I’ve been catching up with news from other nearby dioceses. The Diocese of Allentown Pennsylvania recently decided to close 44 of its 140 parishes. The Diocese of Scranton closed 90 parishes last year. Similar things are happening all over the country. Luckily here in Washington, nothing yet in terms of parishes, although schools have closed.
What is happening? The Catholic Population has almost doubled in 60 years. Yet Churches and schools close. How is this? Well, consider that in 1950 more than 80% of Catholics attended Mass every Sunday. That number has dropped to below 30%. The number is probably lower in urban areas of the Northeast and higher in the Midwest. This is a grave loss of faith and the fact is we cannot sustain what previous generations gave us on 30% attendance.The younger generation coming of age has much lower attendance numbers generally below 20% . Stated soberly we are in serious trouble.
Regarding our schools, birthrates among Catholics have plummeted. When I was a kid back in the 1960s it was common for families to have 5 or 6 kids. Today one or two is the norm. We seem to be contracepting and aborting ourselves right out of existence. If it wasn’t for our vigorous Latino immigration, the Catholic Church in America would be in far more serious trouble. More on birthrates in a minute.
The decision that the majority of Catholics have made to no longer attend Church has consequences. Many once filled Church buildings have grown empty in recent years. At a certain point a parish is no longer sustainable financially. Neither are schools, hospitals, and seminaries.
Usual Solutions: Some will argue that the Church needs to “update” to attract more members and lighten up on her moral teachings. But look at the main-lne Protestant Churches who have done that. They are in worse shape than we. Departing from Biblical truth is not the answer. We DO need to work on our liturgies, priests need to be better preachers, and we need to reinvigorate an evangelical spirit among Catholics. But in the end we simply have to state it plain, we have experienced a wide spread loss of faith and that is why there is such a drop. Preaching and liturgy weren’t great in the past either but we still packed em in. This is ultimately about a loss of faith. 80% to 30% is a huge drop. We cannot sustain what we had with this kind of a drop. There are consequences. Closed churches were once filled to standing room only and are sad evidence of the non-sustainability due to the current attitude among Catholics who think Church attendance and support is not a necessary component of being Catholic. We need to reinvigorate the notion that it is a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday. The New Catechism teaches this clearly (cf CCC #2181). We also need to reconnect people with the necessity of the sacraments for their salvation. For example Jesus says “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and Drink His Blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53). Thus, to be away from Holy Communion is a kind of spiritual suicide.
Politically Incorrect Solution – We also need to have bigger families. Sorry to be politically incorrect but Catholics and Christians in general are simply being replaced. The Muslims have big families we have tiny ones. You do the math. It is almost as if God is saying to us, if you do not love life, then you will be replaced by others who do. Contraception in the end is a form of cultural suicide. Abortion that tags along with it has also devastated our numbers.
In the end, it is about faith and being faithful to God’s House. Either we all are faithful and we thrive or we are not and we start shutting down. Further it is about loving life. Either we marry, are fruitful and multiply, and thus thrive or we turn away from life, decrease and die. If we fail to choose life, then last one out turn out the lights.
OK, So here it is fellow Catholics: Be faithful, be fruitful. Sow abundantly and reap abundantly. Get to Mass every Sunday. Get married (first), then have lots of baies and raise them Catholic! 🙂 It’s not brain surgery is it? God has a plan and it’s not that hard to decipher.
Here’s a graph of mass attendance by age and another of why people say they miss Mass. You can double click on the graphs below to enlarge them. SOURCE: CARA