Survival Guide for Thinking Catholics: Ten tips from Tom Reese, S.J.
Not all Catholics agree with the Church all the time, and Tom Reese, S.J., will tell you there is no point in denying it. Questioning is not, however, something most Catholics undertake lightly. These disagreements are often born out of conscience, of genuinely believing in the faith while believing equally something that is at odds with the accepted teachings of the Church.
Reese, the former editor of the Jesuit weekly magazine America, was a visiting scholar at Santa Clara during the 2005-06 academic year. In the Regan lecture delivered on April 26, cosponsored by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, Reese outlined his strategies for Catholics who think, question, doubt, debate, and disagree. Here are those strategies in a nutshell:
Though much of the attention is on liberal Catholics urging the Vatican to allow female priests or birth control, questioning is hardly limited to one’s political alignment. From condoms to illegal immigration, the Church has taken many unpopular stands. Indeed, it would be hard for any organization with hundreds of millions of constituents in dozens of countries to be universally popular. Additionally, as Reese said, “a questioning mind is fostered by our education and the very culture we live in. It is part of who we are and we cannot run away from it.” That applies to all people, not just Americans, Democrats, reactionaries, or radicals.
Re: Re: The Catholic Church - Democratic?
Posted by Greg Diamond
Date: Sep-27-2006 at 1:32 PM
Ryan helps identify the central issue. Ryan argues that the structure of some secular governments simply does not carry over well into the Catholic Church. My post assumes, without argument, that the Catholic Church is inherently bad because it is structurally undemocratic. So, we frame the issue but neither of us answer it. This issue touches upon the main concern raised in Father Reese's article: how should Catholics disagree with the institutional church. Father Reese identifies several useful means for the laity to express themselves. But, in my view, those means are not enough. How do we know the institutional church is listening? History tells us it frequently does not. More to the point, absent a democratic structure, how do we ensure the voice of the laity will receive the consideration that is its due?
For example, Western Catholics are overwhelmingly in favor of birth control, a view some have said was implicitly endorsed by the institutional church before Humanae Vitae. But, with the stroke of a pen, Paul VI changed course and alienated flocks of Catholics who, up until then, were energized by the fresh air from Vatican II. Had there been a democratic process in place to consider this issue (guided by tradition and church doctrine), the outcome may not have been different but I doubt we would have seen the sort of mass exodus from the Church we have seen since. Democracy is good for the institutional church because it helps preserves the thirst in "homo religious" (Eliade) for spiritual communion. If the voice of homo religious is ignored by the institutional church, she/he will continue to turn away and the Catholic communion (at least) then withers and dies. Regrettably, Pope Benedict is painfully aware of this phenomenon as it has unfolded in Western Europe and elsewhere.