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August 20, 2003



Peace, Amy.

Great essay. Especially your "tripod" of prayer, service, and catechesis. Most especially your insight of our great need for passion and innovation. At times like these, the family table needs to have all its seats filled.

Neil Dhingra

Dear Amy,

I found this very moving as well, especially, "What is needed now is not for the Church in the US to fix its public image or streamline its institutions. What is needed is for the Church to remember why it exists and tend to that."

Father Ronald Rolheiser addresses something like this in his current column, which I really recommend:


Paul Pfaffenberger


Beautiful and well put. As for the "Situation" ...

Regarding how to treat victims - fewer "victims advocates", more people reading Luke 10 and emulating how the Good Samaritan did things.

Regarding how to treat offending priests -
Fewer psychological review panels, more folks reading Matthew 18 and Jesus' love for children and the serious consequences for those who scandalize them.

I'm tired of reading how our understanding of perps has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Psychologically and socially that's very true, but our focus should be the spiritual and moral reality, which hasn't changed much since Jesus said it would be better to have a millstone around your neck and tossed in the sea than to scadalize a little one. Where is the call for repentance and return to holiness? Where is the outrage about broken vows and broken lives? Where is the compassion that demands confession, penance, and the vow "I firmly resolve, with the help of thy grace, to sin no more ..." Where is the healing from this?

Only in Him. We need to return. Thanks for the reminder.


"Peace be with you ... I will be with you always ... I will come back to take you to myself"

Maybe if we could restore the balance of these Gospel promises we might make headway between the extremes of those who insist that saving one's own soul is all that matters and those who consider Jesus to be a good guru who asks us to just "love each other" and not worry about an afterlife that may or may not exist (and they are legion in all the Christian churches).

Sound teaching, on both the adult and juvenile level, is desperately needed in many parishes.


Among the many fixing suggestions that could be offered up, one major problem is power and leadership. At the present time, the hierarchy leads and the laity is expected to follow without challenge.

Participation is what is needed. If lay people can feel that they can legitimately participate in the direction and structure of their Church, then they'll have ownership. If there's ownership, then there'll be a revitalization of Church life, and the natural elimination of layers of bureacracy that seem to serve little purpose but stifle the Spirit.

If the Bishops, even if only symbolically, began to actively seek lay input, a lot would change for the better.


Amy, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

Our best opening for catechesis is the example of our lives....not our lives as we imagine them or the life of our Church as we "vision" it, but the way those lives are lived out. In an ecumenical context, I often wonder why we think that any other Christian denomination would want to join us ....we're a mess, squabbling among ourselves and acting quite arrogantly. On a personal level, we also fail frequently to live as Christ lived, with integrity and with compassion and genuine love for each other.

Step One is the plank in our own eye. We should not be so eager to proceed to Step Two until Step One is complete. I struggle with this and know it is a life's work.

Carrie Tomko


The squabbles over the Church today reflect a shifting definition of Christ.

Prior to Vatican II, the faith looked different from what you propose and from what we are now experiencinging. The word "love" was seldom mentioned. We talked about "charity" which has a different connotation, and which was only one part of the tripartite formula of faith, hope and charity.

Was Christ, as you propose, about love, fellowship, service to man? Or was Christ the founder of an institutional Church dedicated to worship of the Trinitarian God?

Love without justice is an enabler. Justice without love is an executioner. We simply must find a balance.

That is the short answer. A longer answer involves quotations from Elaine Pagels' book, THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS, but I'll have to blog that one.




Good points and if I may add that we also need to revisit the whole concept of what "holy" means; Christian "love" can become so schmoozy and sentimental that it bears little resemblance to charity.

For us, as followers of Christ, to be "holy" will mean to be "called out", "separated from", "set apart" from those structures of the "world" that encourage greed, selfishness, destruction, those things that keep us from being "whole" in Christ. I am all too aware of how often I fail myself in those very requirements and it is then I turn back to the Gospel promises that give me hope and hear the reassurance of the Resurrected Christ's promise of Peace.

Mike Murdock

I'd second the motion regarding this comment:

It is not that complicated: sacramental life, catechesis and service. There is nothing to re-invent. There is merely the ancient charge, the commision of Jesus to heed and put into action.
However, it's already been seconded, so I guess I'll "third" it?

One rub I see in this formula, though. With excellent catechesis, I think that the other two take care of themselves. I think that's why the institution evolved from just the simple (?) apostolic succession of bishops to its current form, whether Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, with a considerable nudge from Constantine.

