The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


Catch the drift: the Church’s “crisis of attrition”

posted by jmcgee

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This week’s Commonweal contains a must-read: Peter Steinfels’ long, hard, grieving look at the state of the American Catholic Church. It begins with this observation:

It is not often that someone at a New York dinner party calls for a count of religious affiliations, and I cannot recall exactly what led to it. But one guest suddenly said he had the impression that many of those present were Catholics. “Can we have a show of hands?” he asked.

Two of us raised our hands. A third person, who once wrote frequently in the Catholic press, said “no longer,” though as a conservative he continued to sympathize with the church. A fourth person, with whom my wife and I have sometimes worshiped on Easter, Christmas, and other occasions, chose not to make any declaration at all. Finally, the man who asked the question avowed that he had been raised Catholic, “and I hate everything about it.”

Bottom line? Two-and-a-half out of five, perhaps. Par, you might say, for a bunch of overeducated writer-types. Not at all. That’s roughly the proportion you would find at working-class family gatherings or suburban cookouts. In February 2008, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, based on interviews with a representative sample of thirty-five thousand adult Americans, reported that one out of every three adult Americans who were raised Catholic have left the church. If these ex-Catholics were to form a single church, they would constitute the second largest church in the nation.

One in three. Think about it. This record makes the percentage of bad loans and mortgages leading to the financial meltdown look absolutely stellar. It dwarfs the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler. Thomas Reese, SJ, the former editor of America, recently described this loss of one-third of those raised Catholic as “a disaster.” He added, “You wonder if the bishops have noticed.”

I wonder too. As far as I know, there has never been any systematic discussion of these findings at the meetings of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. They will meet again in mid-November, with an agenda that will deal with many things–but not with these devastating losses.

Of course, bishops are not the only ones who avoid confronting these findings. There are reasons all of us have difficulty doing so, and special reasons that the hierarchy does. After all, among nearly 70 million American Catholics, you can find incredible centers of apostolic energy. You can find saints, charismatic public ones and invisible everyday ones. You can find hypocrites and authoritarians and neurotics and plain old mediocrities. You can find vital parishes and moribund ones. In short, you can find evidence of whatever you’re looking for.

Check out the rest to see where all this leads.



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kenneth

posted October 21, 2010 at 12:11 am


I don’t think the bishops are going to lose sleep over these findings because they, and Rome, have decided in action and word that they don’t want a universal church, they want one that is doctrinally pure. The last time the church tried to improve it’s big-tent appeal was Vatican II, and they consider that an unmitigated disaster. The simple fact is there are simply nowhere near 70 million Americans who are truly on board with what the Church teaches. In fact, if we define it by the strictest standards of full communion with Rome, I’d be very surprised if you could find 20 million. I don’t see why that has to be considered a failure of either the church or those people. It is what it is.
For generations, Catholicism was not a faith as much as an ethnic identity. For those folks, it never occured to most of them that you could choose to be an “ex-Catholic” anymore than an ex-Irishman. People who did have misgivings just “drifted” away or turned up at Christmas and Easter to keep mom happy. Now, people on both sides of the equation are being more deliberate. The Church is saying, quite forcefully, “we stand for …these things,” and people are either getting on board with that or delaring “no, it’s pure bunk and contrary to my conscience.” There’s a new honesty that I find refreshing in this society. I think it’s time for the Church to be honest enough to admit that there aren’t 70 million Catholics here and to give people a process to formally have their departure recognized. Then everyone could get on with their own spiritual journeys rather than worry about what everyone else is doing.



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Eka

posted October 21, 2010 at 1:28 am


I appreciate Peter Steinfel’s thoughtful analysis of the 2008 Pew study and his attempts to find a solution to the problem of drifting catholics. I can agree with many of his solutions…
“I have emphasized very concrete, practical items—a quantum leap in the quality of Sunday liturgies, including preaching; a massive, all-out mobilization of talent and treasure to catechize the young, bring adolescents into church life, and engage young adults in ongoing faith formation; and regular, systematic assessments of all these activities—as well as theologically more complex and controversial matters like expanding the pool of those eligible for ordination and revisiting some aspects of the church’s teaching on sexuality.”
…but his suggestions to adjust our theology to fit the times and the opinion polls seems short-sighted to me, especially given that other Christian faiths who espouse more contemporary views are seeing the same attrition as Catholics.
A convenient faith does not seize the soul. It is only when one has a radical conversion of the heart through an encounter with Christ, that the joy and beauty and freedom of faith are truly revealed. Living one’s life for and with Christ and His church is the most attractive and compelling evangelical tool available to us…and that is a challenge for every one of us, not just the bishops



