When the words cover-up come to mind, I think of two things: Watergate and the Catholic Church. I now need to add a third: Let’s call it Catholic Church Cover-up 2.0.
Did you know there’s a significant, fundamentalist movement taking root in the Church? It’s in direct response to Pope Frances’ liberal, open-minded ways. And, its practitioners are embracing a type of Catholicism not seen since Gutenberg invented the printing press.
This is a major story worthy of national news coverage. And yet, it continues to fly under the media’s radar.
Regardless of if, and when, you hear about it on CNN, here’s a superb guest blog on the subject from Emily Simmons, a friend, one-time protege and top communications professional. It’s both timely and eye-opening. And, it will shock you. Swear to God……
If you haven’t had the chance yet to see ‘Spotlight,’ mark it on your holiday to-do list. The film highlights one of the American Catholic church’s darkest periods, a time marked by sexual abuse and scandal, leaving you raw with emotion, vowing to forever speak out against injustices. You’d think the scandal, highlighted by a blockbuster hit, is the worst it could get for the Catholic Church. You’re wrong.
I believe there is another scandal and church cover-up seemingly unknown outside the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s a scandal I suspect is contributing to the 52 percent of American Catholics Pew Research says have left the church at some point in their lives, and why two-thirds of them now consider themselves “ex-Catholics.”
The “Restoration Movement,” a Christian movement dating all the way back to the late 1700s, was a short-lived movement that placed an emphasis on primitive and often medieval teachings, which church leaders hoped would restore churches to a more traditional state. Catholic churches with restorative leadership practiced Gregorian chant in place of instruments; pastor-centric celebrations in place of parish-centric celebrations; and exclusion in place of inclusion. I think the reasons are pretty obvious as to why the Movement never really took off.
Until now, Restorationism has been almost unheard of. However, the growth of traditionalist seminaries and conservative opposition toward Pope Francis’ liberal leadership have created the perfect breeding ground for what the Washington Post refers to as the “Conservative Rebellion.” In an area fondly known as the Bible Belt (or south of the Mason-Dixon Line), Restorationism is making a comeback, and conservative rebels are leading a crusade to reform little Catholic churches back to the good old days of chanted, Latin masses.
You might be asking yourself what’s wrong with Restorationism. Why not let conservatives worship in a more traditional church? Well for starters, a traditionalist Catholic Church bans women, gays, lesbians and divorcees from the celebration (talk about primitive!). But also traditionalist churches go against the changes brought forth in the 1960s by the Vatican II Council—a Council formed specifically to modernize the church in a way that promoted inclusion, congregational participation, and acceptance of gays, lesbians, divorcees and (gasp!) women whom have had abortions.
Outside the fact Restorationism compromises basic human rights and civil liberties, there’s one ideology it promotes that should scare us all: Complete and utter allegiance to the Church. The Restoration Movement forfeits all congregational control to church leaders, vowing all parishioners to have complete faith and support of leadership decisions. History will tell you just how well that has worked out for the Catholic Church.
One Catholic diocese in particular has been making local and national headlines for its discreet Restoration Movement rollout across its parishes. The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, led by Bishop Peter Jugis, has been strategically placing traditionalist priests across rural, isolated churches in Western North Carolina, confirms one diocesan priest (whom I should note wished to remain anonymous in fear of speaking out against the Church). “Wherever they go, people leave,” says the priest. Yet in these remote areas, leaving is difficult due to the lack of alternative options. Instead, these parishes are left to fend for themselves and helplessly watch as the Bishop follows through with his plans, against the wishes of parishioners across the diocese.
I’ve witnessed firsthand what this Restoration Movement has done to parishes. The church in which I was raised and where my family devoutly practices their faith is one of the many Appalachian churches under traditionalist leadership. The National Catholic Reporter recently covered the story, resulting in over a thousand pieces of reader commentary. Dozens of readers across the country have shared similar stories about this underground movement, their grievances unrecognized by the church they’ve placed a lifetime’s worth of faith in. Yet despite the collective outcry for help, the Catholic Church’s response has been sadly predictable: non-existent and unapologetic.
Not only have national outcries fallen upon deaf ears, parishioners are now being silenced for speaking out. Church Militant also covered the story in favor of the Church and its decisions to opt for more traditional services. However, when parishioners in opposition of traditionalism began leaving comments of the story, the publication promptly deleted the comments and banned these readers from the site. First Amendment rights anyone?
For those of you familiar with the Church’s sex abuse scandal, you’ll recall that many of the pedophiliac priests preyed on young boys from poor, often fatherless families. It was a control tactic that allowed the Church’s leaders to retain power and take advantage of the weak and vulnerable. Victims who spoke out against the Church were ousted by not only the Church, but also the Community. In my opinion, these rural churches are no different from the abused children. The Church has just found another way to assume control at the expense of the less fortunate, proof that little has changed in the Church.
The American Catholic Church is a dying organization. Pope Francis’ recent U.S. visit was meant to rejuvenate American faith in the Church. Unfortunately, this Conservative Rebellion will counteract these efforts, and the effects will be irreversible.
“I tell you sincerely, I am afraid of rigid priests. Rigid priests, keep them away. They bite.” –Pope Francis