I’m guessing that in a few hundred years, most Catholics will have gone the way of the Quebecois, except farther. Why?
Because there are actually Church officials who can describe a “vast cache” of child pornography as “a childish prank”, and can describe a situation where seminarians and their seminary leaders are cavorting sexually as resulting from “wrong personnel decisions”. I didn’t think that the etymological root of the word “seminary” was semen…
What do I predict? As more and more of this garbage surfaces, Catholics will continue self-identifying as Catholic, but begin to distance themselves from the Roman Catholic Church. Why? Read on.
See, there was some good that the Church in Quebec did. But they also ran the province with an iron fist. I will never, ever forget the story my father relayed to me about how the local parish priest threatened my maternal grandmother with eternal damnation because, after thirteen (or was it fourteen?) children, she was heeding doctors’ advice and not having any more.
Is it any wonder, with leadership like that, that only 20% of Catholics in Quebec attend Church?
I’m certain that Church leaders would take this as a sign that the Church is in decline, and perhaps it is. In Quebec, I think “Catholicism” is as much a part of identity as “Frenchness” (or a part of Frenchness) for many people, and anyway Church doctrine has little bearing on the actual lifestyle of most Catholics I know. They continue to call themselves Catholic, and live what I consider morally average lives; they have premarital sex, use contraception, selfishly double-park, and cheat on their taxes when they get the chance: they do the kinds of things that just about everyone in a secular society vaguely approves of, but the Church condemns. And yet they call themselves Catholics, which is something I think most Catholics also understand.
Catholics are funny that way: as one of my friends pointed out to me, Catholics are perhaps alone with Jews, as the only people who continue identifying ourselves with the Faith even decades after fleeing into atheism. (Catholics often prepend the qualifier, “non-practicing” or “recovering” to the association, but the fact that they maintain the association so strongly suggests something to me about the durability of Catholic identity, and the impact it has on one’s development.)
And this, I think, is a sign of the direction that the Church is going. And when I say Church, I don’t mean the Roman Church: I mean the Church itself, the actual Church that has any right to claim to be the people of their deity. (Whether or not that deity literally exists is irrelevant, but the right of their claim is relevant, to me, for some strange reason.) Catholics are starting to realize, worldwide, that the Roman Church is, after all, just another human institution, fraught with corruptions and clinging to laws and rules that make no more sense, that nobody in their right minds is obeying.
To be honest, even given the fact that clergymen I’ve known in the past have very often been decent and good men who essentially donate their lives to the benefit of others, I personally trust Catholic laity far more than I trust the clergy. Hell, my girlfriend is a Catholic!
It’s just that I don’t think the people of the Church need clergy like that, not anymore. We’re mostly literate, we’re mostly able to find out whatever we want to know about scripture if we are so inclined (and those who aren’t inclined generally aren’t listening during sermons anyway). And I think in a hundred years, they’ll recognize priests a bit like the way we see monks now: odd, archaic sorts who seem to have no function in a society that has left them behind.
It was once suggested to me by a Protestant that the Roman Church might be one of those false Churches the Early Christians were warned against. In fact, I think the arrogance of a man like the bishop in the article linked above, shows that the Roman Catholic Church long, long ago began worshipping what are in Christian theology the false gods of power and wealth.
The words of Geoffrey Chaucer come to mind:
and shame it is, if a preest take keep,
A shiten sheperde and a clene sheep.
Yes, I know, all of this is old news. But what interests me is the possibilities for the future. C.S. Lewis’s image (in Mere Christianity) of Christians as soldiers trapped behind enemy lines takes on a much deeper poignancy when the enemy lines are the borders of the Vatican. But I think in the end, most Catholics will probably retain Catholic identity, some concern about morality, and at the same time eschew the Roman Church.
But who knows what the future holds. I just can’t see people worldwide respecting any institution that lets such a “shiten sheperdes” remain as employees, much less officials; any secular company or organization would fire their asses on the spot and abandon them to the elements, paparazzi, angry seminarians parents, and the justice system which would punish them heavily, especially for the child pornography.
I mean, really. Letting this slide is insane.