My Comments First: While there could be other factors, in Philadelphia's case, they have been extremely hard hit with the mismanagement of disordered priests as many other dioceses have been but their cases are particularly egregious similar to Boston. This must account for a significant amount of the decline. The decline in Mass attendance in Philadelphia is stunning though considering that it was once a hallmark of conservative Catholicism and not allowing Vatican II to be misinterpreted, especially under John Cardinal Kroll, but also his successors. Unfortunately, though, pre-Vatican II clericalism and privilege was rampant especially in the hierarchy and Philadelphia priests and this clericalism truly did need post-Vatican II reform!
By trickle down effect other dioceses experience a similar decline because of the incessent and almost obsessive reporting, re-reporting, hashing out and rehashing out of this news story on Clerical abuse of teenage boys, but calling it pedophilia which it isn't. Sometimes abuse happening 50 years ago is reported in a way that makes it sound new. Either way it is bad and thwarts the mission of Christ and of His Church.
I think even our diocese which has not had the same degree of scandals as the northeast has experienced a decline too. Macon which is in Bibb County has seen "white flight" in the last decade to the tune of about 10,000 people. This has affected our parish's Mass attendance. The other two parishes one in the suburbs, Holy Spirit, have seen no growth whatsoever, except from parishioners unhappy with me or the fact we confirm in the 9th grade when they do it in the 8th! So in Bibb County there has been no growth in Mass attendance and in fact a decline. I think this is true of almost every parish in the diocese in the last 10 years.
It may be more than the sex abuse scandal that is causing this. It is also the rampant secularism that has accelerated tremendously in this country especially in the last 5 to 6 years under President Obama.
Liturgy might have something to do with it too. Ultimately though it is a loss of Catholic Faith! The link to the 1960's when there was so much upheaval in terms of strict, pre-Vatican II, well disciplined Catholics who never questioned the Church or critiqued the Mass was in short order turned upside-down and rebellion and dissent in the 1960's decimated that population of extremely discipline, obedient and devout Catholics and their off-spring. Then the offspring who had children and even the next generation after that, never recovered a strong Catholic identity. Thus this accounts for the statistics that don't lie that in the early 1960's prior to the upheavals of Vatican II almost 90% of Catholics attended Mass in this country to the point today that perhaps 20% or less do. This is astounding and Popes and bishops need to wake up to the cause! THERE IS A LINK TO THE POST-VATICAN II UPHEAVAL AND SILLY SEASON AND SUBSEQUENT GENERATIONS NEVER RECOVERING FROM THE 1960'S MENTALITY.
It is not a stretch to say that the manner in which the Post-Vatican II Ordinary Form (Normative Form) Mass is celebrated does NOT support a strong, obedient, discipline, reverent Catholic identity. Until this is address along with clericalism, we will continue to see a slide. As well we need a liturgy that will unite Catholics according to language. Obviously for Catholics of the Latin Rite, that language is Latin which should once again be mandated for certain parts of the Mass so that we are all on the same page in terms of active/actual participation in singing and saying those parts!
From the Creative Minority Report:
has the depressing graphic about the massive decrease in the number of
Catholics attending Mass in the past decade. They try to put a bit of a
happy spin in that the rate of reduction has slowed. But it's still not
good. You know it's bad when the headline is "Matt Attendance Slide Not
as Bad as it Seems."
These numbers are for Philadelphia but I'd suspect they're pretty
similar to numbers around much of the country. But to be fair,
Philadelphia has had a pretty rough time these past few years.
Georgetown's CARA Institute published a study indicating that
nationwide, baptisms, marriages, and confirmations are way down.
Funerals, however, have remained consistent.
Kinda' depressing for the U.S. because I truly believe that the only
thing that can save this country is a massive return to the Church.
According to these stats, that doesn't seem to be happening as of yet.