Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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More evidence of decline

October 26th, 2013, Promulgated by Mike

An article over at religionnews.com provides us with more evidence of the decline in Catholicism in the United States.

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Referring to the above graphic the article notes that

In 1970, there were 426,000 marriages in U.S. Catholic churches — a full 20 percent of all U.S. marriages that year. By contrast, in 2011, there were 164,000 such weddings — only 8 percent of all marriages. But in both years, Catholics were 23 percent of the national population.

Catholic baptism rates fell at a parallel pace — from just more than 1 million baptisms in 1970 down to 793,103 baptisms in 2011.

Put another way, the drop in Catholic marriages over the 41 year period from 1970 to 2011 was 60% while baptisms fell 31% – and all the while the Catholic population remained steady at 23%.

Entire article here.

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58 Responses to “More evidence of decline”

  1. avatar gaudium says:

    It’s the “all about me” phenomenon. Even many people of faith will go to church because it floats their boat, because they get something out of it. Utilitarianism gone amok. If church (or a church wedding or a baptism) doesn’t “do” something, the modern person is uninterested. If a wedding — and, let’s face it, there’s fewer of those no matter what the stripe — is more fun, beautiful, exciting, interesting on a Caribbean island, a mountain top, a park, or while sky diving, than a church, then what’s the point of a church wedding? If the church building is particularly beautiful, historic, interesting, prestigious, then let’s go for the church wedding. These particular signs of decline are caused by the same spiritual dynamics as the empty pew phenomenon.

    I’ve heard a number of people talk about what could be called remnant theory — that a remnant of dedicated/devout/orthodox/etc folks is what we should expect and we shouldn’t fret so much about the numbers. What do all of you think? Is this defeatist? Does it show a lack of faith? Or is it just reality, a sign of the times and somehow within God’s great plan? “When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?” A prophecy or a plaintive cry?

  2. avatar Mike says:

    gaudium,

    Re remnant theory: If one defines a faithful Catholic as one who accepts all that the Church proposes for our belief and who does his best to live his life accordingly, then recent surveys (see here, for example) have revealed that the number of faithful Catholics is quite small (less than 1 in 5) in comparison to the number of self-identified Catholics. I guess we could call that a remnant.

    However, I don’t think we can just hunker down and not “fret so much about the numbers.” We have an obligation to spread the Good News and our audience should include not only people of other faiths or no faith but also our brother and sister Catholics who are less than completely faithful.

    With regard to that latter group, the data indicates that the problem is not so much a willful denial of fully understood Church teaching (although I’m sure there is some of that), but rather a lack of knowledge about and/or understanding of that teaching. In other words, the problem is largely a lack of proper catechesis.

    For instance, the 2008 CARA survey linked to above reveals that 57% of self-identified Catholics believe in the Real Presence, yet only 23% of them attend Mass weekly or more often. That tells me that roughly a third (57% – 23% = 34%) of the Catholics in this country are prime candidates for instruction on the importance of weekly Mass attendance. It also tells me that our priests will have a difficult time getting the message to these people, as many of them are not in the pews on anything like a regular basis. That leaves reaching out to them pretty much up to us.

  3. avatar gaudium says:

    I think that Universalism is held by almost everyone. I’ve heard the comment, “Well, at least now he’s in heaven,” after someone has committed suicide and have heard priests say at funerals that the deceased was now in heaven when such a conclusion was quite questionable. If true, why worry? Anyone adhering to a remnant theory should still have a “burden for souls,” as our Baptist friends like to say. It should hurt to see so many straying from the faith and being in danger of losing their salvation.

  4. avatar Scott W. says:

    I’ve heard the comment, “Well, at least now he’s in heaven,”

    Yes, I’ve never cared for that comment either. I can’t count how many times someone tells us “don’t judge!” where I suspect these same people would say “Ohh, he’s in Heaven now.” I’ve even heard a priest from the sanctuary say on the announcement of someone’s death, “Oh I think he went straight to Heaven and didn’t have to bother with that Purgatory stuff.” How is that not judgement properly belonging to God alone? What’s wrong with “Please God have mercy on him.”?

