Throughout the last few years and specifically the last decade or so, the voluminous number of kooky quotes and statements coming from religious believers (heterodox Catholics included) and non believers alike is mind boggling. It can’t but help push the reasonable minded into the Catholic Church. Most casual observers are familiar with the number of high profile converts and reverts to the Catholic Church in the last 25 years or so. They range from theological luminaries like Dr Scott Hahn and Dr Francis Beckwith to political figures like Deal Hudson, Laura Ingraham and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Many like them have come to the Church after years of study and reason, but many also have come to the Church after years of seeing their particular religious denomination become unrecognizable.
The latest world calamity has given us two examples of sheer kookery coming from a religious leader and a secular voice. After the horrific earthquake that left the western world’s most impoverished nation in tatters, the Reverend Pat Robertson chimed in with a quote that was not only tragically insensitive but historically inaccurate. The onetime presidential candidate (who actually came in second in the 1988 GOP Iowa Caucus) and a leading voice of the Evangelical world blamed the earthquake on Voodoo, a cult that sadly far too many people practice in Haiti. Robertson voiced his opinion on his popular 700 Club television program. Robertson repeated the fundamentalist canard that in the early 1800s the leaders of a slave revolt fighting against French colonial forces forged a pact with the Satan to thrown off the chains of their oppressors.
Sadly, Robertson’s tale was just that; an oft repeated tale told by fundamentalists who can’t help but show a certain glee in equating Catholicism (which the Haitians overwhelming adhere to) with the curse of Vodoo, which was brought to the Haiti a couple of centuries earlier. If only the world would realize how faithful many of the Haitian people are concerning their practice of Catholicism. Despite all of their hardships and some of their countrymen who do practice Voodoo, Haitians are some of the most devout Catholics one can encounter.
First of all, even if a few demonic souls made a pact with the devil, it certainly doesn’t mean everyone at the time joined in the diabolical pact. Furthermore, a cursory glance at the Scriptures would prove that Rev. Robertson needs to brush up on them. In the Old Testament, God spared his wrath on the deviant cities of Sodom and Gomorrah until the innocent had departed (Genesis chapters 18-19.) In the New Testament Jesus commented that the 18 killed by the collapse of a tower in Siloam died not because their sins were greater than others; but added that we all face eternal punishment if we don’t repent (Luke 13:4.) This is not to say that God can’t bring about spiritual cleansings. However, a cleansing is designed to straighten the path of the wayward, not the righteous. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah only after the innocent left.
Not to be outdone in the field of kookery actor Danny Glover blamed the earthquake on manmade climate change and the lack of an agreement that came out of the recent climate change conference in Copenhagen. Even if there was such a thing as manmade climate change how a couple of degrees difference would affect tectonic plate’s miles under the surface of the planet begs the question; from where is Danny Glover gleaning his information?
The free fall of liberal denominations has been evidenced now for 30 years or so, but in the last decade one has seen a wholesale exit from them. The most striking might be the Unitarian Church where it has been estimated that a majority of its congregants aren’t sure if God exists. Two men David Burton and Dean Fisher have become evangelists in their own church preaching that yes God does exist. One might ask the simple question; why even attend if you don’t believe or have serious doubts about God’s existence. It would seem that some stay because of the shared liberal beliefs. Perhaps others stay because of the hospitality following the Sunday morning services, all in all not conducive to growing the roots of faith.
One of the former mainstays of Protestant upper class respectability was the Anglican Church. As late as the 1950s, they had one of the largest percentages of Sunday church attendance. By the early 1960s, while worldwide Anglican Communion was growing (especially in Africa) the British mother church was dabbling in political and cultural liberalism and thus beginning its inexorable decline.
During the 1960s in the American cousin Church (known as the Episcopal Church,) figures like Bishop James Pike came to the forefront. The famous Episcopal bishop who doubted much of Christian orthodoxy found himself receiving fawning news coverage on the cover of many a news magazine. The same could be said for the openly homosexual bishop of this decade; Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. For all of their glowing mainstream news coverage the western Anglican Church has been in a complete free fall. It is estimated that more people attend Friday prayers at Britain’s mosques than attend Anglican Church services on Sunday morning. Yet it gets worse for the Anglican Church. In addition to the laity, the Anglican Church has lost a large number of their clergy as well.
This development has led Pope Benedict XVI to approve a personal ordinate which will allow Anglican male clergy who accept Catholic Church teaching to become priests in the Catholic Church. One would think that most Catholics would feel a certain pity for Archbishop Rowan Williams the leader of the Anglican Church. One might even think he might feel tempted to swim the Tiber himself.
Yet, it would appear that certain American liberal Catholics are upset about the demise of the Anglican Church founded by King Henry VIII. Words like poaching Anglicans have been used in liberal Catholic circles. If this were puzzling enough, the increasingly leftward tilting (and Jesuit run) America Magazine just gave an award to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. It wasn’t just any award but the Edward Campion Award. Giving an award named for an English Catholic Jesuit martyr brutally murdered under orders of the leaders of the Church of England would seem terribly troubling to say the least. One would think Catholics would rejoice at seeing the One, True Faith grow. It would seem this is not the case for some Catholic Church liberals.
