Catholics: Some of our Members Are Wandering Away!

Catholic adults deserve the formation worthy of disciples—indeed, the defining mission of the Church is to preach the Gospel, and make disciples of all nations. 

The Catholic Church is not doing well in holding her own.  Of those Church members raised in the Church from childhood, a Pew Forum Study (Faith in Flux) found only about two-thirds (68 percent) of “Cradle Catholics” remain.  Of the one-third who leave the Church, about half leave and become Protestants, and about half leave and remain unaffiliated with any religion.  A small part (3 percent) of the cradle Catholics leave and join other religious groups (Buddhists, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.)  But, about one out of three “Cradle Catholics” leave!

The Church would be shrinking, were it not for immigration.  Those who have left the Church (over 10 percent of the American population are now “former Catholics”!) outnumber those who have become Catholic (2.6 percent of American adults come into the Church), by a margin of nearly four to one.  Only the immigration of Catholics has kept the Church in America from diminishing year by year.  Evangelical groups, meanwhile, are zealously working with the immigrant population to attract, to convert, and to keep them satisfied in a non-Catholic form of Christianity.

Here is a number from the Pew Study that I think ought to get our attention.  Of those who left the Church and became Protestant, 71 percent gave as a reason that their spiritual needs were not being met.  This was the most commonly given reason for this group.  How is it that spiritual needs are not being met, in the Catholic Church, formed and sent by Jesus himself, which is entrusted with the fullness of divinely revealed truth?  How can former Catholics find more to fill their spiritual needs, in denominations that have less of the spiritual food that God has given?  Something seriously wrong is happening.  Or maybe something seriously right and needed is not happening in the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church believes and teaches that the Sacred Liturgy is the “source and summit of the Christian life”!  We have just noted that of the one-third of Catholics—who were raised under this Church belief, and left the Church for Protestantism—71% left because their spiritual needs were not being met!  The overwhelming majority of those spiritually hungry former Catholics (78 percent) found their home in evangelical Protestantism, where Scripture reigns and sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”) is the dominant doctrine.  We Catholics ought–ought–to learn something from this.

 

One observation that I think we need to take seriously is the hunger for the Word of God among Catholics.  This hunger is a beautiful gift from God; it is a hunger in her children to which the Church is obliged as Mother to respond. Catholics ought not have to leave the Church, to find the beauty and power and presence of Christ in his holy Word.

A related matter is the Presence that the Church does strongly proclaim, and offer to her own: the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  Of course these issues are connected in the Church: in the Mass, we celebrate both the Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The table of the Word is offered; the Word is proclaimed in each Mass!

Indeed, the Liturgy of the Word precedes that of the Eucharist in the Mass. Just as in salvation history, the Word was given first in written form, before Christ, the Word, came in living form as a man.  First the words, then the living Word!  Adult Catholics today need to find Jesus—first in the words of Holy Scripture, spiritually—before they can fully know him and receive him by faith in his real, substantial and sacramental Presence in the Eucharist.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)

In a CARA study (Sacraments Today) at Georgetown University, the following question was asked the respondents: “Which of the following statements best agrees with your belief about the Eucharist/Holy Communion?”  Two possible responses were offered to choose from:

  1. “Jesus Christ is really present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.”
    In 2001, 63 percent chose this statement.  In 2008, 57 percent chose this.
  2. “Bread and wine are symbols of Jesus, but Jesus is not really present.”
    In 2001, 37 percent chose this statement.  In 2008, 43 percent chose this.

Setting aside the imprecise language of the options, the startling fact remains that 43percent of self-defined Catholics (not those who consider themselves “former” Catholics, yet) reject the doctrine of the Real Presence.  When we hold in the one hand the “source and summit” doctrine of the Church, and in the other hand a 43 percent denial of the Real Presence among self-identified Catholics, we can perhaps begin to understand the exodus to Protestantism because of spiritual hunger unfulfilled.  Is it well-educated and carefully discerned rejection of Church doctrine?  Is it ignorance of Church teaching?  Is it because the doctrine is presented (if at all) as hard and formal dogma, as unrealistic and incredible “law”?  Is it because so many Catholics today lack adult formation in the faith, and have never had the opportunity or time to consider carefully and prayerfully as adults this, and the many other challenging doctrines entrusted to the Church?

The fact is, many Catholics do not receive Christ spiritually in his Word—a presence they hunger for.   Some—to our loss and theirs—leave the Church to find him in Scripture elsewhere.   Many Catholics do not have the faith or the understanding to receive Christ in his Real and Substantial Presence in Holy Eucharist.  They think they are receiving merely a symbol, and so they lack the right disposition to become fruitful by the Gift.

Our Faith Is Not Strong

The Pew study gives us more troubling news, concerning those Catholics who remain in the Church: by our own admission, our faith is not strong.  Less than half of the self-identified Catholics questioned, reported their faith to be very strong—whether in their childhood, in their youth, or in their adulthood now.  The numbers were, 46 percent reported very strong faith when they were children, 34 percent reported it in their teen years, and 46 percent reported this as true for them now as adults.  Our remaining Catholics—at least the majority of us—are not remaining because of a fervent (or “very strong”) Catholic faith.

It seems that such a lack of fervor explains very well how so many simply “gradually drifted away” from the Church.  The Pew study writes, “Nearly three-quarters of former Catholics who are now unaffiliated (71 percent) say this, as do more than half of those who have left Catholicism for Protestantism (54 percent).”  The ties that bind a human soul to the truth of God ought to be the strongest ties in his life!  But when faith is weak that the Church has such ultimate value—or when faith in God himself is weak, unclear, poorly grasped in mind and heart—then we can well understand how such a soul can simply wander off, gradually, and with little concern.