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Panthera

posted October 21, 2010 at 5:41 am


A very thought provoking text, thank you Deacon Kandra.
It occurs to me that the influx of Hispanics (silly term, they’re nearly all Mexican immigrants) is only a temporary reprieve in what is not a positive development for church growth.
The American Bishops are united behind the Republicans and tea-party. The fact that they don’t say so directly doesn’t change this and it won’t take long for most Hispanics to figure this out – election results in the Rocky Mountain West in 2008 suggested they already have. That is going to pose an enormous conflict, one which is essential and not theoretical. One which will loom larger with every “wave” election as we have had the last few cycles and will certainly have this year and probably 2012.
There is also the simple historical note that every single immigrant group, upon becoming established, immediately ceases to have large numbers of children. This is already occurring in Mexico, it will be so in the US.
In short, I wouldn’t make too much soup from that oyster. This is not a solid basis for growth, it is simply a group which, until now, has found in the Church a firm ally. That was in Mexico, however. A church which backs Republicans and their anti-immigration, anti-brown-people mentality is going to lose these people or have to make some political choices.
More concerning to me as a non-Catholic Christian is the relative potential for confrontation and accord in our culture wars. The more those Christians leave the Catholic church who do not see the legal prohibition of abortion and the legal denial of human and civil rights of gays as the end-all and be-all of Christian belief, the more those who remain will represent the immovable, I’m right, don’t slam the door on your way out faction.
We see that here. Given that those most intimately tied to the culture wars are most endeared to adding Hispanics to their “not welcome in the USA” list, it could prove very interesting, indeed.
Instead of flaming me, perhaps the usual suspects could reflect, again, that I have basically said nothing which isn’t already in this sad analysis.



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Deacon Norb

posted October 21, 2010 at 7:12 am


Panthera
I’m not going to flame you but I will disagree a bit. You said:
“The American Bishops are united behind the Republicans and tea-party. The fact that they don’t say so directly doesn’t change this and it won’t take long for most Hispanics to figure this out – election results in the Rocky Mountain West in 2008 suggested they already have. That is going to pose an enormous conflict, one which is essential and not theoretical.”
–I suspect I am closer to a few bishops that you might be and I have seen absolutely no evidence that they are consistent closet Republicans/ Tea-Party guys. With few exceptions, and those are fewer yet in recent elections, they consistently stay out of the political environment completely.
–Earlier in that same post, you were identifying Hispanics with Mexicans. That is certainly true in the far southwest. In New York City, it is the Puerto-Riquenos who are far and away the majority; in Miami, it is certainly the Cubanos. In the Midwest, while Mexican-Americans predominate, the larger ICE raids have found Guatemalans; Costa Riquenos; folks even from as far south as Colombia illegally here.
–I would agree that protestant evangelical Christianity is making inroads in both South America and in the Hispanic communities here in the US. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that the South American bishops are often seen as part of the social justice problem in those countries and not a part of the solution to it.
Flaming is not my style. My late father — knowing my career was teaching — always insisted that ignorance was certainly curable.



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Panthera

posted October 21, 2010 at 7:34 am


Deacon Norb,
Thank you for not flaming me. It is a rare exception.
Because Puerto Ricans are Amercans, I really hadn’t counted them – of course there are other groups, just, the Mexicans predominate by an enormous number.
Didn’t Deacon Kandra just publish the recommendations of the Bishops here a week or so ago? Weren’t they, as during the 2008 elections and the health-care debate clearly directed towards Republicans?
Let’s not play the O’Donnell game of what is not ‘in’ their statements, we both know full well what is meant.
In the end, as a gay Christian, I do not welcome the decline of a diverse Catholic church. You are already doing all you can to make our lives hell on earth, if the last few remaining people leave who think there are other calls upon Christians than persecuting gays, things will get even nastier. Has anybody noticed that the only results of these campaigns has been to drive ever more Catholics away and to win us more support from non-fundamentalist Christians?
Oh, right, that was the text we’re discussing.
Thanks again for the civil tone. When somebody calls me mentally ill and a drunk, a pedophile and the greatest threat to
America there is, it makes a dialogue rather difficult to pursue.



