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A Crisis of Relevance or a Crisis of Faith?

February 10th, 2017, Promulgated by Ben Anderson

It is useless to propose solutions if one hasn’t clearly defined the root of a problem. We all know there are major problems in the Catholic Church today; around the world as well as in our backyard. One major problem is that young people are leaving the Church. Of the few who stay, even fewer have given the slightest consideration to the priesthood or a religious vocation. These are serious problems that will impact all of us. The existing institution cannot be maintained as it is. We are supporting an unsustainable system. Catholic-Lite is a dying institution. As serious as these problems are the fundamental/root issue goes even deeper. Here is where the progressives and the orthodox diverge in their opinions. The progressive claims that the church isn’t relevant enough. If she would just change a few things here and there, then we could get it all back on the rails (for those progressives who even care – many don’t care that the Church is dying). The orthodox claims that the problem is one of faith. If there is a problem of faith, there is absolutely nothing we can do that will bear fruit. Faith in what the Church teaches is the bare minimum. It’s the starting point. If you don’t have it, you will fall right out of the gate. To reject just one article of the faith is to reject the whole thing. Most young people can’t even be blamed with rejecting the faith because they truly have no idea what the faith is. Many young people are lost well before they would even be interested in reading the Catholic Courier (even the hipster version). This orthodox position is the only valid position. History confirms it. Recent statistics confirm it. God confirms it. There is no denying it.

This is long winded introduction to mention a depressing article I saw in the Catholic Courier a little while back.
Courier, parishes seek young adults

SIDE NOTE: Mark Hare is the D&C journalist who rallied for same sex marriage in NYS (among other unorthodox positions). To my knowledge he has not publicly repented of this position. Mark, your efforts are futile until you embrace God’s teaching in its entirety. To the Catholic Courier, why is Mark Hare on your board?

The reason I find this article so depressing is because of how little attention is given to the root of the problem and the real solution to it all. The article clearly leans toward the “crisis of relevance” opinion. It reads very much like proposed solutions to the failing city school districts… we just need more money, more technology, more … school… and we can turn it around. I’ll let you judge and comment for yourselves, but in response I would simply say that bolstering faith in God and His Church is not all that much of a mystery. It doesn’t require spending countless hours working on mission statements and forming committees. We already have our mission statement (Scripture, Magisterial documents, the writings of the Saints) and our committee (the Saints). Finding spiritual success really is very easy. God does all the hard work for us. If we simply provide good, reverent, and prayerful liturgy (not just the Mass, but Vespers, Adoration/Benediction, etc), provide more than 30 min of confession times each week, teach the people all of the truths (not just liberal politics) and challenge them that you expect them to accept them and live by them, encourage spiritual reading, mental prayer, etc. Teach about the Saints. They are amazingly inspiring. Teach the Scriptures, not just your favorite 2 parts from the Sermon on the Mount. It really isn’t rocket science.

Besides my ramblings, I’ll present our Bishop who understands the root of the problem:

Youths excel with encouragement, prayer, example

Throughout the history of our church, young people have been recognized for their heroic virtue and declared blessed or saints by the church. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati… St. Stanislaus Kostka … St. Elizabeth of Hungary … St. Thérèse of Lisieux … These are only some of the young people who have been declared blessed or saints at a youthful age. Our youths are capable of extraordinary accomplishments. What they need is our encouragement and, above all, our prayers and good example: the practice of our faith and the example of our lives lived in union with Jesus Christ.

and this:
Mass on Feb. 26 will recall heroic priest, nun

A priest and nun who died heroically in a church fire will be commemorated with a 50th-anniversary Mass Sunday, Feb. 26. Bishop Salvatore R. Matano will celebrate the liturgy at 10:30 a.m. at Church of the Annunciation, 1754 Norton St., Rochester.

many have regarded Father Weinmann and Sister McLaughlin as martyrs for their deeds. The tabernacle from that 1967 tragedy is now housed in the eucharistic chapel at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral.

I would encourage the Catholic Courier not to spend too much time on a wild goose chase and instead realize that tradition is for the young.

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8 Responses to “A Crisis of Relevance or a Crisis of Faith?”

  1. avatar JLo says:

    Thank you, Ben, for sharing those thoughts and concerns. I can’t help but relate them to another momentous happening in the DOR right now regarding “serving” the Catholic population.

