The slipping-away of Catholic identity

I think that Pope Benedict had as a project for his pontificate the revitalization of Catholic identity.  The West is losing its soul because Christianity – Catholicism in particular – is not being lived by the mature or passed on to the young in a clear form.  After WWII the US helped to rebuild Europe through the Marshall Plan to create good trading partners and to serve as a bulwark against Communism.  I think that Pope Benedict has a kind of “Marshall Plan” for the Church, to build us up after the ecclesial devastation of the last few decades, for the sake of souls and as a bulwark against secularism and the soul annihilating dictatorship of relativism.

It may be that it will take something very dramatic for the large arc of the great falling away we are seeing to be shifted or halted.

I read a good post over at Fr. Longenecker’s blog, which is worth your attention.  My emphases and comments:

The Collapse of Cultural Catholicism

SheryWeddell at the St Catherine of Siena Institute reports that 32% of Americans raised Catholic abandon the identity altogether by their mid twenties. An additional 38% retain the identity but rarely practice their faith. 30% of those who call themselves Catholic attend Mass only once a month. On a given Sunday only about 15.6% of American Catholics attend Mass. [Then we must ask ourselves if what we are doing and saying in our churches is working.]

What is the reason for these disastrous statistics? Basically because for the last forty years Catholics themselves have not taught Catholicism to their children. They’ve taught ‘American Catholicism’ which is a watered down blend of sentimentalism, political correctness, community activism and utilitarianism. In other words, “Catholicism is about feeling good about yourself, being just to others and trying to change the world.” The next generation have drawn the obvious conclusion that you don’t need to go to Mass to do all that. You can feel good about yourself much more effectively with a good book from the self help shelf, or by attending a personal development seminar. You can be involved in making the world a better place without going to church.

If only 15% of Catholics go to Mass on a given Sunday, look around and see how many of them are old. Even the 15% who are there won’t be there for very long[It is by now standard observation that many young families are found at certain celebrations of Holy Mass.]

The solution is simple: [Whatever the solution may be, I am not sure it is ‘simple’.  It is, however, without question that some of the elements of that solution as staring us in the face, gnawing at our ankles, barking up a storm!] we must return to the supernatural realities of the historic faith and evangelize like the Apostles of old[Do I hear an ‘Amen!’?] The big difference is that the Apostles knew their targets were pagans and the pagans knew they weren’t Christians. We’re dealing with a huge population of Americans (Catholics and Protestants alike) who are pagan but who think they’re ‘good Christians.’ [Good point.] It is very difficult to evangelize people who already think they’re fine just as they are. We don’t know what we don’t know, and the vast majority of poorly catechized, lazy and worldly Catholics aren’t aware that there’s anything wrong.

What will it take for us to wake up?

Fr. Longenecker is certainly right.  We must return to teaching and demonstrating that there is a supernatural dimension to our lives.  We must take people beyond their immanentism-lite.  This is why the Holy Father has been trying to point us toward, in small steps, a new approach to liturgical worship.   It is precisely in worship that we can make great strides quickly.  I suspect the “biological solution” is going to have to play a role in this, however.  It may be that some of those pagans of whom Fr. Longenecker speaks above are also wearing Roman collars.  They just don’t realize they actually belong to a different religion.

Aside from that, I suspect that an effective wake-up call may be quite a terrible thing, and one that is unpleasant to contemplate.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. tobiasmurphy says:

    The way the faith has slipped away has intrigued me for some time. I always use the analogy of a vaccine. You take a dead version of a virus strain, inject it into the body, and the body builds an immunity to the live virus. When the live virus comes along, the body is resistant.

    Poor catechesis and poor liturgy have vaccinated young people (my generation, but even more the generation of students I teach) against the true faith. They’ve been handed a dead version of the Christianity and now they resist real Christianity because they confuse it with the dead thing they’ve been given.

    So…how do you counteract a vaccine? If you wanted to infect a person with a virus, you’d have to have a markedly different strain from the one they’ve been given in their vaccinations. Perhaps that’s why the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is making such a difference. It is markedly different from the Ordinary Form so many youth are used to.

    What we need now is a markedly different method of catechesis. When I stand at the front of the classroom and say anything about Catholicism, many of my students shut down or resist. The whole method needs to be turned into something very different from what they’re used to. Perhaps it’s time for Pope Benedict to start pushing for dioceses to have departments to catechize parents (who aren’t quite as vaccinated) and teach them how to catechize their children. Catechesis in the home would definitely be markedly different from what these kids are used to.

    Pope Benedict is thinking like a doctor. I hope it continues to work.

  2. Seraphic Spouse says:

    Ora et labora. Each one of us must pray to be shown the way to stop this decline and build up Catholicism once again. Every one of us can do something to combat this terrible situation; the question is what each of us specifically and concretely is being called to do.

    What a lot we hear about power from those obsessed with their myopic “hermeneutic of suspicion.” Truly, those who really are speaking truth to power are those standing firm with the doctrines of the Church, with the perennial philosophy, with Scripture and Tradition, with accurate translations of the liturgy, with the great musical and artistic heritage of the Church, with the Church miltant, suffering and triumphant, with his holiness Benedict XVI.

  3. becket1 says:

    The big wake-up call will happen when Islam becomes the dominant religion in Western society, as predicted by some, and sharia law is being imposed. They are going to wish they had never left traditional Orthodox Catholicism for their Neo-Catecomical Way, and happy clappy feel good faith, with it’s protestant style of Worship, in disquise, as mainstream Catholicism. But by then those who started the down turn will be long gone, as well as those of us who had to suffer through it all. God help us!!.

  4. Hidden One says:

    For the lapsed Catholics to notice that they’re doing something wrong, there needs to be a certain observable and important difference between them and us, and often it isn’t there.

    That difference is holiness.

    The most difficult place to find it is the traditionalist movement. Oh, it’s there, but it’s rare.

  5. Sam Schmitt says:

    Here’s the most telling find from Sherry Weddell’s report:

    the Pew Forum showed that attending CCD, involvement in youth ministry, and going to a Catholic high school make little or no difference between those who stay Catholic, those who become “nothing” and those who become Protestant. Our primary strategies aren’t making any difference.


  6. Pigeon Street says:

    Good point about Mass Father. Last Sunday I tried to encourage my brother to come to Mass without success. But at that same Mass, I almost got up and walked out because of the abuses and because the sermon was turned into joking entertainment. I love the ‘Catholics come home’ campaign, but what are we coming home to? Clown Mass and jokes?

  7. Mike says:

    “The most difficult place to find it is the traditionalist movement”

    Hmm. That doesn’t sound like the crowd of 4000 that I saw at the Pontifical TLM held last year at the National Shrine. I saw many, many smiling faces, families, children, etc. alive with a reverent, supernatural joy…

  8. irishgirl says:

    Amen to what Fr. Longnecker said!
    I think it’s going to take a catastrophe before we Catholics wake up and start doing something about restoring our identity.
    I heard on the radio yesterday that the Moslems are increasing in numbers in the US. If they become the majority religion, God help us! There will be a persecution for sure!

  9. Shadow says:

    @becket1: I agree fully.

  10. Hidden One says:


    “Hmm. That doesn’t sound like the crowd of 4000 that I saw at the Pontifical TLM held last year at the National Shrine. I saw many, many smiling faces, families, children, etc. alive with a reverent, supernatural joy…”

    I’d like to point out that smiles and supernatural joy are not gifts granted only to the virtuous, for which I thank God. Even reverent awe is not proof of virtue. (I’d also like to point out that more-than-traditionalists go to stray TLMs.)

    It’s in social media – Facebook, blogs – and periodicals – both online and paper – and at gatherings of traditionalists – parish gatherings, parties, extra-Mass socialization, devotions engaged in for the reconversion of _insert_here_, etc. – that the great traditionalist virtue of pride works to destroy all that is good. It’s a pandemic. [This generalization undermines whatever else you might want to say here.]

    If we were holy, then the testimony of our love of God would win reverts no less well than it once won converts.

  11. DavidJ says:

    “the Pew Forum showed that attending CCD, involvement in youth ministry, and going to a Catholic high school make little or no difference between those who stay Catholic, those who become “nothing” and those who become Protestant. Our primary strategies aren’t making any difference.”

    Those things make little difference if the parents are not doing, regardless what the parish is doing.

  12. EXCHIEF says:

    The second paragraph absolutely nails it. And, it is not just what “catholic” parents have taught their children it is what a mis-directed Catholic Church (Bishops and Priests) has failed to teach that is responsible for the loss of Catholic identity. The things that the “Church” in the United States have emphasized for too long are little different than the fodder one gets from any other Church or from secular society. The Catholic Church historically has been about absolute teachings which cannot be compromised. With the can’t we all just get along, politically correct, feel good emphasis of most Priests and Bishops over the past 40 + years we have lost all understanding of and respect for the authority of the Magisterium. Personal “conscience” (albeit misinformed) has become the absolute rather than the absolute teaching of the Church. End of rant.

  13. Supertradmum says:

    I have been involved, until recently, in Catholic education, from pre-school Montessori classes, elementary, junior high, high, and college level. For a few years,I was a freelance consultant for small Catholic schools who wanted to change their curricula to classicial education. In each situation, the strength of the school was in the board of directors and the parents. Excellent teachers can do nothing if there are not committed Catholics on the board and Catholic parents who want to teach Catholicism at home, as well as in the classroom.

    After many years of reflection, here are the reasons I believe Catholicism has been watered down. There are many reasons, of course, but here are those which impacted my work. I shall avoid listing the Traditional Latin Mass, as that is the most obvious reason, to which we can all agree, instills reverence and leads to a deeper relationship with God, His Church, and the Blessed Virgin.

    List of American hindrances to strong Catholicism:
    1. Mixed Marriages-when the Church in America let people marry non-Catholics, the family was weakened in daily devotions, such as the rosary, daily Mass, and the continuity of the Catholic identity. This is not something one will hear from the pulpit.
    2. Mothers working in the world. I had to work, as my husband left my family after eight years of marriage, as he did not want to be married anymore. He was a Catholic. However, the vast majority of Baby Boomer women and Gen X women did not and do not have to work, except in the home. A mother at home created spiritual habits, such as daily prayer, daily Mass, discipline, etc.
    3. American Materialism. Over and over again, I had the most problems with upper middle class families who would not take the televisions out of the kid’s rooms, who pulled children out of religion class and other classes to go on vacations during the school year, who would not say “no” to the kids demands for things. Poverty is hard, but children who are spoiled do not develop character and becoming demanding as adults, believing in entitlement socialist policies. Money is a root of evil and the mindless pursuit of the “American Dream” is not a true Catholic value.
    4. Lack of discipline. I saw this happening in the nineties, when parents refused to be parents and wanted to be friends with their children. This lack of discipline in the home was a mark of Catholic families, but most modern day Catholic moms and dads do not engage in consistent and reasonable discipline, leading to a lack of a moral framework in their children.
    5.Contraception and abortion. As long as priests were soft on these issues, especially the first, the Catholic family was weakened and still is. Most Catholic parents I know have two kids; this is not natural for most people. Large families instill character, as we all know, as children are less spoiled and must help out with chores, etc.
    6.Anti-intellectualism. Catholics have fallen into the lazy, easy way of not reading, not keeping up with their Faith, etc. This spills down into the habits of their children. Constant Catholic education at all levels is a priority. The charismatic and evangelical movements have influenced many Catholic adults to a feeling religion, rather than one based on Faith and Reason.
    7.Fear and avoidance of suffering. How many times have I met parents in the Catholic schools who did not want to suffer taking a more moral job and less pay? How many times have I met parents who want to shield their children from the Truth and from suffering? Suffering has become an enemy, rather than a tool for growth in the virtues. Part of this fear is the fear of poverty, which means that good parents chose high-paying jobs which take them away from their children, as they have to put them in day-care or after-school programs, because of their schedules. Also, men do not go into education, and we have a continuation of the feminization of our schools and diocesan offices, because men want more money instead of trusting in God, or living in a lower income bracket. I blame men for the number of women working in the Church. They can be doing these jobs, but do not want to do so. This is connected to a fear of being poor.
    8.Fudging on the 10 Commandments. Parents have allowed their children to not go to regular Confessions, as they themselves do not do so. The effects are poorly-trained consciences. We teachers could hardly ever talk about “sin”, as it could hurt someone’s feelings or make the students feel bad about themselves. Rubbish.
    9.The fallacy of equality. God did not make us all equal. I would love to be an opera star or/and an Olympic gold-medalist swimmer. God gave me other talents. Many parents refuse to acknowledge the limitations of their children. I was in charge of organizing awards day in one Catholic school. I had to come up with all types of nonsense awards so that kids who were not academically excellent, or excellent in sports, would not feel bad. This is harmful. We have a entire generation of Catholics who think living the Catholic life is “too hard” because they were never allowed to fail and get up again. We have a Catholic culture of mediocrity because of this and no leadership training in the schools, which was the case when I was in Catholic school. What is wrong with elite leaders, or masterful artists? The idolatry of Democracy and the confusion of American democracy with Catholicism has partly led to this huge fallacy.
    10. The ignoring of Our Lady, the Blessed Mother. A Catholic who does not love Mary, cannot really love Christ or His Church. When priests do not love Mary, something is wrong, When monks do not love Mary, the prayer of the Church is undermined. When parents do not love Mary, how can they be good parents, and see the gifts God has given their children-such as a vocation to the priesthood or convent? The destruction of the devotion to Mary in the past, (it is growing again, thanks to good priests, such as Father Corapi, Father Z, etc.) recent years has led to an new-barbarianism, a lack of manners, a lack of respect, a hatred of women, a hatred of babies, a hatred of the Church. Those who love Mary, love Life.

    I could write more, but the point is that we have ourselves to blame, as we create the culture.

  14. lacrossecath says:

    I agree with your “simple” comment Father. I’ve read so many articles that provide the “simple” answer, but it is not simple at all. I think the only simple thing I can do is pray for the Holy Father every day. I totally agree with his take on ‘American Catholicism.’ Hit the nail on the head.

  15. Joanne says:

    One way to reinforce the faith of those who do assist in the Mass is to start preaching to the choir, as it were. Priests can use homily time to give us mini-apologetics lessons, which we can then take out into the world. The pastor of my current (EF/OF) parish does this, but very few priests seem to.

    Also, I work with some younger engaged women, most of whom are getting married in the Catholic Church and two of whom live with their boyfriends. Actual conversation overheard this week: “Should I lie to the priest about us living together when we go to pre-Cana?” Response from woman who had been through pre-Cana already: “No, don’t worry – they don’t care!” Now, why is someone who has been to pre-Cana under the impression that priests don’t care if couples live together before marriage? Why would a priest not use occasions like pre-Cana to catechize?

