The Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy begins today. The Holy Doors are open in Rome; a small percentage of Latin Catholics will go to Mass for the Immaculate Conception; and Pope Francis’s legislation implementing “Catholic Divorce” comes into effect. In the United States, American Catholics are up to their usual business of behaving exactly the same as non-Catholic Americans, except for the Muslims. Recently, Hamtramck, Michigan became the first U.S. city to elect a Muslim-majority city council, leading to a small amount triumphalist rhetoric which has some worried about the future of the city’s non-Muslim residents. Maybe it’s just shallow fearmongering, but it wouldn’t be unlike a Muslim-dominated municipality to begin altering the area’s culture, norms, and laws. Is that what Rod Dreher means by the “Benedict Option”? There must be more than a few American Catholics of a traditionalist (or integralist) bent who are more than a teensy-weensy bit jealous of what the Muslim community in Hamtramck has managed to pull off. No, they can’t evade federal and state-wide rules which, by Catholic and Islamic lights, are immoral, but they can now take further steps to insulate themselves.
Contemporary Catholicism is a very silly religion, or at least I assume that’s what most devout believers of other religions conclude when they take a hard look at it. Here is this ostensibly medieval, retrograde, and impenetrable institution that has 2,000 of history resting behind it and the best it can do in a strife-ridden world where people need God more than anything else is go on about carbon footprints and immigration reform. I have referred to the institutional Catholic Church as the world’s largest, and most dysfunctional, NGO. Some folks didn’t care for that characterization, but I see no reason to walk it back.
The current Sovereign Pontiff—the one certain liberal and neo-Catholics (sorry I couldn’t think of a better term) claim the Holy Spirit handpicked in miraculous fashion—is an apparent megalomaniac looking to reshape the Church in his own image and likeness. Instead of genuflecting before the altar of tradition, he boldly struts by on his way to clown around with the secular media or wag his fingers at those who would dare take the deposit of faith seriously. Although it looks like some ranking churchmen have finally had enough, it’s not clear what they can really do at this point except pray—and pray, and pray, and pray—with the rest of the orthodox faithful that the Holy Spirit really does intervene at the next Conclave.
I don’t want to end on a dour note, so let me say this. Whether or not the ongoing crisis in the Catholic Church is the “worst crisis” she has ever seen is far less important than the truth that the Church will continue forth until the End of Time, regardless of what popes, bishops, priests, and laymen do to undermine her divine mission in the world. I find a lot of comfort in that, for it weren’t true, I would have probably given up on Christianity entirely by now. The fight to keep Catholicism alive in these times appears hopeless to human eyes; reexamine the matter in the light of faith and a radically different trajectory for the Church is revealed. That doesn’t mean that Catholics have any right to be complacent, mind you. Complacency is what helped give rise to this mess and complacency perpetuates it. I have no great insight into when things will get better. Despite having received Confirmation in the Faith many moons ago, I am not much of a soldier for Jesus Christ. I do know this tale of creation has a beautiful ending regardless of present appearances. And unlike holier souls who press ahead in full and happy submission to God’s will, I have to constantly remind myself what this is all for lest I lose my way before going hence and being no more.