A reader writes:

When I first read your posting on "Benedict's Intellectual Warriors," I chose not to watch the videoclip thinking I would be depressed, but like a car wreck, I had to look.  You were right, it was pretty bad.  The Bishop was clueless and Ms. Widdecombe was angry, defensive and had little to say.  In contrast, Hitchens and Fry were articulate, compelling and, despite their condemnatory message, reasonably civil and humane.

The weak defense offered for the Church -- that notwithstanding all its abuses, the Church stlll does a lot of good -- crudely illustrates the fundamental dilemma of so many thinking and disillusioned Catholics.  For me and for other believers, there is a great disconnect between the Church as one experiences it at the parish level and the institutional Church.  Down at the grass roots level, we do experience the Church as a force for good.  We do experience it as the Body of Christ.  Therefore, for many years now, I and many others have chosen to ignore the hierarchy's abuses and stubborn refusal to change, thinking that if we kept the faith and kept building up our own parishes, then change would come from the bottom up.  I always thought that if good people stayed committed, the worst features of the Church, the authoritarianism, the adherence to the destructive rule of celibacy and the discrimination against women, would change in my lifetime.

I don't believe that anymore. 

Rather, things seem to be getting worse (To take just one recent example, the Vatican's decision to effect a "visitation" to American nuns, will be nothing more than a crackdown on an elderly and dwindling number of women who have given there all for others.)  In a recent interview, Fr. Donald Cozzens, an expert on priests in America warned that he sees the Church as entering a period of darkness.  As he put it, the Church will "submerge" before any new and better Church "emerges." 

With all hope for change fading fast, it is getting harder to ignore the conduct of the Vatican and the Bishops and just focus on my own little part of the Church.  There comes a point when you have to ask yourself, "am I enabling all this by remaining a member of the Church?"  and "can I remain a part of this institution and be faithful to my own conscience?"   These are tough questions to answer and I suspect that more than a few Catholics are wrestling with them.

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