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School Closings Are Because Catholicism No Longer “Demands” Greatness

Part One 

Vatican II Destroyed Catholic Identity And The Essence Of Being Catholic

The message from Headquarters was sent to field agents worldwide:

“This is your mission — if you choose to accept it:  Take one of the most powerful institutions in the history of mankind and change it so radically — in all the wrong ways — that in the span of fifty years, it will be a shell of its former self, relegated to a backwater shaped only by the sad ghosts of the past.”

Was this a Mission Impossible communiqué sent at the height of the Cold War to implode the Soviet Union? Certainly could have been. And the goal would have been a worthy one, fighting an evil adversary hell-bent on human domination.

Interestingly — tragically, actually — that message could also apply perfectly to another mammoth entity — the Roman Catholic Church. 

There is one critical difference. The Soviets fell from outside forces, namely the influence of the United States.  But the Church, while admittedly having its fair share of outside “attackers,” is falling from within, and most of its decline is entirely of its own making.

The above message could well have come from St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, 1965.  The “field agents?”   Cardinals, bishops and priests.  The objective: implement Vatican II.

And implement it they did.

The result? Disaster.

In the tumultuous 1960’s, the world was on fire as secularism and moral relativism were in vogue. Rather than standing its ground and fighting those undesirable concepts, the Church went in the opposite direction.  In effect, Vatican II allowed Catholics to be “Catholic” in pretty much any way they wanted, playing right into the hands of the Woodstock culture. Unwittingly, that carte-blanche decree served as a launching point for the now-dominant “do whatever you want to do and whatever makes you feel good without remorse” mentality.

In an instant, the things that made Roman Catholicism the world’s dominant force vanished.  To many, the “rock” upon which St. Peter built the Church no longer seemed solid, but more “flexible.” So rather than building upon the mighty history of the Church, expanding its reach while adapting to the times with a measure of common sense, the hierarchy went in the other direction.

Some Church officials, to be sure, disagreed with the Church’s new vision, but they were powerless to stop it, and for good reason.  Not only were they forced to follow orders, but in a much more practical sense, they were no longer able to hold their flock accountable when the Church itself abandoned many of the tenets which made it so attractive in the first place.

Give people an inch, and they take a yard.  And unequivocally, that isn’t limited to religion, but all organized entities.

When a political party strives to become a very large “tent,” trying to be all things to all people rather than affirming its platform — what it stands for — it eventually becomes impotent. It’s one thing for a position to evolve as circumstances change, so long as the basic belief structure isn’t irreparably compromised as to make the original tenet unrecognizable.  When that occurs — and both Parties are guilty of it — the result is the most unintended of consequences: no one is pleased, and people abandon the organization in ever-growing numbers, both officially and through apathy, indifference and inaction.

Has a football team ever won a Championship when the coach tells his players to practice in whatever way that makes them feel good about themselves — if they want to practice at all? Has a team ever been successful after making mandatory team meetings optional?  And how long will a team stay a cohesive unit if players simply ignore the coach’s play-calling and do their own thing?

Morale and pride mean everything in building a successful team or institution, but they can only exist when sacrifice and dedication is demanded of the individuals who make up that entity. The only part of JFK’s inaugural address that people remember was when he demanded greatness of Americans by asking “what you can do for your country.”

The Church lost those things when it stopped demanding greatness from its rank and file, instead letting folks off the hook by making things “easier.” It thought that by doing so, it would be the recipient of goodwill from the flock and see its membership increase.

It thought wrong.

Holy Day of Obligation falls on a Saturday or Monday?  You don’t have to go to Church that day, since we’ll just make Sunday mass count for both.

Too hard to fast from midnight to receive Communion? That’s way too long! Make it an hour.

You want to wear cut-off shorts, sports jerseys and flip-flops to Church? If it makes you feel good, then no problem.

Fasting from meat on Friday get in the way of ordering sausage on your pizza? The hell with it. Just do it. We’ll eliminate that rule too.

