June 05, 2002

Crisis of Faith the real Crisis
Catholic author Walker Percy had one of his characters, a priest, say to a man who didn't feel he should serve Mass because of his lack of faith:
   'Don't worry,' he said, doing a few isometrics in the hall, pushing and pulling with his hands. 'It is to be expected. It is only necessary to wait and to be of good heart. It is not your fault.'
  'How is that, Father? I ask him curiously.
  'You have been deprived of faith. All of us have. It is part of the times.'

Over the past 40 years the American bishops have gone from a dogmatic, authoritarian style to a more pastoral, "kinder/gentler" style. An unfortunate side-effect seems to have been a crisis of confidence. And that confidence was a belief not just in God but in sin - that sin was evil and that discipline necessary. A priest fooling around with a kid was shocking not primarily because it was against the law but because it was a mortal sin. What is prison compared to losing your eternal soul? And so when someone loses their confidence, they tend to hang out with the crowd, they adhere to the culture for support. One senses that in the way the bishops pandered to the left in the 70s - the call for U.S. unilateral disarmament and the flirtation with socialism while being relatively quiet on abortion. That drive for approval from the intellectual left was a warning sign of the lack of confidence. The culture at the time most of the bad priests were committing their acts was the 1960s & 70s when sexual license was rampant. But then in the 80s with the advent of Reagan and a conservatism, the culture become more materialistic, more pro-business. And so most of the bishops, influenced by this culture, became CEOs. And what do most CEOs do? They think short-term. They put off/hide bad news from stockholders as long as possible. Sound familiar?

I hope our leaders can find that ever elusive middle ground. Not dogmatic, cruel or needlessly authoritarian, nor confused, unconfident and undisciplined.

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