  5. avatar Mike says:

    gaudium,

    I’ve attended perhaps a half dozen Catholic funerals in the last 3 years and heard the same thing at all of them. One of those funerals was for a baptized 2-year old, so I had no problem there. The others were for adults and, even assuming they all died in a state of grace, I question how the priest could know they either skipped purgatory entirely or had a very short stay.

    Yes, I know that our understanding of time probably doesn’t apply to the next life. But whenever I hear one of those “instant canonizations” I can’t help but recall the answer Our Lady of Fatima gave to Lucia when she asked about one of her deceased friends (a girl of about 18-20, according to Lucia’s memoir): “She will be in purgatory until the end of the world.”

    These “instant canonizations” do not do the deceased any favors: Those who do not know better will not see the need to pray for their loved one to help shorten their stay in purgatory.

  6. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Regarding “More Evidence of Decline”, Mike’s statistics do provide evidence of a decline. In what precisely is the decline? Celebration of Catholic Sacraments. Yet the decline indicates something more substantial than numbers of celebrations.

    For many years, even with affirmation from recent popes who have discussed how Catholics can be sacramentalized without ever having been evangelized, I have sensed that just because some one has been initiated into the faith (baptism, confirmation, eucharist/holy communion), no assumptions should be made regarding anyone’s committed discipleship to Christ. Even regular attendance at Holy Mass does not automatically indicate heartfelt worship and heartfelt assistance at Mass, the source and summit of the Christian life.

    Where am I going with this in light of the statistics offered above as evidence of decline?

    The Secular Culture has done a much more effective job of evangelizing the faithful than the Church has. Those statistics manifest, at the very least, that active participation in the sacramental life of the Church is not the number one priority in the lives of a majority of the baptized. And unless radical reform is undertaken the decline in numbers will continue as even those who are regular in Church attendance become increasingly vulnerable to the culture which is winning more than the Church.

    But is it just a matter of better catechesis and instruction? Catechesis and instruction that includes evangelization and faith formation which emphazise Christ, encountering him, following him and sharing him MUST be part and parcel of the better catechetical instruction.

    So all of us who are committed to Christ in His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church have our work cut out for us. My first recommendation, which I have already made to priests every opportunity available, is that preparation for celebration of the sacrament(s){especially for Holy Matrimony} must include intentional discipleship making. The Sacrament of Matrimony is for those disciples of the Son of God who have experienced the Lord’s saving love for each of the couple who now manifest that love of the bridegroom for the bride in their own love to which they will give public witness at the exchange of vows.

    Sure priests and pre-cana ministers must emphasize weekly assistance at Holy Mass for the couples as part of their preparation for Holy Matrimony and marriage at the parish. Yet, something more must be articulated, illustrated, experienced and cultivated. Committed discipleship to Jesus Christ through Catholic celebrations of both Word and Sacrament! Nothing less is good enough and everything less makes couples very vulnerable to the secularizing influences of the culture.

    There is a crisis. More than a crisis in numbers, percentages, and drops there of; the crisis is a crisis of faith, conversion, discipleship and commitment to the Son of God, to his Church, to her mission and to the salvation of souls.

    Thank you, Mike, for these statistics. May all of this evidence, the statistics provided and the theory I have articulated, inspire us to do the work of the ministry whatever our state in life may be.

    Thank you for allowing me to share.

  7. avatar Diane Harris says:

    A friend of mine, who won’t mind my using his name, Frank O’Connor, met with the priest who would say his funeral Mass during his last days. He chose readings (one from Maccabees, e.g.) which emphasized the need to pray for the dead, the fear and trembling with which we work out our salvation, and Jesus’ affirming the truth of hell fire, and other readings to witness especially to non-Catholic attendees the reality of Purgatory. He instructed that no one say he was in heaven; he believed that Purgatory would be a great gift to him, and was prepared to offer his suffering there as a gift to God. And he hoped it would encourage Masses for his soul. He was “evangelizing” past his death! I say: “God bless Frank.”

