Then the is the church in the pews. It is in the parishes where the “good stuff” happens. The folks there aren’t involved in the hierarchal posturing and threats. For most the hierarchy is remote and uninvolved. The folks just want to do what is right. For them, doing what is right involves going to Mass regularly. Some do more, many don’t. Rightly or wrongly they don’t want to be disturbed.
These days the ministry of pastor borders on the impossible. As one pastor put it, the constant flow of directives and requirements emanating from “downtown” makes one think of sitting in a first floor office directly under a second floor lavatory with incomplete plumbing. The stuff just pours down. The downtown offices don’t seem to talk with each other. Each office maintains their pet projects are “top priority”, often with short fuse unrealistic timelines that have to be followed or else, and are pretty much unrelated to real life as lived in parishes and people’s homes. Programs are to be implemented immediately without regard to whatever else is already going on in the parish.
Pastors worry very much about how to minister to divorced and remarried folks. Many do not agree with the current “married outside the church” status and the consequent prohibition against receiving communion. They know it is not right, but they are powerless to do anything about it. Some, however, have gotten pastorally creative. Some have paid the price for that.
There is also the church of the folks who used to be in the pews but are no longer. Many, if not most, of these folks are better educated than the hierarchs who would tell them how to live their lives. They certainly know more about real life. They know what it is to make real flesh and blood life impacting decisions. They have seen that the emperor has no clothes and have just walked away. They are doing quite well without the church. However the church is not doing quite well without them.
They have a lot to teach the hierarchy, which, since it already knows everything, refuses to listen. From my experience these folks are living the gospel values in real life, even though they probably would not use these terms. They know how to take care of each other and of those who cannot take care of themselves, to balance with each other the good days and not so good days. They have come to ignore celibate men telling them how to live married and familial life. They realize nature does not make mistakes and is trying to teach us to look beyond what is now to what can be. They are a lot less judgmental and condemning than many religious systems, and a lot more caring.
Without using exact words they are not much interested in a god “out there somewhere” who watches for folks to make a mistake to he can punish them, or who gets involved once in a while and maybe answers prayers on occasion. They are more in tune with God as taught by Jesus who is present in all creation always, and who does much good as people interact among themselves, although they probably would not use this terminology.
They have come to know love is good and worthwhile among and between all folks, and are not concerned about gender “requirements” as laid down by religious systems. They know more love, respect, and charity among themselves than would ever be seen in many religious institutions.
My guess is that these folks do not reject God as God, but are not interested in god as presented by self-serving religious institutions. They reflect a God who is loving and caring, not judging and condemning, a God who is very much involved as folks love and care for each other. While they might resent religious terminology which brings with it so much useless baggage, they certainly do their best to live what it points to.
Just sayin . . .