|Ooops, here Bishop Hubbard engages in syncretism. Must be one of those Spirit of VII guys.|
Fr. Richard McBrien has a post generating a great deal of comment. In it he writes of the musings of Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany NY, on why there are so many cradle Catholics leaving the Church. Bishop Hubbard has actually written a number of interesting articles for the Diocesan paper, of which the one McBrien cites is one of Hubbard's more courageous pieces. Bishop Hubbard also wrote a three part series about his recent Ad Limina visit to Rome which is really fascinating for what it doesn't say. The exodus out of the pews also came up in his Ad Limina visit, but his reporting of it seems to imply that Rome sees but has no clue about what to do. I suspect they don't know what to do, because some of those 'to dos' would seriously impact the current clerical structure, and that would include the Vatican and it's maze of bureaucracy. (Kind of the same situation we currently see in all the failed attempts and hand wringing by politicians over reforming congress.)
Bishop Hubbard has held his See since 1977, which means he was a Jadot appointment and that makes him pretty unique amongst American bishops. I don't find it surprising that Hubbard would be the one bishop who is seriously pondering what is going wrong with Catholicism in the Anglo US. If there is one thing I have noticed about JPII/Benedict appointments it's that they are not allowed to seriously ponder what might be wrong with how the Church is functioning, especially as regards their own behavior. Although Pope Benedict has stated on more than one occasion that Evangelization has to start with personal conversion on all levels of the Church, talk is cheap. Real conversion is a price this Vatican is not willing to pay. Just ask Bishop Morris of Toowoomba or Archbishop Martin of Dublin. Given that, I am thankful for Bishop Hubbard's willingness to even look at the truth of US Catholicism.
The comments following the article bring up some really good points, especially about why younger generations are less than enthusiastic about organized religion. It's not just that there is enough hypocrisy to fertilize a thousand acres, or an intransigence about even attempting to deal with the knowledge coming from virtually every scientific field, or an insistence on Truths, which aren't Truth in any meaningful sense, it's also very much due to the lack of spiritual meaning or spiritual challenge. It's easy to go to Mass on Sunday and sit through a boring sermon, but it doesn't really challenge one to go out and do as Jesus did. In fact, it often substitutes for going out and doing as Jesus did. One young man jokingly told me he puts more real effort into his softball team than what's required of him to be considered a faithful Catholic. Well, I guess that's not really funny, because in his case, it's true. Now that I think about it, I turned golf into a spiritual practice because I spent way more time at golf than I did at Mass. (Golf in the Kingdom my ultimate golfing tome.)
The more I think about reforming Catholicism, the more I begin to understand that changing structures and disciplines is only a small step. Jesus wasn't just teaching a spiritual system, He was teaching a way of life that led to spiritual insights and breakthroughs. He meant it when He said we could do as He did, and more. The cost of converting to that understanding is very very high. Real reform of His Church is going to exact a very very high price because the Church must reflect the spiritual understanding of it's founder. It can no longer afford to work in opposition to core Christian teachings about egolessness, lack of attachment to material assets, service to the poor, or the importance of non judgmental love. In other words, Catholicism needs to start acting like a New Testament Church and a lot less like an Old Testament Church. I think before that happens there will be a much bigger exodus and eventually that exodus will coalesce around a more mature and deeper Christian spirituality and even further down the road Rome will accept all of the change and claim it was always so---and Jesus will laugh.