This is not to say that I think the Making Disciples (tm) program is necessarily a bad thing. Like other parish programs like Why Catholic or any of these parish evangelization programs, the Siena Institute's program should be appreciated for its efforts and may be quite helpful in parishes. In fact, since I haven't gone through this particular program nothing I write should be taken as a direct criticism of the program itself--which probably, like most such programs, has valuable strengths and perhaps a few weaknesses here and there which may be ironed out as the years go by.
The problem, as I see it, is that the Church here in America isn't really suffering primarily from a lack of Christian discipleship--not as such, that is. I think what we are suffering from are the Intentional Dissidents.
There are, at the parish level, quite a lot of unintentional dissidents. Forty-plus years of execrable catechesis combined with poor leadership and liturgy ranging, in most places, from the dull and uninspiring to the irreverent and shocking has had its foreseeable effect. (And right now there are Catholics reading this who are muttering to themselves, "What I wouldn't give for my parish to have merely execrable catechesis, only poor leadership, and just dull liturgy!") Add to these things the influence of pop culture, and it's not really all that surprising to hear a sweet-looking elderly lector-lady or long-time volunteer usher tell you that of course the Church has always oppressed and suppressed women, who used to be priests before Constantine got hold of things. These same people, or their counterparts, will tell you sincerely that "Vatican II" changed everything, that nobody really goes to Hell anyway, or that their pastor told them "back in the day" that contraception was fine in their case, so long as they really felt justified using it (which, naturally, they did). Some of them will agree that gay marriage will be embraced by the Church one day, because after all some book or other proved that gays used to have lavish Church weddings back in the days of the Medici--or did they mean the Borgias? Anyway, all that anti-gay stuff was made up by St. Paul, who took all those nice sayings of that nice preacher-revolutionary we call Jesus and twisted them to be mean and hateful against women, gays, and--well--anybody else Paul didn't like.
All of these things are the tenets of Tommy Nutting, whose credo, "Jesus was nice...you be nice too..." is the sum total of the deposit of faith as far as many American Catholics today are concerned. I wouldn't like to give an opinion as to whether the abysmal ignorance displayed by the many is evidence of invincible ignorance, or merely a stubborn and rather rooted version of the vincible kind, but either way ignorance of the faith is all too common among Catholics in America in the year 2011.
But it's the intentional dissidents who cause the most problems. They're the ones who can recite relevant Catechism passages as to why contraception is gravely morally wrong--right before they shrug and say something like, "Naturally, you don't have to accept any of that to be a good Catholic." They're the ones who are all for obeying bishops when bishops pronounce against capital punishment--and all for ignoring those same bishops when they speak out against abortion, especially if such pro-life episcopal speech is in any way inconvenient to their future career plans or political ambitions.
Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are Intentional Dissidents of the sort I mean; so, apparently, is Sister Marlene Weisenbeck:
You might remember that precisely at the time where Catholics needed to show their firm opposition to any forced participation in abortion, Sr Weisenbeck led a charge of dissident women who hoped to provide enough cover for the Obama administration to pass a bill that in the future can "codify Roe v Wade." Since FOCA became widely unpopular, the president chose to make his health care legislation the foundation for unlimited abortion funding. Frantic for power and prestige these sisters lead by Weisenbeck publicly opposed the Catholic Church's long held teaching that every life is sacred. I was told that Weisenbeck was called to Rome after that debacle which it seems has not affected her interest in pursuing her political career. Obviously this appointment tells the real story behind her opposition of pro-life efforts and the USCCB. She scratches Obama's back and he scratches hers. Do you think she'll get a pen now too? [All links and emphasis in original--E.M.].Alas; there was a day when such sycophantic betrayal might get you Wales; now, Sister will be lucky to get a presidential pen. The truth is, there are so many Intentional Dissidents in the Church nowadays, lining up to betray Christ with a kiss, that their price has fallen rather. Sadly, I suspect there will still be dissident Catholics eager to trash the Church in public when they won't even get a campaign button out of it; such is the nature of dissidence, which always seeks to justify itself, and never can.
The problem with the Church in America is that there are too many Intentional Dissidents, and, perhaps, too few Intentional Disciples willing to upset the credo of niceness and stand up to them, calling them out on their betrayal of Christ and His Church. The dissidents have sought, for at least this past forty years, to make it seem as though Christ had divorced His mystical bride and could be followed in some meaningful way while she was excluded; but Christ and His Church are one, and to follow and obey one is to follow and obey the other.