The following excerpt is from Richard McClory's latest post at NCR. It deals with the issue of personal integrity in relationship to the current environment of institutional Catholicism. I've written about this integrity issue more than once in the history of this blog, and I also believe very strongly it can never be stressed enough.
I've omitted the middle of the article where Richard goes into some of the statistics from the latest survey of Catholics which points to the integrity issue as the impetus for Catholics leaving the fold.
The high cost of lost integrityRichard McClory - National Catholic Reporter - 11/22/2011
In commenting on my article concerning the nonreception of church teaching ("When is dissent not just dissent?" Nov. 17), Jim McCrea made some valid points well worth considering: "How many of us know priests and lay people, active in parishes and dioceses, who compromise their core beliefs so as to carry on the good work they are doing within church structures? Whether the issue is Eucharistic inclusivity, option for the poor, a thinking laity, married clergy, women's ordination, homosexuality, contraception, our Church fosters a culture of keeping quiet so as to keep going. Sometimes the pressure from above is overt, but we are all subject to that subtlest form of institutional intimidation which everyone registers without it having to be articulated. (Jim McCrea is a frequent commenter at Bilgrimage and a long time member of this blog community. His insight is usually right on target.)
"We watch the few who persist in standing against it being marginalized or pushed out altogether; their whole lives can be taken apart. Many, both young and lifelong churchgoers, can no longer accept it and are walking away. Meanwhile those who slip into capitulating to it progressively deform their spiritual integrity.
"Of course, the Protestant tradition and secular society have long picked up the tenor of hypocrisy about Catholicism. After Vatican II, though, many of us felt we were on the way to being freed from it. But the volume now seems to be ratcheting up again. How can we commit to the Church we love without dancing to this particular tune?" (This institutional capitulation deforms spiritual integrity because first and foremost it feeds personal fear.)
I believe a great number of priests and other church employees share Jim's discomfort in this atmosphere of 21st century Catholicism. It is not a healthy environment conducive to robust, confident breathing. In order to do their service to the church, they must hold their tongue on a variety of matters they consider important for the future of the church. And when asked what they think in public, they dissemble or just lie. If it's not hypocrisy, it is, as Jim states, a diminishment of their integrity so vital to authentic ministry......
......I may be wrong but I submit a direct link exists between these survey findings showing the withdrawal of trust people place in church leadership and the inability of church leaders to be open, candid and transparent about their convictions. You may include here a great number of priests, religion teachers, laity working in Catholic hospitals, universities and other institutions, pastors, chancery officials and those bishops who understand what's going on. They remain outwardly discrete and noncommittal lest honest candor cost them their jobs. And everyone sees through this thin disguise. The result is often not sympathy for their plight but sad disillusionment among many Catholics and angry cynicism among others.
Fear rules in Catholicism. It has for eons. It's grip has gotten much tighter in the last twenty five years. The more our hierarchy attempts to rule through fear, the tighter it makes this grip, the more integrity is loses, and the fewer the people who stay. It's a very straight line relationship. Beyond all that is this other simple fact: The more fear rules, the less Jesus does. Whether it's an institution or person, once integrity is lost, so is the the spiritual life.
We no longer talk in Catholicism about an inclusive Jesus. We talk instead about excluding 'others'. We no longer talk about the life giving attributes of living The Way. We talk on endlessly about the 'culture of death', as if the Church itself isn't part and parcel of that culture of death, as if it has no responsibility, as if it is somehow above it all. That our leadership can act this way in the face of so much truth which says exactly the opposite, the less credibility they have, and the more the spiritual life of the Church dies.
Catholicism is dieing as an influence for change because our leadership is in its heart, terrified of change. This is especially true if that change threatens their position in the Church. Better for them that those of us that have real problems with their fear and utter lack of integrity leave the fold. It's about as forceful a way as possible to tell us all that their Church is not about us. It's about them. If that's the case, then it's hopeless to look to Catholicism to be a major player in ushering in the Kingdom. The Kingdom is all about flipping the status quo. It's all about living without fear. It's about love and compassion which are incompatible with fear and lack of integrity.
It's not suprising to me that our youth are seeking spirituality and not religion. Religion is proving to be a dry source of genuine spirituality. It can be no other way as long as fear rules and integrity takes a back seat to coerced obedience in our major religions. This doesn't mean I think Catholicism as a spiritual force has reached it's nadir. It does mean we need to teach Catholicism as the powerful spiritual and life changing reality Jesus intended, and not a set of religious dogma. That teaching will not come from very many of our current leaders because on that path there is real personal challenge and very little guaranteed security. Jesus warned us all about those facts.
He also showed us something else. He showed us in His passion and death that it was pointless to rely on most male leadership to witness to the Truth. The Apostles ran. They denied. They hid. They fell asleep at the switch. They missed the Resurrection. They demonstrated no integrity. It was one man, John, and the women disciples who witnessed everything, walked the total path with Him, who maintained their integrity and witnessed the Resurrection. As it was then, so it is now. God willing it won't be this way in the future.