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Written Word > Articles & Commentaries > October 2010 > The Depressing Pew Forum Study
Current rating: 4.4 (7 ratings)
Ryan Haber
Fr. Barron,

Good article. I haven't read the survey, but knowing the Pew Forum's biases, I rather suspect that the survey was designed to provide the results that it did. Such a design is simple to achieve. While not "fixing things" this supposition does in fact reduce the distress that the survey's results should cause. Of course the main point of your article - that we Catholics need to reinvest ourselves in being Catholic - is spot on.
10/19/2010 3:11:38 PM
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R.P. Arjona
Once again, Fr. Robert Barron writes an article as insightful in identifying the Church's problems as in suggesting directions for the Church's future.

Vatican II, has occasioned both a culture of ressourcement, a rediscovery and renewed appreciation and usage of Sacred Scriptures, patristic traditions, and historical research; and aggiornamento, a bringing up to date, a greater sensitivity to the call of the times. However, perhaps a reaction to the stifling conservatism of the past, the council's aftermath has tilted more towards the latter, spawning a culture of too much accomodation with the world and too dogged a pursuit of modernity. The renewed appreciation of our rich cultural and intellectual heritage has been engulfed in the tide of accomodation. Now there are calls for a return to traditionalism, a tough reform of the reform. While I am all for reform, I am also for caution with this seemingly reactionary return to conservatism, which in many cases expresses a heavily glossed nostalgia for the eras of Vatican 1 and Modern Roman Catholicism. For reform to be truly reflective, and not merely cause a tilt from one side to the other, a careful balancing act must be exercised. Our Church needs the graced balance between ressourcement and aggiornamento, for this state of things provides the Church both the stability and dynamism she needs to effectively pursue her mission to the world.

Mt 13,52 has wise advice: "Every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old."

This brief article should be required reading for students of ecclesiology.
10/20/2010 7:54:20 AM
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James Montfort
I enjoyed your article and I will follow your suggestion and pray that Christ will send His Holy Catholic Church the labor to assist us wandering and lost sheep in finding our Shepard. I know that this letter might appear critical and I pray that my comments are not taken in any way that is negative. And if my skills as a writer have not developed suffiently to be able to express my true thoughts and absolute love for the job that you and Bishop's are doing, then please ignore these comments and just accept my appreciation for the love that you show each and everyone of us everyday you put on the white collar.
The Church in my opinion has allowed their great history of social teaching on justice to merge with the charity function of the Church. And this has given the evil one the opening to spread confusion among our church leadership, with regards to who is responsible for charity and who is responsible for justice. In reading scripture it always seems that when God gives mankind a blessing and we seem to find a way to ignore the constraints God places on that blessing and then we end up turning it into a curse. For example, sex, what a great blessing when we use it as intended by God, but what destruction, when we use it outside the constraints established by God. And there are so many others, alcohol, food, material goods, etc. But as you know, our priests have warned us sheep about this trap for 2,000 years.
In reading scripture it appears to me that Christ was very clear that His Church must take care of the widows and orphans. But over the past 100 years it seems to me that His Church servants has sought to move most of the charity function to the government. So my question is, by pushing charity to the government, is this the reason why we see the government as the entity responsible to insure healthcare, welfare, education, and foster care for all, or is it because we lack the faith that Christ will provide His Church with the necessary resources? And while we might never have enough resources to provide for all the needs of everyone, do we again fail our Lord when we loose our faith in the power of redemptive suffering.
After working in the South Dallas community for the past ten years, I believe that the individual soon sees the government as their savior and not the cross that stands on the site of His churches. And when you combine the fact that His flock has not been properly catechized, and our protestant brothers and sisters having the belief of “once saved, always saved” theology you have the recipe for the mess Christian Europe is in. Without a doubt, we are our brother’s keeper. And as a Catholic we are obligated to give all to Christ not just the 10%. But we need to remember the caution that St. Paul gives us in that our works are all toil and waste if our works are not in Christ. When we push the charity function towards the government and away from the church are we selling our souls to a secular god?
Now to my point of where is the labor that the Church so desperately needs. I contend that Christ has sent the labor, and that we have sent His blessings to the government in the form of hundreds of thousands of social workers, nurses and psychologists. These fine men and women are low-paid, have a very unhappy work and family life, (and while I know that there are many happy social workers the facts are overwhelming that most struggle with their careers and families) and I contend, that their struggle is why St. Paul warned us, that without Christ our works are in vain.
And in conclusion, if the priest’s homilies could focus more on what the Holy Mass is, and how the Mass is our true hope, and how the Mass is not only scripturally based but also in fact logical. That God is not bound by time, but time is a gift to us. And when the priest raises the Host and proclaims “through Him, with Him and in Him” we are all at the foot of the cross and that is where we are asked to unite our pains, fears, anxieties; our hopes, goals, and dreams with that of Christ’s suffering. And if our bishop’s will pull the charity work back away from the government, and teach us that justice is the role of the government but it is the Church that is responsible for charity. Those future social workers that spend years training for a job that will leave them unfulfilled, will then spend those years in training for service to Christ through His Church.

