Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The "State of the Church"

The Church That the New Pope Will Govern by Sandro Magister

It will be a Church with two thirds of the faithful in the southern hemisphere. With more Catholics in Manila than in Holland. With the West in a decline of faith. And with the United States at the center of the new geography

A Church of numbers or a Church of faithful? Does the growth in numbers give a misleading picture of the health of the local churches? How good are the native seminaries? Are many of them still staffed by foreign missionaries who are neo-modernist in belief? How well are the faithful in the "boom" countries catechized? After all, the description given here is primarily of "Latin," or Roman-rite Catholics. Spanish-speaking Catholics (and I would argue Roman-rite Catholicis in general) may be receptive to liturgical worship that makes greater use of the senses. But what is the state of liturgical music in Ibero-America? Someone I met on Saturday commented that Latinos might adjust quickly to the use of icons, given the place of statues in their devotional life. Better music, more sacred images, and a greater use of liturgical gestures might be a bulwark against the temptation of a sentimental "pentecostal"-style worship.

I think this kind of assessment (and Magister is not the only one who looks at the Church in such a way, especially now with the election of a new pope in the news) does not accurately depict the health of local Roman-rite churches, nor give an idea of what sort of actions or reforms are necessary at a "universal" level [some would say at the level of the Roman or Western patriarchate]. (It's based on this sort of statistical description that some would advocate for a non-Italian or non-caucasian pope, in the name of reflecting the current and future "demographics" of the Church.)

It reminds me - I have not read anything on how the underground Catholics in China deal with the population control laws. Do they resort to NFP with the thinking that the threat of government coercion and punishment provides a grave and necessary reason?

Is the age of the Tridentine seminary system over, at least in the "West"? Would it be possible to adopt a more localized form of clerical education, modeled after the English universities and their use of tutors? Could we use alternative means of students demonstrating their understanding of the material? (Any living form of scholasticism would not require the lecture as a teaching medium.) This sort of tutorial would be coupled with an apprenticeship at a local parish - my preference would be one with several priests living together and praying the hours in common. At the very least it would be a parish seeking a better liturgical life. Seminarians currently learn various liturgical offices in the context of communal worship - why could this part of their education be transferred to the local parish, as much as possible? They could continue learning singing/sacred music together, as it may be more efficient . The singing of readings and so on needs to be recovered. [An adaptation of Latin singing/chanting is still probably better than whatever has been invented for American English.]

This should not be seen as a cost-cutting measure - though the abolition of a seminary may have that consequence. The faculty could be retained in a tutorial system, while any lay teachers of sacred music, for example, could also be employed at the cathedral (if they are not already) to improve the quality of the music there. Is such a system feasible? And would it be more readily applicable to the education of married men to be ordained to the diaconate (or even the priesthood)?

Would it be possible for Catholics in the typical American mega-city or suburb to organize among themselves and to make housing available on the market to other Catholics? While most Catholics remain wage-slaves and tied to some profession or industry such an effort may be useless, but what if Catholics decide to develop and participate in an alternative economy?

Even if Catholics are unable to avoid wage-slavery this does not prevent them from participating in the life of a local parish as much as possible. But they must be taught and encouraged to do so, and to re-think friendship and what it means to be a Christian. Voluntary simplicity as a contemporary form of Christian witness.

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