The following comments from the website of the National Catholic Reporter were originally posted in response to Richard McBrien's January 2 article concerning Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., "Bishop Ponders Reasons Americans Leave Catholic Church.
[The bishops need] to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through the people of God and through the ongoing development of culture around the world. To listen to others beyond the Vatican and the Chancery offices might actually open some eyes, some minds, and some hearts. When the only people you actually engage in conversation are all like minded – it is easy to assume you have all of the answers – but the reality is in this setting, we don't even have the questions. All too often, we as a church act much like the old Baltimore Catechism – here are the questions and answers and that's all that you need to know; just pray, pay and obey and then wrap yourself in the mindset of Pius X and Leo XIII - and build high walls around yourself. I might be amazing to follow the dictate of Jesus who told his disciples – "Pay attention" "Don't be afraid" Pay attention.
– Charles Bolser
In my view, Charles, you are correct. Since this is a communal structure of the People of God, it is up to us to redefine, reconceptualize, and rethink the old idea of 'church.' What is needed is a Council of the People of God; certainly NOT a Vatican Council. Rather than running around in a panic trying to put out fires (clericalism, chauvinism, sexism, homophobia, sexual abuse, coverups, financial fraud, dogmatism, legalism, an environment of fear and negativity, etc.), we need to understand that the Spirit is giving us this opportunity to start over: this will be the fruit of the Council of the People of God. It is so obvious that the old system does not work anymore; before we lose another generation, it is time to begin the REFORMATION and RETHINKING while there are still a few believers left! Fear not, the Spirit will direct us to seize this opportunity to grow again in a vision of Christianity that was with our founder. After so many centuries of secular imperial structure and hierarchy that we have accepted along the way, we will be able to return to a community of believers and abandon all the detritus that has accumulated with the old system thus freeing us to live in peace and joy.
– Rome Watcher
There really are a variety of reasons. One acquaintance of mine left to pursue a call to ordination. She really did not have a choice – obviously. Another acquaintance stopped going to Mass after strong opposition by Catholic bishops to gay marriage laws, like the one in New York, even though these laws do not force religious bodies to change their teachings on marriage. Still another acquaintance, who is divorced from an abusive husband, is an active member of her parish but feels disrespected.
There is another group of Catholics who have not formally left the church, but who rarely participate in the life of their parishes. They do not have strong feelings against the church, but they appear to see going to Mass as just another nice activity which they have little time for in the midst of busy lives. How do committed Catholics respond to these brothers and sisters?
[Richard McBrien's article] makes good sense save the one element which bothers me most. Through our baptism we are members of the church. I fail to understand the basis for any statement declaring who has left the church. What exactly do they mean by 'left'. Do they mean some of us do not attend? Perhaps they mean do not contribute? Put another way it could well be that many true belivers are convinced that they have been abandoned by an ecclesial structure which has become very unchristian in its rigidity, inflexibility, and adamant rejection of Vatican II. One only has to study the Papacy from say the 13th to the 16th century to see that as an
institution it does not have a glorious or holy past. Apostolic succession would be impossible to trace through the schisms and the multiple claimants to the papacy. Yet, the current structure in its absolute claims is closer to the period of the Medicis and the Borgias than the open window created by Vatican II. Many of use see no sensse in even bothering to try to have a voice. The only thing I have to offer is that we are members of the church, we have not left, the body of Christ is wounded and there is no sign of healing from the top. The arrogance is stifling. . . .
Recommended Off-site Link:
A Bishop Ponders the Catholic Exodus – Colleen Kochivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, January 3, 2012).
See also the previous PCV posts:
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 1)
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 2)
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 3)
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission