Faithful Catholics rightly feel betrayed, both by our own high priests and by Catholic civic leaders. Fr. Raymond de Souza’s fine article “Good Friday in America” (https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2021/03/good-friday-in-america) traces the progressive betrayal of Christ by Catholics since John F. Kennedy assured the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960 that his Catholic faith would not affect his public life. In 1991, his brother Ted went to a Palm Beach nightclub on Good Friday. On the day Christ died, on the day when a Catholic man must keep the most stringent fast and penance, Senator Kennedy brought his son and his nephew to a nightclub. The two boys brought back some women for casual sex, and the nephew was later charged with rape.
That was 30 years ago, when most rank-and-file Catholics kept basic Catholic practices. Today, the vast majority of Catholics don’t even go to Mass on Sunday. Compare the Kennedys in 1960 and 1991 with the British writer Hilaire Belloc, who in 1906 was running for public office. He said to voters, as quoted in de Souza’s article: “Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. This [taking a rosary out of his pocket] is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative” (excerpt from a speech to voters in South Salford).
A sense of history is essential to make sense of the present. History shows how “progressively” we Catholics have given up our faith over 115 years. By God's grace, we can rebuild a Christian culture, but it won’t happen quickly on the macro scale. It can be done quickly, however, on the micro scale. We can strengthen our Christian faith in our personal lives, in our homes, and in our parishes. We can fast this Friday instead of going to a nightclub, or even to a nice restaurant. We can attend the Passion Liturgy or Stations of the Cross instead of watching some soft-porn movie on Netflix. We can weep with Peter after he betrayed Jesus, instead of hanging ourselves with Judas.