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The new old fashioned Catholic Church?

Dear Pope Ben:

I laid out the three largest challenges the Catholic church faces here. There are a lot of “cultural Catholics” out there, who believe in God but maybe right now, not the church so much.  I offer you my sincerest calibrations the church can make to address the issues.

Shortage of priests – the church is going to have to face this.  As Dora pointed out, the population identifying themselves as Catholic is up, while the number of priests are down.  Like it or not, there is a social stigma facing young men who may even think about entering the Catholic priesthood.

Two popular answers: allow women to enter the priesthood, or allow priests to marry.  Neither of these is likely in the short term.

The solution is to put a priest with a degree in mathematics/statistics in charge. Numbers don’t lie.  While the old boy’s club is unpredictable, when faced with the coming reality that at this rate there will be parishes without a priest, they will act.

The digital age – Two levels working here. Globally, sure, it has been pointed out that the Pope has an iPhone app.  I couldn’t find it, and anyway, that’s shticky.  This is one case where old and new media are made for each other.  Take the local church’s printed weekly bulletin and combine this online (at least partially) with coordinated/combined weekly words from Pope Ben.

Secondly, at a practical level, what the church could really benefit from is some new old fashioned open source information sharing.  I present my case here.

Last Christmas I sat through a homily that was so clueless that I literally contemplated asking the Priest to stop talking.  His talk was aimed at the kids in the congregation and centered on his “nephew who desperately wanted an Erector Set for Christmas”.  Just let that sink in.

Kids are thinking: “what the hell is an erector set?”

Adults are thinking: “is he seriously saying ‘erector set’ over and over again in 2010?”

Had that sermon been typed out, the priest could have Googled what the hot Christmas gift of 2009 was, done a quick find and replace search and boom that formulaic homily is back in business by way of Webkinz, whatever those are.

And last, actually, deal with the sex abuse scandals.

A recent headline in Der Spiegel, the newsmagazine of the pope’s native Germany readThe Failed Papacy of Benedict XVI”.

Despite the headlines, Benedict still has a shot here.  The solution is right here, though, unlikely will it be accepted.

First, the victim’s need an advocate.

Who is the most compassionate advocate for those in need that you can think of in recent memory–Mother Teresa?

Now, think back to when you were in grade school.  Who kept the school disciplined and running smoothly–a handful of fierce nuns?

Put a nun in charge of information gathering.  But wait, you’ll say, “the old boy’s club would never take orders from a sister!”  Correct.  They don’t have to.  This information gatherer, would simply gather and turn all information over to the authorities. No Doubt involved, just Jack McCoy.

Does the public really care if old Father McSwneey was defrocked or not if he is serving hard time in a real prison?



Addendum: My mom sends me her thoughts.

“Abuse of power is the issue with pedophiles and marriage doesn’t change that. Increased physiological screening may be necessary by the seminaries. Maybe today’s church is frightened by the monetary toll a married priest would take on its coffers. Restructuring of the church hierarchy needs to be addressed [but won’t]. Allow women to become priests and poof problem halved with or without celibacy.”

My family reads my blog? Oh, no.


5 Responses

  1. I 100 percent agree with your point about the homily. When I go to visit Tim’s family’s beach house on LBI, church on Sunday is a requirement. I don’t mind going because the priest at the church they go to is pretty good. He had a homily about relationships last year that was so funny it still sticks with me. Church on Sunday is also a requirement at my parents house. I try to only go home on Saturdays. Why? Because the priests don’t relate to the congregation. I actually feel uncomfortable. And no, it’s not because of that whole “living in sin” thing, which is a debate for another place in time…

  2. When you only sit through a homily twice a year you don’t get to complain. I know what an erecter set is and while probably not the best example, who the hell cares. You were so focused on the erecter set example you probably missed the message of the homily! Way to miss the forest for the trees.

    The digital age: you don’t get to say that an iphone app is shticky because you’re the guy who wants an APP for everything under the sun! At least they have an app; they are making an effort to utilize technology to reach the catholic church around the world. They have a youtube channel where you can see messages from Pope Ben. There is also a way you can get text messages sent to your phone. The vatican has a radio station you can stream and a tv channel too. Check out the vatican website, which by the way has digitalized all the papal bulls and encyclicals which is a hell of a lot more technologically advanced then most libraries I have been to. The problem is not that the vatican has not incorporated technology.

  3. Emily, I agree. It is a shame that there are not more socially balanced priests who are capable of giving dynamic homilies. Don’t tell me that I am supposed to sit there and only be lectured at. The mass is supposed to be a celebration, that’s why there is music!

    Kate, I’ve sat through homilies for 18 years of Catholic schooling and then some. I don’t claim to be a liturgical scholar, but I can tell when kids are bored and parents are weirded out.

    The point is, it was a terrible example. How can you claim to be doing the Lord’s work, reaching, hearts AND minds, when you are so out of touch with reality that you think that is a good example.

    All that stuff you bring up about the digitizing is good and well, just plain good strategy to digitize their records! And it is a start.

    A Pope iPhone App will forever and always be shtick.

    You offer a lot of personal critiques of me, none of the church, and offer no solutions.

  4. From my friend Larry:

    (1) Re: the shortage of priests, I would add revitalizing and expanding the role of the deacon to the list of possibilities. Although this is, at best, a stop gap measure, it has a number of strategic advantages, both in terms of bread and butter stuff and in terms of Church politics. In the case of the former, the number of deacons, as compared to the number of priests, is actually growing; with regards to the latter, liberal forces within the Church could press for the ordination of female deacons – which, while not explicitly sanctioned, was not explicitly ruled out by the Second Vatican Council either.

    (2) Re: old & new media, the Church has a mixed record on this front, having famously opposed … well … modern astronomy and railroads. I’m not entirely sure that the solution to our problems lies on the inter-web, although having more tech-saavy priests, as you point out, would help address some of the disconnect between the clergy and those in the pews.

    (3) If you’re looking to put someone in charge, it should be the Dutch. They’re light years ahead of everyone on most of the major issues – and they frighten crap out of the current crop of elites in Roman, most especially those touting a “reform of the reform.” (If you don’t know what that means, do a quick Internet search.)

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