More Data on the Lost Generations and the Urgent Task for the Church

It has been clear for some time now in the Church that Catholics, as a group, are growing more distant from the Church teaching on sexual matters. It seems well demonstrated that most Catholics form their view on these matters more from the culture than the scriptures or the teachings of the Church. The culture shouts promiscuity and normalizes both the heterosexual and homosexual expressions of it. Meanwhile, I’m sad to say, many clergy and catechists remain quite silent and vague about it. This is not true of all, but I know that a common complaint on the part of the faithful is, that what they hear from the pulpit, is filled with vagaries and generalities. Only rarely do they hear straightforward teaching on sexual matters and other important topics as well, such as the need to attend Mass, go to confession, the reality of hell etc.

With the combination of a loud culture and quiet pulpit and classroom, it is no surprise that that recent statistics show that a growing number of Catholics do not hold the Catholic faith when it comes to moral issues, especially the sexual ones. Here are some excerpts from a recent article over at the CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) blog written by Mark Gray:

In 2010, 20% of adult Catholics “strongly agreed” that “homosexual couples should have the right to marry one another.” An additional 28% “agreed.” Thus, overall 48% of Catholic respondents indicated some level of agreement with this statement. The margin of error for the 2010 Catholic data is ±5.8 percentage points. Thus, the point estimate for agreement could range as high as 54% or as low as 42%. ….Levels of agreement with the statement have grown [over the years] as disagreement has diminished.

There is another [General Social Survey] GSS question that has a longer history that is related to the results of the marriage question shown above. The GSS asks respondents if “sexual relations between two adults of the same sex” is wrong. In the 2010 GSS, for the first time, the percentage of adult Catholics indicating this is “not wrong at all” outnumbered those who said it was “always wrong” (44% compared to 42%)…(margin of error was ±5.9 percentage points).

As one can see from the trend in the figure [above right], the real point of change occurs somewhere in the early 1990s and has continued to evolve to this day. Responses to this question differ by age with younger Catholics being more likely than older Catholics to say this is “not wrong at all.” However, the sharp change in the population overall in the early 1990s cannot be explained by generational replacement alone.

It is the case that frequency of Mass attendance correlates with responses to these questions….The only complication to this…. is that Mass attendance varies by age and generation ….So is it Mass attendance that makes one more likely to oppose civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples or is it something generational? It is likely both but which matters more? And again the figure above indicates some sort of “period effect” in the early 1990s that is also likely important. Margin of error for sub-groups is the biggest obstacle to understanding and disentangling these effects.

The full article is here: Catholic Attitudes. Please note, Mr. Gray’s purpose in the article is to report the numbers not to advocate for or against what they say.

My own thoughts are that the generational factor is very significant. I understand that Mr Gray above thinks there are other factors too. I accept that but would still highlight the generational factor. There are increasing numbers of young people who have never known a time when the wider culture did not approve of homosexual behavior. Those of us about 45 and older DO remember such a time, but the younger ones have largely had a steady diet of  “there’s nothing wrong with homosexual behavior and if anyone thinks so, they’re a bigot.” And as they have heard this, the Church has only vaguely set forth a principled case for the wrongness of promiscuity in general, and homosexual activity in particular.

To paraphrase a well known quote from the last election, The Church’s chickens are coming home to roost. To put it Biblically: For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? (1 Cor 14:8).

In the Church I think we have to accept that a generational shift has occurred, both in the Church and in the culture. And it has happened on our watch.

Rear-guard action? With the increasing move to give legal recognition to (so-called) gay marriage, the Church is scrambling to teach the faithful again on the basics of marriage. But, truth be told, it’s something of a rear-guard action. Marriage has been in trouble for a long time in this country, family sizes have decreased, divorce has skyrocketed and cohabitation and single parent families are becoming as common as marriage. Gay “marriage” is just the latest confusion, polygamy is surely next.

Yes, we have returned to the battle late. When the first no-fault divorce laws went into effect in 1969 and the ten years following, I am unaware that there was much of a collective effort by the Church to oppose and turn back that horrible idea.

Inward focused! Of course in 1969 we were rather inwardly focused. We were moving around the furniture in our sanctuaries, tuning up guitars and having endless debates about women’s (lack of) ordination, Church authority and the like. And while we looked inward and debated among ourselves, we lost the culture. We stopped evangelizing and articulating a clear moral vision for our culture in a way that was effective.

I am told the situation is worse in Europe. Both Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict have said we have to start all over again there and completely re-evangelize Europe.

But start we must. And while we do so, we will called all sorts of names by a culture that now finds the Gospel and its moral vision to be obnoxious, even hateful. It will be our task to re-propose the Gospel in creative and thoughtful ways, and to present why it makes sense and is not, in fact hateful.

