Some American Catholics calling for change
There will be a celebration at the Vatican this weekend as a group of new saints, including two Upstate New York women, are recognized in the Roman Catholic Church. But as Bill Carey reports, the canonization comes at a time when the church is facing a call from many American Catholics for new changes for the future, just as it moves closer to the past.
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VATICAN CITY -- The story of the Catholic Church in America, in recent years, has not been a positive one. Everything from battles over sexual abuse by clergy, new Vatican reviews of the activities of Catholic colleges and Catholic nuns, and struggles over political issues like new health care legislation and requirements for contraceptive care coverage for women.
“We think the whole issue of religious freedom is very important and we feel that our right to practice our religion in our own institutions the way we feel it should be practiced are being compromised,” said Bishop Robert Cunningham, Syracuse Roman Catholic Diocese.
The disputes have led to loud protests by those claiming the Church has turned a deaf ear to the views of its people.
John Allen Jr., a long-time Vatican watcher for the National Catholic Reporter and CNN, says it’s all part of a struggle faced by the Church as it tries to maintain and grow its numbers.
“There's one constituency that says I won't join the Catholic Church because it's not liberal enough, and there's another that says, I won't join because it's too liberal. So, you know, how to appeal to all of that is a very difficult question,” said Allen Jr.
It may be ironic, but church leaders say many of their problems with American Catholics can be traced back to the last effort at major reform. That was the Vatican 2 Council, held in Rome 50 years ago.
Vatican 2, as it’s known, changed the look of the church. Everything from Mass in English to more participation of non-clergy in various ceremonies. But, a half century later, there are claims that the modernization may have led American Catholics to believe they had even more freedom, to pick and choose their beliefs.
“You know I think the Church has an obligation to just calmly state, ‘this is what we believe .’ This is what we teach.' And invite people along. We propose teachings. We invite people to accept them,” said Bishop Cunningham.
For those protesting from the left, there may be bad news ahead. The Pope has been conducting a meeting of Bishops and Cardinals called a Synod, calling for a new Evangelism, which will focus more on the Church's stands rather than congregational concerns.
“That we're going to stop talking about our internal problems. We’re going to stop talking about sex abuse crisis, we’re going to stop talking about women in the church and all of these things that we've been hung up on for the last fifty years and were going to get on with the business of trying to make disciples of the whole world,” said Allen Jr.
The Church now hopes its leaders can sell this new evangelism. But they likely face more protests from unhappy Catholics in America.