Friday, April 27, 2012


My first and most important question and comment: If the salvation of your soul isn't the primary reason for being and remaining Catholic, then being and remaining Catholic makes no real sense, does it? That's the most important question to answer correctly; all else is but a diversion to the real reason for being Catholic.
Today in the USA (and we have a higher percentage of Catholics attending Mass on Sunday than Europe does)statistics are telling us that about 20% of Catholics attend Mass on any regular basis. Certainly we have lost many Catholics to other denominations or religions, but most of the 80% who don't come anymore haven't joined any other organized religion. They are what they are--bad Catholics or to be more polite, non-practicing Catholics.

I still contend that the reason 80% of Catholics don't attend Mass anymore and have become "bad" Catholics or non-practicing Catholics has to be understood within the context of what the Church was like prior to the Second Vatican Council, what it became in the 1960's and '70's before Pope John Paul's election in 1978 as well as secularizing trends in academia, the media and even within Catholicism that has created such polarization and led to the diminution of the number of Catholics actually practicing the Faith in 2012.

First we have to look at generational Catholics since the 1950's. My family of origin is a case in point and other Catholics families who had children beginning with the baby-boomers in 1946. We Catholics were very orthodox, obedient and discipline oriented. Things were presented in "black and white" terms and through catechisms that were mostly alike, the epitome being the Baltimore Catechism. Convents, monasteries and rectories were full and the sisters who taught the vast majority of school age Catholics were staunch in their faith and did not promote a "wishful" thinking Catholicism; they taught the facts and taught us that it was a sin to deviate from their teachings which of course were the teachings of the Church. Yes, there was a triumphalism, but this led to Catholic pride and 90% of Catholics attending Mass on Sunday. It can't get any better than that!

But the 1960's social change, of which Vatican II was very much a part, changed all that and almost overnight. Everything in the Church was thrown into flux, not so much by Vatican II but by interpreters of Vatican II (and not necessarily the bishops) usually theologians in academia but also by amateurs in the parish, in religious life and in the clergy who all had their own interpretations of what Vatican II meant and what its "spirit" was.

My parents' generation who were staunch, unquestioning Catholics either embraced the new way of thinking and saw it as liberating or they were confused and befuddled by all the changes and threatened by what they once thought were rock solid truths being questioned and revamped all in the name of renewal. They were also disheartened to hear that pre-Vatican II Catholics were bad, stupid and only cared about "praying, paying and obeying!" That was one of the most cynical, unkind epitaphs thrown at them.

Of course my generation of baby-boomers used Vatican II in the 1960's to rebel against our parents and to show them how stupid they were for believing like pre-Vatican II Catholics. We wore jeans to Mass, said Sunday Mass every Sunday wasn't necessary and that we could use our conscience to justify just about anything, especially sexual extracurricular activities. Rebellion and questioning were in and obedience was out. And the answers to the questions weren't that important; what was important was asking the questions!

Then my generation of baby-boomers had children and we became a bit more conservative when that happened, but we, like our parents, relied on the parish and school to teach our children the faith. But of course without solid catechetical materials and untrained catechists or catechists who wanted a Church of the future rather than the one Vatican II actually gave us,taught the baby-boomer's children nothing but coloring book Catholicism and Catholicism of dissent rather than assent. But usually doctrinal and moral content was totally lacking in favor of feel-good, hand-holding religion that was vapid in content. Sunday Mass for my generation of Catholic parents and their children was less rigid too but not totally lacking.

Then baby-boomers children got married (or more than likely just shacked up) and they started having children, but for this generation of parents, Church was just an appendage and something one attended on certain occasions It wasn't ingrained in the fabric of their human identity. Other forces were shaping that, perhaps secularism within academia (even Catholic institutions of higher learning) or the secular media and the entertainment industry or just good old pride and my way is the best way.I'm not sure we can call baby-boomer's children who are now adults and parents of a new generation "cultural Catholics" for they have moved beyond that minimalist description into "post-Catholicism, i.e. post Christianity" but don't know that they have.

