Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Prevention is the best cure

As a volunteer, I don't often deal with parents directly like my buddy the youth minister who is an employee of the parish. Even around us, he has to be careful of what he says. We had a meeting the other night to continue planning for the  LifeTeen retreat later this month. On Sunday and Monday morning he met with committees of parents. He said the parents are upset with him because they want a religious education class for the middle school kids on Sunday evenings at 5 pm. He responded, "You do realize I spend that time preparing the night for the high school kids, right?" The parents felt that the current schedule of religious education was too inconvenient for kids who have a full load of extracurricular activities on their plates. One of the moms said, "I know religious education is just as important as cheer, but..."

Religious education is just as important as cheerleading. The former may determine whether her beloved daughter will enjoy the Beatific Vision in heaven or burn in the fiery bowels of hell for all eternity. Cheerleading might influence what college she attends or what boys she may meet (but not marry, because marrying at that age would be a big no no.) It's occasions like these where I think that, if anything, the manosphere understates the problem of Churchianity.

Catholics are apt to blame all of the problems of the Church in the last 50 years on bad catechesis. That's true as far as it goes, but poor religious education is a symptom. What is the sickness that's causing it? I have theories of course, but I'm genuinely curious what my five loyal readers think it is.

Progressives and Neo-Caths often point to the anarchy of the 1970s as proof that the Church of the 1950s wasn't as splendidly strong and healthy as she appeared to be. Suppose you've been filling your car's gas tank with gasoline for years. She's running smoothly and gets you from point A to point B with no trouble at all. Then one day you decide that you're bored with gasoline. It's always the same. It never changes. So, on a lark, you decide to fill your empty gas tank with Coca-Cola instead. The car won't start at all or the engine sounds pretty rough. You think, "Wow, just look at how fast my car malfunctioned with that one minor change! Clearly it wasn't as healthy as I thought!"

I've noticed that criticisms of the pre-conciliar Catholic Church tend to focus on unverifiable speculation about people's interior states of mind. For example, in 1965, 64% of American Catholics attended Sunday Mass weekly, whereas in 2013 only 24% did. The standard line is, "Well, more people went to Mass back then but nobody understood what the hell was going on." And you know that how, exactly? There were 49,000 seminarians in 1965. In 2013 there were less than 4000. The response is, "Back then men went into the priesthood because it was considered more socially prestigious, not out of any great religious conviction." Again, I'm not sure how it is you know what motivated all of those men, but we do know for certain that we've succeeded at destroying whatever social prestige the priesthood may have once had. So well done, I guess.

Progressives try to tell us that the pre-conciliar Church had lots of problems. When doesn't the Church have problems? But whatever flaws she may have had, they are as nothing compared to the moral, doctrinal, and liturgical anarchy of the last 50 years of Vatican II's springtime. Pope St. Pius X and later Pope Pius XII kept those problems largely contained with rigor and discipline. There will always be heresy and dissent so long as man has free will. The tares will grow alongside the wheat until harvest time. That doesn't mean known tares should be entrusted with responsible teaching and governing positions.

To answer my own question from earlier, the sickness that is causing poor catechesis is the loss of supernatural faith. A heretic is a baptized Catholic who knows Catholic dogma and rejects it. What do you call a Catholic who doesn't know enough of the faith to rise to the level of heresy? We've raised two generations of baptized pagans. We don't teach because we don't take it seriously anymore. The kids pick up on it and they become adults who associate Christianity with cutting, coloring, and drawing (CCD.) It's a nice activity for the kids but it's not something adults need take seriously.

Protestants can simply stop going to church, but that's not an option for Catholics. So we drive around in search of an orthodox parish and do our best to raise our children right. It's one thing if your kids know what Catholicism is and turn their backs on it as adults. It's literally damning if they turn their backs on it because their parents didn't really believe it either.

I always laugh when I shock suburban Catholics into a stunned silence when I elaborate on what the Church expects of us in principle. Laughing is better than crying, am I right?


  1. If I get time I want to respond to this post later today or tomorrow. Both to answer your question as well as to address a few other points you make.