  8. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    And we can place the blame on the clergy who swallowed the Kool Aid after Vatican II and many of whom are still swallowing it.

    The ramifications spell BIG trouble. Watch the segment on Church Militant TV. Is a few years there will be only a small remnant remaining. Many more Catholic Churches and schools will close. The influence of the Church on the culture will also decrease

  9. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Off topic? Maybe not.

    With church leaders dodging both preaching on intrinsic evils and on enforcing the Church’s rules, with the government ditching the constitutional rulebook on which the US had survived and thrived for over 2 centuries, I’m glad to see that at least Major League Baseball continues to know and enforce it’s own rule book, and even understands what is an obstruction to the ultimate goal. Now here’s a simple reflection for the return to better times: just follow the rules!

    OK, I set myself up on this one 🙂 just for your enjoyment on a beautiful Sunday in October.

    Go NYY next year!

  10. avatar Scott W. says:

    Off topic?

    Hail No. There are lots of lessons to be learned from collapse and recovery in secular phenomena. I was just watching “Kitchen Nightmares” on Netflix and while, yes, it’s classic sensationalistic “reality” TV, I was struck by how the management of a failing restaurant can ignore so much reality around them. Chef Ramsay can force them to look at the rotten food, the roaches, and the rat droppings, and all he gets are blank stares. He usually turns it around because he forces them to wake up, but something similar goes on in AmChurch, but no one in charge is around for force people out of their fantasy world.

    Where is our Bishop Ramsay with “Parish Nightmares”?

  11. avatar y2kscotty says:

    At a funeral I do NOT want to hear anything about Purgatory and sin. And – especially when the deceased had taken his own life! I heard that at a funeral just a few years ago and I was appalled! The whole sermon was that the punishment due to the deceased’s sin (everyone there knew that it was a suicide) would be removed in Purgatory! It was clear to me and some others that an assumption ( a judgement, perhaps?) was made that the deceased had sinned grievously (committed an intrinsic evil?) and deserved the suffering of Purgatory. Frankly I would have preferred to hear that God’s mercy and love will enfold him.

  12. avatar Scott W. says:

    You are right that speculation about one’s fate before the judgement seat is likely inappropriate at a funeral. As the Catechism says, (2283) “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”

    On the other hand, it needs to be clearly taught (especially in this age of creeping “euthanasia”) that suicide as an act in and of itself is gravely evil: 2281 “Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.”

  13. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    Regarding “More Evidence of Decline”, Mr. Ralph Martin (Director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit and Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization) recently published a booklet on the reasons for evangelizing.

    On page 7 of this 2013 publication entitled, “The New Evangelization WHY BOTHER?, our brother Ralph writes: THE COLLAPSE OF CHRISTIAN SOCIETY IS BEING EXPERIENCED IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AS A ‘wake-up-call’ TO THE NEED FOR A RENEWAL OF FERVOR, BOTH FOR HOLINESS AND FOR EVANGELIZATION, ROOTED IN THE CONTINUING REALITY OF PENTECOST.”

    Mike’s statistics and all of this post’s comments point to this collapse being experienced in Christ’s Catholic Church.

    Will the Lord find faith on the earth when he returns?

    My confident hope is that He will find us (who have been awakened) fully committed to Vatican II’s call to holiness and to mission.

    Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

  14. avatar gaudium says:

    y2kscotty,

    I certainly was not implying that, in the case of a funeral for someone who committed suicide, that there should be some sort of emphasis on sin and damnation. I was making a reference to how people in general are such universalists that they think everyone is going to heaven no matter what. We need to always emphasize the need for everyone to turn to the Lord for mercy and not to wait for funerals to do so. If we read today’s Gospel, we see that the tax collector who acknowledged his sin was justified and not the Pharisee who felt he was just alright. “I’m okay, you’re okay” doesn’t get anyone into heaven.

