New Signs of the Cross: A Critique of Channel
13's Series on the Catholic Church in Maine


  PART 1

 

When a friend called to say that our Bishop was appearing on one of the local CBS affiliates, Channel 13's 6 PM news broadcasts, I was curious about the 3-part series on the Church in Maine [prior to the pederasty scandal], none of them very positive as it turned out. If the Catholic Church as seen through the lens of the secular media is any indication, we are in serious trouble, spiritually and socially. Of course we need to retain our perspective when we consider that most media reports of the Church are natural set-ups, since the media elites, where not overtly anti-Catholic, are abysmally ignorant of our beloved Faith and her institutional expressions of those beliefs and practices. But even if only a part of that lens is accurate, we are in trouble if only because we cannot possibly get fair coverage and since the Catholic populace watches the local news, it sees the Church through the same distorted lens. After thinking about the segments which aired Monday through Wednesday of that week, some time past, it occurs to me that the media views the Catholic Church as just another socio-political organization, ready-made for agitation and revolutionary change. And as one has come to expect, unfortunately, those members of the Church who oppose its traditions and Tradition itself, or who have chosen to separate themselves from her Sacraments, have more air time versus the faithful who are trying their best to remain that way. Bishops who want to be liked, but who have to at least put in an appearance of orthodoxy publicly, are caught in their own hapless web more easily used by the media to reinforce their own biases, while trying to up the ratings.

The general public, broadly viewed, likes to see the Church with problems so it can feel vindicated about its prejudices against the Catholic Church in its traditions. If they didn't, Channel 13 wouldn't bother to waste its time. As one local media mogul told me privately, "controversy and conflict is what it is all about." He added, "if you can't supply the conflict, we won't come." This was the response from his media outlet, when I asked for publicity on a local school busing crisis. He was not interested in helping out the school kids and their harried parents unless there was something in it for his paper. I kid you not. I have never been able to forget this and probably never will. With those two lines I received a Ph.D. in media savvy. Later on when I was editor of a small Catholic monthly, I realized the natural temptation to have this attitude and put it into practice, but I prayed I would never succumb. I remember the angry letters and subscription cancellations when I would not use salacious material or controversy for its own sake, just to get readers' attention. [There was plenty for other reasons.] I have no regrets even now. As the boundaries are pushed out further and further, the media is no longer satisfied with facts, but factoids and outright lies, the bigger the better, the nastier the nicer.

The first segment [they were each about five minutes] covered the Church's decline in priestly vocations, and you guessed it, folks, celibacy was presented as the cause.  A woman advocating married men, etc., for ordination provided the standard cliché that has become stale regarding celibacy: celibacy is that old devil culprit preventing men from becoming priests. Some observations about what was left out and should have been included about the vocational decline:

1. No one mentioned the same dismal statistics which apply to mainline Protestant Churches and also from the Eastern Orthodox: they too, have a decrease response, yet celibacy is not mandatory for those religious groups. Knowing this statistic buries the bugaboo of celibacy, they mustn't let that inconvenient fact out for public consumption. Even more inconvenient questions might begin to arise from the faithful, questions too embarrassing to answer?

2. The sexual urge to marry and have children is built into human nature and has always been strong, especially in the past when living in sin, was, well, living in sin, and fewer engaged in it. Now, since the instinct to marry has always been strong, if celibacy as a requirement was such a deterrent to a man accepting a vocation to the priesthood, Church history would be replete with vocational crises, which it never was. In fact, just taking America as an example, taking the decades when priestly vocations were answered at their strongest level, we find the following Catholic-cultural factors that have virtually disappeared: obedience to the ban on birth-control, respect for the priesthood as a vocation, not a "profession," clearly defined roles of the ministerial priesthood and the leaven of the faithful as lay men and women, and widespread Eucharistic adoration. Today we have a spiritually truncated Mass that is no longer valid in some if not all locales, the laity as "ministers," and priests who are no longer anything  but mere "presiders." As for Eucharistic adoration, in most parishes, forget it, probably a good thing because there is doubt about validity of the Consecration, so who would want to risk more sacrilege? But where the Eucharist is diminished by whatever means, intended or not, the light of the vocational call diminishes correspondingly.

When this column first appeared in a Catholic monthly, Father Paul Marx, then the President of Human Life International, and who had once come to Maine to speak, was already on record as making the connection between contraception and the decline in the response to the vocational call. Now as this column reappears here on the web, a recent front page story in our local paper announced to the world that Maine has the lowest birth rate in the nation and is dependent on immigration just to maintain a balance between the young and the old, and which it apparently is not succeeding at. Catholics who speak of the birth dearth are laughed at and derided, but then every once and a while a secular source will validate our claims, albeit, unwittingly. The article failed to mention that statistically, Maine is one-fourth Catholic, so even if only Catholics were having babies as God wills and not the population doom-sayers will, they alone could make a difference if only to keep the balance, setting aside any real growth. The article was clear: Maine is in population balance trouble, so the only conclusion one can reasonably draw from the report is that Catholics are contracepting, too, and at the same rate as the general child-bearing age population. The only real population growth, baby-wise seems to be from unmarried women, although the article did not address this, but other reports elsewhere speaks of from 35-67% of children born being born to unmarried women, depending on the race. Everywhere I go people gasp if someone says they have more than 2 children. More than 2, I am not kidding. One person said to a woman, who had but 3 children, "haven't you heard of the pill?" She actually said this. Another in my presence again, told another woman who also had 3 children, "O wow! what a large family!" Can you imagine how she would have reacted if that person had 7 or more? They probably would have had to rush her to an emergency hospital room for revival.

