By Carol Ann Larsen
No doubt most of us progressives would resist the term "mainstream" in describing ourselves. So who is the mainstream Catholic these days? For instance, is the so-called "cafeteria Catholic" considered mainstream? Take the issue of birth control. We Catholics practice artificial contraception/sterilization at about 2% less than our Protestant counterparts in the US. Does this make 92% of us mainstream? Does the mainstream Catholic want his priest to be able to marry? Women to be able to be ordained? How is "mainstream" to be defined in 2011? It seems to me that the traditionalists among us who are happy to take orders from the Roman Curia and the Holy Father without question are in the minority.
Unfortunately for the Church and for them as well, the young are voting with their feet in huge numbers. They do not protest, they simply leave. Who is responsible for this? Of course, our first impulse is to blame an overreaching and dictatorial hierarchy. But where is the sense of responsibility in the laity?
According to Vatican II, we have the right and the duty to shape our church, not merely to "pray, pay and obey" as our parents used to say. This overreach of the prelates of the Church took centuries to develop, and seems to be nearly impossible to reverse to a state more closely resembling the early church. Thankfully, there are Catholics working for reform who will attend the first ever meeting of the American Catholic Council in Detroit during Pentecost weekend, 2011.
These reform-minded people should resist being labeled as a disgruntled minority, or worse yet, a bunch of cranks, and claim their rightful status as, indeed, mainstream Catholics who love the Church that Christ founded and refuse to be marginalized. There is strength in numbers and our numbers will grow if we can convince ourselves and others that we have nothing to fear and a renewed and inclusive Church to gain.