I'm a pretty alienated guy. And, sad to say, I feel most profoundly alienated from the Church. I have to say, I go through spurts of this. They happen most often right after I receive The Record, our Archdiocesan news weekly.
This week is an especially alienating edition. It's got stories about two new parishes. Such hopeful progress as we move to the future: Two parishes created by consolidating in one case, five existing parishes and building a new church for them, and consolidating three parishes in the other case.
I'm especially appalled by the latter. Three parishes in the Portland neighborhood are being consolidated into one, to be known as Good Shepard. How ironic. If we had had good pastoral care, these three parishes would still be viable. It was through a misplaced "pastoral spirit" that young men decided they weren't going to consider the priesthood--a hard drinking bishop who supports gay clergy men can have that effect on a young man. And even more telling, the decline in the attendance of these parishes shows the failure of both pastoral ministry, and the will to preach the gospel to all nations.
Portland is a neighborhood affected by what's referred to as demographic change. It went from being a white working class neighborhood, to a largely black neighborhood of lower and underclass people. Instead of honoring our own Church's teaching about a preferential option for the poor, we abandoned the neighborhood to all practical intents. The crime rate went up. that goes hand in hand with poverty. But we didn't try to convert the new residents. There was no real effort to evangelize them, to convert them to Catholicism. In effect, the liberal, progressive forces of our Archdiocese (Which our current ordinary is trying to correct) cut and ran.
Imagine the difference it could have made, if funds that went into building bland, mall like suburban churches and paying off the families and victims of abusive priests, had been used to keep the schools and parishes viable? How much difference would some low-cost or no cost Catholic Schools, with their proven superiority to Louisville public schools, have made to lives of hundreds, thousands, of kids in these neighborhoods? Imagine in a systematic effort had been made to evangelize the people living there, to create a core of people with good and firm moral values?
But no, they were poor, and we were enthusiastically embracing our post-war affluence. They were black, and we were white. And now, no matter how you dress it up, the church is losing even more ability to influence and help this neighborhood.
How did we ever trade our heritage of Apostolic Teaching, Missionary Outreach, Sacramental Ministry and Spiritual care for bland suburban conformity and ineffectual expressions of what ever is trendy? Sometimes I think it's time to swim the Bosporus, but then I wouldn't be in union with the Holy See, and I don't see them doing any better.
And then again, it's the annual graduation issue of the paper. I looked. I read. I came away saddened. It was amazing to me how the graduates of the major "Catholic" high schools carried themselves. In effect, they looked like frat boys and sorority girls in training. By dress, deportment, by everything I could see, they had bought into, not the counter cultural values of a genuine Catholicism, but mainstream American culture, with all it's shallowness and materialism, it's conformity and cowardice.
How did a radical, distributist, magisterial Catholic redneck like me fall into such a bourgeoisie church?
More importantly, how did we convince ourselves that mainstream acceptability and affluence were more valuable than our identity as Catholics first?