|OOPS, Wrong Conference.|
I've found it fascinating to read the conservative response to the American Catholic Conference. If there is any sense of Jesus Christ in these responses I didn't find it. It's like Jesus doesn't count in comparison to the Pope and the infallible magisterium. And in all honesty I don't find that surprising because Catholics have been enculturated for eons to look to Rome before looking to Jesus. Or more precisely look to the collar before reading the Gospels. Indoctrination dies hard, and when it's coupled with fear of about everything, it dies even harder. I suspect this tendency is in play to some extent in all of us. But the conservative comments all reminded me of something my freshman college roommate once yelled at me. She was somewhat irritated at the time. She said "If you're going to be tactless, at least be nice about it." There was not much nice about the conservative response to the ACC, and it was pretty tactless.
I even got an email from one of the Ave Maria crowd informing me of all that was wrong with the ACC and why I should never even consider supporting it. I responded to it by telling the sender his email was now designated as SPAM. I read this one right after the one from my daughter explaining that she almost sent the Helena Police Department out looking for me since I hadn't answered my cell phone in three days, and my work phone went right to voice mail. I don't know what happened with the work phone, but I do know what happened with the cell phone. The only reason I didn't get a visit from the HPD is that I had updated this blog on Sunday. When I finally called her she was tactless and not nice about it. Oh well, stuff happens. It was nice to know she cared enough to almost send the very best. Can't say the same for the conservative spammer.
I've been interested in reading the editor of Catholica Australia Brian Coyne's response to the ACC. The following is an excerpt of his take a day after the conference:
WILL THIS BE SOME SORT OF WATERSHED or TURNING POINT CONFERENCE: I have to confess I'm in two minds. Certainly at the level of having any impact on the American Bishops or the Vatican, or any hope of reversing the Reform-of-the-Reform agenda of those who've taken over the institutional agenda I honestly think it has all been "pissing in the wind". It will not have the slightest impact. If anything this conference has driven home to me that the prospects of a return to the spirit of Vatican II in the Church are more remote than ever. Young people have deserted the Church in greater numbers than any other demographic. This was a conference basically comprising what was the former leadership elite in the lay Church who were energised by John XXIII and the whole message of the Vatican II but who today feel totally let down by those who have betrayed that spirit despite all their nice and Orwellian "newspeak" use of language to suggest they are upholding the Spirit of that Council. (I'm not sure if it's Orwellian or shades of Goebels.)
At a second level the Conference did fill me with enormous hope. Here at last you have a strong and visible and highly educated sector of the popular who have at last stood up and said "enough is enough — we're not putting up with bullshit and crap from the bishops or even the pope anymore. If they (the bishops and popes) want to continue treating us as 'little people' and 'simple people', we're not playing that game anymore. The Conference was, I sense, the beginning at least of the articulation of any alternative agenda — and one that does remain authentically true to what was discerned by the majority of the listening bishops at Vatican II. The gzillion dollar question and great unknown right at this moment is how this will eventually manifest itself in society? No young people will be taking it up — at least in the short term — but neither will the majority of young people be taking up what Benedict and nutter/conservative/insecure elements put up. Benedict and the bishops who believe their evangelization initiatives and language are going to attract the great unwashed masses of young people back to what they have to offer are totally deluded. (That's one of my major concerns as well, what's the point of any reform if younger generations aren't going to buy into it period. Thirty five years of JPII/Benny have utterly lost the vast majority of these generations to any concept of Catholicism.)
As James (a really astute Catholica commenter) has written in many posts over a lengthy period of time, secular society has taken over many of the great social justice and moral questions and is the great educator in society now. I frankly do not see society become less moral or less spiritual. Certainly it might becoming less religious but that is probably a very good thing. Will some new "structured" or "institutional" gathering arise? I honestly don't know the answer to that. At one level I sense there is a deep drive in humanity for a sense of community and identity that drives people to want to congregate and worship together as well as combine their energies in good works and social justice initiatives. That might be the factor that is more important in causing some new structure to coalesce rather than any sense that the great majority in the future want to recite some "common creed".
The only thing I am certain of these days is that Benedict and his bishop and "conservative movement" friends have about as much chance of reversing the decline in participation figures as any of us have of flying to Mars in the next ten years. He will achieve his dream of building a "smaller, purer Church" but it will be largely irrelevant in guiding the course of human civilisation let alone getting anyone to heaven.
I really believe Brian's point about younger generations is the crux of any reform or re evangelization movement. Tweaking or even breaking the system is not going to be enough. It's going to take people actually demonstrating that Jesus Christ had something relevant to teach them, and that's going to take individuals who prove that in their lives. It's going to take people willing to walk the talk one person at a time. Just as it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be. And that's the way it was always meant to be.