One Body but Individually Responsible

Thank you,
10/28/2010 4:35:44 PM
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"Catholicism is a smart and beautiful tradition." I assume that everyone has read the column where this insightful comment is made. The column points out that Catholics faired poorly on the test. So why, in spite of the smart tradition, are the Catholic respondents so ignorant?

I think the overworked figure of Careteria Catholics will serve us well here. I will explain if not defend the position of the frequently maligned cafeteria Catholic.

Let's assume that our smart tradition is similar to gourmet food. We have to ask why the rich gourmet tradition is not appreciated by the cafeteria crowd. Of course, we know it takes an educated palate to appreciate gourmet food.

So why, in the view of some, are large numbers of Catholics going to the cafeteria instead of the gourmet restaurant next door? Are the restaurant chefs serving fast food instead of gourmet fare? Is the food any different in either place?

At this point I will abandon the analogy since it has served its purpose. It has brought me to the conclusion that betrayal of the smart tradition is one more way that the Catholic Church has shot itself in the foot. Say what you will, there is a unrecognized current of anti-intellectualism in the Church. Shortly after the closing of Vatican II, a brilliant priest petitioned John Cardinal Cody Archbishop of Chicago to allow him to go to Germany to study under Karl Rahner. The resposne was,"I do not need theologians; I need Catholic priests." Though I could give you lots of examples from sermons that I have endured, this anecdote captures it best.

The rhetoric of spirituality says,"I would rather feel compunction than be able to define it." It is an exageration. Our Chefs need to be able to feel it and define it if we ever hope to get away from cafeteria and fast food.
10/28/2010 9:58:22 PM
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Fr. Bob
Studies have shown that the sexual abuse of minors is a societal problem and not just a Catholic Church problem. Much more abuse has happened in public schools than has happened in the Church. Unfortunately, the Church and its members share in the human condition.
11/1/2010 5:41:19 AM
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@Fr. Bob-
Of course the sexual abuse of minors is not just a Catholic Church problem as any reasonable person would agree, and as far as I can tell, no one here is saying that.
I have to say your post really infuriates me as it smacks of pointing to others bad behavior and saying, "They're doing it too". To not decry it immediately as a violence and atrocity is to be in line with what Fr. Barron writes, namely, "the countenancing or enabling of this crime by some bishops."
Furthermore, a wise priest would do well to take the stance that this behavior is abhorrent and antithetical to the Gospel and the Work of the Church, period, regardless of who is doing it in "society". As you should know the priest is "consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament". Quite a different benchmark than what general "society" holds people to, or is there really no difference between what and the Church is and the rest of the world? No wonder people are leaving in droves. Since when has the Catholic Church ever looked at the rest of the world as a source of what to be prophetic about?
Your comments are exactly part of the problem.
I'm disgusted and non-plussed that people like you are still no further along on this than in the early 2000's.
11/4/2010 2:30:28 PM
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I do not think Fr Bob was "enabling" this crime somehow.

It is a matter of keeping things in the greater perspective.

Yes we need to decry the crime, but we also need to be mindful that the reportage on these crimes almost seem to focus exclusively on the Catholic Church.

As Fr Bob wrote, we all share in the same fallen human condition.

I watched an interview with a priest who was being asked this same question by a reporter.

The priest replied that perhaps the reason for the slowness could be attributed to the fact that the priest/bishop is even more aware of the fact: that "there but for the grace of God go I".
11/6/2010 2:16:23 AM
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We keep forgetting that most of the priests and bishops implicated in this scandal were form and/or ordained before Vatican II. Perhaps we should consider examining what we missed back in the good old days of Vatican I Catholicism.

