Losing faith in Bonnie Erbe {updated}

How much longer will young Catholics have to put up with aging, bitter liberals like Bonnie Erbe predicting the imminent demise of the Church?

Bonnie writes for US News & World Report and hosts a show on PBS (so our tax-payer dollars are helping to pay her salary). Today she wrote a column for the Scripps Howard News Service entitled, “Losing faith in the Catholic Church’s direction.”

It never ceases to surprise me just how blind aging liberals are when it comes to the future of the Church. You’ve heard lines from Bonnie’s article a hundred times before. Here’s a gem: “Dogmatic, dictatorial churches do not resound with today’s spirituality, and young people are not clamoring to join them.”

Bonnie’s caricature doesn’t withstand a moment’s analysis. The Church isn’t “dictatorial” – it simply has standards – it makes claims which are true and which have consequences. No one stays in the Church because they are looking to be punished, they stay in the Church because they understand it is a place of love, healing and forgiveness.

As for her claim that the Church must become “appealing” to the world in order to become popular, where is her real-life counter-example? Can she really claim with a straight face that liberal Christian denominations, many of whom are bending over backward to blend in with the times, are flourishing purely based on their similarity to the standards of Bonnie’s worldview?

My own experience – which I would wager is far more informed than her own when it comes to Catholic youth – is that young Catholics are excited about being Catholic, joyful about being Catholic, see the Church as a treasure, and will continue to contribute to its life and vibrancy throughout their adult lives. They have only just begun to do this.

The gospel reading at Mass this Monday was about a blind man whose sight Jesus restored. I’m sorry to say it, but I doubt Bonnie heard that reading. Bonnie remains blind to her own dogmatic dictates. For instance, she is an unapologetic advocate of abortion, someone who has written, “In a Recession, Abortions Are Not a Bad Choice.”

When I pause and reflect upon the dozens of young Catholic families I know who are planning on having a large family (God willing), I have to grimace when I hear Bonnie’s prediction that the future of the Church (and the culture) lies with her and her abortion–and-contraception-touting pals. For someone who spends such a long time in her article talking about demographics, she spends all of it pointing out statistical motes in our eyes, and ignores the beam in the eye of pro-abortion, pro-contraception zealots.

A final thought. What disturbs me most about reading Bonnie is that she has an audience. She has a platform through which she can continue to prop up the stereotypes that persist in our culture about the Church. There are young non-Catholics and fallen-away Catholics who will read her column (and other authors of the same bent) and will continue to never give the Church a real hearing.

Maybe we can do something about it. Bonnie shares her email address at the end of her column (it’s bonnieerbe[at]compuserve[dot]com). If you want to, please charitably send her an email and try to explain in your own words how she has allowed herself to become blinded to the brightness of the Church’s future.

I haven’t yet fully lost faith that there is hope for the Bonnies.

UPDATE – Phillip Longman’s article “Survival of the Godliest” provides a perfect counter-point to the demographic (mis)musings of the Bonnies:

Here’s a serious problem with [the theory that the world will always become more liberal]: today’s strongly religious people tend to have a relatively large number of children, whereas secularists increasingly have few, if they have them at all. If you believe in evolution (and what secularist doesn’t?), then you have to take this thoroughly naturalistic explanation for God’s comeback into account.

Or, as Mother Teresa famously said, “a nation without children is a nation without hope.”

The same goes for ideologies.



  • Amanda

    As a college student, I have a lot of hope for the future of the Church. I think my generation is ready to stand up for the Truth. No, we will not back down to fit in with the culture. I have seen enough to know that God offers something far better than the world ever can.

    I noticed that she criticized celibacy. People seem to try to speak up for priests/religious about this when they don’t know what they’re talking about. Have they noticed the great joy that priests/religious have? Celibacy is far from being a problem. I also think the “vocations crisis” is exaggerated. Most communities who wear the habit and are completely faithful to the Church are doing very well.

  • John Jakubczyk

    All the young people I know who are serious about faith and religion are embracing a very traditional approach and are not the lefties that I grew up watching. Erbe and her ilk cannot comprehend that reality that young people are looking for substance in their lives. They want the truth and the only place to discover the fullness of truth is within the Catholic Church.

    Great article and wonderful discussion.


    Ecclesiastes 10:2

  • Kathleen

    The truth is that one’s freedom is lost with disobedience. True freedom comes in obedience. Sadly, she and many others are slaves to pride in which their thought becomes the rule. Let us pray for our each other that we may be humble hearts that are open to following our Lord. Also, I am a young adult who is clamoring at the feet of Jesus and to the successor He appointed to Peter!

    • Bruce

      That is on-point! God Bless!

  • JohnE

    Bonnie wants a soft, non-challenging Church that pats you on the back no matter what you do and serves you lukewarm milk and dry toast in bed. Doesn’t exactly sound like the narrow path that Christ encourages us to seek.

  • Jeff H

    The assumption in so many of these tropes is that God should change His truth to fit the styles of popular American culture. If Scripture tells us anything, it is that popular culture bears, if any relation at all, an inverse relationship to God’s truth. God’s ways are not American culture or Bonnie Erbe’s ways.

    • Bruce

      When one stops and considers that the very idea of America, largely only stretches back to 18th century Western Europe, one begins to be rather amused at its arrogance in thinking it is something more permanent and more important than, say, the 2010 year old Church, or the multitudes of other civilizations that spanned thousands of years longer. America is not a stable creation, as no man-made institution or creation is, and will fold in time. Erbe’s views are not exactly helping to stall that fall.



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