God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

24.09.2009 Bishops worried

German Bishops are worried about the increasing numbers of people leaving formally the church, so I read in the news today. And I wonder how the bishops discuss that matter. Do they, as people usually do, search for the blame by the people leaving or do they start soul searching with themselves to find out, what is going wrong in our days. The right-wing Pius brotherhood has a simple solution: Only the way back to the good old times will prevent more people leaving the church – not sure how they really can think like that.  One must be very ignorant to the reality of today and totally living in the past with closed eyes to come to that conclusion. I am sure our bishops are different – and if they really would go out and ask the people why they are leaving the church, one answer will come up more frequently in my opinion:

That church is losing its relevance for the people of our days, that the sermons in church do not match the living circumstances in our days, the announcements of episcopal nature are not matched with how people experiencing church and the representatives of the church in their daily lives. Sunday sermons are followed by Monday blues – power games instead of servants of the faithful – people feel hurt and alienated from us clergy. Obviously we never can generalize it – but in this context the personal experience, the personal encounter is the decisive test for a single faithful. Mess it up and you have lost a soul, so to speak. And there is still the scandal of sexual abuse, the loss of moral stance through the encyclical “humanae vitae”, the dealing with the  Pius brotherhood – so many topics were my church in our days cannot gain points on the score card.

As we accompany people through the times, I guess we always have to reflect on our attitude as professional staff of the church, we always have to ask what is coming first, God’s message of love or church discipline. We might make general rules in the church, but we always have to see the individual standing before God. Not more and not less…

If we do so, maybe people still will leave the church, be it because they found other ways of finding God, may it that the path of the church community is not fast enough for the individual, may it that they even don’t need a church institution anymore because of their direct contact possibilities with God. Whatever it might be – our goal as the Catholic Church should be to serve all good people to be able to connect to God. And when we look into the field of HIV and AIDS, there is even more the need just to bring home the love of God, the unconditional love of God.  Forget about judgement, forget about exclusion – just embrace the person as he or she is – he or she deserves it because he or she is a brother or sister of me and a son or a daughter of God. Embrace the person, make him or her feel home and loved and wanted…

Filed under: Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. Sandy says:

    Hello Stefan,

    I do enjoy your post but this one I do have some issues with.

    People leave the “Church” because they are making “Mass” about them and not about Who it is supposed to be About, and that is Jesus.

    I am Catholic and I live through these same scandals and remain a Catholic. Why? Because my worship of God is not about the sins of man. My worship and where I worship is about God and how He wants to be worshipped, which is the Mass. It is totally seperate from the scandals, even though I have made my stand on them and how I feel about them.

    God’s Word is for all of us for all eternity. There is nothing special If we start changing the Mass for the of the day, Mass will cease to exist. If one is not getting anything out of the because it does not fit 2009, then one needs to listen a little closer or pay more attention. There is always a message for us in Holy Scripture.

    The Church and Mass were given to us as a gift from Christ Himself. When we go to Mass it is not about us, but is about The Eucharist and us coming together as a unity of believers, confessing our sins to God and one another, our prayers, and the worship of God. It is about us receiving Jesus and offering ourselves to Him in all of our virtues and sins, and Him still accepting us as we are and uniting Himself to us.

    If one leaves the Church this is not what is being focused upon. What is being focused upon is, themselves.

    To change and change things to keep up with the times, to accomdate the people’s views and lifestyles of the day, is “reformation.” We all saw where that has lead? There are so many different denominations it is hard to tell where the truth does lie there, for me.

    We need to get us out of us, so God can do with us what He will, then Mass and the sermons will take on a whole new meaning for everyone. Then we will realize why we are there.

    God Bless, Sandy

    • Thanks Sandy, and I do agree, the mass is about Gods worship, but also celebrating the lives of the people in front of God. For me both is important. I honestly don’t think that the fight I can see between certain fractions in the church about liturgy is in the interest of God. The core elements of every worship service is the encounter with God, the way of worship is often only a help to assist the encounter.
      I feel that many Christians and quite some of the official clergy really think that the form of the service is the most important part of it. I tend to disagree about it. God bless Stefan

  2. Jared Olar says:

    “The right-wing Pius brotherhood has a simple solution: Only the way back to the good old times will prevent more people leaving the church – not sure how they really can think like that.”

    Although I object to the quasi-schism and disobedience of the SSPX, and I think many of their objections to Vatican II’s teachings are off base, nevertheless it is not the case that the SSPX thinks “only the way back to the good old times will prevent more people leaving the church.” The SSPX has many concerns, but preventing more people from leaving the Church is not one of them.

    “the loss of moral stance through the encyclical “humanae vitae”,”

    What is the alternative? Should the Church not tell the truth or hold to the truth for fear of losing “moral stance” in the eyes of those who reject the truth? Or do you rather mean that the moral doctrines found in Humanae Vitae are erroneous?

