Sunday, September 2, 2012

Is The Catholic Church "Out Of Date"?

Most Catholics have never heard of Cardinal Martini, the former Archbishop of Milan, who died August 31. But, that didn't stop almost every major news organization in the Western world in carrying the story that he said the following before he died:
"The church is 200 years out of date. Why don't we rouse ourselves? Are we afraid?"
“Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up; our rituals and our cassocks are pompous,”
But is this true? Is the Catholic Church out of touch, out of date, and does it need to change? Well, let us consider the evidence.

The Church has suffered a great deal from clashing with modern cultural trends. Some have left the practice of the faith. Many criticize the Church as behind the times when it comes to sexuality, contraception, abortion, the role of women, bureaucracy, and esp. the scandals of individual Catholics (including leaders) who shame The Church.

It is true that when we look at the Church through the lens of modern western culture, that the Church is not trendy. Church leaders are not interested in changing doctrine to keep up with the times. It seems the Church is too old and stuck in her ways.

To be quite honest, this is a good thing.

What has our culture brought us:
  • Abortion on-demand
  • Hyper-sexualization
  • Addiction
  • Culture of death
  • More wars (in the 20th Century) than any other time in history
  • More slavery TODAY than any other time in history.
  • Divorce and broken families.
  • Pornography and selfishness.
  • etc.
Why would we ever think this culture is healthy or good enough to be a model for the Catholic Church to follow?
Why would we ever believe the modern way of thinking is really true?
Where is the beauty in this modern culture?

Here are just a few of the problems with believing the Church just needs to be updated to keep up with the culture:
  1. this belief makes the mistake of thinking our modern culture is good for us (see the list above). If it were so great, why do we have growing evil in our midst still?
  2. with this mindset we jettison all of the teachings of Christ, believing they are not applicable to us today.
  3. we make ourselves smarter than God. If we believe that the Church needs to change her ways, to line up with our thinking, then we are making ourselves the final judge of what is true and good = making ourselves a god.
"Doctrine" is a teaching of the Church that comes from or is necessarily connected to the deposit of faith the Church was given by Christ and from the Apostles. The Church teaches that these doctrines are not "owned" by the Church, therefore she can't arbitrarily change them.

The Church (you and I) needs to change the culture - not vice versa.

The world needs the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has the answer for all the world's problems in the fullness of truth and the fullness of grace she offers to the world. The Church gives us a moral anchor, an answer to broken families, addiction, sin, war, violence, abuse, and all the other issues in our culture. More than ever the world needs the Catholic Church, if our society is to last. This answer is the personal relationship with Jesus that the Catholic Church offers to us all through the Sacramental grace, teachings of the Church, and in our own personal prayer we all need.

Jesus created one Church. We are that Church, the Catholic Church and if the world needs the Catholic Church, then the Church needs saints. We need to be holy if we are to change the world.

Time to do our part. Time to be holy. Time to change the world. This is what we all need to know - and do.

Without the Catholic Church - imagine where our culture would be today...


theraineyview said...

The Church is not behind the times or ahead of the times, but above the times.

diff said...

We are not 200, but two thousand glorious years out of date. We stand always at the foot of the cross on Calvary bowing not to popular opinion but to our Lord and Saviour. The day we become fashionable and modern and up to date is the day I worry.

P.S. im not sure if my previous comment actually posted, if it did please disregard this one.

Matthew Keppel said...

Not that your comparison between the Church and modernity is in any way incorrect, in fact I support it in its entirety. However, I'm not certain that is what the Cardinal intends with his criticisms of the Church. I believe he is speaking toward moving the Church to meet the culture in its current state. Not to do away with Mass and its traditions, but to draw people in with music and passion. If I have to hear about any more Catholics leaving the fold for a Protestant Church because they felt "more welcomed" or "saw their passion" I'm going to lose it. Seminaries need to teach good preaching; which is not lecturing. Most importantly, the high and mighty (be it popes, bishops, priests, seminarians, sisters, brothers, or laity) need to realize that to be chosen means to serve.

Not that any of these criticisms lay on any one set of shoulders, but they are constructive thoughts on how to make my home a better place.

stceolfrithtx said...

Such a sad irony that he thinks his churches were empty because he didn't succeed in rupturing Catholicism from its roots ENOUGH.

The Church is floundering EXACTLY where the Martini types hold sway, which is in fewer and fewer places as Benedict proceeds, Deo gratias. And I'm referring to Martini's full career, not just his couple of lines about change. Reform, growth, development are good, rupture and conformity to the world that has rejected Christ are not.

stceolfrithtx said...