    With all due respect and truly perplexing: while Bishop Matano has no problem with the actual scandal of notoriously cafeteria-style Catholic Mark Hare being on the Courier’s board and being a leading committee voice, the bishop finds it too risky to maintain the religious shop at St. John’s in Spencerport. He fears, we are told, a POTENTIAL fiscal scandal.

    The facts are that St. John’s Religious Shop was started over 30 years ago by a family whose stellar service to that ministry is without blemish. All personnel at St. John’s Religious Shop were unpaid volunteers, management and staff. ALL! That beautiful ministry is quite solvent, and no one, not one person! takes money from it, and every single Catholic in the DOR is adversely affected by closing it.

    The bishop’s fears are not justified, not at all in any way, and are disheartening coming from our spiritual leader who one expects to put ministry ahead of groundless fears for his reputation POSSIBLY being tarnished.

    There is no store comparable between here and Buffalo. There is a closet-size and expensive little shop at the Cathedral, but no one could EVER compare the two! I doubt that any parish orders their ministry needs, from books to candles, at the Cathedral shop.

    Running scared of POTENTIAL fiscal scandal while ignoring/accepting the ACTUAL scandal of cafeteria Catholics in leadership positions in the DOR are unfortunately marks of the DOR at the present time. When I’m not livid about this, I am so very sad.

    +JMJ

  2. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    I agree that the loss of that store would truly be sad. It really is a gem. I understand that there is an effort underway to break off the store from the church to be run as a separate 501(c)(3). I pray for the success of that effort.

  3. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Fr. Timothy V. Vaverek (a priest of the Diocese of Austin since 1985) would define the root of the Catholic Church’s problem as “a centuries-long struggle with Subjectivism, which seeks to establish the primacy of private judgment as the effective norm for Christian life”. Father Vaverek further asserts in his article WHAT’S HAPPENING – AND WHERE WE’RE HEADED that “Subjectivism’s attack on the Gospel is rooted not only in the Reformation’s “private interpretation” of Scripture, but in the subsequent individualism and relativism that has characterized the Modern and Post-Modern West.”

    For more of this priest’s insights into the root of our problem see:
    https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2017/02/10/whats-happening-and-where-were-headed/

  4. avatar JLo says:

    Problem is, Ben, that even non-profits look for profits, to pay help, to grow, etc. St. John’s for all these years has been run purely as a ministry, which is why the prices are so low and why it’s not a model of picture perfect shiny merchandising. Finding a group to take this on to continue in the spirit of service, of ministry, will only be the work of the Holy Spirit! Does anyone remember how Logo’s degraded and is no more? All prayers to the Holy Spirit welcome! Else, I’ll be hard pressed in the future to find my all-day-seven-day candles for only $2.40! +JMJ

  5. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Hi Ben,
    I read the article which you characterized as depressing. http://catholiccourier.com/faith-family/young-adult/courier-parishes-seek-young-adults/
    Frankly, I didn’t find it depressing. The only sentence in the article which perhaps indicates that it “clearly leans toward ‘the crisis of relevance’ opinion”is the one that emphasizes meaningfulness.

    “The goal is not just to write about young people, but to identify the questions they struggle to answer, to find the faith experiences that are most meaningful.” Yes perhaps that leans toward relevancy. Yet, who can argue with the article’s following statement: ” we want young-adult Catholics — and those who are still seeking a faith community — to have a source of information that will help them deepen their faith experience”? Or what can possibly be wrong with the Courier’s new mission statement? “The Catholic Courier focuses its coverage primarily on people, ministries, issues and church life within the Diocese of Rochester in order to engage and inform our readers — especially young adults and those seeking ways to connect to a faith community — about Catholicism and how to live it faithfully.”

    Wait, on second thought, what might go wrong is if by ‘Catholicism and how to live it faithfully’ the Courier understands Catholicism and its genuine expressions of lived experience something other than what we have received in Scripture, Magisterial Documents, the Writings and Lived Experiences of the Saints and Valid/Licit Liturgies.

    I am not depressed, Brother Ben. I am encouraged to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints”.

    SAINT JUDE, brother of Saint James the Apostle, author of this inspired exhortation, PRAY FOR US!

  6. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    JLo,
    My understanding is that the non-profit, if it can be shown to be viable, would operate very similarly to the way it does now. It would ideally be in the same hands it is now.

    Dominick, the parts I found depressing…

    “They’re the parents of the younger people. They’re the people that we feel we really need to pay the closest attention to,” Father English said.

