The credibility of the Catholic Church in America is in crisis. This is nothing new. In the mid-90s, flocks of Catholics left for the emotionally appealing alternative of evangelical Christianity. It suited them, with the direct sermons and uplifting music and videos. The Church here had little to entice them back: architecture was reduced to the simplified and the homilies were, largely, pointless. Still, some of the devout clung on, hoping for something in addition to the Eucharist to feed them.
Then came the fallout of 2002, when the devout were forced to deal with the horrors of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. It seemed impossible to believe at first, until the number of cases grew and the number of dioceses involved expanded. One wondered how he could remain in the fold. Hypocrisy seemed to be the norm rather than the exception. Many felt betrayed, others beleaguered; a great number stopped attending altogether. The lawyers fed the bishops with lines to appease the courts and insurance companies, but no lines were provided to appease the remaining faithful.
Then came terror, natural disasters, political disasters and all else. Catholic individuals did tremendous acts to bind the wounds from every side. But the disenfranchisement continued. The voice of the Church as a whole in this country continued to dwindle in relevance. A few bishops made headlines in their convictions, but were swept away under the great tide of the time.
We now live in an age that has little concern for what the Catholic Church in America has to say - about anything. And I don't find the age at fault. I find the Church, as an institution, at fault. It did nothing for itself in the double-speak of its hierarchy. It did nothing for itself in the mind-numbing verbosity of its statements. It did nothing for itself in the handling of the abuse crisis. It did nothing for itself in reaching out, in teaching, in catechizing, a generation of Catholics who, without anything else worth holding onto, only showed up for the Big Moments, the baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.
Homosexual marriage is now legal in this country, to the great consternation of the devout. Bishops will retaliate, offer statements of protest, etc., but no one will care. And no one cares not because the Church doesn't have something to offer, but precisely because the Church is suffocating under the weight of its own apparent and subtle crises.
Then why don't I leave this mess? Why not, instead, immerse myself into the great mess of society-at-large? It is tempting. Especially now, when the spiral is so varnished and alluring. I resist not because of any bishop or structure - or even where I work. I resist because the nature of the Church, despite the slack-jawed folks who speak for it (myself included), is a refuge for the sinner. It's built for the sinner. And so it's home.
Any other place in this world is a shoddy thing.