More Parish Closings Nationwide – What Are We to Learn and Do?

It was recently announced that a substantial number of Catholic parishes will be closing in Connecticut. This is just the latest in a national trend that is likely to affect the diocese where you live, especially in the north. I’d like to offer some rather quick thoughts and then ponder what I think is the root cause for our decline.

  1. Bishops don’t close parishes, people do. While it may be juridically true that bishops formally certify or give recognition to the opening, closing, and merging of parishes, it is ultimately God’s people who create or withdraw the need for a parish. The hard truth is that Catholics are contracepting and aborting in large numbers, thus depleting our ranks. Further, in most urban areas of the northeast, barely 15% of Catholics attend Mass regularly. In comparison, during the first half of the 20th century, when many of the parishes being closed today were being built, nearly 85% of Catholics attended Mass regularly. It is unrealistic for Catholics to expect that parishes should not be closed in significant numbers when there is so little attendance and concomitant support.
  2. Some point out that large numbers of Catholics have left the Northeast and headed south and west. That helps to explain why many parishes in the south and southwest are growing (even booming), but it does not mean that the overall population of the Northeast has dropped dramatically. To some degree, there has been a failure to evangelize, but the deepest wounds are in the decline of Mass attendance and our failure to hand on the faith. We are currently burying the last generation to be taught that Sunday Mass was an obligation to be met under pain of mortal sin.
  3. There is shared responsibility. It is easy to be angry at bishops and priests when parishes must be closed. Years of poor catechesis, a lack of effective preaching, and poorly celebrated liturgies have taken their toll and the clergy bear the first responsibility in this. However, dissent and division among the faithful and a drifting from the practice of the faith are also big factors. Many priest who do preach firmly and insist on clear doctrine are made to pay dearly.
  4. At the end of day, the clergy cannot take full responsibility for the problem, nor can they address it alone. Why? Because shepherds don’t have sheep, sheep have sheep. Evangelization cannot be just a problem for the rectory; it is ultimately a family problem. Parents and grandparents must do more to summon their children home and witness the power of the liturgy and sacraments to transform.
  5. Many blame the liturgy for the low attendance. While the liturgy as commonly celebrated today can seem bland and uninspiring, and much modern Church music “banal” (as the Pope recently remarked), the proposed solutions are bewildering in number and even where implemented attract only small numbers. For example, some have cheered the reintroduction of the Traditional Latin Mass, a form of the Mass that I happen to love. However, I don’t know of a single diocese in this country in which the number of Catholics attending that form accounts for more than 1% of all Mass attendees. Thus, the problem seems deeper than the external forms.
  6. The heart of the problem is an overall malaise. There is little urgency; few seem to feel the need for the faith, the Church, the sacraments, or the Word of God. In my opinion, a steady diet of universalism (the unbiblical notion that all or the vast majority of people will be saved, no matter what) inside the Church, and a steady diet of pluralism and relativism outside the Church have played the largest role in the problem. There’s no real problem seen, no hurry, no need for what we offer. At best we are just one product on the shelf of a boutique dedicated to the non-essential niceties that people dabble in if they have the time. The common view in our culture is that religion is a nice little way of accessorizing your life, but otherwise, who cares?

Given what I think is the root cause, how should we begin to stop the steady erosion of the practice of Catholic faith? I would agree with Dr. Ralph Martin that the first step must be to revive a more biblical vision of urgency regarding salvation. Just because many people—even among the clergy—say that there isn’t a problem doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.

Jesus was far more sober in assessing the situation. He devoted many parables and warnings to our need to attend to the salvation He offers. There are the sheep and the goats, those on the right and those on the left, the wise virgins and the foolish ones, those ready for the master’s return and those who are not, those who will hear, “Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” and those who will hear, “Depart from me. I know you not.” Jesus noted that the road to damnation was wide and many were on it, and “only a few” were on the narrow road to salvation (Matt 7:13-14).

But just try to tell any of this to most people today and see what kind of response you get. My sense is that urgency is at an all-time low. Yet biblically, directly from Jesus Himself, it is clear that the likelihood of being saved is greatly reduced when one does not repent regularly and walk in the faith actively, including a heavy dose of Scripture and frequent reception of the sacraments.

Yet few people speak this way today. Many dismiss such speech as “fear-based” argument. The fact is, however, that some things should be feared, including our tendency to be hard-hearted and hard-headed, to prefer passing things and error to eternal truths. Running about in a panic is not helpful; we need sober acceptance of our vital need for the sacraments, the proclaimed Word, holy fellowship, and the transformative power of the liturgy.

Until this sober appreciation is recovered by many and demonstrated by the few of us who remain, the steady erosion seems likely to continue. Church closings may be “coming soon to a neighborhood near you.” It is sad to lose buildings, many of them works of art, but it is even sadder to ponder the human loss that the empty buildings represent.

67 Replies to “More Parish Closings Nationwide – What Are We to Learn and Do?”

  1. As a former Connecticut resident, I’m heartbroken at seeing this list. My childhood parish, where I was an alter boy, as well as a one of the parishes of my earlier adulthood and then the last parish we attended prior to relocating are all closing. The parish of my youth, which also had a vibrant school, had so many, well attended Masses that two additional Masses had to be held in the school gymnasium. The town was about 60,000 people at the time with the town being served by multiple parishes. We had a need for two Saturday evening Masses, and six Masses on Sunday. My last visit there was about three years ago. They were down to one Saturday evening Mass and only two on Sunday, yet the town had grown to nearly 80,000! During my youth in the 1970’s, the parish had three priests and today, just one. The parish is located in an area with abundant financial resources. In my opinion, the “well to do lifestyle” of the area has become the new religion. Connecticut is also a bastion of relativism and all that goes with it. At our final parish, I taught 8th grade CCD and was saddened to see half of our class be picked up after class rather than attend our only Sunday morning Mass. The kids wanted to learn, but we had lost their parent’s generation.

