Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Oh, puh-leeze!

Apparently, America's Catholic bishops have been talking to themselves. This may be news to them.

But with prelates across the land gravely warning Catholics about voting for pro-abortion candidates -- and with those same Catholics studiously ignoring them to the tune of breaking 55 percent to 45 percent for the abortion enthusiast Barack Obama,
according to exit poll data -- the fact of bishops' soliloquizing seems indisputable. Their moral authority seems to be about equal to the man Americans electorally recoil from tonight -- George W. Bush.

This is a painful thing to consider if one is a believing Catholic. Catholics believe -- well, Catholics used to believe -- that the church's teaching authority rests on the shoulders of their bishops. Catholics used to believe those men literally held "the keys to the Kingdom."

Catholics used to believe these men were their shepherds.

The shepherds have lost their flocks. And it has been their own damned fault.

OF COURSE, with such an ecclesiastical calamity being as horrific to contemplate as it is observably true, "orthodox" Catholicism's "amen corner" finds it much easier thing to dwell, instead, upon the persecution they see as being sure to befall us at the hands of Evil Secular Humanism.

The persecution that was to befall us in 1992. Or 1996. Or 2000, if we hadn't gone for Bush 43.

Now, folks like Steve Kellmeyer are pretty sure we're really gonna get it now:

We don't have to be happy, we do have to be joyful.

Being happy is being comfortable, healthy and well-fed.
Being joyful is knowing that God's plan is being worked out,
and our obedience and submission to it contributes to His glory.

Jesus was not happy on the Cross, but He was joyful.

We fast and pray, we ask for mercy, but we accept whatever comes, punishment or pleasure.

Times of persecution were prophesied.

If we are found worthy to be subject to them, we should rejoice.

"Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.

"It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

"Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears."—Hebrews 12:3-17

Every drop of blood shed by the abortionist's scalpel will have to be repaid.

Perhaps we have been chosen to participate, be God's co-workers, as St. Paul said, in this work of redemption ...

Conversely, if the Butcher from Chicago fails in his bid, then we must raise our voices in the ancient hymns:

Non nobis, Domine, Domine,
non nobis, Domine
Sed nomini,
sed nomini,
tuo da gloriam.

Not to us, Lord,
But to your Name, be all glory.

FIRST, MR. KELLMEYER, I saw the campaign Sen. Obama's opponent ran. I know what the Butcher from Arizona stood for -- slightly less bloodshed at home, a lot more bloodshed abroad. A John McCain victory would have been nothing for which to thank the Almighty.

We pro-lifers thanked God for the victory of George W. Bush. Magnanimously, as it turns out, we blessed the name of the Lord for the judgment that was to befall us. And George W. Bush, indeed, has been a harsh judgment upon this land.

As for the Catholic Church, though, I fail to apprehend what calamity President Obama can visit upon it that it hasn't already visited upon itself. When apostasy has become normative and shepherds have been thoroughly corrupted, the only thing left for Caesar to do is kick around a corpse.

Unseemly, yes, but the damage already has been done.

The Catholic Church tonight is one where the flock heeds not its shepherds' voice. Which is no big deal when the shepherds have so little to say. At least lately . . . except to issue commands to a flock which no longer knows why, exactly, it ought to listen anymore.

FOR 14 YEARS, my wife and I volunteered in Catholic youth ministry at our suburban parish. It was a tenure I recall through the small minority of kids we saw emerge out of the youth ghetto into an adult relationship with Jesus Christ and His church.

Our parish is a large one. For 14 years, the percentage of our Catholic kids bothering to engage with the parish's ministry to them has been a small one. The number of kids emerging from that process to show real signs of still believing any of that stuff is smaller yet.

For our Catholic youth, as for their Catholic elders, their professed faith is one thing, their lives and practical beliefs are another thing entirely. For the most part, never the twain shall meet.

For the past 20 years, almost, my experience of Catholicism has been one of a mighty struggle for faith, a slow realization of the implications of that faith and an up-and-down process of living it. For nearly that long, my experience of the future of my church has been of a church pandering to the indifference of young people little interested in anything she has to offer -- a dysfunctional dance of a self-doubting institution desperate to be cool and popular but not necessarily respected.

Did I mention, also, intellectually denuded and culturally tone-deaf?

Likewise, I have watched bright young people, hungry to follow the Spirit's promptings, be disrespected, marginalized, scandalized and bored right out of Catholicism. And perhaps right out of any meaningful relationship with Christ.

THERE ARE serious consequences when a church makes grand claims for itself, then turns around and acts as if those claims are without meaning. From my perspective, here in the middle of America, I see a dying church.

I see a landscape where orthodox Catholic faith is ever more countercultural. And that's just within your average Catholic parish.

I also survey a landscape where those who most vociferously claim the mantle of "orthodox" Catholicism often confuse party politics and peculiar subculture with religious truth and "authentic Catholicism." They are as clueless as their heterodox, reverse-image dopplegangers in the church.

I suspect neither extreme would recognize "authentic Catholicism" if they saw it. In these times, in this church, who would?

LONG STORY SHORT, if persecution the church is to face, it is in large part because the Catholic Church -- for all intents and purposes, as a whole, in this country -- has cast aside
the Great Commission:
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."
MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, the pro-life movement wouldn't, late this election night, find itself in such shambles politically if religious Americans -- particularly Catholic Americans . . . especially their shepherds -- had taken care of basics before playing politics.

Culture precedes politics. Always.

American Christians . . . American Catholics forgot that. And all Steve Kellmeyer's (for one) hyperpietistic faux submission to God's will in the face of anticipated persecution ultimately will prove no substitute for Catholics actually getting off their asses and loving their neighbor. Not to mention teaching their children.

Just like Jesus told them to do in the first place.

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