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|Today's Take: NCR's daily Web column|
|Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news. It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.|
|November 4, 2002||
Vol. 1, No. 144
Church ain't wot it used to be
by Arthur Jones, NCR editor at large
One of the marvelous things about wearing an editor's cap for so long is the erratic stream of irascible and ironic -- rarely irenic -- letters that people sit down and crank out to me.
In light of yesterday's look (Today's Take for Nov. 3, "6.30 a.m. Mass") at the steady drone of clerical early morning exegesis, you might enjoy the tangential views of Peter Foley, a prof in the University of Arizona's humanities and religious studies program, and young priests in Los Angeles.
Mature Catholics whose daily and weekly adherences have been the stepping stones of their lives, are now down to Sunday Mass once or twice a month, and dropping perhaps a $5 bill in the basket instead of the once significant weekly check. Their money is still going to good works, but the parish and diocese -- the institution -- is no longer the vehicle.
As I say, this is anecdotal. It's just that I hear it sufficiently often to suggest it is a growing feature.
Enter Foley who, in a purported letter to the Holy Father, which he may or may not have sent, treats us to this insight:
"My parish priest … loves the Latin Mass and all the different altar cloths. The church looks great now and isn't cluttered up with all the riff-raff any more either. You really can see the lovely altar all the way from the back, even on Sunday now because there is nobody in your way."
And add on to Foley the fact that in a recent meeting of Los Angeles archdiocesan priests -- about half of the 1,200 showed -- younger priests booed older priests who suggested opening the discussion wider on introducing married priests.
This is the pope-as-God set of younger priests: the don't ask me to think, tell me what to do crowd. Who will appeal to the don't ask me to think, tell me what to do element within the U.S. Catholic laity.
As a concept of church, this pope prefers the Sheep of God to the People of God.
So there's this cadre of prissy school ma'am clerics who believe they are in the real estate business as sole proprietors of the square-footage of church and altar. And many of the bishops are as bad.
The result is the People of God are not being shepherded by this pontificate, they're being corralled. Instead of being called by name, they're being branded. And the outcome is a generation of Vatican II Catholic as late-turning mavericks who've decided maybe the world's 2,000 bishops meeting together in the 1960s mainly got it right.
And that this pontificate in its internal dealings mainly has it wrong.
These mature American Catholics, many of them grandparents with other calls on their time, are at peace with Jesus and their maker.
Their church ain't wot it used to be. But their faith still is.
The Vatican doesn't care. Fr. Andrew Greeley correctly forecast that more than 20 years ago. It's happy to not have to deal with papal-made mavericks. The only thing the institution misses is their money
Arthur Jones' e-mail address is email@example.com.
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