The Catholic Church’s struggle with orthodoxy

Cynthia M. Allen

FORT WORTH, Texas (Tribune News Service) — Last week, Roman Catholic leaders all over the U.S. expressed collective shock and outrage at a new Pew Research study finding that the majority of Catholics — a whopping 69 percent — don’t believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, a teaching central to the Catholic faith.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the Catholic Church teaches the doctrine of transubstantiation, the belief that during the Mass, the bread and wine used for Communion are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

It’s a somewhat strange notion for many non-Catholics.

But if the Pew study is to be believed (and there are some fair critiques that suggest study wording and apostasy may be driving the results), it would appear to be a strange notion for lots of self-described Catholics, as well. And that’s a huge problem.

Pew not only found wide ignorance of the teaching among those surveyed (43 percent believe that the bread and wine are symbolic and also that this reflects the position of the church), but rejection of the doctrine by one-in-five Catholics (22 percent) who know about the church’s teaching but do not accept it.

The former cohort, those unaware of teaching, is disappointing to be sure, and many church leaders have been quick to concede their own roles in the church’s failure to properly catechize its flock.

“It represents a massive failure on the part of Catholic educators and catechists, evangelists and teachers,” Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron said in a video response to the study.

Indeed, more robust religious education programs, especially those that cover apologetics, would help. So would an increased focus on preaching doctrine from the pulpit. As would efforts that inspire Catholics to independently dig deeper into their faith and overcome any apathy for it.

But it’s the cohort of willful dissenters, those who know and reject church teaching, that speaks to a much deeper divide in the church, and one eminently more difficult to breach.

The Rev. Dwight Longenecker, himself a convert from Anglicanism, alluded to the chasm “between those who believe in a revealed religion and those who believe it is all a symbol,” in his own response to the study in The Catholic Herald.

He gets to the crux of the issue when he states that the “essence of (Christianity) cannot be adapted to the vagaries of history and culture.” Yet that is something too many Catholics, namely those who reject religious doctrine in favor of their own interpretation of the faith are seeking to do. In so doing, they not only dilute the faith, they compromise it and they threaten the unity of the Church.

This is the same divide, I believe, that has caused a rift within the Diocese of Fort Worth, and motivated a group of disgruntled Catholics to unfairly target the bishop.

But Fort Worth isn’t unique in this fight.

A timely article about St. Francis of Assisi Church in Portland, Ore., describes how one of its oldest congregations is divided between those who support a new and very orthodox African priest, the Rev. George Kuforiji, trying to realign the church with its roots, and those who have been pushing a more progressive, less reverent version of the faith. Until the new priest’s arrival, the progressive branch had been largely ascendant, but with the backing of his bishop, Kuforiji has stemmed the tide, causing significant backlash.

Progressive Catholics argue that efforts to change the church are intended to make it more welcoming to the marginalized — immigrants, homeless and the LGTBQ community, among others. Those efforts are important, but not when they come at the expense of church teaching. They almost always do.

The church should be a refuge for all while holding fast to truths revealed and rooted in its most fundamental teachings.

That can only be accomplished when people first have a proper understanding of the fullness of the faith. To that end, the Eucharist is a good place to start.

Cynthia M. Allen is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may send her email at cmallen@star-telegram.com. Visit Fort Worth Star-Telegram at www.star-telegram.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. © 2019 Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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(5) comments

zeitgeist

Ms. Allen, the Eucharistic prayer calls on the Holy Spirit to transform us into becoming more like Christ. According to Augustine, "we become what we receive." Ultimately, then, our becoming the body of Christ is the point rather than the bread and wine becoming, literally, the body and blood of Christ. You're unable to see the forest through the trees. Your handicap, shared by many Catholics and manifested on a host of theological issues, is why a schism, among other things, threatens the Catholic Church, today.

Nice_Commenter

The number one goal for my parents in my Catholic upbringing was for me not to be alone with a priest. Father Downs was my family priest in West Chazy. My cousins went to Altona with Father Fallon. My first communion priest was Father Toth. These names are all on the list of recent disclosures.



Eucharist? Progressive? Divide? None of these words make any sense until the Catholic Church opens up on its past behavior. The number of Catholic church goers in our area has dropped by 90%. There is no "divide" it is just that smart people who care about their children walked away, permanently.



CATHOLIC FAITH IS BASED ON CONFESSION. TIME FOR THE CHURCH TO CONFESS ITS SINS OPENLY. Until that point the empty pews are 100% the fault of the immorality of the church.

Holmes -- the real one

So, the takeaway from this writer seems to be that efforts to change the church that are intended to make it more welcoming to the marginalized — immigrants, homeless and the LGTBQ community, among others – seem to her to “almost always” come at the expense of church teaching.

Well, at least she’s honest about it.

This is a good column to run parallel to the one about the high rate of abusers in the diocese of Ogdensburg.

You shall know them by their fruits.

rdsouth

It appears the "essence of Christianity" is first and foremost conformity, or lip service, to doctrine and promotion of the lip service. The point is to make you agree with Big Brother that white is black and 2 plus 2 is 5, because then your own thoughts mean nothing and you can be gaslighted. And this is explicit. You are no good and require guidance or else. The emperor, er Jesus, must apply a stamp of approval or anything you do think or say is corrupt. So the doctrine is all, what you are told is all, and nothing else matters. You can be a total demon and as long as you say the right words and get other people to say them you have done your job. Because the real world doesn't matter and isn't real and if you see God in the world it's a demon, you are to only hear about God from your superiors, who are experts in doctrine and its service. This is what all denominations are, to the extent they are Christian because Christianity was stolen from the Jews and redesigned by an agent of the Roman Empire to mirror the methods and purposes of the Roman Empire. Start again. From scratch, you might say.

gasgun

Let's not be cryptic about Paul (aka Saul). He hijacked the message of Jesus and franchised it to the non-Jews. One third of the New Testament is attributed to Paul who was at odds not only with those who had known Jesus but with Jesus's teachings as well. The Catholic Church like Paul has no problem with ignoring, even contradicting the teaching of Jesus. It is no wonder that Catholics are not troubled by those contradictions. Religions do require faith, but how long can they survive on dogma alone? In 1950 Pope Pius XII announced the Assumption of Mary, body and spirit into the Heaven. It has taken the Church nearly two centuries to come up with this physical impossibility. But then the Church has taken the perpetual virginity of Mary for granted. There seems to be no limit to the gullibility of the faithful. To get back to the issue at hand, wine turned into blood, if not symbolic, clearly violates Hebrew law (Leviticus 17; Deuteronomy 12). When confronted with the atrocities made law according to the Old Testament, Catholics mistakenly dismiss it as having been superseded by Jesus. They have Paul to thank for that.

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