Has post-Vatican II catechesis of Catholic youth failed?

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In Fall 2012, an unnamed parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (presumably its pastor) hired the Villanova University economist and Director of its Center for the Study of Church Management, Charles Zech, to survey lapsed Catholics (presumably the parish’s lapsed members).  The survey’s purpose was to discover their reasons for leaving the practice of the Catholic faith.

The study’s findings—methodological questions and generalizations aside—were (yawn) unsurprising:

  • the sexual abuse scandal;
  • dissatisfaction with the parish, Archdiocese, and Vatican; and,
  • most who leave join Protestant denominations.

Interviewed by NBC’s local television affiliate, Zech noted that parishes do have some power to keep disgruntled Catholics from leaving.  Most important is what Zech identified as the “quality” of the liturgy:

Liturgies are really important.  I’m not sure that parish staff and clergy understand how important liturgies are to people, that they have good music and the liturgy be meaningful.  People who feel they are not being fed by a meaningful liturgy—they’ll go where they are being fed.

That’s a very interesting observation.  “Good music” will keep potentially disgruntled congregants from leaving?  If so, then it would be interesting to learn exactly what kind of music is most likely to keep in the pews those apparently many congregants who disagree with Church teaching?  Might it be Gregorian chant?

The Motley Monk doubts that is what Professor Zech is suggesting.  But, for the 189 respondents who have left the Church, how the music makes them feel appears to be primary.

More important to The Motley Monk is another of Zech’s observations concerning the study’s secondary findings:

People who are going to leave the church over the scandal and the church’s handling of it have already left.  So people leaving the church today are leaving for other reasons.  A growing reason we found out was the church’s attitude toward homosexuals and gay marriage.  A lot of younger people object to the church’s teaching on that.

Although Zech’s survey is neither reliable nor valid—meaning its findings, though accurate, cannot be generalized to the larger population due to sampling methodology—this finding may lend support to what other, more reliable and valid studies—like the Pew Research studies of faith and religion—have been noting and may very well be a trend.  Namely, the nation’s young people don’t particularly care about the moral questions and answers to those questions concerning homosexuality and so-called “homosexual marriage.”

If this finding is accurate, this is not good news for Church officials.  The nation’s Catholic youth are no different in attitude toward homosexuality and so-called homosexual marriage than are the nation’s youth in general, despite the Church’s vigorous and very public opposition.   Are the nation’s bishops and pastors to believe that improving the quality of music will keep this generation’s young Catholics practicing their faith?

Again, if this finding is accurate, it suggests that post-Vatican II catechesis of the nation’s Catholic youth—whether in the Catholic high schools or parish-based CCD programs—has failed to form the consciences of Catholic youth to appreciate what Pope John Paul II called “The Splendor of Truth.”  Instead, the secular, materialist, and consumerist “Culture of Death” has achieved results that may be nothing short of spectacular.

Yes, the Sirens are singing anew.  And that’s apparently what lapsed Catholics want and, presumably, what parishes should provide them, according to Zech’s study, if they are going to keep disgruntled members from leaving.

Yet, The Motley Monk would note,  this is a noxious prescription.  As Walter Copland Perry has observed:

Their song, though irresistibly sweet, was no less sad than sweet, and lapped both body and soul in a fatal lethargy, the forerunner of death and corruption.



To read the NBC article, click on the following link:

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  1. The catechesis is precisely the problem and has been for at least four decades.

    I had never seen a catechism until my daughter began studying it in third grade. I went to 12 years of catholic school in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and then 4 years of catholic college and I had never seen a catechism.

    Is it any wonder that people my age and younger know virtually nothing about their faith?

    Catholic Baby Boomers, religious and lay, failed to transmit the faith. It is no longer a question of retaining, it is a question of rediscovering.

  2. Bad catechesis is one of those problems that the Church has probably always suffered from. But it definitely should have improved in the past 100 years, with the increase in literacy and communication.

    I remember going through CCD with “Jesus Our Peace” coloring books and the like. We moved around a lot, so I think I got a good overview of catechesis in the 1970’s. Really spotty. I must have had some decent programs along the way, because every once in a while an exact formulation like “a man like us in all things but sin” pops into my head. But then again, I also remember a husband and wife explaining to us 12th-graders that it’s important for a married couple to decide which one is in charge of the birth control.

  3. To understand the problem, look for where the problem is. The eminent conservative Dr. Charles Murray hit the nail on the head in his new book “Coming Apart.”

    The Catholic Church is not doing all that bad of a job retaining college educated Catholics. Even those on the Left or on the Right with problems with church teachings, they mostly stay in the Church with their reservations rather than leave.

    Working class Americans however, have gone from the most Catholic to the most irreligious element of society in a generation. Americans without a college education have stampeded out of the Church. And to put it on them might be being kind. Evidence is that rather than leaving the church, the church left them –not in the usual sense that phrase it offered. The Catholic Church has pastorally abandoned non-college Catholics. It is working class parishes that are closed, working class schools, and working class chaplaincies. Priests and other pastoral ministers have been reassigned away from working class parishes in both number and quality.

    I’m counting off the top of my head ten apostolates to college students or college graduates in my diocese. There is one apostolate to non-college youth and that is conducted solely in a foreign language.

    Yet the New Evangelizers never even mention this scandal.

  4. I think Kurt has it nailed.

    We have a few working class men at our parish, but they’re all retired from the auto and related industries. We have a handful of working class single moms who are below retirement age, but that’s it.

    One caveat: *nobody* in the Church gives a rat’s tuchus about the problem. Thomas Groome’s catechetics are equally attuned (read: oblivious) to the concerns and mindset of suburban America. Ditto those chatty “what makes a quality parish?” books and essays.

    Essentially, American Catholicism is following the same death spiral trajectory as the mainline: an out-of-touch organization of the comfortable classes celebrating good cheer and secular probity.

    Assimilation worked all too well.

  5. I would assume, Kurt, that a lot of what you point out is unconscious on the Church’s part:

    – College ministries multiply because college educated people (who often know mostly other college educated people) are seeking to keep young people involved in the Church at the age that many fall away. Since it’s mostly college educated people doing this work, and college is where they think to address potentially straying Catholic, the majority who don’t go to college end up getting ignored.

    – On parish closings, that may be more a symptom than a cause. At least in the diocese I’ve been in, it’s invariably parishes that have very low attendance that end up not getting pastors or getting closed entirely.

    However, that the problem is accidental certainly doesn’t mean that it’s not a problem, and a bad one. And tying the problem in with Murray’s observations about the overall problems with society in the working class probably makes a lot of sense.

  6. I hadn’t considered the matter that way Kurt. I don’t dispute that the Church has abandoned working class people.
    Thinking of the two dozen or so people from college that I still have contact with, only about frive are practical Catholics. This was trending that way in college (La Salle University, Philadelphia) with Sunday masses on campus drawing thirty or so students, a couple of professors and Christian Brothers, and a couple of parents – a small fraction of the student body.
    It may be that the students who graduate from college with their faith intact tend to stay but I don’t think that most of the ones whose faith failed come back. Most of the ones I know seem quite happy with the amorphous Christianity of modern America.
    One challenge that all Christians whose faith is informed by the Bible face is the pernicious idea that “good enough” is, well, good enough. It is very hard to explain to most people that this touchy-feely, non-demanding god they’ve created isn’t going to accept everyone. Try it sometime. Try telling someone you know well but who doesn’t go to church – it doesn’t matter which denomination – that sins short of capital murder can damn one’s soul.
    To most of America, it is accepted that, if one is “good,” God will give you a pass. Once one accepts that idea, what purpose is served by church, sacraments, prayer, or Scripture. Better to spend one’s time doing “good” – working at a soup kitchen, spending time with the elderly, contributing to a bake sale… “Good enough” has become good enough and that is very bad.

