During our drive home from band practice, Pope Francis came up between my wife, our drummer, and me. Our drummer is one of the kindest and smartest people I know -- not to mention talented. He comes from a Jewish family, and has a sort of good-natured disdain for all religion. At different times he has indicated that the religious are hoodwinked by parents unwittingly brainwashing their children, or deceived by knowing liars who seek to exercise control over other people's minds through mythology.
I was saying how Catholicism's big problem is that far too many Catholics can't make logical arguments for their own theology and tradition. As a Protestant attendee of Catholic school, I learned about rules and customs, but I wasn't given intellectual ammunition against challenges to the Catholic theocracy and tradition. For example: why can't women be priests? Why does God allow suffering? There are intelligent answers to these questions, and many scholars within the Catholic faith would be invigorated by such challenges. But, absent a common ability to articulate rather than recite, the doubters of the world will be left with the conclusion that it is misogyny and repression in the former case, and evidence of self-deception in the latter.
Catholic leaders do great work equipping their congregations with the traditions through which Catholic culture survives the generations. Until they do as good a job equipping the minds of their flock with the richness of compelling, logical ideas as a path to faith, I fear we will continue along the trend of youth who identify as Catholic because their parents are Catholic, but who have at best a vague notion that there might be a God, and at worst a resignation that they just mouth along with the words so as not to hurt their mom's feelings.
As we continue our haphazard march toward secular atheism as a nation, I sincerely hope Pope Francis ushers in a newly invigorated generation of faithful, committed Catholics, who are up to the sophomoric challenges of secularists who have never encountered an intellectual who believes in a loving creator, and who can answer simplistic challenges with reasoned arguments.