A note from Al:
These kind of secret meetings articles usually overstate the danger and can engender needless fear. Part of the reason is that suspicious minds project into unknown situations their suspicions. Nevertheless, the basic point is worth making. Groups of bishops or cardinals or members of the curia do try to push the Church in accord with their vision of the Church. Mature Catholics learn to live with this very human and often sinful reality. Pride, arrogance, careerism, backbiting, backstabbing and, in the past, worse goes on in high as well as low places.
Remember, however, that this kind of internecine conflict has always, even from apostolic times, been part of the way history is moved along. Read Paul’s letters. Very ugly churches, especially Corinth and the Thessalonians. Remember that he and Barnabas had such a quarrel about Jon Mark that they split their missionary travels together. I’m sure books have been written on who was right, Paul or Barnabas? I’ve seen many Christians come into the Catholic Church thinking they are escaping the kind of intraChurch wrangling that they were tired of in their denomination. The Eagles had a new song released when they held their comeback “Hell Freezes Over” tour: It was appropriately titled “Get Over It.” The Catholic Church has all this wrangling and unsavory conflict too. BUT with two mighty big differences, one cultural and one theological.
First, the cultural. Catholic church culture is highly educated, more so than any other Christian tradition. This means that the arguing will, ultimately, be better. When argument is good, truth prevails. Not necessarily so, but more likely to so. Second, the Catholic community is the only one that has the divine promise that the gates of hell won’t prevail against it. For this reason, we should let our theological worries subside and joyfully abide in Christ. We should still make our arguments but with the confidence that Christ wins because it is His Church and he’s promised its indefectibility.
This doesn’t mean that the Church always does the right thing at the right time in the right way. At this moment, we are seeing the universal collapse of Catholic culture. It is heartbreaking. It is terribly disappointing. But we have brought this judgment on ourselves. We have tolerated an intolerable degree of pastoral neglect- not universally, but enough to bring the Church into disrepute, damage its moral authority and impede is ability to preach the gospel with plausibility, let alone authority.
We are not immune from the moral failures of our clergy or our laity. The failure to treat the laity as adults is connected to the failure to teach them like adults. The laity remain ignorant and dependent on Father so and so who is glad to have sheep who don’t ask too many questions. This is the truth in many parishes.
We are in that painful period between mere compliance and a new catechesis. In America, I trust we are at the end. The New Evangelization is working wherever it get to the parish level. Never have we had a better educated laity. Never have we had lay driven Catholic media. Never have we had encouragement from our Popes to take co-responsibility for the Church.
AL’S EXHORTATION: So for the most part stop fretting about the Pope and start worrying about your parish. Agonize over the places where you can make a difference but aren’t doing so. Having opinions about the German bishops is inherently no more praiseworthy than having an opinion about your favorite or hated sports teams. An interest in religion or ecclesiastical affairs is a mere human interest or curiosity. It is not inherently spiritual or life affirming. Praying for these problems is inherently spiritual. Actually doing something to correct problems is inherently spiritual. But arguing, moaning, fretting about who’s in and who’s going to win, who’s out and who’s stock is down… Kasper is up this week, booo. Burke is down boo. Burke is up this week, Kasper is down yeah is not the Catholic way. In fact, it could be opposed to the Catholic life because it often leads to speculations that open the door to gossip. Gossips often don’t know the truth but construct their claims from fragmentary knowledge about a situation and a person. “Don’t be that person.”
All this to say, there is a difference between a healthy interest in the affairs of one’s church and an unhealthy grousing and fear that can impede one’s spiritual growth and development.
– Al Kresta