  15. avatar JLo says:

    Reading all the posts this morning brings two things to my mind that I would share: like Mike, I think of that item from Fatima about the 18 year old girl being in purgatory until the end of time. It has always stayed with me… what could a young girl in 1917 Portugal have done so awful to warrant an entire age in purgatory?! It drove home then (and now) that most likely self-love and lack of love for others, selfishness, is quite possibly the answer, and that has always put me on alert that the big, obvious mortal sins that we don’t have to accuse ourselves of are not the only roads to purgatory (and hell?).

    Secondly, I notice in the obits each day that most Catholic listings ask for donations to this or that, and I ask myself why they don’t all ask for Holy Masses for the diseased! Donations to Lolly Pop Farm will do a soul no good! Have all Catholics also lost the knowledge of the power of a Holy Mass… especially while living, but also when dead.

    Thanks all for sharing and letting me. God bless.
    +JMJ

  16. avatar Nerina says:

    Mike, I had not heard the comment about Lucia’s friend – purgatory until the end of days?! That is a sobering thought and one with which I will wrestle today. Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!

    Great post, by the way. The numbers do not lie. As more anecdotal evidence, I teach a 5th grade religion class of 10 students. When I asked them “okay, who remembers the readings from Sunday Mass? Who went this weekend?” not a single student raised his or her hand. A couple offered the reason “my parents say we’re too busy to go.” Sad state of affairs indeed.

  17. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Has anyone heard of the Gregorian Masses. It is a series of 30 masses said for the deceased every day for a month. A priest friend of mine told me that removes the punishment for sins and brings souls into heaven from Purgatory.

    It costs $300. What a wonderful thing to do for a deceased friend or loved one.

    You can google Gregorian Masses. It is run by the Society for the Propagation of the faith (Catholic Missions Office) out of Chicago.

  18. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Do you want to hear something ridiculous. I have a vert intelligent friend, a fallen away Catholic, who recently suffered a stroke during heart surgery. His memory and thought processes are effected and he is depressed. He is talking of suicide.

    I called the local priest and asked if he would visit him. The priest told me that unless the man indicated on his hospital admission that he wanted a priest, it was a HIPPA voilation for him to visit the man.

    Crazy. Keep him in your prayers. Maybe if things continue someone can broach to him the possibility of seeing a priest.

  19. avatar Scott W. says:

    I called the local priest and asked if he would visit him. The priest told me that unless the man indicated on his hospital admission that he wanted a priest, it was a HIPPA voilation for him to visit the man.

    Crazy.

    I think I can understand this policy if we consider the prospect of a Catholic loved one in hospice and having fundamentalists showing up to browbeat him to leave the Whore of Babylon before it’s too late. I think the only solution is to visit him yourself and asking him to add priestly permission, or communicate with his family members to do so.

  20. avatar Mike says:

    Nerina,

    According to this article which cites published sources,

    Father Sebastião Martins dos Reis, who researched about Amelia, informs us that she died in circumstances involving dishonor in matters of chastity. When Father McGlynn, O.P., interviewing Sister Lucia, showed surprise at the word by Our Lady that the girl would be in Purgatory to the end of the world, the Fatima seer recalled that others go to hell for all eternity because of a single mortal sin, something incomparably more tragic than staying in Purgatory until the end of the world.

    Re religious ed students: A few years ago I had 9 kids in a Monday evening 8th grade class – all baptized Catholics and most of them also in Confirmation class – and I, too, was surprised how few were familiar with the past weekend’s readings, so I asked how often they attended Mass.

    Two of those kids attended regularly with their families, another attended only when it was her turn to serve, and the other six showed up on Christmas and Easter – if it wasn’t too inconvenient.

    I’ve since switched to Sunday religious ed (our parish offers both) which begins shortly after the end of the 10:00 am Mass. Now most of my kids are fairly regular Mass attendees.

