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The Liberal Catholic Benedict Option

I love, for all the wrong reasons, this National Catholic Reporter piece fantasizing about the future Catholic Church of its liberal dreams. O Fortuna, you are spinning me right round, baby, right round. Excerpt:

CHICAGO, MARCH 13, 2063 — Song leader Sophia Santiago stood to the right of the altar of St. Gertrude Church in Chicago and invited those in the crowded pews and in folding chairs to greet their neighbors. “All are welcome,” she proclaimed.

To the simple notes of a single piano, the parish choir and the congregation sang a sweet, lilting version of “Come to the Water” as liturgical dancers, altar servers, ministers of the word, parish chancellor Emma Okere and pastor Fr. Antonio Fitzgerald processed up the center aisle. The song filled the soaring interior of the 131-year-old structure. On a banner high behind the altar, in large, easily readable lettering, was a quotation from Pope Francis: “Who am I to judge?”

This was one of thousands of celebrations across the globe marking 50 years of rejuvenation and renewal dating from the election of Pope Francis in 2013, popularly called “refreshment of the faith.”

It gets better. In the FutureChurch of the NCR fantasy, there are only a few parishes left, but lots of “pastoral centers”:

In a strip mall a mile and a half to the south, another celebration was being held in a simple storefront. On the large glass window, hand-painted in red and blue, were the words “Lazarus Pastoral Center.”

“For I was hungry and you gave me food.”

Deacon Liam Saranof was reading the Gospel of Matthew to 27 men, women and children seated on folding chairs in the long, narrow space, the former home of an Ethiopian restaurant.

This strip mall was also the home to a bedding showroom, a Subway sandwich deli, a $10 store and a bicycle repair shop, all of them open on this early Tuesday evening.

A short time later, Saranof’s teenage son Karim opened up a small folding table in the center of the space, then carried over a small, brightly painted plastic box containing consecrated hosts that, a few hours earlier, had been delivered by one of the parishioners from St. Gertrude.

“Some of us here think of ourselves also as members of St. Gertrude,” machinist Chloe Pardo explained. “But others are only affiliated with the community here. They like the community work we do; they like how close we become.”

“Machinist Chloe Pardo.” Love it. Read the whole thing, fly the felt banners, and sing a new church into being.

The truth is, the children and grandchildren of those wanting to sing that new church into being will not be Catholics. The future of the (admittedly much smaller) Catholic Church belongs to those who revere the old pope emeritus living out his final days sequestered in the Vatican.

UPDATE: Erin Manning offers this fantastic parody:

Imagine there’s no organ
Felt banners proudly fly
No kneelers below us
Dancers prancing by
Imagine all the faithful
Unfolding their chairs…

Imagine there’s no reverence
It’s pretty hard to care
Nothing much to worship
Nothing that looks like prayer
Imagine plastic boxes
And strip-mall pseudo church…

You may say I’m a dreamer
Stuck in nineteen-sixty-five
But my past shall be your future
So my world will stay alive

Imagine lady deacons
Female chancellors too
No need for priests or Masses
Nothing for them to do
Imagine there’s no pastors
Just unguarded sheep…

You may say I’m a dreamer
Stuck in nineteen-sixty-five
If my past becomes your future
Then the Church will not survive

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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