On UP with Chris Hayes on Sunday, the host used the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI as jumping off point to discuss religion in contemporary society.
Hayes mentioned that Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, claims that “we are likely to witness an explosion in voyeurism, as well as downright meddling, in the internal affairs of the Catholic Church” due to the resignation.
Father Bill Dailey of the University of Notre Dame said that he wasn’t sure there was a decline in Catholic Church membership in “absolute terms” but that there is with certain “socio-cultural groups.”
“I think that the competition for people’s attention, and the secularization of the intellectual life. I was an undergraduate philosophy in college. You go through that and you wonder, does it make sense to believe in this faith?” he said.
Sister Mary Hughes of the Leadership Council of Women Religious said that people don’t find “relevance” in religion anymore. “They go to church, they hear homilies that they don’t feel fed by. Sometimes it’s an emphasis on laws, sometimes it’s a stream of consciousness homily.”
“I think at times,” she continued, “and perhaps it’s the decline of the intellectual life as well, there seems to be an inability to hold the tensions in a complex discussion.”
Hayes responded that “complexity is not the thing that’s driving religious growth around the world, right. I mean in some ways, devotion, faith of the most kind of straightforward way…doctrinally, complexity and holding tension is not a thing that’s driving religious devotion around the world.”
“When a religion stops helping people find meaning, people will invariably turn to to consumerism, to culture, and the pope is so busy declaring our culture the culture of death, you know, putting the responsibility on us,” said Jamie Manson of the National Catholic Reporter.
She went on to say that the pope and the hierarchy had denied the “crisis in the priesthood.”
“I think his doctrinal declarations are quite beautiful” but that they’re “out of time,” said Dailey.
He said he was with other priests having dinner and one said, “‘You know, people just can’t believe in these guys who wear these robes, and it’s easy to mock the clerical garb, especially the dresses that bishops are said to wear.’ Nobody says that about the Dalai Lama. Why is that?”
Dailey said it was not the uncovering of molestation and rape in the priesthood — as horrific as it is — that has led to declines in membership.
“What really makes them leave the church isn’t that there are some priests who have done that, it is because we sort of imagine they’re sick people and there’s only so much you can do to get rid of sick people. What’s the defense of bishops who didn’t respond in a robust, muscular, and transparent way to deal with that? That’s where the crisis of faith is.”
Watch the video, via MSNBC, below.