  21. avatar Scott W. says:

    That’s a good anecdote Mike, and a reminder that one can’t really receive and understand the Good News the and depths of God’s love without acknowledging the reality of sin and Hell. A choice between Purgatory until the end of the world and eternity in Hell is a no-brainer, but sweeping the Four Last Things under the rug for fear of offense is literally no brains, no wisdom, no prudence, no genuine love of God or neighbor, etc.

  22. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    Any guesses as to why parents would take their kids to religious ed, but not mass? Do kids regularly attend the religious ed classes or is their attendance there spotty as well?

  23. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    “sweeping the Four Last Things under the rug for fear of offense is literally no brains, no wisdom, no prudence, no genuine love of God or neighbor”

    AMEN

    ….and ” no faith, no hope, no fidelity to Christ..”

  24. avatar Mike says:

    Ben,

    My guess (and my DRE concurs) is that it’s pressure/encouragement/nagging coming from grandparents or other family members to get the kids “sacramentalized” which, at the age I’m dealing with (junior high), means Confirmation. At my parish you cannot enroll in Confirmation class unless you’re already attending a Catholic school or are in the religious ed program.

    This is my 10th year as a catechist and I’ve pretty much seen the same pattern every year: Good-to-excellent attendance in the fall semester followed by a slow tapering off to 50-60% by the end of the spring semester.

  25. avatar sydwynd says:

    “A priest friend of mine told me that removes the punishment for sins and brings souls into heaven from Purgatory.

    It costs $300. What a wonderful thing to do for a deceased friend or loved one.”

    So my loved ones can buy me a spot in Heaven for just $300! What a sweet deal!

    I have a real problem with things like this. I’m all for having Masses said and praying for the deceased. But the idea that we can get ourselves or a loved one into Heaven by following some formula, paying a fee, or making some sort of bargain with God is just plain wrong.

  26. avatar Scott W. says:

    I have a real problem with things like this.

    It seemed odd to me as well, so I checked it out. It turns out that the Gregorian Mass is actually 30 Masses, or $10 a Mass. They should word this a little better and more clearly indicate that the donor’s donation is helping the mission work and recouping the expenses for the Mass (sacramental wine, communion wafers, candles, etc.) because as it is it sounds a little too close to “Get out of Purgatory for $300!”

  27. avatar Jim says:

    I also taught religious education for ten years, (on a Sunday morning) to mostly fourth and fifth graders. A lot of them were in class, but did not regularly attend weekend Masses. They all gave the same reasons: my parents don’t go, so I don’t either, or I can’t get a ride to go there. A lot of the parents would drop the children off to class, then go home and not attend Mass themselves. I realized early on that, because of the poor religious environment at home, the most that I could do for these young students was to plant seeds in them and hope and pray that someday they would take root!

  28. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Sorry. Those aren’t my intentions. My desire is simply to expiate one’s sufferings. The pains of Purgatory are just as bad as hell, except they are only temporary. Who is to say that the torments of someone for 30 days aren’t equivalent to sufferings for 1000 years.

    I do this hoping for God’s mercy. This is not paying a fee. I want to act in God’s standards and keep human opinion at a minimum.

  29. avatar Mike says:

    Jim,

    “Planting seeds.” That’s what my DRE reminds me we’re doing every time I got a little frustrated at the lack of seriousness (for lack of a better word) some of my kids and/or their parents occasionally display. And she’s right, of course.

    If someone hadn’t done some “seed planting” with me back in the day I wonder if I would have made it back to the Church after 30 or so years wandering in the wilderness.

  30. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    If someone hadn’t done some “seed planting” with me back in the day I wonder if I would have made it back to the Church after 30 or so years wandering in the wilderness.

    count me in there as well.

    I’m just curious – does everyone who wants to get “their sacraments” get them? Certainly it’s good to plant seeds and it’s a good opportunity to do that… but I’m just curious if there is a discussion around whether kids ought to get the sacraments if there isn’t a firm commitment to live the life of a faithful Catholic? Is there any sort of process to affirm sincerity of heart?