  7. We have a few working class men at our parish, but they’re all retired from the auto and related industries.

    I have been associated with two small town parishes (which have between them perhaps 400 attending each week) which should get the full cross section of the community. Between the two, I can identify three families who do blue collar work (one of whom actually owns his own business and one of whom has a side business) and one office clerk.

  8. If the Church is allegedly losing members over its traditional teachings on homosexuality and same-sex “marriage”, then why are the mainline Protestant churches who are more open to those concerns hemorrhaging members at a much faster clip? The Episcopal Church, which is pretty much what the Catholic Church’s most vocal critics would like the Church to become, is in much more dire straits than is the Catholic Church. Something much deeper and less superficial is going on to cause younger people to fall away from their faith.

    I think Kurt and Dale are on to at least a good part of the problem. But there seems to be more at work across the entire spectrum of fallen-away believers.

  9. I agree, the feedback that people left over issues like gay marriage strikes me as pretty hard to credit given what’s happened to the liberal mainline Protestants.

    A not fully formed thought:

    Catechesis seems like part of the issue, but if we focus almost exclusively on catechesis we end up with a religious experience that’s a lot like school. It kind of makes sense that this would appeal most to the people who like school a lot and define themselves more in terms of allegiance to ideas and movements.

    While catechesis is a necessary part of formation, it seems like what it should be serving is a fully lived faith, of which we might say the most basic elements are: a relationship with God and a belief that we receive His graces through the sacraments and are intended to be with him for eternity in heaven.

    The group of Catholics I can think of which includes the most young and middle aged blue collar people (as well as more educated ones) is one in Cincinnati that was originally rooted in the charismatic renewal, and although I’m not at all charismatic in my spirituality, I have to say that they definitely have a strong sense of having a relationship with God and a hope in heaven that is rooted in God’s grace and the sacraments.

  10. I concur with Darwin: the issue isn’t so much catechesis per se as it is conversion. As the Church understands it, catechesis is given to those who have already decided to follow Christ, to become His disciple. While catechesis certainly needs to improve, even greater emphasis needs to be given to the “front end” of the evangelization process of which catechesis is part, the front end being the “primary proclaimation” of the Gospel.

    A Scriptural analogy here is the Exodus and Mt. Sinai: God gave the bulk of His teachings to the Israelites *after* they had experienced His power, His presence… *Him* in the Exodus. We tend to reduce catechesis to information-transfer from head to head, neglecting its larger context as growth in discipleship.

  11. Anyone here read Vox Day’s “The Irrational Atheist”? In it, he makes reference to “low-church” atheists. That’s what the culture is drawing to by the sheer gravity of Sloth (the sin I think is 2nd only to Pride in danger the older I get). Trying to think about weighty matters is too hard and without the sheer cultural push towards faith that older times had, most won’t bother.

    An explanation pretty spelled out in Screwtape Propose a Toast. The culture is growing more apathetic, and one can’t evangelize (protestant or Catholic) someone who doesn’t care. Why should they? It’s not like they really believe in a “soul” or think it has any effect on them. Or to use a parable: The sick need a doctor, but you can’t make someone go who doesn’t believe they’re ill.

    The real question all Christians (Catholic & Protestant alike) must answer: How do we wake people up? How do we remind humans of what they are and some things are worth the effort?

  12. Around where I am, many Catholic schools have closed because blue collar parents can no longer afford to send their children to a private school. Those children from Blue Collar homes would have once attended Catholic schools which surely would have taught them more about their faith than they would ever learn facing the daily onslaught of ungodliness they face in the public schools. That has to be having an impact.

  13. First, let me say that I appreciate the quality of the dialogue here on this topic. Thnak you. Second let me just make a few quibbles. Darwin notes that this problem may be unconscious on the Church’s part. I would have the concern that being unconscious about social class is a seriously bad thing. The new Mass translation may be much improved theology (but let’s not digress there), but did anyone even do a two page memo on how it would be recieved by the 75% of Americans who are not college educated?

    Then to quibble with Jay’s question as to why are the mainline Protestant churches who are more open to those concerns hemorrhaging members at a much faster clip, I would note that such data is about a decade old. In recent years mainline Protestantism is losing less members than Catholicism (they do receive fewer immigrants and have a very marginally lower birth rate, but do retain their members again at a very slightly superior rate than Catholics, contrary to past decades). But Jay’s point is valid that people are not fleeing anti-gay churches for pro-gay churches; both sides are seeing decline.

    But the bigger issue, as Dr.Murray points out in his book, that without religion, the lives of working class Americans are a mess — morally, spiritually, financially, emotionally, socially. In Mexico, a sacramental and/or civil marriage is practically inheard of among the poor. Now the American white working class is approaching the same practice. In the past one felt sorry for the poor fellow who worked the third shift, but he usually was a young single guy who moved to a better shift before he married and started a family. Now it is single mothers who don’t ven have a fixed shift or dependable hours but a constantly changing work schedule. Families are a total mess.

    The Holy Name Society in my diocese was once looked down a little bit by some as a workingmen’s organization (and in my diocese, it did not have the color bar the Knights of Columbus did). I can’t imagien today getting the hundreds they did for a communion breakfast. I’m not sure I could find a white Americnan practicing Catholic at a construction site. We had industrial chaplaincies. The few left today are run by aging priest who will not be replaced.

    The diocese once had a full time police chaplain. Now a parish priest is police AND fire chaplain and unless a cop is killed, he refers people to his Protestant counterpart.

    On the up side, we have a Catholic community that is increasingly wealthy and well educated. Soon we will have the socio-demographics of the 19th century Episcopal Church.

  14. Perhaps because people who attend college listen more readily, they are more able to discern the Real Presence of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the tabernacle and on the altar during Mass and the Liturgy. When heaven comes to earth during the consecration, the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus, when the priest acts “in persona Christi” all heaven and earth bow down. Why would some go to the Protestant church where there is only a symbol of Jesus, no more than a crucifix or a statue, an imitation of the transubstantiation? The people themselves, who refuse to open their hearts to Jesus are to blame as much in the church as out of the church.

  15. Barbara says that it is the lack of proper Catholic schools. I agree. The lack of Catholic schools and the truly Catholic sisters who once raised a generation of good citizens. Lay teachers are expensive and the nuns on the bus need help themselves. Who will teach our children what they themselves have not learned?

  16. “Has post-Vatican II catechesis of Catholic youth failed?” Yes. Utterly.

    During my undergrad years in the mid-1980’s, I volunteered as a CCD teacher
    for high school kids. Mind you, these were kids whose parents cared enough
    about their religious education that they attended a class after Sunday Mass.
    Most had attended Catholic schools their entire academic lives. I was curious
    to see just how well-catechized they were, so the first session was spent asking
    them pretty basic questions. “Raise your hand if you believe Jesus was a man,
    but not God” Half the classes’ hands went up. God, but not man?– up went
    the other half’s. “Both God and man?” One hand. When I spoke
    of our God being a Trinity, several kids in the class were dubious, because as
    they said, they’d never heard that mentioned before. A short explanation of the
    Real Presence was met with incredulity. Several were convinced I was pulling
    their legs and that if I was serious, then it was just ‘gross’.

    It’s not that those kids were feigning ignorance to toy with me– they were
    honestly interested in hearing these basics explained. Which is sad, for here
    they were, after years in Catholic schools and years of attending Mass, and
    not only were they poorly catechized Catholics, but they would barely have
    been able to pass for Unitarians.