    • @ Jared Olar: Humanae vitae contains lots of most precious statements, but when it comes to the question of contraception, I belive that humanae vitae lacks one of the criterias to be an all acknowledged catholic truth: the sensus fidelium. Paul VI decided against all advises and advisers to oppose contraception and if we are honest, millions of Christians are not following this teaching without feeling any sense of sin.

  3. Stephen Korsman says:

    This is an issue I’m sure we’ll disagree on, in part.

    I think there are 3 important approaches to the problem. Without each of them, the connection to God and the Church is incomplete.

    1. the pastoral approach
    2. the catechetical approach
    3. the pious approach

    With #1 you’re spot on. When I read about Pope John Paul I, and saw his letters (such as the one to Pinocchio), I mourned his death – and that was 2 decades later. I never knew the Smiling Pope. I didn’t identify with Pope John Paul II. Benedict XVI surprised the world with a strong pastoral approach; he’s an all-rounder, in my opinion.

    #2 – lack of pastoral care, or poor pastoral care, is not the only reason people leave, although it’s possibly more important. But better catechesis has long been seen as a huge problem – it was bad for so long, and people don’t know their faith. More emotionally attractive options then snare them. With proper catechesis, #3 will follow naturally.

    #3 – it’s only a coincidence that pious sounds like Pius. I’m not an SSPX fan, although I hope for their return to the Church. Opus Dei, of which I am also not a fan, perhaps has a better idea. If we returned to a stricter lifestyle, and each person had a spiritual director, the active faithful would be stronger. And then there’s the Tridentine Mass, aka the Divine Liturgy of Pope St Pius V.

    If I had the option, I’d attend the Tridentine Mass exclusively. My (limited) experience with it is that it makes more of an connection with me, for reasons of piety, tradition, and a connection with ancient Christianity. I don’t expect the world to follow suit. Nor does Summorum Pontificum hope for that. What I think it aims for is to bring back the piety of the Tridentine Mass to the Pauline Mass. No more self-communication by intinction at the altar, and we’ll say the creed again. Bishops won’t replace the sermon with a reading of the diocesan financial statement. If the Mass is what the people do for themselves, or what the priest does for the people, it’s empty. If it’s what God and the people do for each other, it will not be empty.

    A sense of the sacred and a connection to the Divine is important. Without that, the connection to the Church is weakened.

    There is a need, I think, for a connection to the past, and the Tridentine Mass helps provide that. My generation needs that. The last generation to have that universally is moving on.

    There is also a need for a connection to the universal Church. Liturgical unity does that, but so does liturgical diversity. To have two Roman Rite liturgies would help that. Add to that a better knowledge of the non-Roman rites – the most stunning English liturgies I’ve been to was a Maronite Easter Vigil; when one of the Malankaran Orthodox Catholicoi visited our tiny church in Limpopo, I was there, and realised that one doesn’t need to understand the words to know what is going on and to benefit from the spirituality (and the thick clouds of incense.)

    People need to feel at home in the Church (pastoral), but they also need to know the Church (catechetical) and be able to experience heaven on earth (liturgical).

    • @ Stephen: We have now two Roman Litugies and we have in many parts of the world bitter divides. Liturgy should bring people together, not divide them. What I am concerned about is that the Tridentine Mass is seen from their supporters as “the orginal” mass, which is simply not true. All is always in development as we human beings are in development. All rituals and all ways of service is continiously under development. I agree that we have to connect to the divine, but I am sure we can do it with our past II Vat. liturgy in a good way.

      • Stephen Korsman says:

        Actually, within the Roman Rite there are several others in use, much more rare than the Tridentine.

        The bitterness isn’t just between the different Roman Rite liturgies or within the Roman Rite. Somewhere in the last few years, UK I think, SyroMalabars were evicted from the Latin congregation. And the fights that break out at Christmas between monks in Jerusalem – terrible.

        Shouldn’t the bitterness be resolved by changing attitudes?

        I don’t think the bitterness can be removed by taking away the diversity and richness of our heritage. The Tridentine must survive alongside the Mozarabic, Carthusian, Dominican, Sarum, Gallican, Ambrosian, multiple Byzantine and Antiochene, etc.

        And the Pauline Mass, which can be equally good. But I strongly feel there is a need for the return of the Tridentine (and the others to be made more visible). None are “better” or “more real” than the others.

        The Tridentine Mass has changed over the years – e.g. the modern Dialogue Mass dates to the 1920s. And before the 1500s there was more variance. It certainly was not the original. That is the Divine Liturgy of St James. And even that had a precursor. Even the original Latin came from a previous original Greek.

HIV, Development and HOPE – thoughts of a Catholic priest

Being a Roman - Catholic priest and working in the fields of HIV and social development in Africa has its challenges. You will find stories and reflections about my work, about the church, South Africa and Africa. You are most welcome to leave a comment or to get in touch with me. Blogging means to initiate thoughts and discussions and for the writer to formulate what is loosely running around in the heart and mind in need of being sorted and spoken out.

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