September 26

The “hidden exodus” of Catholics from the Catholic Church, Part II

first_imgPhoto credit: telegraph.co.ukBefore reviewing the Pew research data further, a word of clarification about my remarks on Catholic identity. A friend of mine remarked to me that the issue of identity can hardly be regarded or dismissed as ‘academic,’ as I put it. My choice of expression was not the best. I did not mean to imply that concerns about identity were unimportant. Let me explain.Every list of marks of Catholic identity starts with ‘sacramentality.’  This means that Catholics tend to think of or imagine reality in the way the sacraments signify their referents. Thus bread is the sacrament of Christ’s body; wine the sacrament of his blood. Oil has its own special referent, and so do the host of ‘sacramentals’ familiar to Catholics — crosses, medals, rosaries, holy water, etc. The referents are for the most part supernatural realities.  Things in the natural sphere, in other words, are made to signify realities in a realm quite beyond their reach. That’s the Catholic ‘mode’ of thinking.The toll that greater secularization today takes on the religious consciousness lies in just this area. The signifying power of sacramentals is now considerably diminished, if not sometimes completely absent. This is why on special occasions liturgy is often so didactic. We have to keep explaining what this action or symbol ‘means’. “Now I’m going to pour water on the baby’s head, and what this means is…” We have to keep speaking and explaining because the actions or symbols no longer speak for themselves.  Signification is silent or mute.I do not see much point in talking about identity when the more important question is the underlying lack of signifying power — and that, to my mind, is the connection with absence in our churches.At any rate, that is how I look at the matter.  The Pew research diverges from me at this point, as I said. I wonder, as I will say later, how far its conclusions can equivalently apply to us.The reasons given for leaving in the Pew data have little to with disagreement over the Church’s position on today’s hot button issues: abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and so on. The percentage of those who leave over these issues ranges from 16 to 23%.Catholics leave because the Church does not meet their spiritual needs; they find interest in the Bible and the Protestant worship service more attractive. Further, those who become Protestant are not lax or indifferent Catholics. In fact, they attend worship services at a higher rate than those who remain Catholic – 63% to 42% in respect of weekly attendance.Seventy-one percent of Catholics who become Protestant also say that their faith is stronger than when they were children or teenagers, compared with forty-two percent of those remaining Catholic.  Thus, Reese concludes, “both as believers and as worshipers, Catholics who become Protestants are statistically better Christians than those who stay Catholic. We are losing the best, not the worst.”This covers the substance of Reese’s account.  The main lessons from the data in his estimation are three: First, those leaving are more concerned with spiritual nourishment than with doctrine.  “Tinkering with the wording of the creed at Mass is not going to help. No one except the Vatican and the bishops cares whether Jesus is ‘one in being’ with the Father or ‘consubstantial’ with the Father… People are longing for liturgies that touch the heart and emotions.”Secondly, “thanks to Pope Pius XII, Catholic scripture scholars have had decades to produce the best thinking on scripture in the world. That Catholics are leaving to join evangelical churches because of attention to the Bible is a disgrace. Too few homilists explain the scriptures to their people…If we could get Catholics to read the Sunday scripture readings each week before they come to Mass, it would be revolutionary. If you do not read and pray the scriptures, you are not an adult Christian. Catholics who become evangelicals understand this.”Finally, “the data shows that two-thirds of Catholics who become Protestants do so before they reach the age of 24. The church must make a preferential option for teenagers and young adults or it will continue to bleed… Current religious education programs and teen groups appear to have little effect on keeping these folks Catholic…although those who attend a Catholic high school do appear to stay at a higher rate.”How much of this research applies to us is difficult to say. Of course, we too know the experience of exodus. We do not yet, however, have any real sense of why our ex-Catholics remain “unaffiliated,” as I feel many of them do. I also do not think that Catholics here leave to join evangelical Protestantism in quite the same large numbers. While it is true some Catholics have become Pentecostal, it’s difficult to guess how many or what percentage.The character of our liturgy is obviously something we must attend to. I would personally not emphasize that improvement should focus on a greater emotional register. My sense of our deficiency tends to go in other directions, for example, the lyrics and melodies of many of our hymns. The theology is often awful and the lyrics quite vacuous.  I also think that many of the Collects (Opening Prayers) at Mass make terrible sense as prayers. Liturgical language on the whole is quite pedestrian, and some of the Gospel passages allocated for weekday readings are chopped from larger texts in the strangest places. I say “chopped” because that’s the only way to describe it. It often makes preaching from one day to the next quite difficult.My overall conviction is that the lack in liturgical experience today is a sense of the sacred. I do not mean by this an absence of pious associations (or organ music). I mean that what we lack is a self-evident sense, vital as the air we breathe, that there’s a living connection between heaven and earth. That we do not have today. What we more often have are feelings of severance or absence. The result is flat, prosaic liturgy, which only generates (can only generate) flat, prosaic feeling.By: Father Henry Charles Ph. d Share Tweet FaithLifestyleLocalNews The “hidden exodus” of Catholics from the Catholic Church, Part II by: – July 3, 2011 Sharecenter_img 69 Views   no discussions Sharing is caring! Sharelast_img

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Posted September 26, 2020 by admin in category "yleblucm

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