As I have written before, there are two primary reasons why we are where we are today with the decline of Catholics who actually attend Mass or claim to be Catholic.
It has to do with orthodoxy and heterodoxy.
After Vatican II, orthodox Catholics were denigrated as Neanderthal if they did not show obedience to the changes that bishops, priests and nuns said Vatican II taught. Normally these Church officials were speaking of the “spirit” of Vatican II that could not be backed up with the actual documents of Vatican II.
Of course this alienated orthodox Catholics who loved the Catholicism prior to Vatican II. They became ambivalent with the more progressive Church and often disengaged or departed altogether saying the Church left them which was partially true.
After Vatican II, a new kind of Catholic emerged as well, the publicly heterodox Catholic often supported by a variety of Church leaders, bishops, priests and nuns. They believed that if what was thought could not change and Vatican II did change, like the Liturgy, everything could change and we would have a new and improved Church. Rigid orthodoxy, dogma and doctrine were not important but care for the poor became the new sacrament and deposit of faith. Personal conscience trumped rigid morality as it concerned sex, marriage, birth control and the like.
When Pope Paul VI began to back track on the “spirit” of Vatican II and issued Humanae Vitae, the heterodox had the helium punched out of their balloon and they soon became “nones” departing the Church for other spiritual realities.
For the rest of Catholics, keeping one’s head above water with horrible liturgies, the emphasis on the priest and his personality, the sex abuse scandals and the rest of it with a return to the 1960’s in the highest places of the Church, has weakened Catholicism dramatically since 2002.
Perhaps the emphasis on the horizontal, the priest, the congregation and the navel gazing replacing the Divine the vertical and where we are actually called, what our true home really is, has contributed to the way Catholics have handled the crisis and scandals of the last 50 years.
If the Body of Christ without her Head Christ, is the emphasis and the Body of Christ is comprised of compromised sinners, why stay in a Church or parish which glorifies what the people do for good or bad and doesn’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and usually because of how Mass is celebrated and Holy Communion is distributed and received?