Friday, July 4, 2014


 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:

Sunday Mass Attendance Drops Massively in Past Decade (Philadelphia)

Catholic Philly 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.


Richard M. Sawicki said...

Re: Cardinal Krol and successors trying to avoid any false interpretations of Vatican II in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia...

Someone from the Philadelphia area once told me that up until (I think) 2003, Sunday evening Vespers was still a regular feature in most of the big parishes in the Archdiocese. If so, that is a great tribute to several of their ordinaries.

However...yes, I think the pre-Vatican II clericalist mentality was/has been a very negative counterbalance to that theological and liturgical conservatism.

Gaudete in Domino Semper!

Robert Kumpel said...

This is especially sad to read because Philadelphia was one of the first cities in America to tolerate Catholics and permit them to worship without harassment.

Philadelphia has a beautiful cathedral and many other breathtaking churches as well (St. John the Evangelist downtown comes to mind). However, it also has a modern-minded population that, somehow, doesn't give a life centered around God much consideration.

It's not reasonable to expect Catholic teaching to be watered down for decades and a decline not to follow. The "medicine of mercy" touted by Vatican II sounds good on paper, but if we neglect to warn people that the God of mercy is also a God of justice, they are not likely to remember such unpleasant thoughts on their own.

rcg said...

I don't think it is a bad thing at all. It validates the cause and effect of losing Catholic identity. It is sad that they are gone, it would be worse if they stayed with the beliefs they now hold and think they still Catholic.

Anonymous said...

I'm a simple (minded?) guy. I think that lots of complex, complicated ideas and issues can be expressed much more simply than some make them.

I like "bumper sticker" philosophy.

One from the 60's said "Question Authority" I think that changed many, many things....religion, politics, child rearing, race relations, male-female, husband-wife relations....on and on.

Some would say that's when it all went to hell. I think a lot of good came as well.

But....I'm just one of those stupid, evil liberals.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

A lot of things are better, but what isn't follows:
1. Abortion rate
2 divorce rate and broken families
3. Less than 20% of Catholics go to Mass
4. Drug culture, esp. Prescription
5. Homeless--sky rocketing

But heck, people question authority and are affluent so be happy not sad !

rcg said...

The problem is there was never an adjacent bumper sticker that said, "Listen to the Answer".

Anonymous said... fact, some of us did listen. I didn't always heed the answer, but I listened.

Anonymous 2 said...

Cute, rcg. =)

I am sure there are many factors behind the declines. However, I still maintain (pace Gene) that our fundamental problem is metaphysical. With all the material wonders produced by modern technology and the erection of great cathedrals to Mammon, we are back in the Cave. Or perhaps more precisely, given that we spend so much of our lives in front of screens, we are in a Cave within a Cave, an Illusion within an Illusion (although sometimes the screens can, admittedly, stimulate the imagination and broaden perspectives). Plato would have understood the problem, as he too had to confront his society's relativism, skepticism, and the lure of worldly success.

This is not an indictment of technology or material progress(one does not have to throw out the baby with the bathwater after all), but I suspect things will not change much until either (a) we all face a terrible disaster, or (b) most people’s sense of everyday reality is seriously disrupted and destabilized.

Gene said...

Well, I'll be damned,I agree completely with Anon 2. I need a drink...

Gene said...

PS Except instead of metaphysical,I would say theological...but metaphysical is fine for our purposes.

Anonymous 2 said...

“Well, I'll be damned,I agree completely with Anon 2. I need a drink...”

Has Gene’s sense of everyday reality just been destabilized? =)

rcg said...

The answer is blindingly obvious: when the clergy act like they don't believe neither will the congregation. I can go to the opera or philharmonic where the music is better or to play where the acting is better and sleep in Sunday. I go to be in the presence of God and to congregate others what have the same desire and respect for the Presence. There is no other place on earth where the Presence is consecrated at that moment. My family slogged through bored priests and distracted priests and doubting priests but we went to be in the presence of The Lord and because we said we would. We have been rewarded but lots of people fell by the wayside. It is time to back and get them.

Carol H. said...

I think a lot of it also has to do with the contraceptive mentality that has pervaded our culture. We have just entered the third generation of small Catholic families. Less babies mean less baptisms and less Catholics to fill the pews.

Anonymous said...

Carol H...I hear that the second largest religious denomination is former Catholics. That doesn't sound like a small family thing to me.

rcg said...

Anon, it is a multidimensional issue. If the alleged adherents of Catholicism reject Church teaching on contraception to have small families then the actual base is diminishing. Those who leave the Church are at least honest enough to do so, though I don't think they congregate or identify as a group such as to call themselves a denomination.

George said...

