Some may have heard of the American Catholic Council (ACC) meeting in Detroit this last June. The results of the meeting have been published and distributed, and they provide for some interesting reading, particularly in light of World Youth Day.
The ACC, if you don’t know, was created by those who love all that is the “Spirit of Vatican II” without any of that messy verbiage in the text. It exists to bring about a Church that is radically different than she is now or has ever been.
They gathered in Detroit, and Archbishop Vigneron quickly warned Catholics to stay away…not, I suppose, that too many were tempted to do otherwise. Their existence and this meeting was meant to be demonstrable proof to the hierarchy that there was a grass roots movement of average Catholics who just need the Church to change for the better .
One of the first things I’ll note is that almost 65% of the attendees – or I should say of those who bothered to answer the questionnaire – had a Masters degree or better. This says to me that we are not talking about the grassroots poor here, or the average blue-collar Joe. These are generally well-educated individuals, and because of this are most likely earning a decent wage. Voices of the proletariat they are not.
The second thing strikes my Hispanic sensitivities, for my people made a strong showing at the meeting, garnering a commanding 1.3% presence. The “Others” beat us by 3.1%, led as they were by Benjamin Linus, sneaky fellow that he is. But despite oodles of praise for the need for “diverse voices,” 93.5% of the attendees were “Non-Hispanic Caucasians”… which means white. Hmmm. I wonder if the Germans and the Irish got along.
The abundance of women at the event ought not to be too surprising. Attendance at nearly any Church function but a seminarian retreat or men’s conference will show you what I mean. Couple that with the fact that women’s ordination was considered a crucial issue on the agenda, and you see the point.
Still, the most striking statistic that the ACC provides is the average age of the attendees. Fully 63% of them were 65 years of age or older. A little over a third were between 45 and 65 years-old, which leaves less than 1% of the attendees in the 18-29 year-old range and only 2.4% in the 30-44 year old range…of which I am a proud member…though with every year I forget why.
Anyway, this stands in astounding contrast to the vibrancy of World Youth Day, which is, admittedly, a day just for youth; but these are youth coming to listen to the Pope, to cheer him on, to talk about the importance of Christ in their lives. They gather not to create a separate hierarchy or a Catholic bill of rights. They have come to sing praises to the Divine creator.
And talk about diversity. Catholic youth have been pouring into Madrid for days, even weeks now from all corners of the world. Americans and Kenyans meet at a coffee shop and strike up a conversation, sharing their mutual love for their faith and their God. This is the Church. This is the future.
Meanwhile, the ACC is creating manifestos on glossy paper about how the Church needs to listen to we-the-people.
When attendees at the ACC were asked whether they thought of themselves as a “practicing Catholic” who believed all the Church’s teachings, only 2.9% responded in the affirmative. The majority, 79.1%, said they believe in “some” or “many” of the teachings. Almost 7% said that they didn’t consider themselves Catholic any more but admitted that their “values/spirituality are rooted in” their “Catholic experience”… of course they do.
One of the outcomes of the June meeting in Detroit was a Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. You know…the CBRR. They are as follows, with some helpful commentary from me:
1. Primacy of Conscience. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to develop an informed conscience and to act in accord with it. Which means that you can manufacture any conscience you want so as to accord you with the perfect justification for punching your kid sister in the gut.
2. Community. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to participate in a Eucharistic community and the right to responsible pastoral care. Which means that I can be part of any parish I want, and if the patriarchal priest-figure-man isn’t meeting my needs, I can start my own Eucharistic community. See below.
3. Universal Ministry. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and to respond to the community’s call to ministerial leadership. Which means if I want to be a priest and my “community” “calls” me to it, then I have a right to be a priest. So there.
4. Freedom of Expression. Every Catholic has the right to freedom of expression and the freedom to dissent. Which means open dissent on fundamental issues of the creed as well as on social issues is now allowed.
5. Sacraments. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to participate in the fullness of the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. Which means I still have the right to be a priest if I want to regardless of gender…or lack thereof.
6. Reputation. Every Catholic has the right to a good name and to due process. Which means that if you don’t like my being a priest, I have the right to see the Pope…on command…whenever….
7. Governance. Every Catholic and every Catholic community has the right to a meaningful participation in decision making, including the selection of leaders. Which means that if we don’t like the priest-figure-man the Church gives us, then we get to oust him and put our own person in place…see points 3-6.
8. Participation. Every Catholic has the right and responsibility to share in the interpretation of the Gospel and Church tradition. Which means that arguments based on Scripture or Tradition are useless against the powers of my imaginatively fecund mind.
9. Councils. Every Catholic has the right to convene and speak in assemblies where diverse voices can be heard. Which means that my friends and I have the right to get together to bash the Church, because, hey, this is America.
10. Social Justice. Every Catholic has the right and the responsibility to promote social justice in the world at large as well as within the structures of the Church. Which means…well …let me share what the ACC says it means:
The Gospel message of Jesus which focuses on the poor, the marginalized, and the sick would become the primary role of the Church. The ‘preferential option for the poor’ would become the standard for judging decisions. The Church would refocus its attention on peace-making, equal justice for all, and real economic minimum standards for all.
See? We’d finally get away from all that noisome and divisive doctrine business and just get down to what the Church is really all about, which is becoming the largest, most gnarly social welfare organization on the face of the planet.
Of course this does not mean that we follow any of the Church’s current teachings on human sexuality. That all has to go. In fact on page 16 of their materials they say quite clearly that “issues such as sexuality, birth control, and sexual orientation” have to be addressed by the Church “in a more realistic and just manner.”
Neither does any of this mean that Catholics should continue to defend the unborn. Here is what the ACC says, “Refocus from ‘Right to Life before birth’ to ‘ Valuing life after birth’ amid ways to create dignified end of life processes.” All of a sudden this stopped being funny didn’t it.
That’s the sad truth of this, and it marks yet another stark difference between the ACC and World Youth Day. You see, the young men and women who are over there in my ancestral homeland of Spain are overwhelmingly pro-life. Those young people know that if you cannot defend the little one in the womb, there is little reason to believe you can be trusted to defend the value of life after birth.
Those young people also understand that social welfare is not the primary purpose of the Church. Perhaps never before have the young people of this country had so much access to opportunities for service outside the home. From mission trips to Mexico or the Dominican Republic, to summer opportunities on Native American reservations or just at the soup kitchen in their own home town, our youth are plugged in to the need to be socially aware. Years of mass media have given them that. But they also know that until they came to know Christ, they were not joyful. They know that the deep wounds they have within are only met and cured by the Jesus they seek to encounter in the person of Pope Benedict XVI in Spain, on World Youth Day.
This generation of young people is in some corners of the world considered lost. The violence in England has certainly perpetuated this view. But this “lost generation” could teach the generation of the ACC and us one at least very important thing. And that is that the future lies not with demands or charters or articles of incorporation for one’s own church. The future lies in surrender to the God-man who calls “Open wide your hearts to Me,” and invites us to go to the ends of the earth to praise Him.
World Youth Day comes at an important time in the West as our societies seem to crumble around us with violence. It comes to show us that these young people are not entirely lost, this generation is not at sea bereft of hope. Perhaps they are actually closer to where God desires them than the lost generation that gathered in Detroit in June. Let’s pray for the young in Spain, that all goes well and safely, and for those that gathered in June in Detroit that they might find their way back. And long live Christ the King.