Thursday, March 15, 2007

Is the Catholic Church disappearing?

Last week's edition of the National Catholic Reporter, a U.S. Catholic newspaper, included a story about researchers who conducted a study of what they call "Bookend" generations of Catholics. In other words, they compared the reponses of the oldest generation of Catholics with the attidudes of today's young adult (or college-age) Catholics. The results were to say the least, troubling.

The study is interesting on many levels. What it shows, not surprisingly, is that the older you are, the more likely you are to accept and profess the beliefs of the Catholic Church. The younger you are...well, you get the picture.

I'll give you a sampling of some of the issues. The study was done by Catholic University of America. So, some of the results:

Here are the percentages agreeing by generation when asked, "You can be a good Catholic without believing in..."
1. THE RESURRECTION:
Older: 25%
Younger: 26%
2. REAL PRESENCE OF JESUS IN THE EUCHARIST:
Older: 33%
Younger: 34%
3. HELPING THE POOR:
Older: 41%
Younger: 44%
4. ABORTION TEACHINGS:
Older: 44%
Younger: 62% think it is okay to reject the Pro-Life teaching of the Church.
5. HELPING YOUR PARISH:
Older: 52%
Younger: 59%
6. TEACHINGS ON DIVORCE:
Older: 52%
Younger: 79% think it is okay to live in sin, to remarry without annulment, etc.
7. MARRIAGE IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH:
Older: 58%
Younger: 64%
8. BIRTH CONTROL TEACHING:
Older: 61%
Younger: 89%
9. GOING TO MASS WEEKLY:
Older: 69%
Younger: 88% (So, it is not surprising then to see that only about 15% of this younger generation, 18-24, attend Mass weekly)
Do you see the disturbing trend going on here. There is a growing rejection within American Catholicism of the Church, it's leadership, it's authority, and it's teaching. And, I think we can understand this when we look at the final question.
You won't be surprised to learn that if you attend Mass regularly and practice your faith and are informed about your faith, you are more likely to follow Church teaching.
It is possible that we could find ourselves in 20 years, as the older generations pass, and the younger generations come into their own, that we will have empty churches. Perhaps there won't be a vocation crisis in the future because there won't be Catholics in the pews to minister to.
You know, sometimes it comes down to the simplest things. You know, the best families are not necessarily the ones that have the most material goods, or the best schools, or the finest psychiatrists. The most successful families are the ones who sit around a dinner table each day and share some food and their lives with one another.
The same is true for the Church - the more you find yourself around the Table of the Lord, the more you are going to grow in the ways of Jesus, and in the ways of the Truth.
It seems that perhaps the most insidious thing that the Devil has ever accomplished is this modern attempt to convince people that they don't need God; that they don't need Sacrament; that they don't need community; that they don't need Church.
But, here's what I know. There are only 10 things that God felt were so important that He made them Commandments and literally carved them in stone. And, among them is "Keep holy the Sabbath." Check you're Bible, you will notice that there is not an asterisk after that that says, "See below: unless you have soccer practice that day; or a baseball game; or Aunt Tessie's 80th Birthday; or you have to work; or you just want to sleep in." It says, "Keep holy the Sabbath."
We have made a covenant, a contract, with God, and increasingly we are deciding that we no longer have to keep up our end of the deal. In fact, we have decided that regardless of what God says, we can consider ourselves as good and holy even if we live in sin, or in an unrecognized marriage, practice birth control for our own convenience or pleasure, obtain or condone abortions and capital punishment, ignore our less fortunate brothers and sisters, never visit the incredible Sacramental presence of God in the Eucharist or Confession, etc.
What kinds of Catholicism is that? It is Catholicism in name only. And God desires so much more of us. People often say, "God doesn't really care. After all, I'm a good person." The news is - God doesn't want "good" people. God wants holy people. Now, good will be a part of holy, but holy is not necessarily a part of good. Strive not for goodness, but for holiness and godliness.
The Good News? First, the younger generation has gotten the Gospel message of care for the poor. There is definately an attraction to Corporal Works of Mercy. That is a very good thing.
But, the other Good News? It doesn't have to be this way. The change can start in the hearts, minds and most importantly actions of Catholics - young, old and everywhere in between. Renew the covenant that God has established with you. Be faithful to what God asks of you, and stop trying to seek the loophole. You can fit an elephant through a loophole, but Jesus reminds us that when we reject His ways and still want to get into heaven that this is like trying to put a camel through the eye of a needle.
Let us pray and mean the words of our Creed, "I believe in the holy Catholic Church."
Pax et bonum!

2 comments:

  1. Fr. Tom,
    RIGHT ON!!! The world (Satan) is drawing our kids and young people further from the Church therefore further from the Truth. We must pray, reach out, inform and awaken those who are straying with the gifts God has given us and with the help of the Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit, Come....
    Peace,
    Jim

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  2. You know I'm procrastinating school work when I'm replying to posts from March...

    But anyway, when you look at our generation compared you yours, though, we're doing pretty good. Compare us to the pre-Vatican II generation and of course we're not gonna look good, but if you look at all the young men and women persuing religious vocations today. We're young fogeys-- a lot more traditional than our parents. Judging by all the young Catholics I know, I'm hopeful that we're about to see a new movement to return to orthodoxy. We'll see. :-)

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