Wednesday, December 5, 2012

From the Archbishop

Having taught theology for 20 years, my experiences in cateshesis bear out the Archbishop in the following:

The illiteracy goes beyond history and other academic subjects.  Notre Dame social researcher Christian Smith and his colleagues have tracked in great detail the spiritual lives of today's young adults and teen-agers.[2] The results are sobering.  So are the implications.  The real religion of vast numbers of American young people is a kind of fuzzy moral niceness, with a generic, undemanding God on duty to make us happy whenever we need him.  It's what Smith calls "moralistic therapeutic deism."  Or to put it in the words of a young woman from Maryland, "It's just whatever makes you feel good about you." [3] As Smith observes: "It's not so much that Christianity in the United States is being secularized.  Rather more subtly, either Christianity is [degenerating] into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, [it's] actively being colonized and displaced" by a very different religious faith.[4]
This is the legacy — not the only part of it, but the saddest part of it — that my generation, the boomer generation, has left to the Church in the United States.  More than 70 million Americans describe themselves as Catholics.  But for all practical purposes, they're no different from everybody else in their views, their appetites and their behaviors.  This isn't what the Second Vatican Council had in mind when it began its work 50 years ago.  It's not what Vatican II meant by reform.  And left to itself, our life as a Church is not going to get better.  It's going to get worse.  So if we want a real renewal of the Catholic faith in Philadelphia, in the United States and worldwide, it needs to begin with us, right here and right now.
That leads me to my second point: what we need to do about the pastoral realities we face.  In calling for a Year of Faith, Pope Benedict said that "the renewal of the Church is . . . achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers." [5] That means all of us — clergy, religious and lay.  We all need repentance, and we all need conversion. (The topic of my conclusion in my book!)