Skip to comments.What should come next? (The Catholic response to shrinking congregations)
Posted on 04/08/2013 4:48:13 AM PDT by NYer
Fifty years ago the Vatican Council said about the laity: “Whoever they are, they are called upon, as living members, to expend all their energy for the growth of the Church and its continuous sanctification, since this very energy is a gift of the Creator and a blessing of the Redeemer.” Lay people were not presented as depending on the clergy for initiatives. Laity aren’t supposed to wait for a request from the episcopal palace. They have a task that is theirs from Baptism.
Done anything lately to make the Church grow?
What exactly is this task? “The laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth.” These places and circumstances involve schools, business, politics, medicine, science, international affairs, wars, the list is endless.
But in the American Church, many Catholics are waiting for the clergy when they ought to be doing things themselves. By Baptism and Confirmation, “every layman, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself ‘according to the measure of Christ's bestowal. . .’”
Lay people know a lot about the secular world. They typically do not bring to their work all the philosophical and theological analysis that academics and some clergy do. But lay people do have the raw data and lived experience many theologians lack. They are constantly exposed to and engaged with what is going on in the world.
The official Church has revelation through tradition and scripture and the work of the magisterium. The trouble often is that the people with ecclesiastical learning and the people with lay experience do not often pool what they know and definitely not on the subjects that really concern laypeople.
Here’s the thing: forget the historical question why this situation developed – that would fill volumes. But now, right now, as the American Church seems to be fading into national irrelevance, why don’t the laity seek out the necessary theological insight into the many fields of human life? Starting at the parish level: why can’t we have courses that inform people about what the Church really teaches? What are we spending money on that could be better spent on the Christian analysis of everyday life?
Christ Preaching in the Temple by Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), c. 1625
If “father” won’t organize it, hire people yourselves – reliable experts in the field – to do the teaching that is needed. Enough clergy and informed laity know that doctor X or father Y are not orthodox, but doctor Z would be good. He or she is authentically Catholic and learned and capable of communicating the content of the Faith to lay people who want to hear it.
To be sure, the much feared question about orthodoxy has to be posed. It is not just a question of whether people like professor so and so. The Church has far higher standards of truth and one of its attractions for many people – though this is little noticed – is that it is a truth-telling institution.
At the diocesan level, too: why aren’t dioceses training every single layperson? Maybe lay people should simply organize and get the job done, collect money, hire the teachers and the lecture halls. Let’s get Catholicism to where it is meant to be – which is as the operational knowledge in faith and morals for lay life. Lay people organize much better than many clergy. Get a few converts in the mix as well. Their passion is real because they appreciate what they have received.
Of course, one must not hire partisan propagandists for the Democrats or the Republicans, or people who merely pass on the fantasies of the popular culture about love and marriage and business. They are usually hostile to the culture of life and to promoting the humanity that Christ died for. There has to be some caution, too, about hiring people who teach what they think is in the teachings of the Council. There is a long history of Americans making stuff up, calling it Catholic, and strangely enough finding crowds of people to go along with it. Diocesan clergy do it. Religious do it. Lay people do it.
Fortunately, there are now enough knowledgeable men and women of faith who can teach and who genuinely understand Catholicism in all of its richness. Catholicism is too wonderful to be the possession of a privileged few, those who have done the study and who live the orthodox faith to the full.
A last word from the Council: “Christ loves the Church as His bride, having become the model of a man loving his wife as his body; the Church, indeed, is subject to its Head. ‘Because in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,’ He fills the Church, which is His body and His fullness, with His divine gifts so that it may expand and reach all the fullness of God.”
Isnt promoting this fullness worth a very substantial effort?
Very good; thanks.
Catholicism could use some real marketing help.
Although I am not Catholic I notice that the Catholic churches in my area (and there are many) are packed for both Saturday evening and Sunday morning mass. It’s the main line protestant congregations that are disappearing, not just shrinking. Their answer to reversing the trend is to turn left and leave orthodoxy behind. Surprise, surprise, it isn’t working.
Almost every church that sticks to the gospel of Christ, and refuses to water it down with pro-homosexual and pro-feminist (which many times is teh same thing) thinking tends to grow.
Conservative churches are doing fine. People look to the church to be a moral guideline. If the church is telling them “if it feels good do it”, which is the central tenet of liberal churches, then why bother going at all.
But if the church is telling them “God says do this and don’t do that” and has teh scriptutres to back it up, then they serve a stabilising foundational purpose in our lives. We may not like hearing that we are messing up, but deep down we know we need to be told it. So we go every Sunday (and in most protestant cases, every midweek service too).
I’d wager that the more conservative Catholic churches are doing well but the ones where liberals/homosexuals had taken over suffer as long as the liberal/homo is there.
(If I remember correctly Rembert Weakland, Bishop of Milwaukee was a big liberal. Does anyone have data on the church there during and after his reign? I thought that his replacemnet was a conservative and that weakland was kind of forced out)
We might not be having this discussion.
I'm not even Catholic, but the thought of walking into one of their churches gives me the creeps.
Although I am not Catholic I notice that the Catholic churches in my area (and there are many) are packed for both Saturday evening and Sunday morning mass. Its the main line protestant congregations that are disappearing, not just shrinking
...not to put too fine a point on it, but many churches are packed because they get the spillover from closed parishes...and the less said about closed Catholic schools the better...both Protestant and Catholic churches are being ravaged by the immense nondenominational houses of worship that are sprouting like mushrooms, that attract many laity because theological demands are few and the incentive to socialize is all when coming to worship...America is not so much becoming more secular and agnostic, but has drifted toward an antiliturgical set of ecclesiological desires that require nothing but being there and being somewhat quiet for an hour or so, along with an acknowledgment that Jesus loves us and vice versa...think first grade CCD classes, and you’ve got todays Christian pegged...
People will come to Church if it is a house of prayer because they have a need to pray. Vatican II has done nothing to strengthen the house; in fact it did damage to it.
Restore the culture of prayer; at a minimum, remove the drums and turn the priest around to face God, and receive on the tongue. It is not complicated.
I did RCIA as a team member this year. wonderful experience. I think I probably learned more than the candidates. I plan to keep doing it each year. Our parish is very dynamic. Lots of people show up for everything, not just Mass although Mass is often standing room only. We remain in the black. It is possible. I know that there are a lot of parishes struggling.
and embrace moral relativism so this generation gets to make up its own moral code
that hasn't worked so well for the protestants, has it?
but if the Catholic Church had dealt with the rampant PEDOPHILES who called themselves priests for the last HALF CENTURY OR MORE......
...now that you’re finished shouting, care to pass along a couple of facts and figures...like exactly how many priests out of the entire population of clergy were ‘rampant pedophiles’...I mean, seeing as how loud you’re being, I’d figure you have all the facts right at the tips of your little fingers...I’ll wait patiently for your informative answer...
but the thought of walking into one of their churches gives me the creeps.
...but you’d not feel creepy walking into a Protestant Church, or a public school, where documented abuse cases equalling or surpassing the Catholic scandal exist...
I did RCIA as a team member this year. wonderful experience
...I used to work on the RCIA team, until I realized what a closed circle of do things our way nor no way bunch they’d become...I committed a horrible crime, the worst thing that a parishioner in a modern suburban church can possibly do in that RCIA setting...I suggested we ought to inject a tiny little bit of Latin into the Mass...I’d have been less an object of terror if I advocated slaying the Pope...
...just for the fun of it, in your next RCIA group, just prior to the Easter Vigil, ask the newbies what they think the Mass is...and if your team’s instruction is anything like my team’s, they will respond with ‘a gathering of worshippers sharing a meal of love and gratitude with Jesus Christ’...at which point you can add, since you know this, that it really is a representation of the Sacrifice of the Spotless Victim at Calvary, except in an unbloody manner, at which the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, under the appearance of bread and wine, are offered by the confecting priest to God for the purpose of remission of our sins...
...after saying this, take note of the looks on their faces, and if they’re like my parish, you might think you’ve just sprouted a second neck or something...ah yes, catechism ain’t what it used to be...
You have fallen prey to the mainstream media's serial attack on the Catholic Church. We have implemented policies to prevent any further incidences. This includes mandating that any priest, religious or lay individual who work with children, undergo a police background check, be finger printed and attend a Virtus training program. What has your particular church done to protect its children from these predators?
