Monday, December 31, 2007

viewing the present from the past's future

In the final section of Msgr George Kelly's "The Battle for the American Church", he looks to the future of the Church in the US, and offers this interesting observation:

Catholic Church leaders at present are trying to use consensus techniques that are working no more successfully for bishops than they are for politicians - if unity or community is the desired end result. Consensus of the people never results from these procedures. What results is agreement only among the leaders of veto groups who accept, tolerate, or defy a particular decision. Whatever other role consensus plays in the management of the institutional Church, it does not create or maintain people's adherence to Catholicism. Only faith does that. Rarely has hierarchy dialogued so much with unsatisfactory compliance. Until the Church works out an enforceable policy for dealing with dissidence, internal turbulence is sure to continue.

Msgr Kelly suggests that the "Church of Elites" may undermine the "Church of the Masses"; he identifies the "latter-day Church of Elites" as "self-created coteries of Catholics who have little intention of following Magisterium except selectively and on their own terms."

Kelly observes that "More than any other form of government, people's rule needs virtue and strength at all levels of its citizenry, notably in its public officials."

He closes with a summation from Ex Hoc Apostolicae, the papal brief of Pius VI, which, within 190 days of the inauguration of George Washington, established the Church in America:

-To promote their own and their neighbors' spiritual salvation.
-To adhere to the heavenly doctrine delivered by Christ to the Catholic Church.
-Not to be carried away by every wind of doctrine.
-To reject the new and varying doctrines of men, which endanger the tranquility of government.
-To rest in the unchangeable faith of the Catholic Church.
-To learn from the Church's voice not only the objects of faith but the rule of conduct.
-Not only to obtain eternal salvation, but also to regulate this life and to maintain concord in this earthly city.
-To learn from the apostles, and especially from St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, on whom alone the Church is built.
-To be assured that neither the depravity of morals nor the fluctuation of novel opinions will ever cause the episcopal succession to fail or the bark of Peter to be sunk.

Kelly closes with a quote from John Henry Newman's 1852 essay on the new springtime, observing that the Church in England was at that time a "corpse" while (in 1979) the church in America was vibrant, if "bruised," and is concerned for hemorage and the "lost generation." I am intrigued to see what his 1995 "Battle for the American Church Revisited" sees as the state now, compared to his optimism of 1979.

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