Today we have Catholics from the 1950's until 2012 and 80% of whom don't attend Mass anymore and Catholicism is very low on the list of what forms them as humans. What forms them is personal opinion (pride); secularized academia and the media. And today people are becoming more insulated and less connected to others--because of the computer and what I'm doing right now, posting on the internet and making comments to people I don't know and who don't know me or care about me. We live in a virtual world of our own making and relating to computers, iPhones, iPads and a whole host of new media entertainment which we watch alone and not with others.

For example in the 1950's and 60's everyone watched the three major networks and had a point of reference at the water cooler to discuss what they had seen. Not so today, you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want and on your own terms. That shifts the paradigm from the community to the individual and steroid-like.

Then we have 20% of Catholics still attending Mass and seeking meaning and purpose in their lives and salvation in the next life who are being fed false expectations about the future of Catholicism, that birth control will be officially sanctioned, same sex marriages blessed, women priests and a whole host of post-Catholic (Christian) ways of being Church available. When these false expectations don't happen then the 20% of Catholics attending Mass may dropped even further.

The same happens on the conservative side when we think that the Church will become like SSPX--that is a false expectation that disappoints the more traditionalists in our midst when it doesn't happen and never will, but I'm not clairvoyant or am I?

False exceptions and asking too many questions and seeking answers in all the wrong places is deadly for the Church and for one's personal, orthodox faith, but a remnant of faithful Catholics will remain and the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church--thank God for that!


Anonymous said...

The term you're groping for is "fallen away Catholics". Though they would obviously be better off spiritually inside than outside the Church, I think most problems within the Church stem from Catholics who are fallen away spiritually, but remain within it to fight Catholicism from inside the Church.

After in the mid 1950s I had been blown away by the Mass, my first feelings about Catholics were ones of envy, for their pride and esprit and self-identification as Catholics. For all the Catholics I saw in my predominately Protestant university, the Church was primary in their lives, their first identity. Even for the boys who manifestly were not holy as all the Catholic girls seemed to be.

Pater Ignotus said...

Why did God make you? To know, love, and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in heaven.

Even the Baltimore Catechism knows that we are made for two primary purposes, not only for “the salvation of your soul.” The first primary purpose is oriented to this world while the second is oriented to the life to come. One without the other is theologically and anthropologically insufficient. One leads to the “Pie In The Sky When You Die” mentality; the other to the kind of materialism that is so pervasive in Western culture. We are Catholic Christians by the grace of God so that we can serve Him here and, if we are found worthy, to be happy with Him in heaven. These purposes are not opposed. And in a Christian understanding of the Incarnation, one cannot exist without the other.

What we do in the flesh is every bit as important as what we hope to experience in heaven. We know this is true because we are taught in Matthew 25 that we will be judged precisely on what we have or have not done here, in this life, in the flesh.

The liturgy is also designed to help us understand this mystical reality –our “already, but not yet” reality. I am already redeemed, but I am not yet saved. It is in the flesh, as St. Paul teaches us, that we will “work out” our salvation.

My primary purpose as a Catholic Christian is to know, love, and serve God in this world and, if found worthy, to be happy with God in heaven.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I agree 100% about this life and the next, but in this life as Catholics we are called to pick up our cross and following Jesus as Catholics which means not making it up as we go, but by internalizing and following the revealed dogmatic truths of Holy Mother Church as well as the moral teachings of the Church, especially adhering to Divine which natural law has imprinted in its very creation and Sacred Scripture and Tradition, even when the moral law may not be described as dogmatically as other revealed truths are.

Bill said...

My mother and grandmother, both very traditional in their views, had grave misgivings about the goals for the Council, and the word ecumenism was at the core of their concerns. They believed the Pope John thought that by protestantizing the faith, the Protestants would rejoin the Church of Rome. They also believed that if that were his motivation, the sole result would be damage to the Church.

A direct consequence of the changes to the liturgy was that many of my family members fell away from the Church, as they no longer recognized it. A few of us have returned, but some never will.

So, "which means not making it up as we go"... do you mean by this the improvisations by the many bishops who tossed our centuries of traditions on the trash heap?

Pater Ignotus said...

Bill, your mother and grandmother, it seems, did not read the Council re: ecumenism. In the documents themselves there is no ambiguity about the meaning of ecumenism.

