Wednesday, September 28, 2016


I am currently in Italy and soon in the Holy Land as a part of a continuing education program for priests at the North American College in Rome. It goes through October 21. Posting or commentary may be sporadic.

My comments first on increasing the number of nones: I don't think we as faithful Catholics, be we clergy or laity, have to denigrate sinners of any sexual orientation. However when the truth is proclaimed in love and directed toward all sinners, usually 100% of any given congregation, and the prophetic dimension of the truth alienates those closed to it or offended by it, then so be it.

We cannot be manipulated by the political correctness of this current generation which strives to manipulate the prophets of God through a consumer mentality to Catholicism which sees it as a business where the customer is always right and if he isn't catered to, will take his business elsewhere. 

Pope Benedict did not desire a smaller Church, but a more faithful Church that might result in fewer Catholics. However those Protestant sects that have given into the all inclusive demands of their customers have seen a dramatic decline in their pew counts too. You can be a smaller but mote unfaithful church also!

From Commonweal:

Why “Nones” Are Leaving the Church

By Michael Peppard
The most significant demographic trend in American religion today is the rapidly growing numbers of “unaffiliated” or “nones.” The data has spoken clearly for years, with a rise from about 5% in 1972 to about 25% in 2016. More importantly, almost 40% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 are religiously unaffiliated. This is no mere life-cycle effect, as has been so common in the past. If you find yourself gazing at empty pews this weekend and thinking, They’ll come back when they have kids of their own, you’re in denial.
To the contrary, this is an epochal societal shift disguised as a life-cycle effect, and it remains foolish to avoid the numbers. Recent books by Kaya Oakes and Elizabeth Drescher, among others, have given voices to these numbers. Queries about what the nones do after they leave their religious communities—how they live out their days as spiritual not religious, or multi-religious, or anti-religious—will continue to occupy more and more of our bookshelves. But the prior question of why they leave in the first place is also still being asked.
Yesterday the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), an increasingly indispensable organization for the study of religion, released a report about why they leave. The report, based on August 2016 phone surveys, might be thought of as a compilation of anonymous exit interviews: real people offering real reasons, with nothing to hide or prove. Not all the answers are surprising, but some of them should be required reading for pastors, catechists, and parents.
The chart above shows the main reasons why people report having left their religious community. For parents, the top two reasons deserve special attention. As the first and best educators in faith, culture, ritual, and ethics, parents profoundly affect their child’s likelihood of religious affiliation. A lack of affiliation (and its outward manifestation) on the part of parents was the second most common reason given. Parents also join with catechists and pastors to educate children about a religion’s beliefs. If 60% report leaving because of lack of belief, that must be in part because those beliefs were not presented in the most reasonable manner or in a way that connected with the child's experience. If parents and other leaders don’t have coherent responses to questions about evolution, the resurrection, or various forms of prayer and devotion—not even to mention the thornier questions of contemporary ethics—then how can younger members nourish their incipient beliefs?
Most importantly, all church leaders should meditate on the third most common answer given: “negative religious teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people.” Almost 30% of respondents reported this as an important factor in the decision to leave. And among the Catholic respondents, the number climbs even higher:
Notably, those who were raised Catholic are more likely than those raised in any other religion to cite negative religious treatment of gay and lesbian people (39% vs. 29%, respectively) and the clergy sexual-abuse scandal (32% vs. 19%, respectively) as primary reasons they left the Church.
Let that sink in. Almost 40% of Catholics interviewed cited this very specific reason. On this point, the data is strong and getting stronger. For younger generations—and “young” stretches into current thirty- and forty-somethings as well—the moral status of homosexuality has simply moved to another region of the brain from that of other vexing moral questions. This is a matter not of normative argument but sociological description, backed up by poll after poll and corroborated by longitudinal studies, such as Robert Putnam and David Campbell’s peerless book, American Grace.
Most religious people make moral evaluations through a combination of appeals to revelation, reason, and experience. What do scripture and tradition say? What does my logical thinking conclude? And what have I personally experienced that puts flesh on the bones of those arguments? In the case of the moral status of homosexuality, it seems clear that a tipping point was reached in the past decade, whereby people’s reason and personal experience have overwhelmed the appeal to revelation.
What is the upshot for church leaders? Any comment a leader makes about gays and lesbians—from a magisterial pronouncement to a small remark in a pulpit or classroom—must be chosen with these high stakes in mind. With regard to how gays and lesbians are spoken of in church settings, there is no margin of error. Any expression of negativity and ostracization from the pulpit will be heard from the pew as an irredeemable affront to friends and family—or one’s very self. And next week, that same pew will be empty.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Msgr. Francis Manion writes the following: (My comments at the end as it pertains to the Baltimore Catechism.)

