Skip to comments.Hope for the Church: Making Disciples Out of Cultural Catholics
Posted on 05/19/2015 2:03:39 PM PDT by NYer
Catholics, as a segment of U.S. population, shrank by 3.1% from 2007 to 2014, and are now outnumbered as a portion of American population by the nones, the religiously unaffiliated. That was the headline-grabbing revelation last week from the Pew Research Center. That trend fits within the overall decline in affiliation with Christian denominations, notwithstanding population growth in the U.S. in the same time period.
So there it was in black in white: approximately 51 million adult Catholics in the United States as of 2014 versus approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults.
That should come as no surprise to any Catholic who is attentive to the current situation of the Church in North America. What the study did not point out, but we know from experience to be the case, is that only approximately 12% of those 51 million Catholics attend mass regularly on Sundays. The Catholic Church in America is, and has been for decades now, constituted by practicing Catholics, kind-of-practicing Catholics, and non-practicing Catholicsa situation in many ways not unlike previous centuries, yet which emerges from new and complex causes, and has resulted in a Church of profound internal tensions.
Those tensions have all too painfully come to bear on the religious experience of most present day Catholics. Yet our manner of articulating those tensions within the Church is often far too simplistic, contrasting as we often do conservatives with liberals, the remnant with the fallen-away.
Although open to similar over-simplifications, the terms "committed Catholic" and "cultural Catholic" are sometimes contrasted, but arguably with good reason. Committed Catholics are those who, in varying forms, manifest a robust religious practice, an active pursuit of a spiritual life, a deepening of their understanding of Catholic dogma, and an intentional embrace of the fullness of Catholic teachingincluding her moral teaching on hot-button issues such as contraception and homosexualitygiving the free allegiance of mind and will to the Churchs authentic magisterium.
"Cultural Catholics" by contrast are those who in varying degrees have negligible Catholic practice, or while retaining elements of practice (such as occasional Church attendance) find themselves disagreeing (whether they understand why or not) with certain Church teachings. And of course it is no secret that culturally Catholic politicians and academics especially, while insisting on their Catholic identity, will openly dissent from the Churchs received teaching (even to the extreme of explaining their dissent as a "service" to the Church).
The truth is, the baptized express their Catholicism across a broad spectrum of practice, or lack thereof, and of embrace of Church teaching, or rejection thereof.
So, yes, the tensions are real.
A historically shallow view of the Churchs history, we might add, faults the Second Vatican Council for those tensions. But if we are attentive to history, we see that this has generally been the Churchs situation throughout her two millennia of existence, and that the Holy Spirit has not yet ceased to be present and active in the lives of all of his faithfulthe committed and fallen-away alike.
Yet, cultural Catholics are the ones who are exiting. And thats disturbing, and it invites reflection. What ought a committed Catholics attitude be toward this situation? And what will our Church look like in the America of the future? For what its worth, I offer a few thoughts on both questions, beginning with the latter.
As we watch the exodus of 6.5 American Catholics from the Church for every one person received into the Church (according to the Pew study), it is very reasonable to assume that robust Catholicism will, in the future, be found more commonly in smaller, more concentrated communities characterized by intense, faithful religious practice.
Cultural Catholics like me want my Latin, my altar turned around, my Confessional draped in heavy velvet cloth, my Eucharist taken on the tongue, anyone who isn’t a priest dismissed from giving out Communion, my relief from altar girls and bad music. In other words, a reversal of everything from the 1970s.
If the priest has to work harder to hand out all those hosts, so be it. They did it in the 50s and 60s without complaint. All of America is working harder for less. Why not our ordained priest??
I came into the church just after the change...saw both. I am OK with the changes, even the removal of the kneelers, which is the case in my church. I am not OK with changing official church doctrine on marriage and abortion. These are more important issues to me than how we worship. The fact that we still worship Jesus is the most important thing. I get alarmed with the nuns who support abortion, the pedophile priests, a pope who supports global warming....it’s hard to keep your eye on Jesus with this chaos all around us. That is our mission....keep our eyes on the prize, let the rest go. Good luck to you on your journey.
Our young priest challenged us years ago to evangelize our fallen Catholics and get them back to church.
Maybe it is time that we Catholics begin to read our Bibles!
And also change the rule (back) from having to acknowledge to the nose picker next to me who out of the blue wants to shake my hand.
“Maybe it is time that we Catholics begin to read our Bibles!”
“we Catholics” been reading the Bible for as long as there have been Bibles.
Oh, I forgot about that little atrocity!
