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My Subjective Assessment Of The CUF

Camille Pissarro. Jallais Hill, Pontoise.
(Camille Pissarro. Jallais Hill, Pontoise. [Source])

Note: This text doesn't make sense unless you've read "What is Catholics United for the Faith (CUF)?" before.

1) Disclaimer

I currently know almost nothing about the CUF (October 2005). I've read their "CUF Chapter Formation Manual", translated their "Faith Facts On The CUF" into French, and exchanged some e-mails with Ms. Kristi Sands, Executive Assistant.

2) Advantages

Apparently, there are too many to list them all. My favorites are:

- Submission to the Pope and Bishops in union with the Pope;
- Clear promotion of the CCC;
- Defence of the official teachings of the Vatican II Council, against the diabolical "spirit" of Vatican II;
- Etc., etc.

3) Disadvantages

By and large, the advantages seem to far outweigh the negative aspects. I want to insist: even though I talk more about the disadvantages of the CUF, I still think those disadvantages are far from being crippling:

- No existing Chapter in Quebec City (although the Founder's wife is fluent in French, and has even studied a few hundred meters away from here, at the JÚsus-Marie School!)
- Even though the CUF has international ambitions, it seems mostly USA-centric;
- The somewhat expensive "pre-Internet" membership dues, discussed in point #4 below;
- The strange "or without" expression in the Chapter Bylaws, discussed in point #5 below;
- The apparent decision to avoid talking about the fundamental reason why the CUF was founded, discussed in point #6 below.

4) The somewhat expensive "pre-Internet" membership dues

The annual membership dues for someone outside the USA is currently sixty US dollars. I find that a bit expensive, especially since that money seems to buy me mostly books and magazines which I either have already, or don't really need.

With the Internet, we all have access to so many good and free Catholic books and magazines that we could spend the rest of our life reading, and never finish!

It would be interesting for the CUF to calculate what a "post-Internet" membership due would actually cost (I would guess 10$ USD), and offer both options (some people just don't want to learn how to use computers, or can't afford one).

5) The "or without" clause

Section 3.2 of the Chapter Bylaws states: "[...] unqualified right of CUF to terminate the membership of any individual or chapter, with or without stated cause" (my emphasis).

You'd think that the CUF bylaws would explicitly require that throwing people out would only be done in exceptional circumstances, using a rigorous and transparent process, and that people thrown out could always appeal to higher Church authorities (like the local Bishop). But they go in the exact opposite direction. Why?

I'm guessing the reason for the "or without" is not for self-protection against bad members or chapters, but on the contrary a covert attempt at self-protection against bad Church leaders (Priests, Bishops, Cardinals). In other words, the CUF obviously has no trust in the normal mechanisms of the Church to kick out heretics. This leads us directly into the next point.

6) The taboo reason for the CUF's existence?

From what I can see, the CUF carefully avoids the question: "Why have something like the CUF, which in many ways seems to duplicate the structure and role of parishes?" The answer seems obvious to me: "Because the parishes are often under the control of bad Priests, themselves put there by bad Bishops. Hence, because we want to remain in communion with the Pope, we sometimes need to workaround some bad religious leaders."

So far, so good. I would do exactly the same thing. But the CUF apparently tries to avoid talking about this, at least in their official documents. A metaphor for the CUF approach might be: "Don't publicly mention the cause of darkness; just light a candle". I tend to disagree by saying: "Trying to light puny little candles isn't enough, when an internal enemy roams around with a huge fire extinguisher, seeking candles to put out."

Less metaphorically, I claim that the CUF's approach is extremely well-intentioned, essential, safe, approved by the Church hierarchy, almost perfectly politically-correct, and perhaps doomed to failure.

The reason, in my opinion, is caused by the nature of the problem we face. The problem is that the system has failed. What system? Well, if you look at this whole business of Bishops, Priests, parishes, seminaries, catechesis, Catholic schools and colleges, etc., what you have in a way is a clever and efficient system designed to generate, feed and multiply Catholics.

Why do Priests have to obey Bishops? So Bishops can kick out bad Priests, among other things. Why do Priests have parishes? So the faithful can gather, network, support each other, partake of the spiritual nourishment given through good homilies and Sacraments, etc. Why catechesis? So youngsters can be equipped with the knowledge necessary to appreciate just how beautiful their Faith is, and how to defend it against the attacks of the Liar and Father of lies. Why seminaries? So we can replace good Bishops and Priests who retire, with good young men who are faithful the Pope. And so on and so forth...

What is important to understand is that this system is not just a random heap of social mechanisms. It is one of the best available systems of interdependent and synergistic social mechanisms! If this system gets co-opted, and starts producing heretics instead of Catholics, there is no other system we can design, CUF or otherwise, that will be able to keep up with it.

7) Conclusion

The CUF appears to have made the tactical decision of "sticking to the positive side", of not explicitly discussing the huge problem caused by heretical and dissident Priests and Bishops who are destroying the Church from the inside.

There are many advantages to this approach:

- no risk of usurping the official hierarchy of the Church;
- larger membership (since even timid persons who can't stand conflict will want to join);
- reduction of controversy (although it doesn't eliminate it, since just trying to be united with the Pope is considered a "declaration of war" by the wolves);
- a partial solution to disseminate the official teachings of the Church is much better than nothing!

In conclusion, I think that if the CUF really does what it claims, it is a force for the good which should be encouraged. But I don't think it is the solution.

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