This photo from the Cleveland Plains Dealer, of the new St Peter's parish, may be worth far more than a thousand words for the Archdiocese of Cleveland and the halls of Rome.
The new break away community of St. Peter's in Cleveland is perhaps a more threatening situation for hierarchical authority than St Stanislaus Kostka in St. Louis. In this case a parish community and it's priest has more or less said 'take your church building and shove it', we'll keep our living church. This is both a simple but very radical understanding. Once a person has gotten past the unexamined mental connection of church building equals valid parish, and makes the connection that a congregation is in fact centered in it's people, one is free to begin questioning a whole boat load of other unexamined connections and assumptions. A person begins to see that there really is a hierarchy of spiritual understandings that the Institutional Church has done it's best to commingle and subsume to clerical authority and tangible signs of power--like church buildings which they control and can close with impunity.
St Peter's represents a very possible future for Catholicism. More and more Catholics who cherish their sacramental, communal, and spiritual life are going to decide that those aspects of their faith are more important than obeying hierarchical decisions. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the Vatican's failure to put lay sacramental access above mandatory clerical celibacy and the all male priesthood is one of the root causes of parish closures and consolidations. This position is in fact insulting to the faith of the laity. There will be more and more parishes like St Peter's who go their own way, and for those whose priests won't follow, these groups will find other sources of priesthood.
These parishes will undoubtedly manifest different styles of worship and doctrinal conformity. Some will be traditionalist in the extreme and some far less so. They will however share the Living Jesus in all His manifest forms. It could even be the somewhere down the line there will be a truce called between the various factions of Catholic understanding because all sides will share the same freedom to express their unique understandings. One thing both sides already share, even if one side seems loathe to admit it, is listening to Rome doesn't imply one will go directly to hell for not obeying Rome. There is a big difference.
Most Catholics when pushed to articulate why they are Catholic or why they care about being Catholic, don't wax eloquently on about the triumphant infallible papacy. Rome does that. What lay Catholics can wax eloquently about is the spiritual connection they have with Catholicism. That's true for both trads and progressives. That they have differences of opinion in how that spiritual connection is fed should not be surprising because that has been a very traditional aspect of Christianity from the get go. For instance it's hard to imagine the Johanine community which produced the Gospel of John would have derived a great deal of spiritual insight from many of the early Gentile Jesus followers who produced Luke. These two Gospels, reflecting two different early groups of Jesus followers, speak to two different levels of spiritual understanding. Just as the whole conflict between the Jerusalem Jewish view and Paul's trans Jewish view was another example of not every follower of Jesus being on the same page. And yet the Church flourished, somehow managing to encompass and finally validate all these diverse spiritual views to some extent or another. If only the modern Institution could somehow take this lesson from it's Apostolic origins.
It won't though, because two thousand years later the emphasis is not on spiritual growth, but economic and secular power. Uniformity and inculcating obedience to central authority are far more important now than they could ever have been to groups of Jesus followers who essentially had nothing of this sort and didn't care if they did. Just like Jesus taught.
The 'exodus' from the controlling tentacles of the Institutional form of Catholicism will escalate as more and more people give themselves permission to exit. All the Burkian threats will go unheard because they are not about authentic Catholic spirituality. They are about inauthentic institutional control and Catholics of all persuasions are beginning to develop eyes to see and ears to hear.
Personal update about this blog. I have pretty much come to the end of my financial ability to sustain Enlightened Catholicism. In the coming weeks I will be relocating back to Montana and won't have the resources to keep the Internet connection which makes this blog possible. I am hopeful that given a few months to generate some actual income I will return. EC and the community which shares their thoughts mean too much to me to end in any permanent sense. Until then, keep the real faith burning.