Procession — Peggy Peattie / U-T San Diego

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on a survey conducted by the Milwaukee Archdiocese showing that most local Catholics disagree with Church teaching on important moral questions. You don’t say?

This is, in no way surprising, but it is a big deal. The question, “What have our Archdiocesan schools been teaching in the classrooms for the past forty years?” is unavoidable. On the one hand, Catholic schools have the reputation for being outstanding institutions of learning with standards that are second-to-none. But then we read stories like this. What are we to believe? Surveys showing such lackluster knowledge on the part of large swaths of the faithful regarding essential elements of Catholic life represent an epic failure on the part of the leadership of the archdiocese, going back generations, to ensure that our Catholic schools are teaching the faith and transmitting an authentic Catholic culture.

The sad truth is that a great majority of self-described Catholics embrace a Protestant, relativistic approach to theology and morality, and they’ve been allowed to think that this is a perfectly acceptable way to be Catholic. Our Catholic schools, in the classrooms, and our parishes, in their liturgies, have imbibed the pathogens of relativism and iconoclasm, and the consequences have been disastrous. As a result, faithful Catholics who actually believe and follow the Church’s teaching on faith and morals ought to get used to minority status for a long time to come. We’re entering into a period of pruning, where the truly faithful will be small in number in comparison to the dissenters. (In truth, we’re already at this point, but I think it’s going to get far more acute in the coming years.) The faithful will be seen by the world, and even by most self-described Catholics, as fringe oddballs and exceptions, while dissent and heterodoxy will be the rule. Most people who call themselves Catholic will toss out more and more of the Church’s teaching as our culture continues to decay.

screen-capture-6The Church and her rich culture will weather the storm in small pockets, and from these communities, the Springtime will indeed emerge. These small pockets are already out there. You’ll find them at parishes where Mass in the Usus Antiquior is offered, as well as parishes where the Novus Ordo is offered reverently and according to the norms set out in Sacrosanctum Concilium. Families at these parishes are typically large. On any given Sunday, the back half of these churches is packed with young, growing families. Among parents, homeschooling, not diocesan schools, is the preferred method of education. Confession times at these parishes are generous. Homilies deliver substance, not meaningless fluff. A traditional devotional life (including frequent processions, Eucharistic Adoration, veneration of relics, religious societies, etc.) thrives. This is the description of a real Catholic parish. But here in Milwaukee, how many parishes actually reflect this ideal? And we scratch our heads, vexed over the pathetic results of this survey? These traditional parishes are quietly growing because they offer a beautiful alternative to the banal, worn-out norm. They offer a distinct, enduring culture that is simply not interested in surrendering to or going along with the ever-shifting demands of the vox populi. 

It’s time we embrace our identity, or perhaps better put, return to our identity. The strategy of playing the populist game of pandering to the masses to the tune of “All Are Welcome” while shedding more and more of our traditions and heritage has failed miserably. Let’s admit it. The first step in recovery is confronting the problem. This of course, requires honesty and, the most difficult virtue of all, humility.

Thanks to Matt over at Badger Catholic for highlighting this survey.