Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Count Me In

Pope Benedict is being vilified, it's irresponsible and it's fueling hatred. Because of irresponsible behavior on the part of some people whose remarks and actions enflame ill emotions and hatred, Catholicism and the visible leader of the Catholic Church on earth, the Vicar of Christ, are going through a difficult and painful trial. In England a "publicity stunt," calling for the arrest of the Pope when he visits Britain, has upset many. (It is utter nonsense!) It is being condemned by sensible British citizens and leaders. So in light of all the negative press, it is not surprising that vandals targeted the house in Southern Germany where Pope Benedict was born. Graffiti was sprayed on the front door, but it was quickly painted over. 
Graffiti was also painted on billboards, which were promoting Pope Benedict's April 17th-18th visit to the island nation of Malta. 
Public opinion is turning against the Church in many European countries. A statistic, that is hard to believe, stated that as many as a quarter of Germany's Catholics were considering leaving the Church. Some people are actually filling out forms called, "Declaration of Defection,"and sending them to their local bishops. This is a crisis that seems, at times, to be spinning out of control. Perhaps the Church does need to convene a new council, Vatican III, as some Church experts and commentators have suggested. Or perhaps, more realistically, a convocation of Archbishops and Bishops should be imagined to "brainstorm" about how to deal effectively with this ongoing crisis and limit the damage it has done to the credibility of the Church. A proactive, enlightened, insightful,  prayerful response is in order. 
There is a website called, "Count Me Out," which provides information for those considering leaving the Roman Catholic Church. According to the website it is, "For many who no longer practice, remaining 'lapsed' is not sufficient; a clean break is needed." According to the website, 9,112 people have completed a "Declaration of Defection," and 458 e-mails have been sent. 
This is very sad and disturbing news. 
I'm going to give a talk this weekend in Brooklyn to Catholic parents. One of the things I'm going to tell them is how important faith, belief and prayer is for children and adults, especially in this uncertain, anxiety-filled, fast-paced world we live in. I will tell many stories, quote studies and my own faith experiences to try to stress that their children need religious rituals and prayer (as many psychologists also state), to give them inner strength and courage to deal with the challenges and complexities of the modern, secular world. 
Talking to parents on the importance of faith and prayer, is one of the most important things I do. I can't imagine a life without faith, prayer and belief, but sadly there are many people without faith. What troubles me even more, is that they try to convince others that faith and belief is not important or necessary in life and that simply is not true. All the studies that I have read, support my belief and the beliefs of all the major world religions, that prayer, belief and religious rituals are good for human beings.