|St. Agnes Catholic Church, Chicago.|
Catholicism is also rapidly approaching the point of no return in the USA, as its congregations dwindle, churches close, parishes have to be amalgamated to reduce costs as donations dwindle accordingly, and recruitment to the priesthood of people of the right personal qualities, who are not going to embarrass the church later, becomes increasingly difficult.
Everywhere from Boston to Minneapolis, Catholic churches have closed or been consolidated into regional clusters. The chief reason is declining Mass attendance.
In New York, Mass attendance has fallen to European levels, around 15 percent on an average Sunday, according to The New York Times. In Boston, it is even lower, around 12 percent.
Nationwide, only 24 percent of Catholics go to Mass on an average Sunday, down from 55 percent in 1965.
Those are not my words, nor the words of someone trying to misrepresent the statistics to reflect badly on the Catholic Church, but the words of a Washington, DC Catholic priest of some twenty years standing, Fr. Peter Daly, writing in the National Catholic Reporter.
He goes on to say:
Our parish is doing a little better than the national average on Mass attendance. We see about 30 to 35 percent of our members on an average Sunday. We have 1,100 to 1,200 people at our five Sunday Masses (four in English and one in Spanish).
Who comes? Generally, it's the elderly, little children and their parents.
Who doesn't come? Young adults, ages 18 to 40, especially if they are single.
We follow the typical pattern. Except in some very unusual parishes like Old St. Patrick's in downtown Chicago or St. Mary's in College Station, Texas, young adults are the missing ingredient in parish life nearly everywhere.
Fr. Daly then lists the reasons people gave for non-attendance given by those who bothered to turn up to a meeting called to discuss the problem. Only about 40 of the 500 18-40 year-old invited, attended, and about half of those were regular attenders anyway, some even being in the choir. Never-the-less, the reasons given were interesting and overwhelmingly confirm the increasing irrelevance of the Church to their lives, as the church fails to adapt to modern humanist morals and ethics and becomes increasingly hamstrung by it's inflexible dogma, afraid to concede even the smallest movement lest the entire faith comes crashing down.
Surprisingly, there is no mention of the child abuse and financial scandals in which so many diocese find themselves embroiled in the USA. This has certainly been a major factor in the decline of Catholicism in once-staunchly Catholic European countries such as Ireland and Spain. Perhaps those present just felt this subject is still too sensitive to talk about openly.
Amongst the commonest reasons were the treatment of gays and lesbians and the way these are made to feel unwelcome.
The No. 1 issue by far, which came up over and over again, was the Catholic church's treatment of lesbians and gays. Everyone, conservative or liberal, disagreed with the church on that.
One young lady wrote me a note, saying, "Being gay is NOT a choice. [Emphasis hers.] Many of my friends are gay. I want to bring my gay friends to church -- but they do not feel accepted."
One young man, a lawyer, said the Catholic church is the "most sexist and homophobic institution of significance in our culture." He noted that there is no discussion of issues like women's ordination in the church. It is just not to be discussed. He felt the church just dismissed women's opinions.
You say that all are welcome, but that is not true. Gays are not welcome. Catholics are the most judgmental group," she said. "If you don't follow all the precepts, you are excluded." She also cited our treatment of divorced and remarried Catholics.
Another was the Catholic Church's outmoded doctrine on birth control:
A young mother in her 30s with four children was upset about birth control. She spoke of moving back to our community after a decade of living elsewhere. Her first Sunday back, she was confronted by a woman about natural family planning. She was told she was not in a state of grace because she was using birth control. She felt the church's teaching on birth control was unrealistic.
Yet another was the frank dishonesty of the Catholic Church:
One woman, a Ph.D. candidate in the natural sciences, said she felt that her questions and doubts about the Bible, especially about science, were not answered. She said no one has really dealt with the "inaccuracies" in the Bible. She said there are many contractions in the Scriptures. "Moses was a murderer," she said. All the war and killing in the Scriptures in the name of God bothered her. It was like terrorism today. She did not see how we could leave out the unpleasant parts and only read the nice things in church. It seemed dishonest to her.
He [a lawyer] also said there is a complete lack of accountability for what is said from the pulpit. He cited in detail statements made by a priest at another parish regarding Obamacare and birth control. He said the statements were simply factually false, and no one held the priest accountable. He wrote to the archdiocese and not receive a reply.
But perhaps the most gratifying comment of all came from Fr. Daly himself:
There was some real anger shown. One young man walked out after accusing us of hypocrisy...
If our young adults are typical of formerly Catholic young adults, then we are in deep trouble. Will there be another generation of Catholics? I'm not sure. [My emphasis]
No, Fr. Daly!
Those people were not typical. The typical ones were the 460 (over 90%) who didn't bother to turn up. We can only guess at their reasons but the huge and accelerating rise in non-belief, especially in that 18-40 target age group must be a major factor. This is the generation that is currently rearing the next generation and the evidence shows that children reared in non-believing households overwhelmingly become non-believing adults, whereas those raised in religious households are those currently deconverting at the rate of some 1-2% a year and increasing.
The reason for this, as can be seen behind most of those reasons given, is actually the increasing disconnect between the Medieval repressive, misogynistic, homophobic, autocratic dogmas the Catholic Church is firmly anchored in and the enlightened humanism that modern, developed, democratic and egalitarian societies need. Humanity is taking back responsibility for it moral and ethical progress and is increasingly denying it the right to do this for us which the Christian Church abrogated to itself in an attempt to control people in the final days of the crumbling Roman Empire.
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