    This is hogwash. Besides our bishop and some good priests, the diocese (as an institution) could care less what those of us who are actually in the trenches trying to raise our children in the faith actually think… let alone “pay the closest attention to.”

    In 2010, just 16 percent of U.S. Catholics between the ages of 18 and 35 reported attending Mass each week, according to the 2010 General Social Survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago with principal funding from the National Science Foundation. In 1972, 37 percent of Catholics between 18 and 35 reported weekly Mass attendance.

    Not surprising for anyone who has been paying attention, but still depressing.

    changed their Mass times in a deliberate attempt to work around the busy schedules of young adults and young families.

    Families can’t find time on Sunday mornings to honor God? That’s the problem right there – not Mass times. I understand some people have to work, but the vast majority of the problem is parents over-indulging their children in constant organized activities (ie sports). It’s depressing.

    “It’s hard to figure out how to prioritize the time in your life, and so we as a church need to be very aware of all the pressures on our brothers and sisters and to respond to those pressures …”

    This is nonsense. We need to admit that life in 21st century America really isn’t as difficult as we make it out to be. I find this attitude highly disrespectful to those who have gone before us and created the unbelievable institutions with a sliver of the resources we have now. Look at the churches they built. Look at the charitable organizations they built. There really is no excuse for not making time for God and giving him our first-fruits. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for destroying what they passed onto us, not whining about life being difficult.

    “The goal is not just to write about young people, but to identify the questions they struggle to answer, to find the faith experiences that are most meaningful, and to use the technology that makes our stories accessible to them,” he said.

    Coming from a progressive, I think we know what this means…

    Q: I find the Church’s teaching on sexuality difficult…
    A: Instead of referencing all of the great reasons why our sinful desires must be conquered and point to all the great resources we have in the Catholic Church to help, I’ll just say blah, blah, blah… hope and change.

    The Courier already has started to do this, Franz said, citing as examples its presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram

    waste of time… depressing… and we’re paying for it through diocesan taxes. The courier almost never publishes my comments (that follow all of their rules) – why would I have any hope that they’ll be successful in these areas?

    The most depressing thing isn’t what’s in the article, it’s what is missing. If anyone truly cared about the Catholic faith, they would take this article seriously:
    https://liturgyguy.com/2016/04/30/why-arent-other-dioceses-looking-to-lincoln/

    If they cared, the would look to improving all aspects of education (from baptism, to marriage prep, to end-of-life, to ending already-in-heaven-lets-all-celebrate funerals). But they (progressives) don’t care – they’re idealogues.

  7. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Ben, thanks for helping me see things more clearly. Now, I better appreciate your use of ‘depressing’, and can’t help but agree to your use of ‘hogwash’, ‘over-indulging children in sports on Sundays’, ‘nonsense’, ‘no excuse’, ‘waste of time’, ‘it’s what’s missing’.

    I can’t help but agree that if anyone truly cared about the Catholic Faith, this article would be taken seriously: https://liturgyguy.com/2016/04/30/why-arent-other-dioceses-looking-to-lincoln/

    So let’s continue to contend for the faith and pray. Who knows, perhaps besides our Bishop and some good priests, more movers and shakers will be awakened to Christ, to his Gospel, to his Church’s Sacred Tradition and begin to pay closest attention to those in the trenches trying to raise children in the Faith.

  8. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    As I am often prone to hyperbole, I should temper some of my comments…

    I trust Fr English *has* talked to parents and cares about them. I am just concerned that it seems too much credence is given to those who ought to be encouraged/challenged to strengthen their faith as opposed to pandering to them (which is actually a disservice to them). Why not look to parents who have excelled in raising good Catholic children as an example… eg Louis and Zelie Martin or Mary Reed Newland (this book is amazing and the “other works” section is chalk full of other amazingly helpful books for parents). I read works like Robert Hugh Benson’s A Child’s Rule of Life and I’m blown away by the seriousness, yet simplicity of growing up into a good Catholic (and that’s just one among the plethora of good, old books). If they want to discredit everything prior to V2, then at least look to some big local families (especially those who have produced vocations) for guidance instead of pandering to the 2-child families who spend more money on cell phones than on their church.

    I should also note that there are good people in the Diocese besides the bishop and some good priests. Besides some good folks that were already here, I have seen some good hires more recently… not that they need my approval – I only mention it to temper my earlier comment.


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