Wednesday, November 4, 2015

There's No Back To The Catholic Future

Every month or so there appears yet another poll detailing the dwindling number of people who report as members of organized religion.  Over the last 35-40 years, membership has dropped disastrously in the US, although accurate total numbers are confusing.  The Roman Catholic Church has no mechanism to really withdraw from the Church -- although the Church is quick to summarily dismiss women who seek ordination and those who support them.  Its numbers have also been inflated due to immigration from traditionally Catholic areas such as the global South and Pacific Islands.  That there are fewer numbers of pew-sitters, and from the remaining people much less money realized in donations, is not in dispute, however.  (For those who like fiddling with actual statistics, Google is your friend; I'm allergic to them.) 

What I find hilariously ironic are the assumptions made by conservative Catholics, including most of the US bishops, that these living, breathing people represented by the "fallen away" numbers will return if just the right words are said, just the right person elected Pope, just the right conciliatory gestures made toward one group or another.  

It ain't gonna happen.  

There will be no returning to a 1950's model of obedient, compliant, cleric-worshiping,  "Father, what should I do about birth control," confession-going, tithing, Mary-statue-crowning, bleating sheeplike Catholic.  

We've seen the wizards behind the institutional curtain.  We've seen and experienced the horrific flaws of far too many child-abusing priests and their sleazy, greedy, power-hungry bishops, and we've counted the billions of dollars spent in payment of (mostly) attorney fees for this scandal.  We've seen and experienced the corruption in Rome and its humiliating consequences.  Some of us have become as educated as many of our leaders AND all of us have more relevant life experiences than all of the ordained put together.  
  • Many of us were taught and guided post-Vatican II to use our own informed conscience to determine actions with deep moral implications, including planning our own families and not remaining in toxic marriages detrimental to ourselves, our partners and children.  
  • We've learned through science that homosexuality isn't an "intrinsic disorder" but simply a natural variant and that loving LGBT relationships are good.  Many of our own children are gay, and we're certainly not turning our backs on them simply because an outdated theologian thinks otherwise.  
  • We've experienced the actual liberation and recognition of the equality of women in education, the workplace and culture -- not some bastardized version of it interpreted as "radical feminism" by Roman celibates. 
  • We pay attention to science and have adjusted our creation and religious myths, as well as Gospel exegeses, accordingly.  We don't buy the fairy tales anymore; sorry.
 No matter what gestures of reconciliation Rome may extend to lure us back, if and when we do return to the practice of our faith, we won't be coming back with eyes shut.  We will still be people living and loving in the 21st century, and we're not leaving those current personae behind to rejoin a shuffling procession back to the 16th.  

It's time that Rome caught up to us, that Rome becomes more relevant to the people it's supposed to be serving in meaningful ways, that misogyny and exclusion are rejected, and that the Life and Gospel of Jesus be taught and modeled aside from the behemoth institution that (so far) has shown more interest in self-maintenance than building Jesus' Kingdom.  I don't think we'll be returning on Rome's terms, if we return at all.


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