Thanks so much for the many emails of empathy and engagement and solidarity in the world we're living in. I found this reader acutely insightful:
A most appropriate Lenten Reflection, but you are being charitable in your summary of institutional failures. To the Catholic Church and the conservative movement which have become too often conflated in people’s minds these past few years you may add many once-powerful and influential banks, the regulators of this country’s financial system, the mortgage industry, and even that most iconic of American institutions professional baseball. In my own mind, and heart, the destruction is complete.
But it has been the institutional decline and deception of he Catholic Church that has been the most wrenching to observe as it has been my spiritual home for the past 25 years after converting in my late 20s. That conversion was not accompanied by any particular zeal, rather, a sense that in the Catholic Church’s Sacrament of the Eucharist I had found the essential truth I was seeking in Christ. My engagement with the institutional church came later and I found it over time to be a largely congenial place to live out my faith. Until recently, and for all the reasons you cite in your post. The Catholic Church will live on and so will I (though perhaps not as long), but something rare and remarkable has gone out of what it means to me to be “Catholic” and I am not at all sure it will return.
I raised three children in the Church and its elementary and secondary schools and none seem to have any interest in its increasingly bland liturgies, meddling in politics, and assertive clericalism. My own wife, a product of a particularly superstitious strain of Irish Catholicism, the other day pronounced the Church’s dogmas on priestly celibacy and the ordination of female priests “ridiculous”. I fear that soon I will be sitting in the pew alone, my wife busy elsewhere. Just another middle-aged parishioner in a rapidly aging congregation, listening to an ancient priest rebuke the moral laxity of certain “young people” who would never be caught dead at one of his homilies.
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