    Now in Texas, where traditional values are stronger, we see long Confession lines at many parishes. New Masses are being added to our small but growing parish. Many local parishes, including our own have at least weekly Adoration with some having it all week long. We are the beneficiaries of people relocating, this is true. But it isn’t the sole reason for growth. At the same time pastors speak of the consequences of sin regularly from the pulpit. Our CCD program starts at age 4 and the Mass is celebrated prior to the beginning of class which is held on a weeknight each week, so almost all of the children are attending Mass twice a week. We don’t automatically confirm students without approval from the DRE and pastor. Students must also write a letter explaining why they they wish to be Confirmed. There are also more intact families here. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we are still short on vocations. Things are going in the right direction, but it won’t last unless we continue to pray for vocations and encourage our kids at home and in CCD to be open to the vocation that they are being called. One of the things that we are currently doing is requesting each child pick a seminarian to pray for each school year. I say all of this with humility so that others know that all is not lost. Having seen both sides of this spectrum I believe that supporting the family unit, the Rosary, and Adoration, along with our priests fearlessly speaking the truth will be what bares the good fruit.

  2. Point 3 of your essay explains the whole problem in a nutshell. However, Point 5 regarding only 1% attendance of Latin Mass attendees can be explained by the following. There just aren’t enough Latin Masses out there. I have to drive 24 miles each way to a Latin Mass on Sundays. Why can’t every parish have one? Train priests and just do it. Perhaps the bishops are afraid of something here. Don’t know. But there are only two Latin Mass parishes in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida. Also, why does the Supreme Pontiff criticize attendees of the Latin Mass? Is he afraid of something here? When I asked our local parish priest if our parish could have a Latin Mass I was told to go to the one in St. Petersburg. Lastly regarding point 4. I see evangelization as the vocation of priests and religious; that is their primary responsibility. True, shepherds are not sheep but they have the authority to teach, govern and sanctify. If the laity try that, they are condemned for being judgmental and critical. It’s nearly impossible for the laity to try to convert someone in his family. That, however, does not mitigate the responsibility of parents to be the first church to their children.

    1. I agree that every parish should have a Latin Mass. As a priest
      who can celebrate the Tridentine Latin Mass I have been placed
      in a parish largely Hispanic (my Spanish is not good though I
      can read the Mass and rituals effectively). Some people
      approached me representing a group of 143 who were interested
      in Latin Mass. I tried to help them but the Bishop stood in
      the way. I cannot do the Mass- I have 4 Masses, one 30 miles
      a way. And yes I could have decided to do it on my own according
      to Pope Benedict’s moto proprio but I have to live and work with
      my bishop. Nearing retirement (5 years) I hope to be able to
      devote more time to doing Latin Masses

      1. I support more Latin Masses too, but at some point in our diocese and many others that I know, the interest in that form of the Mass hits a ceiling. Regional masses develop because the interest level isn’t enough in every parish. In our diocese masses in three locations were ended due to low attendance. I do no know a single diocese where the percentage of those attending the TLM is above 1%. In real life, resources are limited and assigned to where they will do the most good. A particular diocese may have a stubborn bishop, but overall there is nothing to fundamentally limit the TLM sites. And, truth be told, interest in the older form is sadly limited to a small group.

        1. Put a traditional Latin Mass in every parish every Sunday morning — something Pope Benedict XVI said was the goal in 2008 — and let’s see if the one percent turns into something much higher.

          For now, telling Catholics they need to drive an hour to go to a monthly afternoon Mass, and then presenting statistics based around that pathetic situation, is not reliable data.

          Let’s compare apples to apples with a novus ordo situation if we’re going to talk numbers and percentages.

          1. In Tucson, Az. there is an older small Catholic Church that is overseen by a priest from Institute of Christ The King order. Their forte is doing the mass in the Extraordinary Form. The 2 services on Sunday have a fairly decent turnout. Perhaps, that is one answer to having more Latin masses: a flowering of those who want to be part of religious and clergy to the specific orders, like the one mentioned, who concentrate on the EF.

  3. I know that it’s easy to generate a bunch of clicks by itemizing all the things that are wrong with society these days, but I don’t really need help in that area. I can name a bunch more things that are wrong. What would be really interesting is hearing what you personally are doing about it. You are a pastor in a region impacted by declining Mass attendance, I think. How are you personally reminding your flock about their Sunday obligations? How are you personally combating universalism? Even if your ideas aren’t working, that would still be a useful data point for the rest of us.

    I greatly appreciate your blog posts, so I don’t want you to think I’m being combative. But it seems like everyone has a handle on the problems, but no one has any solutions.

    1. Ben,

      it’s interesting that you mention declining Mass attendance in the DC area. Quite honestly, I think it would be useful to compare the differences between the Washington, DC Archdiocese and the Arlington Diocese.

      They are night and day, and the difference is noticeable.


  4. Your point 6 is well-taken. Should it not be mentioned that the “pluralism and relativism” eviscerating Catholic practice and belief includes outright hostility to Christian teaching on sex and marriage by many Catholics? Further, one might argue that to counter such with appeals to fidelity to the words of our Lord would then be construed as “hate speech.” In fact anything short of universalism could be branded as counter to the “mercy-logic” of the gospel? This might explain why in almost 40 years as a Catholic convert I have never heard a homily on hell or on actions or beliefs that thus imperil the soul. In fact I have heard priests espouse universalism (though not from the pulpit) and in my own parish the pastor praised Mohammed on his birthday, to the delight of the entire congregation, myself excluded. “Mercy” is subtly equated with acceptance of beliefs inimical to Christian belief.

  5. “For example, some have cheered the reintroduction of the Traditional Latin Mass, a form of the Mass that I happen to love. However, I don’t know of a single diocese in this country in which the number of Catholics attending that form accounts for more than 1% of all Mass attendees”

    St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Costa Mesa, CA.
    There are over 200 every Sunday for the Traditional Latin Mass at 12:30PM

    In my humble opinion, there are/were three reasons attendance at Mass has dropped off significantly since Vatican II.

