I wonder if Jason and the Callers were aware of statistics like these when they aligned with a communion they thought to be the arbiter of Christian truth:
One-third of divorced and remarried Catholics who have not had their first marriage annulled receive Communion, even if they have not sought the permission of their priest.
Catholics in Britain and Ireland in such circumstances were almost twice as likely to receive Communion without having sought permission as US Catholics (29 per cent vs 17 per cent). . . .
Practising Catholics said the chief threats to marriage and family life were: artificial contraception; gay marriage and adoption; pressure caused by long working hours, money worries and unemployment; and the proliferation of pornography.
Almost three-quarters of practising Catholics welcomed the presence of lay people at the Synod, with one-quarter saying they wished more had been invited to attend and to be involved in decision-making.
Twenty per cent of Mass-going women and 15 per cent of Mass-going men said they sometimes felt the Church was too focused on the family to the point where they sometimes felt alienated.
Eighty-nine per cent of practising Catholics said a child ideally needed a mother and a father, while 11 per cent said a parent’s gender was less important than his or her commitment to the child.
About half of respondents said there was a danger the synod would be dominated by Western concerns rather than those affecting Catholics in the developing world.
Some 83 per cent of practising Catholics said they regularly pray with their children, or did when they were younger, and 78 per cent said they often talk to them about faith, or did when they were younger.
Of the clergy who took part, more than a third said the ban on artificial contraception could be ignored in good conscience and that cohabitation could be an acceptable stage en route to marriage.
To put this data which is skewed toward people who read The Tablet and use its website, consider the results of a Pew survey from last year:
How do U.S. Catholics view same-sex marriage?
As of 2012, about half of U.S. Catholics support same-sex marriage. This level of support has increased over the past decade, rising from 40% in favor in 2001.
How do U.S. Catholics view abortion?
Half of U.S. Catholics overall (51%) say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 44% say it should be illegal in all or most cases. Among white Catholics, 54% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. By contrast, among Hispanic Catholics, 53% say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. In the general public, 54% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 39% say it should be illegal in all or most cases.
How do U.S. Catholics view contraception?
Just 15% of U.S. Catholics say that using contraceptives is morally wrong. Greater percentages say contraception is either morally acceptable (41%) or not a moral issue (36%). Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week are more evenly split. About three-in-ten say using contraceptives is morally wrong (27%). Similar percentages say it is morally acceptable (33%) or not a moral issue (30%).
Maybe if you are comparing yourself to the Protestant mainline, or to the Church of England, you take some encouragement from these numbers. But if you’re the Yankees or Steelers of the ecclesiastical world and rooting for a winner is what you signed up for when you crossed the Tiber, what happens when your ecclesiastical players keep coming up short in the fantasy church league?
For this reason, as much attention as people have given to the gathering of bishops in Rome over the last two weeks, not enough has been directed at how a church with so much authority, universal jurisdiction, apostolic succession, and charism — so many trophies — has been so ineffective in shepherding its flock.
I for one cannot understand how Roman Catholicism’s defenders (whether liberal or conservative) can continue to claim superiority. For instance, from the left, Michael Sean Winters consoles himself that Rome is not the Episcopal Church (which is sort of like the Phillies’ fans saying their team is not the Cubs):
A friend forwarded me a tweet from, of all people, Mia Farrow. It read: “Disappointed Catholics – imagine no Cardinals, Popes or bankers. All welcome, gay marriage, women and married priests – the Episcopal church.” Now, I do not mean to suggest that Ms. Farrow speaks for informed Episcopalianism. But, the obvious rejoinder is “No apostolic succession, no Real Presence, no ministry of unity in the Petrine office – some deal. And hurry, before they close up shop and turn off the lights.” And, the fact is that you know and I know Catholics who think as Ms. Farrow does. Their agenda has trumped everything and that is the problem. Ideology gets in the way of the unity of faith to which Pope Francis is calling us. It is this prior commitment to a desired outcome, ideologically defined, that keeps the Holy Spirit from our counsels and charity from our discussions. In short, ideology can frustrate genuine progress.
So apostolic succession is the rejoinder to those for whom it doesn’t matter (remember “pray, pay and obey”?), or even to bishops who don’t invoke their episcopal power? Again to use the Phillies’ analogy, so the Phillies were awful this year but darn, weren’t they good in 2008 — you know, once a world champion always a world champion. Tell that to the Red Sox. But if you want to keep insisting that the Phillies invented baseball, okay, but I’m not sure what kind of conversations about baseball are really possible if you’re going to take that line even though your bishops conceded fifty years ago that other teams helped contribute to baseball.
