If I belonged to a socialist club in college, and later found myself drawn to libertarianism, I would jump ship. So why do Catholics who have long since rejected many of the Church’s teachings stay, when they could easily join one of the mainline Protestant denominations? Abortion, contraception, women priests, married priests, gay marriage—the mainliners welcome it all—so why the reluctance to bolt?
It’s often said by liberal Catholics that conservative Catholics are all about “bells and smells,” ritualistic exercises devoid of doctrinal substance. As it turns out, it is they—disaffected liberal Catholics and those with one foot out the door—who are the real devotees of “smells and bells.” After all, it can’t be the teachings that keep them from leaving, so what’s left? The choir?
Remember that stupid TV show from the 1990s that I had a hand in killing, “Nothing Sacred”? The pro-abortion priest who starred in the show had quite a following among Catholic malcontents, including, sadly, a number of bishops. “Nothing” was noted for its “bells and smells” approach to Catholicism, a characteristic that spoke volumes about its few fans.
The latest to carp about the Church’s teachings, while still professing to be a Catholic, is Garry Wills. In an op-ed in the Boston Globe, he comforts himself with the thought that there are two Churches: “Other Church,” which is the hierarchy, and “Our Church,” which is everyone else. It is the former to whom Jesus gave his authority, but who cares about theology when living a delusion? Moreover, if Wills were to read the Catholic League-Polling Company survey of Catholics, it would burst his bubble about the faithful being in rebellion against the Magisterium.
No doubt Wills never missed an episode of “Nothing.” It must be tough getting old never finding a religious home. Someone ought to tell him that the Protestant option is still extant.