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Pray, pay, and obey January 3, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, foolishness, General Catholic, North Deanery.

Pray, pay, and obey…..a term meant as a pejorative by many who see a marked distinction, a rupture, between the pre- and post-Vatican II Church.  The idea is that, prior to Vatican II, the faithful, or laity, were allowed no more role than to pray, pay, and obey.  I don’t know if this model of behavior was ever really true, and is not simply a construct of those who wish to see a marked dichotomy between pre-and post-Vatican II Churches, but in thinking about this recently, I assumed, for the sake of argument, that it is.  What new roles have replaced the previously very limited, very “second class” roles of pray, pay, and obey?

Some may say that increased participation by the laity in areas such as “extraordinary ministers of Communion,” or lector, or vastly increased sizes of parish and diocesan staff, show a much greater involvement by the laity in the Church.  That may be so, but do these roles bring those people, or anyone else, closer to God, as a primary part of their responsibility?  There is much question here, and much debate, and while I have my marked preferences, it is quite certain the answer is not clear.  While so called “active participation” may have increased in some visible, physical sense for some people, other areas of participation, equal if not more important in terms of one’s relationship with God, are not nearly so well off.

Let’s look at “pray, pay, and obey” in the context of the present day Church.  Taking the last first, there is no question that obedience in the Church is very sadly lacking.  95% of Catholics in this country commit a grave sin, the use of contraception, for much of their lives.  Very few of these Catholics think there is anything wrong in this use, certainly nothing to be confessed.  A large number of Catholics support abortion, and 2/3 or more don’t believe in the Real Presence.  40% don’t even believe in the Resurrection!  I think we can safely say that what has replaced “obey” is rampant ignorance and dissent, if not outright heresy.

How about pay?  That one’s not going too well either.  If we look at some of our older churches, it becomes apparent in a hurry that previous generations were much more willing to sacrifice in order to give more to the Church.  Today, most Catholics give about 1% of their net income to the Church (see:  Charles Zech’s Why Catholics Don’t Give …And What Can Be Done About It.) In previous times, the tithe was closer to 5-6% of gross, on average.  That is one reason why we have suburban parishes with membership numbering, nominally, in the tens of thousands.  While there aren’t enough priests to support many more parishes at present, there also isn’t the funding base to support them, either, in spite of a very large Catholic population.  It would seem that, for a variety of reasons that include a breakdown in the authority/obedience model and a general decrease in a serious, religious conviction, Catholics can no longer be bothered to give much at all to the Church.

It’s more difficult to assess the prayer lives of Catholics in 2010 versus that, in say, 1940, and of course individual variances are enormous.  Given other trends in the Church, I would hazard that Catholics in times past probably had a much more vibrant, vital prayer life than do most Catholics today, because the overall practice of the Faith was much stronger then, but that is just my personal supposition.

It’s odd to see the terms “pray, pay, and obey” used in a pejorative sense, as if having a vibrant prayer life, giving generously to the Church, and obeying all the Doctrine of the Faith to the best of one’s ability, is somehow an insufficient way to approach the Faith, that it’s somehow lacking.  Just what, then, has replaced “pray pay and obey” in today’s Church, that is so much better?  I would think the Church would be in a much better place today than it is if Catholics did actually pray, pay, and obey, with much conviction.


1. Mary - January 4, 2011

A side question is this – How did we get from communion distribution by only deacons and priests who’s hands have been consecrated to handle the body and blood of Christ to any random Joe and Sue distributing (touching) communion?

Is it because we already stopped believing in the true Presence, or did that come later?

On the ‘pay, pray, and obey’, I think you’re right-on! Those who want to believe the absence of this in Vatican II was a good thing need to take a good, hard look at what they are saying. Has VII (or the spirit of) brought us anything that was promised?

2. Colleen Hammond - January 5, 2011

To continue on that thought, Mary, did you see the parish in NY where the hosts were contaminated with Hep A?

“No word on whether it’s a member of the clergy or someone else who received or assisted with communion.”


3. Mary - January 5, 2011

No I didn’t see the hep A article, but wow, that’s scary. I’m going to venture a guess that the person was an “EXTRA-ordinary minister of communion”; why they need these at daily masses I’ll never figure out. If it had been the priest, more mass goers would have been notified.

I don’t receive communion from these EOMs, I’ll swap lines to receive from the priest; yet another reason.

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