Last One Out Turn Out the Lights! – The serious consequences of low Mass attendance, low birthrates, and, my own politically incorrect solution.

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



5 Replies to “Last One Out Turn Out the Lights! – The serious consequences of low Mass attendance, low birthrates, and, my own politically incorrect solution.”

  1. Interesting points here. I did not realize the drop in attendance was so big. Church attendance truly is something that needs to be improved to keep from parishes being closed. It is always a sad thing seeing a parish close down.

    You mentioned about having bigger families as a solution. It is true back in the day families usually had many kids. Today, on average having 1 or 2 is the norm. There may be a ton of reasons why this is … like cultural changes, financial struggles, populations moving from rural to suburbs, etc.

    I think one of the reasons is the financial success of the country. After WWII, and through the years, America achieved a great economic boom. Since the past 40-50 years, more people are going to college, and more opportunites to be wealthy are around. People now have more ‘materialistic’ things to pay for, so having more kids would be tough.

    I know my Grandmother was poor and had to raise 5 kids. They all eventually became successful and are now well off, and she credits this through her constant prayer and sacrifice. She did not have all the material luxuries we have now, but she did have Faith & God.

    I guess if money is a reason why some families today are afraid to have many kids, then they should just believe and have faith that God will provide.

    1. Yes I think you are right. A lot of people say the cost of living is higher today. But that really isn’t so. The costs for all the basics are comparable to what they were in the 1950s. But, as you observe, what IS different is that we want a lot more stuff than we did in the 50s. We have to have several cars, usually big and expensive to run. We want larger houses more expensive to heat and maintain. We want AC we want all kinds of tvs etc. IOW we demand a much higher standard of living that is very costly to afford. So, we claim kids are too expensive but it is we and our lifestyles that are too expensive.

  2. Msgr. Pope,

    Thank you, your blog entry is right on. The first step toward recovery is to admit you have a problem.

    I agree that the Church does not need to be updated. Modern man must be conformed to the ancient faith, not the other way around. I think some of the updating that has taken place in the last 40 years has a little something to do with the current crisis. I also think the Holy Father feels this way too, a few internet seaches on his comments concerning the post-VCII “reforms” will reveal that.

    On another note, again you are right on about the materialism that has western culture in a strangle hold. Westerners have made material goods their god. To put it simply, people spend way too much money on things they can’t afford an don’t need. We have truely lost are way here.

    Currently there are rays of hope. I have noticed first-hand the dawn of the new spring time. I think with Pope BXVI’s 2007 Motu Proprio things are blossoming. Many people are disovering for the first time the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and it is changing the way they think about their Catholic Faith. They are starting to take their Religion seriously.

    If a survey could be done that asked practicing Catholics which Rite of Mass they preferred, OF or EF.
    I would gaurantee that of the group that preferred the EF they would have the highest Mass attendance, even though these folks are relatively few (for now).

  3. I agree with everything written. My husband and I are following your roadmap to success. We have 4 children, we attend Mass every Sunday and attend all Holy Days of obligation, we confess frequently, pray the rosary and are teaching our children the best we can. We belong to a wonderfully traditional Catholic Church that is staffed by a wonderful priest. We live in Indiana, are German, was born in a small, German Catholic town and was raised with a knowledge of the moral, traditional Catholic beliefs. For that, I give thanks to God. Having left that hometown for my husbands career, I have seen how my upbringing was vastly not the “norm”. It saddens me to see the state of faith some (if not many) of my Catholic bretheren have come to. I must say (now this may be due to my German Heritage) but instead of “laxing or getting looser” the Church and its leaders in various parishes throughout this country (and world) needs to teach the foundations FIRMLY…we need to tighten our laces and focus on the journey – which is hard, but proven to be a journey of joy if you put your faith first and get on your knees! It’s not a journey of “feeling good” and “putting on a happy face” – its a “grab your cross and follow me” type of journey. Sacrifice. Hard work. Steadfast Service. And THANKSGIVING for all we’ve been given. There’s no magic formula, if we only would listen to our hearts – Jesus has written it there. My only hope is that one day I may gaze upon my children and know that the upbringing that I was given – I gave to them. That they know the struggle, the strife, the sacrifice and the HOPE and they do it with joy for the Lord.

    1. Vonna!

      Thanks for your wonderful reply. I pray that there are growing numbers like you and your family out there. There is also hope in the children you are raising with strong Catholic values. It is likely they too will pass these values on to their children or spread them in the priesthood or religious life. I like your expression “we need to tighten our laces and focus on the journey.” Good image and good advice. God bless you State in Fide!

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