How can contracepting couples inspire devotion to the Church, the kind of self-control and discipline that celibacy requires, in their children, especially their sons? Surely it cannot be coincidental that the decline in the answer to a vocational call is paralleled by the rise in contracepting Catholics? One contracepting couple admitted to me that although they had but two children, they wanted more grandchildren and could not spare either of their two offspring for a vocation. They chose to deliberately not encourage religious vocations. So they must expect their two to contracept also, otherwise one of their two could have many children, all other things being okay, which they did not indicate was the not the case.

In this segment of Channel 13's series, there were some clips with priests responding to questions. All of them were vague on the cause of the decline in the acceptance of a call to the religious life. Even the Bishop appeared to be at a loss, although he said he was determined to do something. A few years ago, he made an effort, a new vocations director was appointed, and glossy posters were put up in the back of parish churches. But these could not have helped, but actually hurt, if only to increase the confusion that causes young people to say why be a priest? [Perhaps you have seen them?]

These posters are quite attractive as popular art goes. There are variations but each has the same sort of priest figure, handsome, under fifty, wearing his Roman collar and clerical suit, who is engaging in conversation with either a young man or a young woman, one on one. All of them depict, supposedly the priest asking [after all, he has answered the call and is already ordained, so nobody would ask him the question] "Have you thought of a vocation to the priesthood?" The problem here is that some of the posters, as we just said, feature a young woman with the same question written across the poster. Now of course, the poster could be meaning to portray one of the roles of the priests, counseling young people in various matters or encouraging her to be nun. But, even if that is what the poster means to depict, the way it is worded it is misleading because, except for the sex of the young person, it looks exactly like the one with the young man. And in that one you get the clear idea that the priest is speaking to the young man about the priesthood. So the other one is puzzling, certainly sowing the seeds of confusion. Posters are like quick sound bites. They aren't by design meant for reflection and investigation to figure them out.

3. Altar girls, that's right, altar girls. Remember that before the Novus ordo mess, way before, if you are old enough, when there were no longer the established minor orders acolytes, but that the non-order altar boys were instituted? One of the reasons given for accepting this unprecedented change was that there was a direct link between service at the altar and an increased likelihood of answering the call. As altar girls have proliferated in the diocese and altar boys decreased, as natural as the rain in spring, given the latency period of the normal age range of altar servers' beginning service and all that entails [boys do not want to do the same things as girls, a normal developmental stage] the potential for recruits through this avenue has dwindled. And remember when those of us who objected to altar girls, which are not mandated, by the way, they are an option permitted where necessary, we were ridiculed precisely because we referred to the possible drop-off in interest in the priestly life? Just recently one pastor announced in his parish bulletin that he needed more boys, he had enough girls, apparently, and in his plea he made a direct link with vocations.

4. The Tridentine or Roman rite seminaries and orthodox Novus ordo seminaries are expanding because of increased vocations.

 Traditional Catholic young men are not born eunuchs, so celibacy cannot possibly be the key issue. Could not it be that the lack of orthodoxy itself is a large part of the problem why young men are not responding to the call, if they can even hear it in the first place? With a few notable exceptions, the problem is compounded by our two bishops themselves, almost as if it was deliberately manufactured, for two reasons:

[1] They have relegated much of their duties to professional staff, often possessing and unafraid to assert their modernist agenda onto a bewildered laity. At the same time they court liturgical abuse and sacrilege because they seem unwilling to do much about this scandal. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is now just a meal and some Masses, if they are still that, are so banal and even contemptuous of Christ, that many Catholics, such as myself, flee in horror. I have lost count on how many "Masses" I have bolted from, sometimes not reaching the car before I vomited on the sidewalk. No shortage of altar boys at the Mass of Pope Saint Pius V. It is odd that Channel 13, supposedly so well known for its investigative reporting has no idea about any of this. When I recall what they have "done to the Mass," I weep, sometimes uncontrollably. It is a crime even worse than abortion and other forms of mass-murder, it is a crime against the humanity of Christ Himself, not even to say His Divinity!

[2] Homosexuality and or extremely unmanly appearing and acting priests. What normal young man could possibly be inspired by such as these poor men? Almost half of the priests in our diocese-----I can't say about other dioceses-----exhibit these characteristics. When a priest, apparently in good standing, is allowed to walk around on the "altar" wearing an earring, and hanging out with known homosexuals, not for converting them by those who have witnessed this, as Christ did, but strictly for having a good time, what sort of message does this send? Pair that with the pro-homosexual columns in the Church paper, knowingly tolerated by the Bishop, well, need we say more?

As bad as this first segment was it got worse. Continued forward for the conclusion.

 

BACKE-MAILNEXT

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