Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, November 26th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 40 Comments
Rod Dreher directs the Editorial attention to this Joe Carter posting at First Things. Carter notes a study by Notre Dame economist Daniel Hungerman (available here) of the effect of the sexual abuse scandals on the Roman Catholic Church. Remember that smack run by the Episcopal left about how all those disaffected Catholics would flood into Episcopal churches? Ain’t happening:
This paper considers substituting one charitable activity for another in the context of religious practice. I examine the impact of the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal on both Catholic and non-Catholic religiosity. I find that the scandal led to a 2-million-member fall in the Catholic population that was compensated by an increase in non-Catholic participation and by an increase in non-affiliation. Back-of the- envelope calculations suggest the scandal generated over 3 billion dollars in donations to non-Catholic faiths. Those substituting out of Catholicism frequently chose highly dissimilar alternatives; for example, Baptist churches gained significantly from the scandal while the Episcopal Church did not. These results challenge several theories of religious participation and suggest that regulatory policies or other shocks specific to one religious group could have important spillover effects on other religious groups.
More ex-Roman Catholics becoming Baptists than becoming Episcopalians? I guess it might be tempting for some Catholics to write these particular converts off as poorly-catechized and leave it at that. But I think that this situation is or can be a whole lot more complicated than a bunch of people who don’t know their faith well enough.
Quite the opposite.
Full disclosure: I guess it’s no secret that I incline toward the Baptist side of things. Billy Graham taught me the Christian faith (which took him less than an hour as opposed to the years I spent in Episcopal Sunday schools wherein I learned nothing). I was baptized an Anglican because that’s the church my mother attended when I was born.
Fuller disclosure: I’ve always found high-church Anglican liturgy to be a distraction. The liturgies at my old place which spiritually benefited me the most were the low-church ones. The Word of the living God with a minimum of ceremony.
Sir, I would see Jesus, to paraphrase the Gospel of John.
But that’s just me. No one is as honest as they think they are so I’ll never question the motives or the spiritual formation of anyone who is called to swim the Tiber. And those who have made that swim or are currently making it would be wise to refrain from judging anyone swimming in the opposite direction, away from those seven hills.
Because as I said before, these situations are complicated. Commenting at First Things, Terry Mattingly asks:
On your second point: Is it safe to say that the post-Vatican II Church is functionally Universalist? Might that play a role? This would apply to most Mainline Prots as well. Yes, also far too many Orthodox parishes.
To which Sherry Weddell, who, Dreher observes, “was a Baptist who became a Catholic, and founded the St. Catherine of Siena Institute to help lay Catholics understand their faith and to create discipleship programs in their parishes,” responds:
I’d estimate that 95 – 98% of all the Catholics – including pastoral leaders – that I’ve ever worked with are functional universalists. Meaning that concerns regarding the personal salvation of anyone never cross their mind or affect their pastoral decisions and priorities. Roughly the same number are de facto Pelagians.
A Roman Catholic who becomes a Southern Baptist may be poorly catechized. Or he may be catechized well enough to know that if there’s no difference between the message he receives in his Catholic parish and the one proclaimed in the Episcopal church down the street, he’s wasting his time.
But the sacraments, Chris! What about valid sacraments?! What about them? The sacraments benefit you because you know why you go to church on Sundays. But what about your children?
Of what good are the sacraments to them if they’re being taught the Christian faith by functional universalists? If you have no other options, would it not be better for both you and your kids to get into a church situation where at least you know that the foundation will be gotten right and your kids can make their own decisions later on?
Because if the foundation is bad, the house doesn’t stand a chance.