Monday, April 08, 2002

Andrew Sullivan points to this NYT stroy about the Irish Church as a cautionary tale about what will happen in America. He titles it "How Churches Die" and warns that "It will happen here."

Except it's already happened here. Sullivan drastically overstates the article's conclusions about the Church. Yes, it has declined in prominence from near perfect attendance at Sunday Mass to prett much how things are here -- many still devout Catholics, some "every now and then Catholics" and many lapsed Catholics. The Irish Church is certainly nor "dead" or "collapsed." It faces new challenges, just like the American Church does.

I also take issue with the article and Sullivan's assertion that the hierarchy demands that people simply accept whatever the Church tells them without questioning. This is far from the truth -- the Church publishes solid theological and moral reasons for its doctrines. I would accept critics who attack those reasons. But all too often, critics don't even look into them. They see that they disagre with the secular culture, and just call the Church "out of touch."

I think critics like Sullivan aren't exposed to the many devout Catholics who see the great wisdom in the Church's teachings. They don't see the many people who realize that by serving the Church, we're not just serving the current hierarchy; we're serving Jesus, we're serving each other; we're serving all the Catolics who have come before us and all who will come after. That doesn't change because some priests are involved in sex scandals or the secual doctrines run counter to the prevailing culture.

I'm not saying the Church doesn't need to make some adjustements to modern culture, especially in its treatment of gays and women. It has always been this way -- the Church is a living body that must speak to the people of its time. But I don't think the Church is currently so out of step with its people that American Catholics "will have to move toward some kind of schism."
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