THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: For liturgical Christians in the United States, it would seem that the choices offered in the days ahead mark a difference between two cities. The U.S. Catholic Church, and the Episcopal Church U.S.A. are the two cities I had in mind. For a period (1970s-80s) it appeared that the two had a lot in common. Their celebration of the mass was virtually identical, their traditions nearly indistinguishable, and their teachings similar. But during that same time, both churches embarked on separate paths that would make them irreconcilable.
In the one city, the Episcopal Church U.S.A., the philosophy of liberalism was embraced without restraint. Over the course of two decades, literally hundreds of female priestesses were ordained, along with dozens of practicing homosexual men. The ECUSA's positions on crucial moral issues (like abortion, fornication, and homosexuality) became a little "fuzzy." By the 1990s the ECUSA was leading the whole Anglican Communion in progressive innovation and "tolerance." Today the very existence of the denomination is threatened by the course it's taken. The untold story is that the denominations crisis is really old news. This isn't the first time the ECUSA has found itself on the rocks. In the late 1970s, when the first priestesses were ordained, and the 'Book of Common Prayer' was modernized, the denomination suffered a loss of about one-third of it's membership. Originally at 3.5 million members in the USA, the Episcopal Church dropped to 2.5 million within just ten years. That's a one-million member loss! What happened? The answer is simple. Moderate to conservative members of the denomination just left. They got up off their pews and walked out. There was no organized schism. There was no highly publicized demonstrations. Just one Sunday morning; there appeared large empty spaces in the pews between worshippers. Virtually overnight a third of America's Episcopalians just stopped going to Episcopal churches. Where did they go? That's in interesting question, and the answer is not so simple. A good number of them converted to Catholicism. Some of them added their numbers to the newly budding Eastern Orthodox churches in the USA. While it's safe to say that a fairly large portion turned to the rising conservative Evangelical movement. This left the ECUSA with even a greater percentage of "progressives" as moderates and conservatives left, thus sealing the ECUSA's path toward greater liberalism and more innovation. The end result was the election of Gene Robinson in 2003 to the position of bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. Gene Robinson was an openly gay priest. He left his wife and children to fulfill an elicit love affair with another man. The two of them now live together in what they call a "monogamous relationship." Far from chastising this priest, the Diocese of Newark actually rewarded him, by promoting him to the office of bishop. Then amid the worldwide fallout, the ECUSA responded to Anglican demands for a prohibition against such ordinations, with the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori (a female bishopess) to the head of the denomination. Bishopess Schori has retorted the worldwide Anglican demands by stating that she doesn't even think homosexuality is a sin. In fact, she said the perversion was a gift from God and should be embraced. Now the denomination risks a defacto excommunication from the Anglican Communion, should the Archbishop of Canterbury decide to bypass the denomination's authority, and provide direct episcopal oversight to those diocese requesting it. Meanwhile large congregations begin to peal away from the denomination, while tens of thousands of U.S. Episcopalians will simply walk out of their local churches just as their parents did some 25 years ago. Thus we see the fruit of liberalism in action. It has the power to destroy entire denominations. The U.S. Episcopal Church (ECUSA) is one of the oldest denominations in the United States. Many of our nation's founding fathers were Episcopalians -- including George Washington. This denomination, an icon of American history, is about to disappear off the face of the earth -- and it only has itself to blame.
Meanwhile, this tale includes another city -- the U.S. Catholic Church. In the years following the Second Vatican Council, it appeared (for a time) that the Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church would become mirror images of each other. Such assumptions would prove to be mistaken. This is not for a want of liberals in the U.S. Catholic Church. In fact, they abounded in numbers and continue to this day. But the theologically conservative papacy of Pope John Paul II frustrated progressive modernists (i.e. "liberals") within the American Church. Though able to mismanage everything from the celebration of the sacred liturgy, to the handling of sexual predators within their own ranks, the U.S. bishops were unable to create the liberal utopia their comrades in the ECUSA accomplished so easily. It seemed their desires were thwarted at every turn, as if the Holy Spirit himself were working against them. Then the unthinkable happened. In the year 2003 their house of cards came crashing down, and the U.S. Catholic bishops were exposed to the world for the incompetent liberal bureaucrats they really are. Then just two years latter (2005), their bad dream became a nightmare as what appeared to be the world's most conservative cardinal was elected to the papacy. Pope Benedict XVI now threatens to undo everything they've worked so hard to accomplish, and with the stroke of a pen, this reigning pontiff is slowly bringing the U.S. Catholic Church back to its conservative and orthodox roots. Much to the frustration of these liberal bishops, the Catholic Church of tomorrow is moving steadily toward something that looks a lot like the Catholic Church of yesterday. In the midst of it all, another untold story is developing. The U.S. Catholic Church is growing -- at a fairly good rate. While some priests and bishops have been excommunicated for liberal heresy, along with their followers, there have been no significant schisms in the U.S. Catholic Church. There have been no significant walkouts, and no significant empty spaces in the pews. In fact, in some U.S. Catholic churches, it's standing room only.
So now we have a tale of two cities. Both so much alike in the beginning, and now so different. Once so close, and now so far apart. One with a potentially bright future, the other with none. One with more members than it knows what to do with, the other with so few members it can barely survive. I believe there is hope for the ECUSA yet, as the U.S. Catholic Church has yet to implement the coming reforms of Pope Benedict XVI. Perhaps some liberal Catholics will be unable to assimilate those reforms, and a few of them might turn to the Episcopal Church instead. Perhaps some of those female theologians, longing to become Catholic priests for decades, will finally turn to the ECUSA for their next career opportunity. Perhaps homosexual lobbyists within the U.S. Catholic Church will finally realize that all their shouting and protesting will be for naught, and turn instead to the ECUSA which not only embraces their perversion, but celebrates it! Stepping back to look at the big picture, it becomes apparent that liberal Catholic outcasts are the ECUSA's only hope for survival in the future. If that is the case, the tale of two cities may continue on into the 21st century, only to serve as a living example of how liberalism destroys one denomination, and conservatism makes another thrive.
It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired. I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue. I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe. I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great.....