  31. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Sometimes parents want their children to receive the sacraments as a status symbol. Why aren’t the people in charge of these things asking the parents critical questions concerning the religious life of the parents?

    I think we need tough love.

  32. avatar Nerina says:

    Mike and Jim, I try to take the long view when teaching. I often repeat the mantra about planting seeds, but this year I seem to be less confident. I think most of the seeds are being thrown on concrete especially if the kids aren’t getting to Mass or receiving the Sacarament of Penance. Then, again, I think of Mother Theresa’s guiding words “God doesn’t call us to be successful, just faithful.”

  33. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    ” does everyone who wants to get “their sacraments’ (is there) a discussion around whether kids ought to get the sacraments if there isn’t a firm commitment to live the life of a faithful Catholic? Is there any sort of process to affirm sincerity of heart?”

    These questions posed by Ben are spot on.

    To deny is one thing, to delay quite another.
    If there is no evidence of committed discipleship
    to Christ in his Catholic Church, delaying
    sacramental celebration seems appropriate, in
    harmony with the witness of Sacred Scripture
    and fidelity to the Word of Grace.

    Oh that pastoral staffs would have such courage
    of conviction and commitment to the Son of God.

    Go, therefore,* and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,
    teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.* And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

  34. avatar Scott W. says:

    Is there any sort of process to affirm sincerity of heart?

    When I was a HS catechist, I always started by reminding the students prepping for confirmation not to do it just because it was expected of them, and if they didn’t want to, I’d be in their corner when it came time to confront the family about it. I had one student who said he didn’t see the point of confirmation and exhibited a kind of Protestant take on things, so without any pressure or browbeating from me or my teachers, we told him he shouldn’t take the sacrament. He had a change of heart which I had no reason to doubt the sincerity of, so he did get confirmed, but I think people actually appreciate a policy of “If you don’t believe it, don’t do it.”

  35. avatar sydwynd says:

    When my wife and I taught baptism prep, our big mantra was leading by example. We encouraged parents to take their children to Mass and not worry about them being fussy or whatever. We also encouraged them to show their children their faith in the small things. Not just attending Mass, but saying grace before meals, saying prayers, etc. Our thought was that if your faith is important to you, then the best way for your kids to know is to show it to them. We’ve always been honest with our kids and talked about matters of faith and putting current events in the context of our faith. So far (they’re in high school) they still come to Mass with us every week and don’t complain about it. Hopefully the seeds have been sufficiently planted so that when they’re adults they can continue down their personal journey of faith and grow more deeply in it.

  36. avatar Jim says:

    @ Ben, Richard and Mike…That was always the problem and discussion with the teachers I worked with: Are these children serious about the sacraments and were they ready to receive them? A lot of us agreed “no they were not”, but for the pastor in charge, it was diocesan business as usual…they went through the classes, so bring on the bishop to Confirm them. It drove us crazy. We knew a lot of these children weren’t even close to making a commitment to the Church.

  37. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Jim,
    How frustrating.

  38. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    The Commitment to the Lord Christ in His Catholic Church that any pastoral leader must expect and prayerfully work for during sacramental preparation must be age specific. None of us, for example, can expect 7 or 8 year old candidates for First Holy Communion to make an adult commitment. Teenage candidates for confirmation can be expected only to make ‘teenage’ commitments.

    But isn’t that the seed planting to which we have been alluding?

    As we raise these children in the nurture and admonition of the Catholic Faith in the Son of God (emphasizing and celebrating Word and Sacrament) we can prayerfully trust they will not depart from that spiritual cultivation. And if they depart, they will return, Lord willing.

    Father John Riccardo the pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Plymouth, Michigan has given testimony to sacramental preparation fruitfulness. If I recall correctly, Father Riccardo and his sacramental preparation staff took both teenage confirmation candidates and then later RCIA catechumens and candidates to retreats wherein the Blessed Sacrament was exposed the whole weekend.