And the 1993 Ecumenical Directory, a revision of the 1967/1970 earlier version of the same, makes the Church's goals pretty clear.

Did Catholics fall away as a "direct consequence" of the changes in the liturgy? I hear this claim all the time, but find no argument to back up the assertion.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I'm slightly older than PI and I can remember clearly in the 1980's reconciling lapsed Catholics (usually on their death bed) back to the church who left the Church because they said the Church left them in the 1960's, meaning the liturgy, what to believe, etc. The 80% not attending Mass today who come from historically Catholic families in many cases come from staunch Catholic families of the 1950's who became very disillusioned with the changes in the Church and the Mass, but you have to go to that period of when the changes occurred and not the first wave of changes, but what happened in the 1970's.

Hammer of Fascists said...


Re your first post, well said, except for one statement. I would argue that "to know, love, and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in heaven" is the definition of salvation, rather than being an objective that's in addition to salvation (i.e., your "not only" remark). See., e.g., St. Therese of Lisieux: "I will spend my heaven doing good on earth."

Re your second post about connection between liturgical changes and declining Mass attendance: I don't think it was _just_ liturgical changes, but a whole host of changes. I think that there's plenty of evidence to be had, but I lack the time right this minute to find it. Technically you're correct that this is a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument, but the very proximity in time of the changes suggests more than coincidence. Or, as Thoreau once put it, “Some Circumstantial Evidence Is Very Strong, As When You Find A Trout In The Milk” (referencing a suspicion, without any direct evidence, that someone is watering the milk he's selling). In this case, the liturgy changes drastically, trappings of Catholic identity are laid waste, and almost simultaneously Mass attendance drops precipitously. There's a trout here.

Anonymous said...


Of course, there were no contemporary documents from the Council for your mother and grandmother (or anyone else then) to read then about ecumenism (or anything else).

But, even without reading conciliar or post-conciliar documents about ecumenism, we can now see that they were right--and Popes John XXIII and Paul VI and most at the Council and otherwise (including me) were wrong about ecumenical prospects. Many in the 1960s were buoyed with optimism that ecumenically motivated reforms in Catholic liturgy, catechetics, etc. would result in droves of Protestants returning to the Church. "The road . . . is paved with good intentions."

Bill said...

PI: I may have been insufficiently clear in my comment. the views of my mother and grandmother were from a time prior to the publication of any documents, so there was no failure to read them.

There was much coverage of the Council at the time, and much incorrect reporting, as well. However, the sense of it was, overall, pretty much as I described.

I am 63 now, and was in junior and senior high during the sessions of the Council. I was in college when we were "gifted" with folk Masses and other challenges to our faith, such as unfinished plywood tables in place of consecrated altars.

Anonymous said...

"Bill, your mother and grandmother, it seems, did not read the Council"

A la Father Z' "Gold Star" awards, Fr. McDonald, it occurs to me that this blog could use a "most supercilious comment" awards.

Anonymous said...

Rhetorical question: is there any study about mass attendance in more traditional parishes versus more modern ones? Especially in the 20 to 40 year old groups and among married couples with children.


Anonymous said...

rcg: Go to an OF Mass and count how many married couples with 4 to 8 children you see. Go to an EF Mass and do the same. The evidence will be clear to your eyes. Ditto with at which the 20 to 40 age group is most prominent.

Gene said...

Ignotus, You are incorrect in your exegesis of "to know, love, and serve." You lump three very important theological designations into one and then try to say that these are the "first primary purpose oriented to this world" while the second is oriented to the life to come. No, no:

1. To know means Right belief. This is oriented toward God the father and the Holy Trinity. "I am the Resurrection and the Life saith the Lord, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live...." This is oriented toward the life to come and is concerned with salvation history.
2. To love Him: Again, this has to do with Right Worship...praise and acknowledgent of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in ways that embody Right Belief and which point us along the road of salvation history through the process of know Real Presence, Confession, the Mass as a Sacrifice, that sort of stuff. This is also based upon Transcendence as Christ reaches us through the Mass for our redemption to "preserve us unto eternal life."
3. To Serve. Right action or Right Service. This follows from Right Belief and Right Worship. It is the imperative of the first two live the Christian life in the world. So, Right Service is oriented toward this world, but ony as a theological derivative of the first two. And, no, you cannot begin with right action and get to right worship and right belief. Sorry, that's secular humanism. It is also Pelagianism...and Gnosticism.