And, while we're on the topic, one needs to safeguard their children from sexual abuse by - teachers, camp counselors, troop leaders, sports coaches, et al. Even the BSA has several sex abuse cases pending. How ironic that the BSA is under attack for not allowing gays. Do schools, camps, or any other organization require their staff / volunteers be fingerprinted?
The one place you are safe is in a Catholic Church. But you go ahead and listen to the msm. They won't mislead you ; - )
They are not far from it. Declaring Moslems to be "brothers and sisters" renders the whole Catholic Church moot. What part of "I am the Lord your God, and before me thou shalt have no other gods" does Pope Francis not get.
Our’s was until we got a faithful priest, we’ve gone from near bankruptcy to having a 50K cushion in just one year. We have a small parish of 350 families so that is a lot.
He is also starting to make the church a social hub as well as a place of faith.
It is, of course, a triumph of anti-Catholic marketing and the distrust of celibacy added to the crisp and clear Catholic teaching on sexuality that leads to the MSM enthusiastically trumpeting the Catholic sexual crimes.
I will recount until I did that when I was an Episcopal priest I had clear and convincing evidence that a (married with a child) colleague was committing sexual abuse. I told my bishop who quite clearly did want to deal with it since the colleague had moved to another diocese.
Strangely I never read about that in the papers.
A call to action but what action? Are lay persons going to proselyte, maybe stand on street corners preaching the “message” or go knocking on doors?
Jesus gave his disciples a message to preach, gave them training in the field, organized the work and then had the preachers report on their experiences so they could be corrected.
I wonder what precisely is being asked of the
The one place you are safe is in a Catholic Church. But you go ahead and listen to the msm. They won’t mislead you ; - )
...don’t know why you’re including me in this post, along with Billybob or whatever his name was...I responded to him in like manner as you did...
Don't know if you were being serious or facetious ... but several Parishes I have been involved with have lay groups whose mission is explicitly to go throughout the parish boundaries, knocking on doors and talking to folks about Jesus Christ.
I am catholic, I am not a pedophile. My husband is catholic he is not a pedophile. Neither are our priests at our parish. The best way to evangelize as Catholics is to follow the example of Jesus.
Jesus developed relationships with people. He talked to all people and offered love, understanding and forgiveness. If we develop meaningful friendships with the people we meet in our daily travels then a discussion of our faith will meaningfully develop over time out of natural curiosity. Helping people discover Christ isn’t a fifteen minute conversation, it is an ongoing part of all our relationships. It is living by example.
Get off the sofa, get out of the house, go meet people and for goodness sake turn off your gadgets ( the world won’t end really) and let the Holy Spirit be your guide.
I will recount until I did that when I was an Episcopal priest I had clear and convincing evidence that a (married with a child) colleague was committing sexual abuse. I told my bishop who quite clearly did want to deal with it since the colleague had moved to another diocese.
...not quite clear...did the bishop want to deal with it or not? The context is confusing...
...btw, like your tagline ‘in Thee, Lord, have I hoped...I shall not be confounded for eternity...’
All mankind are our brothers and sisters, they may be apostate but God does not stop loving them, He longs for them to come to Him and we are to go and make disciples of all nations and that includes all religions.
Jesus died for sinners, ALL sinners. If you have the grace to believe in Him, then thank God because he has given you that grace.
Our priest tells a story of a huge gathering of religions in India. He was in seminary and wasn’t able to go but watched on TV. People shoulder to shoulder and the leaders of each religion spoke starting with the one with the most adherents. After each finished their talks the crowd went wild clapping, yelling and they’d get the crowd calmed down for the next one.
The Catholic went last and told about Jesus, His divinity, His humanity, His love and when he finished there was no cheering, no clapping, no unbridled exuberance, the seminarians watching on TV couldn’t understand it...until the cameras finally went to the crowds, they were on their knees, crying, praying.
The aftermath was that thousands were baptized a year later.
I think it's happening. I also think the laity, upon whom the marketing effort will rest, need to be very purposeful and disciplined about their sacramental and prayer life.
These are, regrettably, interesting times.
At my parish in Rhode Island, we are flourishing and would be called a youthful parish. But the age spread is pretty even from the very old to the very young.
We remain quite orthodox, upholding much tradition with respect and love, but we are not extremists on either side of the pendulum. The Holy Spirit has been active for as many years as I can remember in our parish. This is attested to only because our parishioners respond to God’s grace and allow it to grow.