    Focused on intentional disciple making, this priest/pastor reminds me of what George Weigel wrote in “Evangelical Catholicism”. Riccardo knows that exposure to Jesus Christ Himself facilitates genuine conversion. All of the teens, all of the RCIA participants were welcome to spend hours before the Blessed Sacrament, in both group and personal settings.

    The result? The call to ‘drop your nets’ (like John and James who dropped their nets, left their father’s business to follow the Savior Christ)was heard, believed, understood and actualized by the candidates for the sacraments.

    The questions for later, of course, include: “now where are those confirmands and fully initiated”? “Are they still actively participating in the sacramental life of the Church?” “Are they now fully engaged in the mission of the Church proclaiming the Good News of Grace in Christ and making disciples themselves?”

    From deep in my heart, I am convinced the radical evangelical Catholic reform of the Church {of which George Weigel wrote and gave testimony) is a possible remedy to stem the decline and foster the fruitfulness to which the Lord Jesus Christ calls us.

    Thank you to all of you catechists who have sacrificially served to help spread The Faith and to help form us in that faith.

  39. avatar BigE says:

    Theologically, confirmation isn’t meant to only be a sign of Christian maturity. In fact, for most of it’s early history, it was administered at the same time as baptism, even for infants, as part of the sacrament of initiation (I believe in the Eastern Orthodox Church, all 3 sacraments of initiation are still done together at the Baptism Rite…)

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit.” (1285)

    So IMHO, confirmation is more about what the Holy Spirit does to the candidate, as opposed to what the candidate does for the Holy Spirit or the Church (although there is certainly an element of the latter).

    So if kids aren’t totally committed, or have doubts, but are willing to receive the Sacrament – I say let the Holy Spirit do his/her work.

  40. avatar Mike says:

    “I’m just curious – does everyone who wants to get “their sacraments” get them?”

    While I’m not directly involved I do know that our junior high kids – and their parents – are told that they can wait a year or more if they feel they are not ready. And it seems that every year some decide to do just that, as we almost always have a small number of high schoolers making the trek to Sacred Heart to receive Confirmation along with a much larger number of younger kids.

  41. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    BigE, can you address the importance of
    internal disposition to celebrating a sacrament?

    While ex opere operato is a valid point in
    sacramental administration and reception,
    what part does one’s preparation for celebration
    and reception play?

    These reflections have been prompted by the statement:
    ” confirmation is more about what the Holy Spirit does to the candidate, as opposed to what the candidate does for the Holy Spirit or the Church”

  42. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Here’s a powerful sermon explaining the current crisis in the Church. I wish there were priests like this man locally.

    https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#inbox/14205d51fb199e1d

  43. avatar BigE says:

    Dominick,
    Certainly internal disposition is important. But so to is trusting in the Spirit. That was my point.

  44. avatar Mike says:

    Richard Thomas,

    You posted a gmail link that results in an error message: “The conversation that you requested no longer exists.”

    Have you got a link to the site where the sermon is located?

  45. avatar Mike says:

    Thanks, Richard. That is a powerful sermon with some excellent points.

    Any idea who the priest is?

  46. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Vorheis makes an interesting comment. He says Christ is always with His Church but not necessarily with the Church in America. If the Church in America is promoting heresy, remaining silent on birth control and homosexuality, giving money to Culture of Death organizations as exempified by the Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Relief Services, how can He bless this. No he won’t. Instead perhaps all this has to die a slow death. When the true Church resurfaces, then His blessings will again come upon Her.

  47. avatar y2kscotty says:

    Richard – Christ is with the Church in America. The Vortex is wrong. I think it’s terrible that he would say anything like that. Does he really believe that Christ is not with American Catholics? Why do we listen to such claptrap?

