Here at the Open Tabernacle we like to promote “Progressive Catholicism” – but are sometimes accused of spendiing more time and space specifying exactly what we are against (and why), and not enough clarifying what we are for.
We may have an opportunity here to redress that balance, without having to think things through from scratch. Patheos has an ambitious and impressive “Future of Religion” series, which includes as a sub-section the future of the Catholic Church. A “sub-section” it may be, but the collection is nevertheless impressive for its breadth of approach, and the range of 20 contributors. I hope over the coming weeks to introduce and discuss some of these that particularly interest me. I know that readers will respond with their usual frankness in the comments thread – but I hope that you will also read some of these for yourselves without waiting for me, and respond either by submitting your own thoughts on them, or by suggesting the ones you would most like to see discussed. You can also follow or join some discussion at what Patheos describes as the “Catholic Portal” blog, Summa This, Summa That
(My colleague and fellow Open Tabernacle contributor Colleen Kochivar- Baker has already featured and commented on Tim Muldoon’s contribution at Enlightened Catholicism – where it has 15 comments. Have a look here).
(Before I get into any commentary myself on a particular viewpoint, I would like to point out that the simple concept that this series represents, encapsulates one important component of what in my view, a future church ought to be: a communal enterprise in which all have an opportunity to propose, comment, discuss and disagree – whether priest, religious women, or lay people. The image above, and the idea behind the website from which it is taken, represents another).
Here is the list of contributions you can find at Patheos – and the links:
1) Out of the Shadows: A Call for Reform by Kevin Appleby (Office of Migration and Refugee Policy, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Church involvement in immigration reflects both policy and pastoral concerns.
2) To Be the Balm: Challenges and Chances Facing Our New Priests
by Fr. Robert Barron (Founder, Word on Fire global media ministry)
Now is a great time to be a priest. Some of the holiest saints have emerged during periods much like our own, fraught with difficulties and rich in opportunities.
3) No More Time to Waste: Challenges for the Church
by Kathy Coffey (National speaker, Retreat leader, and Author)
Christians can’t waste time judging, carping, and condemning. Let’s get on with the task of being Christ to a hungry, hurting world.
4) Young Adult Catholics: Telling Our Own Stories
by Kate Dugan and Jennifer Owens (From the Pews in the Back)
If young Catholics more honestly grapple with how and why we are Catholic, we might emerge with a very different version of what Catholicism is and how we do it. We need to begin to tell the story of our own Catholic identity, and it won’t be the story of our parents or grandparents.
5) Multifaceted but Cohesive: The Sustaining Power of the Communal Tradition
by Michele Dillon (University of New Hampshire)
In continuity with its past, the future of Catholicism will undoubtedly incorporate new strands into its theology, organizational structure, and everyday practices.
6) There and Back Again: The Roman Catholic Church in America’s Next Decade
by Hugh Hewitt (Professor of Law and Nationally Syndicated Radio Show Host)
“We are witnessing the opening of a great evangelical era in American Catholicism.”
7) Taking the Catholic Church’s Pulse: From Vatican II Forward
by James Hitchcock (St. Louis University )
The growth of lay movements, the rise of Christian ecumenism, and the expansion of Catholic faith in the global south are all signs of health.
8) The People of God: In America, Europe, and the Southern Hemisphere
by Ted G. Jelen (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)
Four major trends in contemporary Roman Catholicism will pervade a global church and pose both challenges and opportunities.
9) The Future Priest: Married with Children?
by Deacon Greg Kandra (News Director for New Evangelization Television (NET))
The Church will eventually have married priests, for reasons that are as much pastoral as pragmatic. And the Church will not have a good reason to keep saying no.
10) Casting Out Fear: Imagining a Sympathetic Church
by Rev. James Martin, S.J. (Author and Culture editor, America magazine)
The Catholic Church needs to listen to the voices of all sorts of people who have much to offer from the experience of their lives as faith-filled members of the Body of Christ.
11) Mysticism and the Community
by Tim Muldoon (Catholic theologian, writer, and spiritual director)
Tomorrow’s Catholic Church will be a communion of mystics who see their task as rooted in the incredible command of Jesus to love the neighbor.
(Read Colleen’s commentary at Enlightened Catholicism)
12) Save the Boomers, Save the World: Redeeming Culture
by Barbara R. Nicolosi (Screenwriter, Chair of Act One Program)
The Boomers’ exit from cultural influence creates a two-sided pastoral challenge for the 21st-century Church.
13) Only the Saints Can Save Us
by J. Peter Nixon (Author)
Our children and grandchildren are abandoning the faith because they perceive — rightly — that its demands are at fundamental variance with the lives we have prepared them to lead.
14) A Bright Future: The Church in the World
by Thomas Peters (Author and Blogger at American Papist)
The universality and deeply rooted tradition of the Church will both benefit from 21st century technology.
15)The Future of Catholicism Is the Beautiful Mess of Me
by Shu-Fy H. Pongnon (Assistant News Director, NETNY)
The Church is a beautiful mess of people, places, and things that will alternately horrify and inspire you.
16) From Hebrews to Hangzhou to Wholeness
by Elizabeth Scalia (Patheos Catholic Portal Manager)
Like the Magi, the Church has been traveling resolutely West, and it has nearly come full-circle; it is bringing new treasure from the East and up from Africa. There is almost a sense of completion to this.
17) Absent Friends: The Slow March-away of Sleeping-In Millions
by Paul Snatchko (Blogger and marketing manager)
I worry that this slow march-away of sleeping-in millions may portend the future of our beloved Catholic Church in the United States and the world.
18) Morning, Noon and Night in the Virtual Pews
by Sister Mary Ann Walsh (Director of Media Relations, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)
Today the challenge for church leaders is twofold: to speak out and to make their voices heard. The former takes courage, but the latter is no easy task because it demands that leaders take to the Web and other forms of social media to spread the Gospel.
19) Orthodox Catholics, Cafeteria Catholics: Signs of Crisis and Signs of Hope
by John Kenneth White (Catholic University of America)
There is more light than darkness, more hope than pessimism, that the U.S. Catholic Church will adapt to a new century and, once again, attract new congregants.
20) The Catholic Church in American Politics: A Look Ahead
by J. Matthew Wilson (Southern Methodist University)
The American Church can and must do a better job of communicating, both to its own members and to those beyond itself, the range and force of its position on other morally consequential political questions.