Mist-ed Jewel on the Shores of The Inner Sea!
Thriving Polis Where A Mighty (flaming) River Runs Through It!
Or, as we Tiger fans like to think of it: The Mistake By The Lake.
Well, if nothing else, this last descriptor certainly applies to a reliably...interesting segment of that city's Catholic chancery. Your honor, Exhibit A for the Prosecution. Entitled Ten Challenges for Catholic Leaders In the Aftermath of the Presidential Election, it inspired (enraged) someone enough to send it to me out of the blue. For analysis.
All-righty. OK--here goes.
1. Divisions exist within our Church that are deep and that jeopardize our ability to build community at the parish level and to be communities of salt and light to the larger society. (There is a great deal of alienation that needs to be addressed).
I wonder if the real problem here is that sixty five percent of Ohio's mass-attending Catholics refused to vote for John F. Kerry in the election of 2004. Not that the President is some kind of unalloyed prize to the Catholic voter, mind you. Ha--hardly. But I suspect that the alienation is largely on the part of the disappointed author.
2. A creeping fundamentalism within the church provides space for some to demonize others (i.e. the notion that you can’t be a good Catholic and vote for John Kerry).
I.E., Mr. Allio apparently received a lot of personal e-mail on the parenthetical, and it irritated him to no end.
It's right here where he loses me for good. One of my personal irritants is the term "fundamentalist," especially when deployed by so-called progressive Catholics. It's an empty label, a thought-substitute of staggering proportions, and a term that says far more about the one using it than the person allegedly being described. Let me propose a definition that should help break progressive Catholics of the desire to use the term:
"Fundamentalist, n. What an unserious Catholic calls a serious one."
Does it sting? Good.
That's the idea. Don't use it so often and it won't.
3. Outside organizations with significant resources are extremely well organized and energized. They are well situated to serve partisan purposes. They can and will exploit the divisions within the Church.
The evil Catholic Answers does. Heaven forfend the laity be cited authoritative teaching and have their consciences tweaked.
News flash--unity is not the only mark of the Church (bonus points for capitalization, BTW). And false unity is no mark at all.
4. The independent statements of a few bishops has had a negative impact on the unity and teaching authority of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Cheeky! I wonder if Bp. Pilla read this before it went out to the entire planet. After all, it translates as: Shut up, Burke, Chaput, Jugis, Donoghue, et al. Even though that Denver-confab-interim-document-thing said those bishops could do precisely what they did.
To be fair, the memo also said the bishops could behave as Mr. Allio evidently prefers: as lumps of mitered inerti--er, in a more "pastoral" fashion about life issues.
I sense real pique in the comment about "independent" (read: rogue) bishops. A whiff of embarrassment with one's secular friends, perhaps?
Really, what does he want? Instead of clear statements, what--better a bland, vanilla and false surface unity than risk the slightest offense? United by pap? That's a sure recipe for irrelevance. There's a reason no one cited Faithful Citizenship--no one could make heads or tails of the "teaching authority of the USCCB." As is often the case. Thank God for independence--I'll take the clarifying power of "negativity" over "unity" any day of the week.
5. Reflection and dialogue are required about how our faith should influence our politics.
Internal "dialogue"--fear it! Re-education is coming.
6. Teaching on the consistent ethic of life needs to be strengthened not diluted. (Too much of the Presidential campaign was reduced to jingles and slogans).
My one moment of qualified agreement. So long as it's taught as a "hierarchy of truths" (!): your support for a higher minimum wage doesn't excuse a full-throated support of an unrestricted abortion license.
Which, sadly, means we probably don't agree at all.
7. More than ever there is a need for clarity in our teaching and messaging.
My one moment of unqualified agreement. Wasn't that what those awful independent bishops were doing?
Which, sadly, means we probably don't agree at all.
8. Greater emphasis needs to be placed upon the proper formation of one’s conscience.
That 65% figure is downright nightmarish. Re-education must proceed at once!
9. Catholics are more than ever politically homeless. There is much work to be done among the laity to reform our political system.
Again, another moment where I'd like to think we're in agreement. And for once, we probably are with the first sentence. I don't see how any Catholic could pull the lever for the Republicans without a good deal of resignation. Of course, a good deal of the energy eventually used to pull that lever comes from the fact that the Democrats are, at a national level, far worse. And they aren't getting the memo, either.
So, yes, perhaps qualified agreement again. But that second sentence is likely where we part ways. It's vague and broad enough to give plenty of pause.
10. A great challenge of our Church is to penetrate a national media that seems solely focused on the Church’s position on sexual and family matters while ignoring Church teaching on war and peace, social justice and human rights.
Here's where I get irritated by the social justice wing: why isn't abortion a human rights issue? Why isn't traditional marriage a social justice issue? People snuffed in utero don't have to worry about housing, a living wage or job training. If the family unit disintegrates, you've got a bigger problem than worrying about the city building an incinerator in your neighborhood.
In other words, start thinking in terms of fundamentals, or some of us are going to continue to think you have lost your way.
Where Do We Go From Here: Recommendations for Action
· Redouble our efforts at educating our parishioners and students on Catholic Social Teaching and the demands of the Gospel.
Hopefully, success in that endeavor will not be measured by whether the Dem candidate in 2008 breaks 40%.
· Offer opportunities for clergy education on “Catholic Faith, Political Responsibility, and the Common Good”
As long as it's not re-education.
· Engage Catholic Public Officials in dialogue about their unique vocation as a politician
Argh--the D-word. As long as it doesn't disintegrate into an endless cycle of pastoral affirmation. At some point, you have to break out the lumber for the wayward.
Of course, there's no hint of that here.
· Provide greater attention to educating our lay people about developing a well-formed Christian conscience
For starters, get rid of those frigging Catholic Answers guides...
· Develop national and diocesan strategies about changing the manner in which the media views Church teaching and our positions on public policy
Good luck with that!
By the way, try not to water down the positions you value less.
· Create opportunities in our parishes for respectful dialogue among parishioners with diverse perspectives on how faith should inform one’s politics
This is probably the most troubling suggestion. Why? Because it hints that "There are no wrong answers. What's important is that we talk." I can think of no greater--and more damaging--waste of time than this. It sounds more like a deprogramming session for Bush voters than anything else.
Mr. Allio has chosen the issue which matters most to him--poverty. No question that's an essential issue, and one that unjustly gets ignored. There are no doubt many Catholics entirely too comfortable with their own material status, and uncaring about the poor. Flipping randomly through the Bible will quickly inform the reader of the stupidity of that mindset.
But he shouldn't pretend that he's any less divisive than the caricature of Catholic Answers he waves around. He's privileging his agenda, and it's one that's less life-and-death than that big issue he never manages to mention even once. Moreover, with poverty, it's far less clear what constitutes a "right" solution. Nevertheless, he's ramming it through with the authority of the Bishop of Cleveland.