For 85 years I have been a practicing Catholic. My career education is as an electrical engineer. Most of my time was spent in the computer industry. My job was to find and fix problems.
I believe I have talked with more people about religion than 90 percent of the people. I have heard lots of kickback. In my old age, I go to Mass six times a week. I plan to die Roman Catholic, complaining every step of the way.
State of the Catholic Church in the U.S.
The Catholic Church (C.C.) has the best story of all the churches. It is by far the oldest organized group in the world. Empires last 400 years or so and die. The C.C. is 2,000 years old. There are older religions than this, but they are not organized. Examples are Hindu, Buddhism and Confucianism. The Jewish Church stopped being an organization in 70 A.D. The Romans destroyed the priesthood and the Sanhedrin that tried Jesus.
The Church is solid with those who attend Mass. Twenty-five percent go to Mass every Sunday. One-half percent go to Mass more than once a week. Father Greeleg, a socialist, found that Catholic laymen contributions have dropped from 2 percent to less than 1 percent of their income (most Protestants still contribute 2 percent. A 10 percent contribution is rare). As any old politician will tell you, “Ignore the headlines — follow the money.” The laymen are protesting their church management.
The Priest and Bishop dominate the Church. Many decisions are never revealed to the laymen. For example, the Priest scandal went on for 25 years and the laymen were in the dark. Clergy run the Church and do not inform the laymen. The laymen do not contribute to the policies.
The Bishops have decided to make new parishes much larger. Our church seats 800, compared to 200 for my home parish, thus one Priest can say Mass for many laymen. Next we will have TV (not a Mass). The Mass is more like a theater production than the Last Supper. The parish is so large; it has a $1 million budget. The Priest is running a million-dollar corporation and has to spend time with the staff on where to spend the million. There is less time for the laymen.
The Church is in dire need of more vocations. In my childhood parish of 400 families, we had three Priests and 14 Sisters. In my present parish of 4,000 families, we have one Priest and one imported Priest (a Philippine national), and one 70-year-old Sister. All of this indicates United States Catholic Churches are not doing well.
Results of domination
Laymen have become unenthusiastic in the church. One-percent of the laymen do the work for the church. Because of this lack of involvement, laymen have little enthusiasm for the Church. They are not talking about their Church. Lack of interest leads to slow growth and fewer vocations. We need a return to the Family of God and the excitement that stems from it.
At each election time, we hear about the Evangelical, the Black, and Latino positions, but we never hear about the Catholic point of view. The Catholics are 28 percent of the population and the largest minority. They have no agenda. Something is wrong with the C.C.
There are three aspects of a parish: theology, property and money. The Catholic Clergy is in charge of all three. They argue “The Church is not a democracy” is used to justify clerical control. I agree that the Church is not a democracy in theology. But this argument cannot be transferred to property and money. There is no reason the laymen should not have control of Church property and money. Some Catholic parishes are run by the laymen.
I propose that the laymen control the property and money. The Clergy will continue to control the theology. The separation of theology from the material wealth of the Church has been done before.
The parish council should be elected by the laymen and not appointed by the Clergy. It should be totally responsible to the lay people. To think that the laymen are not intelligent enough to control the Church money is ridiculous. Laymen control large corporations and their households, and do it very well. There is no reason they cannot skillfully control the Church budget.
Presently, a large portion of the Priest’s time must be spent on the $1 million corporation. This takes time from the sacraments, prayer, counseling, and just talking with the parishioners. Laymen control would free the Priest of a lot of time.
When the laymen have control of the money and property, one can expect arguments and disagreements. This is very much like a family. I would expect this type of discussion to take place in and out of the parish counsel. The laymen will be learning to live in God’s family. They will be involved and excited.
In the parish there are many conditions which are difficult for the laymen, yet they are not recognized. The worst is the sound system. It’s like the Vatican sent a letter “set the sound system once and do not touch it again.” Any sound engineer will tell you that a system has to be adjusted for the individual speaker, the size of the audience, and the number of microphones in use.
Most Protestant Churches have a sound man who adjusts the volume for each speaker dynamically (they didn’t get the letter). I have known C.C. that had four different sound systems and none worked well. An active lay group would solve that problem and many others.
When people get involved in the Church they will talk about their experiences. Their conversations will be local and national. Then there will be an Evangelical, Black, Latino and a CATHOLIC position on the national scene. The Church will grow.
Once the Clergy is free of running a $1 million corporation, they will be free to talk to laymen. Then his religious training can rub off on the laymen. They will be better Catholics.
We laymen and Clergy are the family of God. Both of us have a part to play. For either group to oppress and dominate the other does harm to the family of God.
• Retired engineer Jim Taunt is a 25-year resident of Ahwatukee Foothills. He attends Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Ahwatukee.