Oh, and Ignotus, when you speak of the "already and the not yet" which protestant theologian are you referencing? Is it Gerhard Vos, who has strong Manichean overtones, or is it Paul Tillich, essentially an agnostic who wrote a great big Systematic Theology filled with unbelief, or Karl Barth, a hard core Calvinist Reformed theologian whom I spent years studying and loving, but who finally led/drove me to the Catholic Church. Surely, you are not referencing the Kingdom Theology movement which is pretty much socialism...oh, wait a may well be...Anyway, you never answered my other questions about how the way we come to know Christ has changed...or that other question somebody asked about when you are going to make the TLM available to your parishioners...LOL!

Adlai said...

Gene W. (f.k.a. Pin) - I guess you mean me when you mentioned the somebody in your April 27,2012 @2120 post. I'm still patiently waiting for an answer from Ignotus regarding the TLM at his parish. I might have to either change my pseudonym to Job or pray for his intercession. (I sure hope that the scripture school that Pater Ignotus subscribes to doesn't think that Job was a fictional character. If so, I'll be in for a lecture!)I haven't taken Pater Ignotus's advice about writing a letter to Bishop Hartmayer about his actions. Canon law is not my forte. I'm hoping that His Excellency, Bishop Hartmayer, reads this blog on a regular basis. If so, he can form his own opinion about our favorite progressive priest. If not, maybe Bishop Hartmayer should be invited to join us and post under the name, He Who Must Be Obeyed After Pope Benedict XVI.

As always, I'm still waiting and praying.

With warmest regards,

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin - I did not lump these "theological designations" together. The Baltimore Catechism did that for us.

"God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven."

The answer offers us a clear example of how we exist in an "already but not yet" state. Already, in this life, we are to know, love, and serve God. Already, in this life, we are to act in ways that build up the reign of God. Already, on this side of the tombstone, we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison. . . .

But the answer gives us the "not yet" side of the equation. If we are judged worthy, we will be "happy with Him forever in heaven."

Already: we serve Him here.

Not Yet: we may reign with Him in heaven.

This weekend second reading embodies this "already but not yet" understanding of our existence, a very Catholic idea. "Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed."

So, you see, the idea may have been picked up by Vos, Tillich, Barth, etc., but is is found in the Scriptures.

And the reason that Adlai hasn't denounced me as a heretic to Bishop Hartmayer is that he has no case. None. And he knows that bearing false witness against another is a sin.

Gene said...

Ignotus, Baltimore Catechism is simplified for the laity. If you look at the phrase theologically, it means exactly what I expounded.
The Apostle does not state it as "already and not yet." He said, "What we shall be has not been revealed." The catchy phrase, "already and not yet" is an existentil-theological phrase that has become popular among dialectical theologians.

Adlai said...

Actually, Pater Ignotus, I would never denounce you as a heretic to Bishop Hartmayer. If I were to denounce you, it would be for your lack of obedience to the Holy Father and his desire for the faithful who desire the TLM to have it.

BTW, are you sure I meant heretic in my original post? I was thinking more of haughty, heterodox, and a certain part of a horse's anatomy. Perhaps you have the same spiritual gift as St. Pio (Padre Pio) and can read minds and souls.

I'm still patiently waiting for a simple answer from you regarding the TLM at your parish. (It's been a long, long time!)

Pax vobiscum!


Pater Ignotus said...

Adlai - And I am waiting for your letter to Bishop Hartmayer denouncing me as a heretic. We are both patient people.

Gene said...

Once again, Ignotus, you do not listen. Adlai just said above that he would never write to the Bishop calling you a heretic. The Bishop may not even care...I do not know him, but he comes across like a corporate CEO and, I understand, he is genetically attached to his Smartphone. I suspect that, as long as you don't openly deny the Trinity or install a condom machine in the Church bathroom, you'll be fine. Otherwise, I think Adlai's assessment of you is spot on.