Skip to comments.What should come next? (The Catholic response to shrinking congregations)
Posted on 04/08/2013 4:48:13 AM PDT by NYer
Fifty years ago the Vatican Council said about the laity: “Whoever they are, they are called upon, as living members, to expend all their energy for the growth of the Church and its continuous sanctification, since this very energy is a gift of the Creator and a blessing of the Redeemer.” Lay people were not presented as depending on the clergy for initiatives. Laity aren’t supposed to wait for a request from the episcopal palace. They have a task that is theirs from Baptism.
Done anything lately to make the Church grow?
What exactly is this task? “The laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth.” These places and circumstances involve schools, business, politics, medicine, science, international affairs, wars, the list is endless.
But in the American Church, many Catholics are waiting for the clergy when they ought to be doing things themselves. By Baptism and Confirmation, “every layman, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself ‘according to the measure of Christ's bestowal. . .’”
Lay people know a lot about the secular world. They typically do not bring to their work all the philosophical and theological analysis that academics and some clergy do. But lay people do have the raw data and lived experience many theologians lack. They are constantly exposed to and engaged with what is going on in the world.
The official Church has revelation through tradition and scripture and the work of the magisterium. The trouble often is that the people with ecclesiastical learning and the people with lay experience do not often pool what they know and definitely not on the subjects that really concern laypeople.
Here’s the thing: forget the historical question why this situation developed – that would fill volumes. But now, right now, as the American Church seems to be fading into national irrelevance, why don’t the laity seek out the necessary theological insight into the many fields of human life? Starting at the parish level: why can’t we have courses that inform people about what the Church really teaches? What are we spending money on that could be better spent on the Christian analysis of everyday life?
Christ Preaching in the Temple by Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), c. 1625
If “father” won’t organize it, hire people yourselves – reliable experts in the field – to do the teaching that is needed. Enough clergy and informed laity know that doctor X or father Y are not orthodox, but doctor Z would be good. He or she is authentically Catholic and learned and capable of communicating the content of the Faith to lay people who want to hear it.
To be sure, the much feared question about orthodoxy has to be posed. It is not just a question of whether people like professor so and so. The Church has far higher standards of truth and one of its attractions for many people – though this is little noticed – is that it is a truth-telling institution.
At the diocesan level, too: why aren’t dioceses training every single layperson? Maybe lay people should simply organize and get the job done, collect money, hire the teachers and the lecture halls. Let’s get Catholicism to where it is meant to be – which is as the operational knowledge in faith and morals for lay life. Lay people organize much better than many clergy. Get a few converts in the mix as well. Their passion is real because they appreciate what they have received.
Of course, one must not hire partisan propagandists for the Democrats or the Republicans, or people who merely pass on the fantasies of the popular culture about love and marriage and business. They are usually hostile to the culture of life and to promoting the humanity that Christ died for. There has to be some caution, too, about hiring people who teach what they think is in the teachings of the Council. There is a long history of Americans making stuff up, calling it Catholic, and strangely enough finding crowds of people to go along with it. Diocesan clergy do it. Religious do it. Lay people do it.
Fortunately, there are now enough knowledgeable men and women of faith who can teach and who genuinely understand Catholicism in all of its richness. Catholicism is too wonderful to be the possession of a privileged few, those who have done the study and who live the orthodox faith to the full.
A last word from the Council: “Christ loves the Church as His bride, having become the model of a man loving his wife as his body; the Church, indeed, is subject to its Head. ‘Because in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,’ He fills the Church, which is His body and His fullness, with His divine gifts so that it may expand and reach all the fullness of God.”
Isnt promoting this fullness worth a very substantial effort?
Very good; thanks.
Catholicism could use some real marketing help.
Although I am not Catholic I notice that the Catholic churches in my area (and there are many) are packed for both Saturday evening and Sunday morning mass. It’s the main line protestant congregations that are disappearing, not just shrinking. Their answer to reversing the trend is to turn left and leave orthodoxy behind. Surprise, surprise, it isn’t working.
Almost every church that sticks to the gospel of Christ, and refuses to water it down with pro-homosexual and pro-feminist (which many times is teh same thing) thinking tends to grow.
Conservative churches are doing fine. People look to the church to be a moral guideline. If the church is telling them “if it feels good do it”, which is the central tenet of liberal churches, then why bother going at all.
But if the church is telling them “God says do this and don’t do that” and has teh scriptutres to back it up, then they serve a stabilising foundational purpose in our lives. We may not like hearing that we are messing up, but deep down we know we need to be told it. So we go every Sunday (and in most protestant cases, every midweek service too).
I’d wager that the more conservative Catholic churches are doing well but the ones where liberals/homosexuals had taken over suffer as long as the liberal/homo is there.
(If I remember correctly Rembert Weakland, Bishop of Milwaukee was a big liberal. Does anyone have data on the church there during and after his reign? I thought that his replacemnet was a conservative and that weakland was kind of forced out)
We might not be having this discussion.
I'm not even Catholic, but the thought of walking into one of their churches gives me the creeps.
