I’m stealing this in full from Marcel LeJeune.
Most Catholics have never heard of Cardinal Martini, the former Archbishop of Milan, who died August 31. But, that didn’t stop almost every major news organization in the Western world in carrying the story that he said the following before he died:
“The church is 200 years out of date. Why don’t we rouse ourselves? Are we afraid?”and:
“Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up; our rituals and our cassocks are pompous,”But is this true? Is the Catholic Church out of touch, out of date, and does it need to change? Well, let us consider the evidence.
The Church has suffered a great deal from clashing with modern cultural trends. Some have left the practice of the faith. Many criticize the Church as behind the times when it comes to sexuality, contraception, abortion, the role of women, bureaucracy, and esp. the scandals of individual Catholics (including leaders) who shame The Church.
It is true that when we look at the Church through the lens of modern western culture, that the Church is not trendy. Church leaders are not interested in changing doctrine to keep up with the times. It seems the Church is too old and stuck in her ways.
To be quite honest, this is a good thing.
What has our culture brought us:
- Abortion on-demand
- Culture of death
- More wars (in the 20th Century) than any other time in history
- More slavery TODAY than any other time in history.
- Divorce and broken families.
- Pornography and selfishness.
Why would we ever think this culture is healthy or good enough to be a model for the Catholic Church to follow?
Why would we ever believe the modern way of thinking is really true?
Where is the beauty in this modern culture?
Here are just a few of the problems with believing the Church just needs to be updated to keep up with the culture:
- this belief makes the mistake of thinking our modern culture is good for us (see the list above). If it were so great, why do we have growing evil in our midst still?
- with this mindset we jettison all of the teachings of Christ, believing they are not applicable to us today.
- we make ourselves smarter than God. If we believe that the Church needs to change her ways, to line up with our thinking, then we are making ourselves the final judge of what is true and good = making ourselves a god.
“Doctrine” is a teaching of the Church that comes from or is necessarily connected to the deposit of faith the Church was given by Christ and from the Apostles. The Church teaches that these doctrines are not “owned” by the Church, therefore she can’t arbitrarily change them.
The Church (you and I) needs to change the culture – not vice versa.
The world needs the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has the answer for all the world’s problems in the fullness of truth and the fullness of grace she offers to the world. The Church gives us a moral anchor, an answer to broken families, addiction, sin, war, violence, abuse, and all the other issues in our culture. More than ever the world needs the Catholic Church, if our society is to last. This answer is the personal relationship with Jesus that the Catholic Church offers to us all through the Sacramental grace, teachings of the Church, and in our own personal prayer we all need.
Jesus created one Church. We are that Church, the Catholic Church and if the world needs the Catholic Church, then the Church needs saints. We need to be holy if we are to change the world.
Time to do our part. Time to be holy. Time to change the world. This is what we all need to know – and do.
Without the Catholic Church – imagine where our culture would be today…
In some ways I can’t consider a worse thing for the Church than to be considered up-to-date. As if truth needs a constant upgrade and point revisions. How we propagate the faith is another matter and certainly this is an area that needs vigilance. Catholics in general have lagged behind in adapting to new ways to spread the Gospel. Though this is not mean jumping on board with every social networking fad – that the Vatican never had a presence on MySpace is a good thing.
Though it is rather funny the world-views that can see the headline that the Church is out of date. One group would see the truth that the Church teaches as being out of date and the other the way the truth is preached.
We *are* rousing ourselves. Rousing ourselves to contain the sicknesses from the ‘breath of fresh air’ many said Vatican II had brought into the Church. May His Eminence rest in peace, but I don’t think his commentary will be missed… much.
Seeking the approval of our Cultural Betters is a particular temptation of the clergy. The higher the rank, the greater the temptation. This is why God gave us the laity.
Fr. Philip Neri, OP
“Seeking the approval of our Cultural Betters is a particular temptation of the clergy.”
This is consistent with the observation that Catholic laity who act as though they outrank (so to speak) the bishops often sound like mouthpieces for Cultural Betters.
One saying that I’ve heard WRT fashion is that if you stay with the same style long enough, you’ll no longer be considered behind the times, you’ll be considered ahead of the trend. This is true enough because fashions tend to go in cycles, but this is also true for eternal truths since society tends to go through cycles of getting lost and rediscovering old truths precisely because you can’t ignore the truth forever.
In this sense, the Catholic Church is always simultaneously behind the times and ahead of the trend.
Everybody should know by now that the late Cardinal of Milan was yes a good Biblical Scholar, but in my own personal opinion a too progressive and liberal theologian, one of the kinds that wants everybody just to hold hands “dialogue” and sing Kumbaya.
Frankly, the late cardinal is absolutely correct, though not in the way you might think. The hierarchy has been fixated on routine, control, secular influence, prestige, privilege and wealth for far too long. It has become the religious equivalent of the Soviet nomenklatura, whose members are more interested in their perks and sense of entitlement than in their ostensible mission. They serve themselves more than they serve God.
Look at some of the suggestions the late cardinal made for change:
“The first is conversion: the church must recognize its errors and follow a radical path of change, beginning with the pope and the bishops. The pedophilia scandals compel us to take up a path of conversion. Questions about sexuality, and all the themes involving the body, are an example. These are important to everyone, sometimes perhaps too important. We have to ask ourselves if people still listen to the advice of the church on sexual matters. Is the church still an authoritative reference in this field, or simply a caricature in the media?”
The Church cannot be taken seriously as a moral guide unless it cleans up the Augean Stable of sexual abuse that has plagued it at least since the 11th century, when St. Peter Damian wrote “The Book of Gomorrah.”
“The second is the Word of God. Vatican II gave the Bible back to Catholics. Only those who perceive this Word in their heart can be part of those who will help achieve renewal of the church, and who will know how to respond to personal questions with the right choice. The Word of God is simple, and seeks out as its companion a heart that listens. … Neither the clergy nor ecclesiastical law can substitute for the inner life of the human person. All the external rules, the laws, the dogmas, are there to clarify this internal voice and for the discernment of spirits.”
The late cardinal is absolutely right! Far too often, priests and bishops place little emphasis on forceful, disciplined study of Scripture. The sacraments aren’t enough because the sacraments can only be received sporadically, at best (once a day, at most, in terms of the Eucharist; once in a lifetime for a couple of others). Studying Scripture places an *ongoing* emphasis on relating to and obeying God.