A de facto schism

A de facto schism

Since it’s Pope John Paul’s 25th anniversary, the American media has decided that its time to show that US Catholics love the Pope, but hate his teachings. Specifically, the had a poll.

No one is surprised, therefore, that the results of the poll show that while people like the Pope, they think the Church’s teachings on all kinds of things should change. But all the poll shows is that American Catholics have no clue about their faith. They don’t understand the teachings, the don’t understand how doctrine is formulated, they don’t understand the Church’s structure and teaching authority.

“The Catholic Church hasn’t kept up with real life,” said Debra B. Finn, 51, who attends Mass weekly in Hamden, Conn. “I think perhaps all this pedophile stuff is proof of that. It’s abnormal to have men live in a state of celibacy and expect them to be able to counsel married people when they obviously don’t have a clue what marriage is.”

This woman is completely emblematic of the typical American Catholic. What she doesn’t realize is that the Church isn’t supposed to conform to this world. Rather we are to conform ourselves to the supernatural world, to a supernatural reality. “Do not conform yourselves to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

And she falls for the old trap that because someone isn’t married they cannot counsel those who are. So, in therapy school, do they tell the new therapists that they can’t counsel married people until they themselves are married? If I can give my sister or brother-in-law advice when they ask me, how much more can a priest who has training and experience to guide him give good advice? In a way, it’s better for a priest because then he doesn’t have the baggage of his own marriage’s problems to get in the way of his counseling.

And as Phil Lawler asks this morning, “Isn’t holy orders and impediment to marriage?” Read his whole piece there. I don’t really want to rehash the celibacy debate here.

The amazing thing about the poll is that 80 percent of the Catholics surveyed give the Pope high “job approval” ratings, yet even among those who attend Mass every week (the only ones I’ll give weight to from the poll) 51 percent want changes in the Church’s teachings.

Even more disturbing, most of the Catholics surveyed think their local priests represent their religious views more than the Pope does. What does that says about their priests? I suspect there isn’t a whole lot of courageous teaching going on in most parishes. And, as usual, the views of Catholics on moral issues like abortion, contraception, premarital sex, and homosexuality are not at all different from the general population.

Bottom line: the American Catholic Church is in de facto schism, in the sense that the vast majority hold heretical views. Do you get the sense that our bishops and most priests see this as a crisis? I don’t. Hey, how about another pastoral letter from the US bishops on salmon fishing.