    One, the attempt by the Catholic hierarchy to protestantize the Mass & the churches
    by moving the tabernacle away from the center of the altar, removing statues of saints & the Stations of the Cross.

    Many if not most churches built since the 1980’s look more like gymnasiums than
    houses of God.

    Second, eliminating the Latin Mass…although it is returning to many parishes across the USA.

    Finally, the sex scandals over the past decades by priests & religious,
    and the failure of the Catholic church to remove those who were responsible,
    instead of just moving them from one location to another.

    When the Catholic church turned her back on Jesus Christ, Catholics
    turned their backs on the Catholic Church.

    It ain’t rocket science.

    BTW, we would like to know why popes have refused Our Virgin Mary’s request for the Consecration of Russia?

    Semper Fi,
    Michael Heffernan

  6. You wrote — “We are currently burying the last generation to be taught that Sunday Mass was an obligation to be met under pain of mortal sin.”

    If it is admitted by all that churches/religions have stated FALSE things to rouse the troops, and now only teach exactly what is in the Bible [yes Martin Luther was correct in some things – the Just Will Live by Faith] hearts may be healed and people will ask for the true Mercy of God to forgive their Sins and help them walk as Children of God.

  7. BTW, I forgot to mention the “White Flight” from cities throughout the USA since the MLK riots of 1968.

  8. I am age 65 and I have been going to the 7 a.m. Mass for years. It used to be packed and whenever I entered the church a minute or two late, I found it a challenge to squeeze into a pew. The usher used to give me the “shame” sign.

    I remember the same situation when going to church as a child. When we arrived late, we could not always even sit in the same pew! Sometimes we had to stand in the back.

    My little brother and I never complained about going to Mass. And when we arrived, we were respectful. It was expected of us. I too learned it was a mortal sin to miss Mass and that was and is a good thing! It helped with the formation of my conscience.

    I still attend the early Mass but I notice more and more how many of the pews are empty. It breaks my heart and I think of how it must hurt the heart of God who has everything to give us.

    I do believe that once a person “gets it,”…that the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, it will forever change that person. The priest needs to share that, over and over and over again.

    I teach 4th grade CCD/religious education (“Ten Commandments Year”) and I have taught the children that to miss Mass for a frivolous reason is indeed a mortal sin. (Of course I tell them that as children they are not responsible if their parents do not take them.) And yes, I teach early in the year that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus because I have noticed that many refer to the Eucharist as “the bread.” They should learn Catholic teachings at a young age. We love them and we should teach the truths of our faith.

    One of my strategies is to go over the Sunday readings. Then I suggest that they retell the Gospel, for example to their parents. I tell the to listen to the words and message at Mass. I hope it encourages them to motivate their parents to go to Mass. One little boy often came to class the next week saying excitedly, “I heard Father talk about…(fill in the blank) at Mass. I pray that enthusiasm will spread!

    If engraved invitations were mailed to each person on Earth inviting him/her to a Catholic Church stating that Jesus would be there “in person, in the flesh,” the lines to get inside would be backed up for miles. Well, guess what? He is there every Sunday and at most churches, every day!

    Once I retired, I was able to completely immerse myself into my faith. I “get it” and I truly love God above all things. I attend daily Mass, go to Adoration and try to live my Catholicism in numerous ways. I love, love, love all of God’s gifts. The Mass is Heaven on Earth. It is where I want to spend eternity and prayerfully, where we all want to be.

    Thank you for this excellent blog.

    1. Thank you, Joan, for truly teaching the faith! You are so right! When children and adults focus on Jesus’ Presence in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and truly listen to the living Word in the Readings and Gospel, they will want to go to Church.
      In addition, the places where people are being taught the truth and our complete Catholic faith without any watering down or exclusion of any parts, that’s where there is an increase in the congregations and in vocations. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Jesus is the Truth. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

    2. “Well, guess what? He is there every Sunday and at most churches, every day!” Sorry to be disagreeable, God is at Home in Every Catholic Church that has a Tabernacle, He even leaves the Light (Candle) lit next to the Tabernacle.
      My problem, here in Yuma, they lock the doors of the church when the office is closed. During the summer Masses are said M-F at 9 am, no Sat morning Mass.
      Hince, I have to drive 10 miles to the Franciscan Church because they have a 24/7 Adoration room/chapel and Sat morning Mass So I get to spend quality time with my God.

  9. Again, I must say, I agree with you in concept and statistical data, however, I always come to an abrupt stop on implementation. Religion provides structure, a road map, I would say to live right. People don’t do that in an organic way. Our sin nature won’t allow it. The Church must teach evangelization in its totality. We must learn to minister to the whole person. The family, single life, divorce, homosexuality, puberty, depression, mental illness, grief and lost, and the list goes on. This is life. People are looking for help to teach them how to live. I’m not talking about a bible class or a Sunday school. Its much deeper than that. Its not about remember biblical facts and doctrine. Do we need these things? Absolutely. We first need the Church to be relational. “Relationship” is key. How many Catholics attend Mass with strangers? Do you know the name of the person sitting next to you every Sunday? Probably not. How many people have struggles in life that the church knows nothing about. This is poor evangelization. Is your church a “safe” place to worship and experience God. Many churches are not safe havens, and they should be. The church is a place where people should come and be fully disclosed with feeling vulnerable. You can’t do all of this on a Sunday morning. The pastor is the first line of defense, the guardian, the protector of offensives, not concern with worldly matters. I look for implementation of Math 25. The older I get words do very little for me. I believe words are doing very little for many in the Church. Let’s try to foster “friendships” and authentic relationships. Find out what’s really going on with folks.