Nope! The lack of kneelers in your church is the equavilent of the Broken Window Theory of policing cities. Get rid of the gorgeous Latin mass and before you know it, bored and angry nuns in sneakers are advocating for abortion and female priests. Think I’m wrong? Check the timeline from the 50s through the 70s.
You do not mind the changes because you do not know what came before.
The myth is that the RC is “one church”. The reality is that doctrine preached from the pulpit varies greatly from parish to parish and archdiocese to archdiocese.
I see cultural catholics as those who attend frequently/regularly and are caught up in the rituals with no serious thought to the doctrine. Some culturals attend libertation theology and other non-orthodox RC churches. Others attend churches with nominal adherence to orthodoxy; but no life in the belief.
As for numbers and trends. The Catholic church in USA has acquired millions of immigrant members: The majority of Mexicans and a significant number of Koreans, Nigerians, you name it. So the number of native born Catholics leaving the church is actually very big and just happens to be offset by the immigrants.
Some of those leaving the Catholic Church are going to Protestant churches, including the mega-churches. They leave the Catholic church precisely because the religious preach liberation theology or liberation-lite. They return for their kids baptizm, first communion, etc.
Others leave the RC because it seems comatose if not dead. Not just on theology, but on many topics the religious are just so totally out of touch with reality. They tell us to vote Democrat for economic reasons. But the religious are ignorant of economics 101. They seem ignorant of what happens in business, and even in retail stores.
Currently my favorite EWTN program. I don’t know how he keeps coming up with such intelligent and interesting guests.
You are Me, the Church is on a suicide mission.
“The myth is that the RC is one church. The reality is that doctrine preached from the pulpit varies greatly from parish to parish and archdiocese to archdiocese.”
The Catechism is the same everywhere. What individual people do in opposition to it is their own work and has nothing to do with the universality of the Church.
“The Catholic church in USA has acquired millions of immigrant members:”
All churches in America have “acquired” immigrant members. Many churches in America are immigrant churches in a sense too.
“So the number of native born Catholics leaving the church is actually very big and just happens to be offset by the immigrants.”
True, and? By the way, my parish is the exact opposite. Almost none of the parishioners are immigrants and we are actually having very large families, bringing in converts, and no one is leaving the Church there either.
Go to a thriving Latin Mass parish. Your eyes will be opened. We are growing and growing and growing. When a nearby Protestant parish died we bought the building to use ourselves. We’ll soon be buying another because we can’t handle the numbers we have. My fellow parishioners are leaders in the local, state and regional pro-life movement. Our members host prayer groups and Bible studies and catechism classes. We feed the hungry. We help the poor. We’re able to do all this because we are faithful - flawed - but still faithful. I just said goodbye to one of our former parishioners who is moving to another state. We’ll miss him. He knows - especially as a former Protestant minister - he’ll never be able to find exactly what he had here.
I couldn't agree more. However, it may not be fair to pick on the Religious. Most citizens are ignorant of economics, as well. If they weren't they wouldn't vote for candidates who promise to redistribute income put heavy taxes and regulations on businesses.
In any case, though, I've long been convinced that priests and nuns should never be allowed near economic or military issues.
Jesus never spoke Latin, so why should I care about that? I like understanding what is being said. I do believe Latin masses should be available for those who appreciate them, though. I love my church...yes, it has evolved over the centuries, but nothing stays the same. We didn’t even have masses when Jesus walked among us. He worshiped and taught in a Synagogue. The only important thing is that we are worshiping Jesus and have a relationship with him. The rest is just window dressing.
I am Catholic and read the Bible.....I go to Bible study. A favorite Catholic priest of mine always said that the Bible is a love letter from God to us and that we should read in daily. He was right.
I remember the 50's and 60's...when you had to climb past people who were not going to Communion...suddenly everybody is in the state of sanctifying grace and eligible to receive....I think not....I never hear the question asked....are you truly eligible to receive???when was your last confession......etc....the Catholic church has a lot of problems to solve as a result of Vatican II...they, of course will do it just fine...Christ promised to be with her until the end of time.
But in both IL and GA priests and other religious tell me to vote Democrat. It isn’t just that I disagree with them. They do not understand the economics of Robert Reich or Elizabeth Warren or Janet Yellen, all of whom disagree with me. They have mythologies unique to Catholics.
In contrast, Protestant Calvinists religious understand Calvinism and the rise of Capitalism. Protestant Wesleyans understand Adam Smith. Joel Olsteen types understand the Christianity of wealth building. Many Protestants understand the Dave Ramsey approach to economics.
I’m sure there must be Catholics who understand; but beyond 1 prof and DePaul U, where? Does Notre Dame have a Dean Clarence Manion? Not any more.
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