When movements go astray

When movements go astray

Virginia Buckingham is rooting for Voice of the Faithful because of what she perceives as the Archdiocese of Boston’s heavyhandedness with a group she tried to start. Buckingham, former executive director of Massport, the Massachusetts state agency that runs the airport and seaport in Boston, is in her early to mid 40s I think.

When she was in her 20s, she and some friends tried to start a young adult group called “Connecting.” Her description all sounds innocuous, until you start to see the warning signs: the impetus was a desire for Masses “at 10 pm, in a church basement, complete with folksy music, hip priest, and homily aimed at my demographic angst.” What she wanted was a young adult ghetto. This is the problem with a lot of niche-market Masses that try to cater to specific age- or ethnic-groups (like youth Masses and the like). They tend to cause segregation as people seek out the “product” they prefer and what should be a community parish representing everybody within it becomes a fractured mess without any union except geographical location.

Another warning sign is where the group met: The Jesuit Urban Center in Boston’s South End. Whenever you hear of some odd theology or bizarre practice or outright dissent and heresy in Boston, chances are it will be center on the JUC. If Virginia’s group was based out of the JUC, I can understand why the archdiocese would look upon it with suspicion. “Our political leanings and personal views on church doctrine probably spanned the spectrum. But I don’t remember ever talking about abortion or priestly celibacy when we met.” That’s probably part of the problem: A Catholic group should promote orthodoxy, belief in the truth of reality that is the Church’s teachings, not says “I’m ok, you’re ok” to people who are dissenting from the truth.

  • When Ms. Buckingham says:

    “Let’s face it, not too many parishes were likely to offer Sunday Mass at 10 p.m. in a church basement, complete with folksy music, hip priest and homily aimed right at my demographic angst”

    she’s not just talking about an imaginary goal: that’s a description of Boston College’s campus ministry.  For years, they and BU’s chaplaincy both offered 10 pm Sunday Masses.  Maybe they still do.

    While Ms. Buckingham’s “it’s all about me” attitude is ridiculous, I can understand some of her feelings.  A lot of students enjoy and benefit from the religious environment of campus ministry, with its organized activities and its concentration of interested bright young Catholics, so they feel at a loss when they return to parish life, where there are often fewer activities of the type one finds in campus ministry (e.g., Bible studies, instructional programs, charitable projects).
    She’s right to have recognized that there was an unmet need for young adult ministry.

  • That’s part of the problem, isn’t it? I think we spend so much time catering to the boredom or angst of teens and young adults that they come out of those programs and are bewildered as to why they have to go back to the “regular” church.

    Offering a 10 pm Sunday Mass may get more bodies into the pews, but at what cost? Suddenly Mass isn’t about the proper worship we owe to God and the sacrifices we make, but it’s about our convenience and our entertainment. And that spills over into adulthood. How many times do we hear people say they don’t go to Mass anymore because they “don’t get anything out of it.” Sorry, but the Mass isn’t primarily for you to “get something out of it,” but for you to worship God.

    On the other hand, I know we have to reach people “where they’re at,” but often we are so afraid to make demands on people to shape their lives to the faith that we mutilate the faith to fit their lives.

    Finally, I’d be more positive toward campus ministry if a sizable portion of them (most of them?) weren’t teaching heresy and serving up pablum.