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Mary

posted October 21, 2010 at 8:09 am


Why is everything laid at the feet of bishops – here is the role of the laity. What do we teach our children? How do we live our lives? Is it inviting to others? I get very tired of Commonweal authors criticizing the hierarchy about not letting laity be involved in power areas and not also urge us to take up our responsibilities.



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Katherine

posted October 21, 2010 at 9:59 am


Mary might come closest to my own views. While I passionately care about social justice and doctrinal orthodoxy, I don’t think those are the core problems. Or at least they get too much attention while there is another that is ignored.
The laity simply are not getting enough pastoral care — particularly the lower middle class which is being almost abandoned by the Catholic Church in the US. Not that enough is done for the poor, but we do have some heroic priests that have made their ministry pastoral care of the poor. And we have a number of suburban parishes with well-off congregations that have a compartively high clergy to laity ratio and never show up on the parish closing lists of the Archbishop of St. Paul, MN or others.
But one person doing pastoral work for 2,000 blue collar laypeople is simply unacceptable.
I have dedicated my life to social justice for the workers. But in the present day, I feel teh bigger problem is pastoral care for working class families. Increasingly the Church caters to the rich and white collar. And no one says a word.



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Panthera

posted October 21, 2010 at 10:12 am


Well, now, Kathrine, that is totally unfair. After all, in Minnesota, they just announced that 21 churches were to be closed and every single one primarily served the poor, the lower-middle class and the elderly.
Further, they just spent well over a million dollars sending out a DVD showing that voting for a legislator and governor who supports human and civil rights is the biggest threat Christianity faces.
How, therefore, can you say they aren’t doing anything? Just think of all the bracing trips those poor people can now take to get to their new churches. Just think of all the jobs that were created to make, produce and mail that DVD to every Catholic in Minnesota.
Please, Kathrine, try to see the big picture, here. At the very least, just imagine what this will do for public transportation use on Sundays.



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anthony

posted October 21, 2010 at 10:41 am


Deacon Norb,
You are correct that the “Hispanic” population is very diverse, but in NYC the Mexicans out numbered the Puerto Ricans as the largest spanish speaking group in 2009. In Long Island the largest groups are Salvadorians, Guatemalans, Hondurans and Ecuadorians……..



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romancrusader

posted October 21, 2010 at 11:04 am


“The American Bishops are united behind the Republicans and tea-party.”
Hey Panthera,
Do you intend to back that up? The Church doesn’t endorse political entities. You of all people know better than that. We have a thing called, bearing false witness against thy neighbor. What part of that commandment don’t you understand?



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Katherine

posted October 21, 2010 at 11:20 am


At the very least, just imagine what this will do for public transportation use on Sundays.
Is that why the call it Mass Transit? hahah



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Kenny R

posted October 21, 2010 at 11:57 am


There seems to exist in all these stories about the decline of the Church a sort of idolatry, the “young”. With the 20/20 vision of age I can see that my youth was a period when I was bereft of both wisdom and understanding. Really, now! What does any millenialian or gen-X know about death and resurrection, physical or spiritual?



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Bill Wilson

posted October 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm


Steinfels is right on the money in his discussion of the collapse in the loyalty of once-practicing Catholics. I am a 74-year-old Bronx Irish Catholic, seminary educated and grateful for that opportunity. Being a “thick” Irishman, I refuse to quit the church. However, I run into many people who have left in disgust, including my own daughter. However, not all are disillusioned young people. My 80-year-old, very theologically conservative sister, who remains a devout Catholic in her private life, has abandoned the instituional church which she finds full of hypocracy, injustice and rigidity. Friends, a husband and wife, both born in Ireland, are weighing whether to leave the Roman church for the Episcopal communion.
The tragedy is that Pope Ratzinger will blame this on “secularization” because his institutional blinders won’t let him see what is right in front of his nose: the laity have not moved from the hierarchy. The hierarchy have taken the gospel hostage, imposed a theological and organizational monolithism, that effectively shuts off intellectual freedom, equal rights for women and LGBTs, and eschews openness and accountability. Simultaneously, they pride themselves in being the “faithful remnant.”
This travesty pains my soul. My heartfelt query is, “Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep?” When will God come to save his people?



