Leaving The Church

An ex-Catholic writes:

Gary Wills is a smart guy and Chicago, fortunately for him, is a big city.  in 2002, I was serving on the parish council of my neighborhood Catholic Church, and despite the sex scandal, I would have agreed with everything he says in the Atlantic interview. Six years later, the new generation of reactionary bishops is using their power to appoint priests without consulting parishes, to impose rigid liturgical and sacramental standards, and to lock out people who cherish other spiritual values besides obedience and conformity.  See, for example, today's Minneapolis Star Tribune.

In the past six months, the diocese of Minneapolis Saint Paul has also eliminated a lay preaching program that brought trained, diverse voices to supplement the preaching of priests -- particularly in under served rural areas. In addition, they've banned communal services of reconciliation.  We expect more of the same when the new, even more conservative bishop-in-waiting takes over in May.

The conclave that Wills had such high hopes for elected Benedict XVI, a gifted teacher who doesn't appear to have any friends among ideas that emerged after the Counter Reformation.  At least for the next few decades, the group of bishops appointed by John Paul II will maintain the outmoded system of seminary education and will allow reactionary leadership to be self-perpetuating.  I wonder what Wills would say today about the prospects for change?  I suspect the hierarchy will be content to continue losing non-conservative Catholics in the U.S. if they're replaced by Hispanics; see this week's Pew survey.  Conservative positions on liturgy, faith and morals will make it easier for Benedict to reunify with the Orthodox and the Society of St. Pius X and to compete with Islam in Africa; I don't think he cares overly much about ecumenism with the Protestant denominations represented by the World Council of Churches or with the Jews, and he appears to see Islam as an adversary.

I've been worshipping in an Episcopal parish for the last two years.  When my Catholic friends ask me what I would need to see to come back, I usually answer: women at the altars; gays and lesbians worshipping openly with their children in the pews; and everyone gets invited to Communion.  Vatican II theology and ecclesiology are alive and well among the Episcopalians, but I don't expect to see it emerge again in the Catholic Church in my lifetime (I'm 51).