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Old 06-14-2002, 09:31 AM   #1
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Article on reform in the Catholic Church- Thoughts?

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ar...260729,00.html

This viewpoint piece in TIME magazine examines alot of the problems in the Catholic Church from the point of view of the 'laity' or in other words the general church community. I found it very thought provoking and interesting, and a few of its musings can be applied to all Churches. I don't agree with everything in it, but it did make me think...do tell me what you guys think!
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Old 06-14-2002, 02:15 PM   #2
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I am Catholic ... In fact after the archbishop of my diocese announced his retirement, news of his past surface. He abused a graduate student at a local university.

One of the best statements in the whole article was

I knew that it was a human institution on a divine mission. Human institutions fail. But, I reminded myself, they can also change.

This whole crisis is disheartening, but it has not lessened my faith in God.

It reminded me that as a society we don't do a very good job of making it easy for victims of sexual abuse (whether it be at the hands of a spouse, husband, priest, etc) to come forwards. In fact, sometime the victims of abuse don't come forwards because they know they will be subject to ridicule; people may call them liars; or they could suffer from other forms of retaliation.

It is sad that an institution that so many people trusted has misused that trust.

It is also important to keep in mind that there are thousands of priests out there ... the majority of them are not abusers--one bad apple doesn't spoil the bunch.

This is truly a crisis for many ... but the Church has been around for two throusand years--through many controversies (Avignon papacy, etc). I am sure it will survive, but not without openmindedness and change.
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Old 06-14-2002, 05:02 PM   #3
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Damn...I love this article. Everything I've wanted to say, but have been too furious to utter, is in this article. I'm hoping that my anger towards Christianity can subside someday.

*a long fan of Andrew Sullivan's writings

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Old 06-14-2002, 10:26 PM   #4
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hehe melon id be lying if i didnt say the article made me think of u, in fact in some ways it couldve been written by u!
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Old 06-15-2002, 12:11 AM   #5
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I thought about Melon with this thread also. I will be posting something relevant in the next few days that I have seen on TV recently.

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Old 06-15-2002, 03:07 PM   #6
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Great article! I am a Catholic and this whole thing with the Church has made me upset with the way that the Church has taken care of it. But it hasnt stop me from being a Christian or praticing my religion. I just hope that everyone will be able to forgive all of the guilty parties for what they have done because, if u think about it they don't have to answer to us they have to answer to Jesus.



I don't think that paying everyone for what the Priests did will help anyone in any way.
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Old 06-25-2002, 03:45 PM   #7
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anyway someone could post this article so I don't have to buy it?
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Old 06-25-2002, 03:52 PM   #8
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Originally posted by Se7en
anyway someone could post this article so I don't have to buy it?
Next time I'm at the library, I'll see if they have it online.
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Old 07-01-2002, 08:35 PM   #9
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Lucky for you all, I saved it:

June 17, 2002 Vol. 159 No. 24
Who Says the Church Can't Change?
An anguished Catholic argues that loving the church means reforming it
BY ANDREW SULLIVAN


Is my church dying? I cannot be the only catholic in america asking this question. It's unthinkable, in a way. For those of us who grew up in the techno-accelerated modern world, the church has long been a source of stability, permanence, transcendence. I remember the feelings of my childhood, when my local Catholic church was the only place I felt connected to something truly profound. I recall the first time I went, as an altar boy, into the sacristy where the priest vested himself. I felt as if I were entering the most sacred place on Earth. The smell of incense, the touch of candle wax, the overly starched cotton of my surplice as I knelt before the sacred mystery of the Eucharist: in the words of the poet Philip Larkin, "a serious house on serious earth" this was, a refuge and a beacon, a rebuke to the chatter and trivia and destabilizing noise of the world outside and beyond. And the knowledge that these rituals, these words, these miracles, had been going on for centuries and centuries, reaching back to small groups of confused followers in the aftermath of the Resurrection, only intensified the awe I felt and still feel. Where else do we experience simple injunctions to reverence any more? To obedience? To simple silence in the face of an ineffable God?