Carol H
You're right. Since only 20% or less of Catholics attend Mass every Sunday, that 80% is a large number.
Many of these, though when asked, will identify themselves as Catholic.


"The answer is blindingly obvious: when the clergy act like they don't believe neither will the congregation"

I've been fortunate not to have ever been around "bad" clergy. There is however a dichotomy, a divide among Catholics that was not there many decades ago. At least not to the extent it is now. I don't know to what extent that can be blamed on "bad" clergy. You can see it in the difference between say, Sonia Sotomayor and Atonin Scalia. Both raised Catholic. Yet one, on something as important as abortion, does not let Church teaching inform her decision. Where would Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College be if we had five Catholics such as her on the bench? So you see today these differences on even fundamental moral issues. You can see it in the political sphere with such Catholics as Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. If some of those that still belong and attend Church are like this, what can we say about those who have left? There is always hope but my experience with dealing with these is that in the end it is like dialoging with a brick wall.Truly understanding the Truths of the Faith and how it is to inform our actions is not a matter of how much knowledge we have of it, but it is rather a gift of the Holy Spirit. I think there is hope in reaching those outside the Church who left her for some other reason than her teachings.

rcg said...

George, it often seems that those who left the Church were more serious about the teachings of the Church than those who staid.

rcg said...

Funny how auto correct on the phone created an irony.

WSquared said...

Robert, Philadelphia is my archdiocese, so I know both the cathedral (which is always, mercifully, open throughout the day, so I can always go there to pray), and St. John the Evangelist (which used to be my parish: they have daily Adoration there).

The God of mercy is indeed a God of justice. The problem is that people separate the two and pit them against each other. Without justice, mercy wouldn't mean anything (from what, therefore, would anyone even need mercy?). Without mercy, justice would become a form of cruelty.

PS Except instead of metaphysical,I would say theological...but metaphysical is fine for our purposes.

Gene, I think the theological and metaphysical problems both you and Anon2 cite are related, in that people tend to separate matter from spirit when dealing with human beings. Whether man is matter and spirit, matter, or spirit is a metaphysical question pertaining to the Truth of What Is. Whether God exists and if so, what we mean by "God," and whether He acts through matter, and indeed can have taken upon Himself human flesh is a theological matter with metaphysical implications (and even vice versa). That separation is a recipe in general for denying the Incarnation, whether we approach it spiritually or materially.

Gene said...

W Squared, I think that is a fair statement. We are certainly on the same page.

Anonymous said...

We need more data and more precise data on the situation to draw appropriate, actionable conclusions.

1) Parish census: not just who are registered but their status (married/single), how many children (gender and ages). How many have the sacraments?

2) demographics

For example, say there are 1200 people who go to St. Joe's over the many families does this represent and of those how many are registered?

How large are some of these families? A couple large families of 8+ or a dozen smaller families with 2.5 children?

How many children total and what age distribution (would tell us how many marriages are likely to occur in 10-20 years).

How many children (of the total) go to public schools? This would give us a total of how many ought to be in CCD, teen youth groups, etc.

How many of the Catholic school children are we seeing at Mass with their parents....

Might we not expect - given the amount of money and sacrifice invested in Catholic education that at least 70% go to Mass with their parents? If so, wouldn't that automatically make for a congregation that's largely composed of young people? Are we in fact seeing 300-400 kids in our weekend services? If not, then their absence is a warning sign.

If Catholic school kids( and parents) don't go to Sunday Mass, chances are they'll abandon the faith as adults unless something else happens...

Anonymous 2 said...

WSquared and Gene:

Yes, I think we are all on the same page. Let me put it this way. Plato distrusted our five senses as giving us access to reality. I share his distrust. We know enough already from modern physics to distrust the immediate impressions conveyed by those senses even as regards the “material” world. Is it not an unwarranted conclusion, then, hubristic even, to hold that that even corrected for such “mistakes,” the “reality” accessible to us through our five senses is all there is? Perhaps it is all there is; but not necessarily so – at all. After all, even within the realm of physics and the material universe, we do not even know what “dark matter” and “dark energy” are, and we may never know.

It seems to me that the limitations of our five senses are one major reason why faith is perfectly reasonable. Perhaps we are graced with another “sense;” call it the religious sense or “the eyes of faith.” For Catholics the Eucharist is a central focus of this, of course. But it is so easy to “lose sight” of this point when immersed in and seduced by the Golden Calves man has made for himself.

Gene said...

Anon 2, In the military, there used to be a saying, "Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear." I agree…and because our senses are so over-stimulated in this technological society, we have lost the ability to think beyond them. A dose of Hume or Berkeley is badly needed.

qwikness said...

Well here you go. Why would someone want to move to Macon? Ranked 1st in the worst place in America to live. Based on crime, property value, education and income.