Unintended Consequences

A new program of early voting launched in New York City last week. The mayor proclaimed this a great leap forward into the 21st century.

But the hastily-planned initiative wasn’t popular with everyone. One of the mothers in my congregation was horrified to see lines of voters traipsing through her sons’ school. Students were deprived of their lunchroom and had to eat in their classrooms instead. The risk to the children from a sudden and un-policed intrusion of strangers was obvious; parents quickly signed up to perform their own security force.

No doubt, this program will increase voter turnout in the end. But, in this case, the cost of change seems to have been poorly calculated.

As the Roman Catholic Church contemplates changing its policy about married priests, its leaders will want to weigh the consequences. The ending of the Latin Mass was followed by a steep and continuing decline in attendance.

The cause-and-effect relationship isn’t clear; many Christian churches without Latin have also seen their attendance decline in recent years. And my brother–who entered the Catholic church from the Episcopal Church under a special dispensation for married priests–flourishes in a parish outside Philadelphia. As a married Anglican priest myself, I could hardly condemn the practice!

Nevertheless, while the Spirit blows where it wills, we mortals have to be careful when we hoist our sails in the winds of change. —J. Douglas Ousley

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