Monday, June 11, 2012

My Story pt. 2: Catholic 3-way

(continued from here)

I'm stuck in a Catholic 3-way
After years of serious study and research, I see that Roman Catholicism is stuck in a non-sexy three-way, which is at the heart of my unhappiness and disappointment with Christian churches.

non-sexy three-way between Academic Church, Local Church, and Vatican

 On the one hand, the Academic Church - universities, theology scholars, publishing groups, conferences and organizations - is trying to understand every aspect of religious life with full freedom. From them you can read about feminist interpretations of scripture, efforts to re-join denominations, and even visions of the Christ of the Cosmos. This church proposes all sorts of bold visions for the future of Christianity. Many members would classify themselves as progressive, but overall you have practicing Christians. Many are ordained men and women.

Then you have the Local Church - local parishes, pastors, weekly bible study - which tries to respond to the needs of \individuals and families. Parish priests are stretched to the limit, so today we don't see our friendly country priest like previous generations. The gap is filled with over-worked under-paid un-trained lay ministers, or permanent deacons (also volunteer), or retired-in-residence pastors (who are retirees).
pressure on all sides

The local church has intense challenges on all sides - competition from other churches that are more *something*, pressures to be orthodox from the Bishop or other national organizations, the needs of diverse individual members, severe budget shortfalls, and the pastor's vision. It's impossible to hold these in balance. If the pastor gets his way and they, say, switch to old-fashioned services, many members will go to other congregations and the budget will fall out, cutting off lay-ministers and any parish services. If a church competes with other congregations by using youth-services or more contemporary approaches, the Bishop could gut-punch them by removing funds or replacing the pastor. Managing all this takes a professional team, which many parishes cannot afford, or they afford at the expense of other services like outreach to the poor or mission trips or education.

Finally, we talk a lot about the Vatican - we mean the Pope himself, the college of cardinals, the host of administrative organizations like the orthodoxy watchdog CDF, and their worldwide network of Bishops (like the USCCB). They are very Roman, in the sense of maddening bureaucracy and corruption, entrenched machismo and anti-feminism, and a weird sense of budgetary priorities. They are also firmly (proudly?) undemocratic, closed, and secretive.

Anyone who has traveled to Italy knows exactly what I'm talking about. Visiting Rome and dealing once or twice with government there taught me more about why the Vatican is how it is than years of education. It is dysfunctional as an organization. This bureaucracy - really more of a medieval court - 'serves' about 1 billion people, but I wouldn't wanting them running the Louisiana DMV.  This has been highlighted by the recent scandals.

But this organization has placed itself into a facist position when it comes to truth and practice in the whole Church. Bishops, instead of ministering to their regions intelligently, have been chosen based on their ability to follow the Vatican. The Vatican shuts down universities for teaching or researching things that aren't orthodox. And you better believe that local pastors, or individual scholars, aren't interested in fighting this (literally) byzantine system.

What happens?
Universities stop calling themselves 'Catholic' and cut ties to the church. Local parishes shrink and collapse, or just start over. Individual families stop participating, or change congregations. The Vatican gets busted by scandal after scandal, faces shrinking popularity, and ignores talk of reform or schism.

In the next ten years I think we'll see a breaking point, a reformation moment. A few things are happening: Benedict will be replaced so we'll have a new figurehead; a critical mass of families will leave the church and parishes will collapse; the scandals will be overpowering in their trauma (as in Ireland). We will recognize our common dissatisfacion, and hopefully new leadership will bring us up to speed in the new millennium (or at least back to 1965).

What will I do? What will Millennials do? That's part 3, the Manifesto.

No comments:

Post a Comment