Thus, the institution probably should continue, more so in your tradition than in mine, to preserve sound doctrine. Unfortunately, this part of the institution's charge is lagging all across the spectrum.

fr. jim stehly

By the end of your piece, Amy, I was standing and cheering. You've put words on my inarticulate sense of things. Why didn't they invite YOU to that meeting?!?! (Although I wouldn't really wish it on you.)----fr. j.

Tom Mohan

I was shouting Amen!

I am encouraged by the fact that Jesus is kicking a few tables over in His church. I agree that the focus needs to be personal conversion, each of us renewing our faith in the Lord.

I think it appropriate to be thankful whenever it is apparent that hidden evil is brought into the light - be it in my life or in the corporate church. They are embarrassing, but they are now being dealt with. I see alot of activity of the Holy Spirit in the church these days, and in my life, to make us more like Jesus.

Peter Nixon

Amen, sister, Amen!


If anyone here believes that our faith is based on waiting for the other guy to change and become perfect, he's following another example of life than the one Jesus showed us. There is such a call today for "victim souls" - especially by the Holy Father - those willing to take on the sacrifice that those who should have, refused to take on. Does anyone think that these "shepherds" are going to be changed without constant prayer and fasting, etc.? That's why, while these handy little discussion groups are going on, the same little remnant will continue their rosaries, their fastings, their adoration time, etc. in order to be the glue that keeps the Church in God's grace. If we are to truly follow Christ we cannot pick and choose who is worthy of our extra sacrifices. That just shows the infection of the same pride in ourselves. Nothing will be solved by social interaction and more discussion - just look at all the means and forums out there for the past few years with everyone believing his brightest idea is the solution. Humility must come first. Only with the Eucharist, Christ in our very back yards, giving Him the central position once again and our humble devotion to this Presence will those rays that will enlighten the Church be able to penetrate our hearts. Then from the individual heart will, as the Christophers say, the world become brighter and truer, one by one. That's how He works, after all. In such a sophisticated world, this may seem trivial and impossible, yet we are called to the faith of a child...or forget heaven.

Jimmy Mac

I think that most of our problems revolve around being fixated on Churchianity, not Christianity. We Catholics spend most of our time dealing with/arguing about Creed, Code and Cult that we never seem to really concentrate on Christ. Note that I said CHRIST, not Mary, the saints ad nauseum. As much as so many evangelical churches turn faith into works righteousness be means of a time-specific "decision for Christ", I think that, nonetheless, they have a good point. Catholics seem to think that membership in the church is adequate. Obey most of the rules, spend a little time in church, be hatched, matched and dispatched there, and that's good enough. I have found that when so many Catholics "lose their faith" it is a faith in the cult of Catholicism. They are easily snared by someone who can make what appears to be good theological sense (even though it might not be) .... Mormons, JWs, TV preachers ... that they are not prepared to intelligently discern truth from poppycock.


We need to examine, identify, these layers between ourselves and God. Precisely what are they? Do we need them?

To me they are a medieval hangover. There is God.
Trinity. Then to approach God you need to check in with Z and get bumped up the alphabet. In heaven, is it just like earth? I know the answer from some is that the ladder will be reversed. So that will make it all great. Still a ladder. My question: Is heaven merely the inversion of earthly ladders or no more ladders period?


In examining the faith journeys of various evangelical/Protestant converts to the Catholic Church, lay and clerical, known and not-so-known, it becomes very evident that they do bring with them a spirituality that is very Christ-centered and biblically informed. Because of that, their images of Mary, for example, are rooted in her biblical role as the guarantee of the Incarnation, the fact that she always points the way to her Son and prays with the Church as part of, not apart from, its members. Also with the saints, who form that great cloud of witnesses joining their prayers to the Church on earth as part of the Communion that forms the Church.

I have had many conversations with Protestant pastors who freely admit that though the ills evident in the Church at the Reformation needed to be cured, Protestants, too, have lost something in breaking away from the Greater Tradition. John Henry Newman knew that and so do many serious Protestant scholars who admit that the Church without the Gospel is just as impoverished as the Gospel without the Church.

And in this day and age Catholics simply have to stop being spoon-fed their faith. They have to take some personal responsibility for their formation. When I married into a family of Catholics I was amazed at how little my husband and his sisters knew about what the Church REALLY teaches, despite years of Catholic education.

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