The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that Cardinal George Pell is calling for all Catholic school principals, deputy principals and religious education coordinators within the archdiocese of Sydney, Australia, to take an Oath of Allegiance to Church teachings.
According to the newspaper, “the oath demands ‘religious submission of intellect and will’ on questions of faith and morals - even if these are inferred but not defined by the pope and his bishops - and an acceptance that everything solemnly taught by church tradition is divinely inspired. It suggests they would be bound not only to impart these teachings but to live by them.”
That such a demand would come from Cardinal Pell (pictured above) doesn’t surprise me in the least. After all, here’s a man who, as I’ve documented in a previous post, has gone on record as saying that “the [Catholic] doctrine of the primacy of conscience should be quietly ditched” as it’s “a dangerous and misleading myth.”
Brian Coyne, who is a co-editor and regular contributor to the always topical and informative Catholica Australia website, has written an insightful commentary on this particular development in Australia (although I do wonder about the source of his statement that “85% of the baptized faithful across the Western world” have left the Church).
Interestingly, Coyne contrasts the crisis of Pell’s “Orwellian style tactic” with what he calls another side of the crisis facing Catholics – the financial and membership crisis in the U.S. of “one of the principal activist groups in the Church,” Voice of the Faithful.
Following are excerpts from Coyne’s commentary, “We’re in a Crisis!”
Which ever way you look at it the Holy Roman Catholic Church is in the midst of an enormous crisis. This morning’s front page story in the Sydney Morning Herald regarding Cardinal Pell’s call for all Catholic school principals, deputy principals and religious education coordinators to take an Oath of Allegiance to Church teachings, underlines the crisis from one side.
One hardly needs to be Methuselah to appreciate the crisis - where 85% of the baptised faithful across the Western world have now vamoosed out the door - has now reached the point where, privately, even principals, deputy principals and religious education coordinators have serious misgivings of what the institutional leaders believe is “the truth”. . .
A serious question [has] to be asked: will Orwellian style tactics borrowed from the Totalitarian States of yesteryear that try to impose compliance on the faithful who are still trying to participate, address the underlying cause of the crisis?
The crisis is not all one-sided though. In news overnight from the United States, one of the principal activist groups in the Church disenchanted with the present direction being forged by the Church’s ecclesial leaders is itself in crisis. Thirty-eight newspapers across the United States yesterday carried an Associated Press story about the financial and membership crisis facing Voice of the Faithful.
The Church faces an enormous crisis at the moment. In the Western world, 85% of the ordinary faithful have just “given up” and quietly walked out the door without leaving any protest notes. They don’t write to the pope, or any bishops or parish priests explaining why they have left. They seem to have figured it simply isn’t worth the effort. No one is listening. These men seem to think they have all the answers, they know God’s mind even better than God knows it himself, and they never make mistakes.
The sad thing is that there are no really effective voices at the moment strong enough to protest. . . .
There is actually cause for some hope. While there has been a massive slide in participation in the spiritual and sacramental life of the institutional Church, this is not matched by any catastrophic decline in interest in spirituality and belief in God or Jesus Christ more generally.
One measure of this is that even though the institution seems to have lost interest in the spiritual welfare of its flock, others, like Papal Knight, Rupert Murdoch, and other media barons and publishers, have perceived there is a significant audience out there with spiritual needs and we have seen a steady increase in “body and soul” type programming.
In Australia the quality of religious programming on our own national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), has increased substantially in recent decades. Less and less of this secular programming is even interested in examining the decline of institutionalised religion and the failings of the existing system and it is forging out endeavouring to meet the aspirations of this now vast sector of the population that has left the likes of Cardinal Pell far, far behind. The people might be sick of the Church. They are not necessarily sick of God, sick of Jesus Christ, or the appreciation that the spiritual side of life is important.
The challenge each of us faces as an individual is where do we place our bets? Do you put your life, and eternity, on the line that the Cardinal has the right answer? Or do we have to strike out on our own? Self-evidently most have chosen the latter. My confident expectation is that the measures the Cardinal is presently implementing — which are basically a regurgitation of the policies that have failed so abysmally for close on 200 years and which have largely been responsible for driving the faithful out of the pews — will only exacerbate the drift. . . .
To read Brian Coyne’s commentary in its entirety, click here.
Image 1: Sydney Morning Herald
Image 2: Catholic News
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Authentic Catholicism: The Antidote to Clericalism
Thoughts on Authority and Fidelity
Keeping the Spark Alive
Reflections on the Primacy of Conscience
The Question of an “Informed” Conscience
Paul Collins and Marilyn Hatton
Our Catholic “Stonewall” Moment