Rev. Andrew Greeley: Chicago Catholics and the Struggles Within their Church

Rev. Andrew Greeley’s recent passing reminded me of one of the many studies he has done. Specifically the one he did about Chicago Catholics and the struggles within their Church.

“[Leaders] have to be aware that the church is [perceived as] too authoritative, makes too many rules. Its sermons tend to be uninspiring,” U. of C.’s Tom Smith said. “There are a lot of areas in which the survey can point to areas where the church might want to try to strengthen.” Sean Durkin (nephew of Rev. Andrew Greeley, Chicago Tribune 10/20/2010)

Rev. Andrew Greeley (the prolific Catholic priest who has also written numerous books) released a study entitled, “Chicago Catholics and the Struggles Within Their Church.” In the article that I read in the 10/20/2010 Tribune, Greeley wrote: “that the survey suggests “two separate Catholic identities — an imaginative, story-telling identity and a rules identity,” commonly referred to as “Cafeteria Catholics.” Those Catholics revere the sacraments and run in primarily Catholic circles, but they make their own choices on moral, religious and political issues.”

“The only safe prediction seems to be that … there will be, whether the leadership likes it or not, varied forms of affiliation with a Church most of them still love,” Greeley wrote. “Not Cafeteria Catholics so much as Smorgasbord Catholics, a rich and diverse collection of ways to affirm one’s Catholicism.”

When I was asked to be a godmother, I took it very seriously. I vowed in church, in front of God, family and friends that I would help raise that child a Catholic. I would venture to guess that most godparents are in the Smorgasbord category. I can’t imagine taking that vow to help raise that child a Catholic and then walk out the door not intending to go to church until the next wedding I have to attend or in some cases, never again.

We need the rules. We need to be One Body. We can’t run around in chaos deciding what we will believe in and what we won’t. Do I struggle with the rules? All the time. But when I find that I’ve broken a rule, my heart knows that I’ve offended God. I try to learn from that so I can repair the damage and move on.

We need to think of the rules as God’s gift to His people. It’s not just in this life, but in the next that the rules will come in handy.

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