Sunday, May 18, 2014

Catholics should avoid the temptation to Schadenfreude

The underground correspondent we keep on retainer in an Atlantic seaboard city that knows how to keep its secrets, Guy Noir - Private Eye, wired me on Friday. The telegram had a distinctly ominous air about it:
Despite the secular clean-up crews, the bodies and rubble still lay scattered about. I experienced the Episco-insurrection first-hand. No one believed the danger was so visceral until it was upon us. Then it was too late.
There followed a link to this article: "Slow Motion Implosion" (New Oxford Notes, May 2014) with the following sentences in large, red capital letters: "Anglicanism’s slow-motion implosion has drawn a lot of rubberneckers over the years. But Catholics would be well advised to avoid the temptation to Schadenfreude." The article proceeds as follows [with Mr. Noir's added emphases]:
A time of deep soul-searching is fast approaching for Christianity. It should come as no surprise that the past few decades have been particularly difficult ones for institutional churches and ecclesial communions, which have struggled to attract new members and retain old ones. The situation has grown so grim in the Anglican Communion that one of its elder statesmen, Lord George Carey, a former archbishop of Canterbury, warned recently that the Church of England (C of E) is “one generation away from extinction.” At a November 2013 conference, Lord Carey said that Anglicans should be “ashamed” of themselves for not “investing in young people.”

His sentiments were echoed by prominent Anglican columnist A.N. Wilson, who wrote in London’s Telegraph (Nov. 19, 2013) that in each of the more than ten C of E parishes he visited over the preceding year, he had the same experience. “At the age of 63,” he said, “I have been the youngest person present by 20 years. The congregation has seldom numbered double figures. The C of E is a moribund institution kept going by and for old people.”

Things are equally dire in the Church of England’s U.S. counterpart, the Episcopal Church (TEC). As reported in “Incredible Shrinking Churches” (New Oxford Notes, Dec. 2011), since 2003 TEC has lost over three hundred thousand members. According to research conducted by David Virtue, a veteran analyst of all things Anglican, nearly one-third of all Episcopal parishes are populated by parishioners in their mid-60s, with virtually no young people to fill the gap. Virtue predicts that in a quarter century, “there will no longer be anyone attending an Episcopal Church.”

Anglicanism’s slow-motion implosion has drawn a lot of rubberneckers over the years. But Catholics would be well advised to avoid the temptation toSchadenfreude. After all, the Pew Forum’s 2008 “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey” found that, of all Christian groups, the Catholic Church “has experienced the greatest net losses.” Former Catholics outnumber converts by a ratio of four to one. Ten percent of the U.S. population now consists of “ex-Catholics.” If they were to form their own church, it would be the second largest in the U.S., trailing only the Catholic Church herself.

Back in old England, the picture isn’t much merrier. Linda Woodhead, a sociology of religion professor at Lancaster University in Lancashire, recently conducted her own “scientific survey of Catholic opinion.” Dr. Woodhead has determined that “faithful Catholics” in the U.K. are now “a rare and endangered species” (Religion Dispatches, Nov. 24, 2013). Defined as those who attend weekly Mass, profess certain belief in God, take authority from religious sources, and are opposed to abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia, a mere five percent of British Catholics can be called “faithful.” That figure drops to two percent for British Catholics under the age of 30. Startlingly, Dr. Woodhead found that zero percent of British Catholics “look to religious leaders for guidance as they make decisions and live their lives.”

The problem, as Woodhead sees it, is that “most Catholics don’t think the [Church’s moral] teaching is too hard, they think it’s wrong” (italics in original). This would suggest that dressing up existing doctrines — especially those related to marriage and sexuality — to make them more appealing, or dispensing with them altogether, will have little to no effect. The recent history of the Anglican Communion is a case in point: It is endlessly refashioning itself in order to achieve “relevance” by shedding virtually every one of its distinctively Christian moral teachings — and with disastrous results.
The foregoing article, "A Slow-Motion Implosion" was originally published in the New Oxford Review (May 2014), and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.
[Hat tip to JM]


8 comments:








Jacobi

said...

It's bad. Very bad. A lay catholic could well be forgiven for feeling a bit fed up with the mess things are in.

But I wonder how our bishops feel?





c matt

said...

Startlingly, Dr. Woodhead found that zero percent of British Catholics “look to religious leaders for guidance as they make decisions and live their lives.”

Given the current crop of leadership, that may not be such a bad thing.





Anonymous

said...

In my case, once it became clear (with the election of Pope Francis)where things were going, I just threw up my hands and headed for the exit.





Pertinacious Papist

said...

Anonymous,

I'm not sure of your background or what you mean by "heading for the exit," but I would urge caution. The Church herself is an article of faith in the creed. No matter how confusing or confused one may think the bishops of the Church may be, to turn one's back on the Church is to lose faith also in the One who commissioned her. Kind regards, -- PP





brandsma

said...

We have been led down the garden path by accomodating clergy. Now the Church is very feeble in England.





Cris

said...

I disagree on one point - I think the largest contingent of Christians are protestants who have changed churches from one denomination to another. On a second point - the Anglican Church is collapsing I believe because of it's surrender to secular beliefs - yet the end of the article states that young people reject the teachings of Catholicism - these 2 occurences seem contradictory...





LWC

said...

Appears there's even greater need for the likes of Burke, Z, and Voris to 'grow' the Catholic Church. After all, rubrics are the opiate of Pharisees and these guys are in major DTs since Francis declined his ermine and red Pradas.





LWC

said...

Such bravery in stifling dissent from the 'Pertinacious Papist'

Appears there's even greater need for the likes of Burke, Z, and Voris to 'grow' the Catholic Church. After all, rubrics are the opiate of Pharisees and these guys are in major DTs since Francis declined his ermine and red Pradas.