What is the Future of Catholicism?

A portentous question, no?  Well, that did not dissuade the editors of Patheos, an online religion website, from posing the question to a variety of Catholics.  Patheos describes itself as follows: "Patheos.com is the premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality and to explore and experience the world's beliefs. Patheos is the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information or resources about religion. Patheos brings together the public, academia, and the faith leaders in a single environment, and is the place where people turn on a regular basis for insight into questions, issues, and discussions."

Anyway, they gathered together a wide-ranging group of Catholics (including--full disclosure--me), from left to right, conservative to progressive, and a few places in between, to reflect on the question: Kevin Appleby, Fr. Robert Barron, Kathy Coffey, Kate Dugan and Jennifer Owens, Michele Dillon, Hugh Hewitt, James Hitchcock, Ted G. Jelen, Deacon Greg Kandra, James Martin, S.J., Tim Muldoon, Barbara R. Nicolosi, Thomas Peters, Shu-Fy H. Pongnon, Elizabeth Scalia, Paul Snatchko, John Kenneth White and J. Matthew Wilson.


See what you think here.

James Martin, SJ


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David Pasinski
8 years 6 months ago
I will look forward to reading these remarks but this group represents few who are regulars in Cathoic commentary and media- Fr. Martin and James Hitchcockbeing the major exceptions. That does not mean these others' insights are less valid, but I wonder how they were chosen and who wasn't or didn't accept an invitation.
8 years 6 months ago
Hi Fr. Jim -

Hows about a Reader's Digest version of the opinions within the article and maybe a brief bio on who these people are?  No offense, but there's only so much time to read, and synopses are helpful in culling through the mass of material out there.  Thanks.
8 years 6 months ago
I have a question.  Can someone be a Catholic and not accept/believe the Creed and everything in it? 
Beth Cioffoletti
8 years 6 months ago
Catholicism is much more than merely a believing system.  Richard Rohr's Daily Meditations (that come by email) have recently been touching on what Catholicism is.  This is from one of his latest:

"It seems to me what religion has often become is a belonging system or a mere belief system, both of which ask very little of us.  If belonging and believing is our primary concern, Mormons and Moslems do that much better than most mainline Christians.  If we just want collective authority, all we have to do is attend and affiliate.

"Membership questions largely become a negotiation of who’s in and who’s out, who’s worthy, who’s unworthy, who’s right and who’s wrong.  This appeals very much to our ego’s control needs, and our ego’s need to feel worthy, to feel superior, and to feel a part of a superior group.  All are lamentable substitutes for actual transformation into the Mystery of God." - Fr. Richard Rohr
James Lindsay
8 years 6 months ago
I can't keep the link open, so I will state my view here.

It will be split into the Galatian Orthodox Church (non-African english speaking nations), the Latin Orthodox Church (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Luxembourg?,? ??L?a?t?i?n? ??A?m?e?r?i?c?a)??????, the Nordic Orthodox Church, the Germanic Orthodox Church??,? ?t?h?e? ??E?????n???g??l?i?s?h? ??C?o?p?t?i?c? ??C?h?u?r?c?h? ?a?n?d? ?t?h?e? ??F?r?e?n?c?h? ??C???op??t?i?c? ??C?h?u?r?c?h? ?a?n?d? ?w?i?l?l? ?i?n?c?l?u?d?e? ?t?h?e? ??P?r?o?t?e?s?t?a?n?t? ?s?e?c?t?s?.
Brendan McGrath
8 years 6 months ago
Just to be evasive and cute, one answer to "What is the future of Catholicism?" would be, "The Beatific Vision."  Or, "Epektasis."  Or, "Union/Communion with the triune God as part of the Mystical Body of Christ."  :)
Brendan McGrath
8 years 6 months ago
To add to what I said above, I think the future of Catholicism also rests - apart from Liturgy on Ice and robotic altar server droids - in a revival of Eucharistic doves:

These delightful works of art, suspended from the ceiling and containing a small door inside of which consecrated Hosts could be tucked so as to protect them from devout church mice and other little critters hungry for the Blessed Sacrament, are a perfect addition for any parish, and especially appealing to children.  As an animal lover, I would argue that in this environmentally-friendly, nature-loving, and increasingly eco-conscious age, what better way could there be for the Church to speak to the modern world than through the birdsong of Eucharistic doves?  And imagine what we could do by marrying this medieval treasure to modern technology: multiple Eucharistic doves could be suspended in the air at different heights, and, at the point of Consecration during the Mass, the doves could be made to begin tweeting all at once and flapping mechanical wings!  In fact, better yet, the wires/chains on which they were suspended could be attached to different tracks on the ceiling, which would allow them to fly in circles around the church!  Some could even be be operated by remote control like one of those toy helicopters, and could soar all over the place, swooping down upon the awed congregation kneeling in the pews!

