Monday, October 1, 2012

Tom Moran on Catholic "Spiritual Refugees" on "Road Crowded with Others": Bishops Politick, Catholics Leave

Refugees, World War II

From the op-ed statement of Tom Moran at to which Paul Moses links in the Commonweal posting that I discussed in my previous posting

. . . [M]en like [Newark Catholic archbishop John] Myers will drive millions more onto the refugee highway. He had his own small share of complicity in the sex abuse scandal, transferring a priest who had confessed to abuse to St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark without telling the staff. He refuses to release the names of priests who have been credibly accused, as some New Jersey dioceses do. 
But the fixation on same-sex marriage may do even more damage in the long run. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 53 percent of Catholics support same-sex marriage, a number that rises to 72 percent among those between ages 18 and 34. Remember, they shouldn’t be taking Holy Communion. 
Myers swears that his letter was released during the heat of this campaign by pure coincidence. But he did much the same thing a few weeks before the 2004 election. Imagine the odds. 
What’s shocking to me is that this 15-page letter, single-spaced, brushes by the problem of poverty and says nothing of Romney’s plan to savage the safety net. 
“Catholic citizens must exercise their right to be heard in the public square by defending marriage,” Myers wrote. 
I doubt most Catholics will see this election in such pinched terms. They know how to sidestep this land mine, too.

Moran notes that though he was raised Catholic and cherishes what his upbringing taught him, he's now a "spiritual refugee" on a road "crowded with others."  As he indicates, a Pew Forum study of American religion published in 2008 finds a mass exodus of American Catholics from the church by 2008.  The Pew study explicitly states that "roughly one-third of those who were raised Catholic have left the church, and approximately one-in-ten American adults are former Catholics."

As Moran notes, "no other church has shed so many followers" in recent years in the U.S.  And yet the U.S. Catholic bishops have been, to a man, almost totally silent about this mass exodus from the Catholic church under their "pastoral" leadership--an exodus that I suspect has become even more pronounced due to the bishops' overt partisan politicking in the period leading up to the 2012 elections, and their ugly, mean-spirited attacks on the gay community throughout the U.S.

And the behavior of men like John Myers and Thomas John Paprocki, who claim to be exercising "pastoral" leadership as they madly engage in partisan politics (and as they continue the gay-bashing) surely is not going to help matters one little bit.  As Tom Moran rightly points out . . . . 

The anti-pastoral behavior of the large majority of the U.S. Catholic bishops (a large majority, we have to conclude, since where are the voices who speak openly to challenge the behavior of Chaput, Myers, Jenky, Nienstedt, Paprocki and others?) is succeeding in shoving large numbers of Catholics out of the Catholic church, in sending large numbers of Catholics onto the road of spiritual exile.  Centrist Catholic media gurus who wring their hands about this exodus from the church while insisting that the bishops need to speak out even more forcefully and cease "stumbling" about gay marriage and abortion are every bit as much a part of the problem as are the bishops to whom they keep lending credence.

Tom Moran is correct: for many of us, the choice is clear and unambiguous.  It's the only choice left to us as we follow our informed Catholic consciences, the consciences that the church itself has formed.  And by all indicators, when a large percentage of American Catholics are choosing in the 2012 elections completely to ignore the bishops (and their centrist media cheerleaders), the sense of spiritual disaffection of a growing majority of Catholics will now be deep and perhaps intractable, after the bishops' missteps with their silly, venal "fortnight for freedom" campaign and their open partisanship during the current election cycle.  And as the unabashed attacks on the gays continue and continue . . . . 

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