Individuals who travel in the Catholic blogosphere are probably familiar with the blog written by Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington DC. It is always informative and often helpful, and features Msgr Pope’s commentary on various Catholic issues, often along the lines of a brief “homily like” post on a topic, consistent with Monsignor Pope’s role as a Pastor of a Washington DC parish. A recent relatively minor post triggered a vigorous response that further illustrates a problem in the Church, and that bears some commentary.
Msgr. Pope recently made a few comments based on data from Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The basic message of the Post was that the number of Priests/ Parish is now very similar to what it was in 1950. The corollary to this item is the suggestion that those (mostly on the Church “right, let’s call them traditionalist,) who decry the current state of the Catholic Church, often citing other statistics, such as falling vocations and declining mass attendance may be overstating the case for Church decline, and that 1950 was not so much better than the situation today, so maybe things are not all that bad. Obviously on this blog we have tended to side with the traditionalists and agree that there is a crisis of faith within the Church. To be fair, Msgr. Pope acknowledges plenty of problems in the Church that need to be addressed. One can view the article in question here . He received a great deal of feedback and it seems a lot of it was hostile from the right, there has been a bit of back and forth over this, and Monsignor Pope’s comments and dismay over the hostility are discussed here.
I do not want to focus on the details of Monsignor Pope’s post. Like all statistics I think the meaning of this particular one can be debated. As I said on the very first post of this young blog’s history we have sympathies with the concerns of the traditionalists. We think there is ample evidence that we are in a cultural crisis that the Church is deeply affected by, and that minimizing this is a recipe for disaster. In fact I think the ratio of Priests/ Parish is not a terribly useful data point, as the number of Parish’s since 1950 and the size of Parish’s has changed. The more relevant statistic would be Priests per number of Catholics, still that is not my main point. The debate over the extent of the current crisis can be deferred to another day.
What concerns me today is the obviously excessive attack on Monsignor Pope who is basically a fellow conservative. It is crucial that those of us on the right do not wander off into a fever swamp pushing away potential allies and leaving the Church to the likes of the LCWR, the National Catholic Reporter and the various heterodoxies crawling about. In order to do avoid this we must adhere to the “5 Commandments for Culturally Conservative Catholics”. More in the next post.