Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Reform Of The Catholic Church In The US Will Start in Campus Ministry

  • Morality is relative.
  • Right and wrong depend on the situation and people.  As long as they do their best, they can't do wrong.
  • What is true for you may not be true for me.
  • That might have been considered wrong in the past, but we have progressed beyond such ancient fears.
  • Dogmatically proclaiming you are right and everyone else is wrong is really the worst sin.
  • We shouldn't judge others, but should each follow our own conscience
The biggest issue in our culture today.

Relativism is the belief that truth is relative.  It can change depending on people, situations, cultures, time, etc. Truth, especially moral truth, is subjective and not objective. It can change and there is no objective truth that transcends people or experience.

Why is this a problem?  Because without moral absolutes, there can be no sin. No action can be wrong at all times.  It leads to a society with moral license and each individual can do whatever they please - damn the consequences. It is a philosophy that will ultimately be the end of any society that owns it.

Relativism is getting worse in our society.  From the Barna Research Group:
"We are witnessing the development and acceptance of a new moral code in America....The moral code began to disintegrate when the generation before them - the Baby Busters - pushed the limits that had been challenged by their parents - the Baby Boomers. The result is that without much fanfare or visible leadership, the U.S. has created a moral system based on convenience, feelings, and selfishness.
But, it isn't just outside the society as a whole - it is inside the Catholic Church.  From a recent poll done about the Millenial Generation and the Catholic Church:
**82% of Catholic millenials believe morals are “relative.”

Here is how that is lived out - Catholic Millenials believed the following practices are "morally acceptable" at these percentages:
  • 61% - a Catholic to practice more than one religion
  • 33% - having a baby outside of marriage
  • 35% - same sex marriage
  • 37% - medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos
  • 20% - euthanasia
We, the Catholic Church and our allies against relativism, have a lot of work to do. As Pope Benedict said:
To have a clear faith, according to the creed of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. While relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be carried about with every wind of "doctrine," seems to be the only attitude that is fashionable. A dictatorship of relativism is being constituted that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the "I" and its whims as the ultimate measure.

We have another measure: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. "Adult" is not a faith that follows the waves in fashion and the latest novelty. Adult and mature is a faith profoundly rooted in friendship with Christ. This friendship opens us to all that is good and gives us the measure to discern between what is true and what is false, between deceit and truth.

We must mature in this adult faith; we must lead the flock of Christ to this faith. 
The questions then arise:
Where is the tide against relativism being fought? 
Where can the Catholic Church hope to turn the tide?

My thesis is this - I believe it MUST be done in the young adult stage of life.  Previous research shows that college-age adults are more open to ideas and change than at later stages in life.  If we miss this chance, we lose the culture war.

So, how can the Catholic Church best meet the challenges in this age with young adults? Many argue it must be done in Catholic universities.  I agree that having a good system of Catholic colleges and universities is a great way to form Catholics. The Catholic Church started the university. But, here is the problem - Catholic universities are not doing the job.

First of all, I am not saying to toss the baby out with the bathwater.  Catholic colleges and universities play an indispensable roll in our Church and country. We cannot give away higher education to secularism.  Nor can theology or Catholic philosophy be maintained in non-Catholic schools. But, the tide isn't turning in the Church's favor quick enough at Catholic institutions.

Studies show that female students are MORE promiscuous at Catholic universities and Catholic colleges and universities not forming students any better than secular universities in the Catholic faith.

This is shameful.  Especially when we stop to consider the state of campus ministries in the USA and the way resources are distributed. A few numbers:
  • On average, the largest campus ministry professional/ministerial staff sizes are on Catholic campuses (almost nine staff members)
  • 12 percent of campus minsitry sites report no Masses anytime during the week or weekend.
Some others in campus ministry label the average campus ministry as "pizza and Mass".  I don't even know if it is this good.  Many schools have zero, zilch, nada.  Others have what I call "pizza and Communion service". Yes, we have to start somewhere, but this is shameful.  Generations of Catholics are being lost.

