Discussions : The Future Direction of the Catholic Church

This article by Catholic Peter Steinfels from today's Commonweal is worth a read.
Steinfels ( left) is the co-director of the Fordham Center for Religion and Culture and in his book called In A People Adrift, he warned that the Catholic church in the U.S. and Europe faced "thoroughgoing transformation or irreversible decline." 
Yes,  he says "the gates of hell will not prevail but that did not guarantee the church's flourishing or even existence in any given time or place."

Even as early as 2003, Steinfels, in an interview for PBS outlined some of his fears for the church he loves. 

He fears that unless American Catholics overcome what he calls a "vacuum of leadership," they will experience "a soft slide" into Catholicism in name only, as has happened in much of Europe. The danger is a kind of hollowing out of the faith of Catholics, where it no longer will affect the central decisions that they make."

For the video and/or transcript of this interview see here as well as other resources and an  extract from his book, A People Adrift. 

In the latest issue of The Atlantic, Ross Douthat (left),  raised the question even more bluntly: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/21010/07/the-catholic-church-is-finished/8159.

Peter Steinfels says :
“For millions in Europe and America,” he writes, Catholicism is “finished” — “permanently associated with sexual scandal, rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  Perhaps the sexual scandal is not the chief culprit, but church leadership’s  inability to respond adequately is certainly a symptom of something deep seated.  More and more I contemplate the possibility that Douthat may be right.  What do others think?"

Well, 135 others have made comments to Steinfels article so far in a wide ranging debate which indicates at least  that people are not indifferent to the topic and heartens me as a fellow Catholic.

Douhat's earlier article in April of this year, " The Better Pope " in the NYT was a well balanced and unbiased report  so he is definitely not a Pope Basher  nor seeking to get on the controversial bandwagon for the sake of it.
You can read this one here  and another from E. Kain in the American Times here who supports the integrity of Douhat's journalism.

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John said...

My direct experience is with the Catholic church at a Benedictine monastery for monks. A return to more historical monastic practices is increasing the number of monks and lay oblates with a deeper spirituality and desire to dwell with God.

claire said...

Ah, thank you for the links, Phil. I went to both.

What both miss really is that We Are The Church. We are the Body of Christ.

Rome is not the Church. At the moment, it is a boil or a wart on the Body of Christ.

I have a hunch that the 'Church' is at time of great and rapid changes. Since we are in the midst of them, we can feel the discomfort but we cannot see the direction or even simply what it is.

One more thing, I find these two articles rather ethnocentric, focused on the US. Also faith in the US is expressed in quite a different manner from faith in Europe. Or let's say, faith is different when one is part of the majority vs part of the minority.

Ireland, Italy, France have quite a different relationship with Rome...

True more and more people have little idea of what Godde stands for. And those who stand for Godde are rather poor specimens :-)))

At any rate, what a neat post!

Philomena Ewing said...

Welcome John- it is good to have you visit and thank you for your comments.
I have noticed several reports that talk about an increase in interest in monastic life and lay ministry especially from the general public and not always from overtly religious or denominational people. This says alot about the yearning for rich spirituality but I suppose the article was referring to the general ministry of parish churches and priests and I am glad you pointed out how the monastic situation differs.
Like Claire says I think that as Catholics we are experiencing many struggles these days and living alongside and working with people who are anti religious and increasingly hostile to what they see as hypocrisy in the catholic church needs much resilience and prayer.My own experience is that many Catholics are deeply concerned at the future of the Church.
I do want my church to embrace much needed change and look at some of its entrenched views and ways of getting its message across as shambolic.

Philomena Ewing said...

Hi Claire,
Yes I know we are all supposed to have a share in the common priesthood and I long for that to come to mean so much more than it does at present. I also agree with your views that Rome is not the Church but it sure sucks up a lot of the air we all breathe!! I agree with pretty much everything else you say in this post.
Let us hang in there together and be strong.

claire said...

I do agree Rome is sucking up a lot of the air we breath, which may be why I find I have some difficulty breathing...