I will post seminary experiences Part II on Monday. I have received quite a bit of feedback from others who attended the seminary that I wrote about on Monday and most have mentioned that they thought my assessment fair if a bit understated. My point in posting these experiences is not to dreg up past hurts but more an effort to show that the present scandals are nothing new...and merely the fruit of a wound that has been festering in the Church for sometime.
I think the Second Vatican Council sought to address how the Church would meet the needs of the modern world. It set in motion a reform which radically changed (one might say recovered) the role of the laity in the Church. In the ensuing years a battle has been fought as to how to implement the reforms of the council. Unfortunately this has sometimes led to the clericalization of the laity, which in turn has led the clerical culture to turn in on itself and to become even more secretive and protective of its fraternity.
Anyone who would raise a voice within that fraternity is often driven out usually in subbtle fashion and made to look as though they are an aggitator. I remember a priest friend telling me once that a seminarian, (a potential modern day St. Francis), who had sold everything that he owned and given it to the poor before coming to the seminary would never last--and he didn't. My priest friend's insight was that guy was too radical for the priesthood.
Since that time, some twenty years ago, good men have been ordained who go into the seminary with advice from holy priests to basically ignore what is taught in the seminary and to say all the right things in interviews. Trying to make the best of a bad situation, I'm not sure what the result of this bandaid approach will be in the long term.
There is need of a great reform, one that follows in the footsteps of St. Francis who heard from Our Lord on the cross, "Rebuild my church which is falling into ruin." The Church that St. Francis knelt in on that day was literally in ruins, and chances our the church that you pray in is too (although the ruin that is probably present in your church has been destructed not by pagans but by "experts" who have done everything they could to remove not only the presence of Christ from your church but even his image and those of his saints). The nightly news proclaims the message...how will we react? Will we like Francis begin by picking up the stones and placing them on top of one another where we find ourselves? If so like him what we change where we are will eventually change the whole of Christ's Body.
What can "I" do you might ask?
First, pray. Make sure that your relationship with God is strong. The Church exists to facilitate our relationship with God and unfortunately weak preaching, bad catechetics have had an evil effect on the way we as Catholics live our faith. We need to reclaim our relationship with God and to make that primary in our lives. As the author of Abandonment to Divine Providence wrote, "Without God, everything is nothing. With God, nothing is everything." A strong relationship with God puts everything in perspective, "we put no trust in mortal princes," we can face any difficulty and we can speak out boldly.
Secondly, If you are unsatisfied with the way your parish is run. Speak out! If on the other hand you are blessed to have a great priest, a good celebration of the liturgy, a Church that truly fosters your relationship with God, then SPEAK OUT! Whatever the truth be, let it be known.
Thirdly, do not treat anyone on earth as though they are not human. Your parents were human, they made mistakes--honor them! The pope, bishops, priests, deacons, sisters and nuns are all still human--don't expect them to be God. Their faults and our own constantly bring us to our knees--we need a savior and he is Jesus Christ!