    I doubt that anyone had ever quizzed those kids over the basics of the Faith
    before. How many “religious ed.” programs absolve themselves of any need
    to measure their own effectiveness? The salaried DRE of that parish never
    once asked me about my experiences with those kids– for all she knew, I
    could have been teaching them from a stack of Watchtower magazines.

    Has post-Vatican II catechesis failed? Of course it has, and miserably. But
    don’t just take my opinion– parents, grandparents and catechists should
    see for themselves. Ask the children in your care specific, basic questions
    about the Faith and find out just how Catholic their ‘catholic’ education has
    been. (You might want a stiff drink afterwards).

  17. “Raise your hand if you believe Jesus was a man,
    but not God” Half the classes’ hands went up. God, but not man?– up went
    the other half’s. “Both God and man?” One hand. When I spoke
    of our God being a Trinity, several kids in the class were dubious, because as
    they said, they’d never heard that mentioned before. A short explanation of the
    Real Presence was met with incredulity. Several were convinced I was pulling
    their legs and that if I was serious, then it was just ‘gross’.

    I suppose I’m fortunate that my kids attend a lay-run Catholic school where they ARE taught these things. I also live in a community with Catholic churches with a fairly large and active blue collar presence. My K of C council is largely run by blue collar folks. I don’t know if Norwalk, OH is, then, the exception to many of the problems that many here have diagnosed, or if there’s actually something wider in the culture at play that is causing the falling away from the Church.

    It seems to me that something else is happening in the culture at large, similar to what happened in European countries 50 years ago. It is interesting that the Church is growing by leaps and bounds in “less developed” parts of the world, but the more “developed” and “modern” parts of the world are witnessing the trend that we’re all here talking about. Does the Church have a message that resonates more the less “developed” and “modern” a society is? Does the Church have a message that resonates in small towns and rural areas like Norwalk, OH, or in parts of the South where the Church seems to be growing, but that doesn’t resonate in larger urban and suburban areas? I just don’t know. But it seems to me to be a much deeper problem than some of the alleged causes that we’re putting forward here.

  18. My answer to the question is yes, and it is a situation causing recurring prayer – for these four decades.

    The answer to the giant cartoon biblical characters glossy magazine texts with games and exercises before standard information, for which there is not time, offering outs for ‘classes’, is standardization.

    Pre-VII, the Baltimore Catechism, memorization, actual church attendance were it. Kids were surrounded by religious art and reverent people. Standard liturgy.

    Modern times offer wink, nod, and atrocities to kids who are waiting for the hour to end because building blocks are missing, and the world awaits them.
    After VII, nuns went undercover of the world – things and the glossy books they wrote couldn’t replace their influence.

    How about a First Communion preparation that includes practice with crackers because the host will be ‘yucky’ – ‘everyone, get in line’. Or playing hangman with religious words to get attention, and so through the hour. Or drilling the sign of the cross with fast repetitions. Or … .

    Family support is gone for the rush to other activities and, sadly priorities.

    This third generation since has lost the substance of their faith because the elders are unable or unwilling to communicate it. As time for Confirmation finally comes, it is points given for doing good around the parish or community that is the pass. After Confirmation, no points – no sign of most.

  19. How about blaming the post Vatican 2 liturgy for some of this? Poor liturgy and communion in the hand has lead to loss of faith in Holy Mass as the Sacrifice of Calvary and in the Real Presence of Christ.

  20. Dale Price wrote, “Essentially, American Catholicism is following the same death spiral trajectory as the mainline: an out-of-touch organization of the comfortable classes celebrating good cheer and secular probity”

    Certainly, this is what has happened in the UK. There is a striking resemblance to what Mgr Ronald Knox kind beautifully satirised as “Public School” (i.e. English boarding school) religion:

    “I think, then, it should be said at the outset that public schools are trying to teach the sons of gentlemen a religion in which their mothers believe, and their fathers would like to: a religion without ” enthusiasm ” in the old sense, reserved in its self-expression, calculated to reinforce morality, chivalry, and the sense of truth, providing comfort in times of distress and a glow of contentment in declining years; supernatural in its nominal doctrines, yet on the whole rationalistic in its mode of approaching God: tolerant of other people’s tenets, yet sincere about its own, regular in church-going, generous to charities, ready to put up with the defects of the local clergyman.” A religion in which no one encounters what Tauler called “the Abyss which is unknown and has no name . . . more beloved than all that we can know” or the experience that Brémond says, “overflows all categories, defies all explanations, and seems at once self-loss, adventure, and perfected love.”

  21. YES.

    Objective truth has been lost. Everything is up in the air. Too many distractions. No accountibility.

    The list is too long.

  22. “I doubt that anyone had ever quizzed those kids over the basics of the Faith before. How many “religious ed.” programs absolve themselves of any need to measure their own effectiveness?”

    In one diocese I lived in not too long ago, there was a deliberate effort not to teach the Faith in RCIA. That was their explicit purpose – not to teach any doctrines. They became angry if anyone attempted to. Rather, their aim was to teach people to love and to have them carry this “love of Christ” into the world.

    Mind you, this was not at the parish level but rather directed from the diocese and thus the bishop.

  23. Well yes, it’s failed spectacularly. The Church in the States has also blown it big time with working class Americans. The few that are left in my parish don’t feel welcome and I don’t blame them because they aren’t.

  24. The problems in the Church today are legion. However, I believe people leave the Church primarily because their roots are too shallow; the result of improper catechesis.
    When people come to understand the reality of God’s existence, that He is our ultimate Judge, that He demands spiritual perfection (Mt. 5:48), and that perfection can be gained most readily through the proper reception of the sacraments instituted by Christ, they would never leave.
    The Catholic Church is the lifeline to ultimate union with the Holy Trinity. The Church shows the way and encourages all to persevere to the end, but our destiny is in our own hands. It is safe to say that if all Catholics lived up to the standards set by Christ and promulgated by His Church, the world could not hold out against conversion. It is not easy to be a good Catholic. It calls for the restraint of passion and the exercise of virtue. Individual Catholics under strong temptation have fallen.
    The Catholic Church cannot and will not equivocate when it comes to the teachings of Christ. She alone is the voice of Christ in the world. Her voice will always ring out in protest of the violations of God’s commandments. Does this not demonstrate the character of the Church?
    From the beginning, the Catholic Church has held up the highest standards. When we run across things in history, which seem incompatible with God’s Church, how are we to regard them? In every instance they are the result not of the teaching of the Church, but of the violation of those teachings. They show the passion and weakness of individuals, not the doctrine of the Church.
    The treason of one American does not mean that all Americans are treasonous. The actions of one traitor are not a reflection on American patriotism. If we find a crooked politician, does it mean that we should abolish our democratic form of government? Neither does evil perpetrated by one member of the Church prove that the Church is corrupt.

  25. A little anecdote that doesn’t quite fit with Kurt’s analysis. I take it as that there are pockets where the blue collar family is engaged in the Church, or rather that the Church has not abandoned these folks.

    My family hails from an area of N. Texas near the Oklahoma border, north of Dallas. Two towns situated near each other are historically of German ancestry. (The residents joke about one town being populated with East Germans and the other with West Germans.) Both towns are primarily Catholic, with a lot of family ties in between. The larger town (still rather small pop. ~1500) also features a Baptist church about the size of a large house. Over the years, visiting grandparents and other relatives there, I’ve attended Mass a great many times. The pews are full of families… young, old, and in between. I should also mention that these two towns are farming communities. You have some college educated people, but you also have a lot who are not.