All kidding aside, I really would like to see a return of traditional Eucharistic doves - why not have one suspended next to the Tabernacle?
Winifred Holloway
8 years 6 months ago
Thank you Fr. Jim for this link.  It took some time and dedication to get through it.  So here goes, my brief summation:  I found Dillon, yours, Muldoon, Coffey and Pongnon resonated most with me.  There were others too that I was sympathetic with, but I can't remember all their points.  As for Dillon, her suggestion that different cultures might require different policies makes sense to me.  What works in African countries and southern hemisphere does not necessarily work in the Western world.  Women here are deeply angry at the male hierarchy and its attitudes toward women.  Some of the leadership may think that they are protecting this ancient tradition of male leadership but many of us feel like it's contempt for women in general.  We can have unity on the essential points of our creed, but diversity on how our Catholicism is manifested in different cultures.  Coffey, Muldoon and Pongnon are saying that we should embrace our gospel roots, our mystical tradition and our mission to love and serve others in our world.  Several of the essayists focused on the pre-Vatican II vision of the Church.  I cannot relate to this position.  I love our traditions and want the best to be preserved.  If anyone spearheads a movement to get Gregorian chant into the liturgy at the  parish level, I would be there with them.  A tradition worth preserving.  Re-introducing the Tridentine Mass, however, is a mistake. We want to preserve the best of our traditiions, but not get bogged down in traditionalism.  I read here and there that young Catholics want to go back to the older style, but I have never met any of these enthusiasts.  I don't want to assume motives here, but sometimes folks like to be just a bit different for the sake of well, being different.  I will single out one writer who I believe is way off base.  She was unserious and should not have been included in this group.  That would be Ms. Nicolosi and her rant against boomers, calling them un-adult and narcissistic.  This characterization is a cartoon version of the generation of 46-65 year olds who preceded her. 
Brendan McGrath
8 years 6 months ago
Winifred - I would be one of those young people who has an interest in the Tridentine / Extraordinary Form Mass.  I like the Ordinary Form too, but variety is always nice, and there are various elements of the Extraordinary Form that I wish were part of the Ordinary - e.g., the beautiful Offertory prayers, the opening "Introibo ad altare Dei," the "And let my cry come unto Thee" line that I've always loved ever since hearing it as part of the Rite of Exorcism in "The Exorcist" (which is often wrongly spoken of dismissively), etc.  I also think it would be nice to see the Extraordinary Form offered in English, too.

Since the topic of the hierarchy and women has come up again, I'll repeat my call for the Church to make women cardinals, which would not require them to be ordained.  There is no reason the Church could not do thisl it's something that does not touch on doctrine, but only on Church practice/discipline.  The position of cardinal is not sacramental, was not instituted by Christ, etc., and in the past, there were a few non-ordained cardinals; we could change canon law to allow it.  Why not allow female cardinals?
8 years 6 months ago
It's nice to see a broad presentation of views in today's Church presented so civilly.
I think a companion to this might be the comments of Fr. Rohr at the recent conference on "emerging Church" in Albuquerque, particularly the importance of respect for "unknowing" and the emphais on the need for community.
8 years 6 months ago
The potential future of the Church seems to be as varied almost as much as the number of people asked.  Which made me think how brilliant Christ was when he selected a small core group of individuals to surround and learn from him and deemed Peter to be the head of the Church.  But for this structure put in place, what would the Church be today; indeed, would it even exist?

Fr. Martin - I think any one of these opinions could stimulate lively debate on this forum.

Here's an example:  The opinion that suggested that priests should get married reminded me of a scene in the Last Temptation of Christ where, having decided to forego the cross, Jesus opted for marriage and kids, and he is shown trudging about, looking a bit harried, with one kid in his arms, one holding his hand, and his wife and the other kids tagging along behind him.  I think if that scene and I think how unremarkable his life would have been (how unremarkable my own life sometimes seems in comparison); how the responsibilities of wife and kids would have so distracted him from his mission; and perhaps how distracting and un-Christ-like it would be if priests could, indeed, marry.
8 years 6 months ago
Before this important thread die, I'd like to add a few points-There is deep divide among older Ctaholics between the "orthodox" and the "cafeteria Catholics - there's a lot of diviion on the "hermenutic of continuity."
How much impact that will have on younger Catholics, who are already turned off to some degree by it, will be hard to judge as it seem to be continuing and perhaps worsening. A corrolary thereof is a diminishing center.
Finally, the new Latino demographic should not just lead one to  assume that as they have more family oriented values that they wil fall into one camp of today or another.
What's vital is how well that are ministered to and respected.
The talk of Msgr. Bob Stern for the Museum of the city of New York on the Spanish Apostolate there  shows the need for intelligent planning and input and what happens if that doesn't occur.Maybe this site could dredge up that talk and show it as a poscast here for discussion.
8 years 6 months ago
I asked the question ''Can someone be a Catholic and not accept/believe the Creed and everything in it? '' because the answer is obvious.

There is no way one can be a Catholic and not accept/believe in the Creed.  That does not make it sufficient to be a Catholic but it is necessary.  If one says they do not believe in certain parts of the Creed and still maintain that they are a Catholic, then something is very fundamentally wrong.

I have another question.  Do all Jesuits and those who identify as Catholics who post here accept/believe in the Creed?


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