by Msgr. M. Francis Mannion
Two national studies produced by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), based at Georgetown University, finds that young Catholics are abandoning their faith starting around the age of 10, and certainly by age 17 (Confirmation catechists, please note!).
Nearly two-thirds (63%) said they no longer identify themselves as Catholics by the age 17, and another 23% said they stopped regarding themselves as Catholic by  the age 10.
Of those who had left the faith, only 13% said they were ever likely to return to the Catholic Church.
The reason most often given is the tension young people perceive between faith and religion. While this factor is highest among students at public school, it is also remarkably high among students at Catholic schools.
There is an emerging profile of youth who say their religious formation is incompatible with what they are learning in public high school or university.
Dr. Mark Gray, a senior researcher with CARA, speaks of an unprecedented “crisis of faith” among youth. “In the whole concept of faith, this is a generation that is struggling with faith in ways that we haven’t seen in previous generations.”  There is a severe compartmentalization between education in faith and in science. The fundamental problem is that youth may go to Mass once a week but spend the rest of the week learning “how dumb” their faith is.
On a positive note, Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame University, states that there are three factors that yield a high retention rate among young Catholics. The first is that the young people have a “weekly activity” like catechesis, Bible study, or youth group. The second is the availability of adults (not their parents) with whom they can discuss their faith. The third is the possibility of providing “deep spiritual experiences.”
I am no sociologist of religion, least of all of that which deals with youth. But my own experience tells me that besides the three factors mentioned here, there are the three additional factors: There is daily prayer in the home, parents and children talking about their faith, and some kind of weekly charitable service made possible for the young people.
Some (like me!) worry about the quality of religious formation of children and youth. Things have improved a lot since the horrid days of religious formation in the 70s and 80s. But, having kept an eye on the kind of texts being used, even the better ones are inadequate. If you want your child to be well informed in the faith, then don’t look at the typical text available. We have a long way to go in this area. For one thing, we need to bring back a thoroughly updated question-and-answer catechism.
There is also the question of parish religious education teachers and Catholic school teachers. Would you be surprised to know that many of them do not go to Sunday Mass regularly and have “difficulties” with the Church? Surely this has to have a disastrous effect on the students for whom they have responsibility. I have seen no data on this, so I am basing what I say on what I have observed and read over the years and what other pastors tell me.
Finally, there are the parents, who rarely if ever talk to their children about the faith and the necessity of growing strong in it. And do parents, even of Catholic school children, go to Mass on Sundays? The vast majority, I fear, do not.
Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Salt Lake City. Reprinted by permission of Catholic News Agency.
MY COMMENTS:  The elephant in the room is a "spirit of Vatican II" mentality which refuses to look at what was good and timeless, and let me underline timelessness, of the pre-Vatican II Church, especially her experience in the 1950's.
There needs to be a study of the timeless quality of Catholic life and how this life strengthened Catholic families. Then there needs to be a concerted universal thrust or catchesis to shape the culture of the Catholic Church and her members.
Let me list my wish list:
1. Bring back the Baltimore Catechism and make it the catechism of our country. It might need some minor tweaking but leave it as it is with some updated examples. It's simplicity but depth forms a foundation for Catholics even if they stop going to religious education after they are Confirmed. It is simple enough for them to use as a reference book even later in life. Theolgically it only needs some minor post-Vatican II updating as it concerns ecumenism and the liturgy (without doing away with the chapters on the Tridentine Mass but simply adding the reformed version. 
2. Bring back the culture of Cathoicism lived at home and the world, especially a more rigorous fasting and abstinence as in the 1950's or early '60's. This extends Cathoicism into the home and work place and identifies us as Cathoics to a secular culture. Bring back ember days and all of the Holy Days of Obliagation as in the 1950's without silly exceptions like it falling on a Friday or Monday and thus not obligatory. 
3. Instill a sense of obligation as the basis for religious practice even when religious practice doesn't seem personally satisfying. This ties into "suffering as a virtue" and the need to see suffering as a good when it leads us to faithfulness. 
4. Focus on the Liturgy in either form as instilling depth to faith, seriousness, piety and reverence.
When I visit various classrooms and teach, I use the Baltimore Catehcism and tell the kids there will be a test at the end. I use the fill in the blank and true or false questions provided by the Baltimore Catechism. We do it out loud and it is fun and engages the children. We need a recovery of this. It is possible but there has to be national and universal leadership which is lacking. It is pre-Vatican II phobia!