Reflection by Fr. John Shuster
I think that for the most part Catholics are kept uninformed and spiritually uneducated by the institutional church. It is part of maintaining the clergy/laity class structure of ruler and subject.
They are taught the simple "get your ticket punched" sacramental church life. Easy quid pro quo institutionalism works well among the uneducated simple people of the Middle Ages and the 21st Century.
Some church-going Catholics get into true spirituality, but it is pretty much considered fluff, a little hobby of theirs, not mainline core belief. The priests have the real spirituality, not those lay people. Mass attendance, envelopes, and political uniformity - that's where the real American RC church business lies. It's real religion that you can take to the bank - physically and spiritually.
Catholics are made spiritually codependent to the bishop/priest's whimmy approval. Observe what is really happening - what people are really doing in a measurable and documentable sense. It is clear to me that Tridentine theology is still alive and well. They might as well turn the altars back around so we can all worship God behind and through the holy priest, the bishop, and the pope.
Like an insurance policy for eternity, Catholics are taught that if they pray, pay, and obey the institution in every tiny detail they will go to heaven. Parishioners don't want to ruin their decades-long investment, tenuous and specious as it might be. When death looms, people will grab at anything. They understand that panic, long before they die, and the intuition successfully plays on that fear with an insurance policy. Priests can rape their children yet people will make room for such behaviour because they don't want to lose their investment in the afterlife.
With the sex abuse settlements making the news for the past four years, many Catholics now know that their local parish does not legally belong to them but to the bishop, so the bishop can close it at his whim and force them out of their parish home. Deep down, each parishioner has the fear that they'll lose their spiritual home, the home where they buried their parents and saw their children receive their First Holy Communion, if they anger the bishop or if they support survivors to the point where really big money will be owed by their arch/diocese. Ask thousands of parishioners in Boston whose churches were sold out from underneath them on a private real estate market so that they could not buy them back and get married CITI priests to staff them. People don't want to lose their "tradition" of servitude.
The Vatican has constructed an airtight system, protected by our American law, where they can sit on a mountain of money and lead whatever lifestyle they want with relative impunity. There's always plenty of money and high powered lawyers and political connections to get them out of any trouble. The bishop of Santa Rosa has yet to be indicted for helping a pedophile priest escape to Mexico after abusing a child - this year!
The smart people realize how powerless and slighted they really are, and not a few of them leave to go to other more accountable church systems. Investment Catholics don't want to deal with what they deep-down know is going on. The real sheep Catholics don't even know what's really happening. They just want to know what time Midnight Mass is on Christmas Eve. They all keep giving money to support their priests' compartmentalized lives - and their own short-shrifted oppression.
When we married priest couples and supporters speak up prophetically, we get stomped on by the slave owners - and their slaves.
The Vatican has a good game going. It's really hard to beat. It is resilient, idealism based despite the lived realities, and well funded from multiple large revenue sources that include church operations, investments, Catholic charity operations that take administrative cuts, hospital systems, and multi-level educational enterprises around the world. The Vatican is the largest multinational corporation in the world - and probably the richest.
How do we change the game? How do we redirect people from the fleshpots of Egypt yet still sustain the goodness of our RC tradition that has been hijacked by a sexually out of control hierarchy?