Today, the Church, as Christ’s designated bride here on earth, is under attack by those who would reduce the Eucharist to mere bread, marriage to a civil agreement, holy orders to an outdated method of perpetuating power and a male oriented/dominated hierarchy, baptism to a cultural initiation ceremony, confession to a mere program of self actualization, confirmation to a mere coming of age ritual and the anointing of the sick to a superstitious rite. And while Catholics and the Church are not exactly being thrown to the lions, they are on notice.
There are currently law suits being pursued to bankrupt diocese by rewriting existing laws regarding the statute of limitations to make exceptions where the Church is concerned in the name of justice for victims of child abuse. The statue of limitations will specifically not apply to the Church, where it does for all other organizations and institutions. Before congress in Connecticut, is a bill designed to reorder the financial and administrative structures of the Church itself to render it more “responsive” to the parishioners and democratic, like other churches. State legislation in Massachusetts drove Catholic Charities to abandon the adoption services it provided in that state because it demanded Catholic Charities drop its refusal to provide services to homosexual couples. In California, the courts ruled that Catholic hospitals were not part of the Church and thus not able to refuse to provide birth control medication via insurance as a matter of policy. FOCA and the recent removal of conscience clauses put in place by President Bush and removed by President Obama have the potential to demand Catholic institutions like hospitals and adoption agencies disavow core tenets of the Catholic faith as policy, or alternatively be denied federal funding for other services or be shut down by denying accreditation.
The neatness of the intellectual argument in all these attacks rests in placing the responsibility for the act squarely always in the hands of someone else. Where the attacks are on institutional structures, like hospitals and adoption agencies and Catholic charities, religious moral codes apparently apply only to one’s own acts and not the acts of others. We are not sinning if someone ELSE wants an abortion; therefore, WE should have no trouble paying for others to chose to commit or receive abortions. We are not sinning if we provide the medication for an abortion, because the choice remains that of the individual to take RU-48. Such thinking is at best, moral slight of hand. More often, it is willful blindness to one’s own moral responsibility to others. Fortunately, we say, “In what I have done and what I have failed to do.” We believe we are liable to God, answerable to God for our acts and our inaction, when we do wrong or fail to stop evil.
Where the attacks are on the power structures of the institution itself, the rational is to safeguard the CHURCH from individuals sullying its mission by being corrupted via money, power or human weakness. Taking the money and regulatory decision power out of the Bishop’s hands and placing it in an Elected board of individuals makes the Church much less structured and its policies and procedures, the result of consensus and the will of the governed, not the result of authentic teaching, the authority of the Pope or Christ. There are many groups out in America of “disenfranchised” Catholics, who would “return to the fold” if only the Church would adopt a more reasonable stance on birth control, abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, premarital sex, assisted suicide, etc. The sensible thinking of those who examine the Church with this end goal in mind, is to make Catholicism more democratic, less authoritative, more accessible to”modern” thinking. Deconstructing God is nothing new. Deconstructing the institution dedicated to preserving not simply Christ’s memory and teaching, but to bringing Him Living and Real to every heart, has gone on since the Church began. The church shall be reduced to a nicely decorated building that one occasionally visits on Sundays and other holidays out of nostalgia or to promote good character. The elected board will see the practicality of divesting the Bishops and other ordained people of power, as that will allow them to pray and be holy and let the rest of us make decisions about how we shall live our lives in accordance with “reality” as opposed to the Real.
Part of the insidiousness of these attacks is the soothing reassurances that we shall still have soup kitchens and hospitals and adoption agencies and hospices and schools. We will still “do good.” But, we will cease to be seeking God. These services shall only be to take care of the body and the mind and our physical posterity and comfort. We will have a good society, peopled by souls who do not know the origin or definition of authentic “Good.” Our Church, if willingly anchored in the sand of public opinion, shall eventually, demand nothing of our souls and provide nothing to them as a result. Catholic shall cease to mean Catholic, and be one of many flavors of Religion designed to make one feel enlightened, while providing no actual spiritual value.
It has never been that the Church needed to be more modern, it has always been that the Church needed to earnestly seek to remain timeless and True. The Truth is accessible in any age. Modernity is whatever current spin Satan has designed to make one unwilling to recognize Truth exists. Ever since Christ was born, people have tried to strip His existence of meaning. In this, as in every age to come and all that have, our job as the Church is to answer Christ’s question to Peter and the apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” Answer: The Way, the Truth and the Light.
Copyright 2009 Sherry Antonetti