A relevant and interesting statistic that Pew reports is this: of those who left the Catholic Church for Evangelical Protestantism, 78 percent said that their spiritual needs were not being met in the Catholic Church, 70 percent said that they now have found a religion they like more.  Indeed, among all former Catholics who are now Protestant (evangelical or main-line), 71 percent say that now their faith is “very strong”!   To me, this statistic is one of the most troubling.  These Catholics had to leave his Church to find Jesus “really”—with a faith of fervor and zeal.

 Conclusions

The answer to this strange and sad conundrum is simple, and the Church, on paper, has been exhorting us all to it for some time: we need meaningful, substantive, comprehensive, and spiritually rich adult faith formation.  We have done well at dispensing sacraments, having immense potency of grace!  But, we are far from the rich bounty of fruitfulness that the Lord and his sacrifice deserve.  We have not done well—indeed we continue to do poorly—at making fervent disciples in his name.

Catholic adults deserve the formation worthy of disciples—indeed, the defining mission of the Church is to preach the Gospel, and make disciples of all nations.  What do we need to do?  What do we need to do better?  What do we need to do less, if at all?  One thing we need to do, I am sure, is to begin to care, and deeply, about our obedience to the mission of Christ: make disciples!

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avatar About R. Thomas Richard, PhD

R. Thomas Richard, Ph.D., together with his wife, currently offers parish presentations and adult formation opportunities. He has served as religious formation director for parishes, director of lay ministry and deacon formation at the diocesan level, and retreat director. A former teacher, engineer, Protestant minister, and missionary, he has earned graduate degrees in Catholic theology and ministry, Protestant ministry, and physics. He is the author of several books in Catholic spirituality, which are described on his website, www.renewthechurch.com.

Comments

  1. avatar Bill Bannon says:

    The Mass is non spontaneous and pre-set with the exception of a homily that must be short. If the homilist is dull, the one moment per week when the Church speaks to us spontaneously and personally is therefore dull. And if we don’t attend, we go into eternal damnation even though the Church bulletin gushes with how God invites…invites us to Church. What if your aunt invited you to dinner but if you said no, she burned your house down.
    Now turn on the tv to Joyce Myers. She not only fills stadia with people that only a Pope could fill in Catholicism, they are filling those seats without any threat of damnation. And the entire hour is spontaneous wherein scripture by memory is interwoven with her personal anecdotes. And look at her audience….taking notes, smiling.
    The preset versus the spontaneous. Those under threat of damnation versus those who are there by uninfluenced free choice. A speaker who actually memorizes scripture as Aquinas once did…versus one who memorizes little. A speaker who talks with changes in volume and in emotion versus a Catholic homilist who often speak monotone as though reading the phone book in some not all parishes. And the readings and gospel are read without rhetorical color also…it’s not professional reading, it’s colorless in SOME parishes.
    The changes we need will not happen because Rome has seen that when she changes, the schism thing starts again and she faces groups splitting off and ordaining their own priests so that there is no change for them. You will need a string of Popes like him to even contemplate: less damnation compulsion in the canon law, less preset readings, more spontaneity, more speaking training. Joyce Myers fills stadia with no mention of mortal sin and she loves the Bible. We just had a blessed Pope who called the death penalty “cruel” in 1999 and God gave over 30 death penalties in the Bible as Cardinal Dulles once pointed out in First Things ( Francis is similar on this issue per an interview from the past). Pope Benedict in section 42 of Verbum Domini states that the prophets ” challenged…all forms of violence”. News to Elijah who killed 552 men minimum and news to Eliseus who cursed 42 boys who were then killed by two bears and news to Samuel who ” hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal”… news to Jeremiah who warned the Chaldeans they must kill the Moabites with zeal in chapter 48. First we must get Popes to love the entire Bible again. That would help too.

    • avatar Marie Dean says:

      Bill,

      The practice of religion and right worship is a virtue. It is connected with the First Commandment concerning the fact that we are creatures and God is God, worthy of proper worship and no other gods before him. The greatest heresy of our time is the making of man a god, the god, the center of worship. One reason why the statistics above are abysmal are the exact opposite of what you have put forward. At least three generations of Catholics have been attending protestantized versions of the Mass and not true worship.

      You omit the fact the Ms. Meyers is a heretic, and her “gospel” is sadly lacking in the truths which are only found in the Catholic Church, which, by the way, is not into a numbers game.

      Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity spoke of the persecutions to come and the remnant Church who are orthodox and understand true worship will be the ones who withstand this. Those who only want something about ME will not endure.

      And, for all her personality, Ms. Meyers does not partake in the Eucharist, which is the center of the Mass. Christ also told us that those who do not partake in the Body and Blood of Christ have a serious problem. His words, not mine–“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53

      Christ did tell us to evangelize the world. If some are not listening, we go elsewhere, we do not lower our standards to a protestant message. We have the real deal.