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romancrusader

posted October 21, 2010 at 12:59 pm


“The hierarchy have taken the gospel hostage, imposed a theological and organizational monolithism, that effectively shuts off intellectual freedom, equal rights for women and LGBTs, and eschews openness and accountability. Simultaneously, they pride themselves in being the “faithful remnant.”
More anti-Catholic dribble. Either Jesus gave the Church authority or he didn’t. Not sort of or not really.
“The tragedy is that Pope Ratzinger will blame this on ‘secularization’ because his institutional blinders won’t let him see what is right in front of his nose: the laity have not moved from the hierarchy.”
More people who say the Pope didn’t do enough or that he didn’t far enough.



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jmw79

posted October 21, 2010 at 1:38 pm


This trend of exodus from Catholicism isn’t surprising to anyone. But a factor that isn’t really mentioned much is the departure of catholics who leave to join the ‘non-canonical’ Catholic church, i.e. all the Catholic splinter gropus and churches that are independent of diocesan authority. I joined SSPV because I was increasingly disatisfied with putting up with Masses that had liturgies that more so resembled Protestant ones than Catholic ones. Now I practice my faith the way I believe I ought to AND proudly maintain my identity as a (Traditional) Roman Catholic. My faith has deepened as a result, and I’ve never been closer to God–Father, Son, and Holy Ghost–than ever before in my life.
My point is that mainstream Catholicism is broken and people of every political/ideological stripe who were raised in the Faith recognize that.



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Panthera

posted October 21, 2010 at 2:26 pm


OK, RomanCrusader – you know exactly what I meant and you know full well that it is true.
Why pretend otherwise?
Every single note the bishops have sent out shortly prior to elections in the last several years clearly and unequivocally read between the lines: Vote for the Republican.
So far in this thread, you have been rude to me and insulted a man in his seventies who obviously loves the Church.
You’re doing everything possible to confirm exactly what the studies show. I can’t imagine returning to the Church with people like you running it – you are to run from, not towards with your hyper-judgmental and unforgiving pronouncements. Your position on the poor, alone, is as unchristian as it gets.



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white tiger

posted October 21, 2010 at 3:08 pm


As a nonCatholic my perspective will probably not concurr with that of most Catholics.I received a Catholic education because a certain school needed another fast guy on their football team and made me an offer.At graduation the same scenario prevailed at a Catholic university. In eight years, with at least one religious course each semester, I never once heard the Bible or any part of it mentioned.
It was all about manmade maws emanating from the hegemony in Rome.
The NT requires these to be married men, with believing children.
They are not, and therefore hold office in defiance of the revealed Word. They are to be elders, bishops, pastors, all of equal rank, all three names referring to the same function/office, and there is to be a plurality of such in each congregation. They report directly to God, not to any popes, archbishops, monsignors, etc.; none of which are authorized by Scripture.They promulgate doctrines contradictory of Scripture; and do so knowingly.
I said all that to say this: Given the above facts is it not obvious that God, though very patient, cannot bless an organization which is in open rebellion against Him?
Return to the Scripture. Do not add to nor take from it. Live in obedience to Him, Who, Heb.5.9, saves those who obey Him. Or else.



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white tiger

posted October 21, 2010 at 3:13 pm


PS: For sheer, aesthetic beauty it is difficult for me to find anything comparable to a High Mass, sung in Latin, with an Irish brogue- from County Cork.



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Ttarp

posted October 21, 2010 at 3:19 pm


If you consider Catholic bishops as one group, although they are individuals, they don’t seem, to me, to be pure Democratic or Republican. Many, maybe most, of their positions would be considered liberal. They have called for universal healthcare for years (if abortion isn’t healthcare), government programs for the poor (plus Catholics and various Catholic based charities that help the poor), workers’ rights, civil rights for minorities and immigrants both legal and illegal, war (although Democrats are not opposed to war when they are in the White House) to name a few.
Panthera, you may think they may be on the wrong side of the gay marriage debate but I don’t think this means that they march in lockstep with the Republicans.