80% of Catholic university and college students go to non-Catholic schools.  
If we are to reform the Church, then we need reform to start where young Catholic students are going to school - at non-Catholic institutions.

Even if we start to turn the tide in some of the Catholic universities that are losing (or have already lost) their Catholic identity, it will take generations to turn them around.  On the other hand, a campus ministry at a non-Catholic school can be ratcheted up quickly, within a few years - if it has the right leadership (starting with the Bishop) and enough monetary support (built by a good development office).

We need a paradigm shift.
  • We need to re-focus our priorities of ministering to the millenial generation toward the non-Catholic campus ministry centers.  
  • We can no longer be satisfied with pizza parties and Communion services.  
  • We need dynamic and orthodox leaders to start programs that challenge and form Catholics to go out into the world and change it - not be changed by it.
Pray for Catholic higher education and campus ministry.


JC said...

It's especially shameful to see or hear of members of campus ministry teams and/or faculty at Catholic institutions working fr the other side. Unfortunately, I've noticed that some of the most theologically liberal religious orders and congregations are also the ones most often charged with campus ministry and/or run the most universities. The Jesuits and Holy Cross priests especially stand out in my mind.

Then there are the Paulists. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate everything positive which they have done, and I think that their congregations focuses are much needed in the Church today. Unfortunately, they often have a tendency to get "soft" on Catholic teaching in their exuberance for reconciliations and ecumenism. This may be a part of the problem with campus ministry in general, be it at Catholic colleges or secular universities (e.g. UT): it's easy to forget that true and honest ecumenism means reaching out from the Church without compromising on her teachings. It's especially shameful to see this happen on Catholic campuses especially, but also in such settings as adult Catechesis (when available) or RCIA classes. Yes, ecumenism requires tact, but tact does not mean ignoring or misrepresenting Catholic moral teachings (for example).

Blaise Pascal said...

One part of the problem is that many think that they can gather more to catholocism by accomodating catholocism to the common fashion of thought. This is a grave mistake. If there is no difference between the Catholic faith and the "zeitgeist" then there is no reason to switch. I'd say the more the Church swims against the tide (that is holds fast to its principles) the more success will it have. Paradox but true.

John said...

Agreed, Marcel. Agreed.

Steve said...

Marcel, This is an excellent post. What I found amazing from this latest study is that on many issues, Catholic millenials are less in agreement with the Church than millenialas as a whole. I would add that Catholic Campus Ministry at secular institutions can focus totatlly on Catholic evangelization and formation. We do not have to build biology labs, stadiums or maintain large campuses - the universities will do that. The future of the Church passes by way of campus ministry. Fr Steve Beseau

iwka said...

"80% of Catholic university and college students go to non-Catholic schools."

I am from Poland, which is still obviously a very Catholic country, among very relativistically oriented and secular EU.

We do not have, neither had for many years, many Catholic schools, yet the faith is flourishing for generations. Poland did not exist on political map of Europe for over 100 years (three partitions took place in 18th and 19th century), but we kept our language, traditions and Catholic faith, even among persecutions. Communism only strengthened our beliefs.

Why did we survive and why is God engraved in our hearts from the very beginning? The answer is: family. Not schools, not church programs, but mothers and fathers loving God.

Liz Dubya said...

"If we are to reform the Church, then we need reform to start where young Catholic students are going to school - at non-Catholic institutions."

I cannot agree more! I go to a large public university and while we do have an active Catholic community on campus, it is run by Dominicans from the midwestern province who are less than orthodox. We NEED FOCUS missionaries on every campus!!

Faith said...

I agree with iwka! The Church needs to focus on families. Those who are brought up in the faith authentically lived will cling to the faith. I teach RE to 7th grade public school kids at our parish and they are not being raised in the Catholic faith. Most of them are operating in a vague cultural sense and are very ignorant of what the Church really teaches. I think it is too late by the time you get to college! We need to focus on teaching whole families at the parish level about the Truths of our Catholic faith and the richness of our Catholic heritage. We need to work much harder than we do when it comes to basic RE. And we truly need a paradigm shift when it comes to HOW we teach.

