21 December 2011
Some Good Points in the Catholics Come Home Campaign Need to Be Reinforced by Catholic Parishes
Well, obviously, asking Catholics who have fallen away from the faith to reconsider the Church is a good thing, as is seeking to bring non-Catholics to the truth of the Catholic Church. So, why the title of my post?
First, I am skeptical that the kind of ad campaign used in this effort will have major effect to convert hearts and minds. The website and videos used are professionally produced, and seek to target the emotive response of a commercial consumer, rather than to focus on the content of the faith. I'm not saying that hitting the emotions is wrong-- we are human beings of flesh, blood and emotions. And in a world of short attention spans, and considering the medium employed, there isn't enough time to really drive home lots of substance. So the problem isn't that the ads are bad, they are merely incomplete. And they are superficially compelling, with a similar feel to the ubiquitous "I'm Zebulon Pike and I'm a Mormon" ads.
The issue for me is that, at best, this type of commercial campaign will get people to "try" going to Church. But what will they find when they wander in to their local parish Sunday Mass?
And here is where the video embedded above gets more right than the average Catholic parish. Among other things, here are some good points of the video that may not be reinforced in our parishes:
The rich intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church: the ad reminds us that the Church, far from being the backwards opponent of scientific progress, has done more to advance the cause of scientific and intellectual development than any other institution. How well do our schools impart a total Catholic formation that integrates the truths of faith and the truths of the created world? Even in schools that teach the truths of the faith, there is usually a secular compartmentalization of the "the faith" (internal, private, imminent and not to be forced on others) with "science" (real, objective, opposed to faith and superior to faith). Our schools' approach often--by lack of integration-- relegates the faith to the realm of the imaginary, instead of acknowledging that truth is one and entire, and cannot suffer contradiction in either Catholic dogmas or in the physical world.
The Catholic Church, inspired by God, compiled the Bible: Yes, that Bible: the Bible that is used by non-Catholics to lure away Catholics from the Church; the Bible that Catholics supposedly don't read, don't understand, and don't follow. This is the Bible that every person on earth can thank the Catholic Church for compiling and promulgating. Without the Catholic Church, there is no Bible. The Church defined it, is the authority over its interpretation, and is the authority over its rightful use. Do our parishes make this point effectively? In the multiplicity of readings at Masses, in the pulpits, do Catholics hear this preached? Do Catholics know that it is impossible for the Catholic Church to be "unbiblical"? How many former Catholics were duped by religious sects into abandoning the only truly biblical Church on the charge of being unbibilical? Do pastors warn their flocks about the dangers of participating in protestant Bible studies, where heterodox interpretations of scripture are inevitable?
The Catholic Church is the one true Church: the video soft-sells this one a bit (as have many modern pastors with disastrous results), but makes the point that the Catholic Church has the fullness of Christian faith, has an unbroken history of 2,000 years of apostolic succession and that the Popes have led the Church "in truth". How many parishes reinforce this point, or even believe it enough to teach it? Catholics are told from the pulpits to dialogue with other religions and denominations. They see the example of pastors and prelates willing to engage in common prayer (at best) or even communio in sacris (at worst) with just about any religion. They are told not to judge, and rightly so. But are they ever informed that "Hey, you are right to be Catholic, and that there is a very good reason to be one"? Do the pastors really stress the need for baptism of our children as soon as possible after birth? Or are they told it doesn't really matter?
The vital importance of the Mass: the Mass and the reality of the Eucharist are depicted in several shots of the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration/Benediction. I won't go into Forms, but are the Masses of our local parishes celebrated with at least as much reverence as shown on this video? Do our parishes have Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction?
The "little things" are important: I say "little things" as a shorthand, because these may not in fact be "little things" at all. What does this video show?: The "clericalism" of priests dressed as priests, doing priestly things. Religious brothers and sisters dressed as religious brothers and sisters. Girls--wearing veils (!)-- kneeling (!) to receive Holy Communion on their tongues (!) from a priest (!) with an altar boy holding a paten to prevent profanation of the Sacred Host (!). Throw in the beauties of worship like incense, beautiful Churches, sacred vestments, etc. and you've really got something. In the video, I mean. Only you can answer the question of how often these "little things" are present in your parishes.
In short, my take on the Catholics Come Home campaign is this-- it is a good effort, but will those we convince to reconsider the faith actually recognize what they see at the local parish as consistent with what in the ad campaign convinced them to give the faith another try?