And yet, as a post-Vatican II Catholic, I also lived in a wide, diverse world. In this modernity of discussion and skepticism, of irreverence and sensuality, of technology and pop culture, I felt equally at home. Like many Catholics of my generation (I'm in my late 30s), I grew up not in a tightly knit urban Catholic enclave most of my family emigrated to Britain from Ireland at the beginning of the last century but in the booming suburbs of the 1960s and 1970s. My Irish grandmother was barely literate. Her grandson has an Ivy League Ph.D. But while my peers left the church or scorned its structures, I stayed. Even as I discovered that I was homosexual, I couldn't leave. I knew somewhere deep in my soul that God was real, that his church was essential, that the Gospels were true, that the sacraments were indispensable. I couldn't address a priest except as Father, leaving all my usual orneriness aside, when I saw the collar. Although the gulf grew between my life and the institutional church I still attended, it never occurred to me that I was no longer a Catholic. I was a sinner that much I knew. But the church, I was taught, was for sinners, not saints. And for all its many faults, I still trusted the church, revered it. Even when it inflicted real pain, when it callously treated women as second-class Catholics, when it wounded good people in bad marriages, when it penetrated into the souls of young gay kids and made them hate themselves, I knew that it was a human institution on a divine mission. Human institutions fail. But, I reminded myself, they can also change.


Now I wonder. For the first time in my life, I look at this institution and ask myself how it can have done what it has done. How can it have ever have been blithe about the sexual abuse of children and minors? How could it have covered it up? How could it then have compounded the hurt by scapegoating good gay priests for the crimes of others? These questions have not gone away. And they resonate far more widely than on the question of sexual abuse. I think it's fair to say that very few people in my generation of 40-year-olds and younger can take the church's sexual teachings very seriously again. When so many church leaders could not treat even the raping of children as a serious offense, how can we trust them to tell us what to believe about the more esoteric questions of contraception, or homosexuality, or divorce? What shred of credibility do these men have when they look out at the pews and see those of us living in a world where our failings cannot be easily covered up by ecclesiastical power, or bought off with other people's money, or simply ignored? This gulf between us and them cannot now be concealed. We kneel and pray; we donate our time and money; we have attempted to explain the moral lessons we have learned in the real world of family and sex and work and conflict. But so many church leaders from the Pope on down do not seem to hear or even care. And why should they? They are not answerable to us.

And so it is no surprise that we are hardly flocking to them. Annual vocations to the priesthood in America have halved in the last few decades from around 1,000 in 1965 to around 500 today. As the priesthood has become older, it has also become sparser: there were just under 59,000 priests in 1965, and there are only 45,000 today. In 1972, 49% of Catholics reported attending church weekly; in 2000, a mere 26% did. The number of men and women entering religious orders, primarily as nuns or monks, has also collapsed by well over half since 1965. The number of parishes without a resident priest has increased from around 550 in 1965 to well over 3,000 today. Some have argued that the current sex-abuse scandal in the church is the crisis. They're wrong. It is a symptom of a real and deeper one the collapse of the moral credibility of the church hierarchy among its own laity.

This crisis is all the more appalling because it rests on differences about doctrines that are not central to the faith. No one is disputing anything in the creed we recite each Sunday. The issues that have led to this gulf between hierarchy and laity, between institution and people, are not integral to what it means to be a Catholic. The ban on birth control reaffirmed by fiat by Pope Paul VI after many leading theologians and church officials seemed poised to reverse it is not an issue as vital as, say, the divinity of Christ, the fact of the Resurrection or the miracle of the Mass. A celibate priesthood one of the many reasons why vocations have collapsed is an administrative matter. It was not mandatory for the first 11 centuries of the church's existence, and was imposed primarily to rescue the church from the corruption of priests bequeathing church property to their heirs. Several past Popes have been married. Mandatory celibacy does not exist in the Eastern Orthodox church, which is formally in communion with Rome. Former Anglican priests who have converted to Roman Catholicism are allowed to function as priests while staying married. As with most Catholic administrative matters, exceptions are made. So why cannot one be made now, where the church is faced with the greatest threat to vocations in its history?