      • avatar Bill Bannon says:

        Marie Dean,
        The Last Supper included interpersonal conversation as did the early liturgy…ie people talked to each other. It wasn’t a library experience which Western man made it with time. But your sector of people love the library model but others find it isolating and not inducing of encountering God and that is why you are staying and many are leaving because you don’t need other talking humans at Church and they do. By your description, you could be the only person at Sunday Mass and that would be fine because you came for God alone. But Christ saw feeding the hungry as feeding Him so your God alone orientation may be an exception to His actual words.
        The early liturgy included eating together but got out of hand on an affluence basis. But it wasn’t an entirely read event with no one talking to each other. At the Last Supper John was leaning against Christ and all were reclining on the floor. I’d like to skip that detail in my life but it calls into question the later emphasis on stiff postures as Godly per se. I will bet there was emotion in their talk that included crescendos and pauses and emphasis….all lacking in most Masses that are read like the phone book.
        Joyce Meyers is a heretic you say. Yet most often her shows involve zero heretical sentences and I have 16 years of Catholic school, a minor in theology, read the entire Bible, most of Augustine and all of the Summa T. minus the objections. The heretical comments on Protestant tv shows are rare at least at the top of the hierarchy. Billy Graham rarely said things that were overtly heretical on tv. Joyce Meyers is a heretic you say. I guess you don’t think with the Church when it comes to verbal descriptions of present day separated brethern. Can you cite John Paul II or Pope Benedict or Pope Paul VI using the word “heretic” about any Protestant preachers. No…you can’t. You got that terminology not from them but from perhaps Fr. Enteneuer or Bill Donohue or someone of the lower ranks who were inclined to fan emotions which brought them donations. But I could be wrong. Cite me a modern Pope calling a Protestant preacher a heretic.
        The Samaritans were heretical in that they changed a phrase in the Pentateuch to make Mt. Gerizim the favored place of God and they refused to accept anything outside of the Pentateuch as from God…which had them reject Isaiah’s touching prophecies of Christ’s sufferings BUT that very Christ saved the Samaritans from two disciples wanting to call down fire from Heaven against them in Luke 9…that very Christ constructed a parable that made an heretical Samaritan the hero of the mugging story we call the good Samaritan parable…and that very Christ noted that of ten lepers cured, the only one that thanked Christ was a Samaritan. When Christ was in private with the Samaritan woman at the well, He informed her that her beliefs were deficient, ” You worship what you do not know…” but in public, Christ did not talk that way about them but rather showed their goodness in parable, in protecting them from two disciples, and in showing the Samaritan’s thankfulness.
        But I’ll wait. Show me a modern Pope calling a Protestant a “heretic”. If any Protestants were reading your post and considering Catholicism, they must be wondering why the upper level Clergy of Catholicism talk moderately and the lower level….Fr. Enteneuer, Bill Donahue, etc. talk of heretics and worse after which laity joined in. Wasn’t Fr. Enteneuer remnant, orthodox, Faithful like you…until he wasn’t. Run with all your might from that announcing of your remnant credentials. God can permit you or me to fall in an instant. He warned me two years ago when I went off on a burglar and almost killed him that I better pull back on the self defense techniques I use or I’ll be in jail myself for a long time. Christ said if a man takes your shirt, give him your jacket also. That’s not exactly what I did to the man. God won’t give me another warning in that area.

  2. avatar Alex says:

    If you go to Mass for an enticing homily…you go to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for all the wrong reasons. The point of the Mass is to give God His due honor in the sacrifice of His Son to Himself. If you think that is dull…then you need to educate yourself a lot! Memorizing the bible and having fancy talks, those are mostly Protestant ideals. What’s the point of “memorizing” the entire bible if you never eat His flesh and drink His blood? Those who don’t go to weekly Mass are only bringing damnation upon themselves for choosing not to go, but notice you always have the choice to go. Not to mention going to the Sacrament of Confession and being renewed and guaranteeing the forgiveness of you’re sin through a contrite heart and acceptance of Gods grace.

    • avatar Bill Bannon says:

      But why keep damnation as the punishment ( the Church can change that here and in heaven) while increasingly people are leaving. In other words, a punishment is supposed to work. If it ceases to work, then outsiders might ask whether we are trying to get people in hell because that is the implication of keeping a changeable punishment after it ceases to motivate.
      Eucharist as central…absolutely. But you can have the Eucharist and still CHANGE and reduce the preset overall other readings and prayers by half which could allow half the Mass to involve the spontaneous instead of only preset reading: 1. The priest could teach in the other half of Mass which tv shows are very anti Christian…or he could teach Church history….or he could go into depth about a family in parish that has a need for people to check on an elderly person at certain hours. 2. the priest could walk the center aisle and request that a pewsitter say his or her prayer request out loud and then all could pray for that ….then he could choose others for the same reason. Most adults have high pressure jobs and they’re exhausted after work…then they shop on Saturday for food…and Sunday is the only day they have left for Church.

      • avatar Catechist Kev says:

        Dear Mr. Bannon,

        Please reconsider what you are saying. Is 2000 years of Christian prayer (i.e. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass) suddenly supposed to be turned into spontaneity? Because of the “threat” of damnation? Because you think it dull? Really?

        Mr. Bannon, If the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the representation of The Last Supper (First Mass) and Mount Calvary (in an unbloody manner, see CCC 1383), how in the world can you say it is “dull”?

        Joyce Myers, God love her, is a product of a Christianity that has the theme of “The Church of What’s Happenin’ Now!” In other words, in a few years she may be scrambling to find an audience because this is the product of the protestant culture of “worship”. Why? Because, oftentimes, it is *not* worship at all… it is entertainment.

        We live in a culture that has become self-centered and narcissistic. We want to have the “feel goods” all the time. Guess what? That ain’t authentic Christianity. Our worship, the Sacrifice of the Mass, is supposed to be *other worldly* – NOT of this world. It is *not* supposed to be spontaneous and centered on man – it is supposed to be centered on the God-man, Jesus Christ.

        Let us see what Saint Justin Martyr, a catechist from the mid second century, would say about this (from the Catechism of the Catholic Church):

        “As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:

        On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.
        The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.

        When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.

        Then we all rise together and offer prayers* for ourselves . . .and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.

