I wanted to bring ID reader's attention to a couple of pointed comments by two North American bishops over the past few days. (The emphasis is mine.) What is particularly telling is that both bishops were raised within, and are speaking to people who hail from, two of the most intense, and all encompassing Catholic cultures in history: French Quebec and Spanish Latin America.
1) Cardinal Marc Ouellet says he is surprised at the magnitude of the overreaction to his recent interventions against abortion.
"I have no power," the archbishop of Quebec and primate of Canada said in an interview. "The Church in Quebec has no power anymore."
"Why such a big reaction? Because I am just reminding people of the teaching the Church," he said.
Ouellet faced a wave of negative media attacks, including a popular La Presse columnist calling him an ayatollah and extremist and wishing the cardinal would die of a slow, painful illness for saying abortion was a moral crime, even in cases of rape.
Provincial and federal politicians denounced his remarks, culminating in a unanimous resolution May 19 in the Quebec National Assembly, affirming a woman's right to free and accessible abortion. The resolution also demanded the federal government end its ambiguity on the issue and stop de-funding women's organizations.
The cardinal recognized, however, merely passing a law would not solve the problem. "I am aware that in Canada, in Quebec in particular, you will not reform society at the moral level by teaching morals first," he said.
"It will be through a new evangelization. If you do not meet Jesus Christ, it is very difficult to accept the teaching, the moral teaching of the Church. I am aware of that, even if what we teach is coherent at the rational level."
2) Coadjutor Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles who was installed on Wednesday said this in an interview with the Catholic News Agency:
CAN: What is your view of the state of Catholicism among U.S. Hispanics?
Gomez: “The number of Hispanics self-identifying as Catholics has declined from nearly 100 percent in just two decades, while the number who describe themselves as Protestant has nearly doubled, and the number saying they have “no religion” has also doubled.
I’m not a big believer in polls about religious beliefs and practice. But in this case the polls reflect pastoral experience on the ground.”
CNA: What questions do you see as key for Catholic ministry to U.S. Hispanics?
Gomez: “As Hispanics become more and more successful, more and more assimilated into the American mainstream, will they keep the faith? Will they stay Catholic or will they drift away—to Protestant denominations, to some variety of vague spirituality, or to no religion at all?
Will they live by the Church’s teachings and promote and defend these teachings in the public square? Or will their Catholicism simply become a kind of “cultural” background, a personality trait, a part of their upbringing that shapes their perspective on the world but compels no allegiance or devotion to the Church?
Hispanic ministry should mean only one thing—bringing Hispanic people to the encounter with Jesus Christ in his Church.
All our pastoral plans and programs presume that we are trying to serve Christ and his Gospel. But we can no longer simply presume Christ. We must make sure we are proclaiming him.”
As we are seeing in the west, the most entrenched, integrated Catholic cultures can disappear in a generation or two if that which birthed and sustained that particular culture is not present in that generation. French Quebec was originally founded by – lay men and women, priests, and religious – who were passionate intentional disciples, people whose faith had been set ablaze by the great French revival of the early 17th century that arose from the ashes of decades of religious war between Catholics and Protestants. What was birthed out of transforming conversion cannot be sustained 400 years later by mere convention and institutions.
It is not Catholic culture, in itself, but all that flows in human history from following Jesus Christ, the fundamental heart and Lord of the Church, that sustains the Catholic faith from age to age. It is always the rediscovery of that fundamental heart that revives the Church when she is on the verge of collapse. Without Jesus Christ visibly at the center, the distant remnants of Catholic culture are powerless to awaken faith and generate new life.
In every generation - if you want to evangelize the culture - make disciples.