Let your minds be at rest. The battle to keep sexual predators out of Catholic seminaries is going well. Of course, the shepherds and moral guardians of the Catholic Church were apparently not up to the task of judging the moral integrity and sexual maturity of young men who applied to enter the seminaries — by all reports, the selection process had to be bureaucratized and modernized by retired FBI agents and other advisers. Apparently, there are few Father Browns (of Chesterton’s mystery stories) who can see deeply inside a man by hearing even a false confession. Apparently, few have read G.E.M. Anscombe’s warning that a society is in deep trouble indeed if it needs resumes (let alone lie-detector tests) to identify good men. A Church, or a church, is in far greater trouble in those circumstances given the role of clergymen even in a non-sacramental branch of Christianity.
We shouldn’t worry. The bishops and their bureaucrats are honestly admitting that the selection of candidates for the priesthood was botched in past years and the American Catholic bishops sat quietly and humbly as Pope Benedict reminded them of this, as if they were likely to forget with all the days they spend with lawyers and victims’ advocates, not to mention the ongoing flow of money out the door.
But the battle is going well and now there are record numbers of Catholic baptisms in the United States and the pews aren’t so emtpy as some would have feared even a year ago. What’s that you say? Those who are baptized and catechized and confirmed rarely show up at Mass the Sunday after being confirmed as adult members of the Catholic Church? They feel they’ve done their duty, having satisfied some sort of imaginary requirement for being married in a Catholic Church. Grandma handed them a nice card with a small wad of cash in it. The envelopes from aunts and uncles, family friends and Dad’s business partner, have been opened and the cash spent or deposited. There doesn’t seem to be much point in wasting part of a Sunday in Mass.
You want your children to grow up into practicing Catholic Christians? Well, you increase the odds of that happening if you move to Mexico to raise them. You have a much better chance of seeing them as knowledgeable Catholic adults if you raise them as Evangelical Proestants and hope for a conversion process that will lead to a serious effort to educate themselves.
You don’t really want your children to grow up to be serious Catholics knowledgeable about their own faith? It’s easy enough to meet that goal as well. Just raise them in a typical American parish, send them to CCD, and coach them through their confirmation. By that time, they’ll be well-innoculated against any idea that the Catholic faith has much to do with the real world or intelligent efforts to understand that world. Heck, even if you send them to Catholic schools, you don’t have to be discouraged by any signs of faith when they’re young. That will wash out very quickly with just a year of public school or, for that matter, a year of working in the real world. And, so, tomorrow’s battle is already well under way and being lost with resounding success as those on the losing side gather regularly to pat each other on the back and give each other awards as Catholic educators and humanitarians.
The Catholic faith isn’t being competently nurtured in young American Catholics nor are others being evangelized. There are a huge number of casualties in this war for minds and souls and the ordained hierarchy of the American Catholic Church is working hard to do what they did so well with the problem of sexual predators in the priesthood: they’re covering up the problem as long as possible. They spoke to Pope Benedict publicly of the large number of baptisms and the need for more priests. The diocesan newspapers will soon be giving us tallies of young adults being confirmed. To be sure, outside of the Hispanic parishes, the number of adults who are baptized or received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil isn’t so impressive and isn’t so conducive to self-congratulation, but, all told, statistics can be quoted out of context to prove that the American Catholic Church isn’t so sick as rumor would have it. And no one in the pews of a Catholic Church is reading the reports of the Pew Foundation which paint a very bleak picture of Catholic demographics and forecast even worse over the next generation or more.
“Guys, we might be lucky. We might make it to retirement before anyone notices we’re not very good at doing our primary work: teaching and evangelizing.”