Two movements actually worked tirelessly to foster the faith. The Cursillo movement and the Charismatic Renewal. We have a strong youth ministry headed up by my pastor and some very committed adults and teenagers.
I know some parishes are languishing and their numbers are low, but that is not the case at my parish. I can only praise the Lord for this great blessing.
At which point they become our brothers and sisters.
We preach the message. If it is accepted, we baptize. If it is rejected, we shake the dust off of our sandals and move on. Not my words, by the way. Stating that the Lord God and Allah are both the god of Abraham is wrong. There is no equivalency, and trying to make the equivalency puts another, false, god before or equal to the Lord God.
I was quite serious. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons go out and rap on doors and I’ve often wonderd how other groups would respond if asked to do so.
We are only several doors away from the last surviving Latin Rite parish in the City of Watervliet NY (when the RC bishop closed 5 of their 6 parishes, the catholics migrated en masse to a local Evangelical Church). Yesterday an oriental family showed up for mass. Afterwards, as I usually do with anyone new at this church, I thanked them for joining us and invited them for refreshments downstairs in our Hall. In our conversation, I learned they moved here from San Francisco 3 days ago!!! They specifically looked for a Maronite Church and enjoyed the sense of community and fellowship from others in our congregation. At another table, I spoke with a RC gentleman who used to attend mass at the Latin Rite parish. He explained the congregation was made up of "social security recipients". Our community, like yours, is comprised of a broad range from infant to age 97. It is alive and vibrant.
Just wanted to reinforce your excellent response.
The one comment I see repeatedly on many threads is that posters are often invited to attend someone's worship service and they wonder why catholics never invite them to attend their church. This same comment is often made by guests of Marcus Grodi on The Journey Home. That might be a good starting point. Invite someone to join you for church. Let God take care of the rest.
Ive often wonderd how other groups would respond if asked to do so.
I know of several Catholic pastors who have had no trouble recruiting a sufficient corps of Door Knockers and Jesus Talkers. More pastors should try it. Christians should not leave the field to the Mormons and JWs.
“(If I remember correctly Rembert Weakland, Bishop of Milwaukee was a big liberal. Does anyone have data on the church there during and after his reign? I thought that his replacemnet was a conservative and that weakland was kind of forced out)”
Yes, Weakland was forced out. Listecki (spelling?) is a much better bishop. I do not have specific data on things like vocations, however, but I would be shocked if they are not up over the last 5 or so years. Here’s an article from 2010 that shows things might be turning around there: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2574556/posts
Mine is doing a bit better, and I can't analyze why: could be a good, capable pastor (leadership absolutely counts) plus it's a newish diocese, erected in 1989, in an area of Catholic population growth by migration (Eastern TN filling up with Rust Belt Yankees) so there's stll some of that new-guy gumption.
I'm on the parish RCIA team, and We! Teach! Catholicism! We haven't got it all together, but are committed to doing it better every year.
Do not give up on your parish. Virtually every saint-biography says that the saint was "in struggle with a corrupt, slack church" --- no matter what the country, the continent or the century.
I agree with the premise of the posted article. Evangelism? Catechesis? We, the laity, need to do it, and keep on doing it.
Sorry you had a bad experience with RCIA. Actually, our group was/is quite conservative. We had one session on NFP and both the leader and two of the other team members were recently in seminary but decided to marry and have now amongst themselves, something like 10 children. We did a lot on the Mass and the Communion of Saints. There was one old couple who were not happy I think because they had been happy with the sort of RCIA that you describe.
Nobody cared. Not the bishop (who was pretty well known to be at minimum a sympathizer), not the MSM. I mean, when your cathedral is posted on CraigsList as a "hookup" location . . . . But absolutely nobody cared.
You have to understand that homosexual "chickenhawkers" are very clever at insinuating themselves into places where they can gain access to boys. Liberals, whether they be bishops or school principals or scout leaders, are either too naive or too blinded by PC to catch on right away. If you look, you'll see a correlation between very liberal Catholic bishops and the number of offenders in their dioceses.
The Catholic Church has now "caught on" and has extremely strict rules that are vigorously enforced. As other organizations "catch on" they will either do the same . . . or not.
