Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tripp throws down a challenge from The Christian Century Mainline Protestantism Today
In a friendly way of course

As far as I can tell the author is in part taking the crisis du jour (the priestly underage gay sex scandal) and trying to use it to (gladly?) predict the demise of Catholicism in Europe. As a cardinal said to Napoleon when the general said to the Pope he would destroy the church (in a year), not even we have managed that! Europeans and Americans aren’t flocking to mainline Protestantism either, and the mainliners aren’t having lots of kids; more the opposite.

Compared to the ‘Enlightenment’ this is a bump in the road. Europe’s more secularist — anti-religious, not secular — than residually mainline/‘I’m spiritual not religious’ northern Americans. Ground zero for the ‘Enlightenment’.
In no sense is European religion dying — just witness the continuing popularity of pilgrimage and other popular devotions — but loyalty to the institutional church has weakened disastrously.
Not news really: many Catholics have long had a casual relationship with the institution, from Arturo’s Mexicans to, before them, Italians (I know second-generation folk from Brooklyn and their descendants). Such worldly-wise people aren’t at all surprised when priests turn out to be no good.
The number of priestly vocations has been in free fall since the 1960s, leaving many seminaries perhaps a quarter as full as they were in the time of Pope John XXIII.
Sometimes post hoc really is propter hoc. Vatican II was a bomb.

Between a lively folk Catholicism and Pope Benedict’s renewal (a smaller, sounder official church than in the ’70s, a cadre of orthodox who are the institution, which after all has its place in all this: our Marines or Navy Seals) I’m not worried. The rumours of the terminal illness of the church are greatly exaggerated.
Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
What about societal/economic stuff like women working outside the home? Of course I don’t take the bait (‘Get back in the kitchen!’). The answer as with the other culture-wars red herring, gay marriage (which the faith says is impossible), is libertarianism, or the faith can and will flourish in freedom even amongst those who reject it. Want a career? Wonderful! (But how much of this is out of need — you don’t want to; you have to — or marketing more wage slavery as empowerment?) But not at the expense of harming others, the natural limit to freedom (or libertarians aren’t by definition selfish monsters).

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