One Peter Five has up today this essay by an anonymous Catholic father who is sick and tired of his church leaving him and his wife alone to raise their kids in a post-Christian culture. He derides the dominant ethos within the Church as “the Culture of McCarrick.” Excerpt:
As a father, I know I am the one responsibility for the moral education of my children. So when we are confronted with boys using girls’ bathrooms or girls dating each other, I have to do two things: provide moral clarity by way of explanation and make certain that I am raising my children in a setting where they will know something is wrong about certain things they have seen or heard.
But is it too much to ask for a little messaging help from the Church? There are beauty and coherence in the Church’s teaching on personal morality – especially as it should be applied to the prominent issues of the day. But it is left unarticulated. Instead, we get accommodations to the zeitgeist veiled as exhortations to “tolerance,” “diversity,” and “mercy.” There is nothing merciful about leaving the truth unspoken.
How long will it be before my children recognize the conflict between the silence from the pulpit and the morality I am teaching and attempting to model for them? Cardinal Timothy Dolan admitted the problem when asked about abortion, so-called “same-sex marriage,” and contraception in a news interview a few years ago. “I look at myself,” he said, “in my almost 37 years as a priest, rare would be the times that I preached about those issues.” As a husband and father, this is not what I need.
At this point, I am not even asking for the Church to be a sign of contradiction in the culture. I’m begging it to preach the fullness of the faith within its own walls and for Catholic schools not to be ashamed of their identity and tradition.
Yes, it is too much to ask. It shouldn’t be, heaven knows, but the first hard lesson I learned about the Catholic Church as a convert in the early 1990s is that most priests are actually embarrassed by the Church’s hard teachings — especially on sex — and will go out of their way to avoid talking about them. To be fair, I’ve been an Orthodox Christian for as long as I was Catholic, and it’s been pretty much the same thing all along. In general, the pastors of the churches are AWOL in terms of offering clear, useful guidance on how to think through these pressing issues. I’m not talking about lousy preachers; I’m talking about even good preachers staying silent, and not standing for anything much more controversial than being a nice person.
That has been my experience. I’d like to know about yours, in your church.
One reason I wrote The Benedict Option is my firm conviction, based in long experience, that parents cannot rely on the institutional churches as allies in raising faithful Christian children. Bishops, pastors, and other leaders are often afraid to take a stand — in part because many in their congregations will punish them for having done so. An Evangelical pastor friend told me yesterday a story about a well-known conservative Evangelical pastor who has been outspoken about homosexuality and the like, but who choked when he had to confront heterosexual sin within his conservative congregation.
At this point, I consider it sufficient if the church isn’t actively working against parents trying to form children in the faith. It is true that you can change a culture by not talking about certain things; in so doing, you give the impression that it’s not important to the church, and therefore negligible in Christian formation. The failures of pastors and religious educators do not let the rest of us off the hook. I know of one Benedict Option-style community in which parents concluded some time ago that the local institutional church was useless in helping them form themselves and their children, so they bought a lot of theologically sound educational material, and are catechizing themselves. They knew that they didn’t have the luxury of waiting on the institutional church to get its act together.
I don’t want to come down too indiscriminately on pastors. If most people hated Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, it wouldn’t be so prevalent in US churches. If you are a pastor reading this, and you would like to teach more clearly and faithfully than you now do, what could people in your congregation do to support you in this?