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Thursday, May 22, 2003

More thoughts about "leaving the Church."

This is a commentary stitched together from slightly-edited posts over at Mark Shea's blog. Here's the link to the comment thread, but be warned that it has largely degenerated into self-righteous posturing and amateur psychoanalysis directed at me and Greg Krehbiel.

[Just for fun, feel free to use redaction criticism to determine how many individual comments were used to compose the whole, and try to determine the original sources...:) ]

What do you do if the Church leaves you? What do you do if all of the surrounding parishes are St. Joan of Arcs, or St. Sabinas, or Corpus Christis--or prototypes of the same? When you'd like to light a candle, but they took it away to use it in the FutureChurch Liturgy?

"But there are always better parishes. Go to one of those." Well, probably.

Perhaps. For a while, at least, until the new fruit loop is rotated in and changes everything. And the "orthodox" leadership of the diocese looks on with bland disinterest.

The larger point is that the tacit toleration of dissent and various abuses indicates that it really doesn't matter what you believe or how you act, so long as you don't go that impermissible final step and become a formal schismatic. Corpus Christi was USCCB, Grade A Approved until its pastors publicly rebelled. If they had been content to *quietly* bless gay unions and let women concelebrate at the altar, then that unfortunate excommunication business wouldn't have been necessary.

After all, the response so far indicates that maintaining intact the facade of institutional unity is what really matters. It's hard not to be deeply discouraged by such "witness" to the Gospel.

The crisis is worse than most people want to admit. Yes, I believe Jesus and his promises to the Church. But nowhere did He indicate a geographic location of where that Church would survive, nor in what condition. Look at the Church in Western Europe. Unless something dramatically changes, that's our preview of coming attractions.

Until this gets recognized, saying "buck up, slugger!" and pointing to the paper orthodoxy of the Church isn't enough. At the very least, I find it much harder to criticize the likes of those who leave in disgust.

Furthermore, it's easy to thunder from on high about "the true church," how the crisis is not "real persecution," and citing the example of the medieval saints who endured. It's much more difficult to see the Church for what it is when its every public action trumpets that not only is it not the ark of Christ's Gospel, it really doesn't give a damn.

Catholicism isn't (or shouldn't be) about lauding the merits of the strong who muscle through while sneering at the weakness of the rest of the flock who get mired in the mud and start sinking. It's also bleakly amusing that "we" always manage to be in the first category, on the side of the angels, roaring our defiance at the storm, receiving that crown.

My brother, raised on Chick tracts at the local fundamentalist church following his born-again experience, was nevertheless becoming interested in the Church. That came to a dead stop because a priest who spent three years sexually abusing one of his altar boys was assigned to the parish where he had started to attend mass. "Disgust" is a word.

My brother loves his kids, after all.

Watching several bishops (Mahony, Grahmann, McCormack and Adamec) revert to form ten months after Dallas, I hardly feel like arguing with him. In a way, him slamming the door perhaps pre-empted the inevitable: he has little patience with liberal Christianity, and he would have gotten megadoses in the Saginaw Diocese.

My point is that witness tells. Sure, there is no salvation outside the Church, but the Church in America has certainly muddled the evidence that it is that Body, hasn't it? I simply can't find it in me to blast the sheep who flee the wolves in shepherds' clothing.

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