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"Fruits of Vatican II" Update

The Pick-and-Choose Church

by Christopher A. Ferrara

Catholic World News has just reported on a new poll of American Catholics by LeMoyne College of Syracuse, New York and Zogby International. The results are hardly surprising: The overwhelming majority of Catholics just love the Pope and are happy with their bishops and priests, but most Catholics obey only those Church teachings they deem acceptable.

Thus, notes the CWN report, "More than two thirds of Catholics still agree that abortion is wrong under all circumstances and nearly that many agree that homosexual behavior is immoral. But on other Church teachings, there is considerable dissent. Fifty-four percent believe priests should be allowed to be married and 54 percent believe women should be ordained. Only 36 percent believe that birth control is wrong while 44 percent adhere to the Church teaching that in vitro fertilization is immoral."

In short, this is the portrait of a pick-and-choose Church. Indeed, even participation in the life of the Church is on a pick-and-choose basis. The poll found that only 54% of Catholics attend Mass each week - which is positively robust compared to the single digit Mass attendance figures in Europe.

Perhaps the most revealing sign of ecclesial rot in America, however, may not be the statistics evidencing widespread disobedience to basic Church teaching. More revealing, in my view, is the poll's finding that "US Catholics had a more favorable view of Muslims (56 percent), Mormons (54), Buddhists (57), and Hindus (54) than "fundamentalist Christians" (46 percent). In the poll, 58 percent of Catholics agreed that "fundamentalist Christians tend to be religious fanatics," while only 49 percent thought Muslims were religious fanatics.

Simply amazing. When one considers that so-called "fundamentalist Christians" practice contraception about as routinely as Catholics, it makes one shudder to think that the overwhelming majority of Catholics today views the average "fundamentalist" as a "fanatic." (I do not refer here to that tiny minority of hard-core "evangelicals" who, unlike most Catholics today, embrace and practice the ideal of large families with six or more children.)

Now, it used to be that Catholics were considered fanatics by the popular culture. No more. Now Catholics stand with the popular culture in viewing "fundamentalists" as fanatical - even though today's "fundamentalist" is far more liberal than the average Catholic was fifty years ago! The poll has uncovered a seismic shift in the notion of what it means to be a Catholic. Apparently, it suffices to oppose abortion, be tolerant of all religions, and attend Mass as often as one feels moved to do so.

I note that the one moral teaching on which a large majority of Catholics still give at least verbal adherence to the Magisterium is the teaching against abortion. (I say verbal adherence because Catholics routinely vote for pro-abortion Democrats, thus making a mockery of the teaching.) Is it a coincidence that the teaching against abortion happens to be the one teaching which the bishops and local parish priests have been fairly consistent in upholding, whereas they have been generally silent concerning contraception, divorce and remarriage, the impossibility of women's ordination and other "hard sayings"?

When the shepherds do not guide, the sheep wander. The result is the pick-and-choose Church, otherwise known as "contemporary American Catholicism" - yet another of those wonderful "fruits of Vatican II."