Friday, February 25, 2011

The real problem

Not much time to blog today; tonight is the annual parish Spaghetti Dinner and Talent Show, and our choir has a couple of fun pieces to perform. I always enjoy this--but, sadly, am battling a cold that started up Wednesday. I should still be able to sing with the group, but if you can offer a quick prayer for me I'd appreciate it!

Deacon Greg Kandra's blog is one I enjoy daily, and I especially enjoyed this recent article he wrote at Patheos:

Some months back, a woman came to the rectory to register her newborn for a baptism. As she filled out the paperwork, I explained that one of the godparents had to be Catholic, but that the other, if necessary, could be a baptized Christian.

She put down the pen and furrowed her brow.

"What's the difference?"

That same day, another new mother also arrived to start the process for a baptism. I looked over the paperwork and noticed that she had left blank the question on the form that asked if the parents had been married by a Catholic priest. I asked her about it.

"Well," she began, "I'm not sure if she was a priest . . . "

I smiled. "If it was a she," I explained, "it wasn't a Catholic priest."

She brightened. "Oh," she exclaimed excitedly. "Then she must have been a nun!"

Just another morning at the rectory.

We hear again and again about the empowered laity—that more people in the pews are taking the Church into their own hands, studying ministry programs, delving into the documents of Vatican II, taking graduate courses on theology, boning up on canon law, and learning the ins and outs of parish administration.

I'm sure that's true, somewhere. But the pitiful state of catechesis over the last generation or so has left many nominal Catholics I encounter with only a passing familiarity with the sacraments, the liturgy, and even the basic tenets of the faith. Add to that the dismaying fact that, by most counts, only about a quarter of all Catholics come to church every Sunday, and you end up with parishes that are filled with people who are, more often than not, baffled. They don't really understand what's going on around them. And they're surprisingly outspoken about it.

Read the whole thing here.

It's hard for me to see the main problem in the Church today as being one of a lack of intentional discipleship, when it's so easy to be aware of the abundance of ignorance.


Alisha De Freitas said...

Yikes! But you know, most of my Catholic friends don't know much about their church, the catechism or Catholic teachings. My husband, who was baptized and went through first Communion (but was never confirmed), knows less than me. I've had Catholic friends ask me why I don't partake of the Eucharist (um, I'm a Protestant... look at the little liturgical book in the pews... it says not to in like, the front page). They don't even know about "The Real Presence", the Magisterium, or that there are seven sacraments. I usually have to explain to THEM about their catechism!

Last October, after I attending a Bible study at a Catholic Church with a friend, the priest remarked he thought I might just lead many young people into the Church- even though he knew I was a Protestant! The priest at the Anglican church I've been attending said on Sunday, "Alisha, you're Catholic... you just don't know it". LOL!

To be honest, I'm a little baffled by the lack of knowledge, especially with the many great sites out there... but then, my generation as a whole seems to be ambivalent regarding religion. Talking about my generation...

freddy said...

Just to let you know that you're in my prayers. Feel better!

Will Duquette said...

You said, "It's hard for me to see the main problem in the Church today as being one of a lack of intentional discipleship, when it's so easy to be aware of the abundance of ignorance."

OK, so the problem is ignorance. How do we remove that ignorance? These are adults we're speaking of; you can't force them to sit still and learn.

But intentional disciples will go out and seek the knowledge they need. If I can be an intentional disciple myself, and encourage others to be so as well, the ignorance problem will solve itself.

In fact, I'd argue that encouraging others to learn more about their faith is an essential part of making disciples.

In other words, it's not a question of combatting ignorance or trying to make intentional disciples. It's two horses pulling the same cart.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

There is a word for empowered laity:


Those who want to be Catholic should recognize that being Catholic requires sincere obedience.

Those who don't choose to be obedient should not pretend that they are Catholic.

Hector said...

Re: Those who don't choose to be obedient should not pretend that they are Catholic.


