Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois has said that polarization within the Church is corroding the Catholic identity.
I had not heard of Bishop Braxton, so I looked him up (I linked his biographical information to his name above). Bishop Braxton studied for the priesthood at Quigley Preparatory Seminary, Niles College Seminary and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein , Ill., in the Archdiocese of Chicago, where he earned his BA, MA, S.T.B. and S.T. L. degrees. He was a graduate student at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium from 1973 to 1975 where he earned a Ph.D. in Religious Studies and an S.T.D. in Systematic Theology summa cum laude . The focus of his studies was on the pastoral implication of the concepts of sacrament, myth, symbol, metaphor, and metaphysics in the theological methodology of the influential Jesuit theologian Bernard J.F. Lonergan and their relationship to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
Bishop Braxton is clearly a well educated man, and after reading the article, I was not surprised to see that he went to Louvain (or that he is a bishop in Illinois).
So, what did Bishop Braxton have to say? Here is the article: Bishop says polarization in church corroding Catholic identity
The article says that Bishop Braxton contends that:
"The growing polarization in the church since the end of the Second Vatican Council has rapidly eroded the "common meaning" of faith that unites Catholics as a community."
What are the sources of polarization:
Bishop Braxton listed some examples of the deep divisions and doubts in the church:
– Some laity, religious, priests and bishops "feel as it they are living in different 'worlds' from one another, even though they are all members of the one church."
– Some "theologians dismiss the pronouncements of bishops about the orthodoxy of their writings."
– Some "bishops conclude it is not prudent to give permission for certain theologians to speak in their dioceses."
– Some "parents decide to 'home school' their children or withdraw them from leading Catholic universities and enroll them in newer, smaller Catholic institutions that they believe are more faithful to Catholic teachings."
– "A Catholic woman, convinced she is called to the priesthood, joins another ecclesial community that allows the ordination of women."
– Some Catholics "would like to see the Latin Mass -- sometimes even called the 'true' Mass – 'restored' in all parishes, everywhere in the world, for the unity of the church and the inspiration of the faithful."
– Some Catholics "feel perfectly free to change prayers and Scripture readings at Mass to make the language more 'inclusive.'"
The role of a bishop is not to choose sides but to try to resolve conflicts while defending church teachings and help individuals in their spiritual journey to happiness, he said.
"I must be at the side of each and every person in the community of faith," he said.
"The fact that I am firmly at the side of each of you does not and cannot mean that I agree with those who oppose or reject the teachings of the church," he said.
Is anyone else confused by some of the things the bishop listed?
He is then quoted as saying:
Catholics "are not of one mind on all the concerns of the church today" and these differences "can be a source of painful divisions," he said.
Diversity can also be positive, he added.
"These differences can at times be very helpful because they provide diverse perspectives that contribute to the final understandings of the best course of action," he said.
Oh, well that clears everything up, then. Actually, I finished reading the article less clear about what Bishop Braxton was trying to say than when I started. It seems he says he wants everyone to agree with the Church's teaching, and he doesn't want to see any evidence of polarization within the Church, but he seems to ignore the root causes of the polarization and he seems to brand a wide variety of people, including people who homeschool their children in order to safeguard them from heterodox religious education and sex education programs, as part of the problem.
Another observation: I noticed that the article consistently misspelled the word "Church" by failing to capitalize the first letter in the word "Church". "Church" is the proper spelling when speaking of the Universal Church or the Catholic Church. The spelling "church" is used when referring to a church building.
I have noticed that sometimes the way words are capitalized (or not capitalized) seems to indicate a certain polarity. Has anyone else noticed that many religious texts and news sources are dropping the use of capitals that were traditional signs of respect? When I was young, I still frequently came across Catholic texts that capitalized "He" when referring to Jesus or any of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity and "She" when referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I don't see that done very much anymore.
Bishop Braxton is right about there being a lot of changes since the Second Vatican Council! The trouble is: I can't seem to see where many of the changes which have occurred since the council are found within the documents of Vatican II. Weird, huh? I wonder if that might polarize people?