I think some of the younger clergy, religious and laity have become better prepared to do just this. I am impressed with the dedication, fidelity, creativeness and zeal of many of the younger and emerging leaders in the Church. In a way their presence and numbers is something of a paradox, since, as the numbers above show, there seems to be an overall generational shift away from the Church. It is almost as if these younger and emerging leaders, (clergy, religious and lay), have been snatched by the Lord from a raging torrent and set on solid rock. And now they have zeal to snatch others from the torrent and draw them to the solid rock of the Church and Christ. It is a small but significant army. And the trumpet the Church is sounding is becoming clearer too, more and more are mustering for the great struggle to re-evangelize the culture.

In tomorrow’s blog I’d like to address the Biblical teaching on homosexual activity as well as heterosexual promiscuity. I do this in an attempt to answer those surveyed above who think there is nothing wrong with either. Just my own little way of trying to turn back some of the numbers and not be among those who have been far too silent.

Here is Fr. Barron’s take on how we lost the culture and what we might do to re-evangelize it.

28 Replies to “More Data on the Lost Generations and the Urgent Task for the Church”

  1. “I am told the situation is worse in Europe.”

    Sadly, very true, Mgr. I can really only comment as far as the UK is concerned. Really, one only has to consider that the “new” Archbishop of Westminster, +Vincent Nichols (he’s been installed two years in May), has completely turned a blind eye to the ongoing presence in his own Archdiocese of “gay Masses” (sic), as held in central London, two Sundays a month, in a Catholic church (The Assumption & St Gregory, Warwick Street).

    To those who have just read the above paragraph with utter incredulity – and were unaware of this matter – and who may be, fully understandably, suspecting that I have employed some sleight of language, let me first say this: Yes, you did read the above right; in fact, if anything, I have pared it to its bare facts and essentials, free from any sensationalism.

    I used the term “gay Masses” (which I’ll substantiate further) for a particular reason, because one of the ways that these twice-monthly “events” (my emphasis) have been allowed to continue under-the-radar, so to speak, has been to refer to them as “Soho Masses” (the area of London where the church is), or “Warwick Street Masses”.

    The history of the “Masses” stretches back to 1999 – covering three locations (including an Anglican church) – but they have been a constant at the current site since 2007. Without going into too much local detail, it’s fair to say that the Archdiocese of Westminster was in a state-of-flux from 2007 until 2009 given that the tenure of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor was coming to an end and there was a very protracted search for his successor that wasn’t resolved for the best part of two years. Thus, the events at Warwick Street were allowed to cement themselves whilst the shop had no keeper, as it were. However, it is also true that many, including myself, naively assumed that Archbishop Nichols, once installed, would then waste no time in axeing them. But no, his silence has been deafening. Thus, we witnessed a scandalous situation on the third Sunday of September last year when His Holiness, resident for the weekend in Westminster at Wimbledon, rose, a mere few miles from Warwick Street, to make his way north to Birmingham, for the beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman, and left behind him an Archdiocese that was to stage what can only be described as “sacrilege with approval” just a few hours later, whilst the Holy Father, in the company of Archbishop Nichols and all of the Bishops of England & Wales, was exhorting the UK to return to its moral centre. Staggering.

    So what about these “gay Masses”? Well, as anyone can check for themselves on the website of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council (the link is below), the mission statement behind the event is to provide a “community [that is] is welcoming and open to all Catholics, with an active fellowship of many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Catholics, as well as their parents, families and friends.”

    That’s clever code. Drenched in pastoral sentimentalism. Deliberately couched in ambiguity. And laden with what lawyers call “plausible deniability”. For on the face of things here’s a Catholic church that is providing pastoral succour to those members of the faithful who are tested (and there but for the grace of God go I) by the yoke of homosexual tendencies/inclinations (I’m not going to get into that very fine semantic debate here). So what’s the harm? Indeed, “what would Jesus do?”

    And that’s how these “Masses” have continued for 12 years because they pretend to be one thing in theory, whilst the reality is very different. These are not Masses for those saints amongst us who manage to stay true to Church teaching despite their inner torture of homosexual leanings (I can’t, probably, even half imagine how much of a trial that must be). No, there are very credible witnesses (see further links below) that will testify to the fact these Masses overtly sanction the active homosexual lifestyle (notice that the key code “active” appears in the mission statement – a dog-whistle for those who can hear) and the whole “celebration”, including homilies, defies Church teaching on virtually every level (and not a few confused Catholic tourists in London, looking to catch that late Sunday Mass, perhaps advised by well meaning locals or a hotel concierge, have gone along faithfully only to wonder if the sat-nav on their mobile phones was correct).

    I could go on and on but really the time for persuading people has long since passed. It’s up to the individual, based on the links I’ll provide, to conduct their own research and reach their own conclusions. All I’ll say is that most reasoning Catholics can and undoubtedly will only reach one verdict: that these are in fact exactly what I called them at the top – “gay Masses” and Holy Communion is distributed to those who are known to be in active homosexual relationships. It’s as simple as that.