    1. I concur with your assessment of the Catholic Church being “relationship challenged.” I lived in los Angeles for 70 years and found the large metropolitan churches on average are cold and impersonal places to be on a Sunday morning. On EWTN’s “Journey Home” program hosted by Marcus Grodi, many of the converts featured also noticed this vexing problem in their testimonies. Frankly, I find this situation of parishioners not knowing one another and perhaps not wanting to be neighborly, the major problem confronting the Catholic Church in the U.S.

  10. It is not too late. Those that believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ need to go out to the streets and proclaim it. Join St. Paul Street Evangelization. Call on the Holy Spirit and go out and meet people, give out rosaries, crucifixes, miraculous medals. Pray, pray and pray to the Lord our God.

  11. Mons. Pope:
    I agree and accept the notion that the modern mindset is unbiblical but is it unconciliar? I have read portions of, and agree with, what Dr. Martin has written in his book “Will Many be Saved?”. But considering such documents as Dignitatis Humanae and Nostra Aetate and sections of Lumen Gentium that speak of various levels of partial communion, add to this Rahnerian “anonymous Christianity” and we have the present mess. This is not to mention the episcopal statement (USCCB??) of the late ’90’s or early ’00’s that said that the covenant with the Jews remains valid and salvific today. Now we have a pope who said “Who am I to judge?” (I know what he meant and know this is commonly misreported but it is out there) and has been scolding Europe for any attempt to defend itself against Islamic cultural aggression. This problem is NOT something that invaded the Church from the surrounding culture this has come from the highest levels of the Church. Blame the sheep if you want but sheep eat what they are fed. There is an old adage that says “a fish rots from the head down.”

  12. my parish is dying, due to many of the reasons listed above, but more so due to the fact that we have a jekyll and hyde pastor. he has brought back reverence to the mass which is a good thing, but the moment someone questions what he is going or why so much latin in a novus ordo mass, instead of being a king, loving, caring, teaching pastor, he says get behind me satan and literally bans the questioners/dissenters from the rectory or the school or the whole parish property. no one dare ask him what or why he is doing because he is in charge. he is the ordained and above reproach. he is also paranoid and hiding something. but we have no “facts” to take to the diocese because everything is a secret in the parish. and so we are dying. people are either going to the next town to another catholic church or they are going to a local protestant church or they just stop going. sure the culture has gotten us to this point. but an “I AM” pastor is not helping! dear Jesus please help us!

  13. In this diocese, a fair number of the parishes that closed were ethnic parishes. In many places, there is no need for an Italian parish around the corner from the Polish parish, which is down the street from the Hungarian parish, which is near… which is a block away from… I grew up in an ethnic parish where the mission of the parish was to preserve a given culture, and not necessarily to evangelize. That little world is gone, but the huge, high-maintenance (and often very beautiful) buildings are still with us.
    Even in the country parts of our diocese, there are/were clusters of parishes that started because the Alsatians couldn’t get along with the Luxemburgers, who couldn’t stand the Bavarians, etc. Some even started because one family was feuding with another family who were perceived as running things. In some of these cases we sowed the wind 150 years ago, and are now reaping the whirlwind. You are right when you talk about the need for priests, religious and people to have a passion for evangelization.

  14. Good points especially about abortion and contraception and the “divorce” mentality and the culture and worship of self instead of God. Hence, I would re-enforce that it did began in the sins of omissions concerning the Roman Liturgy. Lastly, the decay of Catholic education and formation in solid metaphysical and moral principles in seminaries and universities have not followed the principles of St Thomas Aquinas and Papal encyclicals instead it is replaced by the dictatorship of relativism and the sin of arrogance against a healthy sense of authority and the last things.

    1. Vatican II was very clear that culture is a part of religion, and people have a right to culture. The American bishops have been as allergic to ethnic parishes today as their foolish counterparts were a century ago, when they triggered the schism of the Polish National Catholic Church by their intransigent, “they-gave-me-a-miter-so-I-am-the-law” attitude.

      Suggestion for the next Bishop’s Appeal collection: include a note in your return envelope asking the Chancery to sign an agreement that your donation is refundable if the bishop cashiers your parish within twenty years. .. with interest. The only way to talk to these guys …..

  15. All churches are under the same pressure of the infection of evil in our world causing us to look elsewhere than to Our Lord for salvation and absolution.

  16. I just don’t accept this. My parents went to Church certainly weekly, many times daily and put us through Catholic school. They did not contracept, but Our Lord chose a small family for them. Their parish is closed and in their old age they have to try to fit in a new parish with a super-70’s progressive pastor. My own family also attends Mass weekly, sometimes daily, my husband and I do not contracept, and we are pulling together every penny we have to give our children a truly Catholic education (which, incidentally, can only be had privately — the parish school no longer teaches the faith). And I live in the Northeast. The Catholic Chuch is not a democracy; nor should it be. But in a hierarchy, change must begin at top. You can hardly blame the little people who have zero power to change anything. Look how many lay people are upset over Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia? Does it make a difference what we in the pews think? No. Can we make the Church preach the truth? No. If we pew sitters suffer from malaise, it’s because nothing we do matters.

  17. Only a speculation but, Gideon’s band originally numbered in the thousands until reduced to the 300 who remained after the “weeding out”

  18. Go door to door asking if anyone is Catholic and wants Confession, for many suffer from presumption, acedia, and lack of faith; everyone suffers from concupiscence, but each soul is individual. Either try that or go to the Bishops, telling them your worries and having them do something about it. Be like the importunate widow; after all, the Bishops are Jesus’ vicars and the Apostles’ successors, and by their prayers they can call down the Holy Spirit.

    On the other hand, you could try to gain Catholics’ attention by tackling America’s growing reverse racism (most against whites), neo-wheelerism (where, instead of alcohol, it’s about straight people, Christians, and conservativism), and hatred of Jews and Muslims. Although I recommend tackling this by prayer and penance and in the light of the Faith, for what man can’t do God does and for Faith is infallible.