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ron chandonia

posted October 21, 2010 at 3:27 pm


It is no surprise to me that people immersed in creature comforts would see little need for God in their lives. Nor is it surprising that they would put their expensive (Catholic-school) educations to use in concocting elaborate rationalizations for their godlessness. In fact, I know that story firsthand because I lived it.
When my wife and I reclaimed our faith after nearly 30 years adrift, the local Catholic paper called our story “A Faithful Church Draws Back Two of Her Own”. When we left, we were convinced the Church needed to change every moral teaching we found difficult or inconvenient; when we returned, we thanked God that His Church had resisted the harmful tide of moral pollution that followed in the wake of the Sexual Revolution.
Having been a Commonweal/NCR Catholic, I am not surprised to see Steinfels and Co. blaming narrow-minded bishops or liturgically-challenged pastors for their children’s apostasy. It strikes me that the root of the problem is much closer to home.



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Ttarp

posted October 21, 2010 at 3:30 pm


White Tiger, Where in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the only authority?
Didn’t Paul suggest that to best serve the Lord it is best to remain single in 1 Corinthians 7?
I have found that most of what the Church believes and teaches is Bible based anyway. We believe that Peter was selected by Jesus to lead His Church. You may not believe that, but we do.



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wineinthewater

posted October 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm


Panthera,
I have to laugh at your comment about the bishops and the Republican party. You want to know what I hear from conservatives all the time? The hierarchy is securely in the pocket of the Democrats and liberals.
To me, this is a great joy. If liberals are mad at the Church for being too conservative and conservatives are mad at the Church for being too liberal, I figure we’re doing at least something kind of right. We live in a culture that sees everything through a left/right, Dem/Rep lens. Yet the ideologies of both those political parties and the ideologies that are generally lumped together under the titles “liberal” and “conservative” are all profoundly broken, ideologically inconsistent, variously evil, cowardly and out of step with the Gospel. Catholicism is both left of the Democrats and right of the Republicans. Personally, I like it that way.
I find that any Catholic who has subjugated their faith to a political ideology has taken a step away from Christ. I find the dissent of Catholics on particular issues to be tragically unconvincing when it is also assents to the whole of a political ideology. It is not primacy of conscience, it is primacy of party.
And I think this is one of the things that has lead us to the situation that the article describes (only one of course). Catholicism, at least in the US, let itself be a cultural, ethnic and social identity rather than a faith. It should not be surprizing, then, when Catholics find another ideology, a new faith, to link to their rather hollow identity. And politics is the true religion of the US (you might say money, but can you really separate the two in our system?).



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Panthera

posted October 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm


Oh, please. Really. The American Catholic bishops aren’t doing everything they can to support Republicans?
Check out the link.
As for healthcare, it had nothing to do with abortion (or death panels). The bishops seized an opportunity to blackmail liberals into imposing two separate agendas on it (preventing gays from insuring their partners and taking away rights from women).
As long as we’re on the matter, who’d they support in 2004 for president?
Or shall we continue to play the “if they don’t say it expressis verbis it doesn’t count.
We can just make it easy – how many of you conservative Catholics here pretending to be neutral have voted anything but Republican (Ben Nelson doesn’t) count in the last years?
I thought so.



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Ttarp

posted October 21, 2010 at 5:16 pm


Panthera,
I guess telling me how I think and vote pretty much ends the need for conversation, doesn’t it?



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wineinthewater

posted October 21, 2010 at 5:16 pm


Conservatives point to immigration, social justice issues, war and all they see are bishops supporting Democrats. They see “Faithful Citizenship” as a huge loophole opened by the bishops to allow Catholics to vote for pro-choice candidates that far eclipses anything some bishops have said about the impossibility of voting for pro-choice national candidates. They are wrong of course .. just as much as your statement is wrong. Some bishops are partisans, but to say the Church is requires a myopic view of Catholicism.
You make my point about the left/right lens. Perhaps your most-repeated phrase is “you conservative Catholics.” Not everyone fits into the deceptively neat left/right pigeonholes. The statements “do not vote for a pro-choice national candidate” and “vote Republican” are not the same thing. That they are is one version of the same lie that the parties have been selling us for years, that there are only two options. They’ve even extended that lie to say that even voting third party or staying home is the same as voting for one of the parties.
I do not pretend to be neutral. I am simply fed up with both “sides” of the political spectrum, just for different reasons.
And I am no “conservative Catholic.” I have never voted for a Republican presidential candidate. I have never voted for a Republican gubernatorial candidate. I’ve voted for far more Democrats than Republicans. You judge, condemn and dismiss me in ignorance. That is bigotry. Certainly nothing like the bigotry that you have likely suffered, but bigotry nonetheless. I’ve told you before, I am not your rhetorical foil. I am a human, a person. I’m struggling to say this in charity, so please forgive me if I fail, but until you start treating others with the respect you demand for yourself, until you stop parading the faults you decry in others, you convince no one.



