When will Bishops Wake Up?
A phenomenon I find most interesting is the paradox between the "edifice" of the Catholic Church and what you might call "awake" Catholics.
By the "edifice" of the Catholic Church I mean the bishops and the structures as well as the people who go to Mass on Sundays but don't engage with Catholic news. The Sunday Catholics or the cultural Catholics.
Awake Catholics are the Catholics we all should really trying to be: Engaged with the process of Theosis; trying to be disciples. Catholics who pray at home with their children, Catholics who care passionately about the Blessed Sacrament as the source and summit of our faith. Catholics who read something other than The Tablet or the National Catholic Reporter. Who engage with the faith as an antidote to the sickness we see in the secular culture.
The edifice is crazy about Pope Francis in a way I've never seen with any previous Pope. If you look at their websites or Twitter feeds, they are drenched in quotes, news and ecological messages. Cardinal Vincent Nichols recent pastoral letter is an excellent example, it is replete with mentions of the Holy Father, as if every syllable uttered has to be connected with Pope Francis and bishops have no authority to teach apart from Jorge Bergoglio.
Northampton Diocese has gone Migrant and ecology crazy:
My own Diocese of Brentwood only posts about these issues on their social media, this is just this morning's offering:
No one is interacting with this stuff they are pumping out and I honestly believe this is what they want. It is uncontroversial, inoffensive, it doesn't engage with anyone and no one engages with it. They've been doing this for decades now and few Catholics can tell you even the basics of faith. There are fewer and fewer vocations, there is less and less money, but the dioceses are still asset rich, so as they run out of clergy to run parishes and parishioners to pay for Church buildings, the next part of the plan is to start selling off the assets.
Even a perfunctory interaction with any of these "mainstream" contact points would leave one thinking that Catholicism was about saving migrants and the planet and that Pope Francis is the infallible god-king of Rome. An objective view is that, in the words of Roland, Stephen King's protagonist in The Dark Tower, "they have forgotten the face of their Father".
Meanwhile, in the Awake Catholic world, EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE!!
There are hundreds of producers with hundreds of thousands of supporters and they are talking about the stuff that matter to awake Catholics.
Over the last couple of weeks literally everyone is talking about whether Pope Francis is the Pope, whether he has deposed himself by teaching heresy, whether he is a bad pope we have to put up with, whether we need to resist, etc etc etc. The contrast with the image portrayed by dioceses could not be greater.
It's not just crazy lay people, bishops and cardinals are talking about this as well! Even the secular world has caught on and are discussing "is the Pope Catholic?", yet our dioceses seem absolutely determined to ignore this, even as the Vatican threatens to remove good bishops from their posts for daring to tell the faithful to stick to the Catholic faith in the face of the Synod on Synodality and initiates yet another cover up of abuse regarding the case of disgraced Jesuit Marko Rupnik.
I am not coming to you with answers on any of these questions. I just feel incredibly sad that this is happening at all, although I am glad that it is. It needs to happen, because it demonstrates that the Catholic Church is full of people who are passionate about the Gospel and are striving to live according to the Magisterium. The Pope and certain Vatican elements may have thought we weren't paying attention or did not care, but we are and we do and the clamour on Twitter (or X), Youtube, Facebook etc is the clearest example of that reality. The discord being created by Pope Francis should be evidence enough - whatever side of the divide you are on - that we have a massive problem in this pope and the direction he is taking. He is soft on abuse, he is averse to doctrine and the Magisterium, he dislikes Tradition, he insults the faithful.
The fact that Catholic dioceses continue to cite him as if it gives them some sort of imprimatur only demonstrates how out of touch they really are with the feelings and interests of engaged, awake Catholics - not just lay people - priests as well. This malaise is increasingly worrying. It seems Catholics no longer consider Scripture as instructive for life, that the Church's moral teaching has no relevance in a world of pornography, broken relationships and transgenderism. Few Catholic schools teach the faith, fewer families come to Mass. We don't teach our children about mortal sin, confession and the powerful help available from Holy Communion received in a state of grace. We don't care about getting to heaven - everyone goes there anyway according to most people!
But awake Catholics know the faith does make a difference and they talk and act like the Catholic Church has the powerful, real answers for all the crises our culture is experiencing. The disconnect is killing us. I had a long talk with a twenty-something year old brought up Catholic but baffled by working for the bishop's conference and finding that none of the bishops acted like they believed the Catholic faith or what the Church teaches. She had been unable to find anyone to talk to about her concerns and questions despite a Catholic education. Catholic formation simply does not take place in too many parishes and even where it does, it stops after Confirmation. This young lady's biggest obstacles to embracing her faith are hypocrisy and authenticity: the deficit between what she reads the faith is and the way she sees it being lived out. This should not be shocking news to us! So when are we going to start acting like we mean it?