    I think of priests like doctors and teachers – you have to pass on the knowledge of your discipline, whether we want to hear it or not, especially since your discipline is the most important of all!

  16. PghCath says:

    Fr. Longnecker gets it. Most churches offer social justice, but we offer salvation. Only our priests have the keys to the Kingdom, and that should be our selling point.

  17. Precentrix says:

    @ HiddenOne

    I would be interested to hear your definition of ‘holiness’; I have the impression you equate it with ‘being nice’. It is the ‘trads’ and ‘conservatives’ (I especially dislike that term – it’s a political one) are those making full use of the Sacraments (esp. Confession) and who are standing up for Natural Law and the education of their children.

  18. Precentrix says:

    Apologies for the grammatical lapses resulting from my attempts to shorten the above post! Should have previewed…

  19. venerable says:

    The sense of the supernatural has been lost. to meditate on the first answers in the old catechism is the key: God is a pure spirit infinitely perfect who made heaven and earth and all things. He has no begining and no end. – To meditate on the articles of the Creed is crucial. To enter our churches and immediately sense in the sacred silence the Presence of the Almighty in the Person of the second person of the Blessed Trinity and be filled with the holy fear of the Lord side by side with our fellow worshipers will in itself be instruction to the young. And this may sound like a leap but only then will the ubiquious practice of contraception stand out in it’s horrible arrogant, sacriligious destruction of all things most beautiful, families. vocations. and yes, a strong and fearless Holy Cathollic Church. How long Lord ?

  20. Supertradmum says:


    Priests are supposed to ask and then request that the live-in couples separate until marriage. I know this is not done, as I left RCIA and Pre-Cana preparation after too many priests said I was “too hard” on these couples. The irony was that the priests were more lenient than myself. It is a popularity game. And, of course, one gets no grace when one is living in mortal sin of any type, so the graces of marriage are null and void. However, you can step up to the plate and do something by talking to your priest. If this fails, as it did with me, leave the program and write to your bishop. Unless we do something, nothing gets done…We either change the culture or are part of the problem.

  21. Torkay says:

    What will it take for us to wake up?

    Persecution, such as that which is fast building in the public square, esp. from homosexuals and their re-definition of “discrimination,” which will eventually outlaw the Church, and from Muslims. I’m not sure persecution will restore Tradition, since most persecuted Catholics are probably not well-versed in Tradition, but perhaps our defense of the faith, such as it is, will result in additional graces.

    I’d like to add that I think it is naive for us to think that we can evangelize like the Apostles. Have we been privately instructed and prayed over and breathed upon by Our Lord? Have we received the Holy Ghost at Pentecost? We don’t have that kind of power – our kind of evangelization will not approach that kind of witness. I don’t know what the answer is to this….but I’m sure God does…

  22. rfox2 says:

    Amen, Father Longenecker!

    We live in such a wishy-washy, politically correct, “I’m OK, You’re OK” culture. And yet, the culture is fascist about being wishy-washy! We’ve got to stop implicitly affirming people in error, gird our loins, and be prepared to argue. As Bp. Fulton Sheen said, debate is a lost art in our culture. What’s wrong with stepping on toes, if it means defending the Truth? Might we be offended, and might we offend someone else? Yes, thanks be to God! Have enough charity for people to argue with them! Try to live a holy life, and for goodness sakes, don’t be ashamed of it! Pray in public! Tell your Catholic friends they need to go to Confession, often, and your non-Catholic friends they need to get baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church! Why are we frightened and ashamed?

    “‘All the gods of the Gentiles are devils.’ [Ps. 95:5] This [lack of faith] is the greatest and most detestable of all sins.” — St. Thomas Aquinas

  23. Joanne says:

    Hi, STM: Thanks for your response. I’m not part of a pre-Cana or RCIA program; I was just recounting a conversation I overheard, and one that speaks to an experience that I think many have @ pre-Cana, ie, “they don’t care” that we’re living together. I’m sure priests don’t want to play the role of the heavy – no one does. This thread has been a good reminder for me to keep our faithful priests in prayer – God bless : )

  24. Katherine says:

    I think we are nearing the end times and this massive loss of Catholics is what was prophesized. The few remaining Catholics will hang on through suffering, waiting in suffering until Christ’s return. Of course, we all have to keep on working and evangelizing even though it looks hopeless. Pope Benedict won’t be able to turn Europe around, but if it saves a few souls his efforts are worth it. That’s the Catholic way.

  25. SimonDodd says:

    Supertradmum says “Catholics have fallen into the lazy, easy way of not reading, not keeping up with their Faith, etc. This spills down into the habits of their children. Constant Catholic education at all levels is a priority.” There’s much truth in this. Last fall, Benedict XVI released “Verbum Domini,” and you might think that a papal writing on scripture—an intersection of lines of authority—would be of paramount interest to anyone who could call themselves a Catholic with a straight face. When I have mentioned it to people, however, they have no idea that it existed.

    Now, I must say that I don’t think it’s entirely about laziness. As much as it’s true that modern communications allow us to easily obtain materials posted online, it’s also true that modern communications demand that organizations post those materials online in an organized and methodical form in the first place. And so I think that the Church must also share some blame on this. Why is the publication so haphazard? Why is there no centralized list of all new publications? Why are we constantly scrabbling to find scraps of guidance from various dicasteries (Notitiae, so far as I can tell, is not available online)? John Allen and George Weigel recently suggested that the competence of the average Vatican bureaucrat is about as competent as the average bureaucrat in any government. But why is that? Fifty years ago, physical limits of travel explained it. Today, I struggle to see how it can. If A&W are right that these aren’t the cream of the crop, why aren’t they? Is it really so hard to attract talent to live in the Eternal City for the good of the Universal Church?

    But I’m getting sidetracked. The point isn’t so much who they are as what they do. And the point I want to make is about something very specific that they aren’t doing which they must now do, in my humble opinion. They must get more organized about posting material online. It should not be necessary for a third party source like NewAdvent to be the only way one finds out about Verbum Domini short of checking each page for each kind of papal document each day. Some people say that the Vatican website design is horrible and should be updated. They’re wrong. The problem isn’t the website’s appearance. The problem is the organization of content within the design.

    If I may be so bold, the Church’s single most urgent media need is the creation of a weekly online summary of all published activity by her dicasteries. It should create something akin to the Federal Register—even more specifically, something like the absolutely brilliant new website created for it by the Obama administration, which is one of the only good things he’s done—and if the Vatican won’t do it, the USCCB should.

  26. Summers says:

    What is meant by “Catholic identity”? I’m truly asking because I don’t know. I read that phrase a lot and yet I don’t truly understand what it means. I don’t want to assume what it means therefore I’m truly asking.

  27. teomatteo says:

    “I suspect that an effective wake-up call may be quite a terrible thing, and one that is unpleasant to contemplate. ”
    A wakeup call…. (in a different direction). I have stood before ‘former’ catholics who go on about why they left the church and I have tried (with charity) to listen to their reason(ing). But lately I have waited for them to finish and with a pregnant pause asked: ” you didn’t find it difficult to tell Christ that you are done recieving his body and blood and you want no more part of him in that ?” “So when you are on your deathbed and a priest is offered to you or you have a final opportunity to speak with a priest – you are comfortable knowing that you want nothing to do with that whole thing?” “I’m not sure i have your kind of confidence.” Is all that i have said.
    Is this approach charitable, arrogant, naive or just dumb? I dunno… maybe i should never speak like that. I dunno.?

  28. Centristian says:

    I wonder what the statistics are concerning Catholics who fall away in their twenties but rediscover their faith in, say, their 40s or 50s. I suspect those statistics might be interesting, especially when we ask what percentage of those returning Catholics attend Mass on Sunday, what percentage strongly identify with their Catholic faith, and so on.

    I think it probably happens to a number of Catholics that we, for whatever reason, bolt, leaving it all completely behind for a number of years or even decades, only to reconnect again, and with a certain amount of gusto the second time around…because this time we’ve actually thought about all of it. We’ve matured, we’ve mellowed, we’ve knocked a few chips off our shoulders, and we’ve made the conscious decision to genuinely explore the Faith, to look at the Church more objectively, to study the Catholic religion more thoroughly, to worship at the Mass with a purpose, and to appreciate things we may have ignored or taken for granted before (or that we weren’t even made aware of before).

    So I don’t know if I’m terribly alarmed by statistics concerning twentysomethings who turn their backs on the Church. Those statistics don’t tell the end of the story. What I am concerned about, however, is the state of the Church that such Catholics ultimately come back home to find. What kind of Catholicism are these prodigal Catholics returning to when they do, indeed, return?

    Is it just the same old guitar-strumming, socially-oriented, naturalism-infused sorta-Catholicism that didn’t compell them the first time around? Or is there something different this time? Is there a sense of mystery and supernatural focus and liturgical nobility that was not around twenty, thirty years ago, when they didn’t feel they saw or heard anything worth sticking around for?

    When such Catholics do return, I have to suspect it is less because they miss what they didn’t care about before, and more because they’ve learned something about the Church and about the Faith that wasn’t made clear to them at first. I know Catholics who have rediscovered the Faith after long absences and have returned because they somehow learned about Catholicism’s spiritual, cultural, liturgical, theological, artistic, musical treasures (which they had not been acquainted with before). Many such Catholics want to plunge into this newfound Catholicism of theirs–which, of course, is actually yesteryear’s Catholicism–only to go to Church and not find any such thing there. They find the Catholicism-lite that they said goodbye to so many years ago.

    Then what happens? Hopefully they don’t give up or leave again, imagining that the Catholicism that has now captivated them has been discontinued for good. Hopefully they discover a good parish, or a community of “real” Catholics, or things like EWTN, or a Latin Mass or Anglican Use society in their diocese. That sort of thing. Something that lets them know that they are not alone in their disappointment with the difference between what’s in their hearts and minds and what they find, instead, at their parish churches. And hopefully they do not decide that they can only get the authentic Catholicism they now crave by leaving the Church again, and heading for, say the Lefebvrists or the sedevacantists, becoming ensnared in the strange and unhealthy environment of the fringe.

    This “Marshall Plan” of the Pope’s, as Father Zuhlsdorf describes it, is, I believe, so much more important for that sort of returning Catholic than it is even for committed conservative or traditional Catholics who aren’t going to turn anywhere else no matter what they have to put up with. Of course, for our sakes, it would be nice to behold a Church that has thoroughly reformed her “reform”. Wouldn’t it be marvelous to us to see and hear all our fondest hopes for the Church begin to materialize and at last take hold everywhere we look?

    How much more marvelous, then, the thought of returning Catholics coming back to this thoroughly-renovated home that they left, returning to find it not just they way they left it, at all, but ever so much better in every way. What a relief to them. What a joy to them. What a consolation to us to know that they won’t any longer have to struggle with the discrepancy betweem the Catholicism they’ve discovered and the Catholicism that actually exists…because the two are one in the same.

    Should that day come to pass, that will be Benedict XVI’s greatest legacy: making the Catholicism that’s on the books the one that’s also found in church. He leads the way toward that day, for sure, but with appallingly few churchmen following his lead, I’m afraid. So few that I wonder if such a day will ever come. To talk to some clergy about Benedict’s “Summorum Pontificum” or about the “extraordinary form” of Mass or about “ad orientem” posture or about the “reform of the reform” is to baffle them entirely. None of these words appears in their lexicon; none of these topics is on their radar screens. They are so often oblivious to any of it. They aren’t even at the point where they are even aware of any of it enough to be against it! The revisions of the Roman Missal that will be implemented in 2011…have so many priests so completely flummoxed that I wonder if many of them imagine that it was all just a rumor…a dream…and that it will go away if they just ignore it.

    Catholic leaders: have pity on God’s people! Stop all the games, stop jerking us around, and just, please, give us our Catholicism back. If not for love of us, how about for the love of those who will return one day. Don’t let them return to find the same mess that drove them away to begin with. Clean it up. Look at what the Pope is doing. Do that, please, instead of what you’re doing. What you’re doing is why they left in the first place. What he’s doing is why they’re coming home.

  29. Childermass says:

    Come on, Father, you’re wrong. Everything is going great! It’s the New Springtime! Just ask our bishops!

    I can’t help but laugh when I hear this, because I am the only practicing Catholic in three generations of my large formerly Catholic family. There are six failed marriages between my parents. Father is now a Baptist. My mother had an abortion 37 years ago and has never confessed it because priests told her it was okay—in fact, she was told that confession itself wasn’t necessary so she hasn’t gone since about 1975. Mass for her is once a year, if that. But she identifies “Catholic” in those polls you see.

    My siblings are two pagans and one atheist. One was never even baptized. I grew up a pagan myself until a conversion in college. I have 36 first cousins—not a practicing Catholic among them.

    And I don’t think my family is atypical. They are all over the place in this “New Springtime” our dear shepherds always like to talk about.

  30. SimonDodd says:

    Just as an addendum to my comment above, let me add, re Centristian’s statement “Catholic leaders: have pity on God’s people! … Look at what the Pope is doing. Do that, please, instead of what you’re doing.” I agree, but I think this is a reasonable example of my point. Ordinary Catholics have to know about the example the Holy Father is setting, and of the decisions of the Holy See, in order for them to be followed. When there is no organized means by which busy people can reliably and conveniently obtain that information, they won’t, and the more obscure, opaque, dispersed and disorganized the Church’s directives are, the easier they are for dissenters to ignore. People look at me funny when I suggest that we use too many EMHCs, and they are astonished to learn that the Vatican warned against it a decade ago. How can this be? People who want to get this information can get it; this is a well-informed group. But your can’t battle the lapse of Catholic identity without reaching out to those who are currently lapsing or less invested in the Church.

    Let me give another example. Every week, I get an email summarizing developments in the antitrust world. Like the Vatican, most federal courts are pretty good about posting recent orders and opinions on their website if you know where to look, but there are more than a hundred federal courts in the United States. There is no way I could possibly follow new developments in caselaw if I had to go to each court’s website one by one and glance through the new. Similarly, it seems crazy to me that the Vatican apparently lacks a centralized index of new public information. (Perhaps this was the original intent of AAS, but it won’t suffice any more.) Is it too much to ask that there be a regular bulletin posted containing things like important new public decisions (I’m told these are in notitiae anyway), disciplinary and regulatory documents, doctrinal statements, papal writings, and the like?

