There is a little booklet out there that may say it best -- at least about some matters in the Church that are in need of resolution.

Such issues are accented by the visit of Benedict XVI to the United States, of course -- and no doubt, he is already aware of most situations (and some we don't even imagine).

By all accounts, Pope Benedict XVI is fully engaged and keeps closely abreast of the news.

But there are many who wonder if he realizes the extent of discord in the U.S. Church over everything from music to Adoration to when one should kneel -- issues that are often "hotter buttons" than even discussions about abortion (or so opines today's Washington Post).

We know what the Church says: we must not let ritual obscure the most essential spiritual issues. If we do, religion loses its purpose -- and becomes an end unto itself (instead of a means toward Heaven).

Nothing trumps the importance of love and kindness, as Benedict XVI -- much to everyone's surprise -- has preached so forcefully. Bickering over details can obscure the Church's true call.

But the Pope would agree that it is important to keep our Church strong -- even if it becomes smaller as a result. Is modernism not weakening Catholicism (and its call to love) and how exactly did we get in a situation where most of those who attend Mass most faithfully are orthodox but their leaders seem of such a modernistic bent?

They are important matters and some explanations of why the Church in the United States and Canada is where it is today may be found in Remaining Steadfast, compiled by a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and devout Catholic named Paul A. Mihalik.

It is time, argues Mihalik, to stand up against that modernism that has caused religious sterility, dulled the flock, or chased it from the pews to begin with.

"Never before in modern times has there been a better opportunity for Catholics to prove their love and loyalty to Jesus Christ and His Church than there is in these times we live in," he writes. "The Catholic lay person is in a state of shock, as are many priests and religious.

"Some of us who remember the Church from pre-Vatican II are now spending time and resources to find a parish priest who is 'still Catholic.' We are looking for religious education programs that do not offend and insult the students and the parents. It is almost a surprise to hear a homily wherein a priest is reminding us to take advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation."

That's the beginning of Lt. Col. Mihalik's call to arms. He is also outraged at how candidates are chosen for the priesthood, as outlined by a scholar named James Hitchcock, who describes how "a young man applies to study for the priesthood and is interviewed by a committee whose chairman, a high-ranking diocesan official, asks him his 'feelings' about the ordination of woman.

"The candidate replies that the matter has been settled by the Holy Father. The chairman replies, 'We're not asking what the Pope thinks. We want to know how you feel about it.'

"The young man states simply that he accepts the Church's teaching on the matter. He is subsequently informed that the committee has found him unsuited for the priesthood."

How is it that what were once considered the "lost sheep" now lead the flock?

It began when bishops feared preaching Humanae Vitae, argues Hitchcock, a professor of history at St. Louis University. And it grew as a wave of liberal bishops were appointed in the 1970s.

"In an episode that still remains mysterious, through most of the 1970s, the Holy See appointed bishops in the United States who were at least tolerant of dissent and in some cases personally sympathetic to it, a pattern of appointments," says Hitchcock, "which continued several years into the pontificate of John Paul II."

While he put a halt to such, by then, says Hitchcock (as excerpted in the booklet), liberal bureaucracies already had been planted -- and new conservative bishops were afraid of firing them.

Has a mystery thus been solved: why liberals remain in charge of "conservative" dioceses?

"Whatever his intentions, a new bishop quickly discovers how tightly the liberals control the diocesan machinery -- the school office, the priests' senate, the office of social justice, and other bureaus -- and he realizes that dislodging such people will be no easy task and will be unpleasant," writes Hitchcock.

"Before the Council was even over, liberals were using the media's insatiable appetite for religious controversy, their uniformly liberal viewpoint, their eagerness to publicize internal Church conflicts in such a way as to force bishops' hands."

Bishops were apprehensive, in short, of media hostility.

There are other issues not included in this booklet. One can wonder, for instance, if the Pope is aware of how many American retreat centers and convents are immersed in Eastern-style religions and the New Age, or whether, as he travels on the East Coast, he knows how certain dioceses seem actually to discourage such devotions as Adoration.

Have our bishops been intimidated? Are they run by the diocese, instead of vice versa? And what to do about it?

Mihalik chimes in with his solution: the power of faith. It's not a bad book to send to your local priest.

The purification must start with each individual.

Set aside time each day for prayer. Look to deep personal conversion. Return to the old tradition of novenas. Attend Mass more than once a week. Make a "holy hour" before the Blessed Sacrament. Go to Confession at least monthly. Start a Rosary group. Be humble. Ask the Holy Spirit for daily guidance. Make a morning offering.

And be less critical and demanding of those priests who are known to be loyal servants.

They need all the support -- from us and Rome -- that they can get.

[resources: Remaining Steadfast]

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