Catholic initiation in a Minneapolis context: dissonance and evolution
Kapsner, Peter Braun
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In the history of Catholic initiation, there have been moments of dissonance between what the institution expects to happen in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, and what actually occurs when they are practiced at the local level. Such dissonance often then leads to an evolution in the understanding and/or practice of these sacraments such as when Augustine‟s theology of imputed sin created an emphasis on infant baptism or when the drunkenness of early Christians at the Eucharist table led to shifting communion from an evening meal to a morning liturgy. In light of this historical pattern, this dissertation looks at a current form of dissonance and evolution in the specific context of the western suburbs of Minneapolis. Here, the dissonance relates to high rates of initiate attrition immediately following the ritual process despite institutional expectations that initiates be incorporated into the community as actively participating members. This dissonance is documented through two years of qualitative, interview-based research in multiple Catholic parishes as well as several Protestant churches on a comparative basis. Based on these reports, the dissonance, seen among Catholics and Protestants alike, seems to arise from the fact many initiates in this part of Minneapolis live as highly-empowered individuals who regularly negotiate a variety of disconnected social and relational networks – each of which vies for their attention. In this competition of social spheres, initiates commonly leave the church to participate in contexts that they perceive to “meet their needs” such as schoolwork, athletics, jobs, and other extra-curricular activities. As a result, the church appears to be in the early stages of an evolution in which initiation sacraments focus less on community incorporation and more on how they meet needs in an individual‟s faith journey.