| by Bud Malby | February 24, 2013 | CCMT |
Jesus makes a wry observation in the New Testament about how to do battle with a foe. He says something to the effect that it would be a dandy idea for a king, about ready to march into battle, to first do the math about his opponent. That commonsense approach, to know if you’re outnumbered by the opposition, makes for better planning, and might even allow survival when you’re hopelessly outgunned.
The trouble with any group, from a king’s army, to a political party, to a progressive element of a church, is they tend to believe everyone else sees or thinks as they do. Thus, when they finally do get down to the task Jesus outlined above, making real observations, their preconceptions can obscure the facts. So, the king deliberately underestimates the number of the enemy, the political party loses an election because what they thought right about their cause did not capture enough votes, and the religious group is left wondering how they became a minority so quickly.
It is possible this scenario is playing out right before our eyes as you read this. I’d like to run some statistics from a recent (February 21st) Pew Foundation survey by you. Never fear, this is not a long, dry list. I’d like it if you assume, which they most probably are, that these figures are accurate. Then, let them roll over you and assess how they impact your senses. Ready?
Seventy-four percent of American Catholics like Pope Benedict XVI and believe he has done a good job!
That means if a wife and husband were to go to an ordinary Catholic Mass next Sunday, and sat in a pew containing ten people; it would signify that seven (approximately) of your fellow pew-sitters would be pleased with the mournful music, the new translation, and other trappings that have been instituted by Benedict. How does that make you feel? Notice I said you went to an “ordinary” Catholic parish, because your present one may still be dominated by progressives who possibly have blinders on.
Now extrapolate this experience further. Let’s suppose that your boredom during the sermon caused you to count heads to see what the total attendance was. Your final tally was an even two-hundred. Next, you sneakily found the calculator in your wife’s purse and ran the numbers. Your loud gasp does not go unnoticed, and you probably hear a hissing tone, “Bill! What’s the matter with you?” Spying her calculator your wife no doubt, says, “Give me that!” During this interlude you’re probably gasping for air, wanting to say something, but instead go into a meditative, possibly vegetative state, muttering to yourself that one-hundred and forty-eight of the people present like Pope Benedict, while only fifty-two are glad he resigned and hope we get a better man to replace him. Finally, as the sermon mercifully ends, you console yourself that in their minds Benedict has some special attraction that you’re unaware of, but when it comes to a new pope they’ll think differently. That brings us to the second statistic.
Fifty-one percent of American Catholics want the next pope to stay the course and enforce traditional Catholicism!
I could live with that statistic from the Pew poll, because it appears to give us a fighting chance. The king in Jesus’ parable would have considered it good enough odds to do battle. The problem is the 51% figure comes from Catholics across the spectrum. When the same question is asked of Catholics who go to Mass often, and since most who read this website fall into that category, it’s that figure which counts.
Among the Mass attending Catholics sixty-four percent favor a new pope who will stay the course and maintain traditional Catholicism. Guess what? Only thirty-five percent in the Mass attending group think otherwise, and want a pope who will lead the Church in a different direction.
So if we go back to our bean counter in the episode above, what would we discover? That either the world has gone crazy or that there has been a remarkable shift in church opinion amongst our fellow Catholics. The fifty-one percent in the opening headline, favoring a new pope more akin to Pius XII than Pope John XXIII, is bad enough. A fifty-one percent majority in a Presidential election is considered darned good, but in our category of Mass attendees, being on the losing side of what kind of new pope is wanted, by a majority of sixty-four to thirty-five percent is eye popping.
A logical question is how is it possible for this to happen? After all, we have tremendous resources like The National Catholic Reporter, and they certainly carry some clout.
That’s true, but you also have to consider that the circulation of NCR is around 28,000. How many Catholics of the seventy-four percent who admire Pope Benedict do you suppose read NCR? In comparison, the diocesan newspaper of our former bishop in Madison, Wisconsin exceeds NCR’s numbers, while even our own Helena, Montana Diocesan newspaper boasts a readership of almost 16,000.
I agree. I don’t like to hear I’m a part of a shrinking minority either, UNLESS you consider Jesus’ advice to the king, “If you find yourself outnumbered, come up with a different plan.”
My plan, which arose a dozen years ago from some intense personal storms, is simple, and is based on Jesus’ second great commandment. “Come follow me,” it reads, and I recommend it for any group or individual. It’s foolproof, and I’m always in the majority that counts.