But the media will continue to attack the Church for what happened 10, 20 or 50 years ago, because as far as they are concerned, the goal is attacking the Catholic Church as the last large organized bastion of opposition to the liberal agenda of abortion, contraception, free sex, and homosexuality. The idea that they care about the victims is negated by their complete lack of attention to victims in any other context.
At my local Parish, they could clear all of the liberal bumper stickers from the parking lot and stop talking about social justice.
Following Jesus example every Christian should be a door knocker evangelist I would say.
Why? The seminaries have been cleaned up. We are getting straight and orthodox believing bishops. At my church we had six people baptized and eight come into full Communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil.
Aren’t you aware of what Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI put in place visiting commissions to clean up the seminaries? It’s even happening with the nuns and their convents as I write.
Catholic seminaries are bulging and bursting with straight young men who want to serve the Lord. Each year’s group of ordinands (those to be ordained) gets larger and larger.
When my priest was ordained — there were only two priests ordained that year. For the last several years our archdiocese has had eight or nine priests ordained. Even a couple older men from the Anglican Church have become Catholic priests.
Nothing to get the willies about at all. Do you want to see all the links that prove my point?
I was in Africa some years ago and had dinner with missionaries from Kenya who talked about having 5,000 people come to Sunday services in 3 sessions at their small church- some families walking overnight from their villages to get there
In Mozambique I met Methodist men who walked 3 days through rebel infested bush (savage mindless murderous rebels) to get to a Methodist church conference
They were protestants but I believe Catholicism will make great strides in Africa and the 3rd world even as the West secularizes or falls into the gray water religions of the churches of “Our Lord of Wass Happening Now”
1 Corinthians 12:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be uninformed.[a] 2 You know that when you were heathen, you were led astray to dumb idols, however you may have been moved. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says Jesus be cursed! and no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
Every Christian should be a "Jesus Talker" for sure ... not so sure about the 'Door Knocker' part. Different gifts, same Spirit. There are, I think, many ways to bring the Gospel into the heathen world; all Christians are called to one or more of those ways.
Our Catholics Can Come Home class started last week with six people coming back to the church!
Our RCIA team is using Father Barron’s series on Catholicism.
Good choice, huh?
“Coming Home Network”
It looks wonderful. But it appears to be targeted at the previous Catholic who only needed a memory jogger. I was thinking more along the lines of marketing a product, Christianity, and a brand, Catholicism. This would be aimed at the general population with a targeted campaign to bring in new people who knew nothing about the product or brand.
You’re right. It is aimed at getting those inactive Catholics to take a look and reconsider.
Something for the general public would be great.
Scroll down the entire page: http://www.freerepublic.com/~salvation/
The only hard data that has been made public by any denomination comes from John Jay College's study of Catholic priests, which was authorized and is being paid for by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops following the public outcry over the 2002 scandals. Limiting their study to plausible accusations made between 1950 and 1992, John Jay researchers reported that about 4 percent of the 110,000 priests active during those years had been accused of sexual misconduct involving children. Specifically, 4,392 complaints (ranging from "sexual talk" to rape) were made against priests by 10,667 victims. (Reports made after 2002, including those of incidents that occurred years earlier, are released as part of the church's annual audits.)
Experts disagree on the rate of sexual abuse among the general American male population, but Allen says a conservative estimate is one in 10. Margaret Leland Smith, a researcher at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says her review of the numbers indicates it's closer to one in 5. But in either case, the rate of abuse by Catholic priests is not higher than these national estimates. The public also doesn't realize how "profoundly prevalent" child sexual abuse is, adds Smith. Even those numbers may be low; research suggests that only a third of abuse cases are ever reported (making it the most underreported crime). "However you slice it, it's a very common experience," Smith says.
I wish we still used the old Baltimore Catechism. It sure sticks with you, at least more than, "hey, let's recycle for Jesus!" That's about what I had, back in 1973.
Fortunately, I had time in my twenties to get my head together, and my homeschooled kids were raised on the Baltimore Catechism.
I'm guessing their kids will be as well.
I totally agree. Quick question. You said this took place 30 years ago. How long was the retention rate?
I married and moved away a few years later so I can only speak to the individuals that I personally know. My uncle, for example, is a leading member of the parish now and I know of 2 other folks that are still attending. If only those 3 are saved as a result of the effort then in my mind it was absolutely worth doing.