A 21st Century Catholic Church?

The question “Are you Catholic?” was posed recently during happy hour.

The girl in question answered yes, she’s “culturally Catholic.”  She defined this as a lapsed Church goer with a belief in big picture Catholicism and a shared experience (Catholic schooling, etc).  There are a lot of people like this.

The Catholic Church finds itself in a precarious place in 2010 and these are its three biggest challenges:

First, the Church is going to have to do some real honest thinking about the future of the priesthood.  They need to literally think logistics here.  What do you need to have a church?  Priests.  What is the church running out of?  Priests. The reasons for this will be addressed in a later post.

Secondly, the world has reached the digital tipping point.  While, I don’t see (or want) any Popes tweeting in the near future, it has become evident that the church needs to utilize the internet…on a practical level.

Last, the church desperately needs to drop all pretenses and rectify the sex scandal issue (on a strictly self preservation level, I would arguing it is and will continue to affect issue number one).

More on my suggested plan to address these issues to come at a later date.

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11 Responses

  1. Computers and women. Boom solved it.

  2. Makes sense to me. I can almos always tell and feel an odd kinship when I think someone I’m meeting went to Catholic school. Comedians like Jon Stewart and Jerry Seinfels talk about being “culturally Jewish” all the time…

  3. Seinfeld*. Fail.

  4. At my mom’s church, I’ve noticed that the biggest concern isn’t the sex scandal, it’s the fact that the number of priests is slowly dwindling. The number of US priests has dropped by 18,000 in the last 40 years, and the number of world priests has dropped by 11,000 in the same period. However, the number of US churchgoers has gone up by 3%, and the world population that identifies as Catholic has gone up by about half a million people, both in the last 40 years. Why do more people identify as Catholic, but less people want to take the extra step into priesthood? It may be a combination of things:
    1. The no marriage rule. Every other religion in the world allows it; it’s starting to get a bit outdated. I’d like to see the numbers of Catholics who decide to lead instead in different sects of Christianity because of this rule.
    2. They make crappy money. Some statistics say that Catholic priests make up to $70,000 per year, but the average is probably more like $30,000. Remember, too, that they are rarely off duty: they live and work in practically the same building.

    An interesting post by the Vatican on the Church and the Internet: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/pccs/documents/rc_pc_pccs_doc_20020228_church-internet_en.html

  5. Ok so I’m going to cause a ruckus and I apologize in advance, but lets talk about BEFORE Catholic priests were celibate. Was is great? Nope, cause then you got a bunch of priests running around in positions of power and using that to dupe people into having sex with them. They were focused on this world rather than the next. There is a reason the church felt the need to impose a celibacy vow a millenium into Christianity: without one it just wasn’t working right!

    It would be one thing if lifting the vow of celibacy meant that they would marry and have families, and I am sure most would, but there would be that population that would ruin it for the others that would cause more harm, more scandal, and more hurt than good. I mean, that being said, I’m totally for dropping the celibacy bullshit- its not what the early followers of Christ did and shouldn’t we as a church be trying our damndest to get back to what that was.

    To argue with you Dora, the priesthood issue is not about pay. It’s about living in a modern society of post-Enlightenment thinking where science and reason trumps faith and emotion and the call to priestly duty is absent or ignored.

    Also on the subject of sex abuse, I think there should be a zero tolerance policy. You get accused of that, you can leave the priesthood or you can agree to be chemically castrated. Why does it matter? You’re supposed to be celibate right?

  6. Oh and Tom, the Pope is already on facebook and has an iphone app. How much more computer internet technology do you want him to have?

  7. I guess I should have realized everyone was going to jump the shark here. I plan to lay out detailed responses to each of the challenges presented here. Here’s a preview:

    1. Practical use of technology. Not gimmicks. Much more to come.
    2. Forget zero tolerance for sex abuse. If there is a report of an incident you turn all evidence over to the authorities. End of story. Actually, not end of story, but I think that’s the end result. More to come.
    3. The priest population and marriage issue are incredibly nuanced. You’ve pointed out some reasons and likely tonight, I’ll lay out some more.

  8. […] laid out the three largest challenges the Catholic church faces here. Now, I’ll offer you my sincerest calibrations the church can […]

  9. Rather then directly respond to all the points in this blog and I’d like to talk about how I have become a lapse catholic.

    Growing up as child I was all about religion, going to CCD, etc. Seemed like the right thing to do. Then I went to a christian high school and had more religion slammed down my throat. In college I got lazy and stopped going to church completely. Through that laziness I was able to take a step back and took on a different perspective.

    I have come to grips that I don’t really believe in it at all. I think religion is just something that was created and devised centuries ago so that there could be something to “believe in” or so there could be something that “explains the un-explainable”. Maybe it was something that was created to be some type of control mechanism. Getting a lot of people to believe in one ideology sounds pretty controlling to me.

    Furthermore, science and technology have become the modern day resolution to being able to mind boggling occurences. As blasphemous as it sounds, evolution just makes too much sense to me. It’s just not evolution though, we have ways to explain and measure physical phenomena which probably left our ancestors scratching their heads and convinced it was a sign from a divine being.

    Don’t get me wrong, the whole ever-lasting life and happiness part when we die sounds really awesome but in reality I think we are all destined to rot underground and become future bug food.

  10. Pete, most reasonable people of faith don’t deny evolution and the Catholic Church actually supports the position of a theistic evolution. What Darwin and evolutionists call “chance” the RCC calls Providence. See Boethius, In Consilation of Philosophy.

    I think your opinion reveals the modern age’s overrealiance on science. Just because science has advanced and we can measure things more accurately does not mean that it is flawless or can explain everything. There are far more unanswered questions than answered ones. For example, lets take the example of a photon. Is it a particle or is it a wave? According to science and physics, it can’t be both and yet it acts as both (it’s called wave-particle duality). Similarly lets looks at the ever over-quote bubble bee that should be able to fly both aerodynamically and physically, yet fly it does.
    Lets move away from physics, what about the mind/body problem of psychology, biology and philosophy? Still unresolved and scientists are no where near agreeing on how they are connected, how that operates, etc.

    It is a sadness, that the present age believes that it is either faith or reason when as Aristotle shows in Nichomachean Ethics, it is the balance between the extremes where happiness is found.

  11. […] 13. A 21st Century Catholic Church? […]

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