Sunday, December 30, 2012
WHY ARE CATHOLICS NOT ATTENDING MASS AND BECOMING PROTESTANTS OR WORSE YET, "NONES?"
I am not sure that there has been any real sociological studies done to show why this has happened but certainly common sense and a sense of the history of the Church and world in the last 50 years qualifies people such as myself who is now 59 years old or as some sarcastically remind me, in my 60th year, can proffer some analysis from experience.
So these are my candidates for the reasons in the decline in Church attendance.
I. Prior to Vatican II in this country, lay Catholics knew the basics of the faith (those who were educated and could read)and they gleaned it from the Baltimore Catechism that taught them the very basics. However, they were also biblically illiterate compared to Protestants.
II. Bishops and priests were very authoritarian in those day and the emphasis was more on obligation rather than love. I'm not criticizing that, for obligation is a part of love and the two must go together. In post Vatican II times that only emphasized love as a feeling, an emotion, obligation has been jettisoned leading to a variety of maladies such as divorce and leaving the Church and not taking care of one's commitments and responsibilities.
III. After Vatican II there was a separate cultural upheaval against authority in this country and in Western Europe. Rebellion was the name of the game and respect for authority was compromised. This reach an apex in this country in 1968 with the Vietnam War and men burning their draft cards, escaping to Canada to resist the draft and the outright rebellion of the a significant number of priests and bishops toward Pope Paul VI and Humanae Vitae. Pre-Vatican II Catholics who saw their clergy rebelling gladly joined in lock step with them in a pre-Vatican II sort of way and these rebellious clergy used their clerical stature from the 1950's to rally this rebellion, the truest form of clericalism. This is a turning point!
IV. While the initial reforms of the Mass imposed in a pre-Vatican II authoritarian way were mostly well received, and these were the associated with the 1965 missal that was the Tridentine Mass, but had much of it in English, although the Roman Canon was still in Latin with its elaborate rubrics, problems soon arose and almost immediately with the type of new music thrust onto the Mass, primarily banal folk music and the stripping of churches of their magnificent pre-Vatican II altars and accouterments and moving the tabernacle out of sight or to a side altar. "Ironing Board" altars came into vogue with two rinky dink candles on it--it clearly had the symbolism of dumbing down the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
V. The 1973 missal led to more experimentation and iconoclasm of the Mass and the loss of traditional piety, reverence and respect in the church building for the presence of God as the presence of people was over emphasized, what is now called the horizontal to the detriment of the Vertical! The universality of the Mass was greatly compromised and the Mass was different not only from diocese to diocese but parish to parish in the same city and unrecognizable in terms of from which the new Mass came, namely its Tridentine counterpart that became forbidden as though there was something radically wrong with it and its theological and spiritual thrust.
VI. Pre-Vatican II Catholics who loved and respected the Church (my parent's generation and some of their non-rebellious baby boomer children) were completely confused and disgusted with many of the reforms of the church that initially looked promising when done conservatively but became caricatures of themselves as time progressed, especially the rampant disregard for traditional Catholic obedience, piety and reverence. The Baltimore Catechism was through out for touchy-feeling catechesis, what many now call vapid coloring book Catholicism.
VII. Many pre-Vatican II Catholics stopped practicing the faith by the late 1970's (my parent's generation out of disgust) and their children stopped practicing out of rebellion and a fierce individualism when it came to faith and worship as well as morality.
VIII. Those who remained in the Church became detached from anything authoritative as they thought things would continue to change. Two generations of post Vatican II Catholics saw priests and nuns get married, Catholic schools closing and religious education in total disarray.
IX. By the 1980's word was getting out about the sexual promiscuity of some of the clergy and religious especially in the 1960's and 1970's. Most unbelievable was the abuse of children and teenagers by priests. Many lay Catholics refused to believe the reports coming out or downplayed its significance. But scandals kept being reported in both the religious and secular press.
X. After the turn of the century, the Boston Globe brought the true proportions of the scandal to light in the USA (it had already happened in Canada) and then other countries experienced it in Europe, first in Ireland, then Belgium and other places.
Clearly this sex abuse scandal is more deleterious to Catholicism and the practice of it compared to anything that preceded it but more than likely was/is a part of the liberalization of the Church and the refusal of bishops to properly manage not only their dioceses but their priests and make hard decisions about firing them when they egregiously were unfaithful to their promises, to their Church, to their parishioners and most of all to their God.
XI. Because of the very poor experience of the Church Catholics had for the past 40 years, many succumbed to secularism, individualism and contempt for traditional Catholic beliefs and morals. 80% have stopped attending Mass and many of them have become Protestants as unbridled ecumenism blurred the distinctive truths of the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church by many ecumenists was no longer seen as the one, true Church.
XII. But it brings us to the final analysis. The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief and traditional piety and reverence for Catholic Prayer was greatly compromised by universal decree of the Second Vatican Council and for its unfounded "spirit" subsequent to it. Yes, the banal changes in the Mass and its music and total confusion of what the Mass is remains at the root cause in the decline of church attendance and the weakening of the Catholic Church and the immorality of clergy and laity or now we must say their amorality.
But as Pope Benedict has said, success is not our goal but faithfulness and we might have to become a smaller church in order to be a faithful Church. The reform of the reform in continuity as well as the restoration of the Tridentine Mass are strokes of genious from His Holiness and shows that we can't show contempt for that which preceded Vatican II, espcially for the traditional Mass and still have an authentic renewal of the Church, Her Faith, Her Morals and Her Laws.
The Law of Prayer is the Law of Faith. If the law is compromised as it was in the spirit of Vatican II the faith too is seriously compromised.