  48. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    All I am saying and questioning is ‘How can Christ support such a dysfunctional church”? I don’t think any efforts of evangelization will be successful. Why would he allow such a dysfunctional church to grow and prosper. If such a church would succeed, there would be no stimulus to change. So the Church is dying a slow death. Now I don’t mean eternal death but the remnants of heresy and dysfunction must either change or die out. When true teaching, liturgy and faith formation arise, then I would think such a Church would grow and prosper.

  49. avatar Mike says:

    y2kscotty,

    Jesus guaranteed that he would be with his Church until the end of time, but he never guaranteed that individual dioceses (also known as particular churches) or even large groups of adjacent dioceses would survive that long.

    For example, at one time there was a large number of fully functioning dioceses spread across North Africa, each complete with its own bishop, priests, churches and laity. Then Islam spread across the area, driving out, killing or converting almost all those Christians and reducing those particular churches to dioceses in name only. Most if not all of them continued to be listed in the Church records, but with the designation in partibus infidelium (“in the lands of the unbelievers”) following their names.

    So was Christ with those particular churches in North Africa? Of course he was, but not in the sense that his being with them would guarantee their survival.

    And if that could happen in North Africa I see no reason why – given the right circumstances – it could not happen anywhere else in the world, including America.

    I think that’s the point Voris was trying to make.

  50. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Wasn’t North Africa at the time of the Muslems rife with heresy. There were the Coptic CHristians, the Arians and a slew of other thriving heretetical sects

  51. avatar Mike says:

    Richard,

    Good point. And, if I remember correctly, the Pelagians also had a good foothold in North Africa up until the Islamic conquest.

  52. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    Just be careful lumping the Coptic Church in with Arians. AFAIK, Coptic Christianity is nearly identical to our Catholic beliefs, in spite of them breaking away rather early on. Apostolic authority remains.

  53. avatar Mike says:

    Ben,

    From Wikipedia

    The near-immediate result of the council [of Chalcedon (451 AD)] was a major schism. The bishops that were uneasy with the language of Pope Leo’s Tome repudiated the council, saying that the acceptance of two physes was tantamount to Nestorianism. Dioscorus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, advocated miaphysitism [i.e., that Jesus has one nature, but that nature is still of both a divine character and a human character, and retains all the characteristics of both] and had dominated the Council of Ephesus. Churches that rejected Chalcedon in favor of Ephesus broke off from the rest of the Church in a schism, the most significant among these being the Church of Alexandria, today known as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

    In more recent times (mid-18th century, if memory serves) some Coptic Christians resolved their differences with Rome and are now in full communion.

  54. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    I just pray that all become one

  55. avatar flowerchild says:

    I was curious about whether this decline was Catholic-specific, or more universal and widespread into other denominations.
    I spoke with an old family friend who happens to be pastor of a Protestant Church in the Pittsburgh area. He said they have experienced a moderate decline (less than 20%) in baptisms and marriages in the church in the past 2 decades, but an increase in funerals. About half of these funerals are for people who used to attend regularly when their children were young, but for various reasons (age, infirmity, Steeler’s season tickets) no longer did.
    Interestingly enough, though, there is a small increase in membership and attendance among the single, 20- and 30-something’s who are seeking a more spiritually fulfilling life. This increased interest has also created the desire for bible study and discussion groups focusing on a deeper understanding of their religion. And, this year the number of marriages celebrated in the church has increased by about 15%. He sees this as a very positive sign for the future.

  56. avatar Jim says:

    @flowerchild: “If you feed people spiritually, they will come.” This should be a wake up call to all Catholic pastors and priests who want to see their Sunday attendance increase: Feed the people with the Word of God, and not fluff from the pulpit. I have so many friends at work and at home, who left the Catholic Chuch (in this diocese) and now attend Evangelical or “Born Again” churches. The reason they told me? They are now being fed with the scriptures and the Word of God, and were tired of unchallenging, mundane, non-Christ centered sermons and constantly being asked for money!

  57. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    on the topic of funerals:

    http://www.vermontcatholic.org/index.php?sid=5&pid=842&subnav_id=107

    Welcome to The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano!!!

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