    The Holy See knows. It has done for several years. It has been supplied with evidence file after evidence file. Two successive Archbishops of Westminster have known the full facts two (but prefer to hide behind the “we can’t judge” barrier excuse). We’re waiting to see whether Archbishop Nichols receives a red hat at the next consistory (which will tell us exactly what the Holy See’s view on the matter is – in fact, I’d go as far to say that the whole Catholic world can regard the future of Archbishop Nichols as a touchstone issue to monitor; for if these “Masses” continue and he becomes a Cardinal it will clearly signal to the rest of us exactly where Rome stands). The whole body of the English & Welsh Catholic Bishops’ Conference knows, of course. Many priests in England & Wales know the truth, too. But, in reality, not an awful lot of the laity (outside of those active in the Catholic blogosphere) know. Consequently, they refuse to believe the facts when you tell them because they’re confident that “I’d have heard something about such a scandal if what you say is true.” And that’s when you get denounced for spreading malicious untruths. Then again, there are plenty who take the view that, well, if the Archbishop of Westminster thinks it’s all fine then it must be. Especially as he spent so much time with the Pope recently.

    And so, we go around in circles. Year-on-year. What can you do? If people, even in Rome, refuse to accept the truth, then the game’s up. Just what are we to make of it all? Meanwhile, spurred-on by the success of the “gay Masses” in London, there are “activists” (sic) in Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow who are calling for similar initiatives to occur in those localities rather than them having to trek 200 miles to find “a home” (and frankly I don’t blame them!). The thin end of the wedge is getting thicker as each week goes by. And this Sunday, 5pm, April 3rd, will witness yet another “Mass”.

    Anyway, Mgr, there’s a barometer for you and your readers about the state of matters here in the UK. I’ll leave you all to be the judges.

    Say a prayer that sense will prevail. Pray, also, that someone of note in Rome is reading this.

    Here’s the pertinent links I promised:
    (the above is just one of many PDFs, replete with evidence, that are available on the site in question: just go to “Archives” and then follow your own chronological instincts to follow the unfolding story)

    1. I am sorry that you have endure all this. Here its not great but things a bit less blatant. Hope your see the response below a ways, as an additional encouragement. Fight the good fight.

  2. Great piece, Msgr. I’ve had a few ‘friends’ of mine quit being friends of mine b/c I told one that living this way was wrong. My wife said once “i’m glad them two are back together’ (one of the partners in that gay relationship realized one day he wasn’t gay & didn’t like the lifestyle & I guess pressure to come back brought them back together) I mentioned to my wife immediately after “You should be kind to them but do not be for what they are doing. That is not right” She, who calls me part of a cult being Catholic & her dog is more relgious then she is (seriously the dog will lay by my knees when I say a rosary) told me basically I was a zealot for living the way the Bible states in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 & asked ‘how did Sodom end up?” haha. But it is sad to hear Catholics turn their backs to the teachings. I must confess I did before in my CINO days but through research, prayer, & reading of Scriptures have long ended those days & will never go back to them.

    Here’s a great essay by Peter Kreeft I saw last night you’ll enjoy as well

    Thanks & God Bless!

    1. Keep up the good work. May be a good idea to leave “A Handbook of Christian Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft lying around the house, in hopes it will get noticed.

      1. The aiethst, Hitchens, uses the word “evil”? I wonder what he means by that word Evil according to what criterion? You mean, there’s good and evil? Who decides? Is this confused or what?

  3. Whenever it seems things are hopeless, it is always the hour of restoration to greater good, not the hour of crushing defeat. Look to the Cross.

  4. To Gregory: How your heart must ache. How difficult it must be for you to know that the shepherds of the Church are not protecting their flocks from harm. I always loved the Beatitudes and I always looked forward to a good homily on them. I rarely got one! Who knows why? But nonetheless, I once heard a priest give a sermon that included an explanation of what it means to be “poor in spirit”. Although it wasn’t in line with what I had heard in the past, or what I’ve heard since, it came to mind when I read your reply. He said “to be poor in spirit means to undergo the suffering of knowing what’s right in God’s eyes, and longing for it, when those around you are turning their backs on God.” He went on to explain that the poor in spirit carried a burden of sadness with them, knowing the wrong that those around them were doing; knowing the danger their souls were in; knowing how displeased God was. I hope better days are ahead for the Church, Gregory. Thank you for standing up for what is right.

    And Msgr. Pope, I can never thank you enough for being the guiding force that you are.

  5. What it continues to sow it continues to reap.

    Although it is tragic, what the Church suffers is nothing
    compared to what it has done.

