A Clash of Catholic “Civilizations”


Understanding why the Church seems to be drifting far out at sea……

I was awakened by a vivid dream last night….A wrinkled old dinosaur, clutching a mighty crosier and crowned with a golden miter, sat perched on an iceberg drifting in the ocean. The more he roared and shook his crosier, the more the iceberg cracked and sank deeper into the icy water.

Roman Catholic leadership seems more and more like a club of old dinosaurs, caught in a clash of civilizations.

Just as we have seven sacraments, I see seven forces clashing and exploding in a dramatic confrontation that is really just beginning.

A sketch of what I see:

(1) Ongoing international sexual abuse: pedophilia, sexual use and abuse of women (often women religious) by members of the clergy, clandestine and widespread hypocritical homosexual activity by bishops and priests (even in higher Vatican circles), increased sexual repression and arrested sexual development in Pope Benedict’s reform-of-the-reform seminary programs of priestly formation.

(2) A Vatican imposed institutional regression to a nineteenth century Catholic ethos that stresses: an arrogant triumphalist church glorying in its own grandeur, a church structure in which ordained are superior to the non-ordained, an approach to liturgy which stresses symbol and ritualistic rigorism as more important than the liturgical assembly, an anthropology that once again tends toward male exclusiveness, an approach to human sexuality that is more genital oriented than human person oriented, an approach to Christian morality that is narrow-mindedly and often pathologically preoccupied with sexual behavior and is blind to a broad range of other ethical concerns and issues.

(3) Increasingly around the world and particularly in Europe and North America Catholic laypeople moving away from being duty-bound Catholics to being men and women engaged (or not engaged) in the Church and Church activities because they do (or do not) find them meaningful. They have no interest in faulty products.

(4) In the minds of increasing large numbers of Catholics there is a realization that the Roman Catholic church-experience is simply one legitimate form of the Church of Christ but not the only legitimate expression of the Church of Christ.

(5) It is just about impossible to justify today the high Renaissance clothing, pompous ritual and ecclesiastical nobility in which members of the hierarchy parade, pontificate, and operate. (Kissing bishops’ rings and calling them “eminence” or “excellency” is not just oldfashioned. It is wrong.

(6) After the American and French Revolutions, the rationality of the Enlightenment, and an enhanced understanding of the nature of the Church based on the Christian Scriptures, the monarchical papacy is not only nonsensical but offensive and an obstruction to genuine Christian community….the Body of Christ.

(7) The Church can no longer control the flow of information, cannot control how people seek to discover the truth nor what they discover to be the truth, nor can the Church any longer control human thought. We are indeed free at last…….

Let’s put the dinosaurs in a museum. Or as Jesus said: Let the dead bury the dead. Let’s recommit ourselves to being contemporary followers of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

The Church is not dead. It just needs extensive rehabilitation…..

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9 Comments on “A Clash of Catholic “Civilizations””


  1. Well said, John. Thanks for posting.


  2. And this rehabilitation must begin with the laity. The clergy is too fearful to break their promise of silence. The draconian punishment coming out of the Vatican for those who dare question Rome is a price many are unwilling to pay. In the United State the organization American Concerned Catholics is growing and many grass roots groups are requesting their bishops to come and LISTEN to our thoughts and plans for just such a rehabilitation. To date a few bishops are willing to listen.
    Our present voices will not produce immediate results but we will have started this rehabilitation process and have in place a just program that others may follow.. God willing that will happen.

    • phrogge Says:

      Mary, you have a good comment. But, with respect, not all the clergy are too fearful to speak. Also there is no promise of silence to break. But there is a lot of pressure. I would suggest that you support us, perhaps kindly, but with some enthusiasm. If you care to, look at phrogge.wordpress.com
      There is something on this topic there.

  3. phrogge Says:

    This is among the best things I have heard you say or write. It is terrific and accurate. Is the word “implosion” accurate?

  4. Patrick Nugent Says:

    Thanks, John. Good points all, and well taken. One favor to ask. It’s not just a matter of semantics to talk of “the Church” when I think you truly are considering the hierarchy, especially in point no. 7. It’s more significant than that. As you note in your point nos. 3, 4 and 7, the Church, we the people, are not in bad shape, we’re growing and going (either onward our out). The hierarchy is a mess and growing sadder with each public comment or official action by some bishop or cardinal. In fact, I’m going to stop referring to them as hierarchy. That’s too dignified a term for them. Management, I think, is more apt.