    More recently, the ACTS retreat program has been implemented, in at least one of these parishes. (One welcome side effect, is that several barriers or divisions were obliterated as more and more parishioners attended the retreat.) There is an element of catechesis in the program, but there is a significant amount of evangelizing (or re-evangelizing) as well. I have to wonder if the fact that these communities are being evangelized as well as catechized is helping to stem the losses.

    Maybe it’s the urban settings in which our blue collar brothers and sisters are being failed. Maybe it’s that there may be something unique or special about these two towns. Maybe it’s that they are rural rather than urban. Or maybe it’s that some areas are more susceptible to this lure of the sloth of low-church-atheism as Nate mentioned.

  26. Or maybe it’s that some areas are more susceptible to this lure of the sloth of low-church-atheism as Nate mentioned.

    Yeah… rural areas seem to be more immune to it. But then, knowing how my family was (a lot of farmers), going to church was almost like an extended break for them between all the endless chores of farming.

    We could be onto something… where the church is seen as a place of rest vs where it is seen as a chore.

  27. maybe more emphasis needs to be put on the sunday homily. that is intended to be a primary means of catechesis.

    i live in a very conservative catholic diocese. still, even here, i hear many sermons that do little to instruct the faithful on the teachings of the Church.

    the liturgy has daily readings and these readings have a common thread running through them.

    maybe our priestly formation is one of the more important places to improve our catechesis?

    in the end however, it is the fire burning in the hearts of the faithful that will most effectively grow the Kingdom.

    we, all of us catholics, must seek to turn the fire in our hearts up until they become raging infernos of love and action.

    perhaps, before we spend too much time pointing out fingers at the weaknesses of others, we should be spending a little more time gazing at that image in the mirror and asking it, how do i grow in grace.

    there is no doubt in my mind if the people already in the seats put their spiritual lifes first with vigor and fervor, their numbers will grow.

  28. Last spring’s “Destination Jesus” youth retreat at the local Catholic High School had over 1000 kids. We had Marian lecturers, Rosary experts and monastic friars among the more mainstream teaching corps, and all were attended eagerly. The Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana has multiple young men in Seminary, ordained two priests this year and one last year (at least one a year for 5 years running) and will place one man in the Permanent Deaconate this fall while inducting 3 more into the 5-year program. The Church may be getting weak in the knees in some places, but not here.

  29. Dear WK Aiken,
    Today the Lafayette diocese comprises 7% of the area population with 62 churches and 132 priests, Ten years ago there were 62 parishes and 133 priests and the laity comprised 8.3% of the population.
    the past ten years the area population has grown by 119,648 souls while the Church membership decreased 2,796 souls. Had mmembership remained the same at 8.3% of the area population there would be 9,930 more Catholics, not 2,796 fewer Catholics, for an overall difference of 12,726.
    This lack of growth is typical of the majority of U. S. dioceses.
    The Church will continue to decline in numbers until the U. S. Bishops make evangelization their number one priority.

  30. “The Church will continue to decline in numbers until the U. S. Bishops make evangelization their number one priority.”

    No doubt whatsoever, not to mention some plain talk mixed in.

    Nonetheless, a gentle slope is better than a headlong plummet; in the face of what the world and he who is in it is accomplishing in some sectors, it is to take hope where such rapid deterioration is not occurring, even if it is only in a scattered few parishes.

  31. It has been my contention that the Church abrogated its responsibility and ultimately its relevancy when it endorsed government largess to support the poor. It is our, vis a vi the Church, job to take care of the down trodden through true charity and not the government’s role through confiscatory tax policies. These tax policies drive the working class away from private schools and ultimately the Church. When given a chance via vouchers and other tax credits, the working classes jump at the opportunity to send their children to private/Catholic schools. One of the greatest fears that Progressives and Protestants had of the Church is its organizational and educational might; its ability to transmit values and knowledge. We have let them take away the money that fuels such might and activities. We fail to indoctrinate the laity because they no longer attend Catholic schools much less Sunday Mass and are instead being indoctrinated in the public schools, wholly a secular humanist ideology. Catholic schools were a powerful means indoctrinate the members and pass on values. I do understand that the Church is very important part and provides a large amount of the manpower/organization in the current governmental safety net system but it receives most of its money from the government, not directly from the people. If we would move back to a system wherein the individuals gave directly to the Church (true charity) and placed more responsibility back at the local level it would strengthen the Church/community and individuals would then feel more connected to and part of the Church/society.

  32. A gentle slope must never be acceptable.
    God gives each and every person various gifts. What we do with these gifts is our offering back to God. Jesus established the Church in order to bring all to salvation. The purpose of the Church is to spread the Gospel message. Each member of the body of Christ, has certain responsibilities toward the spreading of this message and the furtherance of the Kingdom of God on earth.
    The Catholic Church is the necessary vehicle for social and spiritual reform. The Church is the only moral force in the world today that teaches the truth in these vital areas. Only she can declare it with conviction and consequently win the acceptance of right-thinking individuals. Through religious conversion, people will join a larger community bonded together by faith in God. The zeal for souls, which characterized the Church, must be recaptured, if there is to be any hope for America and the rest of the world.
    We must be on fire for Christ. Anything less is just not acceptable. Scripture states, “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15-17).
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the sacraments as “Masterworks of God” (§1116) and “necessary for salvation” (§1816). We must do all we can to lead our loved ones, friends and neighbors to the glories of the Church and, most importantly, the sacraments.
    The rewards are plentiful. Each time you share your faith with another, both benefit. The listener may begin a joyous new life in Christ and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are living up to the mandate of Christ to be a good and faithful servant.
    If each of us would do his or her best to bring just one person into the Church per year, how long would it take before this country would be a holy nation – truly under God?

  33. “The Church will continue to decline in numbers until the U. S. Bishops make evangelization their number one priority.”

    They, and the laity too.

  34. The Catholic Church is not doing all that bad of a job retaining college educated Catholics…Working class Americans however…

    Sadly, I find this a specious observation. Yes, the educated are more likely to find lingering value in things the world at large considers antiquated – whether that be religion, or heritage tomatoes, or swing dancing, or Gustav Mahler – but by and large, the elites have akso decided the Church is irrelevant in their lives.

    In a word, catechesis is a joke regardless of educational level. If one desires actual apologetics – practical reasons why someone might choose Christianity over, say, Islam, or Evangelicalism, or the garden-variety agnosticism that lets you sleep late on Sunday – are you actually going to find that in a CCD class, or homily? Typically, you might get something like that in a special Lenten evening discussion series, but the attendees are for the most part not going to be those who need to hear the lecture most. If one has to search the internet for what to say when the Jehova’s Witnesses or the Mormons come knocking on your door, there’s something deeply wrong. Granted, most Christian sects and other religions are facing similar situations, but that’s no excuse.

    I think part of the problem is inertia, and focusing on retention and preservation and holding on to the last few threads and tatters of what the Church previously held – instead of being bold enough to gain new ground and seek new converts. I understand why that’s the case in Islamic countries, where there are severe (I initially misspelled that word as “sever”, but both words are tragically apt) prohibitions against proselytizing. But in this country, and in much or the rest of the world, the prohibitions are merely social. Christianity is a missionary religion. It’s the door-knockers (and this includes, God help us, the bomb-throwers) who are going to have the edge. I don’t see catechesis in its current form as part of any solution.

  35. Is the Church less hospitable to working class Americans than it used to be? Well, it depends on how you define “working class.” If “working class” means persons who hold hourly-wage or low-salaried jobs with variable hours, live generally paycheck to paycheck with little or no savings, do not own their homes, and find it difficult or impossible to afford new cars, vacations, and other trappings of middle class life, then I’d have to agree. Many parish programs are tailored to the needs of stable middle class couples for whom a $50 CCD fee or setting aside every Wednesday night for 6 months to attend an RCIA class isn’t that big a hardship; but for a single parent working the night shift, it could be an insuperable obstacle.

