What's Wrong With This Picture?

Marquette Baseball TEam.jpg

I was shocked when, just a few years ago, I came across this picture of my 3rd grade baseball team. What shocked me was the faces of the players. It wasn’t that most of the players, except me, were smiling. It’s that they were beaming. With 6 of my own children, all of whom played sports in grade school, I’ve seen lots of pictures of teams my children played on. In these pictures, the kids might have been smiling, but their smiles weren’t like those of my 3rd grade baseball teammates.

So what’s wrong with the picture? Well, for starters, you can quickly see that we did not have uniforms. We did not even have identical baseball caps.

Here’s what’s really wrong about the picture. It’s not something that would be readily apparent. The only parents that came to our games were the two coaches, both of whom appear in the picture. Why didn’t the parents come? And how could the boys be smiling with exhilaration when their parents weren’t going to their games?

Back in those days, my teammates and I were simply PLAYING baseball, with the emphasis on PLAYING. The fact that we were just playing at baseball meant that it wasn’t important enough to our parents or to us that the parents should have been expected to attend our games. There was very little difference between our playing in the backyard and playing in a baseball league. There was no peer pressure on parents to show up at a baseball game for 9 and 10 year olds.

Of course, today it’s different. Kids start organized sports even earlier. They all have uniforms. Virtually all the parents show up, because you’re considered to be a good parent if you go to every event your child is involved in, and you’re a bad parent if you don’t. With all the parents present, there is a lot more pressure to perform well and to win. Many of the parents get upset with the coaches, the umpires and the opposing team.

The smiles of the children aren’t the same as with my 3rd grade team. And the faces of so many of the parents are characterized by glazed eyes, as at each game they settle in for one more event at the all too familiar gym, or pool, or auditorium.

I know that parents today enjoy watching their children play sports. At the same time, I also know that there is the considerable force of parental peer pressure to attend every single event their children are involved in. And the reality is that the presence of parents at a ten-year old child’s event has a low level of significance.

I wish that parents would save more of their energy for more substantive aspects of parenting, such as meaningful communication, formation in faith and virtue and general education. I am concerned that parents, after arriving home from their child’s baseball game, decide that being at the game satisfies their parenting responsibilities for that day or that evening. It’s far more important what happens under our roofs than on the field or in the gym.

A Suggested Letter to Your Priest or Bishop

I have been associated with a group that has been meeting weekly to study discipleship since May of this year. With all that has happened concerning sexual abuse, Cardinal McCarrick and related issues, our group has detoured some from our original purpose in order to discuss the state of affairs in the Catholic Church. Eventually, the group decided to invite our pastor to join us for a frank discussion, with the hope that the conversation would help us individually and as a group discern how we might take action to address the Church’s problems.

Here is a draft of our letter. We encourage you to use it, edited or not, for yourself or for a group of which you are a member. So copy it, paste it, edit it or just use it as inspiration for what you and people you know would like to communicate to your shepherds.

Dear Pastor:

Our [describe group] Group has been meeting since ______ of this year. In addition to our normal activities, the events that have taken place in the Catholic Church in recent months have also been the subject of our study and discussion.

Without getting into all the details, the basic concern of our group is that there appears to be an overall lack of accountability in the culture of Catholic clergy. In addition to a lack of adequate vigilance regarding sexual abuse and homosexual behavior on the part of clergy, the clergy have generally been passive with respect to a number of other issues: couples cohabiting outside marriage, Catholic married couples receiving Holy Communion despite not following the Church’s teachings on contraception, Catholic politicians supporting abortion rights, the frequency of annulments of marriage and the overall confusion of many Catholics on other moral issues.  It seems to us that our clergy could be providing helpful clarifications on documents and statements issued by Pope Francis and which are additional sources of confusion.

 Our group wishes to meet with you to have an open discussion about the issue of clergy accountability. We strongly desire your wisdom and advice. As do many Catholics, we have a desire to take action in some way, yet we want to make sure we have received the full benefit of your perspectives on the various specific issues that concern us. 

Please let us know if you would be willing to meet with us and when such a meeting might take place. 

The Big Question for Catholics Who Are Striving To Be Faithful

Whether someone agrees or not with what Archbishop Vigano has been writing and doing, in his “Third Statement” released this past week, he asks the question that is now confronting every Catholic in the United States who is striving to be faithful to the established teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Here are Vigano’s words: “How could you, you who were aware of the truth, remain silent in the midst of so much falsehood and depravity?”

This is the question every one of us must ask ourselves.

What is the truth that forces us to respond? This truth is that it is all too apparent that there is very little accountability for the clergy in the Catholic Church.

For years, even decades, “Catholic” politicians have been voting to support and even expand abortion rights in the United States. Priests and even bishops have been guilty of sexually abusing minors and adults. The Pope, and many cardinals, bishops and priests have openly supported and encouraged unchaste homosexuality. It is clear that there is a serious problem with homosexual priests and bishops. Pope Francis has issued statements and documents which compromise the traditional moral teachings of the Church. Almost the entire clergy, including our most orthodox bishops and priests, has abandoned placing any significant emphasis on the Church’s teachings on contraception. We all know that the great majority of Catholic married couples are not adhering to the Church’s teachings on contraception. Our Church teaches that this is a mortal sin. Shouldn’t this be a prominent issue in the Church?

Vigano refers in his Third Statement to the “conspiracy of silence” in the Catholic Church. As to all of the circumstances described above, which cry out for at least someone in authority to acknowledge the problem and seek correction, there is a conspiracy of silence. There has finally been a response to the sexual abuse of minors, but doctrinal abuse has generally gone unchallenged. Even the response on sexual abuse has been late by many decades and has serious inadequacies.

In many of the blogs and other public discussions on this problem, there are many proposed suggestions as to what the laity should do. The laity are obviously limited by the fact that lay persons will never have authority over clergy under Canon Law. The laity has influence but no authority.

There’s an even bigger problem. It’s clear that the percentage of people who call themselves Catholic and are striving to be faithful to the teachings of the Church is small, much less than 50%. So even if all these Catholics in a particular diocese communicate their concerns, should they expect a substantive response? Are there enough of them to matter? And if there is no adequate response, what do these Catholics do then?

I don’t know the answer. In the past week. I have had several conversations about all this with Catholics whom I know, and similar conversations are going on around the country. The dominant theme is that it is a matter of personal integrity, personal conscience, to do and say something. I’d be curious to know what suggestions you have. I am challenging myself to do something. I’m not sure yet what I’ll do.