J.Q. said...

As Peter Kreeft and St. Escriva shout from the roof tops, we are in a crisis. The only answer is saints. We have to be saints in the family, marketplace, politics, schools, everywhere.

I agree to the above comment, watering down the beautiful Gospel and doctrines really does not attract people to live their faith. It is similar to a business with a watered down brand. If we are not teaching the Catholic Faith in its fulness, others will join the Church without adequate understanding and free will. Complete understanding will not happen on this side of life because we live a Faith that is mystery. As a prior saint has coined, we have faith seeking understanding.

Watering down the teachings does not make the Faith more accessible, it makes it more lukewarm and the Lord was quite clear how He feels about lukewarmness. Keep up the good work Aggie Catholics!

Timothy Olson said...

I work as a missionary with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) and I can say that my experience as both a student and now as a missionary reflects this truth: that students desire orthodoxy.

Pizza and parties have their place, but if the root of the Catholic Outreach on a campus is not centered on authentically living out the life of the Church and her sacraments, it is doomed to fail.

We see massive numbers of students responding to the gospel message: just this January 4000 college students gave up a week of Christmas break to join us for FOCUS national conference. Literally thousands of students went to confession. When we would process Jesus to the adoration chapel, hallways of the massive event center went silent, as people dropped to their knees.

Keep the faith and you can't help but spread it.

tour86rocker said...

I agree about FOCUS, I am very impressed with the FOCUS missionaries I've met over the last five years, keep up the good work.

I think St. Mary's needs to do a little more to train students to start young adults' groups when they leave Texas A&M.

At my home parish in Houston, the YA group was started in part by Aggies who weren't very involved at St. Mary's (I noticed something the same thing in a group in Austin). You would think it would be the Aggies who'd received the most through St. Mary's.

At the same time, Aggie Catholics I know in different parts of Houston fret that there's not a group near them, instead of STARTING something. These are people involved in leadership of groups like RENEW, Aggie Awakening, SMYRT.

So what I'm seeing, anecdotal evidence here, is that some Aggie Catholics are feeling unprepared to be Catholic leaders once they don't have the abundance of support that St. Mary's affords. We see St. Mary's and hope that our own parishes and dioceses will be better once we return to them, but they aren't, they're still pretty lukewarm.

I think training leaders who will train leaders who will train leaders (etc.) is something that FOCUS does well. It is one of their goals.

St. Mary's needs to be impressing on its student leaders the importance of being catechists when they graduate, of starting bible studies for their peers, etc.

Fortunately, many catch this drive without it being actively encouraged, we have dozens of seminarians, women in religious orders, and men and women in lay apostolates, youth ministry, etc. So things are going well, to be sure, there's just that one thing that could make a big difference.

Marcel said...

FOCUS is good, but is isn't the only way to do good campus ministry and even the leaders and founders of FOCUS agree with me on that.

I also HIGHLY disagree that Aggie Catholics aren't leaders once they leave here. It is more of a generational issue than a St. Mary's one. Millenials, as a whole, are not as leadership oriented as some past generations and I see Aggie Catholics going above and beyond their peers.

Marcel said...

Also, I don't think campus ministry is the only answer to the issues in our church and I also agree it starts with families - but campus ministries are (in a sense) the last line of defense for the church in many ways.

Cody said...

Watering down the teachings of the Church, even just a little, can be devastating. These mysteries revealed by Christ have taken millennium to reach the clearness and logical fullness that they have today. To remove one part of the structure of our Doctrine, ultimately invalidates it in its entirety. In this light, I agree with Blaise and feel that College life, when many students think the most of philosophy and ideals, makes this even more important. The Church is not of this world but the next, not of this age but all ages; compromising that appearance is equivocation and hurts the Church.