    It also doesn’t help that when it comes to weddings and funerals, “Catholic” is often assumed to equal “big, elaborate and expensive”, so families of limited means turn to courthouse weddings to get married, or to cremation for funerals. It is not uncommon for architecturally attractive Catholic churches to charge non-parishioners fees of hundreds of dollars to marry there. If you look at it from a middle or upper class perspective in which, say, $500 is a drop in the bucket compared to the total cost of the wedding, that may not seem like too much to ask of a couple who isn’t materially supporting that parish. But to a poor couple, who may have already put off marriage (even after one or more children) because they think they “can’t afford it”, you may be closing off a possible avenue for bringing them back to the full practice of their faith. In this regard, I think this is where the Church really needs the kind of simplicity that Pope Francis talks about.

  36. Back in 1982 $500.00 was the total cost for my wedding at Saint Mary’s in Paris, Illinois. I paid $50.00 to Father O’Hara who had not requested any money. There was no fee for use of the Church. I think rental for the parish hall was $50.00, and my mom and her friends made the food except for the cake which was purchased. The family was most definitely blue collar, and mom never missed mass and made sure my brother and I never missed mass.

  37. While in the past many fallen-away Catholics became Evangelicals, today’s youth who leave the Church tend to drift away and are no longer active members of any religious community, becoming “spiritual but not religious” in their faith, a modern mantra of the young.

    While those who left for other faith traditions can be brought back, I think it is much more problematic to bring back those who have simply drifted away into a spiritual vacuum. Poor catechesis post-Vatican II is bearing fruit.

    The first generation raised after Vatican II at least had some contact with the past, the second and third generations have little or no contact with the past. These second and third generations will be much harder to reach. The New Evangelization must begin by addressing this problem and center catechesis around the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Sacred Scripture.

    There must be much more focus on content, much less focus on method and process in catechesis. The often superficial “cool” youth catechesis of today must be transformed into a catechesis of content. And the fact that the Catholic family has been weakened, means that family-centered catechesis, which is the core of catechesis, is occurring much less. Without strong family-centered catechesis, youth are much more likely to be affected and formed by the popular culture, which saturates their daily lives.

  38. CatholicLawyer

    Church support for “government largess to support the poor” has a very long history indeed.

    it is from an ordinance made by Charlemagne as King of the Franks, in a general assembly of his Estates, spiritual and temporal, in 778-779, that any outline of the history of tithes must start. The
    ordinance was in the following terms : ‘ Concerning tithes, it is ordained that every man give his tithe, and that they be dispensed according to the bishop’s commandment.’

    A Capitular for Saxony in 789 appointed tithes to be paid out of all public property, and that all men, ‘ whether noble, or gentle, or of lower degree,’ should ‘ give according to God’s commandment, to the churches and priests, of their substance and labour : as God has given to each Christian, so ought he to repay a part to God.’ A Capitular of 800 made the payment of tithes universal within the fiscal domain of the whole Frankish kingdom. Pope St Leo III greested this with “Life and victory to the ever-august Charles, crowned by God, great and pacific emperor!”

    Henceforward the political and religious unity of the world was, at least in theory, an accomplished fact. The Holy Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire were but two aspects of one idea. From this time onwards, therefore, we may say the civil law superseded any merely spiritual admonitions as to the payment of tithes. Their payment was no longer a religious duty alone it was a legal obligation, enforceable by the laws of the civil head of Christendom.

  39. We seem to have totally bought the dialectic of classism. We are explaining our own realities in Marxian terms. What about about explaining it in terms of personal choices and personal responsibilities. Yes the teacher has to teach, but also the student has to study! “Faith comes by hearing” means that not only is something audible,but also that something is received.

  40. Another thought – ‘let me write the songs of a nation, and I care not who writes its laws.’ Catechesis is a heart thing.

    I agree the “rewards are plentiful. Each time you share your faith with another, both benefit” – that requires that both have their hearts open. “Heart speaks to heart” even the word tradition has the root tradere within it. Trade, hand on- by hand–person to person-
    Not a handing down rich to poor or a handing up poor to rich– but person to person. quit defining persons in terms of wealth.. but of personhood. Slaves, serfs, kings and queens have been Christian.

    Reclaim the culture one person at a time by personal witness, and/or en masse by shared songs and and plays with conscious moral purpose.

  41. I went to a Catholic grade school from 1971 to 1976. There were no copies of any Catechism. We made felt banners and sang songs to an acoustic guitar.

    The parish priest allowded the playing of a truly horrid 1970s song – Terry Jack’s Singing in the Sun.

    My parents wasted their money. Of course, it did not help that we rarely prayed together as a family. I saw my dad take Communion once – at my grandfather’s funeral – and went to confession with my mother – once (never with my dad).
    As a result, I have one bother who almost never sets foot in church and while my other two brother go, I doubt they go every week

    Catholics have lost their Catholic culture in the US. I struggle with establishing this in my family. We pray with my five year old at bedtime and (usually) say Grace before supper. Until my kids are older it just isn’t possible to do things like the Corpus Christi march or Stations of the Cross.

  42. I owe my Catholicism almost entirely to my mother. She made sure we went to Mass and said our prayers at night. Catechism with the Baltimore Catechism was valuable, but after the Sixth grade, after the sisters who taught it were no longer there, I believe their order was one of those that went off the cliff after Vatican II, it was largely a well-meaning waste of time. Mom made sure that my Catholicism was a matter of habit. It later became a matter of the heart and of the mind, but if it does not begin with most people as a matter of habit as kids it never is going to take at all except in the most superficial manner, except for those who have a conversion as adults.

  43. “Faith comes by hearing”

    And by example. As a child I believed in what the Catholic Church teaches because my Mom so obviously believed with all her soul that it was true. If you have people imparting the Faith who seem at best lukewarm and indifferent it takes a small miracle for them to successfully impart the Faith. The old ladies who pray the rosary aloud sometimes before Mass in my parish I think do more to spread the fire of Faith than any well crafted sermon.

  44. yes- by example,by lived faith. Thank you for that comment about the old ladies and the rosary– they have been unfairly characterized so many times. As have the catechism teachers– I am one who started teaching catechism in 1979. I can say many of us were trying to find our footing in a Catholic culture where the the very ground seemed to swell and recede under us…

    The hand that rocks the cradle– the biosphere for the culture is the home. But it does make you wonder why out of six grown kids only one or maybe two will continue in the faith as grown ups, having the same mother.
    In some cases the choice of who they married makes a difference,… but I think it comes to having been taught to be a thorough thinker. First we form good habits and learn to love the comfort of the sounds and smells and support system of Catholicism; I think secondly we can use our reason. Catholicism is a treasure chest of the thorough, coherent thinking so pined for by so many these days. I wish there would be more serious education for CCD teachers so that they could better share what is in that treasure chest.

  45. It’s also worth noting that the college-educated are largely self-catechized. Either they bothered to do the research themselves, or else they were responsible enough to listen to parents who were likewise responsible enough to pass on what they believed. This also has a lot to do with why they made it through college in the first place, so that using them to make observations about catechesis in general involves a kind of circular reasoning.

  46. I just don’t know. But it seems to me to be a much deeper problem than some of the alleged causes that we’re putting forward here.

    I tend to agree. Many of the problems identified appear to be contributors, but even these seem to be a more of a symptom of something deeper. As someone mentioned above, how can you convince someone they need a doctor if they don’t even think they are sick?

