Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Where Renewal of The Catholic Church In The USA Is Starting

  • Morality is relative.
  • Right and wrong depend on the situation and people.  As long as they do their best, they can't do wrong.
  • What is true for you may not be true for me.
  • That might have been considered wrong in the past, but we have progressed beyond such ancient fears.
  • Dogmatically proclaiming you are right and everyone else is wrong is really just dogmatic exclusivity based on myth.
  • We shouldn't judge others, but should each follow our own conscience
Relativism, and relativism's sister - utilitarianism, are the biggest issues in our culture today.

Relativism is the belief that truth is relative to people, situations, time, cultures, etc.  Truth can change and is subjective. There is nothing which is universal to us all or which binds us to something universally objective.

Why is this a problem?  Because without moral absolutes, objectively - there is no sin or human failure. No action can be wrong at all times.  It leads to a society with moral license and each individual can do whatever they please - forget the consequences. It is a philosophy that will ultimately be the end of any society that owns it.

Utilitarianism flows naturally from relativism. Utilitarianism is the philosophy that the best way to live my life is to maximize my happiness and minimize my suffering and this is primarily done by using other people and things to attain my happiness. In other words, it means humans use other people as objects.

Both relativism and utilitarianism are getting worse in our society.  From a 2008 study by the Barna Research Group:
"We are witnessing the development and acceptance of a new moral code in America....The moral code began to disintegrate when the generation before them - the Baby Busters - pushed the limits that had been challenged by their parents - the Baby Boomers. The result is that without much fanfare or visible leadership, the U.S. has created a moral system based on convenience, feelings, and selfishness."
But, it isn't just outside the society as a whole - it is inside the Catholic Church.  From a 2010 poll done about the Millenial Generation and the Catholic Church:
**82% of Catholic millenials believe morals are “relative.”
Here is how that is lived out - Catholic Millenials believed the following practices are "morally acceptable" at these percentages:
  • 61% - a Catholic to practice more than one religion
  • 33% - having a baby outside of marriage
  • 35% - same sex marriage
  • 37% - medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos
  • 20% - euthanasia
We, the Catholic Church and our allies against relativism, have a lot of work to do. As Pope Benedict said:
"To have a clear faith, according to the creed of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. While relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be carried about with every wind of "doctrine," seems to be the only attitude that is fashionable. A dictatorship of relativism is being constituted that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the "I" and its whims as the ultimate measure."
Pope Francis has also echoed B16 in saying:
"There is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth."
The questions then arise:
Where can the Catholic Church hope to turn the tide?

My thesis is this - I believe it MUST be done in the young adult stage of life. Previous research shows that college-age adults are more open to ideas and change than at later stages in life.

Also, the Church has consistently taught (if not implemented on the ground) that evangelization and catechesis of adults is where the focus of our efforts should lie. JPII said catechesis to adults is the primary form of catechesis, because it is:
“addressed to the persons who have the greatest responsibility and the capacity to live the Christian message in its fully developed form” Catechesi Tradendae 43
Therefore - if we miss the young adults in college, we lose the culture war!

So, how can the Catholic Church best meet the challenges in this age with young adults? Many argue it must be done in Catholic universities. I agree that having a good system of Catholic colleges and universities is a great way to form Catholics. The Catholic Church started the university system and it is still extremely important. But, here is the problem - Catholic universities are not doing enough and don't have enough influence to stem the tide.

First of all, I am not saying to toss the baby out with the bathwater. Catholic colleges and universities play an indispensable roll in our Church and country. We cannot give away higher education to secularism. Nor can theology or Catholic philosophy be maintained in non-Catholic schools. But, the tide isn't turning in the Church's favor quick enough at Catholic institutions.

Studies show that female students are MORE promiscuous at Catholic universities and Catholic colleges and universities not forming students any better than secular universities in the Catholic faith.

This is shameful.  Especially when we stop to consider the state of campus ministries in the USA and the way resources are distributed. There are some campus ministries, such as St. Mary's, who have modern facilities, large staffs, and adequate resources (which they have gone out and worked hard to find the funding). Others have nothing at all - no staff, no activities, no ministry...nothing.

In other words, we have allowed generations of Catholics who go to many colleges to go through college without any ministry. Many leave the church.

90% of Catholic college students go to non-Catholic schools.  If we are to renew the Church, then we need the renewal to start where young Catholic students are going to school - at non-Catholic institutions.

Even if we start to turn the tide in some of the Catholic universities that are losing (or have already lost) their Catholic identity, it will take generations to turn them around. On the other hand, a campus ministry at a non-Catholic school can be ratcheted up quickly, within a few years - if it has visionary leadership and enough support (from both Church leaders and laity who help financially).

In other words, we need a paradigm shift.
  • We need to re-focus our priorities of ministering to the millenial generation toward the non-Catholic campus ministry centers.  
  • We can no longer be satisfied with understaffed and underfunded campus ministries (or having none at all).  
  • We need dynamic and visionary leaders to start programs that challenge and form Catholics to go out into the world and change it - not be changed by it.
Pray for Catholic higher education and campus ministry.

Support campus ministry - it is where I believe reform will start - with young adults. Pope Francis thinks young adults will be the catalysts of change too - here are a few quotes from World Youth Day in Rio:
"I will always place my hopes in...the young around the world: through them, Christ is preparing a new springtime all over the earth. I have seen its first fruits and I know that others will joyfully reap the full harvest."
-Farewell Ceremony
"It is the young who want to be the protagonists of change. Please, don’t leave it to others to be the protagonists of change. You are the ones who hold the future! You … Through you the future is fulfilled in the world. I ask you also to be protagonists of this transformation. Continue to overcome apathy, offering a Christian response to the social and political anxieties, which are arising in various parts of the world. I ask you to be builders of the world, to work for a better world. Dear young people, please, don’t be observers of life, but get involved. Jesus did not remain an observer, but he immersed himself. Don’t be observers, but immerse yourself in the reality of life, as Jesus did."
-Prayer Vigil
There are many positive signs in campus ministries around the country:

  • Many campus ministries are growing and becoming more dynamic.
  • Some campus ministries have implemented strategic plans and development offices to increase outreach and funding.
  • FOCUS, St. Paul's Outreach, Evangelical Catholic, and other organizations continue to flourish.
  • Some campus ministries have gone from nothing to something.

We have a start. But, we must have a broader vision on helping the church nationally and universally, if we are to have real change. This means focused efforts to increase the growth of campus ministries throughout the country in a collaborative and strategic way. How can this happen? I don't know for sure. But, it must if real reform is to take place.


Snuffyspaw said...

A good example sits in our backyard. Simply compare the size and vibrancy of A&M Student Catholic center to UT's center. My god-daughter will be starting at UT in the fall, and I've challenged her to help grow their programs.

Al Arca, Class of '84

Marcel said...

Al - The UCC at UT is well above the curve when it comes to Catholic Campus Ministry in the USA.

Gert said...

Headline is confusing?

Marcy said...

Everything you have said is true! You might be interested in Al Kresta's Dangers to the Faith, It deals with many of the modern cultural dangers that pull us Catholics away from the faith and how we can counteract it. I'm about 3/4 of the way through it, and Kresta really breaks down the different poisons society hands us. Not just relativism and consumerism, but alternative "spiritualities," Islam, even thinking science is the answer to every question. When I went to college I don't remember seeing Catholic ministries, and we really need them.

Marcel said...

Gert - changed it.
This is why I need a full-time editor. :-P