Church attendance has remained pretty steady for Protestants - although they are fewer in number now than in 1955 - but church attendance for Catholics has declined dramatically and, as Gallup reports, continues to fall. In 1955, Gallup found only 2% of the U.S. claimed no religious identity. In 2016, the same survey found that proportion had grown 10 times, to 20%.
The steepest drop for Catholics occurred between the 1950s and 1970s, caused by the upheaval of Vatican II's liberal reforms. Many, including me, are sick and tired of 'Kumbuya' folk music and "invented" ceremonies, that turn every low Mass into a time-wasting crap-songfest, excessive hand-holding, hugging and other creepy detritus.
Catholic church attendance in the United States fell an additional 6% between the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, the sharpest drop in decades. The largest decline is among older Catholics - 40 years-old and up, who are dismayed by the contrast between conservative Benedict and liberal Francis, who is known for making startling off-the-cuff remarks about moral questions. And wants us to be more like socialists. American Catholics between the ages of 50 and 59 saw the sharpest decline in Mass attendance between the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, dropping from 46 to 31%.
It is not just American Catholics: Ross Douthat wrote that record numbers of Italian Catholics "took steps to disaffiliate from the Church in 2015. In Brazil, the decline of Catholic numbers steepened in the Francis era, with nine million fewer Brazilians identifying as Catholics in 2016 than just two years before.. Likewise Australia: What had been a gentle decline in Catholic identification under John Paul and Benedict has accelerated in the 2010s."
Overall, American Catholic churches lost 5% of their membership during the last decade, and the decline would have been much steeper if not for the offsetting impact of Catholic immigrants from Latin America, primarily Mexico. But Mexi-centric parishes alienate many traditional Anglo Catholics, with the Spanish language Masses, unfamiliar ceremonies and celebrations. Some find more traditional parishes elsewhere; others simply drift away.
It has often been pointed out that Latinos won't volunteer to help out with parish duties/activities the way Anglos do/did. Based on discussions I've had with various parishioners in parishes throughout the U.S., 'Latinos' is too broad a classification. For example, Cuban immigrants are and have been great supporters of parishes, both financially and volunteer-wise. On the other hand, Mexicans fail to provide much in the way of volunteers or money. One usher I spoke to characterized the difference as "twenties versus dollar bills."
There are other problems as well:
• Today's Catholic churches are noted for lengthy, rambling, poorly-written homilies. I wish all sermons were restricted to five minutes. If you can't get your point across in that time, you're trying to cover too much ground. Or bloviating.
• The never-ending sexual abuse crisis was engendered by a hierarchy that has too often blamed the victims, not dealt with perpetrators in a swift and decisive manner, and the image of the clergy that has been tarnished by scandal.
• A worsening shortage of priests has reduced pastoral interaction with parishioners. While the number of priests in the United States more than doubled to 58,000, between 1930 and 1965, since then that number has fallen to less than 37,000. More than half of these priests are 70 or over. Between 1965 and 2002, the number of seminarians dropped over 90% - from 49,000 to 4,700. Only 548 new priests were ordained last year and more than two-thirds of the 600 seminaries that were operating in 1965 have closed. More than 20% of U.S. parishes do not have a resident priest or pastor.
• More than ever there is the irresistible appeal of secular hedonism to healthy, well-educated populations. People are busy - with work, hobbies, etc. - and no longer consider church as a "social outlet" as in the past. Reality television and the internet have become the new social outlets. Writing in the New York Times, funeral director Thomas Lynch noted that "times formerly spent in worship or communion are now spent shopping or Web-browsing or otherwise passing time. Many Americans are now spiritual tourists without home places or core beliefs to return to."
• Twenty percent of Americans now have no religious identity. In 1955, Gallup found only 2% of the country claimed no religious identity. In 2016, the same survey found that proportion had grown 10 times, to 20%.
• Modern society offers too many non-judgemental shades of gray. William Donohue of the Catholic League wrote, "The ascendancy of moral relativism - the denial of moral absolutes - has engulfed society. The nation's cultural elites are responsible for this outcome, including, sadly, some religious leaders."
Possible answers can be found by examining those churches which are thriving. Most are conservative. The number of Mormons - a religion with conservative values - in the United States increased by nearly 50% between 2000 and 2010. Looking at churches which are not thriving reveals that most are liberal, changing-with-the-times ones, such as the Anglican Church. Episcopalians have one of the lowest church attendance figures of all Christian denominations. But they are trendy - a New York Episcopal church offers an annual Gay Pride Disco Celebration with a mirrored disco ball, music and a disco diva to lead their music ministry.
Of Catholic parishes, David Warren wrote, "More-or-less all the 'New Mass', adaptive, modernist congregations are declining, with churches closing every day. And more-or-less all the 'Old Mass', rigid, traditionalist churches are growing, in congregations and vocations both. Those 'dinosaurs' out there are also having lots of children. It seems to me that the Holy Spirit is sorting us out, after all."
Perhaps a return to its traditional, conservative roots will turn the tide for the Catholic Church. (posted 4/24/18, permalink)
Hell, Yes! Pope Francis has declared, "There is no Hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls … those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear." But, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of Hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into Hell, where they suffer the punishments of Hell, 'eternal fire'. The chief punishment of Hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs."
In 1971, John Lennon - who some idiots think is God - sang, "Imagine there's no Heaven … It's easy if you try … No Hell below us … Above us only sky." Maybe there is a Hell, John: think of a small room full of two-dozen caterwauling Yokos. Sounds like Hell to me.
As for me, I know there's a Hell, because PBS travel guru Rick Steves has already visited it.
John Hinderaker offered a logical argument for its existence, writing, "Hell is philosophically and theologically important, because it is Hell that makes it irrational to be evil. Without Hell, monsters like Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, Ted Bundy, Fidel Castro, Vladimir Lenin, Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler would have the last laugh. They got away with mass murder and paid no penalty. Eternal oblivion? A painless coda to a lifetime of homicidal bliss." (posted 4/2/18, permalink)
Breaking The 'Render To Caesar' Rule: The Archdiocese of Seattle is running a series of 'Know Your Rights' workshops which seem to me to be tailored for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. Last week, one was held at St. John the Evangelist Church in NE Vancouver, WA - about a 10 minute drive from my house.
The event, presented in Spanish, was attended by about 300 people, which was "held in the church sanctuary, with kids spilling out to the foyer and other rooms to watch a movie so their parents could concentrate on the presentations."
Immigration lawyer Larkin VanDerhoef "offered advice for immigrants on dealing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, including:
• If immigration officers come to your door, they must have a warrant signed by a judge. Demand to see the warrant, but don't open the door. The officials can slide it under the door.
• If an immigration officer stops you on the street, you don't have to answer questions."
This is why I no longer give money to the Archdiocese's Annual Catholic Appeal. I don't want my money used to facilitate lawbreaking. America is a nation of laws; had I known about this event in advance, I would have contacted ICE and alerted them. (posted 3/12/18, permalink)