The Catholic Thing
The Parish as the Center of Reason Print E-mail
By Bevil Bramwell, OMI   
Sunday, 15 September 2013

What! Is the wrong title attached to this column? How could reason possibly be connected with paying dues and getting the kids baptized? The answer is that, when used properly our reason helps us grasp reality. Reality is the key to authentic human life. Yet paradoxically our age is probably the one least interested in reality.

I recently mentioned to someone how great Pope Francis is. The other person agreed, but complained that Francis had still not ordained women, even though women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection. I replied that witnessing the Resurrection was not the basis of the priesthood in the Catholic Church. The person’s answer was “[Expletive deleted.]”

Putting aside the subtle response, this encounter displays a modern problem to which the Church should respond as she has to other gaps in cultures over the centuries. In America, this would require a near miracle, because numerous other gaps have been ignored as well. So why start now?

The gap lies in how people commonly use reason. Questions such as the ordination of men always involve a certain number of factors. Getting the number right takes real education. In The Closing of the American Mind, a book that should have caused the immediate reorganization of the entire American Church, Allan Bloom explained that in the past: “In the United States, practically speaking, the Bible was the only common culture, one that united simple and sophisticated. . .as the very model for a vision of the whole.”

Grasping the whole in a situation is the sign of a developed human being. But Bloom was speaking in the past tense. He knew his observation no longer applied.

Digging deeper: The whole involves features that fit together to make the whole that only then indicates the truth. This is where “catholic” comes from. Yet we are surrounded by partial thinking, the leaving out of crucial bits of information and the crucial connections among them.

Take some religious questions: contraception makes sense if we leave out the meaning of the human sexual act; abortion makes sense if we leave out the killing of a human being; divorce makes sense if we leave out the meaning of spiritual union between a man and a woman.

And the ordination of women makes sense if we leave out actual history. Scriptural accounts (history) and the tradition (history) of the Church point to Christ choosing twelve men and conferring his power on them – a side issue for the moment.

         Prof. Allan Bloom

The incomplete vision of the whole then touted as complete and, hence, true means reason never gets to grasp the real whole. The same problem comes up in other fields: long-life light bulbs are great – if you forget that they use mercury vapor; socialist governments offer great social benefits (the classic socialist governments of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany should be a warning), if you overlook the mandatory “groupthink” and heavy authoritarianism.

Waxing nostalgic, Bloom says: “It was the home – and the houses of worship related to it – where religion lived.” Here is where the global vision of life comes in, if you believe that the scriptures are the Word of God. Consequently: “The holy days and the common language and the set of references that permeated most households constituted a large part of the family bond and gave it a substantial content. . . .Attending church or synagogue, praying at the table, were a way of life, inseparable from the moral education that was supposed to be the family’s special responsibility in this democracy.”

Notice how he outlines the bond between the family and the religious center, two realities that have become more and more separated and unable to support each other America, and not least in the Catholic Church.

Theoretically, for Catholics, the whole comprises the Church and the family where the Church is the Spouse of Christ and the husband and wife learn to live out that spousal relationship by participating in the life of the parish. Otherwise, as we now usually find: “the dreariness of the family’s spiritual landscape passes belief.”(Bloom)

He continues: The modern family “has nothing to give their children in the way of a vision of the world, of high models of action or profound sense of connection with others. . . .Its base is mere reproduction but its purpose is the formation of civilized human beings.” Here we have the whole presented differently, in a way that clearly includes the notion of purpose.

The vision of the whole is not found anywhere else except in a Catholic parish, if the parish is restructured to be a place to share the Catholic vision of life and its major component, the Catholic family. It is in the parish that people are going to see good reasoning (Church teaching superbly illustrates the use of reason) and discover the spiritual whole and the meaning of life.

People could learn there how reason aids us in this salvific enterprise and especially how it opens itself to God Himself, to take in his Divine Word.

This is what parishes are really for, not just paying dues and getting the kids baptized.