    I would hazard a guess that as a society becomes more technologically developed or sophisticated, it feels more “empowered”, thereby making it believe it is in more control over its destiny. With that growing feeling of empowerment, it feels less need for God or His Providence. Like the Tower of Babel, it eventually gets to the point where it all comes crashing down as a rude reminder that “no, you are not in charge.”

  47. While catechesis post-Vatican II has been a disaster, it’s good to keep in mind
    that its flaws didn’t come from nowhere. In my comment above, I described the
    execrable catechesis I found in my class of high school kids in the mid-1980’s.
    Some things to keep in mind:

    1) Those kids were raised by parents who themselves were catechized before
    Vatican II, and attended parochial school staffed by teachers who themselves
    completed most of their education before Vatican II. Yet it is that pre-Vatican II
    generation of parents and teachers (and priests) who chose to drop the ball
    in passing on a substantive religious education.

    2) In the mid-1980’s that parish’s convent, which had housed nuns who had
    staffed the parochial school and catechized elementary school kids, already
    sat abandoned. In less than 15 years, that congregation had abandoned its
    teaching ministry and opted instead to explore labyrinths and lesbianism.
    Those sisters were almost all educated before Vatican II, yet they couldn’t wait
    to ditch the teaching of children for New Age bilge and vague ‘social justice’

    3) That particular parish was run by an order once famous for its ars
    and its ability to win converts to the Church. All three priests
    at that parish then had been ordained before Vatican II was over. Yet in the
    year I’m describing, we had altar girls (before they were legal), and a liturgist
    on the parish payroll who edited the lectionary to make its language ‘less sexist’.
    Fr. Drinan (yes, that Fr. Drinan SJ) was brought in to give a talk, and I
    was required to bring my class to listen to him defend ‘a woman’s right to
    choose’. That order was headed by men trained before Vatican II, and the
    decision-makers in that parish were catechized before Vatican II was over,
    as was the bishop who turned a blind eye.

    I don’t think Vatican II is the chief cause of the failure we are having in passing
    on the Faith. I think it lanced a boil that had been forming on the Church for
    generations. The rot had been building well before the papacy of Paul VI.

  48. I think there are several issues behind this.
    1. The influence of the media on kids is staggering. When a kid watches TV or goes online for three or more hours per night, then goes to church and day dreams through another 70s pop rock mass, you aren’t going to get good results.
    2. Lack of Catechisis as was mentioned before. I mean in the way they live the faith as well as training.
    3. Most parishes are not welcoming. Catholics are not told how to ‘love’ their fellow Catholics. They go to mass, then leave with not a word or concern for their fellow Catholics. Even the ‘Youth’ groups have very poor results. I think this is because the kids look at each other like they would in school rather than as Christians fighting to keep their faith.

    I go to a rather small Latin Mass parish where there is about a 90% attendance rate. Most have a sense of a need to evangelize new comers and friends. The Parish has tripled in 7 years to about 300 members. We have two very dedicated and loving priests who make next to nothing for wages. The parish has no employees. Everything, I mean everything is done by volunteers. This gives us all a sense of ownership. We also have many social gatherings. Most families are large and home school. Most also do not allow television or internet access to their children. (Some would say this a mistake but several of these children when on to become Computer Programmers so it didn’t seem to hurt them at all.)
    It is a very rare occurrence to hear of any of the adult child leaving the Church. In fact, I have never heard it happen yet.

    Who knows what exactly is the key to these wonderful results. Perhaps it is the result of all the above, very dedicated parents, and the grace of God. The important thing is I know it works, so why isn’t the church following these types of examples. I think it is because most Catholics are too lazy. They don’t take the faith seriously. Especially when their priest tells them that the Protestants are our brothers and have just as good a chance of heaven as we do. When I was told this, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with visiting some Protestant services. I found the sermons better and the people friendlier, so I left. Why not?

    Since then I have learned the fatal importance of being Catholic.

  49. Clinton is right to point out that the malaise precedes Vatican II. In fact, I believe it goes back to the generation brought up in the aftermath of Lamentabili and Pascendi. The reaction to the “immanentism” and “subjectivism” of the Modernists had a chilling effect on the devotional life. That nothing could have been further from Pope St Pius X’s intention is shown by his beatification of John of Ruysbroeck in 1908 and by Pope Pius XI’s extraordinarily rapid beatification in 1923 and canonisation in 1925 of Thérèse of Lisieux. Writers on the interior life, such as Abbé Brémond, in France and Abbot Chapman of Downside and Dom Cuthbert Butler in England were treated with great suspicion.

    “In the course of the normal development of man,” as Bremond reminds us, “there occur moments in which the discursive reason gives place to a higher activity, imperfectly understood and indeed at first disquieting.” Nothing in their seminary training prepared most priests to act as true spiritual directors; many, one suspects had never shared that experience “that overflows all categories, defies all explanations, and seems at once self-loss, adventure, and perfected love.” Père Louis de la Trinité, a Carmelite of the Reform, famously compared these confessors to tone-deaf piano tuners, or colour-blind decorators.

  50. Yes, the problem predates Vatican II.

    If post-Vatican II catechesis was vapid, pre-Vatican II catechesis was often legalistic. Being a “good Catholic” meant following the rules.

    The old Baltimore Catechism was sloppy about its use of the term “mortal sin”, applying it to all sins that were grave matter. (Apparently, newer editions have fixed this.) Millions of Catholics went to mass because they were taught they would go to hell for missing mass. It wasn’t about worship in any meaningful sense of the word, but about having your rear end in the pew because God said so. There was little attention to the interior life and little spiritual guidance.

    When some of the rules “changed” around the time of Vatican II, many wondered why more of the rules didn’t change. Or which rules would change in the future. The faith had been presented than no more than a series of rules.

    Case in point: Nancy Pelosi, bane of many conservative Catholics, was educated pre-Vatican II. She was a good Catholic mother in the 1960s…and ended up having 5 children in 6 years. She probably never understand why she wasn’t supposed to use contraception or had anyone to help her, spiritually, relationally or medically to help her have her children at a slower, healthier pace. Instead, she probably got a lecture from her doctor warning her about her health. By then, it was post-VII and many priests were sympathetic to such couples (the priests didn’t understand the teaching either). With a background like this, no wonder she is so opposed to Church teaching on matters of sexuality. This pre-Vatican II educated Catholic probably believes that the Church wants women to breed themselves to death for no good reason.

    I agree with Clinton, Vatican II lanced a boil.

  51. Comedian George Carlin was also catechized by nuns pre-Vatican II. Like many of his generation, he had a distorted view of the Church, which he rejected.

    (Warning, contains strong language.)

  52. I see HA halfway made the point, but:

    Perhaps because people who attend college listen more readily, they are more able to discern the Real Presence of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the tabernacle and on the altar during Mass and the Liturgy.

    I don’t think so; in fact, I suspect that being that sort actually gets in the way of accepting many Mysteries.
    That said, the folks who have the mindset to go to college also have the mindset to get interested in the few hints of Something More that’s left in the gray pap we’re offered, and go hunting.

    I know my mom was a CCD teacher in the ’70s– until the priest came in and told her group of high schoolers that it was OK to have sex outside of marriage if they really loved the other person. Reading between the lines, mom talked to the priest afterwards, alone, and was told that she was giving false teachings because Vatican II got rid of all that stuff, and if she couldn’t get with the program she was not to teach at all. She quit, but got it in her head that she had no idea what she was talking about anymore, and that it took a professional– or at least someone who’d been taught the new way. (Clinton– you want to know why some “dropped the ball”? They were ORDERED to do so; perhaps call it a total fail on getting out what Vatican II actually involved.)
    When we went to CCD and youth group, there was never anything more than “Buddy Christ”– Sunday School as kids was actually with all the other (protestant) groups in the valley, until one of them got a new anti-Catholic preacher. Then there was nothing.

