I stumbled upon the comments of an old blog post of mine, and you can read there some interesting comments about the way Catholics react when the Church is attacked.
The comments start from Shane’s (he of Lux Occulta; see also the link on my blogroll) fear the Papal visit of 2010 could have become a disaster because of the rabid anti-Catholic activity it would unleash (and was already unleashing), with myself espousing the opinion the Church actually thrives on this kind of confrontation.
In my eyes, it is fair to say the events of 2010 seem to support my own view: the Pope was welcomed by huge and enthusiastic crowds, and it is not far from reality to say at least some of those who attended were there as a reaction to the rabid anti-Catholic messages invariably launched from several media outlets; first of all, as always, the Broadcasting Basket-cases Corporation.
As I also noticed in the comment section, a similar phenomenon had happened in Easter 2010, when unusually strong attacks to the Church had caused the churches of the realm to be so packed as I had never seen before (or have ever seen since).
What do we conclude from this? Is this just a “gesture” people do to “feel good”, or is there something more profound at play?
If you ask me, episodes like Easter 2010 and the Papal visit the same year show us a very clear pattern: many Catholics feel uneasy with their own relationship with the Church. They do not go to Mass and they know (at some level of consciousness, just there among the things one doesn’t want to think about; like, say, cancer…) it is wrong, though probably they can’t even remember the last priest who had the gut to tell them so. The way they react is to simply remove the problem and not think about it, but when a provocation comes which forces them to say to themselves on which side they stand, most of them have no doubt. They won’t become observant Catholic the next day for that, but they will show they don’t want the Church to be attacked.
I remember several other episodes of the kind; the Crucifix-controversy in Germany in 1994, and the similar confrontation in Italy in the last years. In both cases, the crucifix-party won, and in both cases the popular support went far beyond the churchgoers.
I can’t take out of my mind the simply infuriating thought the Church does not win many battles simply because the clergy does not have the gut to fight them; out of sheer cowardice, or underestimation of their own power, or simply because they side with the other side.
We will know in November the way the US Catholic have reacted to the HHS mandate controversy and, now, to the “Outing” of President Obama. It can certainly be more time is necessary, but if the English, German and Italian experience is any guidance, this will be another demonstration that many tepid, inattentive, or “peripheral” Catholics are ready to take a stand when they feel they can’t ignore the problem anymore.
I still think there is a huge cannon out there, just left unused.