My first and most important question and comment: If the salvation of your soul isn't the primary reason for being and remaining Catholic, then being and remaining Catholic makes no real sense, does it? That's the most important question to answer correctly; all else is but a diversion to the real reason for being Catholic.
I still contend that the reason 80% of Catholics don't attend Mass anymore and have become "bad" Catholics or non-practicing Catholics has to be understood within the context of what the Church was like prior to the Second Vatican Council, what it became in the 1960's and '70's before Pope John Paul's election in 1978 as well as secularizing trends in academia, the media and even within Catholicism that has created such polarization and led to the diminution of the number of Catholics actually practicing the Faith in 2012.
First we have to look at generational Catholics since the 1950's. My family of origin is a case in point and other Catholics families who had children beginning with the baby-boomers in 1946. We Catholics were very orthodox, obedient and discipline oriented. Things were presented in "black and white" terms and through catechisms that were mostly alike, the epitome being the Baltimore Catechism. Convents, monasteries and rectories were full and the sisters who taught the vast majority of school age Catholics were staunch in their faith and did not promote a "wishful" thinking Catholicism; they taught the facts and taught us that it was a sin to deviate from their teachings which of course were the teachings of the Church. Yes, there was a triumphalism, but this led to Catholic pride and 90% of Catholics attending Mass on Sunday. It can't get any better than that!
But the 1960's social change, of which Vatican II was very much a part, changed all that and almost overnight. Everything in the Church was thrown into flux, not so much by Vatican II but by interpreters of Vatican II (and not necessarily the bishops) usually theologians in academia but also by amateurs in the parish, in religious life and in the clergy who all had their own interpretations of what Vatican II meant and what its "spirit" was.
My parents' generation who were staunch, unquestioning Catholics either embraced the new way of thinking and saw it as liberating or they were confused and befuddled by all the changes and threatened by what they once thought were rock solid truths being questioned and revamped all in the name of renewal. They were also disheartened to hear that pre-Vatican II Catholics were bad, stupid and only cared about "praying, paying and obeying!" That was one of the most cynical, unkind epitaphs thrown at them.
Of course my generation of baby-boomers used Vatican II in the 1960's to rebel against our parents and to show them how stupid they were for believing like pre-Vatican II Catholics. We wore jeans to Mass, said Sunday Mass every Sunday wasn't necessary and that we could use our conscience to justify just about anything, especially sexual extracurricular activities. Rebellion and questioning were in and obedience was out. And the answers to the questions weren't that important; what was important was asking the questions!
Then my generation of baby-boomers had children and we became a bit more conservative when that happened, but we, like our parents, relied on the parish and school to teach our children the faith. But of course without solid catechetical materials and untrained catechists or catechists who wanted a Church of the future rather than the one Vatican II actually gave us,taught the baby-boomer's children nothing but coloring book Catholicism and Catholicism of dissent rather than assent. But usually doctrinal and moral content was totally lacking in favor of feel-good, hand-holding religion that was vapid in content. Sunday Mass for my generation of Catholic parents and their children was less rigid too but not totally lacking.
Then baby-boomers children got married (or more than likely just shacked up) and they started having children, but for this generation of parents, Church was just an appendage and something one attended on certain occasions It wasn't ingrained in the fabric of their human identity. Other forces were shaping that, perhaps secularism within academia (even Catholic institutions of higher learning) or the secular media and the entertainment industry or just good old pride and my way is the best way.I'm not sure we can call baby-boomer's children who are now adults and parents of a new generation "cultural Catholics" for they have moved beyond that minimalist description into "post-Catholicism, i.e. post Christianity" but don't know that they have.
Today we have Catholics from the 1950's until 2012 and 80% of whom don't attend Mass anymore and Catholicism is very low on the list of what forms them as humans. What forms them is personal opinion (pride); secularized academia and the media. And today people are becoming more insulated and less connected to others--because of the computer and what I'm doing right now, posting on the internet and making comments to people I don't know and who don't know me or care about me. We live in a virtual world of our own making and relating to computers, iPhones, iPads and a whole host of new media entertainment which we watch alone and not with others.
For example in the 1950's and 60's everyone watched the three major networks and had a point of reference at the water cooler to discuss what they had seen. Not so today, you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want and on your own terms. That shifts the paradigm from the community to the individual and steroid-like.
Then we have 20% of Catholics still attending Mass and seeking meaning and purpose in their lives and salvation in the next life who are being fed false expectations about the future of Catholicism, that birth control will be officially sanctioned, same sex marriages blessed, women priests and a whole host of post-Catholic (Christian) ways of being Church available. When these false expectations don't happen then the 20% of Catholics attending Mass may dropped even further.
The same happens on the conservative side when we think that the Church will become like SSPX--that is a false expectation that disappoints the more traditionalists in our midst when it doesn't happen and never will, but I'm not clairvoyant or am I?
False exceptions and asking too many questions and seeking answers in all the wrong places is deadly for the Church and for one's personal, orthodox faith, but a remnant of faithful Catholics will remain and the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church--thank God for that!