        When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.

        Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.

        He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.

        When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: ‘Amen.’

        When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the “eucharisted” bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.” (CCC 1345)
        ——————————————————————————————————————————–

        We cannot just throw out 2000 years of Catholic Tradition, Mr. Bannon. In our home, my wife and I do not always give our children what they want. As responsible parents this would be silly. Holy Mother Church knows what she is doing. We should follow her in holy obedience.

        Catechist Kevin

  3. avatar James says:

    My name is James Mathew Fernandis. I was born in Warsaw, Poland. I now reside in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I am a cradle Catholic.

    It took me many years before I am became a believer in the Catholic faith. We have to understand the reasons why people are leaving the Catholic Church. Because so many have left, it is not something to ignore nor to just push aside as non-existent. I am still a fervent Catholic. But I do not go to Mass every Sunday due to my work schedules, so prayer is a constant means for me to communciate and trying to meet my spiritual needs which are important. I still fight and pray for clarity of faith. Despite the bombardments and everyday activities I am met with everyday.

    I still pray, as a commitment, as a duty and out of love for my faith. . .

    In this generation of people, with the internet being widespread and the ever continuing growth of Global culturism. Its not something to be taken lightly. But the Church is trying very hard to deal with these hindrances. Yet, these problems raise a lot of very important questions about the teachings of theCatholic Churchs Dogmas and Doctrines. Its makes even every day Catholic practioners at times wonder too.

    In a sense, The Church has everything to cater to the needs of its people. Spiritually, the Church is so rich and steeped in culture of tradition that there is really no excuse for people not being able to practice nor having their spiritual needs met. Its something people need to deal wwith on their own. Its a decision to make that no one else can do for you.

    Like love, you must ask for faith as well. All spiritual gifts are from God, thus one need only ask and it will be given in right place and at the righ time.

    Also another issue are the plethora of vices and pornography so rampant in todays movies, you tube sites, videos and everyday images that are seen. Especially in advertising and media. We live in very aggressive and disturbing times. We must take not that the world is continuing to change constantly every minute and every second.

    The Church is the only institution that is the thought of the world. Without it, the world would be in chaos. The Church is the concious of the world. Thus, it is our responsibility to do what we can with what we are given. Not chastise or go out to war with people who are non-catholics. If we need to address these issues, they must be dealt with carefully. Not out of spite, which is generally what Catholics are very good at, sad to say.

    If we can open the doors for people having issues about Catholism, what else can we not do? We have God on our side. So tell me what are Catholics really doing about this? This I leave to them to answer for themselves.

  4. Hello Alex,

    Certainly the Church proclaims that the Sacrifice of Holy Eucharist is the “source and summit” (Catechism 1324) or “fount and apex” (LG 11) of the Christian life! But the Church, in her liturgical celebration of this Sacrament, combines a Liturgy of the Word and a Liturgy of the Eucharist. Indeed from very early records, this has been the case. St. Justin Martyr writes, c. 155 AD, of a liturgy of the Word in the celebration: “The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits. When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.” (Catechism 1345)

    And we see in the example of Jesus, in His formation of His disciples: first He taught in words and living deeds – for three years – then He taught in His Sacrifice on the Cross. We need the words! We need to enter in mind and in heart, in the fullness of our souls, into the ever-living Christ. We need, that is, the Liturgy of the Word. It is not merely “Protestant” to love the Gospel: it is Christian, it is fully Catholic.

    The Church again proclaims (Catechism 1346): “The liturgy of the Word and liturgy of the Eucharist together form “one single act of worship” [SC 56]; the Eucharistic table set for us is the table both of the Word of God and of the Body of the Lord. [Cf. DV 21]”

    Catholics thus have the right to and a need for a full and true celebration of the Liturgy of the Word, in the Mass. Indeed we need to come into an authentic love for Holy Scripture, bringing as it does, Christ to us in a unique and holy way. The Catechism includes many exhortations to us concerning Scripture, including this one (#133): “The Church forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful…to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

  5. avatar Terry Klein says:

    “Of those who left the Church and became Protestant, 71 percent gave as a reason that their spiritual needs were not being met.” I wish that people could have been more clear about what they meant by their “spiritual needs.” Is this a catch phrase that implies: I left the church because of punitive divorce laws or because I have a gay child or because I use contraception or because I was abused by a priest, etc. People have many reasons for feeling alienated. I am a practicing Cradle Catholic who has seen much of my extended family drift away from the Church for all of the above reasons.

    • Hello Terry,
      The site referenced/linked in the article does have more information:
      Main reasons for leaving Catholic Church for a Protestant one: Religious and moral beliefs – 41%; The institution, practices, and people – 29% (pedophilia scandal/Molestation – 3%); Personal spirituality – 9%; Life cycle changes (family reasons) – 17%; Other – 7%; No Response – 3%.

      I contend that the Church has been entrusted with the fullness of God’s revealed Truth – the very Truth that men and women are made for, and are made to hunger for. My observation – a painful one to observe – is that the Church is doing a very, very poor job of offering that fullness to her members. Now of course it is a fact that some people do not want the truth – the truth can hurt, can demand much, can bring suffering, can require difficult changes, and so on. But the Church is obligated to preach and to teach all that Jesus has given her – and to do so with holy love, with a heart of mercy and forgiveness, with His grace. The grace of God can help a person persevere, and hold to what is true, even when it is very difficult to do so.

      If a man or a woman wants God’s holy truth – all of it – and wants to live it, no matter the cost, there is one source on earth: the Catholic Church. It is a travesty, I believe, if a man or a woman leaves the fullness of God’s Truth poorly and partially presented in a Catholic church, for only a part of it – mixed with errors – but well-presented as God’s truth, in some non-Catholic church.