Although I am not Catholic I notice that the Catholic churches in my area (and there are many) are packed for both Saturday evening and Sunday morning mass. Its the main line protestant congregations that are disappearing, not just shrinking
...not to put too fine a point on it, but many churches are packed because they get the spillover from closed parishes...and the less said about closed Catholic schools the better...both Protestant and Catholic churches are being ravaged by the immense nondenominational houses of worship that are sprouting like mushrooms, that attract many laity because theological demands are few and the incentive to socialize is all when coming to worship...America is not so much becoming more secular and agnostic, but has drifted toward an antiliturgical set of ecclesiological desires that require nothing but being there and being somewhat quiet for an hour or so, along with an acknowledgment that Jesus loves us and vice versa...think first grade CCD classes, and you’ve got todays Christian pegged...
People will come to Church if it is a house of prayer because they have a need to pray. Vatican II has done nothing to strengthen the house; in fact it did damage to it.
Restore the culture of prayer; at a minimum, remove the drums and turn the priest around to face God, and receive on the tongue. It is not complicated.
I did RCIA as a team member this year. wonderful experience. I think I probably learned more than the candidates. I plan to keep doing it each year. Our parish is very dynamic. Lots of people show up for everything, not just Mass although Mass is often standing room only. We remain in the black. It is possible. I know that there are a lot of parishes struggling.
and embrace moral relativism so this generation gets to make up its own moral code
that hasn't worked so well for the protestants, has it?
but if the Catholic Church had dealt with the rampant PEDOPHILES who called themselves priests for the last HALF CENTURY OR MORE......
...now that you’re finished shouting, care to pass along a couple of facts and figures...like exactly how many priests out of the entire population of clergy were ‘rampant pedophiles’...I mean, seeing as how loud you’re being, I’d figure you have all the facts right at the tips of your little fingers...I’ll wait patiently for your informative answer...
but the thought of walking into one of their churches gives me the creeps.
...but you’d not feel creepy walking into a Protestant Church, or a public school, where documented abuse cases equalling or surpassing the Catholic scandal exist...
I did RCIA as a team member this year. wonderful experience
...I used to work on the RCIA team, until I realized what a closed circle of do things our way nor no way bunch they’d become...I committed a horrible crime, the worst thing that a parishioner in a modern suburban church can possibly do in that RCIA setting...I suggested we ought to inject a tiny little bit of Latin into the Mass...I’d have been less an object of terror if I advocated slaying the Pope...
...just for the fun of it, in your next RCIA group, just prior to the Easter Vigil, ask the newbies what they think the Mass is...and if your team’s instruction is anything like my team’s, they will respond with ‘a gathering of worshippers sharing a meal of love and gratitude with Jesus Christ’...at which point you can add, since you know this, that it really is a representation of the Sacrifice of the Spotless Victim at Calvary, except in an unbloody manner, at which the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, under the appearance of bread and wine, are offered by the confecting priest to God for the purpose of remission of our sins...
...after saying this, take note of the looks on their faces, and if they’re like my parish, you might think you’ve just sprouted a second neck or something...ah yes, catechism ain’t what it used to be...
You have fallen prey to the mainstream media's serial attack on the Catholic Church. We have implemented policies to prevent any further incidences. This includes mandating that any priest, religious or lay individual who work with children, undergo a police background check, be finger printed and attend a Virtus training program. What has your particular church done to protect its children from these predators?
And, while we're on the topic, one needs to safeguard their children from sexual abuse by - teachers, camp counselors, troop leaders, sports coaches, et al. Even the BSA has several sex abuse cases pending. How ironic that the BSA is under attack for not allowing gays. Do schools, camps, or any other organization require their staff / volunteers be fingerprinted?
The one place you are safe is in a Catholic Church. But you go ahead and listen to the msm. They won't mislead you ; - )
They are not far from it. Declaring Moslems to be "brothers and sisters" renders the whole Catholic Church moot. What part of "I am the Lord your God, and before me thou shalt have no other gods" does Pope Francis not get.
Our’s was until we got a faithful priest, we’ve gone from near bankruptcy to having a 50K cushion in just one year. We have a small parish of 350 families so that is a lot.
He is also starting to make the church a social hub as well as a place of faith.
It is, of course, a triumph of anti-Catholic marketing and the distrust of celibacy added to the crisp and clear Catholic teaching on sexuality that leads to the MSM enthusiastically trumpeting the Catholic sexual crimes.
I will recount until I did that when I was an Episcopal priest I had clear and convincing evidence that a (married with a child) colleague was committing sexual abuse. I told my bishop who quite clearly did want to deal with it since the colleague had moved to another diocese.
Strangely I never read about that in the papers.
A call to action but what action? Are lay persons going to proselyte, maybe stand on street corners preaching the “message” or go knocking on doors?
Jesus gave his disciples a message to preach, gave them training in the field, organized the work and then had the preachers report on their experiences so they could be corrected.
I wonder what precisely is being asked of the
The one place you are safe is in a Catholic Church. But you go ahead and listen to the msm. They won’t mislead you ; - )
...don’t know why you’re including me in this post, along with Billybob or whatever his name was...I responded to him in like manner as you did...
Don't know if you were being serious or facetious ... but several Parishes I have been involved with have lay groups whose mission is explicitly to go throughout the parish boundaries, knocking on doors and talking to folks about Jesus Christ.