Grandma’s lament for a desiccated church leadership


Deborah Rose-Milavec wrote this fine piece for Future Church which I will happily pass on. It is a direct repudiation of the bloodless “church of the little flock” which Benedict XV1 tried to foist on the Catholic people. This crabbed vision of a people set apart, of an island of holiness in a corrupt world was a non-starter from the beginning. In interviews which went back decades Ratzinger reiterated that the future of the Church will be smaller, maybe “a mustard seed where it will exist in small seemingly insignificant groups. These groups, of course, will be utterly loyal to anything which comes out of Rome.

Pope Francis at the recent synod told the bishops to stop obsessing over rigid doctrine .He has little patience for those clerics  who would ‘indoctrinate’ it in dead stone to be hurled at others.” Ever the  pastor who has his head above the sand Francis inveighed against“scheduled faith” which can not  adapt to new circumstances and in turn  could leads to people’s suffering being ignored.

This narrow vision is the entithesis of Francis who is doing his best to embrace humanity in all its fallibility, a church of sinners, of fallible people who strive against many odds in the corrupt capitalist culture to do the right thing. Francis knows the truth of Kant’s famous observation that” Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” So what. Francis identifies himself as a sinner. Mercy is his watchword.

In 1971 Karl Rahner saw what Josepf Ratzinger was up to with his “little flock” riff, the polar opposite to James Joyce’s definition of Catholicism as”Here comes everybody” and Jesus’ very own injunction to ignore the 99 and go seeking the lost one.
In a brilliant small book The Church of the Future written in 1971 after Vatican II, Karl Rahner had this to say about “the little flock”:
“When we speak of ourselves today as the beginning of a ‘little flock’, we first remove a misunderstanding. ‘Little flock’ does not mean a ghetto or a sect, since these are defined by a mentality: a mentality which the church can afford in the future even less than today. A sectarian or ghetto mentality is propagated among us — not under this label, but under the pretext that we are becoming Christ’s little flock which has to profess the folly of faith and of the cross. Any deviation must be fought with the utmost severity in the name of true faith and authentic Christianity.
“If we talk of the ‘little flock’ in order to defend our cosy traditionalism and stale pseudo-orthodoxy, in fear of the mentality of modern society; if we tacitly consent to the departure of restless, questioning people from the church so that we can return to our repose and orderly life, and everything becomes as it was before, we are propagating, not the attitude proper to Christ’s little flock, but a petty sectarian mentality. This is dangerous because it shows up, not under its true name but in an appeal to orthodoxy, church-loyalty and strict, Rome-dictated morality.”

this is Grandma Rose-Milavec’s piece:

Change comes painfully and slowly in this Church. Too slowly.  As a mother of five and grandmother of eleven, I have very little patience with the snail’s pace of reform in my Church or for those doctrinal police, the pharisaical crop, who would like nothing better than to keep the people I love at bay in order to keep their world of who-is-in and who-is-out neat and clean.

We have lost a generation of young people, many who are my children and grandchildren, who will not be eating at our Eucharistic table and who will not find the nourishment of the Gospel in one of our local parishes because they are so turned off — not by some entrenched secularism and individualism — but by the hard, pasometimes cold hearts of the stors they meet in a Church that has wanted to be “smaller and purer” for far too long. I raised them to love, to nurture and to have open hearts. And that is what they do. And when they don’t see that love incarnated, modeled in the priest and people they meet in a parish, they stay away.

Tell them that LGBT people are “intrinsically disordered” and they will roll their eyes. They know better. Tell them that a divorced and remarried person can’t receive the sacraments and they won’t give you another look.  Tell them that women can’t be priests or deacons or make important decisions in our church, and they will stay home on Sunday mornings, make a big breakfast, play with the kids and make their own world of love.

We can no longer afford to be the Church we have been.

Personal conscience and private confessions are not enough.  While the don’t ask – don’t tell model of Church may have sufficed for my generation, it just doesn’t cut it with the next.  The next generation is not biting their nails trying to think of how to get to Communion if they are divorced and civilly remarried, or LGBT and married. Somewhere deep down their instinct tells them that the Church doesn’t know God’s heart and doesn’t practice God’s love.



  1. 1
    mushafta Says:

    This is totally right on! No wonder there is plenty of reaction coming from the conservative prelates!
    When these guys react you know you are running in the right direction!

  2. 3

    Nine Types of Catholic Commenters
    Catholicism is often a squabbling family and the life of faith doesn’t cure human neurosis. It just offers it a room with a view into ourselves, which can be a seed to charity.

    By Max Lindenman
    Patheos Catholic, March 24, 2011

    In a piece for Salon, Emily Matchar, a self-described overeducated, ambitious atheist, confesses an addiction to Mormon lifestyle blogs. She admits finding an odd allure in the bloggers’ lives of simple faith and serial childbearing. When my generation wanted a break from urban anomie, we found ersatz wholesomeness in shows like “Little House” or that one with Wilford Brimley and the pre-Brenda Shannen Doherty. Thanks to the ‘net, Matchar, that lucky duck, can get a whiff of the real deal.

    In a way, Matchar and I are kindred spirits. I sometimes amaze myself remembering all the time I spent lurking in the ‘net’s sacred precincts. Since I actually have a religion, I get my kicks close to home, toggling between the Anchoress Blog and the websites forAmerica Magazine, First Things, and National Catholic Reporter.