  19. I have given much thought to withdrawing from my parish. One verse explains why, Gal. 5:15. Only reason I haven’t yet is because my Priest gives me hope and the bishop too, though indirectly. Type is cumbersome or I would explain.

  20. Ummm!
    ‘ALL’ of the above seems to sum up the situation quite well really!
    Or, rather more succinctly, (and sadly), put by Our Dear Lord Himself:
    “Will the son of man find any faith when He returns?” Luke 18:8.
    And then in Matthew 24:12 –
    “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.” But then He much more optimistically goes on to say in verse 13: “but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
    And then Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, talking of how it will be just before Our Lord’s return, “ . . that day shall not come except there come a falling away first.”
    The prophet Daniel says so too, in no uncertain terms!
    It seems to me that it has to be thus.
    But, going back to the beginning of Luke chapter 18, it says, “He spoke a parable to them that men ought always to pray and not to faint.”
    So, actually, it is down to each and every one of us individually to not give up – we all have the same responsibility, priests and people alike, to keep the faith to the end.
    It is not an ‘us and them’ situation, it is an ‘US’ situation!
    But Jesus leaves us with the very real promise that it is He who wins in the end:
    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
    So – it’s not up to anyone else but us – it is OUR knees that need to hit the deck! And right quickly.!!
    God bless all.

      1. Msgr. Pope,

        I enjoy your homilies very much!

        If you could answer my earlier question,
        I would appreciate it very much.

        “Why have the popes refused the Virgin Mary’s
        request for the Consecration of Russia?”

        Thank you & God Bless you.

    1. I think this comment nails it. There WILL be a great falling away before the end comes. There is no avoiding it and no preventing it. Our job is to keep praying and keep the faith no matter what. We may not be in the end times yet. But, if we are, there is nothing we can do to stem the bleeding in the Church. It’s a fulfillment of prophecy and has to happen.

  21. To understand things you often have to go back in history ie; Old Testament for a Catholic. Hosea 4: 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. 7 The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame. 8 They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity. 9 And it shall be like people, like priest;

    So we laity have to accept some responsibility here “Like people, like priest.” We who through our embrace of sin, at least at some point in our lives, we embraced this sick and dark culture. How often and how many pray for their priests? I can’t help but wonder if they are not those spoken of when we pray the Rosary and say “especially for those most in need of Thy mercy.” To those who are given much and more…

    The people, who by God’s grace, “sigh and groan” under the weight of all this inequity! We go back… Ezekiel 9: 4* And the LORD said to him, “Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” 5 And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and smite; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity; 6 slay old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one upon whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house.

    If you read Ezekiel you’ll see things were very messed up in an ecclesial sense during those days too. God doesn’t need our success only our fidelity. We endure and engage in the battle until time (for us) gives way to Eternity. Like a good soldier don’t get distracted! Stay focused on your front sight, get sight picture, and pull that trigger to the rear! Pick your weapons! Pick up your Rosary, and use it! Fight like it all depends upon you – yet realize that you and I are just really not strong enough so we rely on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. It all depends upon God’s will in this present moment. Suffer well my brothers!

    Saint Paul gives us the tactics to fight in Ephesians 6: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14* Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15* and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; 16 besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

    Saint Paul goes on to specifically address you and I and our entering into Jesus Mission of fighting for the salvation of souls in 2 Timothy 3: 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and * profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. Chapter 4 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. 5 As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.

    Every Word of the Word of God is important. Read it – then read it again. Slowly and prayerfully, read it again. Once more into the breach – once more into the breach!

  22. Your rash judgment makes you seem pouty and “girlie-man. Moderation of the comments took longer due to an Archdiocesan function. Please grow up david, learn a little patience and realize that your strident comments are starting to sound tedious. You are quick to blame lots of people, but I have to say your name-calling approach probably won’t win many converts. To accept that there were troubles after the Council (and before, since Universalism preceded 1965 and was well established earlier) is fair, but I think the way you talk would make people less likely to consider tradition and orthodoxy. You put a bad face on it.

  23. The confusion in the church is a big problem. Look at the recently approved LGBTQ pilgrimage sponsored by Bishop Tobin in Newark and cheered by the likes of Fr. Martin, SJ. Would the bishop sponsor a welcome pilgrimage for Nazi Catholics? Are the only sins being “not welcoming” or racist? This constant fight is exhausting when one is trying to find community, purpose, and tradition in the short span of a life. I found it better for myself and family simply to go to an Eastern Church.

  24. FWIW I think the sense of the sacred sense of the import on what happens at mass has been diminished and this is not just a liturigical problem but a problem among the laity as well. We take the indescribably generous self donation of Our Lord too lightly. We take take the holiness of the sacred spaces for granted. I say we because I could do better as well: I think this is a general problem and I have my share of too casual participation. Mass is special: it should be treated as the uniquely elevated occasion that it is; but too often we chat in Church genuflect absent mindedly or let our minds drift during the celebraton. When reverence is lost the sense of distinction between Catholic and Protestant is lost as well. It’s not any easy fix, but it is fixable, with God’s grace.

  25. If a man has no appetite for truth nor a desire to please God this makes true religion burdensome and distasteful—this is sloth. If authentic religion is losing membership in large numbers, it’s a sign of widespread sloth. The remedy for sloth is fear of punishment, damnation—we endure bitter medicine knowing that it is better than death. In other words, major behavior change occurs usually in the presence of fear, which motivates us to do things we do not like doing. Absent fear or pain, there is little incentive to go the trouble of changing. (this is one of the important lessons from the Prodigal Son.) Some people talk a lot about the beauty of the Church (which it is). For the slothful, however, moving toward the distant beauty of the Church comes at the price of losing the pleasures that are here and now—this price is too high for many if not most people in a slothful society. Hence, appeals to beauty do not change people who fear losing their pleasures in the process.