If one can postulate that the tide is turning because of the sheer anger displayed by Catholic liberals towards the growing trend of Catholic orthodoxy and newly installed conservative bishops, newly ordained conservative oriented priests and conservative vowed women religious (in habits no less,) then the tide might be turning into a tsunami. Consider the recent rumblings about the conservative direction of the Church from the likes of political figures like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Pat Kennedy and Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, all of whom were recently taken to task by the Catholic League.
The liberal’s mantra has always been look at the numbers. Yet, they refuse to look at the very numbers that speak to their demise. While many correctly state that young people are more liberal than any age group, they neglect to mention that for practicing Catholics 30 and under this is anything but true. This group believes in the Church’s teachings and is more pro life than any age group, including that of their grandparents.
As I noted before, all of this is made manifest in ordination numbers. 64 to 6 and 14 to 4 stand out. What does this mean? In 2006 when writing my book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism, I noted that even though the Diocese of Rochester had more Catholics than the dioceses of Lincoln and Omaha combined, Rochester had 6 men studying for the priesthood while Lincoln and Omaha had 64. That same year of 2006 Denver had 14 young men ordained to the priesthood (eleven in May and three earlier in the academic year) while Los Angeles had four; a staggering statistic when one considers that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has 4,300,000 Catholic residents compared to 385,000 Catholics for the Archdiocese of Denver. Los Angeles and Rochester are led by two of the most liberal prelates in the Church, while Omaha, Lincoln and Denver are led by three of the more conservative bishops in the US, a revelatory statistic to say the least.
Yet despite anecdotal and concrete numbers, many who once were hailed as the future of the Church refuse to acknowledge this trend. A cursory look at the numbers would show that liberal birthrates are very low. In some American cities which are liberal strongholds, there are more abortions than births. Even in rural but very liberal Vermont, there are far fewer births than deaths. Liberals are literally dying out. The same holds true for liberal Catholics when it comes to proselytizing their views.
While anecdotal, I am sure I am not alone in noting the observation that I can’t think of a single instance in which a liberal Catholic parent (who graduated from high school or college in the 1960s or 1970s) has a liberal Catholic child who still practices the Faith once they leave home. I can think of many children of Catholic liberals who left the Church for another faith tradition, adhere to no faith at all, or have become an orthodox Catholic despite their liberal upbringing. However, I cannot think of a single liberal Catholic family where the children have stayed in the Church and continue on in the liberal Catholic tradition.
Some three years ago when my book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism was released, many voiced a favorable view. However, even among this group some thought I was completely wrong in my assertion that the collapse of the mega church was about to happen and certainly would take place before 2020. However, it is beginning to happen ten years ahead of schedule. Mega church attendance and building growth has fallen. The unofficial leader of the mega church movement, Southern California’s Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren, the man who wrote the book about how to build a mega church, The Purpose Driven Church and its phenomenal selling sequel the Purpose Driven Life was forced to ask for $900,000 shortly before Christmas. This had to be done to make sure his Saddleback Church would not end the year in the red.
There is much to emulate in Pastor Rick Warren’s leadership. First and foremost is his reverse tithe pledge, which means he only keeps 10% of his income and gives away 90%. In addition, he has done much for the poor and suffering of Africa. However, the Saddleback pastor seems to have taken a mushy view on the key issue of traditional marriage, presumably so as not to be labeled as being unfair to those who want same sex marriage. Truth be told, the popular pastor is in a theological pickle because he like many other mega church pastors is his own pope. The Catholic Church’s 2,000 year old teachings are based on Scripture and Holy tradition. They are enforced by the Magisterium under the leadership of the pope and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, for men like Warren, they are the final theological authority in their church and thus can change with the political and sociological winds.
The Catholic Church teaches that for reasons unknown to earthly powers, some people are given the cross of same sex attraction. They are to be treated with love and understanding while they live their lives in celibacy. Many mega churches often take their cues from their Calvinist forbearers, who taught that anyone who has these sexual tendencies are destined for hell, for they could not come from anyone else but the evil one. The idea of redemptive suffering, though ancient in the Christian tradition and biblical in its origin are not adhered to or believed by many Protestants. When someone in a mega church ponders issues like this one and more specifically the 2,000 year tradition of the Catholic Church, along with the writings of Early Church Fathers, the pull to the Catholic Church is hard to resist.
As evidenced by the stunning results in the Massachusetts special election seat vacated following the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, even in the most liberal of locales the public will eventually clamor for the truth. The public eventually tires of being told to listen and follow self appointed secular leaders. These same leaders all too often act as if their powers were granted from on high when there is little evidence that they believe there is a power higher than their own egos.
We can hope and pray that society will, despite the personal failings of the men and women who make up the Catholic Church, see the truth contained within the Church and her teachings and repudiate the “Question Authority,” model that was for so long drilled into their minds. Yet, there are many others who are coming in the Church simply because they have finally found that truth they were always seeking. Let us hope and pray that they all cross the Tiber and come home to Rome. However, we know that this can only happen by preaching the truth in love, whether the world likes it or not. The tide is turning for many reasons, if for no other reason than the frightening alternative of a secular culture gone wild.