This is a letter I wrote to Bishop Morris back in April 2002. I sent it to an Australian Catholic Journal where a cut down version of it was published as an article in June of that year. It is still relevant today though now we have a Bishop in Rome who is willing to do something….
My Lord Bishop Morris,
I believe there is a real need in the Church today for us all to stop, look at where we have come from, look at where we are, and try and determine if we are going where we are meant to. I think that this process, if it is adopted by our Bishops, will be a very difficult road to follow. For some it may be painful, for others a vindication, but it is necessary if we are to heal the deep wounds that exist in our Church and move forward together with Christ our Head.
About the same time I was born, cries for change began to be heard in the Church. Vatican II had recently ended, a new rite of Mass had been instituted and many young people in the Church (excited by the societal changes of the sexual revolution and the anti-war movement) had a real hope and expectation of revolutionary change. For many the release of Humanae Vitae dashed these hopes. The release of Humanae Vitae was a watershed for open dissent and revolt in the Church. Thousands were disillusioned and left the Church, others feared that the Church was losing it’s relevance to the world, and especially to the young.
As a result I grew up in a Church that was in a constant state of change and that was always seeking new ways to become “relevant”. The quest for relevance seemed to ignore the long history of the Church that provided numerous proofs of the simple fact that if the doctrines of the Faith were presented to people logically, coherently, and with faith, they were quite capable of inspiring, enlightening, enthusing and converting, even to the extent that all types of people, young, old, educated and simple were willing to die rather than be untrue to the Faith.
In the minds of many Humanae Vitae had “proved” that the Pope was not infallible. A fallible Church led by a fallible Pope had little or nothing to offer “the world”, and would soon pass into insignificance. The solution as they saw it was to change, to become relevant. After all wasn’t that what Vatican II had told us to do? And if Vatican II didn’t say that specifically, surely that was the “spirit of Vatican II”.
One of the other things I noticed was that while the Church was becoming more “relevant” the pews were emptying slowly. The fact that less people were attending the local parish, was not seen as a direct correlation to attempts to become relevant, but rather that “Rome” had said something embarrassing that would drag the Church back to the unenlightened pre-Vatican II days or even the “Dark Ages”.
As children, my contemporaries and I were not taught the tenets of the faith in schools beyond the most basic and vague. We were not specifically taught that in communion we receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ because at such a young age we apparently were not “able to grasp the concepts properly”. We were just told that it was “special bread” because that was more relevant.
As a teenager I recall that lessons about the faith and morality did not consist of an apologetic lesson of what the Church believes, why and the basis for that belief, but rather “this is the topic, what do you think?”. I attended Toowoomba’s Catholic Schools for 13 years in the 70’s and 80’s, I was involved in youth groups that were deemed successful, I even attended the Provincial Seminary at Banyo for a year in the late 80’s, yet when I turned 19 I did not know the Apostle’s Creed. I knew of it, but I didn’t know it. Mum and Dad assumed that I would learn it at school like they did, and the school system didn’t believe that it was relevant to me as a youth.
By the end of the 80’s and in the early 90’s the some intellectuals and leaders in the Australian Church had become “prophets”. If the Church was to become really relevant we needed reassess the power structures. Firstly, the whole top down theology was wrong. The Humanae Vitae thing had proved infallibility to be a myth so the idea of the Divine selection of a Pope who appointed Bishops who in turn ordained priests was wrong. We needed a Democratic model of “Church”. After all “we are Church”, we are the power base. The spirit of Vatican II lives in us so therefore we should be consulted at the very least about appointments of new Bishops or priests.
While these “prophets” were busy trying to fix the problems in the Church an “injustice” was identified that had to be fixed. If this could be fixed the Church would not only become “relevant” but it would finally attain “credibility”. Apparently everyone knew that Jesus was a simple uneducated Jewish Carpenter who had no idea He was God (so much for omniscience). He set in place a structure of “Church” that was not offensive to the people of His day, that’s why He didn’t have any women priests (we are talking about the same Jesus who didn’t want to offend anyone so much that they crucified Him, not to mention His inoffensive followers who were crucified, beheaded and thrown to the lions). Surely if He were here today, Jesus would see how truly advanced we are and He would let us have women priests. But that “Old Pole” won’t. It always bothered me as a youth and young man to hear the lack of respect and reverence our teachers and priests had for the Holy Father.
In a final attempt to prove just how prophetic they are, our new “prophets” predict, “but the next Pope will” let us have our way. These “prophets” are delusional enough to believe that a future Pope will contradict the doctrinal and moral teachings of all his predecessors, even to the point of correcting Jesus’ own “mistakes”. Heck, some of them even want the Church to be so relevant that it doesn’t even preach Christ, they would prefer if we preached the doctrine of “the great goddess”, or the “light bearer” (why does that name sound ominously familiar?).
The biggest problem in the Church today is that in the quest to become relevant, we gave up everything that is true. We gave up Christ, we gave up everything that is worth dying for. The reason the “youth” do not believe is primarily that they do not know what to believe in. We have given up being the Church Militant, in the futile quest to become the Church relevant. Relevant to what?
If the dogmatic claims of the Catholic Church are true, if the Church was founded by Christ, if the sacraments were instituted by Him as a sure source of Grace, if Jesus is God, if He did indeed come to save us from sin and eternal death, if He truly rose from the dead, then the Church’s relevance to us is eternal, we need look no further than the authoritative teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
If any of those claims are not true, however, then none of it is true and the quest for relevance is not only futile but foolish. When is a lie relevant?
My generation and those that have followed mine have been short changed. I wish I knew how many times I have heard a contemporary of mine ask upon hearing a doctrine of the Church explained for the first time, “Why weren’t we ever told this?” The simple fact is we were never told the Truth, because people in the Church didn’t think it was relevant. We were force fed a diet of lollies that made most of us sick, and no one ever bothered to tell us about the meat and potatoes of Catholic Doctrine.
Much has been made in recent times of the Stolen Generations, and rightly so, but when will my and subsequent generations of Catholics receive our apology from the Church for having our faith stolen from us because someone didn’t think it was relevant?