    1. Which is completely nil in comparison to what “un-churched” have done…

  6. The PRRI report that was mentioned by CARA was funded by the Arcus Foundation, which promotes “gay rights”.

  7. Our Mother warned us that sins of the flesh are causing us to fall into hell like snowflakes.

  8. “Of course in 1969 we were rather inwardly focused. We were moving around the furniture in our sanctuaries, tuning up guitars and having endless debates about women’s (lack of) ordination, Church authority and the like. And while we looked inward and debated among ourselves, we lost the culture. We stopped evangelizing and articulating a clear moral vision for our culture in a way that was effective.”

    I think this statement says a lot. In my local parish, we are still paying off the last remodel, not that the remodel wasn’t nice. The brick and mortar of the faith, in the meantime, has suffered. A priest gave a sermon several months ago and mentioned the Fruits of the Holy Spirt. After mass, I mentioned to him that it was great to hear someone mention the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, as I hadn’t heard it mentioned for awhile (probably many years). But I also said that he should have listed out the Fruits of the Holy Spirit in his sermon, not just mention the title (I don’t even remember what they are). Kids (and adults) are interested in this because there is mystery behind it. Why are there Fruits of the Holy Spirit. How many are there? What are they? How do they help us in this life? If you don’t have these fruits, how might it affect your life? How have certain saints lived them? There is a richness here that is being missed. If the first and last you hear about the Fruits of the Holy Spirit is in your Confirmation class, well…that is not good! There is a richness that is not being mined.

  9. Dear Msgr., thank you again for your articles. They are so far from being “little”! I have read a great many of them and they have given me courage and insight. I also send them to my fiance to read. I especially appreciate the verses from Sacred Scripture.

    It truly is a great struggle, but the saints were called to nothing less! Revelation is a great hope, as I imagine St. Michael’s trumpet blaring and the saints fighting in their white robes!

    May Almighty God Bless You!

  10. Great article. I’ve been back in the Church now for two years and I’m not sure that I’ve heard the word sex or anything to do with sex during any of the homilies I’ve heard in that time. Maybe priests just assume that most of the people in their congregations are too old for that kind of thing! (Just joking.) How the ‘world’ thinks that the Catholic Church is obsessed with sex I do not understand.
    I also like the video with Fr Barron. How right he is. Let’s stop looking at our navels and start preaching the Gospel. I’m looking forward to the new (corrected) translation of the Mass and I hope that the expected document on the Mass in the Extraordinary Form makes changes that allow that version to be more widely available but it really is time that we got beyond debating internal affairs and got out into the outside world to convert more people to follow Christ. Discussing whether we say the Mass one way or another is a bit like changing the deckchairs on the Titanic. Some might say that we need to put our own house in order before we can convert the world but if we are not careful there will be no house left, at least in Europe, to put in order.

  11. Let me point to a far more serious problem. Single Catholics who desperately want to get married the old fashioned way can’t get married no matter what they do. A lot of us are at the point or well beyond where we can never have children of our own. Look at the numbers from Rhode Island last month: Weddings are down by 71% over the past 40 years. I believe that is a fairly representative number. Georgetown Cara also has statistics showing a steep drop in Catholic marriages relative to the rest of the population. If the Church weren’t so oblivious to the needs of practicing single Catholics who want to have Catholic marriages, we might not be fighting a rear guard action against gay unions now.

  12. Msgr. Pope, thank you very much for your articles. I’ve enjoyed reading them. What I’d like to see homilies go back to is, well, essentially Catechism 101, if not The Sacraments 101, using whatever can be used from the larger culture to illustrate those basics of Catholic discipleship, worship, and theology. Unfortunately, being poorly catechized does also mean that many Catholics don’t know what the sacraments are for, and what they actually are. The beauty of the Catholic tradition is that it’s broad and deep, and it all fits together: what I think indeed allows the intellect, the heart, and the soul to feel like it’s firing on all cylinders is the very realization that it does all fit together.

    The priest at my fiance’s parish delivered a really good homily on the Sacrament of Penance and the examination of conscience. This being Lent and all, that was much appreciated, and it really needed to be put out there as a sacrament that we not only need, but which we often either neglect out of our own pride or take for granted. I have to say that it breaks my heart to see churches that only offer Confession a scant hour and a half a week, if that, which is compounded as it is by a shortage of priests (indeed, how much do we do, not only to promote vocations to the priesthood, but to understand what they really are?). I think the priest I mentioned will be delivering a homily on the priesthood at some point, or so he said. I hope so. I look forward to it.

    It would be nice to hear about the lives of the Saints, too. I’ve become interested in the lives of the Saints bit by bit, mainly because they’re a wonderful balance of being separate individuals who nonetheless all have one thing in common: they’re all sinners who never quit on God. I think this sort of reflection is sorely needed in a culture that insists on the near absolute autonomy of the individual, but which nonetheless emphasizes a need to “fit in.”

    God bless you, and keep up the good work.

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