    My MO differs somewhat from hers, though. Skipping over the authors’ edifying words, I dive straight into the comments left by the sorely aggrieved, the easily enraged, and the monomaniacally obsessed. Call me a ghoul; I plead no contest. But my interest also has its scholarly side. These ranters and baiters sometimes look like the heirs of the flagellanti, if not the butchers of Acre and Monségur. Anyone who wants to forecast the future of the Church should be aware that they walk, and troll, among us.

    For the curious, I’ve prepared a brief field guide to some recognizable types:

    1) The Chief Mourner: For this nostalgic soul, spiritual perfection was realized in some Church figure of his/her youth. When that exemplar passed from the earth, the whole Church went to the dogs. To hear the chief mourner tell it, there’s no point in even discussing the Church’s problems, if Archbishop Sheen (Cardinal Bernardin, Dorothy Day, Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII) isn’t around to solve them.

    2) The Closet Sedevacantist: This master of reductive reasoning finds one explanation and one explanation only for every woe that plagues the Church. He blames the Second Vatican Council for clerical sex abuse, declining vocations, and even the designated hitter rule. (Pius XII would have fought to preserve the purity of our national pastime.) Since he prides himself on his docility to the Magisterium, he will, occasionally, observe a distinction between the conciliar decrees themselves and their subsequent application; but this is tokenism. In truth, he can’t shut his ears to the idea that Good Pope John had been inspired by the Freemasons, the Devil, or both.

    3) Casper the Friendly Ghost: The closet sedevacantist’s natural counterpart and constant incubus, this person pines aloud for the Spirit of Vatican II. This Spirit, as he defines it, represented a boundless openness to change—aggiornamento without borders. In his gloomier moods, he writes of the spirit as though it were Sade’s Justine—abused, betrayed, and violated at very turn. In his more buoyant moments, he writes as though it were out of commission but only temporarily, like Tinkerbell. If we all clap our hands and believe, Vatican III could be just around the corner.
    4) The Heretic Hunter: If there’s one thing this guardian of orthodoxy simply can’t abide, it’s dissent. An uber-ultramontanist, he could care less whether a particular teaching has been defined infallibly; if a pope scribbled it on a cocktail napkin, it’s a nugget of pure truth. Disdaining subtlety as a fig leaf for the uncommitted, he rakes foes with broadsides like “The Catholic cafeteria is closed. Didn’t you get the memo? CLOSED! From here on out, we only serve box lunches!” If all the people he banished to the Episcopal Church actually went, he’d single-handedly negate the Oxford Movement.

    5) Dopus Dei: This tireless watchdog knows the Church is writhing in the steely grip of a personal prelature with 90,000 members. He has the goods, you see, because he’s bestowed more clicks on the Opus Dei Awareness Network website than any member of Opus Dei, past or present. He’ll tell you Opus has controlled the Curia ever since it bailed out the Vatican Bank. It also controls the Supreme Court through Chief Justice Scalia, and American Mideast policy through Erik Prince. Though he might spare a discouraging word or two for other ecclesial movements, like Focolare or Neo-Catechumenal Way, he finds them too mundane to bother about. Nobody combines “sinister,” “authoritarian,” “elitist,” and “weird” like Don Escriva in his tight cilice and Phil Silvers glasses.

    6) Fetus Frenzy: This pious and tenderhearted Catholic is the best friend the unborn will ever have—just ask her. She has a singular genius for turning any conversation into a rant against abortion. In fact, she’s practiced this trick to the point where she can find a logical segue from any topic. For example, the weather: “A shame you were caught in a hail storm on the golf links. Multiply that sense of disorientation by infinity and you’ll know how it feels to be vacuumed out of your mother’s womb.”

    7) Seamless Garment: Meet Fetus Frenzy’s arch-nemesis. This natural-born contrarian is a firm believer in a consistent ethic of life. He is a firm disbeliever in episcopal integrity. Until the bishops pull up their socks and start protesting the death penalty, Guantanamo, Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, urban poverty, rural poverty, and school bullying, they can go poop in their zucchetos when it comes to abortion. Warning: when this person writes “pro-life” in scare quotes, you know a storm’s a-comin’.

    8) “I’ll pray for you [and the horse you rode in on]”: This bubbling well of caritashas taken a creative approach to anger management. When feeling aggrieved, vexed, nettled, or just plain hacked off, he informs the source of his irritation that he will pray for him. Presumably, he will ask God to make his opponent as judicious and diplomatic as he is himself. Nevertheless, his tone makes you wonder whether he might also be ordering up a lightning bolt or a plague.

    9) “Learn humility!” Like the tetchy prayer warrior profiled above, this cyber-skirmisher loves a good euphemism. His favorite rhetorical stealth warhead is “Learn humility,” or, on stilts, “I seriously suggest you consider learning some humility!” Coming from him, it cam mean anything from “Girlfriend, please!” to “Go fulfill your Oedipal fantasies.”

    An exhaustive list would have to include the Mass Nazi—that arbiter of good liturgical taste, who’s unshakably convinced God is a High Tory. But enough. If you’re like me, you identify with at least half of these characters. (And your friend down the pew identifies with the other half.) On a bad day, all of them are all of us.

    That’s why I’d love to bring Emily Matchar on safari with me. That poor hipster needs to learn that the life of faith doesn’t cure human neurosis. It just offers it a room with a view.

    Max Lindenman is a freelance writer, based in Phoenix. He has been published in National Catholic Reporter, Busted Halo and Salon. His Open Salon blog is here.

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