Hundreds of Catholic apostolates now exist throughout the nation, but there is little or no communication between them, making practical collaboration impossible. Even where communication exists there is often a lack of awareness concerning how we can help each other. For example, I receive regular calls from groups seeking to locate financial support. I try to explain that what my magazine Crisis can offer is a forum to tell their stories. I also urge these callers to reprint items from Crisis: “Don’t reinvent the wheel,” I tell them. “We’ve spelled out the arguments and provided the facts and analysis. Use them!” Free of charge, of course.
I’m afraid we have a long way to go in learning how to collaborate, how to take advantage of the work being done and the money being spent, and how to avoid duplication where possible.
All of this disarray plays into the hands of our critics and, more to the point, being divided makes us easy pawns to the “principalities and powers” who would subject us. Those who think it is better to work in isolation, that it encourages competition, must be reminded that we are not engaged in a zero-sum game.
There is enough work and enough resources for all. Why? Because the work is global evangelization and the resources come from God himself, who will multiply the loaves and fishes to feed those who follow him in the wilderness.
There are those who might sit back and enjoy the spectacle of a hundred small organizations struggling against each other for survival, saying, “Let the cream rise to the top.” Yet this attitude overlooks both the legitimate need for these many apostolates and the advantage to be gained through their mutual recognition and cooperation.
This is not to say that Catholic organizations should join together in complicated corporate mergers or disengage from friendly competition. Rather, I submit that leaders of organizations should make time to know one another, learn about each other’s missions, and explore ways of collaboration.
The United States is a big country — we underestimate the impact that geographical size has on our ability to know what’s going on, where, and who’s doing it. I repeatedly hear about groups in one part of the country who assume they must start from scratch to fight a battle — say, the proposed removal of the tabernacle to the far corner of the sanctuary. They have no inkling that the resources and arguments against that proposal already exist; the battle has been fought and won elsewhere.
Those who have studied the Catholic dissident movement come away impressed by one thing: The dissidents are organized, they share resources, they cooperate, and they have systematically targeted key institutions such as RCIA, CCD, schools, colleges, universities, and liturgical translation. Dissidents make effective use of their publications (look at the employment section of the National Catholic Reporter), the Internet, and networking conferences. While dissidents collaborate, the faithful work in isolation and occasionally bicker over strategy.
It’s time to put an end to this; it’s time for greater unity. Not the enforced unity of a formal merger or the emotional bond formed at the foot of a charismatic leader, but the hard-headed practical ad hoc unity of persons committed to a more effective ministry.
I believe God will bless such an effort. I believe the loaves and fishes are waiting, invisibly, to be multiplied among us. We can best oppose the disintegration of our culture by acting as one body in the Spirit, engaged in a common fight for our nation’s future.