"Good. You're here," said a middle aged usher at the church that my mother goes to each Sunday. "Bring your wallet!"
Maybe it was just a joke. It probably was at some level, but that is just the one--the surface and insignificant one. The other, underlying is the one that concerns me.
Like so many religious organizations in America today, the Catholic church is reaping the rewards of extravagant expansion in a time where the pews spend more time with dust on them than butts. The towering spires, peaks, golden goblets, fancy robes, and all the gas, electricity, and water that comes with running it are not equal to the dwindling base. As a result, the Diocese of Detroit is having to close down churches, upsetting its existing base as they quibble over debts and donations and who pays what with greater punctuality.
It's the kind of problem that should never have come up, for it is the exact problem that could have been avoided through christian practices of piety, and modesty.
Driving around town, it is clear that religions of all denominations tend not to subscribe to these basics, as is evident in their extravagant stain glass, towering ceilings, thousands of square feet; and, though it is true that many of these religions have their own charities to help the needy, it is equally true that when looking for a place to donate, one must look at the difference between cost of operation to the number of people helped. What is the cost of a city of castles, or a thousand palaces called churches?
The ideas of modesty and poverty seem so foreign to the church that its current Pope--a Jesuit no less--seems like a character out of a fairy tale, and whose messages of forgiveness, modesty, and poverty run opposite to his most recent predecessor. His was a message of lavishness, from his fountain pen, to his shoes. And with exception to the few Tridentine churches I have been to and the Order of Jesuits, it is the message of wealth--built on the backs of the working and the poor in the name of Christ-- that has pervade since the time before the word catholic.
An irony would be putting it nicely. Hypocrisy would be putting it correctly.