  26. So far in the comments, I have not seen the fact of clergy sex abuse brought up as a reason for the declining numbers in church attendance and the closing of the churches. This topic must be dealt with head on. No mention has been made that the priests who are credibly accused are removed from ministry. This causes confusion in the parishes and a necessary reassignment of priests. In my diocese, there have been 24 priests who have been accused and removed from ministry. I know that there are more. Two of these priests were from my parish. Imagine the how hard it has been for us with two priests removed. We no longer have a priest in residence. We have priests that rotate each Sunday with only one Mass on Saturday and one Mass in Sunday and only three daily Masses through the week. Confession is hit and miss. How can one even consider having a ‘spiritual director’ when the priests who come and go don’t know us and the state of our souls? There are few if any boy altar servers. No parent wants his child alone in the sacristy with a priest. That’s what it has come to in our little parish. I think, that shortly, we will be closed. We will scatter and from each of these closings fewer and fewer will be able to travel to the other parishes (I just mention that winter travel is difficult here) and with the aging church population, I see only centralized churches located in the cities with the rural areas hit the hardest.

    1. Well, perhaps the reason it that surveys do not indicate that this is a big factor in lower attendance. Attendance has been declining of years, since the 1960s. There are many factors but the abuse debacle doesn’t rank that high. It surely didn’t help though!

  27. Many parishes are closing because parents are not having so many children as they used to, and those children aren’t have big families either.

    Deliberate demographic shrinkage (and I way “deliberate” because of the Pill).

    How many bishops preach the beauty of Humanae Vitae (49 years new this July), with its call to holiness and openness to life, and the beauty of large families (St. Teresa of Avila was 24th of 25 children)?

    Compare that number (single digits, perhaps) to the hundreds who are calling for “action” on global warming, or amnesty for illegal aliens.

    From the pulpit.

    Apparently, that approach is not packing them in.

  28. Two additional reasons to add to the list to justify the decline:

    The Church used to proclaim that “outside the Church there is no salvation”. Changing this was huge!

    Additionally, as became clear to me on a recent visit to Ireland, there is a very strong anger, especially among mem, about the sexual abuse by the clergy of minors. Clearly, it will take Mary’s intervention to recover these lost souls. Ireland used to be so Catholic. Clearly, the Church has lost it’s moral authority and violated the trust of the faithful. My hunch is this is true elsewhere too.

    1. Nulla salus extra eccleisam is still taught and set forth in the catechism. It is less emphasized to be sure but it has not been “changed”

  29. The primary and most fundamental reason that parishes are closing is the deplorable impoverishment of catechetical instruction over the last sixty years. People do not believe anymore in the Catholic Faith. When was the last time anyone of us heard a homily on the reality of sin and the reality of the eternal consequences of sin? I am speaking of hell. The understanding of purgatory is almost nonexistent among most present-day Catholics. God is no longer important to day to most ‘Catholics’. Why should they go to Mass and support an entity (the Church) which is meaningless to them? Those who are responsible for this pathetic spiritual impoverishment are the bishops and the priests who follow them blindly, as they have been taught to do. The malaise you speak of is caused by the Johnny Carson-like stand up comedians so many priests have become. They are afraid that they will be criticized if they inform their flocks of what awaits them on the day of Eternity. The priests take their cue from their bishops and all one has to do is listen to these weak shepherds to understand the distorted and heretical views held by the lay people in their care. If people use artificial birth control today without any qualm of conscience, it is because for many, many years these people have heard nothing about the sinfulness of this from their priests and bishops.

    Priests, for many years now, have agreed to the heretical positions and trivialization of sin which their own bishops have promulgated. The world has become totally secularized and it is disdainful of Christ. This has been okay with the bishops for many years. These shepherds are now politicians who push the political emphases of the Bishop of Rome. He is the personification of all that is wrong in the Church. The corruption has peaked now with the present papal disaster.

  30. “universalism (the unbiblical notion that all or the vast majority of people will be saved, no matter what) inside the Church.”

    THIS DEADLY THEOLOGY CAME FROM A PRIEST: Hans Urs von Balthasar. So don’t be blaming us laity!

    So this poison came from inside the Church and the prelates almost made Bathasar a Cardinal (how about that!) but he dropped dead right before it. Msgr. Pope, please call the Pope to denounce this theology!

    Because I know that His Holiness Pope Francis will banish all heresies! HAHAHAHA!

    1. Blame is your word. I am speaking to cause, not blame. Church’s cannot stay open when people no longer attend. I am less certain than you as to the blame. You seem to say that its 100% priests. I suspect the “blame” is more widely spread. Clergy yes, but laity as well. Where ever the error came from, most people believe it today. I think its the biggest cause of people not being serious about faith. What do you think about the issue Angelina? TO my mind, Your derision is not the solution.

      1. You know that my mockery is Delicious! Seriously, if priests start teaching fire and brimstone stuff, the bad will leave but the good will stay. I know Msgr. Pope that you are a good priest, but I hardly hear anything about Mortal sins being taught in the Church. For example, I have never heard a priest say in the homily that missing Mass is a mortal sin, etc., etc. I guess the Bishops don’t back up the priests. Everybody is paralyzed. You have the Faith Father, and thank you for teaching us the Faith. Sadly, too many priests and Bishops are not doing that, they have become worldly just like the secular people.

        I hate to quote “The Young Pope” TV show character when he said:

        “I want a love story.”

        Well, I have the Ultimate Love Story, but nobody wants to help me. I can turn things around but I need help. Perhaps if I can get help from a retired Cardinal or a retired Bishop, we will really have a FIGHT CLUB!

  31. Two comments:
    1. It is possible to turn this situation around as has been demonstrated by the Church of the Nativity ( Timonium, Md., which was a dying parish when the pastor arrived. Now it has three times the number of parishioners and vastly increased collections . . . Christmas Masses were at the State Fairgrounds because of the size. You can read all about it in “Rebuilt,” which is available on

    2. While usually this situation is a result of benign neglect by the pastor, sometimes a pastor can actively — if unintentionally — drive people away. Our pastor, for instance, is perpetually late.