Matthew, If you look at the Cardinal's whole career of statements, it paints a more specific picture of his intentions.

A discussion about "welcoming" can be an interesting one, but I find that when priests try to MAKE their parish's Masses more welcoming to visitors, the law of unintended effects has other ideas.

The Nick said...

Very true post.

Something that appeals to me about the Catholic Church is the intensity of its intellectual tradition. If people knew only half of the things that I knew (and believe me, I know some about the Church's teachings, but what I know is nothing compared to the entirety of the truth She speaks). I think we could build bridges by studying and inviting people to discuss history, philosophy, and theology.
By doing this I believe we can solve one of the biggest problems of our culture today: we place faith, hope, and love in the wrong things. We all have these three, but we do not direct them in ways that lead us to God and Truth. Rather we aim them towards ourselves. Why is a good question, but my answer is this: provide truth for our brothers and sisters and their eyes will eventually be opened.

I'm so glad at my university (UT Austin) that the UCC exists and groups there are so in love with Christ! We are all pursuing the faith physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually with one another.

Xavier Abraham said...

Matthew Keppel got it right. One generic statement, without context, can be interpreted in many ways. More often, it leads to such debates on propositions that the author never intended or meant.

It's a very safe assumption that a Cardinal of Roman Church, though branded as a 'liberal' by the men in media, nevertheless, faithful to the social teachings of Catholic Church, would ever mean 'embracing modernism', by such a statement.

While holding to traditions, Church must never ignore the life conditions of people, and their sufferings. Church ought to be place where 'all who labor and are heavy laden' can find the rest.

Jason said...

Mr. Keppel you could not be more incorrect. Yours is the mindset of the "spirit of Vatican II" which has been an abysmal failure.

All protestantism has is heresy and religious entertainment. The real Church is not in the entertainment business.

Those who leave the barque of Peter to sit in a protestant theater and listen to a rock band, and incorrectly think they are actually worshiping God, are frankly a bunch of fools.

The only culpability the Church has in their idiotic decision is that She has not properly catechized anyone for 50 years.

Lee Gilbert said...

Instead of being defensive, why not take advantage of the moment to interpret his remarks in a way that moves the Church in a positive direction?

In my opinion, there are some facets of our life as a church in which he is correct. For example, for my studies I recently had to look up an apostolic constitution by Pope Paul VI on Confirmation. More than 30 years after the fact, the document is only available in Latin, Italian and Portuguese. Summorum Pontificum is only available at the Vatican in Latin and Hungarian last I checked. Yet international commerce is carried on in English. It is becoming the de facto universal language. Do we want to communicate or not? I'm all for the TLM and the new academy for Latin, but still . . . .

Okay, if you want to say that Latin is the official language of the Church, fine, and that we should all learn it, I agree. However we aren't going to. 200 years ago churchmen, scholars and all educated people spoke Latin. Today the language is English. At this point to insist that Latin is the official language of the Church and to continue to render primary documents in it and not in English (and other major languages, for that matter) is simply to render ourselves absurd.

I believe in tradition as much as the next guy, but not to the point that we render ourselves incomprehensible.

On this and similar issues Cdl Martini was right in saying that we are behind, for example, the communication policy of the Vatican, L'oservatore Romano, etc. It is not a short list.

Magdalene said...

I plan to remain a Roman Catholic for the rest of my life. Whatever it takes, whatever the cost.

Our Lord was counter-cultural and that has always been said of His mystical body as well. I am blessed to be a member.

mmatins said...

Our liturgy isn't outdated; thought this was relevant:

09acfbc2-f6b1-11e1-99b5-000bcdcb5194 said...

I just read the article on late Cardinal Martini and I just had to shook my head. If the church had compromised on moral standards in the early centuries and centuries afterwards i doubt whether we will have the church as the harbinger of truth, which she is today.
We have seen what has happened to protestant denominations and the likes that broke away from the church on moral grounds even though they try to hide under theological interpretations.
The church can only continue saving souls not by compromising on moral issues but by strongly affirming the truth and defending these same moral issues it has been propagating and at the same time defending since her foundation 2000 years ago. Take for example issue of divorce and re-marriage the church has always taken a stand and that has been her stand since its foundation and as affirmed by Christ's discourse on marriage. Is the church going to rebel against her head, which is Christ so as to appear modern. We can all see the effect on today's society morals and its effect on unity of family and society.
Note that there will always be scandals starting from the betrayal of Jesus by Judas but the church outlives all of them and each time the church has always emerged stronger and better focused.