Sunday, April 11, 2010

Who Doesn't Want Reform?

It seems to me that there are very few people who would not want to see drastic changes in the Catholic Church right now. The Liberals certainly want to see things shaken up. So do the Trads (in the other direction). Your average Catholic in the pews who really doesn't have opinions like that probably still has a sense that "something" should change even if they don't have a particular vision. And even many Neocons now think there needs to be some sort of reform (even if it only means enforcing the current rules more strictly). They all have different visions, perhaps, but almost no one is satisfied with the status quo. Then why does it persist? Any other organization would be very concerned by such a pervasive and across-the-spectrum vote of no-confidence.

You can talk about the Church changing slowly, but that isn't all that true. There have been periodic reforms and major shake-ups all the time. I think the bold choice of the Cardinals to elect John Paul as Pope, and the role of the Church in the fall of Communism was the last one. But for 20 years now...we've been languishing, stagnating.

We rail against abortion, but don't do all we could, which makes it hard for people to believe that we really believe it is baby-murder (because our actions seem a trifle in proportion to such a claim). A mere new translation (that isn't even particularly hieratic) is considered a huge thing on the liturgical front, and even it is being stalled endlessly. People got all in a frenzy when the Pope wore the camauro again, once...

The biggest things since 1991 have probably been Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus...which are really minor and obvious gestures if you think about it, yet how excited we were for them, since we have been so starved of anything else. The bishops and Pope all seem so complacent and Catholic influence neutered by American consumerism; we could fight Communism, but have been too co-opted by materialism and secularism to the point that they won't even excommunicate pro-abortion politicians!?!

There have been no really dramatic gestures, no innovative and sweeping reforms (which have happened before in the Church, tons of times). Just a "stay the course" policy that attempts to make things better mainly by gradually replacing bishops one by one...but only when they retire on their own accord.

At this rate, "brick by brick," the house won't be built again for 5000 years, and by then He may have come again already. Yet there are all sorts of laborers willing to work, they just need to be told what to do, they need leadership. There is this big collective action problem. We probably need something of the level of a new Council, and yet do we really want that with these bishops? Besides, they're all still harping over "truly implementing" Vatican II...

2 comments:

arturovasquez said...

You know, I still think you are too idealistic, but the more this media-created crisis goes on, the more I see how messed up the Church is. People are like, “well, priests molest children at the same rate as the rest of the population”. In the local archdiocesan newspaper, I read an editorial that was literally entitled, “The one who is without sin cast the first stone”. So I’m like, “great, priests are just as likely to molest a child as a perfect stranger! Is that supposed to make me feel better? Hey, what’s the big deal? Everyone’s doing it. Did you seriously expect your children to be in a safe place at church? It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.“ What next? The Church being proud of itself because priests embezzle and fornicate at the same rate as the rest of the population? Seriously, how comforting!

But what I think is most frustrating to people is not how many cases surface, but that it seems that a group of grumpy old men up in Rome refuse to bow to any sense of having transparency in how they resolve the issues. If swim coaches, for example, are found to be molesting their charges at a higher rate than the rest of the population, it is expected that no one is going to come along and protect them, that once exposed, they won’t be enabled by an institution to do it again. At least that is the expectation. And no one certainly talks about smear campaigns against swim coaches, or how pointing out these obvious crimes is an attack on the sport of swimming. And swim coaches certainly don’t sit around trying to tell random people what they should be doing in their bedrooms. Yes, it is the Church’s job to convince the world, not vice versa.

One thing that we have to remember is that the absolute autonomy of the Church over its own affairs is a recent phenomenon, even in the Catholic world. The Austro-Hungarian emperor once even had veto power over who was elected Pope. It was very common even in Catholic realms for bishops to be chosen by the emperor. And if the monarch deemed that all of the clergy had to wear a funny hat (again, Austro-Hungary) when they did services, they wore the stupid hat. “Popes gone wild” is a phenomenon that dates only back to 1789. Can you name more than three notable encyclicals from before that date? Didn’t think so. Really, I think a lot of this is due to the present Pontiff’s stingy old man syndrome. My grandfather is the same age, and he is just as pig-headed and paranoid.

The only silver lining is that this crisis adds more fuel to the fire of my ancestral anti-clericalism. To quote a grandfather of a Chilean friend of mine: “Cuidado con los curas, porque te chupan hasta los pulmones.” If you have a friend who knows Spanish, ask him or her to translate that for you.

A Sinner said...

"What next? The Church being proud of itself because priests embezzle and fornicate at the same rate as the rest of the population? Seriously, how comforting!"

Ha.

The odd thing is, though. I don't think priests embezzle as much.

I think, generally, for most types of crimes...the proportion IS lower (though not absent, as the Maciel bribing that was recently revealed shows).

Still, I think they are generally "better behaved" in a lot of ways than the general population, if only because they have a cushy job (and a lot of crime comes from poverty).

Which is what you'd hope to expect from men who are supposed to be all about religion, who go through this 5 year re-programming in a seminary.

It's only when it comes to SEX that they seem to be "as bad as the general population"...which is interesting...

"But what I think is most frustrating to people is not how many cases surface, but that it seems that a group of grumpy old men up in Rome refuse to bow to any sense of having transparency in how they resolve the issues."

Transparency, yes. And also just total lack of action. They're so dithering. Any other corporation would do major damage control, structural reform, total personnel change, experimenting with innovative new models, focus-groups, etc, etc...

And their only answer is a defiant, "Well, we're not a multinational corporation"...

They act like they're still living in a world where they have a Monopoly on religion...and while they do have a monopoly on the fullness truth, there are plenty of other firms now, other religions, willing to compete and take constituents when the product the Church churns out is mediocre.

And yet their big thing is religious liberty and emphasizing the "elements of truth" in other religions. That's like McDonald's saying, "Yeah, Burger King can be a source of nutrition too, but it's not as good as us" and then being surprised when people leave because the McDonald's manager doesn't wash his hands before preparing the food...

"Really, I think a lot of this is due to the present Pontiff’s stingy old man syndrome. My grandfather is the same age, and he is just as pig-headed and paranoid."

He seems to lack any coherent vision of what he wants the Church to look like. And if you don't have an "ideal vision" in your head...you don't have anything to work towards. So you won't really act, you'll hesitate, you'll dither.

John Paul was a performer, at least, had charisma...even if I don't totally understand his vision for the Church, even if he didn't use that charisma in the most effective ways possible.

This guy has no charisma, and no imagination, and no intestinal fortitude.

He clearly doesn't like communion on the hand. It would take the stroke of a pen to end it. Why doesn't he?!

If he can't even do THAT, something so easy and trivial, does anyone really expect him to deal with child molesters? I don't.