    He was 13 minutes late for the Easter Vigil, 20 minutes late for Stations on Good Friday, 15 minutes late on Holy Thursday — and two Sundays ago he did not even appear at a 9 A.M. Mass he was scheduled to celebrate. That was at least the fourth time he failed no Mass was held: He had missed at least three weekday Masses. He was 10 minutes late for a funeral and told a staff member he was on time. The parish this year had no baptisms/receptions/confirmations at the Easter Vigil, and the pastor just cancelled bulletin announcements for a new RCIA cycle that was to begin on June 6.

    Declining parish membership can be turned around. But the pastor has to take the lead in focusing on evangelization.

  32. Msgr. Pope’s clear call to action is timely and appreciated. We have allowed ourselves to be evangelized by popular culture instead of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His points focus clearly on the issues at the root of the crisis facing the Church. His recommendation of Ralph Martin offers a source of light in the darkness.

    I would recommend as another source of hope organizations like the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, and many other apostolates of the New Evangelization. I would especially recommend that faithful Catholics get to know The Amazing Parish — — as an apostolate founded by faithful Catholics with the goal of renewing the Church.

    God bless Msgr. Pope and all those guided by the wisdom of his words.

  33. Is it immoral to attend a church that supports abortion?

    There are Protestant churches, such as some Presbyterian sects and others, that openly have “pro-choice” positions. It would seem that to attend such a “church” would not only be an error, but also immoral.

    But then . . . is it also immoral to attend a catholic church that supports abortion?

    It would seem that the answer is yes, it is immoral to attend such a church.

    My catholic parish is required to give some of its money to the bishop, and the bishop gives some of this money to the USCCB, which gives a portion of that money to Catholic Relief Services, which has been repeatedly exposed as an abortion supporting charity — maybe not directly, but “indirectly” by giving money to abortion charities and by having members sitting on the boards of pro-choice groups.

    I used to think this activity of Catholic Relief Services — which is the official charity of the bishops in the United States — was “merely” the result of certain bad individuals.

    But after the recent Presidential election, when my bishop — and most of the bishops in the United States — made it clear that they were supporting the 100 % pro-abortion candidate Hillary Clinton, I came to the conviction that these donations to pro abortion groups aren’t the result of a “few” individuals, but are the result of an institutional decision.

    That is, the bishops, by supporting Clinton, show me that they really don’t disapprove of their official charity giving money to pro abortion causes. And this is why this support hasn’t been stopped.

    That’s why I’ve stopped attending mass. It’s immoral to attend a mass where the sacrifices of the faithful are used — in any way — to kill children.

    1. A recent study found that 90% of US bills contain traces of cocaine on them.

      Does that mean that every time you use cash, you are supporting the drug trade? No. While the money that you carry may have been wound up in your hands as the result of a drug deal, your intentions were never to support the drug trade nor is your involvement close enough to the deal that you are morally responsible for the deal.

      If the devil can use the Holy Scriptures for his own ends, he can certainly use the pro-life movement. Anything that tells you to stop attending mass is not from God.

      As for Hillary Clinton, the last election was a contest between two pathological liars, each with positions at odds with Church teaching. American Catholics divided along lines of ethnicity, with white Catholics opposing Clinton and Latino Catholics fearing Trump.

      1. I appreciate your response, and thank you for it.

        However, I’m not against attending mass.

        I’m only opposed to attending a mass where money is being collected for abortion. This will be almost all diocesan masses in the United States.

        The Church in the United States may be in a similar position to the Church in China, where the church has been co-opted by the State; in China, directly; in the United States, indirectly by federal government grant money.

        You argue that a parish’s involvement isn’t close enough to the abortion to make it “count,” but is this true?

        When I attended at Easter, and saw the overflow crowd putting their sacrifices into the basket — there was very likely enough there, percentage-wise after every one has taken their cut, to cause a death in Africa.

        When you add up all the money contributed in a year, and when you consider how far a few American dollars go in Africa, where many people make only a few dollars per month, a rich American parish’s contributions can certainly result in you meeting a child after death who would not have died but for your participation.

        The Code of Canon law (canon 844.2) allows a Catholic to attend an Orthodox mass in an extraordinary situation when there is “genuine necessity.” Also, attending mass at a monastery or convent may avoid the problem. SSPX might also be a possibility.

  34. There is something in the liturgy going on.

    I am not an expert of any sort. But when we switched to a parish that offers the Ordinary Form, in English, but Ad Orientem, I could feel a revitalization in our family.

    We became more joyful on the way to Mass. We started to receive the Eucharist at the altar rail (in the hand is also an option) We started to dress up more for Mass, on our own, not with any decree coming down from us parents! My kids behave better at Mass.

    Perhaps when the Mass is celebrated seriously, people will take it more seriously. I don’t know.

  35. Msgr. Pope, thank you for your tailored efforts to catechize your flock (my awareness comes from your essay in the homeschooling-encouraging book from Seton, “Planting the Seeds of Faith”). You are a charitable shepherd, and blessed is your flock. All are not so blessed. Can we blame entirely members of other flocks, however, who flee or wander, when their shepherds manifest as wolves, or who absent their flock? When the leaders do not lead, or worse, attack the flock, the sheep abandon the leaders.

    I would tentatively suggest that a diminished understanding of the doctrine extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, along with the protestantization of the liturgy, have contributed the empty pews (not to downplay the problems prior to VII – if there not problems, VII would not have occurred). I’ve heard it said that the Jesuit missionaries converted with such zeal precisely because they feared the loss of so many souls absent the One True Faith. But, if salvation can be obtained outside the Catholic Church, what does Catholicism offer that the Protestantism doesn’t? (yes, I know the apologetics answer – but give me a sound bite for the busy working mother!). Also, the efforts of lay people are not aided by the bishop of Rome celebrating Luther. I do recognize that charity is so important, because people’s experiences can be so varied, and knowledge of sacramental grace lacking.

