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Contemporary Catholic Belief and Action

 

The mission of ARCC is to bring about substantive structural change within the Catholic Church by seeking to institutionalize a collegial understanding of church where decision making is shared and accountability is realized among Catholics of every kind and conditio n.
Once people start to believe change is possible, 
the drive to achieve it accelerates. 
                                          -   Patrick Sullivan, ARCC President
 
 
 
Our US Catholic Challenge
 
John A. Dick, Ph.D., S.T.D., Historical Theologian and ARCC Vice-President
 
 

Catholics now make up about 20% of the US population - down from close to 24% in 2007 - but the American Catholic Church is still larger than any other single religious institution in the United States. Catholics in recent years, however, have faced a number of significant challenges: an ongoing decline in membership, a shortage of priests, major financial problems, and continuing revelations of clerical sexual abuse. The US Catholic Church has experienced a greater membership net loss than any other US religious group.

Like contemporary US society, American Catholics, are also highly -- and often heatedly -- polarized. Edison Research exit polls estimate that 52% of all Catholic voters went for Biden this past November, and 47% for Trump. The Edison exit polls in 2016 showed a 46% Catholic vote for Clinton, and 50% for Trump.

US Catholic bishops, with just a few exceptions, have been strongly supportive of Donald Trump, and critical of Democrats and now President Joseph Biden. New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who gave the invocation at his inauguration, was a strong supporter of his "great friend" former president Donald Trump. Cardinal Raymond Burke, former Archbishop of St. Louis and a former Vatican official, is probably the de facto leader of the Church's conservative wing. He calls Democrats the "party of death." 

I guess it was really no surprise then that even before President Biden's inaugural ceremony had finished, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the USCCB - the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops -- issued an extensive statement criticizing Biden for policies "that would advance moral evils," especially "in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender." It is significant to note that the day BEFORE President Biden's inauguration both Cardinal Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, and Cardinal Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, had put intense pressure on Archbishop Gomez to make NO STATEMENT, as did the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. 

Since the late 1970s, conservative US Catholics and evangelicals have been allies in the "culture war" that has shaped US partisan politics. This has been due in no small part to the conservative "reform of the reform" of the Second Vatican Council undertaken by popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and the bishops they appointed to make it happen.

Yes. Today the US Catholic Church is a divided house and it is time for institutional reformation. A change in mentality is certainly needed: one that's more open and inviting, less restrictive, and less confrontational. We need better educated leaders, who have undergone a kind of pastoral renewal with updated historical and theological perspectives.

We all need renewed perspectives. Progressives as well as conservatives. In the process we need to listen to each other with humility, respect, inquisitive minds, and compassionate understanding. No one has all the answers. We are all teachers and we are all learners. We are all believers.....We do need each other. A divided "Body of Christ" is neither life-giving nor Christian. Sooner or later divided houses collapse, but they take a lot of innocent victims with them. 

 
 
 
John A. Dick, Ph.D., S.T.D. (ARCC Vice President and Treasurer)  is a historical theologian - retired from the Catholic University of Leuven and the University of Ghent
 
Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church

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