Monday, December 6, 2010

Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J. "Our Churches And Our Liturgies Are Boring."

Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J.
"The church has acted like a lazy monopoly," the Rev. Thomas Reese told the crowd at Mandeville Hall, noting that one in three baptized Catholics now leaves the church in adulthood. Reese, a senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University and former editor of the Jesuit magazine America, was one of three panelists invited by the university to discuss "The Future of the Church." The topic's subtitle was "Sources of Hope," and after airing their grievances with their church, the three unabashedly progressive speakers pointed out ways they believe the nation's largest denomination can remain attractive and relevant. "The Catholic Church is confronting a real crisis" of eroding membership, Sister Carol Jean Vale, president of Chestnut Hill College and moderator of the two-hour program, said in her opening remarks. 
"How can we form Catholics for the future?" she asked. Reese, who is a Jesuit priest, laid much of the blame for the erosion of Catholic identity on what he described as a "culture of clericalism" in the church. Too many priests and bishops seem to believe that "we know better" than the laity "and we don't need to listen to them." 
Reese, a prolific author, also opined that "our churches and our liturgies are boring." Seventy-one percent of ex-Catholics who join a Protestant or evangelical congregation report that the Catholic Church "wasn't meeting my spiritual needs," he said. Parishes need to do a better job of preaching, offer better music, be more welcoming, and provide engaging programs for children, Reese said. 
Link (here) to read the full article at The Philadelphia Inquirer


Anonymous said...

Fr. Reese's comments are in sharp contrast to an authentic Ignatian/Jesuit mission.

Jack in Park Slope

Anonymous said...

Faithful parishes with reverent celebrations of Mass are usually well-attended in this country.

Anonymous said...

Dear, dear Jack: are you the arbiter of what is authentically Jesuit? The Order is so fortunate to have an advocate in Park Slope.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 11:04 PM
It is to bad the Order does not have an advocate of the Church in Fr. Reese.

Jack in Park Slope

Rupert said...

If we're going to be pedantic, the Jesuits are not an Order, but rather a Society - the Societas Iesu.

As for Jesuit liturgy (and Catholic liturgy in general), the mistake is to think we make the Mass more relevant by making it more trendy.

The genius of baroque Jesuit liturgy was that is was good, beautiful, and transcendent. It was awe inspiring.

We find none of that in churches that resemble drab concrete sarcophagi, homilies that do not teach doctrine and passe music by the St Louis Jesuits do not accomplish this task.

The more we attempt to make our Masses akin to a gathering a home, the more we are motivated to simply stay at home on Sunday & sleep in.

Lastly, American Catholics are the most educated generation in the history of our nation, but one of the most ignorant with regard to the fundamental beliefs of our faith.

Apart from a few Jesuits, I have seen few efforts at even rudimentary catechesis by members of the Society.

Anonymous said...

I guess Rupert hasn't visited a Jesuit parish.

As for Fr. Reese--I'm not certain "advocate" is quit right. But he's a smart Jesuit who seems to be living out his vows in a faithful manner. A cheer leader for the hierarchy? Probably not, but that is not the same as defending the faith.

Anonymous said...

Does one attend the liturgy of the Mass to be entertained or enlightened? I personally go to Mass to revel in the continuity and comfortable familiarity of the service, to pray, and hopefully walk away with something poignant to discern from the homily. What needs to change is the typical Catholic's attitude and perception of why they go to Mass, not the liturgy. Boring? Really? I may not be an arbiter of the authentic Jesuit mission either but IMHO Father Reece is a confused Catholic.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Jesus established the Eucharist for "continuity and comfort"!

Anonymous said...

Technically the Society of Jesus IS an order in the Catholic Church as its members take solemn vows.

Fr Reese has a point about clericalism but the content of the clericalism has changed. In 1950 (apparently) Father enforced Catholic identity in the Catholic community without question: now Father (I don't mean Fr Reese) and his colleagues impose their own vision of Catholic identity on the community without question.

A Bishop once complained about inter insigniores "how can I promote this when it is so offensive to everyone I work with and meet at the water cooler?" Yes indeed, for he has surrounded himself with those of like mind.

TonyD said...

It is not desirable for Catholicism to be easy or entertaining. God’s requirements for Catholics are not easy or entertaining – quite the opposite. I’ve noticed a tendency to simplify the Gospel message in the name of broadening the reach of the church. In the context of the Church, this is often a mistake. The Catholic Church plays a role. It is part of a complex system designed to help souls progress through their lessons. The Catholic Church is not correct for everyone.

At the same time, I am not trying to justify any particular aspect of the Mass or any particular Church protocol. Some are transcendent, but “perfection of the soul” requires more than their transcendence.

It is generally true that people can only hear what they are able to hear. Or, stated another way, they can only hear at a level that reflects the development of their soul. Would you try to teach Calculus to a 3rd grader? We should try to remember that the Church does not operate in isolation. We have more help than we can imagine.

And that help isn’t necessarily Catholic. The Catholic Church is just one of God’s creations.