The list goes on and on, and the more the Church gave in to such expediency, the more people stopped going to Mass, and yes, the more parents stopped sending their children to Catholic schools.  Since the Church took away the essence of Catholic identity — the very point of being a proud Roman Catholic — then what was the point of doing either?

And now, several generations later, the carnage is everywhere.

The mosques are full, as are many evangelical churches, yet the churches are empty.

And in those evangelical churches, a significant percentage of the congregation is former Catholics who left the Church not because it was too “hard,” but because it stopped demanding.

Vocations are nonexistent, elderly out-of-touch priests have no replacements, schools are being shuttered at a staggering rate (which goes way beyond this latest round of closings), and scandal and corruption are rampant with no end in sight, as criminal trials and more billion dollar settlements loom.

And worst of all, the cover-ups continue, serving for many as the final nail in the coffin.  Why go to Church to listen to a long-winded uninsprational sermon about “morality” when Church leaders actively stonewall investigations and protect society’s absolute worst — child predators?

So what does the Church do?

Despite all that baggage, the Church has fast-tracked Pope John Paul II to sainthood faster than anyone else in history — a man who either was asleep at the switch during the height of the sandal, or chose to look the other way.  He could have aggressively rooted out the perpetrators with a take-no-prisoners attitude, sending an unmistakable message that the Church does not solicit nor will ever tolerate pedophiles to fill its ranks, regardless of the dearth of priests. But he didn’t.

And now, it has rolled out language changes in the liturgy which are ridiculous and inexplicable. Was it just another example of how out-of-touch the Church has become, or a deliberate distraction, as some theorize?

Either way, it doesn’t matter.

Until the Church implements real reforms that will start the road to recovery, the numbers will continue to dwindle.

What are they?

-For starters, demand more of its followers. Don’t cower behind the “if I demand that people dress better for Church, they won’t come at all” mentality. Make them look presentable and act appropriately when entering the House of God — or tell them they aren’t welcome. The Church would be shocked to see how many MORE people will start attending Church again, and acting more reverently when they are there — just like public school children have more pride when required to wear uniforms.

-Motivate the flock by relating to them, not talking in platitudes with rhetoric that puts the congregation to sleep.

-Make it tougher to be a Catholic — to once again be the religious equivalent of the Marines. Sure, a kid taking the forbidden cookie wants it, but deep down, he is really looking for discipline. And sure, we complain when we have to sacrifice, but we feel good about it.

-Market the wonderful aspects of the Church, including it being the largest provider of social services in the entire world.

-Stop being a paper tiger politically. What’s the point of having so much muscle if you’re too scared to use it? If it had, most of the schools would not have closed (discussed in tomorrow’s Part Two).

And most important, eliminate the correct perception that the Church is close-minded and sexist. Allow priests to marry — and yes, allow women to become priests.  Not only would these common sense changes enable all priest to better relate to their flocks, but they would also attract non-pedophile priests to fill the ranks, allowing those who want to pursue a life of service to not be viewed suspiciously— by virtually everyone.

And neither would violate Church dogma, since priests married for at least four centuries, and quite possibly much longer. The practice was stopped not for religious reasons, but for disputes over property rights.  And since God was kind enough to bestow upon us annuities, life insurance and other neat financial tools in the last century, it’s time to drop the charade and bring the Church into modern times.

*****

The Second Vatican Council set in motion series of changes that, if they didn’t completely shatter much of what was beloved about the Church, certainly called into question Catholic identity. And nowhere are the tragic results more apparent than the dwindling number of Catholic schools. As schools go by the wayside, so does the Church’s future generations. 

In 1911, there were 68,000 Catholic school students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. That number peaked in the 1960’s at 250,000. After Vatican II took hold, the number plummeted back to 68,000 in 2011 — despite the U.S. population exploding from 92,000,000 a century ago to 308,000,000.

And now, 49 more schools just went on the chopping block. The biggest irony is that the closings are not a solution, but the symptom of a much greater illness.  To save the remaining schools — and that’s by no means a sure thing — the Church needs to solve the problem…

Part II will discuss how to save Catholic education in America.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com  His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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January 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm
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