On sexual morality, the same practical exceptions apply, but to a lesser extent. Divorce is forbidden, and divorced remarried Catholics are barred from the sacraments. But annulments are plentiful if you can prove that your marriage was from the outset so dysfunctional it wasn't a marriage at all. So complete failures can be rescued, but human messes are unforgivable, and fresh starts for the imperfect ruled out of bounds. Similarly, homosexuals are informed that they are born that way, but no sexual intimacy is permissible, because it cannot lead to procreation. But the infertile are married every day; postmenopausal spouses are allowed active sex lives. Only lay Catholic homosexuals are given no option for sexual intimacy. They are required to live up to standards of self-denial that, among others, only priests are required to fulfill. Yet unlike celibate priests, gays are not even provided a divine rationale for their sexual and emotional imprisonment.

Most priests don't even try to convey these cruel inconsistencies. In almost 40 years of regular churchgoing, I have yet to hear a homily defending the church's positions on birth control, women priests or homosexuality. My suspicion is that the priests don't believe the teachings themselves. In the confessional, I have found that priests, while not condoning homosexual relationships, find it hard to condemn them. They know from pastoral experience, in ways that the hierarchy doesn't seem to accept, that we are all human, and that the laity's real experience dealing with bad marriages, homosexual orientation or contraception is often as morally valid as the arid proscriptions issued from on high. But they cannot say so publicly. This dissonance is a little like the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The hierarchy pretends to preach these doctrines and the laity pretends to believe them.

Does this mean that the church should take a poll on its doctrines, or change its rules on celibacy or sex overnight? Of course not. On this, some church conservatives are surely right. The church is not a democracy. Any change on administrative matters needs to be reflected on, examined in the light of Scripture and tradition. In the end, the hierarchy exists for a reason and will make the final call. Obedience matters. But real obedience requires respect; and until the hierarchy listens, makes its case, cleans up its own act, obedience will be difficult, if not indefensible.

The conversation goes both ways, of course. Many of us in the church have found it extremely difficult to engage in real conversations with our priests and bishops about these matters. We are too deferential or embarrassed. After Mass on Sundays, I can recall having animated conversations with fellow parishioners about these issues, but then, when we leave the place and shake hands with the pastor, we find it hard to say anything but "God bless you, Father." But as lay people, we can increase lay involvement in church affairs. We can tell our priests and our fellow parishioners what we find hard to believe, what we need more of liturgically, pastorally, emotionally. The clerical closet must also end. If there's nothing wrong with being a celibate homosexual priest, why are so many priests silent about their sexual orientation? And if such priests do come out, then parishioners must support them against threatened discrimination by the hierarchy.

Those who say the church can never change are simply wrong. It has always been pragmatic about the nonessentials, accommodating itself to new cultures, to old customs and to social change. It once conducted Masses solely in Latin; now it doesn't. Communion was once dispensed solely by the priest; now lay people can distribute it. Even some of the deepest and oldest rituals in Catholic life like the Easter Vigil ceremony were imported in part from pagan rituals. In Africa and Asia, all kinds of cultural accommodations are made to bring the faith across cultures and into people's hearts. If this can be done for the Third World, why not the First?

Perhaps what American lay Catholics need to say more clearly is that the aim of our desire to change the church is not to undermine but to save it. We love our faith just look at how few Catholics have abandoned the church in this current crisis. We love our priests just see how many parishioners have rallied round their own pastors in this time of trial. But what we have witnessed means we would be delinquent if we didn't fight for real change. We are actually being more faithful than those who want to perpetuate the conditions for further decline. "Be not afraid," the current Pope said in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope. "Of what should we not be afraid? We should not fear the truth about ourselves." The laity is not afraid of that difficult and deep discussion. Why are the bishops?

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Old 07-01-2002, 09:45 PM   #10
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cheers melon, I am subscribed so i tend to forget they take off the articles after a week or so
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