Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Wrecking the car or running the shop?

By Leila Marie Lawler ( articles ) | Jun 23, 2003

I've been thinking aboutMark Shea's thoughts on why the Pope doesn't give us a quick fix here in the US. He says that we are like the teenager that wrecked the car and wants daddy to write the check.

I have no idea what's behind the Pope's way of dealing with us, or what he could do to make things better -- even if he relieved us of some bishops (and I do mean relieved), who would he put in their place? Mark is right about that -- we have the bishops we deserve, it seems.

His analogy needs tweaking, though, and maybe being more precise can help us find the solutions. Mark's analogy of the boy wrecking the car presupposes some normality in the family, a stable basis from which a kid can rebel.

Looking at our Church, I have the feeling there are two better analogies:

On the one hand we're like the family in which the adolescents come in every mealtime and trash the table. We have no family life -- every moment is spent cleaning up the mess and yelling about what's wrong.

On the other hand, and with a great sense of paradox, I suggest we're like the family where everything seems just fine -- no one is wrecking cars or screaming, but every mealtime is spent in front of the TV or taken on the run. There's no conflict because there's no contact.

This second model what I think of whenever some well meaning friend tells me that everything is fine in their parish. In this family, the parents are blissfully unaware that the kids are being given bananas to put condoms on in grade school, and the kids have no idea that the parents are unaware.

A normal family has times of doing things together and just being together, enjoying each other's company -- especially at dinner -- without necessarily examining the fact that they are doing so. A real family has an occasional trouble spot but the bonds of love keep things together. Our church here in America doesn't have this kind of family life -- for that matter, our families don't either.

I think Mark is on the right track when he suggests that the problem lies within our culture. And I'm all for confronting our culture, however painful that will be.

But we need holy men to lead us.

To switch analogies, can the sheep survive without a shepherd? I can think of lots of ways the laity can take responsibility for our part in forming the culture. But without a leader, without a shepherd, without a father -- how can our little family survive?

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