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Panthera

posted October 21, 2010 at 6:01 pm


wineinthewater,
One of the nice things about beliefnet is that one can follow the thoughts of a contributor back through time.
You’re great at demanding you be seen as an independent, one who follows exclusively the dictates of his conscience, etc.
Your posts over time make clear that you have a very clear agenda.
Yours is to continue the abrogation of my rights.
Mine is to see my rights restored.
It’s really that simple.
Ttarp,
Your outrage at my so-called generalities would be more convincing if not for your posts.
I stand by what I said – in 2010 and for quite some time now, the very clear position of the Catholic bishops in America is to support Republicans. The more you protest, the more I can show that this is the way things are.
Sure, once upon a time, social justice – something many of you conservatives hate, based on your posts on a similar thread a few days ago – was big in American Catholic circles. Had something to do with that long-haired, sandal wearing Jewish guy, good ol’ what’sname.
No longer.
But heh – the attrition is there, the data are there and, well – they’re not leaving because of me. You all might want to stop a nanosecond or even two and give that a thought.



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R Plavo

posted October 21, 2010 at 9:55 pm


Eka, youare correct, the Church doesn’t touch the hearts of people with love for Jesus Christ, it is about a whole bunch of other stuff, catholic triva, etc, etc. and it is true the pastoral care has been greatly diminished in recent years, there simply aren’t enough priests to do priestly work, hear confessions, visit hospitals (practically unknown nowadays) teach CCD or be present in the school….prepare engaging homilies…..and what does Rome do? create cardinals



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A Convert on Fire for Christ

posted October 21, 2010 at 10:24 pm


As a convert, it pains me greatly to witness that the Catholic Church continues – in large degree – to turn a blind eye to EFFECTIVE evangelization. We are not exactly a bible-literate faith and I always ask, “How can you truly embrace Jesus Christ if don’t have a personal relationship with Him?” That has gotten me more blank stares since my conversion than I care to confess. I have come to the realization that the phrase ‘personal relationship” and Jesus don’t often fit into the same sentence in Catholic circles.
We have lost, what, over 42 million brethren thus far? It is not shocking to me. Pope Paul VI called Evangelization the Church’s “deepest identity,” that she “exists to evangelize” and that Evangelization is the “essential Mission of the Church.” That was 35 years ago and he wasn’t the first one to attempt to stoke the fires of The Great Commission. Yet, here we are 2,000 years after Christ, and we are still afraid of the “E” word, while looking down at other denominations that do it very well.
Does anyone know of any successful Fortune 500 company that turns a profit WHILE ignoring their deepest identity and essential mission? Somehow, many of our leadership seem to think that we are exempt from that concept – while watching our flocks shrink to even lower numbers.
I say all this with great frustration and agony, as I love the Catholic faith and what it stands for. But we’d best get off our high horse, swing into action (BOOK OF ACTS IS A GOOD PLACE TO START – AND NOT JUST ON PENTECOST BEFORE WE PUT IT BACK IN THE CLOSET FOR ANOTHER YEAR) and rally our base, rather than sit there and look constipated at Mass (and leave right after Communion). It’s okay to be excited about Jesus. If you’re not now, you will be in Heaven. Why wait?



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Aquamarine

posted October 21, 2010 at 10:33 pm


R Plavo — or tell them to blog, LOL!
I am amazed by these priests who have hours and hours and hours each day to blog every thought that falls into their heads, and then tell us they’re just so over-worked and how a married priesthood couldn’t possibly work because they have to devote so much time to the sick and poor and needy…please.
I know there are very hard-working priests who are truly devoted to their parishioners (we have some wonderful priests in San Francisco, where the need is great), but they ain’t the ones with blogs…
Anyway, pray for a miracle — I would really like to see the Giants win this thing at home! Giants Baseball is indeed torture, sigh…



