It’s Not a Crisis if It’s Always

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July 28, 2019 by lucieromarin

I heard a comment recently about the Church being in crisis. I realised that I have been hearing such references since the 1980s, and that they include the twenty years before the ’80s. By this reckoning, the Church has been in crisis for about sixty years, almost a human lifetime – and definitely a human lifetime if you admit that there were modernists around in the 1930s.

A crisis is a point. A crisis is a height-of-the-action after which the drama turns. If I suffer from depression for sixty years, that’s not a crisis. The crisis is the moment during that depression when I try to kill myself. If your whole family has been fighting its whole life, it’s not in crisis – it’s a dysfunctional family. The crisis is when the dysfunction reaches the pitch at which someone sues, takes out a dvo or smothers another family member in his sleep.

I think we’d relate both to our Church and to God differently if we accepted reality as it is and didn’t try to freeze our adrenal glands in a state of permanent alarm. Seriously, this is the kind of thing that gives children PTSD. There was never a magical time when all bishops were orthodox, all children were happy and safe, all priests were of sound mind and generous heart, all teaching was thorough, and church music always good. This era never existed.

Look, I lived through the 80s and 90s – I know that the drought was real, and I don’t support the whitewashing of that history with expressions like ‘a new springtime’ or ‘New Evangelisation.’ But a crisis that lasts sixty years isn’t a crisis. It’s dysfunction – the present-day manifestation of that same dysfunction that has been with us since St Paul complained about the existence of factions for Paul and Cephas and Apollo. And we have a better chance of working through it if we’re not constantly interrupting our own healing with negative refrain: ‘There’s a crisis! A crisis! Be shocked! Be alarmed! It’s so terrible!’

And so on.

I want to suggest, too, that you can’t constantly preach crisis and then be surprised when layfolk turn around and get hooked on Catholic politics and/or conspiracy in their efforts to try to understand it.

Here’s a pious suggestion from a post that otherwise makes a lot of sense (and sets an example of charity in book reviews!):

“Read a book about dictator popes or lost shepherds and how the Catholic church is going down the drain if you find it entertaining. Go ahead and complain and vent if you must, but then get over it. Build a life rooted in God. Build a family. Build a parish. Build a business. Build a school. Don’t fret about things you can do nothing about.”

Exhortations such as this one overlook the basic human need to find safety in understanding. I’m not saying that spending time in cyberspace ready about scandals amongst the Knights of Malta is a healthy pastime; I’m saying it’s exactly what you should expect to happen to people who are constantly being told that there’s corruption everywhere and nobody has the true faith anymore. They’re going to want to know, not only how this came about, but whether or not it’s getting worse, and whether or not there’s anyone left they can trust. They might not be making great choices in their search, but that search shouldn’t be dismissed as seeking entertainment, when it is, in fact, a search for safety. Anyway, at a practical level, does the author really think there’s never going to be a time when the parents who take his advice will need to explain to their children why their parish doesn’t have altar girls and ecumenical services even though the Pope does?

‘Don’t fret about things you can do nothing about.’

There is one thing you can do. Don’t fund them. Give your dollar to those who bring you healing. Or give it to the poor.

4 thoughts on “It’s Not a Crisis if It’s Always

  1. Bill Murphy says:

    Thank you for this balanced view and encouragement.

  2. Janey G says:

    Excellent points here! I have to admit the “get over it and go build something” quote appealed to me but then I’m sanguine enough that I can happily live in a world of grey shades without too much stress. I understand that not everyone is as featherbrained as me and many people want some real answers. Your article’s a good starting point to get perspective.

    I think that parents might explain the current difficulties in the Church to their kids by passing on a knowledge and understanding of Church history (firstly learning it for ourselves if needed). As you say, it has never been all roses and sunshine. Children raised with a sense of God’s stability and faithfulness in a fallen world are perhaps more resilient in a ‘crisis’ without end. That’s my hope anyhoo!

    • lucieromarin says:

      Thank you! I admit that ‘bloom where you’re planted,’ schmaltzy as it is, does appeal to me. I like your thought about grounding children in both a sense of God’s stability *and* Church history. Ultimate truth, without false expectations about our fellow man!

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