how I use them in my daily prayer life. I believe the Gospels are accounts of the life of Jesus Christ as interpreted through several early Christian communities. Mark was the 1st. Together with the Q-source, Luke and Matthew wrote their Gospels with their distinct theological bend. John was the last to be written. He was more theological and symbolic.

2. I do believe in Hell and Heaven. I simply do not believe that we are the judges of where people go. I believe that judgment is God's alone. I believe that most people believe that too. That is the point I was making. People are more fully aware that the clergy and hierarchy do not make that decision.

3. I never mentioned Pope Benedict in my post. I mentioned leadership. He is not the only leader. I do hold him in high regard and believe he is a holy and gentle man. He is not perfect, nor does he claim to be. I think the world would be much better if it followed the example and teachings of Jesus Christ.

4. I am an ordained priest. My crisis in not with my faith. My frustration is with seeing the Church I love become less relevant to people's lives because it is holding on to an ecclesiology of a different era. My sorrow is in watching people become alienated by the Church that has become so defensive of its teachings that it loves rules more than people. However, my hope is ever-present. Christ is with all his people, yes, even with non-Catholics, atheists, agnostics, women, gays, divorced, etc. His love is greater than we can imagine.

And finally, yes, the world is capable of reforming the Church. Where have you been during the Sex Abuse Crisis? I believe that reform came from the people demanding the Church to protect the innocent from predators from within the Church. Historically, most reforms of the Church to correct the Church's errors came from outside of it.

To Vince Killoran, thank you. No greater compliment than to be compared to sounding like John XXIII.

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