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David

posted October 22, 2010 at 1:12 am


I’m thrilled to hear from “On Fire”, and I want to encourage you in your witness for the Christ and in your study of the Bible, because Jesus has become in so many ways secondary (or worse) in many RC churches.
I see that many fellow worshipers now worship purely by rote, or simply practice idolatry, giving Jesus place to His blessed Mother or other saints. They’ve forgotten that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29) and that God calls us to action, and to “Be Holy, as [He] is Holy” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
Our problem is not that the church is out of touch with the culture: the churches job, the call of Christ, is to leave the corruptness and bring ourselves and our culture under submission to Christ and the Word of God.
For example, God’s social justice calls us clearly to take up the cause of the oppressed–the poor, the widow, the orphan, and I’ll even say illegal immigrants and LGBT’s–choose your favorite cause. In fact, entire nations were destroyed by God for failing to do this. However, scripture never calls us to embrace, tolerate, or explain away what God in His Word calls sin. Rather. in love we are to renounce sin and strive with all our being, in the faith and power of the Holy Spirit, to Be Holy, as He is Holy. And we are to encourage other to do likewise.



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David

posted October 22, 2010 at 1:16 am


Sorry, missed adding my concluding sentence…
By losing her distinctiveness and holiness, the church loses her seperation unto God and her relevance to the world.
She will be spit out like the church in Laodicea (in Revelations) just on a worldwide scale.



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M Duffy

posted October 22, 2010 at 1:41 am


One big problem with Mr. Steinfels article. If people are leaving the church because they disagree about particular teachings is the church supposed to change to accommodate them? What then is the point of the church? God is to be served, not man. I recently toured the famous so-called Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York and was particularly struck by one thing. Above the ark are written the Hebrew words “Know before Whom you stand”. It’s a good reminder of our position vis-a-vis God. If God is God and the church, with Word and Tradition, represents Him in the world shouldn’t the point to do His will and not set ourselves up as the judge? What we have mainly lost is the idea of our place in the world and before Whom we stand. To grieve for the loses is human, but the “lost” are the ones how have cut themselves off, assuming their own opinions are the truth. I pray continually for my many friends who have lost their way. And I grieve because they have done this to themselves. I also grieve because I see that their lives are sadder since they have lost their way and are very much in darkness. That is the real cause for grief, not lower numbers.



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Bryan

posted October 22, 2010 at 10:03 am


How did we go from “Come to the Stable” and packed Tuesday night novenas to churches, schools, and hospitals closing left and right? Fewer The faith has lost its allure and people don’t think much of it, so they discard it and speak of it in disparaging terms just to fit in to a secular and increasingly self-centered society. With fewer people getting married, there are actually more celibate, i.e. single people than ever. Instead of becoming nuns and priests, you have more and more drifting aimlessly with no clear sense of mission. Look at what happened to the IHM sisters in the 60s under Carl Rogers in Los Angeles and the generations afterward that never had the faith taught to them since they left their orders. Everyone complains that they’re not being served, but Christ calls us to serve others.



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Aquamarine

posted October 22, 2010 at 10:06 am


M. Duffy — not everyone who leaves the Church is “lost”. As you say, God is to be served, not man.
One can lose one’s trust in the Church, one can believe it is the Church who has lost her way, and one can still be firm in their faith in God.
The Church is not God. There are millions of people the world over who have deep, deep faith in God but who do not have anything to do with the Catholic Church.



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Sensus Fidei

posted October 22, 2010 at 10:06 am


We’re pretty joyful here, M Duffy, in our hearts and filling the middle portion of the pew, those of us who use our informed conscience to determine as you say “who is being served.” We don’t for example lose sleep at night imagining if our neighbor, Catholic or not, is using birth control. By the God’s grace, it was stirring first in our hearts and then minds that something is majorly amiss with the hierarchy running the human institution. “Thanks” to the unfathomable, filthy sex scandal of pedophiles and enabling Bishops, there’s no turning back. Hypocrisy in one area, and the worst btw possible, hurting children, means it is rampant in many areas. And we learn more of this each day. Yes, these are dark days for the hierarchy and they will be cleansed. We’re not throwing out the Holy baby Jesus with the dirty bath water.



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deaconnecessary

posted October 22, 2010 at 10:25 am


“…The last time the church tried to improve it’s big-tent appeal was Vatican II, and they consider that an unmitigated disaster…”
Who are “they?”
Anyone who has ever studied Church history knows that the success or failure of a council cannot really be determined until at least 50 years after the council’s end. In the case of Vatican II, we are not there yet.