  6. avatar John Peters says:

    My heart aches for my fellow parishioners each and every Sunday.
    We attend Mass with an average age of about 55, the choir is made up of one organist who constantly selects antiquated hymns with monotonous regularity, and a 60 year old man and two 70 year old ladies.
    The readings are often done by elderly people who have no concept of enunciation, followed by the priest who reads, and not at all fluently , his very ordinary homily.
    There are in attendance, young people who would be getting absolutely nothing from any of this, and this is a church attached to a Catholic primary school.
    This is just not good enough!
    I’m am a dedicated catholic. I love the Eucharist, the Rosary the Holy Hour each week in honour of the Divine Mercy. I just want to cry at the self destruction that is taking place in our church.
    After Mass , we have a morning tea, and I make a point of engaging different parishioners to find out what makes them tick.
    It amazes me just how deficient a lot of them are in the knowledge of the scriptures and their own faith.
    I wonder why some of them are there at all, I hasten to say I’m not judging anyone but I don’t think a lot of them fully appreciate what exactly is happening at Mass.
    I can completely sympathise with those who leave The Church for “greener” pastures.
    And I truly believe it’s because they have not been well catechised.
    And it’s getting worse. At Mass, in our catholic schools and most of all in our catholic homes.
    The Mass is everything. We never hear homilies on The Eucharist.
    Never! Confession. Never!
    We have theSacraments. We never talk about them.
    We never hear about them.
    Little wonder people leave. They don’t know what it is they are turning their back on.
    And who can blame them ?

    • Hello John. Your comment is a painful one to read, and my heart aches with you. Yes, so many have no idea what they are leaving when they leave the Church: most have received no catechesis since 8th grade or so, and an adult mind needs adult formation to grow into an adult faith. With you I also say, “And who can blame them” when they leave the Church? I blame first of all the bishops, who have become mere administrators and managers, and not preachers and teachers of the saving Truth. Thanks be to God for those bishops who are living their vocations with passion and zeal! Bishops are successors of the apostles! Their “first task” is “to preach the Gospel of God to all men”! (Catechism 888)

      They, and the priests helping them, ought to be feeding the sheep entrusted to them. The prophet declares strong words for shepherds who do not feed the sheep – but leaves them to be scattered:

      Ez 34: 2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to them: To the shepherds, thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds pasture the flock?
      3 You consumed milk, wore wool, and slaughtered fatlings, but the flock you did not pasture.
      4 You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the stray or seek the lost but ruled them harshly and brutally.
      5 So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. They were scattered…

      We must pray! We must pray, and do what we can do, every one who sees what is happening in the Church. God will respond, in the right time. God can make great things come from very small beginnings.

  7. avatar Ian says:

    Dear Richard,
    Even though some Bishops and priests may be to blame for the lack of catechesis, yet I say that it is not a catechesis that is required, whether adult or not. A deeper problem that belies our dear Catholics is an overemphasis on the sacraments and a lack of the reality of Christ. Being presented day in and day out with dry rituals and no reality, their exit is hardly to be wondered about. Only a living, real relationship with Christ can save the day, and this is what they really lack and is not supplied ever. On the other hand, when someone else provides them with the Word of God, which is real food for the soul, they lunge at it like hungry men who have been denied basic food for years. End result: They will leave and go where they are sure to get real food for their souls.

    • Ian, I agree! It is not merely a set of facts about the Church, or about the Lord – it is, as I tried to stress, a need for adult formation in the faith – not merely “education” about the faith (although that is good), but formation in the faith. I wrote in the article:
      “… we need meaningful, substantive, comprehensive, and spiritually rich adult faith formation. We have done well at dispensing sacraments, having immense potency of grace! But, we are far from the rich bounty of fruitfulness that the Lord and his sacrifice deserve. We have not done well—indeed we continue to do poorly—at making fervent disciples in his name.
      Catholic adults deserve the formation worthy of disciples…”

      I wrote an article on this very need, a while back –
      http://www.hprweb.com/2012/12/prior-to-adult-faith-formation-one-thing-is-necessary/
      - perhaps you’d like to look it up. But to bring such observations into reality – that is the real “problem” – or “opportunity.” We need to meet Christ – in His words, in prayer, in an interior life, in His holy Church. That is all required in the making os disciples.

  8. avatar Harvey B. says:

    It’s kind of disappointing that the survey question offered by CARA offered two responses and BOTH were inconsistent with Catholic teaching on the Eucharist! I know our author acknowledged that above (“Setting aside the imprecise language of the options…”) but to me the poll itself is a glaring problem.

    Certainly Option 2 is not true, but even Option 1 is a false belief known as consubstantiation.
    As Catholics, we do not believe that Jesus is present WITHIN the bread and wine. Rather, He pushes the bread and wine entirely out and replaces those substances with Himself.
    You all may say that I’m splitting hairs, but it could be argued that this faulty question belies a problem among the Catholic scholars who wrote the question. (However, seeing that it comes out of Georgetown, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised…)

    • Hello Harvey – I too was surprised by the questions. I don’t think you are splitting hairs: the matter is important. Even so, the results in themselves are troubling – whoever actually formulated the questions in their problematic forms.

  9. avatar Jo says:

    I have appreciated John and Thomas’ comments. I find it very painful to see people leaving the church. One thing that I’ve noticed is that the “me first” attitude has creeped into all of this. If it doesn’t feel good—move on. Not, “What can I do to change it?” Or just maybe what are the changes I need to make in me?