    I ran into Jimmy Akin’s blog in high school and it was like seeing a stained glass window for the first time ever. All the odd things we said in Mass? They actually made sense, in a way you could LOOK UP. There are actual REASONS for the things we should and shouldn’t do, rather than it just being something mentioned in passing and then you’re left defenseless in the face of popular culture.

    The abandoning of the kids matches up with the abandonment of the young couples; I’m sure I’ve complained here about the absolute lack of response to my attempts to marry in the Church.
    (Not, “they wouldn’t do it for me;” there was a number to call and leave a message, and that’s the only way they’d accept any contact about getting married. I called many times, tried to physically go there and talk to someone, and was told to call the number and leave ANOTHER message. TrueBlue was still overseas, and I was bouncing between three parishes– including my home one, where I never could get anyone to hold still long enough for anything.)
    Now, I’m having trouble trying to get my kids baptized– although my home parish is wonderful, the ONLY person I know that’s eligible to be a Godparent, and who I am willing to entrust to at least not royally blank the kids up theologically, is in a rural parish that seems to get far more than its share of “problem” priests. (Last time I tried to set it up– we have all the paperwork in order on our end– the guy found out that the godmother was the same person who refused to give him/the parish several hundred dollars worth of labor for free, and everything ground to a stop; as far as I can tell, he wanted to counsel me about letting someone like her be a godparent, though he wouldn’t actually say anything beyond demanding multiple meetings… when we’re about ten hours of driving away.)

    Another aspect: “Godparent” became a favor you bestow on a friend or relative, not someone who is going to form your child’s religious background.

    Like Donald says– if it wasn’t for mom living it, there’s no way I would’ve stuck around long enough to learn anything. Likewise, I got lucky in not having the proverbial (at least if you hang around me for long) aunt who has a better line on What God Wants than the Pope. I didn’t grow up with folks I trust teaching me their personal views as Church Teaching, especially not when it just doesn’t make any sense. Just my mom being a good Catholic ranchwife, and dad being a good Christian that was willing to scandalize his mom (Scottish Protestant) by going to Mass on really important days.

    My own husband was technically raised Catholic, but even now we’ll be talking about something or other and I’ll mention a theology point– or worse yet, a basic teachings sort of thing– and he’ll be startled.

    Vatican II was trying to fix a problem. It just resulted in a lot more problems. Since I don’t have a good handle on the problem it was fixing– and what the momentum of it was, or even the basic size of it– I don’t know if it was a better or worse idea. It’s there, though, so we have to deal with it.

    Blogs like this, EWTN, Jimmy’s site, Creative Minority Report, etc– they’re all part of the fixing the fix. (of the fix of the fix of the fix, etc.)

  53. @James: “Yes, the problem predates Vatican II.”

    It predates Vatican II to the extent that the modernist movement predates Vatican II. The “spirit of Vatican II” is (soon to be was), for many Catholics, the modernist movement formally acting through the Church. Often, however, this modernism was quite individualistic and idiosyncratic, thus the development of the “cafeteria Catholic” post-Vatican II.

    The “spirit of Vatican II” has been an attempt to extend the meaning of Vatican II toward modernism in ways that were not explicitly defined by Vatican II. The seeming ambiguity of many of the Vatican II documents is, some would contend, modernism directly clashing with a more traditional approach to the faith within the Council. And, you are right, this movement was present in the Church among both clergy and laity prior to Vatican II. Vatican II simply gave the modernist movement a means for implementation of their agenda.

  54. I expect people leave the Church because it doesn’t really matter if you go to Church or not. Seriously. You can do whatever you like, pretty much, and not be called on the carpet for your schlocky behavior (at least not by other people. Now, St. Peter may have something to say, but…) Just look at Pelosi et al.

    After a while, a “club” with no standards and no rules becomes very tedious.

  55. I think two very good points were brought out here. I suppose we are like a child. We give them a rule ‘Don’t play in the street’ and we tell them why. See the dead squirrel. Daddy loves you and doesn’t want you to get hit by a car like the dead squirrel. Perhaps the institution of the pre Vatican II church was telling us all the sins to avoid, but not showing us the love behind them. I don’t know because the nuns taught me both the what not to do and showed me why not to do it. I cried for hours when I found out that they crucified Jesus. I loved him because the nuns taught me to love him.

    Yes, the church may have leaned a bit too much toward the legalism of the pharisees but Jesus said that he didn’t come to remove the law, but to fulfill it. Yes, there are rules we must live by, in life and in the Church. If we decide to stop breathing because it is too much work, we will die. We must follow the rules.

    Perhaps some in the Church weren’t teaching us to love God and the reason to obey him is because we love God and we don’t want to suffer the punishment disobedience brings. But this wasn’t a problem with the teachings of the Church, it was due to many who didn’t truly love God, who became technocrats in the Church.

    For most of two thousand years the Church taught almost exactly as it was prior to Vatican II and prospered. As modernism started coming into the Church in the 1800s, problems started to develop. Perhaps many clergy and religious started feeling that the modern concepts they were learning were being thwarted by an old fashioned Church. Since they couldn’t teach what they wanted, they became half hearted and lukewarm in their teaching. Teaching the letter of the law but not believing it so not teaching the why. Maybe Sister Mary Elizabeth that was so cross with her students was because she felt held back or she had lost her own love for God.

    Living through that time, it felt like a bunch of teenagers complaining about their strict parents. They wanted to do things Mom and Dad wouldn’t let them do. Then they go on spring vacation and party time starts. Vatican II was like spring vacation. All the teenagers who were rebellious just went nuts partying and having a good time.

    Sadly, many returned thinking that we could just keep on partying. They still don’t understand why Father God and Mother Church restrained us. At the same time, our parents tried to keep us away from the ‘bad’ kids (the secular and sinful society of today) but we want to hang out in the sinful society. Many of the ‘parents’ in the Church wanted to appear ‘cool’ to the kids and become their friends rather than their parents. Many bishops today don’t want to discipline God’s children in their charge. Like parents that never discipline their kids, we have become unruly and demanding. Loving parents discipline their children so they know right from wrong and grow up to be successful in their lives. Instead we are like the 40 year old that still lives with Mom and Dad in the basement playing video games.

    Love and Discipline need to be in balance in a family and in the Church. We see how the ‘successful’ dioceses like Lincoln Nebraska, are always the most disciplined with their parishioners. Yet at the same time they show their love for them and teach them why we must obey God. I pray that all of the ‘shepherds’ of the Church will learn to be balanced good parents to the sheep in their charge.

  56. I guess I am classified as a “none.” I grew up on the cusp of V2, starting Catholic elementary school in the early 60s and graduating from public high school (because the local RC school did not have room for us [i.e., only bodies that are paid for-no quantity/family discount]) and attending a CCD program that I have no memories of anything substantial.

    I left the RC Church as a result of a failed marriage and an apathetic church that refused to help me try to save the marriage.

    I ended up at a Baptist church by chance but gave that up after several years also because no one cared. When I declined to be baptized again, the pastor shut me off because he was primarily interested in growing his church.

    Having grown up as one of 12 children in a strong RC family, I will always have a RC heritage but I do not envision returning to practice RCism. However, I have not abandoned God and continue daily Bible study and prayer. Periodically, I take a close look at RCism to see if I have missed something (which is why I am at this blog). But the closer I look at RCism, the less I like.

    Until recently I thought that better catechism was the solution. But now I think that the more people learn at RCism, the less attractive it is. @St Donatus (abv) got it right: if everyone has the same chance of heaven, better sermons, and friendlier people, why be RC? Stir in today’s leftist values (choice, BC, =, etc) and RC come up short.