I do, nonetheless feel that we through so much out in the years after Vatican II that we ended up rather beige indeed. When I was confirmed, they decided that there was no need to choose a confirmation name. We missed such an opportunity to learn about the Saints just by omitting that little piece. I would now like to think that I would choose the name Bruno - the founder of the Carthusian Order. It seems that todays rather McCarthyistic form of Catholicism is a reaction against so much good devotion that was thrown out. Didn't we learn this lesson once before during the Iconaclist controversies. It seems that the peasants won that one too.
11/14/2010 11:59:02 PM
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The Church needs to focus on healing. The subject at hand is very emotional and horrible. Justice needs to reign where need be starting with Bishops,priests, and etc.. After reading recent posting my heart crys out for healing in the Catholic faith. Innosense has suffered greatly at the hands of wolves in sheeps clothing. Today we need to embrace the hurting and pray for healing. Pray that God will continue to purge His Church.
11/20/2010 6:47:01 PM
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Interesting discussion but I wanted to point out a perspective from a Catholic that feels distanced from the Church. When my mother was alive I remember her saying that the Catholic Church is not the building, the priest or the congregation but the teachings of Christ and your inner dialogue with God. Her intended message was to go to church and make the religious experience a personal one on one with God.
What was Jesus’ mission on earth? Was it to impress the masses and have them build monuments to himself or was it to preach the good words of just and kind human interaction in accordance with the Ten Commandments? If the Catholics out there are the faces that represent the Church to non Catholics, it’s mostly a sad public image and I think that is the Church’s main downfall. When I see Catholics in tears over a smudge on a wall that looks like a man with a beard, it does not inspire pride. When I hear the excuse that the percentage of child molesters in the RC is no worse than that of the general public, it does not inspire confidence. When I attend mass only to hear the priest scold the congregation as an abusive parent would to a child, it does not inspire a sense of closeness to God.
If the Church is to become more relevant again, it would not be by going backwards (becoming less beige) but by going forward and making itself an active part of people’s lives. Unfortunately, uninspiring leadership produces uninspiring priest’s produces uninspiring followers…..
I was recently at the Vatican and stood in awe but also wondered what Christ would say about the magnificent buildings, priceless art and pompous surroundings that seem to impress the masses more than his teachings. I somehow think he would be very disappointed with the Church’s interpretation of his message.
11/22/2010 12:14:56 PM
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To be among the first to read the term,"McCarthyistic Catholicism," makes following these comments worthwhile. Too bad this kind of labeling and stereotyping just continues the process of slicing and dividing the church. Do you remember the Paul and Apollo factions referred to in the early church? We have to find a way around having so many kinds of Catholics--Latin Mass, Vatican II, Cafeteria, McCarthyistic, C&E, etc.
12/18/2010 8:04:33 AM
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I was abused by a now defrocked priest.The feeling of being taken advantage of by a person and institution still haunts me today. I actually had a strong desire/call at age 7 until, well, now to be a priest. My articulation to this priest who abused me led to my being molested. The physical side was nothing compared to the emotional and spiritual feelings of being used.
I at age 19 went on to be "Born Again" speak in "tongues" preach on corners.... attend a protestant seminary...forgive my priest but something was missing. In my mid 50's Itried to reconcile with the Church of my heritage only to find Priests,professional lay ministers to back off and have a professional approach. One lay minister(knowing that I recently came out and reported the abuse) said to me, "WHY DO YOU KEEP SAYING THAT!" I only reported it to my Diocese but found minimal if any compassion. It seemed their approach was a tutored legal response.
Ten plus years doing protestant ministry but dying to be doing it in My Church of Rome was met with lukewarmness at best. Lay people with their FACTS and Priests with their KEEP A DISTANCE attitude leaves me quite sad. Remember I may be sitting next to you at a the theatre, wedding,formal or informal gathering and yes MASS. Heck I may be a good or best friend.I attend an Eastern Orthodox Church, mostly,(the pain is easier) but am crying out to be welcomed back to my One Holy Catholic Church.I and some others like me think/feel we may always feel outside even though we have forgiven our perpetrators.
Maybe we need to start with Healing from abuse even the abuses of Pre and Post VaticanII poor interpretations.
Maybe we are right BUT do we DO what is right.
I long to be, One who loves unconditionally and one who is knowledgeable but full of God's Grace and Wisdom to bring back those who have left The Church and make disciples of those not yet IN The Church.
Problems are many in The Church, let not lack of Compassion be one of them.
12/28/2010 1:47:08 PM
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