Thursday, June 7, 2012
YOUNG GEN-X CATHOLICS WHO LEAVE THE CHURCH AND DON'T RETURN AT A MATURE AGE, WHY IS THAT? TWO SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT, ONE IS RIGHT AND ONE IS WRONG, GUESS WHICH ONE IS RIGHT?
Religious News Service has an article titled Gen-X Catholic Debacle which laments the fact that the children of Vatican II parents have left the Church in large numbers and apparently are not returning even after marrying (or living together) and having children, or having children without the benefit of marriage and a partner. The article blames Pope John Paul II's conservatism for driving them away permanently. This is the last paragraph of the article:
No doubt, the abuse scandals beginning in the late 1980s and accelerating rapidly after the turn of the century took a huge toll. In addition, however, it is more than likely that the increasingly conservative winds that began to blow out of Rome during the papacy of John Paul II blew a lot of Gen-X away from the church. Many on the Catholic right--including in the hierarchy--have been happy to say good-bye and good riddance to what they've dismissed as its cafeteria Catholicism. But you've got to figure that, as the percentage of Catholics in America drifts towards the teens, those in charge will live to regret blowing the opportunity to capture and hold one-third of the U.S. population.
However, a "Gen-X" person, Thomas Dalby, wrote a comment at the Praytell blog on this same article and refuted its conclusions by writing:
I am a member of “Gen-X” and this article seems to be calculated to stroke the prejudices of my parents’ generation, rather than addressing the reasons for the fall off in practice among people of my age.
I would point to three items that the author ignores:
• the abuse crisis started hitting the headlines in the early-mid nineties and hasn’t gone away – like most people of my age, I found the whole thing deeply demoralizing – it really rocked my faith in the Church (like many people I was and am sickened by the institutional failures, although these were no different to the utter failure of the secular authorities to deal adequately with child abuse, but the greater impact was simply that these sorts of crimes could be committed by clergy at all – I know that sounds naïve, but the scandal hit while I was in my late teens/early twenties);
• my generation was the first to experience the utter devastation of parental divorce on a large scale – friends and family members who were affected by their parents’ divorces often seemed to reject anything connected with their upbringings;
• inter-generational conflict – the whole “Spirit of Vatican II” ethos that gripped the Church and continues to have a hold on it today was something that really struck a chord with some of my parents’ generatio, but it’s a project that became utterly imbued with that generation’s cultural preferences that it had stopped speaking to me and to my peers when we hit our late teens;
• linked to the last point, liturgies and music in the Church seemed to have become fixated around my parents’ generations cultural choices – attending Mass can sometimes feel like one has been transported to a badly staged Crosby Stills & Nash tribute gig.
My Comments: Thomas Dalby's last comment focuses on Liturgy, but it could have focused on spirituality also and catechesis. What did the Gen X generation actually experience of Catholic liturgy, spirituality, reverence and devotion growing up?
I suspect that there was very little stability or Catholic identity in the traditional sense in terms of liturgy and the music their heard or sung at Mass and that most of it was superficial in quality rather than of a style that promotes a deep Catholic spirituality. In other words, it was vapid. It might have been better if the low Mass was their only experience of Mass rather than the sung Mass with vapid music. At least in the Low Mass they would have gotten the core of what the Mass actually is without an overlay of vapid musical sappy spirituality.
I think the next thing is the lack of tradition in their spirituality and worship. Prayer services or liturgies apart from Mass tend to be very trendy and obnoxious. I've attended many of these at national conferences as they are used in place of the Liturgy of the Hours and each one is different in style, content and creativity, in fact, creativity is the hallmark. There is no tradition in spirituality in these so-called "para-liturgies."
In terms of sanctuary arrangements, I wonder how many Gen-X Catholics know what a tabernacle is and what is contained in it. So many churches hide the tabernacle and only the brave go into these hidden side chapels to actually pray before our Lord apart from Mass. I doubt that the majority of Gen-X Catholics know the reason for the genuflection prior to entering the pew if even this was done in their church toward a naked altar.
In terms of personal and private spirituality and devotion, I wonder how many Gen-X Catholics ever prayed the Rosary either in a group setting or alone and on a regular basis or know anything of novenas, litanies and "spiritual ejaculations" and I add the modifier for they probably do know the other meaning of this term but not the religious meaning and would blush to hear a priest or nun ask if they do ejaculations. I suspect this term is no longer used in polite circles when teaching spirituality and prayer! :)
I wonder to how many Gen-X Catholics understand natural law and that natural law is one of the legs of the stool of Catholic morality, the other two being Scripture and Tradition and that all three are transmitted through the authority of the Magisterium, a word that they probably don't know how to pronounce let alone define.
While I include abysmal catechesis in what I perceive to be the loss of this generation of Catholics, I do also believe that the scandals magnified by the liberal press who hate the Catholic Church anyway has had a horrible effect also, but if one is shallow in one's Catholicism, how can one survive scandal and realize that scandal is a result of sin and sin is why we have so great a Savior. If Gen-X Catholics haven't been taught that basic then why in the world remain in the Church.
Would an embrace of the heretical Sister of Mercy's book, "Just Love" have kept them in the Church? Would the elimination of any kind of sexual sin and the elimination of natural law as the basis of sexual morality, and the acceptance of women priests, artificial contraception, gay marriage, and abortion have kept the Gen-X Catholics in the Church? I doubt that very much, because that kind of Church would not be the Catholic Church, it would be an apostate Church.
Finally what Thomas says about divorce should be taken very seriously. It is his generation who experienced it on a wide scale. Infidelity to marriage vows and the blatant sexual immorality of their parents who after divorce probably had numerous other partners and live-ins if they married again has to have some kind of impact on the psyche of the young who experience this instability in their home lives. And one wonders what kind of Catholic home they did experience where icons abounded, prayer was said and Catholic morality encouraged and lived? Were they told that when they marry, they should be virgins, find a Catholic and exclude divorce from their understanding of a Sacramental Marriage. Oh, I forgot, they weren't taught the sacraments.
But keep in mind, my parents generation had a goodly number of people who were basically illiterate in the faith but profoundly faithful people. They attended Mass every Sunday and in many cases everyday. They went to confession regularly (I wonder how many Gen-X Catholics did and do?) and they had fear and awe in the presence of God and feared offending God. In other words, they had a foundation built upon faith even if catechesis was lacking. Could that be one of the many problems of Gen-X Catholics who don't return to the practice of the Faith for they never were taught the very basics?