  31. paxetbonum says:

    A few modest proposals-

    1) The USCCB should promote, and bishops should mandate the use of the following publications as primary textbooks in American Catholic religious education: for neophytes, the Baltimore Catechism, Vols I-IV; for initiated/confirmed Catholics, the CCC, 2nd Edition; the Douay-Rheims or Jerusalam Bible; the Modern Catholic Dictionary by Fr John Hardon, SJ; and a good history of the Catholic Church; I have Bokenkotter’s Concise History of the Catholic Church, but there may be better ones.

    2) Require ALL materials used for catechesis to be scrutinized by orthodox ecclesiastical censors librorum, and to bear the Imprimi Potest and Nihil Obstat.

    3) Relegate all the OCP, GIA, ABC, XYZ secondary, tertiary, and quaternary materials of whatever multimedia format (of course, only those which are certified to be orthodox) to ancillary or supporting roles only in catechesis.

    4) Clergy should persistently encourage from the ambo (“in season and out of season”) all Catholics to continue their religious education throughout their lifetime by taking classes in age-appropriate refresher catechism, Bible study, Church history and similar topics. At a minimum, every parish should offer a full, orthodox K-12 CCD program, ongoing adult RCIA/refresher catechism classes, and adult Bible study classes. Part of this effort can be supported today by “distance learning” using various internet resources; the “Catholic Distance Learning” (not certain of title) program comes to mind.

    5) Work as hard as necessary to establish an expectation that it should be the norm, rather than the rare exception, for every Catholic to be enrolled in at least one Church-approved, solidly orthodox continuing education religion class, on whatever topic, during most of their adult lifetime.

    These ideas are have a key prerequisite; whatever the program, level or topic, course content, materials, and teacher(s) must be clearly, certifiably orthodox Catholic. If religious education is orthodox, people will eventually participate, seeing it’s solid spiritual value. Most teaching offered today at every level in diocesan American Catholic culture is watered down, “Catholic Lite” pablum. It’s not surprising serious Catholics are not interested in spending time, money, or intellectual energy studying such fluff.

  32. everett says:

    Simon, have you tried something like Zenit? Lots of good stuff there.

  33. Randii says:

    I’m always dubious about this de rigeur explanation of the collapse of Catholicsm in the US over the past half century.

    It’s easy to blame it all on Vatican 2 and such but…………………

    If the faith was so much stronger then how is it that so many priests and nuns overnight abandonned their vocations w/in a decade of V2? How “real” was their Catholicsm – a faith they were catechized in during the good old pre-V2 days of the 40s and 50s.

    Beyond that the record of traditionalist parishes in growing large congregations, evangelizing and passing that faith on to the next generation is unimpresssive.

    Most of these parishes remain quite small – compared to flousishing evangelical and Mormon churches “down the street” and the next generation seems to fall away, if not in as great numbers as the general Catholic population, in still alarmingingly large fashion.

    If you live near one of these parishes you have probably heard of discouraged parents who brought their large family 0f 4 or 5 kids up in a thouroughly orthodox Catholic environment only to have half or more of their children convert to evangelicalism or go secular.

  34. Supertradmum says:

    In this age of information, if Catholic men and women spent as much time reading about their Faith online, from the multiple excellent sites, instead of wasting time with useless information, we would all be much smarter.

    Stop blaming the hierarchy, folks. When we stand before Christ at the particular judgment, The Lord will not ask us, I am sure, “Did you have a good bishop?” We are supposedly in the age of the laity; ergo, the laity must take responsibility for their own Faith.

    As to people coming back to the Faith, some of the drop-outs do, but most do not. In years of RCIA, most of the converts were not reverts, but from Baptist, United Church of Christ, Latter Days Saints, etc. backgrounds.

  35. Summers says:

    Let me try again. What is “Catholic identity”? Anybody wanna take a stab at it cuz I don’t know what it is. Is it externals? Devotions? Art? Architecture? Veils? Altar rails? Or internals? The Eucharist? Theology? Christ Himself? What gives a Catholic their “identity”? It’s a real question.

  36. Gail F says:

    Summers: By “Catholic identity” one means that Catholics ought to be in some identifiable way different from everyone else. You should be able to tell that Catholics are Catholics without asking them, because they lead their lives in a special way, and the special way is that it is Catholic. The special way of being includes a particular type of worship, particular beliefs, AND particular ways of acting outside of church. Just going to mass but being like everyone else doesn’t cut it. Neither does being politically active in Catholic-friendly causes. It means that being Catholic is the center of your life, whether your calling is to stay home and raise children or to be a political activist.

    A couple of weeks ago at his homily, my pastor said that the gospel reading explained the “job description” of Jesus. which is the same for all of us: doing random acts of kindness and bringing out the best in each other. Really. There is nothing Catholic about that, nor is there anything even interesting in that. Now I’m all for “meeting people where they are” and starting with “baby steps,” but this is as far as the homilies ever go. You don’t need to be Catholic to do that. You don’t even need to be Christian. Heck, if that’s all Jesus wants us to do, you might as well just sleep in Sunday morning. And then they wonder why people chuck the whole thing.

  37. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Fr. L hit this on the mark with Fr. Z’s comments! Supertradmum’s assessment of the factors sounds quite significant from her experience. It sounds like to repair some of the damage of our Goody-goody regular faith, it will take a total assualt on multiple fronts: Letting the hippie priests die off or get demoted, re-catechizing the parents (well the ones that do care, just let the rest of them leave), re-infuzing the schools with the very things that made it Catholic (e.g. sacraments and proper religious catechesis) and getting priests and bishops to finally take a stand and be firm in re-establishing their Catholic Identity.

    My one point to add to Supertradmum’s list is that priests and bishops in individual dioceses should knuckle up when it comes to administering the sacraments. They should ensure the family cares about the faith, that the people getting the sacraments understand what they are about, and in the cases of Confirmation and Marriage, they are well educated and DISPOSED (e.g. not cohabitating or in mortal sin, go to weekly mass, know the responsibilities the sacrament entails) to receive it.

    While I am familliar with the ultra-right wing stance of critics who point out this elephant in the room, like Michael Voris and his Canadian counterparts at So Con or Bust, and have read your comments before mine, it’s times like this I get a little bit sad and say “those extremists are right.” Unless everyone in the church, layman, laywoman and clergy does this radical turnaroud, I really do fear for the future of the Church.

  38. Henry Edwards says:

    SimonDodd: Ordinary Catholics have to know about the example the Holy Father is setting, and of the decisions of the Holy See, in order for them to be followed.

    I don’t know how the hierarchical organization of the Roman Catholic Church could be more effectively arranged for the timely top-down flow of such information. Whenever the Pope promulgates a decision, it is communicated through papal nuncios to each national bishops conference, which presumably blast faxes it to each bishop in the conference. Each bishop can then blast-fax it to each pastor in his diocese and include it in his diocesan newspaper. Each pastor can announce it to his parishioners and include it in his parish bulletin.

    Thus there is a designated route for the flow of information directly from the Pope to each individual Catholic in the world. Surely it’s fail-safe if each person along the way does his job conscientiously. So what streamlining of this system could you suggest?

    On the other hand, if the system is essentially perfect but the people are not, what then?

  39. Hidden One says:

    @Fr. Z

    “[This generalization undermines whatever else you might want to say here.]”

    I am aware that it is not a commonly accepted view of the present state of affairs, but I do think it holds fairly well. I’m not alone in my views, however. I’ve heard it in sermons – from priests affiliated with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. I’ve also discussed it with solid traditionalist seminarians who share my concerns. To say – and I hope that this is not how my message is interpreted – that every traditionalist is a prideful _whatever_, would be both uncharitable and inaccurate. I stand by my assertion that pride is at a pandemic level in traditionalist circles, though. (Nor do I exempt myself from its reach. It is a daily battle.) However, I do, of course, respect your disagreement, Fr. Z, and I could hardly argue that you are not far more qualified in your assessment than am I. Still, I hold my position.


    “I would be interested to hear your definition of ‘holiness’; I have the impression you equate it with ‘being nice’. It is the ‘trads’ and ‘conservatives’ (I especially dislike that term – it’s a political one) are those making full use of the Sacraments (esp. Confession) and who are standing up for Natural Law and the education of their children.”

    My definition can be found in the brief article on holiness in the Catholic Encyclopedia, hosted by The qualities most apparent in a holy person are holy charity (cf. John 13:35) and humility. If stalked, such a person’s prayerfulness will become more apparent than otherwise. Holiness is definitely not “being nice”, although it is certainly true that the actions of holy people can often (hardly always) be described as “nice”.

    It is indeed the Trads, and a smattering of others, who make disproportionate usage of the Sacrament of Confession, and who are disproportionately likely to be to be capable of quoting from Humanae Vitae, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Redemptionis Sacramentum (et al.) from memory. [I, too, dislike the terms “liberal” and “conservative” in religious contexts, though I sometimes find “liberal” hard to replace.] It is precisely this knowledge that we have and the greater graces which are available to us and which we do (or can) generally have a far higher understanding of the Mass that at once demand from us that we cooperate more fully with God’s grace (cf. Luke 12:48). I contend – as I once heard practically yelled from an EF pulpit – that if we had been generally doing that, we would be much better off (and much more numerous) than we are.

  40. marychapman says:

    Being Catholic is almost CRAZY. I mean, if we’re talking REALLY Catholic, then I’m totally obsessed, can’t stop thinking about, don’t want to stop talking about it, crazy. I don’t get that from most people around me… especially in my parish or church community.

    I AM one of those “in their twenties” people. And I know how hard it is to see the friends that I went through Catholic school, CCD, Confirmation classes, CYO, and different ministries… just falling away from and turning their back on the Church. They see no need for it because, like everyone has said, the Church has slipped into an apathy of “do good, be good” mentality. And they can do that without the Church.

    I used to be one of those that was “earning” love from God by doing what He asked. And when I fell into the mystery of just BEING loved, things changed. When I was CALLED OUT and called to holiness, things changed. And I think that is what’s missing most of all.

    I know it’s important for all people, regardless of where they are in their faith, to belong to the Church. But I sort of wish there was a way to join a Church where everyone was invested in a true, deep understanding… even if we are struggling, at least the validity would be there. I’m not sure most people even “get it.” Maybe that’s what being part of the New Evangelization is about… like a restart for the Church.

  41. Seraphic Spouse says:

    @ Summers. This used to be a lot easier, when the Baltimore (or Penny) Catechism was drummed into kid’s heads by rote. But to start with, I’d say Catholic culture starts with the six principal commandments of the Church:
    1. Go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and rest from servile work (if you can).
    2. Keep the days of fasting and abstinence. (Friday fasting was a BIG identity marker)
    3. Don’t marry within a certain degree of kinship or marry people during the forbidden times.
    4. Support your pastors. (Collection, and a nice cherry pie occasionally)
    5. Receive the Eucharist at least once a year, and that at Eastertide.
    6. Go to confession at least once a year.

    That’s where it starts. This is only the beginning, and the barest skeleton, but that is indeed where it starts. Without Sunday attendence at Mass, you’re not going to have Catholic culture. And that is why it is so important to reform the reform and to rescue the liturgical treasures thrown out or hidden away in cupboards.

    To frequent Mass attendence and the other five items above, I’d add devotion to Our Lady and to the saints, and also attention to what the Holy Father has to say. Those are rock-solidly Catholic, and not something Protestants get excited about.

  42. Supertradmum says:


    Catholic identity is simply that one is a Catholic first in all things, and either an American, Canadian, or Englishman, etc. second. Our identity comes from God, as we are all daughters and sons of God, creatures of the Creator, brothers and sister in Christ, and taking part of the indwelling of the Trinity, through the Holy Spirit. But, and this is the key word, this all happens in and through the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Therefore, if we take part regularly in the Sacramental Life of the Church, follow the Liturgical Year as our primary calendar, have devotion to particular saints, follow the rules of the Church regarding fasting, etc. and most importantly, conform our minds to the Mind of Christ, as revealed through the Church, we have Catholic identity. If we are married, we obey the Church laws regarding sex and marriage and raise our children Catholic, in a home where Catholicism is the pervasive culture. I would love to write more about this, but would rather we could all get together for coffee and chocolate beans and discuss this…

  43. Supertradmum says:

    Seraphic Spouse,

    Your comment was not on the list when I posted mine, so I did not mean to repeat what is in your excellent list.

  44. Mike says:

    “I’d like to point out that smiles and supernatural joy are not gifts granted only to the virtuous, for which I thank God. Even reverent awe is not proof of virtue. (I’d also like to point out that more-than-traditionalists go to stray TLMs.)”

    Well, supernatural joy means it’s supernatural in its inspiration and end. It’s not because one may make 10k a month, or that one had a terrifc latte, or that one’s automobile is of excellent Germanic origins. Virtue is proof of virtue. Reverent awe is a gift of the Holy Spirit, otherwise known as Fear of the Lord.
    Perhaps Traddies may lean towards the sin of Pride. I don’t know. I am not a “trad”, however; in fact, under some (little) duress, I served a NO Mass this morning because the lady who asked is so sweet, and I have a sort of friendship going with the priest who was offering Mass. I love the TLM, however, and would love to see it offered all over the place.

  45. Supertradmum says:

    Hidden One,

    As pride is the primal sin of all mankind, I hardly think the traddies have a monopoly on this severe sin. Remember also, that the great sin of Lucifer was “I shall not serve”, which is rebellion. To me, obedience is the beginning of humility and the ending of pride. Hopefully, those who try to be obedient to Holy Mother Church become more humble in the effort. However, we cannot judge what we cannot see, but only what is seen in data, actions, and outcomes.

  46. SimonDodd says:

    Henry, I’ve answered that already. Look immediately below the line from my comment that you quoted; I went on to identify a solution.

    everett, the problem isn’t so much that people who are well-motivated to find information aren’t able to do so (although that is true to an extent), but rather, that ordinary soi-disant Catholics—the very people to whom Fr. Longenecker says we need to reach out—who are relatively unmotivated to sift through piles of information won’t do so. What’s more, as I said above, people who are well-motivated to ignore the directives from Rome benefit when the people most directly able to observe their day-to-day behavior lack the means to know “hey, this is a problem.” Organizing the distribution of new directives would be a good first step. Organizing the existing instructions would be a great step, too. Here’s an example. How many people know that the CDW admonishes that priest is “the homilist; the congregation is to refrain from comments, attempts at dialogue, or anything similar”? Suppose that an ordinary Catholic sitting in the pew had a nagging feeling that when their priest tries to engage in some kind of exchange or interaction with the congregation, that’s not right. Would they manage to stumble upon Liturgicae Instaurationes, from which I just quoted? Or would they consult the GIRM, and finding nothing, give it up as a bad job? Now, perhaps you’d say that’s such a minor issue that they ought to drop it anyway, and I’d actually agree; it’s just an example. But take EMHCs. Fr. Z recently highlighted Ecclesia de Mysterio; many people here are familiar with it, but how many ordinary Catholics are? Here’s the problem: the more obscure an instruction is, the harder it is to get any traction when you try to enforce it. If every Catholic in the pews knew that they aren’t “Eucharistic Ministers” but EMHCs, it would be much easier to streamline their use. If every Catholic in the pews knew that CDW had forbidden parishes to empty the holy water fonts for lent, how many parishes would do it? So long as the Vatican’s warnings against these things languish unnoticed in the AAS and on traddie websites, they will be next to impossible to enforce. Time was, there was no way around that. That’s changed. For everyone outside of Egypt, we have the internet now. I think we ought to be making better use of it.

  47. Centristian says:


    “Ordinary Catholics have to know about the example the Holy Father is setting, and of the decisions of the Holy See, in order for them to be followed. When there is no organized means by which busy people can reliably and conveniently obtain that information, they won’t, and the more obscure, opaque, dispersed and disorganized the Church’s directives are, the easier they are for dissenters to ignore.”

    There is an organized means for this, it’s called the Catholic hierarchy. At one time, it was a more or less well-oiled machine, the various components of which worked in harmony with one another in proclaiming the Gospel and keeping the faithful informed and on the same page. That’s the sort of Church that existed, once upon a time.

    That machine functioned well after Vatican II, as well, convincing all of us that we should begin to look at everything in a new light and to explore it all and express it all in a new way. The organization did its thing. It worked, and the Church all went together in the new direction. Alot of Catholics fell off the boat when it made that 180, but the crew stood together in a united purpose, all pointing together to the sunrise on the horizon. I think the ship and crew analogy is a good one, actually, I’ll continue using it…

    Now the captain–the Pope–finding his ship not arriving in paradise as promised by earlier captains but quite unexpectedly in the Arctic–has turned the ship around–again–and wants to sail the ship back in the original direction. And some of the crew who are positioned as high as the captain at bridge-level and who can see all the icebergs are glad the captain wants to turn back and they support his plan.

    But what about the crew on the lower levels? They were told by the bridge that the first direction was the infallibly correct decision for so many years. In fact, they were told that the ship wasn’t even capable of travelling in any other direction. Then, suddenly, they were shown a new direction and were told that that was the even correcter new direction that would take the ship to paradise. They were skeptical–because they were told the ship could not sail that way–but when the captain turned the ship around and sailed it in the new direction and it kept going without capsizing or getting eaten by a sea monster, they changed their minds.

    At any rate, some of the crew will remember how much nicer the original way was and will happily point back the other way. Many members of the crew were hired only since the boat began to travel in the current direction and don’t even know what the old direction was like, but they can also see with their own eyes that the current direction hasn’t taken the ship to a good place, at all. Some of these will go ahead and point the old way, others won’t be comfortable doing that, imagining alternatives apart from the “old” way and the “new” way and won’t point in any direction, just yet, until they figure it out for themselves.

    Many others, still, have been so persuaded by previous captains that the direction the ship is going in now is so correct that they wouldn’t dream of heading back in the “old” direction, so they ignore the new directives from the bridge. As far as they’re concerned, the last three or four captains said to go this way, and this new captain telling them to turn around can go to hell. He’s wrong. If he’s right, it means the last four captains were wrong, and there’s no way they were all wrong. And doesn’t this new captain remember that he used to be a member of the crew pointing in the same direction as the rest of us? Now that he’s captain he wants us all to point the old way? Forget him!

    So today, the captain of the ship is pointing in one direction and the crew are all pointing in so many different and even contradictory directions.

    I’m no doomsday forecaster but you begin to wonder if the best thing wouldn’t be to just torpedo the ship altogether, at this point. Of course, God doesn’t usually try to solve problems that way: He’d rather save as many passengers and crew as he can, first.

    So maybe He’ll give the captain a chance to get the rest of the crew pointing with him in the same direction again (not that they can be blamed: it isn’t their fault, after all; it’s the schizophrenic bridge’s fault). We can only hope.

    Until then, if the passengers want to know what’s going on, they can’t just rely upon the cruise director any longer. They’ll have to open up their laptops, Google their ship, and read what bloggers and other correspondents have to say about it. They’ll have to hear from different crew members and weigh the validity of their instructions against each others’. They’ll have to talk to the captain and way his words against those of previous captains and will have to figure out for themselves which way is the best way for the ship to sail.

    There is no easy and automatic system any more. Those days are gone.

  48. Supertradmum says:


    The Church a “well-oiled machine”, a ship without storms always with a good crew? Have you studied the history of our beloved Church? Nothing is new under the sun. The only difference is that we get information of failures and successes a lot faster, not having to wait months for a donkey ride through the Pyrenees. Look at the persecution of Cyril, Louis de Montfort, etc. by their own fellow priests. Please. Do not have an idealized vision of the Church in the past, as it does not help one’s Faith or argument to do so.

  49. West of the Potomac says:

    I have thought long and hard about Catholic identity and what it means for how I live my life and how to evaluate whether I should do or not do (or suppor or not support) something.

    In doing this I developed a hierchy to help me think about this:

    First, I am a Catholic,
    Second, I am a husband and father,
    Third, I am an American,
    Fourth, I am a conservative,
    Dead last, I am a Republican.

    Everything flows from the top down. In other words, I won’t (or try not to) do or support something that conflicts with my obligations at a higher level. So, if I am considering doing something, say on a political level, that is Republican, I can only do it if it doesn’t conflict with being a conservative or American or husband and father or Catholic.

    Another way to look at it is that being a Catholic impacts every other area of my life, and so on as you go down the hierarchy.

  50. ejcmartin says:

    My wife was born and raised Catholic, but fell away from the Church in her 20’s. It was not so much a rejection of the Church as it was an apathy. Now that she has rediscovered her faith (and I along for the ride) she is often asking why she never heard half the things before that she is now learning. We are trying very hard to raise our two boys with a strong Catholic identity, but the world seems to try very hard to strip it away. They are still young and I know the struggle will get greater. I sometime tell older boy of eight that when he is older his opportunities for evangelization will be immense. Most of his peers will have no understanding (right or wrong) of the faith and will still be searching. In one of Chesterton’s books he mentions how it is easier to convert a “Chinaman” who has not preconceived ideas about the faith than someone who thinks they know it.

  51. Centristian says:

    Saith Supertradmum…

    “The Church a ‘well-oiled machine’, a ship without storms always with a good crew? Have you studied the history of our beloved Church? Nothing is new under the sun. The only difference is that we get information of failures and successes a lot faster, not having to wait months for a donkey ride through the Pyrenees. Look at the persecution of Cyril, Louis de Montfort, etc. by their own fellow priests. Please. Do not have an idealized vision of the Church in the past, as it does not help one’s Faith or argument to do so.”

    Oh, believe me, I don’t. And my post shouldn’t really have suggested that I do. I’m surprised, in fact, that after reading a post so critical of the Church as mine, in fact, that anyone would accuse me of clinging to an idealized view of the Church!

    My proposition was that the Church had a good machine (so did Tammany Hall). The machine worked rather well when everyone was more or less on the same page. Today the machine doesn’t work at all because nobody’s on the same page anymore.

    That’s all I said.

  52. Seraphic Spouse says:

    @SuperTradMum, no problem! These things cannot be repeated often enough! And I’m all for the coffee and chocolate beans…

  53. Summers says:

    Thank you for the replies to my question. It was an earnest one.

    This is not an easy problem to solve. Because it apparently has nothing to do with the externals or the attendance at Mass, or the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why do I say that? Because there are traditional Catholics who were raised in doing just those very things and many have already left the faith. I am referring to what an SSPX priest said from the pulpit. He stated the last statistic he heard was nearly 50% of the young people raised in tradition (SSPX that is) leave the Church. That is striking.

    Also, look at the Orthodox. They most certainly have “identity” externally and internally and they too have lost members.

    Therefore I believe Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev is correct. The battle is against secularism and the Holy Father was wise to “team up” with the Orthodox in Europe against the “religion” of secularism. Defeat that beast and Christianity as a whole will have a fighting chance.

  54. Centristian says:

    Having a Catholic identity means hpoing it isn’t Friday every time you see a Burger King commercial.

  55. benedetta says:

    For many years there has been “nothing is sacred” about the predominant culture and that is only gettting more and more exaggerated and more and more permissive as it continues along the path of consumerism and makes the connection between physical responses and the inclination to buy.

    Meanwhile in the Catholic world, for the same amount of time, perhaps forty years or so, with respect to whatever had been regarded as healthily sacred, is now pretty much minimized almost out of existence so that there too, what one comes away with is pretty much the same as what is on offer in the dominant culture, the message that “nothing is sacred”.

    The liturgy, for that same amount of time, has been aggressively changed (not just, the vernacular and the NO shift but so much, much, much, much more and different) to fit a sort of Episcopalian (or different Protestant mainline denominations) bill of goods that the laity has never in fact consented to or asked for. Why this was settled upon as the direction for us by the powers that be is inexplicable, since participation in that denomination is notoriously worse.

    But, obviously, that experiment was given its chance, has been tried, has utterly failed and, as is the best and most healthy approach with respect to the sex abuse crisis, responsible Bishops and pastors and those in seminaries and working in religious education and pastoral work must now face the music (with courage) and, take the opportunity which is now extended to them, in the form of this disaster in generations of Catholics, to change and be convicted. That the approach has failed and it is and has been extremely harmful to the practice of the faith and it has interfered with the passing on of the faith. It has achieved this disastrous effect all the while in innocuous garb, taking advantage of the laity’s lack of resources and preoccupation with the prevailing culture.

    Secular science over and over presents studies showing that those who practice their faith are in fact healthier than those who do not. Prayer has been shown to be medically beneficial. Lacking possibilities to experience the sacred in contemporary secular life people will seek outlet. Some seek drugs, alcohol, pornography, affairs, isolating experiences and some seek out yoga and zen practices or fill up their ipods with more stuff and block out the other noise with earbuds attuned to the noise of their unique choice. With all of this there are consequences, some which we are unprepared to answer for.

    Mass and parish life have become for a certain group a social outlet and a way of fulfilling civic duty, a way of feeling involved, a substitute for political action. Many others, not completely ready to reject all these, are still cut loose, left to wander to find something tangibly and affirmingly and plainly sacred, just at face value, without apology or irony, no frills. While these two groups do their thing Sunday after Sunday, vast numbers have just laid down the spiritual struggle to live a life in which they accept the the Church as labeled as having nothing relevant to provide or add. Don’t all three of these groups of Catholics need, and deserve, the sacred, the transcendent? Yet if this is experimented out of existence by Protestantized liturgies what is to come of our people?

  56. Centristian says:

    “hoping” that is. Man, I wish there was an “edit” option!

  57. SimonDodd says:

    Centristian, I don’t see how any of that matters or is responsive to the suggestion I made. As you observe, today, the captain of the ship is pointing in one direction and the crew are all pointing in so many different and even contradictory directions.” All may overstate it, but that’s basically sound. Now: If only there were a way that the bridge could speak directly to the passengers and noncoms; that way, when the crew ignore the captain’s orders, they can be corrected. And that is precisely my point. We live in a world where this is done freely and easily.

    Not so long ago, the Supreme Court would decide a case; you would read about it the next day, and and if you were lucky, you might get a copy mailed to you a few days after that. Most folks wouldn’t get the opinion for weeks. Today, when the Supreme Court issues an opinion c.10:15 am EST, it simultaneously publishes its opinion online, and you can be reading that case in California—three time zones and several thousand miles away—at the same instant that the wire services are rushing to the phone in D.C. The internet has obliterated the propagation time for documents and practically eliminated the cost. What is so difficult about having one office to which each dicastery sends notice or copy, and which puts these together in a single consistently formatted and organized bulletin that is published to the website RSS feed? If those clowns in DC can do it, surely the Vatican can do it.

    As to “you begin to wonder if the best thing wouldn’t be to just torpedo the ship altogether,” Martin Luther tried it already, but she survived

  58. Andrew says:

    Being aware of one’s Christian identity is not the same as being recognized, much less admired by others as a Christian. Jesus met many people during His earthly sojourn. Many of them didn’t think much of Him, some argued and disagreed with Him, some hated Him, some scorned Him, his own disciples often misunderstood Him.
    Why should one expect Catholics to harness a huge wave of admiration? Just because people don’t admire Christians – it doesn’t mean that there are no saints in our midst. The question is: “do we know who we are” not “do others think highly of us”?

  59. Dr. Eric says:

    Someone in Fr. Longenecker’s blog compared the Novus Ordo to “New Coke” (remember that in the 80s?) I sort of agree (I fully acknowledge that the NO is a valid Mass- especially since we attend it almost 90% of the time when we can’t get to St. Francis de Sales in St. Louis) that there was a “change in the formula” so to speak. When you change from “Coca Cola Classic” to “New Coke” don’t be surprised if your customers switch to Pepsi, RC, or Sam’s Choice Cola.

    Coke was smart, they pulled “New Coke” off of the shelves. I don’t know if the Vatican will do likewise.

  60. Dr. Eric says:

    I’m not trying to imply that there aren’t smart people at the Vatican, just that they need to realize the “brand” is sinking.

  61. Supertradmum says:

    Why do we care about the prevalent secular culture? It was illegal to be a Catholic priest and to get a university degree in England until the Catholic Emancipation Act. It was illegal to be a Catholic in certain parts of Germany until the 19th century, and under the Communists, places like the Ukraine lost millions of Catholics through persecution. Catholics thrived underground, or died for their Faith.

    If Catholics conform to the secular culture, it is their fault if the culture turns on them. When I was fifteen, many, many years ago, my Dad said to me that to be Catholic,was to be counter-culture. Period.

  62. anilwang says:

    I think that G K Chesterton had it right when he said that the start of our problems was the acceptance of divorce. Ephesians 5 makes it clear, how we see marriage is how we see Christ’s relationship with the Church and vice versa.

    Once divorce was accepted as tragic but normal the high view of the Church started declining and as that happened the holiness of marriage declined as well in a viscous cycle. Contraception started getting normalized — first in the Anglicans, then in the Protestants, then in society and academia, then in the Western Catholic Church. Brick by brick the teaching of the faith was watered down as Marriage and the “Marriage feast of the Lamb” got watered down until we have a lost generation that knows next to nothing about the faith.

    One thing Protestants get right is adult faith formation. It’s assumed in Protestant circles that you’ll join a Bible study to advance in the faith. Even if “you’re saved”, you never “graduate” until you meet God. If Protestants didn’t keep trying to “reform” their previous “reforms” of their previous “reforms”, they’d likely have kept their actual faith instead of the faith of this generation only.

    Confirmation or even Eucharist are often treated as “the Catholic Graduation”. Once you pass this phase, it’s assumed there’s nothing more to learn, so this generation thinks they know the Catholic faith and doesn’t think there’s more to know. This has to change if we’re ever going to reach this generation. Seek and you’ll find, but if you don’t know there’s anything to seek, you won’t find….unless you’re graced like I was and life forces one to look for answers. But even in my case, I looked *everywhere else* before I looked at the Catholic Faith, and I really have no explanation why I didn’t became Orthodox other than grace.

    A higher liturgy raises the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, which in turn raises the sanctity of marriage. But we need to make marriage more holy. Western society as a whole is suffering and desecrating marriage to the point where it has even less value than a business contract.

    But Catholics of faith have what all people hunger for in their marriage. The worse things get out there, the more valuable our identity becomes. We just have to stop being shy about it and stop all the false modesty (i.e. instead of saying that you just got lucky or that your spouse deserves all the credit, give credit to God and the Catholic faith and how your spouse’s faithfulness is an inspiration to you), since if we hide the lamps we’ve been given, no-one will see them. We’ll just appear to be lucky by fluke.

    With strong sanctified families, the faith gets passed on, even if it gets watered down by the education system and at the pulpit.

  63. benedetta says:

    If you link to Fr. Longenecker’s piece, check out the comment by Janalaine! Totally agree. One can experience the liturgy in Africa or South America where there are scant resources and yet there is the undeniably sacred experience of unity in the Real Presence. If we teach and practice in such a way that Our Lord is not truly present in the Mass and that we may experience Him in precisely the same way, always and everywhere no matter what, then, no matter what the experimentation in the liturgy, people aren’t going to be showing up. The rubrics have lasted as long as they have because they assume the truth and the reality of the Real Presence. In places where that truth is stashed away, whether in teaching or through liturgy, churches are being closed.

  64. Summers says:

    You may not care about the secular culture but young Catholics leaving the Church (both traditional and mainstream Catholics) apparently DO care about the secular culture…they care all too much, hence their exit from the Church.

  65. Centristian says:

    “This is not an easy problem to solve. Because it apparently has nothing to do with the externals or the attendance at Mass, or the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why do I say that? Because there are traditional Catholics who were raised in doing just those very things and many have already left the faith. I am referring to what an SSPX priest said from the pulpit. He stated the last statistic he heard was nearly 50% of the young people raised in tradition (SSPX that is) leave the Church. That is striking. ”

    The fact that 50% of kids raised in a schismatic cult grow up to lose the Faith isn’t a great shock, I’m afraid. Furthermore, it doesn’t impugn the value of Catholic tradition that a fringe group makes such a great impression on its youth that 50% of them split the scene as soon as they can.

    Spend a week or two at their central indoctrinizational facility in St. Mary’s, Kansas, and then tell me if you think it’s the TRADITION that scares these kids away. I think you’ll find a number of factors quite apart from Catholic tradition that makes the kids grow up to be lost souls.

  66. Summers says:


    Perhaps you might care to share your opinions with the Holy Father. He must not be aware that the SSPX are a “schismatic cult.” Because surely were he aware, he would not have the Vatican talking with said “cult” in doctrinal discussions. Would he?

  67. Supertradmum says:


    My point is if you teach your children to be counter-culture, then they understand the dangers of the secular society and can avoid the pitfalls. The grace of God is stronger than the wiles of the devil. I blame parents as the first teachers of their children.

  68. Centristian says:


    The Holy See dialogues with everyone. That tells me nothing.

  69. becket1 says:


    True he even dialogues with the Neo-Catecomical Way group.

  70. jm says:

    “It may be that some of those pagans of whom Fr. Longenecker speaks above are also wearing Roman collars. They just don’t realize they actually belong to a different religion.”


  71. I’m interested in what others think about “biological solution” often mentioned by Fr. Z. On one hand, the youth that do keep their faith tend to be very orthodox and tradition-minded. On the other hand, most youth are losing their faith and most regular Mass-goers are much older.

    How does everyone envision the Church, say, 50 years from now?

  72. Summers says:

    The Holy See is not “dialoguing” with CMRI or SSPV or “Pope Michael”…. *sigh* Therefore they are not dialoguing with “everybody.”

  73. anilwang says:


    The key question is, where does that other 50% go?

    The key problem is with the very definition of SSPX. SSPX is defined by what they are against rather than what they are for (compare with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter which has a positive definition…Catholicism+TLM). What’s more, the SSPX finds its origin in the Catholic Church.

    If you define yourself as opposing your origin, is it little surprise that youth do the same and define themselves against their own origin (namely the SSPX)? The key question is, where do these youth go to? Do they go to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter? Do they go Eastern Rite? Do they just accept an orthodox NO Catholic parish? Do they go Eastern Orthodox (so they can still be in schism but not defined by their schism)? Do they go Protestant? Or somewhere else?

    I submit that if you know what the Church is, you will not leave it. And if youth cannot find youth at their Church, they may switch parishes or even rites, but they won’t leave the Church. That 15% is secure as long as the faith is passed on to them and they pass on that faith to the next generation. I don’t know where you live (I live in Toronto), but my city is extremely secular, but quite honestly, I don’t see such a dramatic problem with the youth. The youth seem more conservative than my generation since somehow they discovered that they were short changed and want to regain their inheritance.

    I’m not sure the reason, but I’m willing to bet that the new media has something to do with it. I came back because it was easy to find an enormous amount of Catholic and Orthodox audio on everything ranging from the Church Fathers to Apologetics to Bible studies and introductions to Catholic living. Anyone who wants to find out about the Catholic faith has little difficulty. Even the Catechism, Compendium, Catholic Study Bibles (e.g., and Encyclicals are freely available.

  74. Dr. Eric says:


    I envision the Church only vibrant in the Southern Hemisphere and struggling to survive in the Northern Hemisphere.

  75. Supertradmum says:


    My friends from South America and Central America tell me that the Church is still in the hands of the Liberation Theologians and Marxists, especially in the seminaries, and in the parishes in urban, as well as rural areas. Many of the men who come to America to be seminarians have to or should be weaned from Liberation Theology. Also, there is a growing pro-choice movement among Catholics in those places, including among the clergy. Brazilian bishops have been at logger-heads over issues upon which our own bishops have come to agree. Brazilian president Rouseff is a pro-choice Catholic and although the Bishops wrote against her, she won.

  76. Randii says:

    This is not an easy problem to solve. Because it apparently has nothing to do with the externals or the attendance at Mass, or the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why do I say that? Because there are traditional Catholics who were raised in doing just those very things and many have already left the faith. I am referring to what an SSPX priest said from the pulpit. He stated the last statistic he heard was nearly 50% of the young people raised in tradition (SSPX that is) leave the Church. That is striking.

    Also, look at the Orthodox. They most certainly have “identity” externally and internally and they too have lost members.

    Therefore I believe Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev is correct. The battle is against secularism and the Holy Father was wise to “team up” with the Orthodox in Europe against the “religion” of secularism. Defeat that beast and Christianity as a whole will have a fighting chance.

    I agree with what Summers said that it’s not an easy question.

    As I posted earlier there is a huge falloff among children of not just SPPX families but moreso FSSP families.

    But I disagree with Archbisop Alfeyev that it is all secularism.

    The Mormons disprove the good Archbishops assertion. Loss from the LDS church from one generation to the next is under 10%. And Mormons live in the same secular culture as the rest of us.

    Strict Orthodox Jews also have a high retention rate – though interestingly not as high as the Mormons – that is interesting as the very strict Orthodox Jews are “protected” by living in closed communities unlike the Mormons.

  77. Dr. Eric:

    Interesting. But what about the orthodoxy of the “struggling to survive” Church in North America? It may be small, but I can’t imagine its members being anything other than passionately orthodox. It seems all the liberals would have left/died by then. And God-willing, we’d have as priests many of the extremely orthodox and tradition-minded young men now in the seminary. So it seems to me that the “biological solution” entails a decrease in size but an increase in faithfulness.

    Your thoughts?

  78. Summers says:

    I agree with what you are saying. My point is that if Catholic identity is seen as externals of “tradition” and I fear it is for far too many Catholics, i.e. devotions, art, TLM, veils, litanies or even the so-called solid theology of the Catechism of Trent and Aquinas, then it is obviously not strong enough to hold the young of today nor was it strong enough to hold the young and not so young of yesterday hence the reason so many left the Church after Vatican II. That was my point in stating the stastics of many youth leaving the SSPX. I can’t speak about the youth of the FSSP or ICK. Those two haven’t been around long enough yet. But chances are their statistics are not much better.
    As to where do these youth go? They don’t go anywhere…they don’t want religion at all.

    By the way, we are all defining this so-called Catholic identity purely by Western standards. There are quite a few Eastern Catholics who would have a very different view of what Catholic identity” is…very different. I would probably identify with the Eastern view most readily.

    Interesting stuff about Mormons. I didn’t know that…

  79. Randii says:


    The example of the Mormons disproves the argument that religion is incapable of surviving in a very secular sociiety.

    Some would argue the Mormons are the exception which proves the rule.

    However, as I noted, very strict Orthodox Jews hold onto almost all of their young.

    Islam too has a huge retention rate. Many would argue that secondary factors inherent in Islam (for better or worse) keep their young in the fold.

    But that doesn’t explain it all and the assumption in the UK – where Muslims have passed Catholics to become the second largest group after Anglicans – that after several generations of being in the UK Muslim youth would be secularized has not happened. If anything they seem to be getting more religious.

  80. Dr. Eric says:

    There would be a remnant in the Northern Hemisphere as there has always been throughout salvation history. I still don’t see good things for the Northern Hemisphere at least in “The West.”

    I see more vibrant Catholicism in Africa and Asia in the Southern Hemisphere and in places like Chile, Peru, and pockets here and there as there are some new orthodox communities starting up.

  81. Randii says:

    Dr. Eric:

    Actually I think the more important question is how Chritianity overalll will look in 50 years.

    I agree it will be a remanat in Europe and North America.

    It will expand in the 3rd world but, and I agree with Phillip Jenkins who recently wrote on the future, that by the end of this century Christianity will be pentecostal, non-hierarchical and local. And, with the huge growth of Mormonism and Oneness Pentecostalism (the two fastest growing segments of Chritianity), increasingly non-Trinitarian.

    If current demographic trends continue both Apostolic churches (Orthodox and catholic) no longer dominate Chritianity in numbers but will account for significantly less than half of worldwide Chritianity.

    Nepal is the future of Christianity in micrososm. Christians have gone from virtually none several decades ago to over a million today. However, of the million plus Chritians only, 10,000 or so are Catholic. A huge inversion of the historic demographic.

  82. catholicmidwest says:

    Fr Z, you said, “Catholicism….. or passed on to the young in a clear form.” Bingo. Contrary to recent educational fads, CLARITY is the essence of good teaching. It always has been and always will be. If we wish to pass on the faith, we must be very, very clear about exactly what it is, how it can be recognized, and how exactly to live it. That’s currently missing for many people. I know I haven’t been taught this.

    What I know of Catholicism is a combination of a) what I’ve read for myself, b) a very few things people have told me that made sense, c) things I learned in other subjects where Catholicism plays a supporting role (philosophy, history etc), and d) the basic Christianity I learned from my protestant family many years ago. I’m also a convert and I came into the church expecting it to be a lot different than it is. Right now, to me, it looks like a giant do-it-yourself project with no realistic criteria for success. (Mixed with a lot of extraneous political and ethnic nonsense.) I know it’s not supposed to be that, but I have no idea how to make it anything else and the church’s instructional or coaching help amounts to next to nothing.

    I’m not really sure I’d know a saint if I ever saw one because I can only imagine what holiness might look like. It’ s my impression that many people don’t really think about that much anymore. It’s too bad. I think holiness might really probably be one of the major goals of religion–not for itself, but for the consequences & relationships that come out of it, primarily the one with God himself.

  83. catholicmidwest says:


    Your argument works in exactly the opposite way. There is no point whatsoever to far liberal Catholicism. What makes those other groups hold onto their young is a) the clarity of their claims, and b) the absolute quality of their claims. Proponents of those religions have reasons to belong, and they’re reasons they can readily and cleanly articulate.

    Meanwhile, there is no reason to go out on a limb for something theologically or philosophically relative like progressive Christianity. You can always relativize the whole thing away and go watch a ball game instead. And there are no consequences to doing that. You can always get forgiven and everyone goes to heaven pretty much no matter what, right?

  84. Supertradmum says:

    The problem is very simple, really, as I see from many of these comments. One must THINK like a Catholic, which means conforming one’s mind to the Church and Christ. If one has a Catholic world-view, a Catholic philosophy, Catholic theological context, Catholic moral and ethical contexts, Catholic habits of virtue, Catholic prayer, etc., has a Catholic culture.

    If one thinks like a utilitarian, a pragmatist, a post-modern, a Marxist and so on, one will not be able to build a Catholic culture. American education is not based on the liberal arts, but on pragmatism, and atheistic utilitarianism. The hedonistic, secular attitudes which seem to lure young people away, like the Siren songs in The Odyssey, are merely the smoke-screen of the devil. That the youth are attracted to secularism is pure fallacy-if they are challenged to more-such as real Christianity, real sacrifice, real commitment, they would, as most youth have done through-out the centuries, rise to the occasion. If they see saints, they would want to be saints.

  85. bookworm says:

    “If I may be so bold, the Church’s single most urgent media need is the creation of a weekly online summary of all published activity by her dicasteries. It should create something akin to the Federal Register—even more specifically, something like the absolutely brilliant new website created for it by the Obama administration, which is one of the only good things he’s done—and if the Vatican won’t do it, the USCCB should.”

    If a weekly “Vatican Register” were created along those lines, I’d suggest including a companion publication (available both online and in print) that summarizes all the current activity in (pardon the pun) layman’s terms and where to get more information. This companion digest/newsletter could be distributed to national bishops’ conferences, individual dioceses, Catholic News Service, Zenit, other religious and secular publications, etc. I know that CNS has a weekly digest of church documents called “Origins” but I’m thinking of something much shorter than that.

    It just so happens that part of what I do in my day job is writing summaries of state regulatory activity for a weekly 4-6 page newsletter which appears online and in print, so if you’re looking for someone to help with that project….

  86. catholicmidwest says:

    PS: My uncle is a mormon and I can tell you one huge reason why they lose so few members. There is a social structure for them, and a lot of help in living out the stated rules of their religion. They have a lot of social structure and the church is really never closed. Every night something goes on for groups of people, and much of the time, it’s recreational as well as being religious.
    They have fellowship meetings and craft meetings. You can spot a mormon a mile away as they do have a clear identity. They breathe it and then exhale it. All the mormons in town seem to know each other too. And they know each others’ kids, cousins, etc etc etc.

    Mormons are involved in all kinds of things, and even though most mormons no longer practice polygamy, families tend to be large and cousins often spend time with each other. And they spend an inordinate amount of time playing board games with each other. Go figure. The mormons I know are board game champs par excellence, all in the name of spending time with their co-religionists and their kids to teach them the faith.

    It is true that mormon theology is completely and utterly wacky in the zaniest sort of way, but they do have the human relations piece down cold. We don’t. AT. ALL.

  87. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, something similar to the mormon thing goes on with Muslims since they tend to be ethnically middle eastern and hang together socially. Strong ties lead to strong identities.

    Catholics can’t even identify each other on the street. They can’t spend any time with each other without fighting about politics, position in the church, and ethnic crap. They don’t have a strong identity and don’t share anything. They never play anything remotely resembling board games, for a silly example of something mutual & social to do, or anything else. There’s nowhere for an average lay Catholic to go to do something “Catholic” and/or social about 90% of the time. The churches are all closed up most of the time. And everything is so damned heavy-duty and screwed up. Nothing is FUN. Nothing attracts people who wouldn’t ordinarily show up anyway. It’s very sad. But those are some of the reasons we don’t have a catholic identity. (In addition to the fact that our liturgy and other practices have changed so much for so little apparent reason, and people draw the conclusion that they probably don’t matter as a result.)

  88. Summers says:


    Maybe I am misunderstanding you but you can’t get much more “clear” than Our Lord Jesus Christ and you can’t get much more “quality” than Our Lord Jesus Christ as He is God Himself. I don’t mean to oversimplify your argument but I don’t see the Church teaching anything other than what I have stated above. Maybe that was the case 20 years ago but things have changed for the better now. Deo gratias.

    It seems to me, after reflecting on this most of the day, that it’s not about a “Catholic identity” it’s about Christ. Christ is our identity. The comment above by Andrew was right. It’s not about Catholics standing out or being noticed. It’s about following Christ. Catholics might bawk at that saying it sounds so Protestant. But does it? It wouldn’t if we knew Christ, but do we know Him outside of the externals?

    It goes without saying that the world has never accepted Christ and chances are the vast majority never will. Note the groups mentioned above that are retaining their young are not Christian. Their “identities” are man-made. Ours is an “identity” of supernatural transcendent origins because again, our identity is Christ. So in the end, if we, the Church of Christ, both as a body and as individuals (and it has to be both, not one or the other) are following Him, we will always be the “minority.” If we were popular and of the majority, then I think we might have to really start looking and questioning our “identity.”

  89. Supertradmum says:


    The fullness of Christ, the fullness of Truth, is in the Catholic Church. Anyone who says otherwise is a heretic. Protestants who accept Christ and are baptized are merely beginning to find the Truth. The Catholic identity is not man-made, but made by the Trinity in and through the Church’s Tradition, Revelation, Sacramental life, etc.

  90. catholicmidwest says:


    Christ isn’t your identity because honey, you ain’t Him. Everyone here is someone who belongs to a church with an identity and a description and each of them must have an identity and description too, although I can’t tell what it might be unless it has properties I can identify. This is pretty basic.

    If all that’s required to be Catholic is some sort of vague identification with Christ, then by golly, I don’t know why I’m not Methodist because they see it EXACTLY the same way and they have GREAT POTLUCKS to boot!!!

  91. Desertfalcon says:

    I know this is purely anecdotal and I don’t necessarily disagree with the article’s points about the general state of Catholicism in America……but, just as a personal observation, at Mass a week ago, the congregation was introduced to the adult catechumens. I live in a small town in the Pacific NW, not much more than about 5,000 total and a minority, Catholic. There were 14 adults of various ages seeking baptism! Additionally, my small parish has lots of young adults and kids crowding the pews. I’m guessing most of them were born in Mexico or Central America, but we have lots of them and they are active and devout. As America slowly becomes more and more Hispanic, perhaps we will become more and more Catholic as well.

  92. abiologistforlife says:

    I think it is too soon to expect disaster.

    There are problems in the Church — yes! — but this is not the worst period of its history. Not by far. “The whole world groaned to find itself Arian”, and all that. And we have not had an Alexander VI in the last several centuries.

    All that said, yes, we are in trouble… but why?

    I’d agree with anilwang about divorce: except that I think that’s just the most obvious case. We are — somewhat unconsciously — acting as if we are on the losing side of a culture war; and so it becomes true. We don’t really fight for the repeal of no-fault divorce laws (which I do not think would be impossible in many US states!) We (those of us who live in conservative, pro-life states) don’t really try to get the states to fight Roe v Wade or Griswold v Connecticut. (Which they could — not de jure but de facto. The general apathy of the current situation has removed one of the originally intended checks in the system — in the early decades any really obviously unconstitutional federal decision would simply be ignored.)

  93. Supertradmum says:


    From statistics, and from my limited experience of teaching at risk Latinos and Latinas, you will be surprised at the change in the college and high school aged groups. Most young Hispanics have no faith in any religion at all. I have worked on and off with Hispanics for over thirty years and lived with a Mexican family for four years. Things are not what they seem.

    I hate to disappoint you, but despite earlier predictions, the Latino, Latina rate of Catholic participation in a parish has lessened with the huge exodus of such who have become secular, and not connected with any church. In a 2008 study, only 59.5 percent of Hispanics stated they were Catholics. 12% said they had no religion at all. 50% of Latino children are born of unwed moms. Hispanics have an inordinately high level of abortions per population-20% (not as high as Blacks, which is 70%) and the Hispanic Quinceañera tradition, which states publicly that a girl is ready to marry, has led to the idea that a girl is ready to have sexual relations outside of marriage. The future of the Catholic Church is not in the Hispanic community at all. Many young Hispanics have also chosen “indigenous” religions, involving the occult and Azteca. The Catholic Hispanic population in our area, settled by Mexicans over 100 years ago on both sides of the Mississippi, has actually become less Catholic in recent years, with the closing of two Hispanic Catholic churches. Newer immigrants from the southern provinces of Mexico are more apt not to be Catholic and be “indigenous” or nothing in religion.

  94. catholicmidwest says:

    Do you really think this is all about American politics?

  95. Supertradmum says:

    May I add that a 2007 statistic notes that Hispanics represent just 3.6 percent of the U.S. seminary population compared to roughly 14.8 percent of the U.S. population. The American Hispanic family does not produce vocations. Most Hispanic priests in the U.S. are from either Mexico or Central America, a policy of getting men from these regions, which I am strongly against, as both areas have a huge priest shortages as well, especially in the southern areas of Mexico. I know seminaries and dioceses here which actively recruit Hispanic men from seminaries in their own countries. I think this is stealing from the local populations. Plus, it is the duty of the immigrants here to produce vocations, just as it is with the other Caucasian populations. The Vietnamese immigrant population in America, which is smaller than the Hispanic population by far, have a much higher number of priests and seminarians. The seminarian population of Asians is about 15-17%, much higher than the Hispanic number, while the immigrant population of Asians is about 5% of the population. These are not 2010 statistics.

  96. Girgadis says:

    “We must return to teaching and demonstrating that there is a supernatural dimension to our lives.”

    I agree, but how do we do that when they won’t even set foot in church? Part of the answer is how we bear witness in public. Never underestimate the impact a simple act of faith or devotion, performed with joy, can have on someone else.

  97. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Catholicmidwest: you said: “Catholics can’t even identify each other on the street …” Well we used to be identifiable by the Crucifix and rosary but outside of a Catholic school we can’t wear that in public without offense or in Canada, fear of being dragged to a Canadian Human Rights Council and getting penalties equivalent to criminal law.

    “… They can’t spend any time with each other without fighting about politics, position in the church, and ethnic crap. They don’t have a strong identity and don’t share anything …..” Yep because we’ve got internal division happening in our Church. Traddies fighting liberals, and even well-balanced Catholics fighting both sides. The libs want their cake and to eat it too. I’m sure you can tell this site is a bit of a microcausm for that with big topics. Heck I am experiencing this in my family as right now I’m currently unemployed and there’s an opportunity at my dad’s hospital for a technician/technologist in the reproductive wing. My parents do want me to apply for the job, including my Catholic mother who goes to Church weekly and prays rosaries. Problem is I know the generalities of Humanae Vitae, Donum Vitae and Digintatis Personae and can’t do it else I’m going to Hell/in mortal sin cause it’s a big moral no-no doing it willingly. The job involves In Vitro Fertilization and I can’t just work with sperm. We had an argument over this tonight and my mom even wants me to speak to a priest well acquainted with my family but I know on some issues of the Church he’s more liberal vs others. I know they want me to apply and say yes but I am not damming my soul to Hell and violation the Magisterium of the Church just to be employed and my Mom doesn’t get that.

    ” … They never play anything remotely resembling board games, for a silly example of something mutual & social to do, or anything else ….” For the most part you are right, though there are exceptions. My Aunt always buys a board game as a family Xmas present for the family and on occasions we’ve played those games at family events. Also my older cousin’s fiancee’s family are old style Italian Catholics and together they all play their game of choice: Monopoly! However as a generality you are correct, with everyone being wired to their playstation portables and Iphones/Ipods, especially the young.

    ” … There’s nowhere for an average lay Catholic to go to do something “Catholic” and/or social about 90% of the time.” Not entirely true as there are well run EDGE and LifeTEEN programs that, done properly and run properly, give under 18’s a great social/faith experience. At least this is according to postings on Catholic Answers. Same idea with youth ministries. For the older folks there’s the old standby Catholic’s Women’s Leagues and Knights of Columbus, although they gotta do better jobs of attracting new blood. Also there are in Canada as examples, Catholic Newman/Chaplancy centered in the major universities with cool programs like Regnum Christi’s Compass program as well as pro-life clubs (albeit you have to be ready to be arrested like poor Ruth Lobo at Carleton University). However, if these organizations are plagued with liberal theology-practicing individuals, it doesn’t matter what it is.

    “The churches are all closed up most of the time.” Yeah cause you know how much those metal chalices and tabernacles and other items could fetch on the street at pawn shops? To thieves it’s instant drug/alcohol money or it could make a profit on E-bay. Used church items? Another church could essentialy buy those without knowing they were stolen. Or there’s those people who purposely steal Our Lord’s Body and Blood to desecrate it in a manner only God knows.

    ” … And everything is so damned heavy-duty and screwed up. Nothing is FUN.” ….. Meh? Perhaps you have to make it fun. I don’t get this point so maybe you could explain this one?

    ” … Nothing attracts people who wouldn’t ordinarily show up anyway. It’s very sad. But those are some of the reasons we don’t have a catholic identity. (In addition to the fact that our liturgy and other practices have changed so much for so little apparent reason, and people draw the conclusion that they probably don’t matter as a result.)” –> For the uninterested, I say let them fall away. Let the people who care, come, and let others put their souls in mortal jeaporady. However, if we do get opportunities to evangelize, then let’s do our best. If they don’t still care after that, at least we tried. I am also seeing this statement as a liturgy issue, but Fr. Z has addressed this already numerous times. Just don’t forget, regardless of the liturgy, a properly said and performed (to the standards of the GIRM) Mass is a sacrificially valid and licit Mass, NO or EF.

  98. Summers says:

    Well, I certainly could not have been misunderstood more.

    Re-read what I typed. I said the religions being noted were not Christian and therefore they were “man made”. I never said Catholicism was. *sigh*

    @catholic midwest
    *sigh* *big SIGH* You are just too Catholic for me friend. You win. I’ll never match up to your piety and exceptional intellect. Fiat. Mea culpa.

    Have a good evening all…I’m out.

  99. Supertradmum says:

    Young Canadian RC Male,

    You are in the process of solidifying your Catholic identity by not taking that job, which is obviously in contradiction to Catholic teaching. If all Catholics boycotted jobs which involved working against Catholic teaching, many of these clinics and other anti-life pharmaceutical companies would close. Same here in the USA. Real Catholics in the socialist state of Illinois cannot be Pharmacists, as all must pass out abortifacient birth-control and day-after pills by law. Vanderbilt University, in the news a mere two weeks ago, is requiring all nursing students to do abortions. I am sure Real Catholics will chose not to go there. Be a Real Catholic and God bless you! God will provide another job for you.

  100. Supertradmum says:

    sorry about typos, long day

  101. Andrew says:

    People who make comments longer than the blogger’s post should be disqualified from posting for seven days for each offense.
    People who make more than 3 comments per thread should be automatically erased.
    People who misspell words should be banned for three days.

  102. Supertradmum says:


    You are not a busy person as old as I am :)

  103. catholicmidwest says:

    Young Canadian RC Male,

    Per the job application thing, you have my support for whatever that’s worth. You are right in resisting that. I wouldn’t do it either. Sorry it’s causing you so much grief with your family though. That’s got to be difficult.

    Per “nothing is FUN.” There appears to be no such thing among Catholics as just popping popcorn and taking in a movie in the parish, or just having a game night that doesn’t involve a heavy-duty fund-raising thing for the school, etc. Catholics don’t know each other after mass and there is nothing going on in most parishes really. Everyone wants to say bad things about people who watch tv or read mysteries or knit or shop or whatever every night, but there is nothing, nothing, nothing going on in the parish to go to! Every night engaged in secular activity lowers a person’s interest in Church. You can’t expect people to spend all their time elsewhere and then come into church on Sunday all enthused about church. It doesn’t work that way.

  104. Mitchell NY says:

    I don’t think the Church can simply ignore what got us here and start teaching again. People of my age, 41, have to be told in no uncertain terms that what happened alongside the NO Mass and theologies was a massive abandonment of long ago established traditions and based on incorrect interpretation and implementation it was wrong. This must be said unequivovocally and that it was a mistake. And use the word mistake. To start changing teachings again without being told that what we have been taught during my generation was wrong will fall upon many a deaf ears. As stated so often on blogs, etc. is that people do not know the Faith anymore. Small changes here and there over decades and decades will do little to save souls now. ANd there are millions and millions believing the wrong things. If Rome were to make a large announcement that might, just might, get some attention and then teachings can change, armed with all the right reasons, it might effect real change. Uproar, scandal, disbelief, well we already have that and it keeps losing souls. At least uproar in the right direction might do something. At least it will be truthful. It makes no sense to me to allow people to believe things wrongly and keep along the path of destruction just because people may leave or cause an uproar. What does it matter if you spend all your life believing what is wrong in the end anyways? It won’t save your soul. Better the shock and several years to absorb it and come back to the truth of the Catholic Church. At least you have a chance. But half truths, and confusion, I believe will do little good. Most of that analysis from my peers, who are Catholics. Without the admission, few pay attention. The truth always gets attention, wanted or unwanted. That’s my 2 cents.

  105. JKnott says:

    I’m inclined to agree with you.
    Our Catholic identity is in Christ alone.
    How about fewer words and more prayer. Prayer and silence are beautiful.
    St. John of the Cross (love that saint) says, “In the evening of life we will be judged on love alone.”
    – the right kind of love.
    So ………………Prayer

  106. catholicmidwest says:

    You know if the church acts like it doesn’t care about people as people because it doesn’t provide activities and doesn’t exhibit interest in them as people, then they can tell and they will respond accordingly, which turns out to be not at all. This is why some people leave.

    If we want to stem the exodus, there are a couple of very easy things to do:

    a) Try being friendly. Amazing that this has to be said, but it’s a big problem. Generally speaking, even for all their blather about niceness, Catholics don’t play well with others.

    b) Get some activities scheduled that parishoners (and not just the same 1/2 dozen that always show up!) can participate in and get to know each other. These activities should just be innocent and FUN. Yes, FUN. That awful word. FUN is NOT a sin. It’s a shame that Catholics can’t spot each other in public isn’t it? Or sometimes I think it’s a good thing because some Catholics can’t stand each other. We can’t stand each other in part because we don’t know each other any better than to believe bad things about each other because we’re all having such a nasty rotten stinking time with one aspect or another of this whole post-v2 swamp, no matter which side we seem to be on. It’s part of what keeps the status quo in place. People don’t want to give an inch. That could change if we all tried a little bit.

    c) Expand the activities into some genuine Catholic catechesis about heaven and hell and angels and saints–things that people are curious about and go from there to the more basic stuff that everyone should know but doesn’t. This doesn’t have to be like having wisdom teeth pulled either!! Lighten up.

  107. JonM says:

    I’m not sure what it will take to convince hold outs that in fact our trajectory has not altered very much. We are still on the track of autodestruction.

    It is not so simple as to pin all the blame on Vatican II, though it does not receive its due share. As an amateur historian I have always enjoyed learning about yesterday. Now especially that I realize we are part of the most supreme story, one can detect a palatable cadence to our ages and progress.

    In many respects, we were always engaged in a rear-guard maneuver awaiting the return of God to finally make Heaven and Earth one and burn away the corrupted nature of things. Of course, the Faith did have periods in which flourishing Christian states existed. Since Avignon and subsequent loss of papal prestige, our trajectory shifted. With the Reformation era, matched with poor leadership in Rome, it became clear that we would never again see such an organized Christian society on such a scale.

    The ‘solutions’ to the collapse of the Church are not ingenious: give the Church official status through the state as the Way, the Truth, and the Light, while the Church performs its mission of leading souls to Heaven. Without a State that is founded on the Faith, how can it produce a society that keeps it? Of course, this also requires a state that is not constructed around ‘rule of the people.’

    However unpopular this is to Americanist sensitivities, this is really the only way things would turn around. Fear not, Jeffersonians: the US will bankrupt itself three times before elections were scuttled for any predicable government.

    With the looming economic calamities, I believe that there will be a steady stream away from the Church. Since universalism seems to be a belief of most Catholics, clergy included, many will not see any need for making their lives harder with penances, alms, and (relatively) complex rituals.

    Regarding the comment that Mormonism’s resilience proves the harsh secularism is not arguably the culprit, I will point out that this is a non-Christian sect that is neck deep in Freemasonry and occultism. Simply because their rolls are expanding does not by any stretch therefore indication efficacious salvation.

    My prediction is that nothing will substantially change and we will hit a demographic jetty in about 15-20 years that will be stunning. Most likely, SSPX, oratories, and FSSP will become a majority in practical terms at that point.

    PS: Papal participation in Protestant and other religious ceremonies does not exactly reverse things either.

  108. Stephen Matthew says:

    Look, I get doom and gloom, negativity, pessimism, reactive, etc.

    I go in for a lot of that myself.

    Part of the solution, new-agey as this sounds, is being positive, proactive, optimistic, etc.

    There is one committee of the diocese that I happen to be on, and in truth I don’t do much in any concrete way. Yet I try to make it to the monthly meetings, the annual retreat, etc. My main contribution in being there is to provide a tangible sign that there is some hope in the future. I may be 20 years younger than the next youngest member (maybe only 15, I don’t know), but we have a common purpose and we enjoy each other’s company. We do what we do not for some power trip or what ever, but because it is both a little bit of fun and a little bit useful. We aren’t going to save the world or have the greatest time ever, but it sure beats another night watching TV alone, that is for sure.

    I don’t feel very much at home in my own parish, but that won’t ever change if I don’t ever do anything about it. Sure, I can’t change it all myself, but either I need to become part of the solution or I am part of the problem.

    We either need to get busy living or get busy dying.

  109. Precentrix says:

    What if every reader of this comment were to do something – starting now – to help his/her own formation in the Fatih and to make his/her Catholic identity more clear to others?


    Buy and read the Catechism or at least the Compendium, or at least have them on hand for looking things up.

    If you’re past that, get your hands on Ludwig Ott’s ‘Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.’ Lend it to your pastor once you’ve finished with it.

    Get yourself a copy of Denzinger for when you need to argue with Protestants. It’s online somewhere anyway. Also useful b/c Ott cross-references to it.

    If you don’t have a proper, Catholic Bible (preferably the D-R if you’re using English) GET ONE. Read it. Meditate on it.

    Go to Adoration if possible. Go to Confession if you need to. Go to Confession even if you don’t strictly need to.


    If you don’t wear a crucifix, start.

    If you don’t say grace in public, start. Make a nice Sign of the Cross when you do so.

    Pray the Rosary or Divine Office on public transport (sotto voce, out loud if there’s a group of you and you’re feeling crazy).

    Sit on the Tube reading ‘The Catholic Herald’ or similar instead of a regular newspaper. Or reading CTS literature and looking like it’s really interesting, even if you know it all already. Other people will ask you about it. Make sure that you leave the leaflet behind ‘by accident’.

    Buy yourself a nice Catholic t-shirt or something. Or get one of Fr. Z’s mugs and use it in the office.

    Make your home obviously a Catholic one. It can be tasteful. Honestly.


    third post on one thread – better stop!

  110. robtbrown says:

    Randii says:

    If the faith was so much stronger then how is it that so many priests and nuns overnight abandonned their vocations w/in a decade of V2? How “real” was their Catholicsm – a faith they were catechized in during the good old pre-V2 days of the 40s and 50s.

    Although faith is an assent by the intellect to Divine Truth, that faith must be lived. They abandoned their vocations because changes after V2 destroyed much of that lived faith.

  111. catholicmidwest says:


    Do you really think that a civil state run by people who can’t even keep a website in decent condition would be a good place to live, and would solve anything? Really? {and this example is just a superficial one; don’t get this mess started}

    When Christ was living in Israel, he did not start a civil state. He did not conquer the Romans with might or politics. Have you ever thought about this? If he had wanted to, he could have. He was God, after all. What was he about instead?

    PS, Judas wanted Christ to start an political uprising and appoint a king of this world. You know how that turned out.

  112. mvhcpa says:

    Here goes a comment that is probably longer than the original post. I dealt with this at my own pathetic attempt at a blog (see the link under my name above–I don’t even know how to post a link to the actual topic).

    There was a “controversy” between His Excellency, the Most Reverend Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, and United States Congressman Patrick Kennedy (one of, yes, THOSE Kennedys). Representative Kennedy publicized a private discussion between the bishop and him regarding the Congressman’s support of abortion rights, making the following statement: “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.”

    Bishop Tobin’s responded to this public statement in an open letter to Representative Kennedy, in which the bishop effectively makes the point, “Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does.” The bishop’s letter continues with a reflection on the question, “What does it mean to be a Catholic?”:

    “Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.”

    In my reading, Bishop Tobin’s letter proposes a minimum definition of Catholic identity as 1) recognition and acceptance of the teaching authority of the Church, and 2) open participation in our common rites and sacraments. I further further develop these two particular criteria as 1) the understanding that there is one exclusive Truth in the world God made, and 2) the recognition that the Catholic Church represents THE Church Jesus said he would establish.

    However, I think there is more to our identity than these two criteria, stated either way as above. I proffer that the Catholic identity, after the essentials of doctrine of course, really revolves around a particular worldview of how to lead our lives. This worldview comprises a sense of responsibility for one’s own actions within the context of God’s grace. This sense of responsibility should make us pause and recognize how broken we as sinners are—not just when we are born, and not just before we answer an “altar call,” but EVERY DAY OF OUR LIVES until we face God after our earthly demise. This responsibility means that we don’t just stop at recognizing our broken nature, for merely doing that isn’t responsibility at all. Also, this responsibility does NOT mean that we are masters of our own salvation, relying on naught else or other. In the words of St. Augustine, we pray as if everything depends on God and work as if everything depends on us. And we accept that the Catholic Church—God’s Church—is there to help us if only we accept its help.

    Most of us here (myself included) see a great crisis of identity in the Church. I think that the greatest damage to our Catholic identity came about from a set of circumstances unique in the history of the Church. For the first time, let’s say starting in the 1800’s, the Church found itself in the position where it wasn’t calling all the moral and sometimes political shots (like in pre-Reformation Europe), but also wasn’t in danger of being stamped out (like it was in first-century Roman times). As such, the Catholic Church and its Faith must now compete in the marketplace of ideas; as such, the concept of a single, solitary Truth handed down from the revelation of Christ through the Apostles and down to us just doesn’t cut the mustard for the more “erudite” humanists. Consequently, there goes the first pillar of particularly Catholic identity enumerated above.

    In addition, to combat the fear and suspicion in America that led to “No Irish Need Apply” and religious Test Acts, Catholics tried so hard (successfully, I would say) to convince majority Protestant society in America that we were just another denomination like the Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, etc., that we unintendedly ended up convincing ourselves of that same fact. Thus, we ourselves destroyed the second identity pillar noted above.

    With those two pillars knocked down, what is left to support the third pillar—the worldview of responsibility for our lives? With secular humanism on our left and Evangelical Protestantism on our right, most folks can be easily seduced by either the “It’s not your fault—you’re born that way” of humanism or the “You take the bus, leave the driving to God” of Protestantism. A Gospel of responsibility through grace just doesn’t sell that well.

    How do we get this identity back–do we do like the Hassid/Amish/some elements of Opus Dei and cut ourselves off from the world? Also, where do we look for this identity–the Fifties, the Thirties, Medieval times, Apostolic times (watch out for that last one–that’s what Martin Luther tried)?

    Whatever we do, an identity is bundled up with identifiability. Andrew noted above that we as Catholics should not seek to be recognized or admired by stating, “The question is: ‘do we know who we are’ not ‘do others think highly of us’?” However, while I think Andrew was using the word “recognized” as a synonym for “admired” above, part of us “knowing who we are” is being “recognizable” in terms of identifiability–there will be SOMETHING about us that marks us to ourselves AND to the outside world. We should be able to be identified, albeit NOT admired by the secular world. Certainly, the externals are vital (wearing crucifices, saying rosaries in public), but the externals flow from the mindset I noted above.

    Michael Val
    (who hopes he did not abuse hospitality with this marathon post!)

  113. Mitchell NY says:

    Yes Christ is the pinnacle of our Catholic Identity. That being said, it is all too often that the rest of what it means to be Catholic falls by the wayside. Without the externals and without the things that idnetify us to the outside world as Catholic, there is less and less unity. It becomes the “Christ is inside me and I have my own personal relationship with Christ”. The danger in this is that it falls into the pattern of a secular life and secular relationships, even with GOD. Those who adopt this attitude, and they may very well have a close, knowledgeable, relationship with CHrist but are unwilling to share it with others. They cast off all externals in view of “their” personal relationship with Christ. I do not know if this is good enough for salvation or not, and don’t pretend to, but it doess appear out of balance. How does one really identify as Catholic with Christ in the center, but without the Pope, The Magesterium, and those things particularly and distinctly Catholic? (eg; no meat on Friday). Is that Catholic? It almost comes off as a selfish way to have Christ and not share the knowledge, so to speak, through Mass, participation in Catholic activities, love and devotion for all things Catholic. And commenting to others about it. Isn’t that a form of communicating the Faith like being a lay apostle type of thing? Doesn’t the whole package go together or are we in this simply for ourselves?

  114. albinus1 says:

    Although faith is an assent by the intellect to Divine Truth, that faith must be lived. They abandoned their vocations because changes after V2 destroyed much of that lived faith.

    I tend to agree with Randii. If the 1950s had really been so wonderful, the 1960s wouldn’t have happened, in both the Church and in secular society.

    The Catholic Church of the 1950s may have appeared solid, but the fact that the edifice collapsed so quickly shows how poor the foundations were. The Catholic Church has always (well, until relatively recently) been very good at elementary catechesis, but not so good at the kind of sophisticated, adult catechesis need for a more educated population prone to ask questions and not be satisfied with rote answers. I am certainly no apologist for the post-Vatican II Church, particularly since I lived through the abyss of 1970s Catholicism. But really, much of the faith of the 1950s must have been more superficial than we would like to admit, or else, as I said, the edifice would not have collapsed so quickly. That’s why a restoration of Catholic identity must be about more that just restoring the trappings of Catholic life; we have to rebuild the foundations from the ground up.

  115. catholicmidwest says:

    Amen. It’ s not enough to go back to long skirts, hats and “pay, pray & obey,” and “don’t ask questions.” That’s not going to work. It never did really, in fact, but when the church had a lot of authority, it looked like it did work.

    Catholicism is always ancient and always new. We have to keep going, and that’s going to mean maintaining continuity with tradition, because we have to do that, but ALSO forging a future that allows us to live out the faith in this time and in this place, because we have to do that too.

    Morning mass during working hours is not going to work much longer because in all the smaller towns the oldest ladies are dying off and they were the ones who came. It needs to be in the evening when people can show up. Activities are going to have to be scheduled, not at 10AM, but at 7PM and on Saturdays all day. Churches should be open and busy all day on Sunday, for one reason or another. We should be saying Vespers at times when people can come, and things like that to teach & strengthen people.

    The old way of expecting the world to come to the church, while the church acts like they’re doing the world a favor for just existing isn’t going to work. We have to get out there and act like decent human beings, and do it in a way that’s congruent with Catholic Christianity–whatever that means. We’d better be figuring out what that means pretty darned quick here.

    PS, it probably doesn’t mean fighting with each other tooth and nail. It probably also doesn’t mean hiding out in the church basement whispering about the rest of the world and treating them like pariahs if & when they do show up looking for information. We’d better open up the doors and give people some reason to come looking!

  116. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m not saying that the tradition must be broken or even bent, like the Spirit of Vatican II people, who misunderstood it all utterly & completely. I’m saying we have to have continuity with the past (theological, philosophical & liturgical), but in a way that we *can* have it, by adapting the temporal structures in a practical sense so that people can show up and participate.

    Maybe that means classes on Saturday afternoon, and they might be about the Church Fathers or about all the Councils not just V2, or they might be about heaven & hell, or the nature of sin & virtue. But they’d be on Friday night or Saturday afternoon, which is very unusual for Catholic parishes, but very useful for people who have to work & raise kids! Catholic kid playgroups for parents in classes would be great for Catholic identity!!!

  117. Larry R. says:

    Much interesting discussion. I’m not a traditionalist, per se, but I do find great value in Tradition and I have been assisting, sporadically, at the TLM for some time. I find great value in the TLM. There has been some back and forth about excessive pride somehow undermining, even ruining, the efforts of “traditionalists” (which definition would require an entire discussion in itself). If those ascribing pride to traditionalists those who assist primarily at TLMs, I am quite certain that’s an apt description. However, I also don’t think that whatever pride has been perceived is peculiar to those who attend TLMs, and my experience is that those who assist at TLMs are far, far more virtuous than your “average Catholic.” In fact, I think this pride, whatever it’s source and however prevalent it is, may stand out more in those who assist at TLMs because they are lacking in many other vices prevalent in those who attend “large suburban parishes.” At your average non-TLM parish sin abounds plentifully, and I would hazard more than at those traditional parishes I’ve attended.

    I have noted among some of those who self-describe as traditionalists a tendency to be very defeatist and hyper-critical, especially of their own kind. I have a commenter at my blog that has shocked me with her expressions of defeatism.

    Regarding growth of the TLM, there is no question it is growing, and rapidly. Hundreds of TLMs have been added worldwide since Summorum Pontificum, and while some may be sparsely attended, others are not. Here in Dallas, the local FSSP parish has had to add a third Mass, and they are all packed. That community has grown from perhaps a hundred nominal families to three times that number in a year. I know there are many more who would like to assist at the FSSP parish, but can’t/won’t make it due to issues of distance and a latent guilt over leaving their longtime NO parish. The local FSSP priests do not seem so unhappy with the local “traditional” population as others have described – in fact, I feel they are, on the whole, quite happy with their community. Rightly so, I believe.

    Just my $.02. As to the larger question, why has Catholicism imploded over the last 50 years, there are countless reasons, but some prime drivers are lack of enforcement of discipline, terrible catechesis, lack of reverence in celebrating Mass, and acquiescence to the wisdom of the world. Turning any of those around will take a herculean effort, and much prayer and sacrifice.

  118. Larry R. says:

    I don’t mean to imply that the local traditionalists are all Saints, far from it, I merely mean that they are also not so full of vice that it is undermining their efforts.

  119. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Catholicmidwest: “Morning mass during working hours is not going to work much longer because in all the smaller towns the oldest ladies are dying off and they were the ones who came. It needs to be in the evening when people can show up. Activities are going to have to be scheduled, not at 10AM, but at 7PM and on Saturdays all day. Churches should be open and busy all day on Sunday, for one reason or another. We should be saying Vespers at times when people can come, and things like that to teach & strengthen people.”

    YES!!!! This is by far the smartest, most easily practical idea we can throw around to get things going. Sadly our world is mostly business hours work and many people commute a good distance from suburbs to cities where all the employment is. If there are early morning masses, They are usually 7/730am when most people are on highways trying to make it for an 8pm start-time. If you put it at a time where people are able to go, why they can (if they have the guts to hold off on dinner) work, then go to mass after and hey they’ll even be keeping the eucharistic fast in the meantime too.

  120. Tony Layne says:

    Okay, let the sociology major throw his two cents’ worth in:

    There are two aspects to group identity: 1) The internal distinctions—the core beliefs, mores and values peculiar to a social group; and 2) The external distinctions—the cultural artifacts by which the internal distinctions become manifest in behavior, folkways and expression.

    First, the core internal distinctions have been watered down. I believe a lot of it stems from the acceptance by the social-justice movements of proto-Marxist dialectics, with its simplistic emphasis on class distinctions and reliance on materialism, particularly the associations the second-wave feminists made between “mother/wife” and “slave” and their insistence on sexual liberation as a foundation for women’s equality. While the movements weren’t constrained to any particular religious segment, I believe a lot of young Catholic intellectuals who got involved in those movements were ill-equipped to challenge their philosophical premises, and as a result imported them back into their ideas of “what Catholicism should teach”. In this respect, the internal changes that came in the wake of Vatican II were less a product of the Council itself than its unfortunate coincidence with the rest of the ’60s turmoil, as the infected young intellectuals used it as a pretext to import their defective notions into liturgy, catechesis and theology. As well, many distinctive practices—fish on Fridays, Ash Wednesday observance, etc.—were thrown out or their importance minimized either because “irrelevant”, “burdensome” or because they were felt a hindrance to ecumenism; the interior and exterior minimization of differences from Protestant Christianity contributed to a perception that it had somehow lost its “specialness”.

    Second, the post-war economic success of Catholics moved many Catholics into professions and jobs that over the last fifty years and more have required more and more frequent relocations. As a result, it helped to fragment the urban Catholic ethnic neighborhoods, which had until then provided the social support for Catholic formation and practice. It also fragmented the social support of the extended family, which has been historically more important to Catholicism than Protestantism.

    Third, the introduction of The Pill made it possible for people to psychologically and philosophically separate sex from reproduction, while increasing social and economic pressure on the newly-successful Catholics to have fewer children. The formation of the advisory committee to study the Church’s teaching led to a false expectation that the teaching would be changed; when, instead, Paul VI reaffirmed it in Humanae Vitae, many people felt betrayed and abandoned regular Mass attendance as a result.

    Naturally, this is a quick-and-dirty (and by that fact imprecise) analysis. Give me time to think about how we bring our identity back.

  121. catholicmidwest says:

    And I’m not saying everything has to be classes or that grand old Catholic institution “talks” either. There is a lot of merit to having group activities that bring people in the parish together so they can catch a good old-fashioned case of Catholicism from each other, by doing the work that needs to be done together in the spirit of prayer.

    It should just be clear what the purpose is, and everything should ALWAYS start and end with simple 5-10 min prayer sessions. 2-5 possible activities, depending on the size of the parish, could be chosen from a list something like this, with variety over every period of weeks or months:

    a) making things for people who need them (rosaries, hats, lap robes, quilts, prayer shawls)
    b) making Catholic things to decorate our houses with
    c) Bible reading, book reading groups
    d) prayer groups (rosary, Divine Mercy, vespers, etc, simple and orthodox, everybody welcome)
    e) games (softball, board games, Catholic trivia playoffs for various age groups)
    f) bake sales, book sales etc to raise money for charities, school, church needs, etc.
    g) decorating and basically lavishing attention on the church which has been neglected for decades… We need to love our churches again and smile when we drive past.
    h) things originating from the church calendar: lenten lunches, processions, special meals or programs for the parish’s saint name etc.

    You should just be able to go down there and look at a short list of stuff going on that day (2-5 things, depending on the size of the parish, plus confession). Anybody should be able to join into any one of them.

    AND YES, this should happen on SATURDAY when people can actually come.

    And YES, this would require the help of many parishoners over a year’s time. And NO, it won’t be perfect. But it needs doing anyway. And it sounds like a lot of work, but most of this stuff is kind of fun and if you can get it to take off, people will enjoy it and not want to quit. (NB: Other denominations do things appropriate to their churches and most of them can’t imagine not doing these kinds of things. They are FUN.)

    PS Catholics are very touchy about who’s leading what. I’ll tell you what: The amount of nonsense you’re going to hear while laypeople eat cookies and make quilts or play softball is absolutely nothing compared to the blatant BS you hear on the average TV program if you’re not at the church. This is far, far better. Put it in perspective, please.

  122. catholicmidwest says:

    And it’s very, very important that some of the stuff is GUY stuff! Softball, carpentry, fixing the parish’s computers, reading groups for men, prayers for men, etc.

  123. John the Convert says:

    Supertrad and CatholicMidwest – always love your comments. (Love you too, Hat-guy :)

    CathMidwest – you’re on fire here. Let’s do this thing!

  124. joan ellen says:

    Fr. Z, catholic midwest, John the Convert, et al: Thanks be to God for you all!
    Like supertrad mom, I’m a LITTLE older. As a child, as a teen, as a young adult…my strong Catholic identity…inside and outside…centered around the family Catholic identity. Our Catholic identity was The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments…including Confession…regularly, AND The Rosary, Holy Hours, and 40 Hours Devotion. Devotion is the key word. Additionally there were parish dinners, …and there still are in that parish…, the guild for the women, and men helping Fr. take care of the needs of the parish…helping anyway they could with the physical plant. It was all very wholesome for our souls.
    Devotion to Our Blessed Lord and Our Lady is Catholic Identity. Rosary Devotion is key in praying/saying it soley by itself, in Holy Hours, in 40 Hours Devotion.

    A Constant, Conscious, Contact Commitment is what Protestants have to Holy Scripture and Our Lord. While Protestants promote Holy Scripture, may we PROMOTE Devotion to the Rosary as it used to be promoted, for a better world, and to save the world. Our Lady said as much to St. Dominic in 1208.

    To this end, here in the Dio of Kalamazoo a group of individuals are collaborating to promote,
    in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, a Rosary Day on May 13, 2011, Come Pray With Me…”Learn the Rosary.” “The Rosary is like a cheer in God’s ears. It cheers the Gospel and abolishes fears…”.

    Our Catholic family was always in Church. Outside of the extended family fellowship, the Church and the Rosary were our Catholic fellowship. It was our life. Did that make us better than any other family? No! It kept us Catholic to the end. Not to say we did not get off of the track, sometimes for years.

  125. catholicmidwest says:

    Joan Ellen,

    That’s a start. Is it being publicized in the diocese so that people in different parishes can hear of it? Can anybody come? Does it happen when working people can show up? (Meaning Friday night, Saturday or Sunday afternoon?)

  126. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, as you said Joan Ellen, this is correct of the most successful protestant groups:

    “A Constant, Conscious, Contact Commitment is what Protestants have to Holy Scripture and Our Lord.”

    They have this among other things, but this is the major key to their practice and belief, yes. We need to find what we have and practice it.

    As the sociologist above recounts, the Catholic story for the last few decades has been one of loss, not of gain; of lesser commitment to the signs, commitments and behaviors that signaled Catholicism, not greater commitment; of diminution, not growth. We were made to give things up and nothing replaced them except shopping and tv and politics. That’s why we are such a mess. The 20th century has often been called the century of reduction (in the philosophical sense). Many things were reduced to the absolute minimum or below, and we are a textbook case. We were reduced below what’s necessary to carry on. Time to fix that now.

    But the church isn’t a machine and it isn’t a concept. To fix this is going to require people and effort and rebuilding. Ideas are good. This rosary idea is a fine one if it can be publicized and set up so people can get to it. Even if it doesn’t draw a big crowd, it can be the precursor to more and more so that people will notice and come more and more.

  127. catholicmidwest says:

    PPS, May 13th is a Friday. Is it during the evening, I hope? I’ll come if I can find out where it is and if it’s during the evening.

  128. APX says:

    I don’t think anyone has ever touched on this yet, but I don’t think too many people realize just how hard it is to be a young Catholic. The media has dragged the Church’s name through the mud, that you don’t really want to be known as a Catholic.

    I’m one of those mid 20 year olds, and getting out of Catholic school and into university, I quickly came to realize what people think Catholics are- Self-righteous, homosexual hating bigots, with priests who rape little boys. Any time in one of my classes where the textbook mentions something about religious groups and sexual assault, many of my classmates mention the Catholic Church, and then the anti-Catholic discussion starts. Taking a Women’s Studies class and having discussions on why same-sex marriage should be legal, and women should be allowed to have abortions, and be promiscuous, if you try to voice your beliefs and your classmates and instructor finds out your a Catholic,you’re labeled a bigot, and say good bye to your grades.

    It’s not easy being a young Catholic isn’t as easy as it used to be. Maybe the Church should be addressing that issue too.

  129. joan ellen says:

    catholicmidwest: Thanks. We have found ‘favor’ with several of the priests and parishioners in the Diocese of Kalamazoo. Some priests and parishioners from one end of the Diocese to the other are aware of the May 13, 2011 Rosary Day. We hope for input and blessings from His Excellency, Bishop Paul J. Bradley, as well, because of his inspiration…he has a Holy Hour when he visits parishes, and daily rises early to pray. Some of our priests are having their catechism classes learn the prayers of the Rosary. An announcement will be in participating Church bulletins. At St. Peter’s in Douglas there will be a Rosary after 8:30 a.m. Mass, and then again at the 6:00 p.m. Our Lady of Fatima Holy Hour. Please do join us. It will also be made known in the Diocese of Grand Rapids. HOWEVER, we do need to, also and first promote, a Come Pray With Me…”For Divine Mercy.” on Sunday, May 1, 2011. Some individuals and priests already have plans for Divine Mercy Sunday. We ask if we may help promote. If you, or anyone else, would like to help promote Come Pray With Me…Rosary Days, please click on my name above and email me at the address at the bottom of the page. I hope that this last sentence is ok with Fr. Z. p.s. Of course, we have to go through our Lenten mortification time (more Rosaries) and Easter. But, thanks to this blog, and others in the Church, especially His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, the ‘brick by brick’ work of the Church seems to be maintaining/restoring some solidity…and maybe solidarity!

  130. catholicmidwest says:

    Joan Ellen,
    Are you listening to me? What time is the event on May 13? Is it in the evening?
    I CAN’T come if it’s during the day. Most people CAN’T.

  131. joan ellen says:

    catholicmidwest: I did hear you. The Rosary will be offered at St. Peter’s in Douglas, at least 2 times. Once after morning Mass, “and then again at the 6:00 p.m. Our Lady of Fatima Holy Hour. ” Other parishes in the Diocese also offer daily Rosaries. What we hope for is many will come to offer a Rosary on that day or evening. Hopefully, there will be bulletin announcements as the time gets closer to May 13, 2011.

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