    One of my children commented after attending a non-Catholic church service, “It feels like I was there to be entertained and the Catholic Church is where I go to worship….God is first, not me.”

    Also, if one wants to become more knowledgeable about our faith, it’s easy to find it. It does require shutting off the computer and especially giving up some sports time. What would happen to our souls if we devoted one hour a day to prayer and spiritual reading?

    I’m getting OLD so all I can do is pray and pray some more. I especially pray for Pope Francis.

    • Dear Jo,

      Yes, it is painful to see people leaving the Church. It is also painful to observe the “me first” attitude which considers only our comfort. rather than asking what we might do to make changes. We all need continual conversion of heart, and we need to share Christ with others. Jesus tells us to pray always, and in order to begin to have Him first in our lives, more time in prayer and reading Scripture would certainly be a good start! Without Him we can do nothing.

      We are never too OLD, dear sister in Christ, to put our prayer into action as well. By God’s Grace we can be contemplatives in action. Our prayer relationship with God will urge us to do whatever His Will to “build up the Body of Christ in love”. (cf Eph. 4:16). Thanks for your prayers for the Church, for as one grows we all grow! Thanks for writing a comment to help others. Each act of love increases the charity of the Body. May our prayers and works glorify God always.

      As a member of the Legion of Mary I’m edified by members in their 80′s who seek not only to pray together at weekly meetings, but to reach out to others in small ways like phone calls to the sick and lonely at home, or encouraging others to join the Legion, as either Active Members, or as Auxiliary Members (whose only requirement is a daily Rosary and Legion prayers).

      If you have a Legion of Mary in your parish, I encourage you to look into membership in this beautiful lay apostolate. If there is none in your parish, check with your Diocese. It is the largest lay apostolate in the Catholic Church with millions of members in almost every country in the world. It has been praised by the Popes since it began in 1921. Bl. John XXIII, said “The Legion of Mary presents the true face of the Catholic Church”. For more information on the Legion, see: http://www.legionofmary.ie/about/

  10. avatar Therese says:

    By the Grace of God I am a cradle Catholic – and a very happy one. I am perfectly fed by the Bread of Angels; Jesus, Himself. I need Him desperately and want Him even more, and find Him every day at daily Mass, in my prayer life, at Adoration of The Blessed Sacrament, in reading Sacred Scripture, reading spiritual books and books about the lives of the Saints. And I find Him every week in the Sacrament of Confession.
    I ask and receive. I knock and He answers. The Holy Spirit is in the house!
    I serve the poor, full time, as a volunteer and am extraordinarily blessed every minute.
    Life is messy and complicated. No people – no problems! I don’t expect people to be perfect.
    I want to think as Jesus thinks, see how He sees and do His Will, not mine. I’ve learned that He is a much better thinker than me and has infinitely better ideas. I consider myself to be in spiritual boot camp for life – and love it!
    I have a close relationship with Our Father, with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, our Blessed Mother and numerous saints. I’ve worked and prayed hard for these, have sweat blood and tears for them.
    I am deeply in love with God and profoundly grateful to Him and Our Blessed Mother (who is my boss). I love the Catholic Church, what she believes and teaches. I bring my whole self to God through the Catholic Church and believe 100% what the Catholic Church teaches. It’s God teaching me.
    I thank God for all the holy people on this earth (there are many) and know that God forgives me my failings and weaknesses and is always here to help with His love, forgiveness, courage and strength.
    He says: I am The Way, The Ttruth and The Life. I believe Him and am here to serve.
    Alleluia!

    • Dear Therese,

      You are well named: “Therese”! St. Therese gives all of us an example of full-hearted love for Jesus and His Church. Her “little way” has enabled many like yourself to find all they need to be happy in the Catholic Church. Let me quote something she wrote which can help us all to give more of ourselves, as you are certainly doing. St. Therese wrote:

      “I know of no other means to reach perfection than by love. To love: how perfectly our hearts are made for this! Sometimes I look for another word to use, but in this land of exile, no other word expresses the vibrations of our soul. Hence we must keep to that one word : love.”

      St. Therese has also been called an exquisite miniature of Mary. She certainly lived “love” in hidden ways, much like Mary our Mother. The more I contemplate Mary the more I see her as the perfect icon of the Church: both Mother and Model. In pondering Jesus’ words to both Mary and John, I find much help in understanding how we are both called to “Behold our Mother” and also to “Behold Her Son in John”. We behold in Mary our Mother the Church, and like John we want to take her into our lives and learn from her. When we hear Jesus tell Mary to behold her son, then with Mary as Church we want to behold Jesus in all our brothers and sisters.

      St. Therese is the co-Patron with St. Francis Xavier for the missions. How beautifully she put her prayer into action by loving all those God put into her life! Like Mary, she continued on earth, the mission of Jesus – as we are called to do. The Church, as Pope Paul VI wrote, “exists to evangelize.” Please let us continue to pray for one another, for the Church and for all those in most need of His Mercy, that we may become the saints we are all called to be.

  11. avatar Marty Kurlich says:

    I think the majority, even great majority, of human beings will end up in hell.
    And the damned will include many self-identified Catholics (including more than a few bishops and priests).
    One of the most sobering passages in Scripture for me is Mat 7:13-14:
    “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are MANY.
    For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are FEW.”

  12. avatar Chuck Johnson says:

    At this point many of our chanceries are filled with ex-priests who were formed by the moral nihilism of Kosnik’s book, Human Sexuality. Not only is that book silent on abortion, it is soft even on bestiality. And that book came directly from the Catholic Theological Society of America. [Note: The first 5 people who email me can receive a copy of that book free. IF, they pay the full shipping costs related to the book. It is essential that faithful Catholics see the close link between sexual sin promoted in Kosnik's book and the rejection of faith. That is why I make this offer.]