Then from the right we have the example of David Mills who compares (admirably I should say because I’d much rather interact with a conservative Roman Catholic who tells me I am wrong) Roman Catholicism to the best house in the neighborhood:
In the preface to Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis described the Church as a house with various rooms occupied by different traditions, including Catholicism. It’s not that good an image, even from his point of view, but it does give us one way of understanding our relation to our Protestant friends. Lewis would not have accepted this reimagining of his metaphor, but Catholics, who know that the Church isn’t merely one denomination among others, will know that the Catholic Church is the house, and the rooms are occupied by the various rites within the Church. To enter the house, one must be a member of the family. Friends may set up homes in the yard. They are within the pale, the relation the Church calls “real but imperfect communion.”
The Church will share as much as she can with her separated brethren. The family living in the house and the friends living in the yard may spend a lot of time together, and greatly enjoy each other’s company, but at the end of the day they each go back to their own homes. Some living in the yard resent never being let into the house, even for a family meal. It seems unkind and irrational. They’re happy to have Catholics in their homes and cannot understand why Catholics will not let them in theirs.
The homes they set up in the yard will keep them relatively warm and dry, if they build well, as some do, though not all. Life in the yard is much better than life on the street. Yet, however pleasant the families’ lives in the yard, they would be much happier and healthier and more productive if they got to live in the house itself. They are not homeless, which is a good thing, but they’re not really at home either.
. . . Outside it they do not experience the blessings only found on the inside. The positive reason is that it is a wonderful house. It is a great place to live. It is the best place to live. The kitchen is stocked with food, and the living room filled with comfortable furniture. The bathrooms have hot showers and working toilets, and the bedrooms are good. It is cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It has interesting architectural features and curious nooks and crannies. It is full of art, books, and music. It is where your family lives.
The Church is where the faith is found in its fullness, its plenitude, its abundance. I know this from my own experience of being outside the Church and then being on the inside. For over twenty years I was an Episcopalian of the sort called Anglo-Catholic, an active one who volunteered in various conservative organizations and taught at the Episcopal Church’s most conservative seminary. I lived in a rather nice house in the yard, one that from the outside looked very much like the Catholic house: much smaller, of course, but more tastefully designed and aesthetically pleasing, and sitting closer to the Catholic house than many of the others. But in the yard nevertheless, as conveyed by the joke, which even Episcopalians would make, that their religious body was “Catholic lite.”
But isn’t this house, as the recent synod and polls suggest, a little drafty, in need of a new roof, with a septic system in disrepair, and an owner who doesn’t want to do any work on repairing the house because he think he owns the whole neighborhood (maybe like the one the Addams Family occupied)? When will this beautiful house get the maintenance it needs? Or when will the residents of the house actually listen to what the real estate agents are saying (some of whom teach classes in the house’s universities) that the house no longer matters since it’s more fun to hang out with the homeless?
And then comes the offhand comment about the synod that you just can’t believe someone said, in this case another fellow whom I admire, Peter Lawler:
Someone was wondering whether it was my “Pope Francis” moment in which I was subtly repudiating Catholic teaching on the purposes of sex and marriage. Well, I don’t think our pope is actually doing that, although I will say he’s filled the air with mixed messages. But maybe he’s right in some way such that, although the truth doesn’t change, recent developments might suggest that the gift of talking about it lovingly and effectively is in short supply. I certainly don’t claim to have that gift.
I don’t like to have to make this connection, but Roman Catholic marriage practices that led the bishops to Rome to think about what to do occurred on the watch of one of the church’s most beloved popes, John Paul II. Not only was he revered by many (maybe not the progressives), but he also offered one of the most philosophically rich accounts of sex, the body, and marriage that Roman Catholics have ever seen. And for all this you get a group of followers who are indistinguishable from the rest of their American mainline Protestant neighbors on gay marriage?
I know that since all priests still have to take the anti-modernist oath, lots of Roman Catholics think that modernism can’t happen there. But here they need to remember that Protestant modernism arose among Presbyterians at the same time that ministers subscribed the Westminster Standards.
I get it. Roman Catholic modernism doesn’t smell (and we haven’t even begun to talk about Richard McBrien).