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elwhh

posted October 22, 2010 at 10:56 am


I am Catholic and will follow the TEACHINGS of Jesus. If I believe as a Christian that the Catholic Church no longer fullfills the pathways I want to follow then I’ll go where my heart tells me. There is NO one religion organization that is right or wrong, good or bad. You can all stand on the sidelines and argue what organization one should follow or belong to. Meanwhile, I’ll be getting on with my life in following what Jesus taught with my fellow Catholics, Methodists, Protestants, Lutherans, etc.



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wineinthewater

posted October 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm


I do not seek the abrogation of your rights. You should avail yourself of the great thing about beliefnet and look at what I have actually said. You and I have a fundamental disagreement about whether marriage is a right. You say it is, I say it isn’t.
My opinion is that the government has no right to define what is and is not marriage. If granting privileges and advantages to marriage cannot be done without either creating injustices (denying them to an alternate view of marriage) or overstepping the government’s scope of power (redefining marriage) then the government should not be granting privileges and advantages at all.
I fundamentally believe in equal rights. And in this case, I do not seek to deny you anything that I simultaneously would allow someone else. I simply do not believe that the government should be interfering in marriage *at all* .. not for homosexuals, not for heterosexuals, not for *anyone*. I believe that there is a fundamental injustice in governmental interference in the institution of marriage. The government provides contract negotiation and streamlined contractual frameworks, it needs to stop pretending that this is marriage. I believe that you have the right to have government not tell you that your view of marriage is wrong. I just happen to believe that I have an equal right to have the government not tell me that my view of marriage is wrong.



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RomCath

posted October 22, 2010 at 2:19 pm


I think people confuse terms here.
First, the Church was divinely instituted so it is not a human institution but rather a Church instituted by Christ that is composed of human beings who are not perfect.
Second, if you believe that “No one religion is right or wrong” then you clearly contradict the teaching of Vatican II’s document on the Church which stated the “the fullness of truth subsists in the Catholic Church”. Of course, people love to talk about they “spirit of Vatican II” but how many have actually read the documents it produced? Read LUMEN GENTIUM, it may open a few eyes and hopefully some minds and hearts.



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Joe

posted October 22, 2010 at 5:32 pm


+
Praised be Jesus Christ!
I prefer not to participate in a running dialog with other commentators. Instead, I will try to offer a prayerful reflection, recognizing my own sinfulness.
First, the Catholic Church has such great saints, like Saint Therese, St Andre Bessette, St John Vianney, Saint Gianna, etc, etc. It is unfathomable that these heroes would abandon the faith or the Catholic Church. Second, if one is a “true Catholic”, he or she knows that the “sole Church of Christ, which our Savior, after his Resurrection…constituted…subsists in the Catholic church. [CCC Sect. 816]. Third, the Catholic Church possesses the Holy Eucharist in which the “body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” [CCC Sec. 1374]. May the Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you! Your brother Joe.



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elwhh

posted October 22, 2010 at 6:46 pm


Faith in the Church is a gift to be cherished but I will now confess that I allow the few misguided leaders within the Church to exert greater influences on my perception of how the Church is governed by man than of the many who truly are inspired by the Holy Spirit. I am finding that some of my encounters within the leadership of the Church bring to mind all that Jesus found at fault with the leadership of the Jewish religion. If ones’ point is that the Church is a Divine institution, a point I agree with, then one can make the point that man, who is imperfect, cannot fully understand or correctly propagate the Church as God intended. Now, you can all argue that man is being guided by the Holy Spirit or Devine intervention but this is not always the case. So how do we separate the truly inspired from the others? Am I to take on faith all that the leadership tells me? What started my lack of confidence was when there was an underground campaign in my local parish to vote for a pro abortion candidate. When I challenged the deacon on this he stated that one must follow one’s own heart when voting. I was told that he understands that abortion is a sin but one must weigh the sins of both candidates and then vote the way of the heart. His advice was well received. I will weigh what is in my heart and decide on the future course of my faith.
Tell me, what is the essence of our Church leaders? Do they operate with conviction? Of course they do! But conviction from what source? Their pride, their love of being right or the sound of their own righteousness? Their love for the Church and a true desire to do what is God’s will? Being men I would guess it is a mixture of all of these.



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