Fr. Bevil Bramwell is retired, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the former Undergraduate Dean at Catholic Distance University. He has published Laity: Beautiful, Good and True and The World of the Sacraments.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Rules for Commenting

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments, which should reflect a sense of brevity and a spirit of Christian civility, and which, as discretion indicates, we reserve the right to publish or not. And, please, do not include links to other websites; we simply haven't time to check them all.

Comments (8)Add Comment
written by Jacob, September 15, 2013
Why do priests never admonish heresy anymore?

They always pretend that's the way to be an adult (a very American attitude), but then the American Church slips further into heresy.. Maybe it's time to stop stabbing the orthodox in the back and encouraging heretics in their sin.

Or lets just do what Pope Francis does and ignore the murder of children so we can talk about more important things like how Jose really does think the way that baby murdering leftists like.. I still don't remember when Jesus commanded us to avoid hurting the feelings of baby murderers at all costs, even the Genocide of Poor Babies..

I feel like I live in a nightmare.

written by Sue, September 15, 2013
"Theoretically, for Catholics, the whole comprises the Church and the family where the Church is the Spouse of Christ and the husband and wife learn to live out that spousal relationship by participating in the life of the parish. Otherwise, as we now usually find: “the dreariness of the family’s spiritual landscape passes belief.”(Bloom)"

So true. And so patently why the oxymoronic homosexual priest is woefully unprepared to "pastor". Who can doubt that the mushroom cloud of red-white-and-blue annulments is largely traceable to (invincibly?) clueless pastoring by the gay or gay-friendly priests who shoved the "Good Men" out of the seminaries.

Even more to the point. Can a woman stand in as "husband" to her lesbian lover anymore than a woman could stand in for Jesus Christ at the Last Supper? Why would we tolerate a woman as priest but never a woman to play "Hamlet"? And why are women not seeing the half-full gift of motherhood as opposed to the half-empty priesthood they are "denied"?

Pastors, please ignore the feminists who claim to speak for women in demanding the priesthood. They don't speak for me.
written by Manfred, September 15, 2013
Q.Who made you? A. God made me. Q. Why did God make you? A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next.
This was catechetics 101 for the average Catholic six year old prior to 1962. The brilliant theologians of the Church deemed all of this too "medieval", so it was dropped.
Allan Bloom? The Church apostasized. That's all we need to know. Is the parish staff prepared to teach Church history, catechetics, moral theology? Our three FSSP priests were offered a nearby parish which included a school by the local ordinary who has visited our chapel on occasion. The priests replied they would take it with the proviso that they would teach Catholicism in the school. When the bishop warned they could only use textbooks provided by the USCCB, the priests declined the offer of the parish which contains a large church we could sorely use. The pastor is the only priest and he is elderly and ill. There is no one to replace him. We have three priests who are youngish and fit.
Mainstream parishes are merging and closing. The FSSP cannot train priests quickly enough to keep up with the demand.
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, September 15, 2013
So half-baked ideas pretty much describes the current crop of thinkers. No substitute for a classical education. Logic should be taught from grade 1 right through grad school so that nothing is left to chance.
written by Jack,CT, September 15, 2013
Thanks Father for another Solid Article
written by Chris in Maryland, September 16, 2013
The Catholic faith is a smart religion and a rich culture, little of which is made present these days. I applaud the FSSP priests for wisely refusing Manfred's Bishop, and rejecting the USCCB standard: a standard of stupidity, formlessness...and utterly devoid of Catholic culture.
written by Tony, September 16, 2013
So -- Jesus chose men as the ones primarily to lay down their lives in battling for His Church, submitting themselves to her good. What is surprising about this? If women understood their own call to lay down their lives in their way, which is maternal and not sacerdotal, they would not envy priests, since envy has no place in the comradeship of an army.
written by Sue, September 17, 2013
Another casualty of the lavender priesthood in America has been the folding of Catholic adoption agencies because they had to represent the start truth of Catholic teaching by placing orphans with a mom and a dad. The whole culture in parishes, which should promote fertility, nourish chastity, and foster adoption where it failed, has been too often been replaced with a porn , pesticide, and public perks mentality.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters


Other Articles By This Author