    Now the HPR has known of this mess within the Church for decades. And its former editor knew of it. So why are we going through this disaster narrative again? Perhaps it is due to the PEW Religious Landscape Survey. But that came out in 2008. (We have lost over 20,000,000 cradle Catholics and that does not include Catholics who have not darken a Church door in decades.) So I’m perplexed that issues so long in place suddenly become front burner. It is just puzzling.

    Now on the good side, fighting against the dissenters were such as the Ratzinger Report, the Desolate City, Catholic Eye, the Wanderer, HPR, Catholic Answers, Catholic Culture and all the materials related to Catholic World report. There was also the masterful insight of McInerny at Notre Dame. But nothing stopped the dissent. But, on the positive side, there is great hope.

    The dissenters are aging, they are for the most part in their 70’s. The grim reaper is sharpening his blade and that entire generation will be wiped from the face of the Earth. I hope I will be around to read many of their obits. With that group dead, a remnant will survive, and at last renewal may begin.

    But there is troubling empirical evidence we must confront. Even with most dissenters dead, Catholics have neither a religious identity nor even a rudimentary awareness of Faith’s content. That means they would not even make “good Protestants” much less “good Catholics!” What that may imply is it will be far easier to convert evangelical Protestants to Catholicism than to make cradle “Catholics,” who are systemic religious illiterates, into Catholics. This is problem the Church has never encountered. But there is even a further dimension, far more ominous.

    All of Europe is dying demographically. The future of Europe is Islam. The age structure of Europe makes that unavoidable. Something analogous may await the United States. The human capital for a free state may have already been liquidated. “Remove a meaningful restraint, an irreversible process ensues.” I suspect we have already removed such a restraint at the moral level and the outcome will be a society like Soylent Green.

    As in one’s own life, behavior creates a destiny. So it is in society as a whole. Too late is true for individuals but we don’t realize that is also true for an entire civilization. The center of gravity will no longer be in the West. The implications for the Church are beyond our ken.

  13. avatar Marie Dean says:

    Mr. Bannon.

    Number one, every adult Catholic is responsible for appropriating the true Faith. Even if priests and bishops are in error, we are responsible for our own souls and for reading and incorporating Catholic Teaching. There comes a time when no one else is at fault but ourselves. Ms. Myers has access to the same teachings as you or I do. She simply either rejects them or refuses to see these truths.

    Number two, we learn what the heresies are by learning our faith. And, anyone who does not teach that the Eucharist is the True Presence, or that apostolic succession resides in the Catholic Church, or that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church, or that the sacraments are not seven and not efficacious, that person is a heretic. They are our SEPARATED brethren, separated exactly by the continual acceptance of heresies, although baptized into the faith.

    Number three, there is no such thing in the West as invincible ingnorance. All people are given grace by God to find the Truth and accept it. The Church is not an exclusive club, but open to all. God calls us over and over. Ms. Myers and I can both read the same texts, the same books and respond to the Truth.

    Number four, the so-called gospel of prosperity rests on the great heresy which states that those who are saved are blessed by God in this world; this was condemned as part of the falsity of strict predestination of Calvin, and the false idea of Justification from Luther. We do not need another statement from Rome on heresies already defined in past Councils.

    As to your interpretation of the history of the Mass, I suggest you read the volumes which not only contradict your protestant interpretations, but ignore the fact that the form of the Mass we have now was settled by the end of the First Century. And, you ignored Christ Himself on the subject of not believing in the Eucharist as the True Presence.

  14. avatar Bill Bannon says:

    Marie Dean,
    You have not shown us a modern Pope calling anyone a heretic as asked. Why not?
    Here’s your words:
    ” Ms. Myers has access to the same teachings as you or I do. She simply either rejects them or refuses to see these truths.”
    So this means access to Catholic teaching WORDS is the sole criteria to heresy. But all people on earth who have a computer have that access. But Christ says heresy is refusing two things…WORDS AND WORKS in John 15…you say it’s only words.:

    22 If I had not come and spoken* to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me also hates my Father.
    24 If I had not done WORKS among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father.”

    Joyce Meyers was abused as a child and from a distance, Catholicism of the media lighted years of 1985 til 2002 may look like what Christ warned about: ” By their fruits you will know them. Men do not gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles.”. But you Marie are saying people should ignore those words of Christ because access to words alone is the test even though this is the second time Christ is saying it’s words and works. Human beings can reject both Joyce Meyers and the Catholic Church on works done…in their subjective judgement of each…Meyers for the hyper luxury spending on furniture with donated money and Catholicism for the systemic neglect of those children…perpetrators and magisterial sins in response to their sins.
    You are judging people easily by going by access to words alone when Christ twice told you it’s both words and works and the judgement of works by a person is entirely private to God.

    Next you use the Eucharist to judge people as having no life in them if they don’t receive it when
    Christ showed you that that life can be in a person without the literal Eucharist or the literal Baptism because He showed you the good thief so that you would use common sense and realize that God can supply His grace without the literal sacrament. Christ meant the sacraments are absolutely necessary once one recognizes the Catholic Church really. If the Eucharist were literally necessary for life unconditionally in your above rendition then Baptised Protestants whose Baptisms are valid in the eyes
    of Rome would perish if they died right after sincerely being washed of all their sins which is absurd.
    if you were examined by a Vatican expert in Catholic Dogma as to these several ways in which you judge others simplistically with half of Christ’s stated criteria…words not works…and your Eucharist as absolutely necessary for salvation despite recent valid baptism followed by death, guess who the material heretic would be. It would be you. The Eucharist is necessary by Church law once a year for Catholics not for baptised people who from a distance think we are those whom Christ warned about and think that sincerely with reason.

