The Pew Research report on the state of Christianity in America is still making the rounds. Everyone and their mother is weighing in on how to interpret this new information. Is it ultimately good? Is it bleak? What can we learn? We do we go from here?
One of my favorite Catholic bloggers, a priest — and a doppelganger for John McClane— by the name of Fr. Dwight, shared a few thoughts in an article whose title asked the question: Why Are The “Nones” Leaving Religion? I have nothing negative to say about the article. I believe it to be a fine analysis, but the titular question bugs me.
As soon as I read it, I thought: “Don’t you get it? They were ‘nones’ before they left! They became nones while they were still going to Mass. They went from something to nothing in the context of something. And that something which failed to preserve whatever shred of true religiosity they possessed at their peak was the American Catholic parish!”
And beyond all of that, why on earth do we care what reasons the ‘nones’, the defectors, claim to have for leaving? Even if they’re one hundred percent honest, of what value is their criticism? No matter their particular misgivings, their reasons for leaving all speak to two very important and evident facts: they do not and did not care about the Eucharist, and they did not and do not care about authority.
Do not worry, I anticipate the backlash such a proposition might generate. “How do you know what they care about? etc.” It’s fairly simple, no matter the sentiments or intentions of a parent who abandons a child in the desert, the act of abandonment is irreconcilable with the notion that the mother actually cares for the child. Of course, this is a logical principle, and it is one with Biblical support as well.
Listening to the complaints of those who abandoned the Barque of Peter is a bit like listening to the criticisms made by Arius or Nestorius. They have it wrong! Sure, there are times when it is important to know how others are wrong. The math teacher is better equipped to address the inadequacies of his students if he comprehends their shortcomings and errors. But those students are receptive to the teachers correction. Not so with the defectors.
You know how the Church commends us to listen to the saints? How we are encouraged to read what they wrote and model their piety and humility? Yes? Well, I think we ought to be listening now to those people who are living and actually have the present potential to be recognized saints: actual Catholics, men and women who profess the Catholic faith, accept the Church’s authority, and are not about to jump ship.
It is true, people who stick around might stay out of comfort. They might prefer to hate what they’re a part of rather than to leave their “home”. But the people who really stay, the ones who actually give a flying fable. These ones who couldn’t be lured away, those are the ones you ought to look to if you are wondering what the Church needs to do to thrive like leaven in a lump of dough.
This is what you ought to know about the faithful: They value the Eucharist more than anything else in the world, and they trust the Magisterium to faithfully guide the Church through the wretched, polluted seas of this world. These people wouldn’t jump ship if you put a gun to their heads. These are the ones whose opinion is worth caring about, because they are the model we want to aspire to as we train our neophytes. The examples of spiritual maturity are the people I want to hear from, no matter how small their numbers. It is safe to say that the saints among us have much more wisdom to offer the Church than do any other people on this earth.
The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.