John Allen reports on a talk he gave at UCSB.
At one point during the seminar, [Fr. Virgil] Cordano spoke movingly about his pastoral difficulties in working with bright, theologically literate lay Catholics who are increasingly frustrated with what they see as a church that’s too out of touch, and not terribly interested in their thoughts on the subject. Many, Cordano said, seem to be on the verge of becoming inactive or seeking other options.
I replied that I too have had these conversations, and reaching out to disillusioned Catholics is indeed a major pastoral challenge. At the same time, I said, we can’t succumb to the notion that this is the only reality in the church. There are also Catholics who feel energized by what they see as a church recovering its nerve, and becoming more clear about what it represents. While some younger Catholics may be disaffected by this “politics of identity,” others are drawn to it, and they too have to be part of the pastoral mix.
Afterwards, an undergraduate student approached me and thanked me for the response. He said that listening to Cordano, it struck him that the feelings of being underappreciated that Cordano attributed to liberal young Catholics are remarkably similar to what he and his more conservative Catholic friends have felt in many parishes, schools, and Catholic social circles.
“You tell people you agree with the magisterium, and they look at you like you’re a freak,” he said. “We end up quietly passing around books like John Paul’s Theology of the Body, almost as if we’re part of some underground.”
This student said that he’s considering applying to attend the Franciscan University of Steubenville for his master’s work, but is worried that because it’s seen as a “conservative” institution, it might limit his prospects for admission to doctoral programs or future employment.
So nothing has changed since I was at Santa Barbara. Students struggle to be faithful while their leaders are more worried about how to care for aging liberals.