    I pray for our priests! May they remain strong, and resist the temptations of the evil one, despite the constant attacks. May they be courageous in proclaiming the beauty and truth and goodness of Holy Mother Church’s teachings. May they adore on bended knee Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and encourage frequent Confession in their homilies. May they stop ignoring the elephants in the room of abortion, homosexual “marriages”, and euthanasia, and preach against these evils, and stop passing the collection plate for “Catholic” social justice groups who partner with evil. And I pray that our bishops support our courageous priests, even in the face of losing $ from donors dismayed with strong preaching or from the federal government. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us!

  36. Bishops standing by while witnessing the destruction they’ve caused directly or stood by like cowards and allowed to happen and pointing fingers. No surprise.

    Sounds like His Excellency is having a Clark Griswald moment, trying to explain his misdeeds and failures after getting caught:

    “You understand, don’t you Russ?”

    “Sure, I understand. You think God will buy it?”

    1. Not sure who mean here, but for the record I am not a bishop. But words like cowards etc are such a foolish errand. There is plenty of blame to go around on this stuff

  37. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    I agree with your insights. Perhaps if more folks read your blog posts and homilies, there might be an increase in Mass attendance. I read your marvelous homily on Good Shepherd Sunday prior to leaving home for Mass. Unfortunately, the homily I head at Mass upset me a great deal. Not because the message was fully dishonest, but because it was deceptive. I felt that the priest (who is not the pastor) took on a soap-box-demeanor and used the readings to convey a message that had nothing to do with them at all. The fact that he claimed his message was indeed what the readings were saying was dishonest. I felt cheated and deceived and sorry for anyone who was duped and for all of us who were deprived of hearing an honest interpretation of scripture and graced with an opportunity to grow in our faith. So, I thank God for the Internet and your blog particularly and the permission you’ve given to me to share your writings with others via my blog. I believe I’m doing them a great service. God bless you.

  38. As one facing the closing of our parish … on a very real level, it’s the end of living as a practicing Catholic and partaking of the Sacraments.

    Our Bishop is closing remote parishes here in Appalachia. The nearest church is 60-90 minutes away for our parish members. For six months out of the year or more, the roads are impassable. Even during the summer, the drive over the mountains can be hazardous.

    There’s not much we as parishioners can do differently. Nearly 100% of those enrolled attend regularly. Our average donation per parishioner is the highest in the state. Our numbers have remained consistent since the church’s opening 40 years ago.

    The Bishop has named the initiative, “Joining our Neighbors.” He feels the life of the Catholic Church lies in the urban churches, so even when there are several poorly attended churches within a few minutes drive of one another, they’re not being considered for closure.

    1. Marie Teresa

      I’m so sorry to hear this. I really feel for you and your fellow parishioners. I know the problems of living in an area where winter travel to Mass is difficult. The only partial solution that I can offer is using the internet to view Mass online. Internet sites such as iMass and EWTN have daily and Sunday Masses in both EF and NO. There is also Eucharistic Adoration online. Aquinas College, Marytown and others have adoration. While this is not the same as being physically present for adoration, it’s something you can turn to when you need the reassurance of the Real Presence. The other suggestion I can offer is read “Dominus Est” by Rev. Athanasius Schneider. In this short book he details what his mother and other people did when the Soviets prevented priests from saying Mass and distributing communion in the Soviet era. I will pray for you and your fellow parishioners.

  39. When the churches were full, I wonder how many people were attending mass out of fear than out of love?

    An unfortunate and unintended consequence of teaching that missing mass was a mortal sin was the attitude that going to mass was more about avoiding punishment than a positive good in itself.

    “There are many places I’d rather be than mass, but I’d rather go to mass than go to hell.”

  40. Some of these things that are pointed out are correct. But let’s start with making church a priority again. It’s a shame that in my diocese, even the catholic schools have sports (practice,games, meets) on both Saturdays and Sundays. When are these families to get to mass, when their participation in the sport (Sanctioned by the catholic school they send their kids to) has such a schedule? Also, where the Catholic Schools are teaching the students that they don’t have to go to mass on Sundays since they have weekly mass at school on a Wednesday? This is also one of the fundamental reasons why the catholic churches are closing.

  41. It is true….in 1950….85% of registered parishioners attended Sunday Mass… today, in 2017…….85% do not attend Sunday Mass and the decline continues. Although the result of this dilemma is the closing of parishes, what is more serious and never discussed is the loss of so many souls who believe that to sin against God’s 3rd Commandment, to keep holy the Sabbath day, is not a serious sin and therefore not mortal. This false assumption must be made clear today just as it was in 1950; but for whatever reasons the Church holds back this truth, knowing its parishioners are being deceived by the evil one who makes us believe that our merciful God would never deny Heaven for not attending Mass on the Sabbath.

    So, why has this exodus not been seriously addressed by the Church? Could it be that the Church does not have a solution to the problem? Could it be the reasons for not attending Sunday Mass and/or leaving the Church are too numerous to solve? Any solution must begin with the main cause for it to be solved. I cannot believe that with all the brilliant minds in the Catholic Church that not only do they know the cause, they also can figure out the solution. The main cause is in the proper Catholic formation of the children in Catholic schools and CCD programs. Especially when it comes to Sunday Mass attendance which is so critical and necessary in the life of a catholic. At the Parish level, Pastors refuse to tell parents that Sunday Mass attendance is mandatory for their children and at the Archdiocese level, Bishops refuse to mandate mandatory Sunday Mass attendance to their Pastors for all school children. If this one item is corrected, Sunday Mass attendance would increase 50% in parishes with schools and CCD programs. This could be the start of stopping the exodus. As for those who do not attend Sunday Mass, the solution for their return is possible but must be providentially solved.

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