  15. avatar Elenor K. Schoen says:

    To all those who commented on this article:
    Here are the latest thoughts by Pope Francis on the reason to attend Mass regularly, from an article on Catholic News Service.
    Just an FYI!
    Go to: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1400614.htm
    Elenor K. Schoen
    HPR Managing Editor

  16. avatar Greg Stone says:

    Excellent reflection. Adult formation is greatly needed. After converting to Catholicism I attended a Saturday morning men’s Bible study group for awhile. Two thirds of the participants were ex Catholics! They appeared to not harbor any antipathy toward the Catholic Church – were very welcoming to me and almost seemed pleased to be “back in touch.” I’ve had to reflect for some time on what seemed to be the issue. It seemed to me there was a comfort level with being able to explore their faith in vernacular terms. Street theology. In other words, they had a hunger for bringing faith into their day-to-day lives in language and example they could grasp. It did not seem they had any antipathy toward a more formal theology – but it simply was not something that met their needs, or fed their hunger. The solution may be to turn to a more Franciscan approach – to Saint Francis the vernacular (as opposed to scholastic) theologian. We might have to consider how Saint Francis approached people and touched their hearts with his preaching. In his effort to imitate Christ he typified the life of a disciple – maybe there is something to be said for an adult formation based on his approach. (Point of clarification – I do not mean the romanticized Saint Francis but rather the deeper Francis.)

    • Dear Greg,

      Thanks for your insights. I think that Pope Emeritus (Benedict XVI) and Pope Francis have both expressed the need to speak to the people of our time, in a way they can truly “hear”. I believe Benedict did speak of profound Truth in an amazingly simple way, but many did not listen or read his books, and I wonder if he was prejudged as too scholarly. Pope Francis, however, has been able to speak to many more people, less in writing, and more directly perhaps, as St. Francis of Assisi did. A beautiful quote ( in The Legion of Mary Handbook by Servant of God Frank Duff ) on St. Francis of Assisi coheres with your thoughts on reaching others:

      “St. Francis saw only the image of God multiplied but never monotonous. To him, a man was always a man, and did not disappear in a dense crowd any more than in a desert. He honored all men; that is, he not only loved but respected them all. What gave him his extraordinary personal power was this: that from the Pope to beggar, from the Sultan of Syria in his pavillion to the ragged robbers crawling out of the wood, there was never a man who looked into those brown, burning eyes, without being certain that Francis Bernardone was really interested in him, in his own inner individual life from the cradle to the grave; that he himself was valued and taken seriously.” ( words of G.K. Chesterton).

      Have many of us (Clergy and People) grown cold? Are we missing the need for Adult Formation among our brothers and sisters because we are so poorly formed ourselves? A ten minute homily at Mass is simply not enough to form adults in the beauty and fullness of the Catholic Faith passed down to us from the Burning Heart of Christ. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your Faithful; kindle in us the Fire of Your Love.

  17. avatar Fr Samala Michael says:

    Thank you very much. I have come to know the reasons and how we should not dilute our Liturgy, especially the Holy Eucharist. May God bless your ministry.

    • Thank you very much, Fr. Samala Michael. I see you are ministering in Holy Trinity Church, Chikoti Gardens, Begumpet. I pray that your offerings of Holy Mass awaken and ignite the life of the Spirit in the parishioners there!

      A great need that I see here, in the U.S., is for better presentations of the Liturgy of the Word – especially for homilies that “awaken and ignite the life of the Spirit” in the parishioners here. Holy Eucharist has infinite potency – yet we must be rightly disposed to receive Him. I believe that we must present Christ – the living Christ – in our homilies, so that the people can hear Him, the Lord, and not merely the homilist.

  18. avatar Vicky G says:

    I think that Catholics are spiritually hungry because they have been either poorly catechized or not catechised at all. They don’t know what they believe. They are attracted to protestantism because often those pastors are more outspoken and more positive in their portrayal of their beliefs than many priests are. As a still-practicing cradle Catholic, I am tired of the apologetic stance of priests who constantly seem to downplay, twist, ameliorate and change the doctrine of the faith with a sort of embarrassment of belief, as if they might more easily sell it as pablum, without any real flavor or pungency. Somewhere they took up the fear that Catholicism may be disliked for being too stringent and now many times, their giving of the faith has the strength and appeal of wet string. I prefer the old days of my early life when priests said what they meant and meant what they said. There was little equivocation and people were content to live with a strong message.

  19. Hello Vicki.

    Thank you for your comments. “Catholics are spiritually hungry because they have been either poorly catechized or not catechised at all. They don’t know what they believe….” This comment – this observation – is so frequently pointed out, that I wonder about the absence of correction of the problem. Surely those who can make a difference have heard of this, in their conversations and travels about the parish or diocese!

    I am grateful to HPR, for giving us a podium from which to speak. The need is real, is important, is increasingly urgent. When will this neglect of catechesis change? The Church exists to “make disciples.” When will the Church wake up and see the hunger – the spiritual needs – of the people, and respond with substantive, comprehensive and faithful catechesis? Please let us work and pray for this!

  20. avatar Hifrax says:

    I heard at some places, when they started Mass in Forma Extraordinaria again, the people were one by one go home to that Parish..but, I don’t have the survey right now, maybe you can help make the survey about it.. :D

    by the way, may I translate this article to Bahasa Indonesia?
    Thanks :)

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