On What Pathway?

I recall gab fests at the convent with another hopeful yet-to-be novice late at night. We would be there for a weekend retreat, and would stay up late talking about the subject we most loved–God, Jesus, and OUR church. We were both converts and we were SOOOO Catholic.

Of course we had no idea that our exuberance was typical of the convert. We relished crossing every T and dotting every I. We were seriously chagrined that habits were no longer in fashion. We oohed and ahhed at “authentic relics” preserved in the chapel.

It is not hard to understand how I came to love stained glass and vaulted ceilings, things uncommon in most Catholic churches build from the 60’s on.

Yet, thankfully, we grow in wisdom and knowledge, and I came to see that Vatican II was not the “thing” that took away all my awesome Catholic “accoutrements” but was in fact a much-needed renewal. It opened the doors to rethinking and re-seeing  tradition, scripture, and the Church’s relationship to the world. It called the Church to examine most carefully that reason was not perhaps the danger it was thought. Mind and reason are too gifts from our God.

Fr. Richard McBrien has an article at NCR about what happened post Vatican II. The long Pontificate of John Paul II has had  a severe impact on the Church, and frankly, one that will continue for many years to come it appears.  I cannot speak to other areas of the world, but surely the push-pull in the American church is dramatic. One need only read the comments at NCR on any of its articles to see the line drawn between the “progressives” and the “traditionalists.”

McBrien points out, and polling would seem to confirm that most Catholics don’t adhere to many of the Church’s more conservative stances, certainly on contraception, and homosexuality, and even on things like abortion. He points out further than JPII has worked assiduously to undo what his predecessors had started to implement–the true heart of Vatican II. Instead he appointed cardinal after cardinal with the apparent objective of enlarging the cadre of like-minded thinkers like himself.

It came as no surprise that Benedict XVI has carried on in the tradition of JPII. He was not called the Pope’s “rottweiler” for nothing during the JPII years.

Benedict has appointed some twenty-four new Cardinals. Among them are two Americans, Archbishop Burke, as of late Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and before as Archbishop of the archdiocese of St. Louis, and Archbishop Wuerl of Washington DC. This brings Benedict’s appointments to a total of 15, and raises the Italian presence from 17% to 20%, interesting in itself when a full 2/3 of all Catholics reside in countries south of the equator. They make up only 1/3 of the College.

Raymond Burke is best known for his anti-Obama, pro-choice stance from which he has denounced any number of Catholic politicians for their pro-choice voting (they all claiming that their faith is NOT properly in the mix when voting for their constituencies) and his claim that he would deny communion to such people should they wander into his church on any given Sunday. Worse, Burke claimed that Edward M. Kennedy should have been denied a Catholic funeral.

John Allen, Jr., of NCR points out that while there are no liberals in the appointments, not all are arch conservative either.  Truthfully Wuerl can best be described as a centrist. He contends that B16 seems mostly concerned with following tradition in his methodology and in re-Italianizing the College.

All this suggests to me, that it’s as Allen points out, business as usual. There seems to be no real recognition that the sex abuse issues are not going away, and must be dealt with some measure of openness and firmness as of yet not seen. There is no discussion it seems of the appalling lack of seeming awareness of what is driving so many Catholics from the Church. There is nothing like a real discussion of issues of homosexuality or women’s ordination. All such attempts are met with an iron wall of silence and pointing to “existing dogma” on the subject.

I have no crystal ball. I have no clue what will happen to the Church in general or the American church specifically. But it may be the JPII will go down as the leader of the demise of the Church as we know it. The breach between the small group of men at the top and the huge congregation of the faithful below continues to grow. One wonders how long, before it shatters a glorious centerpiece of  Christendom.

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