  5. Phrogge, when my brother was ordained a priest he had to promise (some say vow) to be obedient to his bishop. Now when a bishop says do this or you mustn’t speak of this then a priest know if he does he will jeopardize his life’s calling and also his retirement fund. It is all the more crucial when the Bishop of Rome dictates a silencing caution. Bishop Morris found that out the hard way. When the recent cardinals were consecrated they had to vow (some say promise) to retain any and all secrets concerning the Church that they learn. This was according to Richard Sipe who witness the ceremony. This culture of clericalism must be removed from the Church in order for it to grow and develop properly. I understand the pressure our parish priest are under. However seeing the the Church (Pope, Curia and opus Dei) is now trying to destroy the works of Vatican II and replace it with the Council of Trent, I would plead with the parish priest to at least give just a mite of encouragement to the laity to speak out in favor of Vatican II. Too many of the laity are walking out the door instead of voicing their dissatisfaction with, as Patrick says, the management of our Church. We, the People of God, as the Church must learn to speak out and demand to be heard.
    Magy Stelling

    • phrogge Says:

      Magy, I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. In my position as a retired Army Chaplain I help out in many parishes throughout our diocese, which has some notoriety due to the Vatican last week ordering our bishop to reopen 13 parishes that he closed. The priests I see don’t think about those promises all that much. They are too overworked and, in our diocese, afraid of what downtown will do. They have good reason to be afraid. I don’t, since I take nothing from the diocese. I certainly do not criticize them. They are so involved in serving their own parish and trying to pay the bills and balance the conflicting demands of parishioners that they just don’t have the energy to get involved in the big picture. They get beaten up a lot. It seems to me that most of the folks who would want to do something about the church situations have already left, and the ones who stay are content to be more or less passive while many of them work hard on local parish projects. Rome is far away, the bishop’s office isn’t. They are much too busy to worry about the cult of clericalism, which is real, or what the cardinals promised, or the latest Vatican issue. Then there are priests who agree with everything you (and I) are against. Locally we have some very good groups working for what you are interested, such as Future Church. I would suggest that you get involved wherever you can.


      • phrogge,

        I am involved with ACC and we have a listening session we are preparing for in May. We have asked our Bishop to come and listen along with the priest of our deanery. We made it very plain the we would speak and he (Bishop) would listen and He has agreed to that. We will have a second session where he will speak and we will listen. Not too many Bishops are that willing, so our prep will include charity, as well as what is on our minds. I do appreciate our parish priest very much. Mine, Fr. Rich, literally saved my life both physically and spiritually. I am a survivor of clergy abuse as a young adult many years ago and when I first joined this parish I had just returned from a 5 month stay with my brother who had terminal cancer. It was there I learned he was an ephybophile predator and that his diocese had paid off the survivors very quietly . Even with the Dallas Charter his diocese has yet to acknowledged to the laity any abuses or pay outs. And they went to great length to keep me quiet..While their method was only guilt ridden it was not as draconian as the original method was many years ago—6 weeks of ECT ( Shock treatment in its original form). My parish priest saw to it that I got great professional care. even though neither event took place here in Montana.. So yes I have the greatest respect for our parish priests and I do like my bishop. He had the audacity to appoint an woman to head CRS much to the chagrin of his fellow bishops, Now every thing he puts up for a vote is denied. We understand he is in the minority but we are thankful he is willing to listen to us. and will carry our thoughts to his fellow bishops. All of us realize it is our job to cultivate and plant seed, the harvest will be for others. We just wish more parish priest would be more encouraging and not so silent.

  6. phrogge Says:

    Magy, after “pondering” your comments and our recent correspondence, in my homilies at several Masses this past weekend I listed what, based on what I have heard, I thought were the fears and angers coming from the folks; women angered at being denied what they feel is full rightful status in the Church as well as the discussion of women’s health issues and contraception, anger at how the HHS insurance mandate is being handled on any of the many sides of the issue, anger at how the bishops seem to be separated from and ignorant of real life, anger at the new missal and how it was foisted on us, anger at the sex abuse situation and the bishops’ handling of it, locally with the Vatican reversing the bishop’s closing of 14 parishes and his perceived ignoring of the people’s requests, lack of accountability of finances together with the local capital campaign and the way it is being run (this last is especially true among the priests who question the style and ethics of the fundraising process), church authorities threatening anyone, esp priests, who disagree with their interpretation of anything,the rise and influence of “religious police”, etc. I also spoke with some in diocesan staff who had reasons why the folks should not be feeling any of this. The reaction, of course was mixed. I took the position that whether we agree with these angers or not, they are still there, are very real, and have to be dealt with in a constructive and charitable manner because they will not just go away, and these are real folks. One parish where I celebrated Mass had just received their letter from the Vatican and were still euphoric. The other two were at a parish that was not part of the closings. At one Mass half the folks stood and applauded. So, we’ll see where this goes, if anywhere.


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