    Look at the fine print in the CCC (about salvation) and compare that to the simplicity of the mega-churches prayer of receiving Jesus. RC is all about suffering, offering, being holy in order to earn salvation. Plus there is chaos in the RC: National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, Latin Mass, etc.

    A lot of the more successful RC organizations today are the ones with lots of rules and controls. Fascism. Escape from Freedom.

    Lennon was right when he said Christianity will die. It has (but we refuse to acknowledge it). His warning was denied and ignored. The institution continues but the Spirit is largely missing.

    As in Jesus’ time, the religion and political power are intertwined. The problems with Christianity (including RCism) are not unrelated to western society as a whole.

  57. fRed,
    I don’t think you got my point. Yes there are many problems in the Catholic Church, especially now, but the fact is, that it is still run on Earth by imperfect men with sinful tendencies. Yes, the Catholic Church could be much better and according to my very old relatives, it was much better than today. That is why I belong to a Latin mass Church and I love it. I still see imperfections in my fellow parishioners but Jesus judges us more by how hard we try, rather than how imperfect we are. (And no that is not an excuse for a sinful lifestyle. Obviously, if we are not living a good lifestyle, we are not trying very hard.)

    We can’t expect perfection on Earth. Thankfully the Catholic Church, no matter how far off base many of the leaders have been in the past, has always kept the truths handed down to them from Jesus Christ and then the Apostles, unchanged and according to Gods will.

    Having left the Church for 30 years, I discovered that there is no perfect religion or organization on Earth, but there is a perfect truth and that truth is espoused by the Catholic Church. As Jesus promised, the gates of Hell shall never over come it. It tells us something that despite so many setbacks over the ages, the Church continues to grow. The Jews couldn’t kill it, Romans couldn’t kill it, Arianism couldn’t kill it, the Pagans couldn’t kill it, the Mongols couldn’t kill it, the Islamic invasion of Europe couldn’t kill it, the rise of kings and rulers in Europe who converted to protestantism couldn’t kill it, Henry the VIII couldn’t kill it, Hitler couldn’t kill it, Communism couldn’t kill it, and now modernism won’t kill it. God has blessed is Church and Satan the the gates of Hell certainly will never overcome it.

    The Latin mass parish has helped me to understand that we are not in the Church to be entertained or to socialize, we are there to worship God. When we expect either of the other two, we find imperfect people and poor entertainment. Yes, each of us has a responsibility to help build up each other as we try to ‘preach the kingdom of Heaven’, but each of us is imperfect and only the purifying effect of Purgatory can change that.

    If you read the Bible, you know that we have a responsibility to serve God, not to be served by him. Too often people seem to think that it is all about them, it isn’t, it is all about serving God, our Lord and creator. Only once we understand that can we truly find happiness and contentment. May God bless your efforts in discovering that truth for yourself.

  58. Look at the fine print in the CCC (about salvation) and compare that to the simplicity of the mega-churches prayer of receiving Jesus. RC is all about suffering, offering, being holy in order to earn salvation. Plus there is chaos in the RC: National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, Latin Mass, etc.

    Simple and easy doesn’t equal true.

    Until recently I thought that better catechism was the solution. But now I think that the more people learn at RCism, the less attractive it is.

    Why do you think that?

  59. @fRed: “RC is all about suffering, offering, being holy in order to earn salvation.”

    Earn salvation, no. Experience salvation, yes.

    Suffering . . . offering . . . being holy. Sound a lot like 1 Peter to me. And most of what Saint Paul wrote, for that matter.

  60. To clarify my earlier comment (above): My intent was to describe my own experience in the RC Church to illustrate an example of why people leave — and don’t come back. It is not my intent to debate the merits or RCism, nor denigrate it.

    I was trying to point out the religious competition RCism faces in the USA today, particularly in the context of the state of our society.

    Several comments above urged for initiation of individual evangalization. That is is a good idea (for a start) but in order for that to have traction, mere words (e.g., RCism is the true religion; RCism has maintained the truths passed on from Jesus)-the competition has similar claims that trump RCism because the competition involves less cost and promises more rewards up front (today in addition to the afterlife).

    In addition, RCism faces the challenge of various internal sects and conflicting moral and (apparent) theological positions (at least as perceived by the public). The behavior of the bishops and their coverups, the diminishing number of clergy (and including the lack of identifiable clergy [i.e., habits, collars]) don’t help either.

    All in all, this really leaves RCism in a very weak marketing position. Ends up sort of like plain corn flakes vs Capt Crunch.

    This is why so many people are just plain jaded by religion these days. It seems like one needs to be a scholar to understand the fine points. Jesus (and then the apostles) initially attracted attention due to signs and wonders (healings and exorcisms). What does the RC Church have to offer?

  61. “What does the RC Church have to offer?”

    Indestructible framework.

    A way of life, thought, peace, wonder and strength to live in this world and the hereafter is offered in this church founded by a loving God, who reveals good and evil, teaches His people, and asks for a return of His love. We have a lifetime to learn how to balance the give and take, with infinite resources called the deposit of the Faith.

    People wanting to sell, or be sold, need to get out of their own way and consider it in the light of eternity, in light of good and evil, and some sacrifice of oneself – accepting that this is a vale of tears and having hope, faith, and love in God who provides wonders which never cease.

  62. I dunno. RC-ism, to me, is a personal, pre-VII faith journey.

    To start: recognize that I am a sinner. A far worse sinner than anybody here.

    So, I pray each day for Faith, Hope and Love, that I may come to repent of my sins, Confess, do penance, amend my life, and through good works glorify Almighty God through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Christ didn’t descend from Heaven to solve my personal problems or to amke me happy. Although, I pray for the jackpot whenever I buy a lotto tix.

    Jesus came to convert me and to show me that eternal life is important; and to suffer and die on the Holy Cross to save me, even though I am utterly undeserving. He justly couldhave turned Hios back on us and left us to deserved, universal damnation.

    I constantly say to myself, “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You. Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the World.” If he could do that for me, the least I can do is try to meet Him half way.

    And, I repeat, “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fire of Hell; take all souls to Heaven; and especially help those most in need of Thy Mercy.”

    I try to say the Rosary every day, and deeply meditate on the treasures of Grace that Mary revealed to the three shepherd children at Fatima: Desire humility; desire charity toward your neighbor; desire the love of God; Desire a spirit of sacrifice; desire zeal for the Glory of God; Desire true repentence for my sins; desire a spirit of mortification; desire moral courage; desire the virtue of patience; desire the grace of final perseverence; desire a strong faith; desire the Virtue of Hope; Again, desire zeal for God’s glory; desire a holy death; and desire greater love for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    The least emphasized teachings seem the Spirtual Works: my favorite is “Forgive all injuries.” I say that to myself every moment I need to.

    Frequent Confession. Frequent Confession. Feequent Confession.

    Finally, man up, dammit.

  63. “Hear this!

    A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

    Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.

    Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain.

    And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

    [Jesus] added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” [Mk 4:1-9]

    Need good soil in order to produce a fruitful crop. Appears some work on the soil is needed since the “crop” in recent times has not been as bountiful as hoped.

    Time to get to work. My suggested recipe (to start) is to focus on fundamentals:

    * basic catechism, for adults of all ages, with a special emphasis on 20s and 30s with an eye toward the future;

    * Bible Study;

    * Prayer and devotions (e.g., rosary, intercessory, healing, scapulars, miraculous medal, Divine Mercy, etc.) [Public prayer at hospitals and schools and in the town square]

    * Vibrant and enthusiastic singing – get “In the Spirit”;

    * “Count your blessings.”



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