I'll never understand why people who have serious disagreements with RC church teaching (and are aware that the RC church requires you to believe those teachings and to live by them) don't join a different church.

I remember doing some health education work (it was not in America, it was in a developing country) and talking about overpopulation issues. My co-worker on that project was Catholic (she was a lay Catholic catechist) so I explicitly asked her, 'Would you like me not to talk about birth control, because I know your church disapproves of it, and I don't want this project to involve anything you might disagree with'. She hastened to tell me that no, the Catholic church (at least in her country) didn't forbid contraception, just abortion.

I wasn't about to argue with her (mostly because I'm not Catholic) but I remember thinking it was interesting that she wasn't aware of this fairly high-profile and controversial teaching. Clearly there are a lot of people out there, in all countries, who are unaware of a lot of what the RC church teaches.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that priests don't tell Catholics the "do's and don't's" from the pulpit with a heavy hand because it would significantly reduce funds coming in the door. Gold Chalices and silk robes don't buy themselves.

kkollwitz said...

"...priests don't tell Catholics the "do's and don't's" from the pulpit with a heavy hand."

Our pastor does; and the parish's finances are healthy.

The Sicilian said...

I'll second kkollwitz. I've mentioned my pastor here before; he's young, orthodox and consistently teaches the doctrine from the pulpit, in the bulletin and I'm sure any time he gets the chance. He's a fantastic priest, extremely hard-working and devoted to the 2000 in the parish to whom he ministers - alone. My heart breaks for him and others like him when someone brings up The Scandal (or new accusations as there have been lately) because it unfairly tarnishes priests such as him.

Our parish is one of the two wealthy parishes in our area. For all that people have complained to Fr. about his preaching about how to vote, about how his homilies are too long, or whatever else irks them (sigh), the parish has grown a lot since he came here 3 1/2 years ago. Confessions have increased, as have activities in the parish, including couples wanting to learn about NFP. And I think its finances are healthy, too.

@Siarlys & Hector: There are those of us (at least myself) who have issues with the Church, and, having looked at options, aren't sure where to go. Speaking for myself, again, I do make it clear to anyone assuming I am a faithful Catholic (as I attend Mass regularly) that I am not. I understand and respect the thinking of having to believe all doctrine to consider oneself a faithful Catholic. No problems there. (Same goes for the clergy, such as Bishop Olmsted, having the right to identify institutions as Catholic or not.) For now, I consider myself a Christian who takes up a little pew space (there's plenty to spare) each week in my local RC church while I try to figure things out. Maybe something will trigger my obedience and I'll partake of Confession and the Eucharist again; maybe someday I'll walk away completely. I just do not know at this point.

I, too, don't know how to correct the type of ignorance that Deacon Kandra illustrated. One of my co-workers is having her son prep for his 1st Holy Communion. She was complaining about the local priest (different parish than mine) and said that she was thinking of going to another parish in the closest major city where there was a female priest. Female RC priest? Don't think so! So, if she's thinking that it's okay to take her child to a renegade/invalid parish, her child's knowledge is going to be that much worse.

Hope you are feeling better, Erin! I'll send a prayer your way.

Martha said...

Hector, I think this is it: "(and are aware that the RC church requires you to believe those teachings and to live by them)..."

There are lots of things written by/said by Catholics. Most Catholics cannot differentiate between binding statements and non-binding. For example, head covering. You can easily (Erin did!) find many people who will tell you the church really DOES require it; the Canon Law of year whoositywhat was never repealed blah blah... I once got an urgent email telling me the Popes REALLY HAD told us all how low our necklines & hemlines should be. Now, those are not in the Catechism. But I know that there IS a Catechism to check, which puts me in the minority of adult Catholics right there. Many Catholics really don't know there are some teachings they really have to adhere to, and which those are.

c matt said...

Personally, I think it comes down to a matter of desire - most Catholics don't really think they need to know any more than they do, and are focused on other things - finances, relationships, careers, etc. It just is not a priority for them.

How to make it one? Your guess is as good as mine.