Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Another Journal Entry from the Past: On the Future of the Catholic Church and Cultural Change

Another journal entry from the past, following a trip Steve and I made to Minnesota for a family reunion.  As I've noted previously, Steve's family has deep ties to the German Benedictine communities in Minnesota.  This reunion occurred near St. John's Abbey in Stearns County, where Steve's paternal ancestors settled when they emigrated from Germany.  Many of Steve's relatives for generations have been monks at this abbey and nuns at the women's Benedictine community down the road.

Here's what I wrote following the reunion: 

22 July 2002: The homily at Steve's family reunion Mass was by his great-uncle, Fr. G., of St. John's Benedictine Abbey.  He talked of how his Uncle John and Aunt Mary, Steve's great-grandparents, took him in as an orphan and raised him as their own when his parents died.  Told stories re: how Steve's great-grandmother fasted every Saturday for priests.

Then he launched into a hair-raising homily about how the devil tempts us to lose our Catholic faith, and how we must resist and be countercultural.  To whom was that sermon addressed?  The younger members of the family who might need to hear it weren't there, don't go to church anymore.

It's not the world and its values that are the problem.  It's the church, which is fossilized in a cultural system that is simply beside the point for most of these younger family members.  They can't return to that tight-knit rural ethnic Catholic world the homily implicitly idealizes.  But that's all the church can imagine for them.

The church of our day fails to be church.  Its failure to be church is most evident when it's most intransigent, most nostalgically countercultural.  There's nothing really countercultural at all, in the final analysis, about the church in that reactive mode.  That church is like any other rigid male hierarchy that plays power games and keeps secrets--no different than the Pentagon, the CIA, or a smoky backroom filled with corporate board members.

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