We now have four recent stories that indicate how spiritually devastated Western Catholicism is. They are as listed below:
1. The Irish vote and the failure of the Irish bishops and priests to teach God’s people. At least fifteen Irish priests publicly supported the vote for homosexual so-called marriage. They received no discipline from their bishop.
2. An American theological conference at a major university in which a prominent priest called for a moratorium on evangelization. He said we just don’t know what evangelization is any longer and need to reconsider what it is. Thankfully faithful voices recalled that we’ve been evangelizing for 2,000 years so we must know something about it.
3. The News report of German, Swiss and French bishops and theologians holding a confidential “secret” one day study in Rome for the assumed purpose of swaying the Holy Father at the upcoming Synod on marriage and the family.
4. The Report from the Swiss bishops showing a Swiss Church which has more holes than its cheese.
Church conditions in Switzerland are very disturbing. More disturbing, however, is that in the report the bishops continually identify Swiss Catholics who reject the Church’s teaching authority, her moral theology and her entire scheme of redemption as “the faithful.” These are not the faithful. They may be ignorant or apostates. They do not represent a “sense of the faithful”. They represent the opinions of merely self-described Catholics whose Mass attendance and investment in the Church, I would hazard to say, is minimal. They do not regard the Church as divinely established. They do not see her as mystically united to Christ. For them, the Church is a social association where their opinions on faith and morals are as valid as the magisterium’s. Doctrine by democratic vote is not the same as consulting the “sense of the faithful.”
Appealing to their experience is valuable to show where they need instruction or exhortation. But until their experience flows from an encounter with Jesus, they are mere worldlings whose opinions are derived from the local newspapers and TV shows rather than divine revelation or prayerful guidance from the Holy Spirit. The appeal to their experience as the “sense of the faithful” is like walking over to, say, a yoga society and asking them what they think about spiritual things and then declaring that this the voice of the faithful. It is not the voice of the faithful; it is a poll of yoga practitioners’ opinions. These Swiss Catholics are no better catechized than these yoga practitioners and their opinions have as little consequence for Catholic doctrine or the conduct of the Church.
Catholicism holds spiritual experience and the role of conscience as profoundly important. This is why John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have all emphasized the need to encounter Christ. This encounter is the foundation of the Catholic way of life. No encounter with Christ- no Catholicism. It is why Blessed John Henry Newman described conscience as “the aboriginal vicar of Christ” (cf. CCC, 1778).
But the “faithful” here show no evidence of encountering Christ or informing their conscience according to Christ’s teaching. They are not “the faithful” but the apostates or the ignorant.
This again comes down to a failure to teach. Teaching is hard work especially if you judge your efforts by the results. Anybody can yap about theology. Catholic teachers, however, are making disciples (learners). Jesus said when a disciple is fully trained he will be like his Master. Are people growing in Christlikeness? Are the teachings of the Church resonating in their family, work, entertainment, educational lives? Are you seeing Christ at work beneath the flux of all this busyness. Are they becoming more aware of the calling and the gifts they’ve received from Christ. These questions should be asked of Catholics all the time. This is not inquisitorial; it is good pastoral care something which these Swiss bishops apparently want but don’t know how to give.
I’d like to hear from you on this Swiss bishop report. Is American Catholicism in a similar situation? What is the connection between the recommendation at the beginning of the report and the descriptions of “the faithful” throughout the report? If the Swiss bishops are recommending the robust pastoral care at the top of the report, how can they possibly refer to the apostate Catholics who reject Christ’s teaching as “the faithful.”
Fr. Gerald Murray, who penned the blogpost, will be joining me today at around 5 pm EST. Your feedback to me now will help shape the interview.
– Al Kresta