My husband and I joined the Catholic Church in 1993. My father was born in 1936. He once told me that I was the first Catholic he had known who could give him a reasoned answer to his questions about basic beliefs and practices, rather than, "Because my parents said to," or "I don't know, we just do."
If more people in the "glory days" of the Church in the United States had really understood their faith, they wouldn't have thrown it all away for ... contraception.
While I can appreciate your assertion, it is too simplistic. Actually, your father nailed it when he said you were the first Catholic he had known who could give him a reasoned answer to his questions about basic beliefs and practices, rather than, "Because my parents said to," or "I don't know, we just do."
That statement is truly the crux of the problem. Catholics do not know, much less understand their faith. They should be required to attend regular classes because the majority of them are either poorly catechized or not catechized at all. My 80 y/o mother is an excellent example. Her understanding of the catholic faith is frozen at the time she left school at age 15. For decades, she "practiced" the faith because of what she was told as a child. In more recent years, she has relegated what she was taught, as 'ancient history', out of lockstep with the secularized world in which we live. She will not read the Bible because she was told (as a child) not to do so. Yes, there was a time when catholics did not embrace reading scripture. They heard it at mass.
The majority of catholics I know, practice their faith along similar lines. Many of the Lebanese in my parish are very devout catholics yet have never questioned what was passed along to them. It takes the heart of a convert to help them appreciate the beauty of the Catholic faith. As editor of the weekly bulletin, something they all read, I use it to educate them and their children.