Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bishop Tobin - THE SKY IS FALLING!

Great reflection.
I feel a bit like the sparrow these days, bombarded as I am with the daily reports about the decline and fall of the Catholic Church. “The sky is falling,” reports seem to confirm.

“Catholic weddings drop 71 percent in R.I.” announces one local headline, with the story not bothering at all to document a similar decline in weddings in other denominations and across the nation.

A letter from an individual in New York, sent to all the bishops of the United States, proclaims that “No intelligent Catholic can deny that there is a serious crisis in faith and morals in the Church. The lack of faith being shown here is frightening.” To document his argument, the letter writer points to the planned gathering of religious leaders in Assisi in October, “where false gods will be invoked,” and the fact that some priests fail to genuflect during the consecration at the Mass.

A letter from a friend in Pittsburgh laments the development of a Church that is peopled by, “a large contingent of secretive, sometimes power-hungry, reactionary cardinals and bishops; and a lower clergy increasingly enamored with its own exalted position who with many in the hierarchy are regressing to a former triumphal, controlling, irrelevant, pietistic, fundamentalist state.”

Another letter writer, this time local, understandably upset over reports of sexual abuse in the Church, insists: “The deluge is waiting to happen. Act, for the love of God. Act, because it is the right thing to do. Act, because you know that you should and you must.”

Jamie Manson, a writer for the “National Catholic Reporter,” a publication that makes its living reporting on, and sometimes actively promoting, the demise of the institutional Church, criticizes the recent appearance of Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York on 60 Minutes. Referring to the Archbishop as a “Shrill Scold,” the author suggests that he should stop laughing so much and “visit more often the world of women called to holy orders, gay couples in loving, committed relationships, laicized men who were forced to choose between love and ministry, and impoverished pregnant women.” [His laughter] “echoes off the walls of a rapidly emptying church,” she wails, sounding a bit like a shrill scold herself.

Now, I don’t think I’m at all na├»ve about these things. I stay in close contact with the news – international, national, local and ecclesial; I interact regularly with the secular media; I meet frequently with consultative groups in the Diocese who share freely their experiences and expertise; At the office I hear everyday from all sorts of folks who love me or hate me, folks with good and bad news; In the fall I hosted a series of listening sessions with laity from around the Diocese; and I visit with people in our parishes all the time for liturgical and pastoral events. In other words, I think I know what’s going on.

Does the Church have huge challenges and problems? Of course! Have the leaders of the Church, including priests and bishops, too frequently failed to keep their commitments and serve the people well? You bet! And should the Church seek more effective ways of communicating, educating and responding to contemporary issues and the ever-changing needs of our time? Absolutely!

But, is the sky falling and the Catholic Church about to fold? I don’t think so. The vision of the Church I see is far different than that of the letter-writers and authors cited above.
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