Friday, January 6, 2012

Quote for the Week: Colleen Baker on Conversion, Real Conversion, and the "New Evangelization"

At Enlightened Catholicism, Colleen Baker comments about Richard McBrien's recent National Catholic Reporter article which notes that Bishop Howard Hubbard is the single, solitary U.S. Catholic bishop who has publicly addressed the Pew Report of several years ago, which finds that one in three adults raised Catholic in the U.S. has left the church.  One in ten American adults is an ex-Catholic, and if all those folks were gathered into a church, it would be the second largest in the U.S. behind the Catholic church.

And so, it's . . . strange . . . isn't it, that men who claim to represent the Good Shepherd in their role as shepherds of the Catholic flock would ignore such an alarming report about what's happening to the flock under their pastoral leadership.  Since the Good Shepherd said that we should leave the 99 who are safe and seek out even the one who strays.

Colleen notes that something other than pastoral sensitivity sets Bishop Hubbard apart from his fellow shepherds.  He's a member of an increasingly rare breed of bishops who predate the "reform of the reform" of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  Colleen writes, 

Bishop Hubbard has held his See since 1977, which means he was a Jadot appointment and that makes him pretty unique amongst American bishops. I don't find it surprising that Hubbard would be the one bishop who is seriously pondering what is going wrong with Catholicism in the Anglo US.  If there is one thing I have noticed about JPII/Benedict appointments it's that they are not allowed to seriously ponder what might be wrong with how the Church is functioning, especially as regards their own behavior.  Although Pope Benedict has stated on more than one occasion that Evangelization has to start with personal conversion on all levels of the Church, talk is cheap.  Real conversion is a price this Vatican is not willing to pay.

Might one conclude, based on their absolute non-response to the exceptionally troubling data provided by the Pew Report, that the U.S. Catholic bishops (and the Vatican) simply don't seem to have any pronounced pastoral concern for the many, many sheep that are straying?  I think one might well do so.

Which makes it fascinating that the very same folks within the Catholic church today who tout the success of the "new evangelization" keep writing glowing reports about how many people turn out to scream and cheer when the pope comes to town, doesn't it?  When there's a gala papal show as the pope visits different countries, or when there's a huge circus for young Catholics of the JPII generation, all we hear about from the "new evangelization" contingent is numbers: thousands attend!  Hundreds upon hundreds line up in the streets!

But all the while, millions are vanishing from the flock by silent attrition, and the same people pointing to the numbers attending the circus as a sign of the vitality of the new evangelization remain conspicuously close-mouthed about the vanished millions.  Something's not quite right with this picture, which appears to assume that the purpose of the church, in its pastoral mission, is to mount lavish spectacles.

Not to seek out the sheep that stray.

(P.S. I wouldn't advise bishop-watchers to place bets on a red hat for Bishop Hubbard anytime soon.  Here's who does get the pretty scarlet beanies under BXVI's pastoral leadership.)

The Good Shepherd is one of the earliest motifs of Christian iconography.  The image apparently appealed to the early Christian community as a premier iconographic representation of what Christ stood for and accomplished through his ministry.  The image at the head of the posting is from the catacomb of Callixtus in Rome and dates from about 250.

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