Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Bishop Ponders The Catholic Exodus

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.



  1. I have the greatest respect for Bishop Hubbard. I have heard him speak on least one occasion, a national Catholic AIDS convention, NCAN. He is probably one of the last pastoral bishops of this era. If the Spirit wants to preserve the RC Church She will want more RC Bishops like Bishop Hubbard.

    The rc bishops of the USA have a major problem at hand with the disaffection. They are not leaders. The "sheep" have learned to think for themselves.

    I don't think the cigar smoking, Jameson drinking, Dolon is what the people want or need, or the "sheep".

  2. I agree wild, AB Dolan comes across just like a 'good ole boy', drinking Jameson rather than Jack, but never the less, one doesn't seek spiritual enlightenment from a good ole boy.

  3. I perhaps ramble too much about your ideas in that I will send them in more than one part.

    Colleen, you are quite an optimist!

    "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 agelessness, 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."

    I take a much different view of what is Christ's Church, The Way, is ever present now and it is in the minds of those who face a world looking for truth and understanding. There are many people all over the world who do this. Those of us that were brought up under the Roman Catholic tradition that are attempting to follow The Way of Christ have an obligation to "change the world" just as Steve Jobs did. His changes were in technology and if it were not for him, we might not be using operating systems with pull down menus or certainly have the connectivity that we all enjoy today. No Steve Jobs may have not even been a Christian. He certainly was not always a very kind man, but he made big difference in the world because he was a seeker of truth in new ideas. In so many real ways we are closer and more connected because of this man who like Edison did change the world because he was able to “think different.”

    Those that would belong to The Way of Christ are seekers of truth and application of new ideas. So many ideas of the old Roman Institution of Church will have to completely topple for those followers to seek truth revealed to mankind on so many fronts. Roman Catholic leaders currently operate as deconstructors of an advancing society. It puts them in a position of coming from darkened mind set. I do not think that the Roman Catholic group of leaders or their stucture of doing things can survive as a productive type of life and be at all productive to the world mind set. I think they are committing the tragic sin of ignoring the (Holy) Spirit within so many individual contributors to our world. The censor of all the great theologians is but one of many examples. Where would we as a people be if the ideas of these men were placed in their proper perspective. No instead the Church tried to murder their minds just as the Holy Inquisition murdered bodies of “heretics.” Those that are seekers are look into the ideas of these censored men and women. I would never had read Sister Johnson’s book had the Episcopate not made such an unwarranted fuss about it.
    Part II to follow

  4. Part II

    I don't think that there will be a Rome that accepts all the changes down the road and that claims they were always of this mindset. I thing the picture of the Detroit Church that you recently put up is the future stucture of what we know as the Roman Catholic Church. Those that wish to follow The Way of Christ will coalesce behind a much more accepting structure that will wish to have leadership that is selected by the group for a small period of time and who can be fired by the group. There values will be much more as Rome calls SECULAR, for they will need to welcome the change of insight that is The Holy Spirit in each of us. This in no way a productive institution can resemble the RCC for the RCC has a darkened mind set of nature and mankind's place in nature. Remember that there is only one absolute doctrine, “Change is always inevitable.” There was a similar title on the cover of Time Magazine picturing a fetus in its amniotic fluid. So humanity knows that these changes are upon us and they are rapidly making them.

    Since the attempts of Vatican II to bring the Church forward to heal the wounds and splits emanating from its philosophical center were never taken seriously by a curia headed by a shadow Pope, in the person of Cardinal Otovoni, there has been no healing in an extremely wounded church that takes the idea that mind and body are separate and must fight against each other. This is what is so wrong about idealizing celibacy. After the unfortunate death of JP I (perhaps murder of JP I), all the ideas of Vatican II were murdered as the Roman officials try to spin this great conference as something that never occurred. This is frankly one of a number of disastrous philosophical lies spewed by Rome over nearly 2 thousand years.

    I don't look to a darkened mind set that we find in Rome to endure and persevere. It is in fact run by the mind set of the Star Wars evil Emperor. The Way of Christ however is alive in so many people around the world who do not fear the changes that this church refers to as "secularism."

    Yes the secularists have a smuggle with ethics, but it is certainly true that most all good ethical changes have come from this group, not from formal Churches or Church structure. The mind set of the Founders of the United Sates such as Benjamin Franklin were correct to put more faith in the people than the Christian concepts of truth. It is the mindset of these founders that will bring us more into a society of enlightenment. It is this mindset that dooms the murderous ideas of the Roman Otovoniists.

  5. With all due respect to rdp46' the Church of Rome is not acting like an Old Testament church. The prophets are full of messages demanding mercy, compassion, just treatment of the poor and other values that Jesus incorporated into his gospel message. The Church of Rome is acting like a medieval barony writ large, where a small segment of the privileged tyrannically lords it over (literally) a putative mass of mindless, ignorant, benighted underlings. But as Bob Dylan prophesied, "The times they are advancing!"

  6. Bill you won't get much disagreement from me about your take, and the times are advancing. As Steve Jobs said in his adds. Think different!

  7. That final paragraph of your is pretty funny. I like the way you jump from examples of parishioners' disengagement from their faith to the need for 'root and branch' "reform" of the Catholic Church.

    The Catholic Church embodies the New Testament teachings better than any other religious group on the planet. If some people don't see it, and deride - even attack - the Church in their ignorance, how is this any different from New Testament times?

  8. You may be right about the entirety of the Catholic body of teachings and the New Testament, but that is not true of the Hierarchical structure and how it operates. That is Old Testament to it's core.

  9. @invictus88

    Where are you coming from? I am puzzled. Previously you revealed that you are relatively young. Are you in the USA or Canada? Europe? I don't want to judge you unfairly, but sometimes your comments seem somewhat judgmental and extreme. Maybe you don't have enough life experience or perhaps you come from a different part of the world where Catholicism is quite different from my more than 50 years of the church in Canada.

    I am almost always disappointed by those who identify themselves as "Catholic" on the internet. For example, our host Colleen wished her community a Happy Christmas, but very few replied, publicly at least, "et cum spiritu tuo" or the equivalent in any other language. Is it too much to express some good will? What kind of love do we here have for our friend, or enemy, Colleen? There are twenty thousand visits to this blog every month. Would it kill the other anonymous out there to say "Peace be with you" at this time of year?

    The RC Church does not, on the matter of greeting, come close to the other Protestant churches I have visited in welcoming strangers. Nor does my own parish, or any other I have ever belonged to, come close to providing care for the families experiencing sickness. That's a New Testament directive, by the way. (Matthew 25:31-46)

    Don't ever say anything bad about the Baptists, or begin to claim superiority over them. When our friend suffered cancer for 5 years her fellow Baptists ensured that her house was cleaned every week, her meals were prepared every day, her children had transportation to school, their sports and arts activities, and that she had someone to drive her to and from her many medical appointments. The RC church has nothing like this sort of living the word of Christ in any parish I am aware of.

    My own parish priest is begging the bishop for a deacon. This is ridiculous. The bishop's primary work should be to find the resources his priests need when there is so much ministry work to be done. The centralized decision making of the bishops and the Vatican gets in the way of living the gospel.


  10. Here is an example of how an online prayer community can operate: