Where are the Catholics? What are you going to do about them?

I am sure you have heard that on Sundays the largest Catholic congregations are actually at fundamentalist mega-churches.

I saw this on Catholic Culture:

Roughly one-fifth of the Catholics in the US are not associated with a parish, a new study has found.

While there are about 75 million Catholics in the US, “fewer than 60 million are associated with a specific Catholic church,” reports Clifford Grammich of the Glenmary Research Center. Thus at least 15 million people who identify themselves as Catholic but not with any parish.

The Glenmary study found that drop of 3.1 million in the Catholic population since the 2000 census. There are now 58.9 million Catholics registered in 20,589 parish congregations. The number of congregations, like the number of registered Catholics, has dropped by about 5% since 2000.

If you are reading Catholic blogs, you are more than likely dedicated to your Catholic faith and identity, or you are trying to be more dedicated.  One of the most urgent dedicated and practicing Catholics need to do right now – whether their parish priests or bishops have a program to help them or not – is to do concrete things to help fallen-away or non- practicing Catholics back into the fold.

We all know people who are not practicing their faith or who have drifted into some nearly doctrineless sect.

What are you going to do about it?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Pingback: Where are the Catholics? « Fr Stephen Smuts

  2. mrsschiavolin says:


  3. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    By God’s grace I have helped bring 3 former protestants into the Catholic Church in the last two years. Despite my best efforts, I ended up convincing a nominal Jewish friend of mine into Orthodox Judaism, but not Catholicism. I have had less luck re-invigorating lapsed (or nominally catholic) Catholics, including my own family members. Most have been sold a bag of fluff called Catholicism by happy-glad-hand hippie priests and have checked out seemingly for good into a more lively protestantism or the dismal wasteland of agnosticism. Sadness.

  4. kab63 says:

    Just because Catholics don’t identify with a parish doesn’t mean they don’t practice their faith. Correct? Parish registration leads to offertory envelopes and bishop’s appeal requests. Catholics who wish to avoid this duty many not be great Catholics but they still can be regular attendees.

  5. anilwang says:

    There is another factor. Until a recent Vortex episode, I didn’t even know that registration with a parish existed, let alone that it was an expectation. I’ve researched the reasons and they make sense, but it still strikes me as a very Protestant idea since we belong to the Church universal and can receive communion anywhere or go to confession anywhere or even receive last rights anywhere rather than a specific parish. From a sacramental perspective, it should not matter which priest gives you any of the sacraments, and since priests tend to get rotated every 5 years you don’t even have much of an emotional bond to a specific priest. If registration has to be done, it seems that registering with a diocese makes more in keeping with the Catholic faith with an option to specify which parish(es) you go to in order of preference (purely for informational purposes).

    For instance, I go to daily mass and confession near work but that’s different than Sunday mass with the family. I don’t think that’s too uncommon, especially if college and school children are added to the mix.

  6. wmeyer says:

    anilwang: There are mundane issues, as well. For example, our parish is responsible to maintain the mailing addresses of its registered families so that they will receive the diocesan newspaper.

  7. Juergensen says:

    Considering the dismal catechesis of the past and present, it is a miracle there are so many Catholics left in America.

  8. Lurker 59 says:

    As a Catholic with a BA and MA in Theology who cannot find employment, I find that there is a certain reluctance at the parish level to be anything more than lazy and passé when it comes to expressing the Faith. I have researched many a parish’s website in looking for work, and the vast majority of them make me weep over the state of what passes for Catholicism. As an apologist on the net, it is very easy to talk to someone about the Faith, but much harder to tell them where to go to experience it.

    I think priests and bishops should be much more concerned over those Catholics who are no longer practicing because they are not being fed spiritually rather than those Catholics who are no longer practicing because they do not like what the Church actually stands for.

  9. Registration isn’t obligatory but it helps.

    A lot of times folks will complain that their parish pays no attention to them. And sometimes that’s because we don’t know about them! They come to Mass, but don’t get involved. They go to different parishes different weeks; so, yes, I don’t know you. If I don’t meet you at Mass, or at parish functions, and I never see your name anywhere so that I can even wonder, “who is that?”, then–yes, I don’t know you. Sorry about that!

    Then we have folks who came, years ago, drifted away, or got sick or what-have-you; and, again, if they aren’t on the list, we don’t know about you. The pastor 18 years ago knew you; but I don’t. If your family and friends don’t stay in touch, I’m sorry about that too, but if I don’t know you’re there…

    Now, we tried visiting everyone in our parishes, and we made a good start; but the only list we had was registration. If you’re not registered…

    Sometimes people are happy to fly “under the radar,” but don’t consider that it has consequences, which become the pastor’s or the parish’s fault.

  10. Austin Catholics says:

    anilwang said: “it still strikes me as a very Protestant idea since we belong to the Church universal and can receive communion anywhere or go to confession anywhere or even receive last rights anywhere rather than a specific parish. From a sacramental perspective, it should not matter which priest gives you any of the sacraments, and since priests tend to get rotated every 5 years you don’t even have much of an emotional bond to a specific priest. If registration has to be done, it seems that registering with a diocese makes more in keeping with the Catholic faith with an option to specify which parish(es) you go to in order of preference (purely for informational purposes). ”

    Yes, exactly. Growing up, I was always surprised that my Protestant classmates had the notion of being a “member” of a church, while I thought of my religion as Catholic. All Catholics just went to whatever parish was closest for mass and membership in the parish, although I knew it existed, seemed trivial. Nowadays, I see Catholics more picky, and often driving long distances to go to particular parishes. When asked, they say it is because they like this particular priest or how they do music at such-and-such place. Which seems too much like treating the church as a consumer product for me. And on the internet (for instance, this blog), you see people insisting that particular parishes are more worthy of their attendance and dollars than others. The same way they think of restaurants or department stores.

  11. Gus Barbarigo says:

    I’ve tried e-mailing links about Catholic events, articles, etc. to people to get them to “revert.” Usually people will come with me to an occasional mass, but more than that, it’s difficult. If anyone has any ideas to help prod these people along, please share!

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Well, actually Catholics used to be a lot more attached at the hip to their parishes. Moving away, even to a house right over the line, was supposed to be wrenching. Your parish patron saint was supposed to be important to you. Your pastor was like a little mini-bishop, and your parish was a little mini-diocese, and everybody there knew who you were, even if you weren’t Catholic.

    But the parish system in the US has changed a lot, mostly because people do move around so much for jobs and houses.

  13. Joe Magarac says:

    Regarding parish registration, I think it is an American custom and not a universal one. It developed because:

    a) America is religiously diverse, so the pastor of a territorial parish can’t assume that he serves every one in his territory and needs information about the souls for whom he is responsible;

    b) America is ethnically diverse, so in some cities (including my home here in Pittsburgh), you may find an historically Irish territorial parish with two or more non-territorial ethnic parishes within its borders, and the only way for each pastor to keep things straight is through registration;

    c) some parishes offer extra services (e.g., schools) that are for the benefit of parish members first and foremost, and registration helps clarify entitlement to those extra services; and

    d) America is a famously mobile country, with people moving into and out of an area all the time, and registration helps the pastor know where somebody went or who somebody is.

    I don’t think registration as such leads to people treating religion as a consumer product. I think that began to happen post-Vatican II, when:

    1) the new missal “actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity,” which could mean that Parish A had a “smells and bells” Mass; Parish B had a tambourine Mass; and Parish C had a polka Mass, which created a natural instinct to choose parishes according to one’s preferences; and

    2) the abandonment of worship “ad orientem” meant that the priest’s personality came to the fore during Mass, which also encouraged people to travel for priests they liked.

    Registration is here to stay. Religion could be less of a consumer product if the Mass was celebrated more consistently across parishes and in the “ad orientem” posture.

  14. anilwang says:

    Fr Martin Fox, “A lot of times folks will complain that their parish pays no attention to them.”

    True, but if you always sit in the same spot, you see the same people and smile, more often than not they will smile back or you and will notice if you’re gone.

    Given the size of parishes and the mobility of many people (including the pastor), the pastor simply cannot entertain everyone and even parish social groups can’t satisfy every need, assuming there are people who are interested in setting up such a group and there is social space near the parish (very often there isn’t).

    IMO, the responsibility falls on us lay people and the pastor to once and a while remind people not to rush out of Church after service (there’s no fire in the nave, honest!) and simply say “Hi!” to people on their way out, ask for their first name, and use it the next time they meet on the way out.

    Little things like that have a huge impact. If you’ve put in the effort to know someone’s name, you’re more likely to notice when they’re gone, and more likely to say “Where were you?” when they’re missing for a while. Conversations might not go beyond the level of small talk (especially if both parishioners are shy as many Catholics are), but you don’t need a lot of words to show you care.

  15. heway says:

    Met a fellow parishioner the other day (one who requested Mass be a Saturday Vigil Mass rather than Sunday at 12:oo….). She began to ask if we ever attended the Cowboy Church in another town. I answered ‘No, I have no reason to.’ The only times I have attended a church of another denomination, is when invited to a ‘Sing’ afternoon or dinner – not a service. She then informed me that she was ‘broadminded’ and I informed her that the reason for my attendance at any church was the inhabitant of the tabernacle. Another woman no longer attends because she cannot understand the priest (Nigerian) -she doesn’t receive the sacraments because of a marriage failure 50 years ago. Another old man told me ‘ that all religions are the same’. My husband and I regret all this. We try to openly profess our faith wherever we are. At the local cafe, my husband starts ‘Grace’ and everyone (of every faith) joins in – many times people thank him. Oddly enough both Cowboy ministers are friends and neighbors of ours – they never ask why we do not attend their church. The answer I agree is Pray..and also give good example

  16. Ralph says:

    It has been my experience that “fallen away Catholics” who have taken up with a mega church are hard to get back. Why?
    1. Mega Church’s ask and expect nothing from the congragents other than $. Many fallen away Catholics like not being held accountable. “I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re all ok!”
    2. Mega Church’s often have “emotional experiences” that they don’t have in a Catholic Mass. Examples are “praise music” and “testemony”. They want milk, they like milk and see no need for meat.
    3. Catholics who enter a new church are often involved for the first time. They start a prayer life, start reading the bible etc. They look back on the life they had as a Catholic as “normal Catholicism” with disdain. They don’t realise that they were not living the Catholic faith before.

    I could go on and on. But as someone else said – it’s hard to get them back!

  17. heway says:

    Another comment re: registering. There is an envelope labeled ‘flowers’ for Chrsitmas, Easter -and who winds of paying for them? If you register you can be contacted to participate in other stewardship projects like: cleaning the church, caring for the grounds, visitng the sick of the parish. Catholic also means ‘community’.

  18. mrsschiavolin says:

    Seems to me that registering has to do with keeping your sacramental records in order, getting children into RE, and making sure you have enough donors to keep the lights on.

    I do not attend my territorial parish because I am not holy enough to bear Life Teen masses and women preparing the altar for holy communion. I have a deep need for being fed by the Tradition which my parish of choice fully embraces. It’s not a consumer choice, but one for the good of my soul. I’m glad for those of you who can look past the current state of liturgy. I cannot.

    But to the point of the post…my former Catholic school FB friends are overwhelmingly non-practicing and far left. It’s painful to read their posts…I’d rather not…but I am trying to make that pain as a motivator to pray for them regularly. I also have decided to evangelize by living a happy Catholic life, being joyful about openness to life, feast days, etc. etc.

  19. anilwang says:

    One more thing, there’s a Legion of Mary in both my work and sunday parishes. One thing the legion does a lot of is home visitations:

    I don’t know if this is common, but quite literally they go door to door every once and a while and ask if there are any Catholics or fallen away Catholics in the house (especially in houses that rent rooms) and invite them to Church. They usually have a large picture of Mary on their clipboard so it’s clear that they’re not Mormons:-).

    To me, *that* does a whole lot more to show you care than registration and an occational letter or newspaper. I already get a lot of spam and more than a few “personal” form letters. Neither mean anything. I was away from Church (due to catechesis that was more Stoic and Deistic than Christian, let alone Catholic), and I can say that either the newspapers or the letters would have went straight to the trash. The personal contact of a visit, however, might have sparked a question that would have caused me to question if I actually knew my faith.

  20. eulogos says:

    Catholic parishes are so large that it is difficult to create a sense of community at them.

    Now, I know that “a sense” of community, as opposed to the communion of saints itself, is not salvific. But nevertheless, for many people, the idea of the communion of saints is inaccessable as an abstraction. Some people only take in that that means anything if they experience human community. Now that in many places “the community” is no community at all and people hardly interact with their neighbors, a church community can fill a really valuable place in a person’s life, or in a family’s life. Catholics usually miss out on this. Parishes usually have a daily mass community, and perhaps a group centered around religious education, and a group centered around the “social ministry” committee. But, even when one is registered, it is very easy to get lost and feel unwanted and unvalued in a large parish. Protestant churches usually have cards in the pew for new people to fill out and drop in the collection basket-and they follow up on them. If you start attending a Protestant church, you will soon be invited to lector or to make coffee or bring snacks for coffee hour. And that is another thing. I know a lot of Catholics won’ t even stay for coffee hour. But I think there ought to be one after every mass. Just keep having them, and keep announcing them. Try to put them in some space people see as they leave the building. If you have to, start in the summer and use the space between the church doors and the parking lot if that isn’t a dangerous space. You also might get people in the habit by having the Sunday school during coffee hour time, so people have to wait for their kids. Or have the kids recite or perform in some way at a coffee hour, and make sure it isn’t at the beginning, so people get used to sitting and chatting over coffee (or tea). Make sure there are healthy snacks as well as cookies so dieters don’t have an excuse to avoid it. Use the coffee hour time to announce at greater length than at mass, what is going on in the parish, so people will feel they are left out of things if they don’t go hear what is said. Use that time to celbrate birthdays and anniversaries, with both cake and blessings, to do the clapping which is not appropriate at mass. You can also use that time to ask people to serve on committes, and to find out what sort of adult education people would come for and when they could come. The best thing would be to adjourn for adult education after about half an hour of coffee hour, if there is anyone qualified to teach a group available at that time. The idea that serious Christians always keep learning about their faith is another one that is missing from Catholic parishes, and which some Catholics wind up finding elsewhere. And of course, lead the people to know to desire to know more, by really preaching.
    Fathers, stop with the football stories and the jokes and the cute stories, and bring out what is in the readings; really dig into it. Preach about the epistle! In 40 years the number of times I have heard a priest at mass preach on the epistle I could count on one hand! Show how our theology is Scriptural, and you will innoculate people against the Evangelicals. And of course, have a liturgy which shows forth the holiness of God, and music also fit for that purpose. Make people stretch, lead them into awe, rather than trying to get down to their level.

    All this is about keeping people rather than bringing them back. But a parish which does the things I suggest will have people willing to go out, to lapsed Catholics AND to the unchurched, as
    Anilwang above, suggests.
    Susan Peterson

  21. asperges says:

    I was brought up in the life of our Cathedral from childhood so have never worried too much about parish life. Since the changes and an almighty rift in the 80s from the said cathedral, I have worshipped at whatever place has the traditional liturgy. When not organising EF Masses, I attend the Dominican rite Masses some 28 miles away in another city. Canon law no longer demands attendance only at one’s parish church, if indeed it was ever enforced.

    I know of some Catholics who left the Church to join the Orthodox. That is bad enough, but here (UK) there are no mega-churches but the British temperament is ill-suited generally to this form of structure and pack mentality. There are strong evangelist “corner stone” churches and the like; few in their right minds would become Anglicans : why bother? They are more likely to give up completely.

    It is a cop-out in a sense to say of the lapsed, “the Church failed them,” and this is the cry often of the revolutionaries who want to turn the Church upside down for their own ends. But in some cases, one has to say, it is true. Thousands simply fell away as the Church turned somersaults in the 70s and 80s and have never returned. I don’t think it is scandal that drives people away, but the failure to preach the gospel in and out of season and to remain clearly and resolutely Catholic.

  22. Supertradmum says:

    Register, please. Many dioceses now will not allow parishes to have funerals unless the person was registered in a parish. Some friends of mine found this out the hard way. Secondly, being part of a parish creates a home, even if temporarily. I always try and go to the same church when I am in an area, establish relationships with the priests and people. This is important for our salvation. Third, support. We are supposed to tithe, or give something according to Church Law. Being part of a parish shows us needs right before our eyes. Four, abuses can only be addressed if one is a regular. Five, bringing Catholics who have fallen away is very hard, but I try. If we belong to a parish, we find out about these lapsed ones and can get involved with bringing them home. The ones in our own families may have to come in through someone else, rather than ourselves, as strangers are sometimes listened to better than siblings.

    By our baptism, we are missionaries. All of us are called to spread the Good News. This is not an option. And, bringing the Gospel to those who have fallen away is still missionary work.

  23. poohbear says:

    I attend Mass every Sunday, Holy Day and sometime on weekdays. I always contribute to the collection, (even the second one!). I am not registered at the parish which I attend weekly because in the last 10 years, every time I find a good parish, after a couple of years the pastor gets transferred and in comes a happy-clappy-hippy pastor and I have to look for a new parish again. I think the assumption that people don’t register because they don’t want a certain responsibility is wrong.

    I have friends registered at the same parish who regularly sell the raffle tickets, but haven’t stepped foot in the building in decades.I know many people who stopped going to church but are still registered at their last parish. So registration doesn’t mean people are practicing either. I try to get them to go back to church, invite them to Mass, give them books, but its not easy. But, everything we do plants another seed, and maybe its not for me to tend the plant, just get it started.

    I have lately been thinking of registering at the parish I attend because I fear I will not be able to be buried without being registered, however I attend a parish that is not even in my Archdiocese. Can I even register there?

  24. Springkeeper says:

    I currently live in the Bible belt and in an area not too friendly towards Catholics; the concensus around here is that Catholics aren’t Christians. The only non-attending Catholics I know are back in the northeast and my husband and I are working on them with prayer and apologetics. The terrible part is that we keep trying new parishes when we go back “home” (NY and Mass.) to find even a remotely conservative one and it has been one failure after another with some being flat-out heretical. I just cannot invite the fallen away into those situations because it will only cement their animosity or indifference. When they came down here, they attended Mass and loved our parish and our priest and he is both orthodox and welcoming.

  25. Bea says:

    “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?” good question, Fr. Z.

    Here’s what we’ve done (or tried to do)

    1. Set a good example.

    2. Raise good Catholic sons and daughters that know their Faith. (They’ve gone to do their own thing now and they ARE doing it. Thanks be to God and Mary, to whom I consecrated my children in their early years and/or infancy.

    3. Talk “shop” to my hairdresser, cashier at Walmart, wherever I’m at. A little word here, a little word there.

    4. We’ve (my fired-up friend and I) run a “bookstore” for 9 years. At first no-one came around but one or two people looking for little prayer books and novenas and children’s coloring books. Gradually they came “if you build it, they will come” NOW we’re getting requests to order special books for them: NOW they’re into “Liturgy of the Hours, Bibles etc.” We’re an apostolate. We don’t do it for profit, just a little, enough to buy more and more books, DVDs etc. We pass the discount given to us to the parishioners. There was no Catholic bookstore in town, no bookstore at all, to boot. We put the bookstore in Our Lady’s hands and she has been most benevolent. “Bring my children to my son, through books” she seemed to say 9 years ago.

  26. disco says:

    I think a lot of trads probably fall into this category. Most of drive an awfully long way to attend mass and can’t join the parish we go to because we don’t live in it’s territory.

  27. Raymond says:

    No funeral Mass for you if you were not registered in a parish??? Is this a silly, modern, American phenomenon? I have never heard of such a thing! An aunt of mine from the Philippines visited her brother in New Jersey and died there of a heart attack six years ago. Thank God the local parish priest there gave her a Mass of Christian Burial. I could not have imagined it otherwise. “No funeral if not registered in a parish”–how uncharitable, un-Catholic, and un-Christian!!

  28. Austin Catholics says:

    Raymond said: ” “No funeral if not registered in a parish”–how uncharitable, un-Catholic, and un-Christian!!”

    True, but there is an increasing and disturbing trend among some elements of the Church to try to put up walls. People openly advocate denying people sacraments and funerals. These are usually lay people. To their credit, priests don’t often turn people away, as near as I can tell, but I have little experience with funerals.

  29. LisaP. says:

    We fly under the radar, and we have no need to be best buddies with the priest. Now, I do sometimes wish we had a parish where we could invite the priest over for a neighborhood dinner now and again, that sort of thing. But I don’t “want” anything from the priest except, frankly, the sacraments. Other stuff is fine, but if we can just get the sacraments and a straightforward Mass and a sermon that steers entirely clear of heresy, I’m ecstatic. When we registered at parishes and the priests knew us (I cleaned for the parish and rectory for awhile) it didn’t go so well — the priests looked kindly upon us, maybe knew our names, but it didn’t make them any more inclined to *listen* to me when it came to liturgical abuse, etc. In my experience, if a priest does his job I don’t need him to know who I am to feel served by him, led by him, and shepherded by him. If a priest is doing what I consider a poor job, if he knows me it is likely to eventually become a sour relationship, as I can keep quiet but can’t lie about my discontent, and nobody likes to feel criticized, even by silence. So then I wind up feeling not served, not led, and not shepherded. Better to stay unregistered and unnoticed.

    I am shocked to hear about funeral policy, it’s funny how all the old “horrors” attributed to the Church have come back in a modernist, bureaucratic form. Once if you were a prostitute or cremated, no burial on church grounds with some of those horrible priests back in the bad old days? Now no church funeral if you haven’t filled out the paperwork in time. Ugh.

    As for the original question, I have to say that I’ve had a lot of experiences with horrible Protestant churches, including a big box church, but there are some “mere Christianity” Bible churches that I would jump to in a NY minute if I did not believe in the apostolic succession, the True Presence, etc. There are many nondenom churches where Christianity is not as dogmatically defined, it’s true, but it’s played out in lives a lot more and talked about with more clarity and directness and expectation of behavior. It’s true the big box churches often go easy on the moral requirements, but some small Bible churches hold feet to the fire like I’ve never seen a priest do, and I believe some Catholic move for this reason. If we want those Catholics to return, they have to be able to believe the Church holds the deposit of the faith and the Eucharist is truly Christ — and many Catholic parishes sure seem to work pretty hard to convince people neither of those things is so. And we have to hold them to standards, again something you’ll see much more often from the preacher in the small Bible church (who isn’t afraid to talk about hell, abortion, original sin, etc.) than from the pastor of most of the Catholic churches I’ve been in.

    So what have I specifically done to return Catholics to the Church? Prayed, and gone to Church myself in sight of others. And tried not to look too much like a jerk to the people who know I’m Catholic. I’ve never found anything else to be a sound practice.

  30. kellym says:

    This is not a new phenomenon. I recall my family facing this situation when my grandmother died – in 1978. My grandmother lived for many years within the parish confines and attended when she was able, and it was the parish my father attended as a child. But, we never knew if she’d formally ‘registered’ with the parish. My parents attended when they were first married, but moved on to another parish thereafter. So, when Grammy died, there was a mad scramble. It ended up being a service of some sort at the funeral home and something graveside.

  31. I invite them to come back to confession. I share my love for that sacrament and encourage them to make a clean start and begin receiving Jesus in a state of grace.

    Recently I had the occasion to evangelize a fallen away Catholic seated next to me on a flight from DC to Seattle. Right after I said, “Someday you are going to meet Jesus and you will have to answer for your life and every decision you made…” his friend across the isle stopped breathing and had no pulse…
    He was resuscitated (by fervent prayer? by the cpr?) and they both had to evacuate the plane on an emergency landing in Chicago. I pray for my fallen away friend, and do hope he makes the return to confession. He prayed “Hail Mary” like crazy with me while his friend was unresponsive…

    Will you all please pray for him (right now), his name is John Paul…
    His friend is named Fred, he might need prayers, too!

    Thanks all!

  32. APX says:

    ““No funeral if not registered in a parish”–how uncharitable, un-Catholic, and un-Christian!!”

    How unsocial justice-like! Is not one of the corporal acts of mercy to bury the dead?!

    I was registered at my territorial parish for almost 23 years and for over a decade I was a practicing catholic actively involved with the youth groups and teaching children’s liturgy. No one seemed to notice when I quit going. Further, when I did try to return, the parish priest had no interest in hearing my confession. I think the deacon cared more about getting my confession heard than the priest. Sadly, deacons can’t absolve sins.

    I think if you’re going to get lapsed Catholics back you’re going to have to meet them where they’re at and take baby steps if necessary. As a former door to door salesperson, I’m of the strong belief that going door to door, if done effectively, is most effective.

  33. Supertradmum says:

    Disagree with people upset about not registering and expecting funerals. We are supposed to be tithing even if poor and being part of a parish means being involved. It would be a corporal work of mercy for the laity to bury the dead not the priest. Perhaps those upset do not live in poor dioceses with severe priest shortages. If trads are regularly going to a trad Mass outside their physical parish, they should join the trad parish. That is what I do when I find a regular Sunday Latin Mass.

  34. Supertradmum says:

    Ps..a parish is not a spiritual Macdonald’s, where one goes in for a quick lunch. It is the local manifestation of the universal Church to which we belong, essential for our salvation.

  35. APX says:

    Registration and parish membership aren’t the same thing. If you live within the parish boundaries, you’re automatically a member of that parish and the priest is responsible for you regardless of whether or not you’re registered. Registration really is more of an administration tool to track donations and people who regularly attend a particular parish. For the time being, from church-speak, I’m technically a member of two parishes, and registered at a third parish, even though I’m only registered at the parish I actually attend regularly. My permanent address is my domicile parish. Heaven forbid something should happen to me while I’m there, that priest is responsible for me despite no longer being registered there (Let us hope that never happens). My quasi-domicile parish is some ethnic parish that doesn’t really have an English-speaking community. The parish I’m actually registered at, is the one I attend regularly. I would imagine the priest there would need permission from one of my actual domicile parishes if it’s for matters pertaining to something that would require such permissions.

    If someone dies and requests a funeral at that parish, if the person isn’t registered, but lives in the parish’s territorial boundaries, they shouldn’t be refused to have a funeral in that parish. If they are, I’d be putting a call in to someone at the diocesean office

  36. LisaP. says:

    I do struggle with the idea of supporting a parish. I’ve taught religious ed classes. I’ve given money. I’ve cleaned priests’ toilets. I’ve composed newsletters and organized archives. I’m not sure I did my parish a lick of good with any of those things, except maybe the toilet one! The most good I could have done them was during those times when I wrote heart-felt letters bemoaning how the Mass was being mangled, and had my head patted; or maybe the time I sat down and cried — literally cried — to a priest about the difficulties my family faced with the Mass and was told if I were a better Catholic I’d be happy with the way things were. Those were my contributions to my parish, and they were rejected.

    Instead now I search and search until I find a parish where I can sit in the back pew and wait for Jesus, and I remain untethered. I’m here if anyone ever wants my kind of support, but I’m not advertising.

    I give, as I believe and the Church teaches God wants me to do. But do I tithe? No. I know the Church says to give, but if it ever told me I *have* to support the local parish’s new music director position or its heretical religious ed program or its construction of a brand new church with an “adoration chapel” to shunt the tabernacle off to the side or I’m in mortal sin? I can’t see how the Church could every do that. Write out that check to me or you go to hell? That’s the big box church, not the RC one.

    I appreciate the McD’s thing, and maybe I’ve been guilty of that with my pop-ins at adoration with the kids. I don’t want to be just a “taker”. But it’s not been as straightforward as all that to me. I think some Catholics try to fix a parish by being “involved” and “contributing”, and they risk being corrupted themselves in their pride at thinking they can reform it all once they just get in a good place to do so, and a few compromises on the way are necessary. . . . Then some like me try to learn more of their own Faith and hold on to it, pass it to their families for the time it can be expressed in community again, and they risk becoming the drive-through parishioners referenced, popping in for the Eucharist, daydreaming through Mass and never thinking of God beyond that so that they are essentially Catholic only five minutes each week. We all have our own ways of trying to be part of the universal Church, and we all face risks we must identify and ward against while we’re doing so. And if I ever belonged to a parish that followed the Magesterium and needed me, I’d be there, and I’d even register if they wanted me to.

  37. LisaP. says:


    We had to get written permission from the priest at our territorial parish before my daughter could join the First Communion program at another parish.

  38. St. Epaphras says:

    “Where are the Catholics? What are you going to do about them?” Trying to sum up on this one is hard! I know where many “ex” Catholics are, as they are members of churches I used to belong to (pentecostal, then Mennonite). Now that I’m a convert and remember the reasons that initially brought me “back” to the Church (I’m sort of a revert but not officially) I try to remember a few things.

    Don’t apologize about Authority and Apostolic Succession, but don’t be haughty either. Bring these up when it fits in conversation in a natural way and bring the Bible into the discussion.

    The Eucharist!! Not a theory, just a fact, and a Biblical one too. No one else has Jesus in the Eucharist (see above). Same with the other sacraments. Perhaps many Catholics who left never knew every sacrament is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, a living and loving Savior. Let others see you don’t just follow a bunch of rules but are in a very personal relationship with Christ. The liturgy, the sacraments, every single thing that is truly Catholic is about Jesus. Our Church IS His body. This is very simple. Live like this is true. (A relative by marriage who is now protestant told me with regret in his voice that he never understood about any of this even at his confirmation at the age of 12. He sounded as though he’d been cheated.)

    Let each sacrament change you, really change you, to be more like Christ. People don’t need us; they need Jesus. Have the attitude of “I don’t ‘have’ to go to Mass/Confession, etc. — I GET to go!” Let people know “something” is going on at Mass and in Confession. Mass is heavenly worship; we get to go to heaven, so to speak. Show you believe this. Let the joy out. Jesus is in that confessional. We GET to meet him there! You get the picture. People leave and go to these groups that claim a more personal faith in Jesus Christ, but you want personal — we got it.

    But the difference here is that while having the personal faith in Christ which many non-catholic people have, we also have authority and apostolic succession and sacraments. In other words, we have it all. Our Church is a precious jewel, a treasure. We are not just another denomination with a bit more of the truth. Being Catholic matters!! Live as if it matters. People NEED to convert/revert.

    Be unabashedly, totally Catholic in a very natural way. Never compromise on this. It is our life, after all. So if people don’t want to listen to us or read something about the Faith, remember: They are reading us.

  39. anilwang says:


    First, please read this since it claries that registration has nothing to do with Canon law or access to funerals:

    Also you’ve made a few false equivalences.

    Tithing has nothing to do with registration, or even going to Church. In my diocese, you can tithe by automated deduction to any Church or apostulate or Catholic charity.

    Also, getting involved has nothing to do with a particular parish as any 3rd order member, or Opus Dei member, or apostulate member, or volunteer at a Catholic school, or even volunteering at the local parish. None require registration.

    Also, the comment on “spiritual Macdonald’s” is completely unappropriate. I doubt many here come in half way through mass and leave just after communion. I doubt anyone here thinks Mass in terms of what they recieve instead of what they give to God.

    I have no idea what “It would be a corporal work of mercy for the laity to bury the dead not the priest” means. Are you saying that the laity can preside over funerals?

    Remember, according to Tradition, “Where the Bishop is, there is a Church”. Tradition does *not* say, “Where the parish is, there is the Church”. Scripture also says (1 Cor 12-13), “Now this I say, that every one of you says, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” A priest is an Alter Christus during the sacraments. Christ is not divided and neither is his Church.

    People are upset for a few reasons. One, it detracts from the universal nature of the Church and make the Church appear to be a local community of believers self-contained in and of itself. It seems to be a recent American practice that likely sprang out of the Protestant surroundings. As a consequence, foreigners and people who were born and raised in the Catholic Church will not likely be registered and many won’t even know. Assuming that census results based on registration are accurate is wrong. Denying funerals on this basis implies lack of Catholity since Catholics have the right to a funeral. It is also cruel because so many real Catholics *will* fall through the cracks.

  40. Supertradmum says:

    Two big points. I meet ex-Catholics and Catholics who go to Church on Sunday who are de jure fallen away. The one, large elephant in the room is contraception. I can say for sure that every Catholic I have met who is fallen away has done so for either reasons of “women’s reproductive rights”, or sheer laziness, which is another word for non-commitment. But, I am convinced that sexual ethics, including contraception, keeps people away. This is a question of conversion of heart and excellent teaching on the real meaning of sex, marriage, love, etc. Until priests bite the bullet and talk about these things from the pulpit, which in all of my life I have never heard, even in trad Masses (a sermon against contraception), more will fall away, and not want to return.

    The second big point it that no one deserves anything from a parish, not a baptism, confirmation, wedding, funeral, etc, unless one is committed to that parish. I do not know why some believe that merely belonging to a geographical area makes them involved. Most parishes where I am now have registers of about 800 Catholics, but only see about 400 weekly at the most. Out of those 400, about 50 would be active in anything at all. This is not what we are called to do concerning our baptism. If we are not involved, we are sycophants, merely living off the efforts of others, and falling into the gross heresy of individualism. No one goes to heaven in a vacuum or alone. Absolutely not. Christ created His Church on earth as an institution of grace for us, but not for us to take for granted.

    APX, why should you be incensed at not having a funeral in a parish to which you are not willing to get involved? If you go to the trad Mass, sign up there. One is free to do so. I lived in a town in Missouri for years without a Latin Mass and traveled to St. Joseph, Mo., for the excellent Mass there. That is where my tithing money went and where I tried to support other parishioners with friendship, etc. I worked as an RCIA c0-director in another parish, my geographical parish, to help to try and being some orthodoxy into it, but my registration was with the TLM parish. We were allowed to do that-no problem. When should a priest who does not know you and is not your confessor, etc. be responsible for you? You create your own spheres of involvement and stick to those. Every diocese where I have lived has not made the geographical boundaries the written–in-stone place for one’s sacramental life. If one is registered with one parish and is actually going to another, that is a different scenario. Then, technically, you need to either support both, or choose one. If you have a relationship with whatever priest is meeting your sacramental needs, any legislative problems are easy to work out. One must ask permission for certain things, but unless you are “on the books”, this is not an issue. You are not owed by any priest anything per se. If you are a member of a Church, then you have a relationship with that community and that priest.


  41. Supertradmum says:

    anilwang, we have a duty in baptism to support our parish, even if it is a parish by choice. If we belong to Opus Dei and choose to give money to that organization, or belong to a third order, that is not the same as supporting the place where one goes to daily Mass, and receives other sacraments on a regular basis. This may or may not be a geographical parish, as I have described. Giving to charity, by the way, is over and above our tithing. Charitable contributions are not the duty owed to the Church. We support bishop’s appeals and special collections and so on, as well.

    As to the local Church, I do not understand why you make a distinction between that and the universal Church. There is none in theology. We live and grow in a place. For many of us in rural areas, the Church is all, and has been, the place of social interaction as well as spiritual. We marry people we meet at Church, we socialize with other choir members, we dine with members of the Legion of Mary and so on. We organize political rallies for pro-life frequently through our parishes, and in some cases, even support schools connected with the parish. That is normal, parish life. There is nothing Protestant about this type of organization, as one sees in the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and Revelation. People are even identified by their geographical parishes. Perhaps, in a large city, this may not be the case.

    I think I would repeat myself in what I outlined in the last post if I stated anything else. I lived in London and went to my geographical parish there almost daily, but on Fridays, I went to Vespers at Westminster. Of course, we can worship here and there, but we must be committed to one place or we shall never grow in grace, as our duty as baptized members of The Church is to be involved in the local or Church of our choice. No one grows outside of commitments, either in a vocation or in the larger community of a Church.

  42. Supertradmum says:

    PS Many years ago, when I was a RCIA coordinator in one parish, in charge of the whole thing, I went to two Masses on Sunday-one for my RCIA group and one for my TLM parish. I tithed to the TLM parish, but the other priest knew this and had no problem with that. I was registered with the TLM parish. And, in that diocese, one must be registered with a parish in order to receive any of the sacraments, including marriage, and have a Catholic funeral.

  43. ContraMundum says:

    And, in that diocese, one must be registered with a parish in order to receive any of the sacraments, including marriage, and have a Catholic funeral.

    Wow, let me know where that diocese is, so I’ll know not to travel through there. Mass for visitors? Well, OK, but no communion, no confessions, and you’d better not get in a wreck and need last rites.

  44. APX says:


    I have no idea what you’re getting up in arms about. I am registered member of the parish I attend the TLM, and that is where my money goes. Unfortunately, my time and what I’m actually able to sign up to do at the parish is sufficiently hampered, as I work full time and take classes full time on the side. I’m not a permanent resident of the city which I am living, which is why I, canonically speaking, have a domicile territorial parish (which is in the city I am a legal resident and have full privileges and is in the territorial area of my permanent address) and a quasi-domicile territorial parish (which is in the city I am considered a temporary resident and have limited privileges). The parish I actually attend, isn’t in the territorial area of my address, which is what Canon Law speaks of.

    Canonically speaking, when getting into territorial parishes, and the Canon Law regarding such issues, things get murky.

  45. Supertradmum says:

    Of course, I do not mean confession and Communion. But, for Baptism, First Confession, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Marriage and funerals, the rule is that one member of the couple of the parents of the child, or one member of the engaged couple, for example, must be registered with the parish where they are seeking the sacraments. As to funerals, the person who has died must have been a registered member of the parish. I would not be surprised if there were more dioceses which had these rules. As to Last Rites, again, if the priest does not know you, or if one has not been a member of a parish in the area, this can be a problem, as I know from two families in the dioceses next door. This may have to do with the severe priest shortage, as priest-chaplains no longer exist in the local hospitals and one must call one in. A priest is not always available, as families have grievously found out. This also includes burial rites at the cemetery, as priests who do not know the person being buried in another city may not respond to such as request, as I also know. These guidelines indicate the need for Catholics to be part of a larger community and have a relationship with a parish.

  46. chantgirl says:

    Ah, this is the salt in the wound for many Catholics who have tried to retain an orthodox faith in the face of the upheavals in the Church over the last decades- all of our loved ones and friends who have fallen away from the faith because of bad catechesis, liturgical abuse, scandal etc. In my personal opinion, fallen away Catholics are some of the hardest to evangelize. Frankly, many of them do not want to be evangelized. With close family and friends, my personal plan of attack is usually evangelization by stealth (quiet prayer and sacrifice and having Masses offered) and very rarely, conversation. Trying to talk to someone who already has their mind made up is not usually productive, especially when you are related to them. So I just try to soften the ground with prayer and try to stay on top of working on my own shortcomings so that I’m not a stumbling block to them. It seems that fallen away Catholics are most receptive to being evangelized when they encounter a crisis. In the meantime, probably the best thing we can do as Catholics to bring our loved ones home is to pray and sacrifice and become holy, offering ourselves as silent holocausts for our loved ones.

  47. Supertradmum says:

    sorry this last note was for ContraMundum

  48. APX says:


    We had to get written permission from the priest at our territorial parish before my daughter could join the First Communion program at another parish.

    The same thing happened with my brother and his Confirmation. He went to school in a different area of the city than our parish, and Confirmation prep was done during Religion class at school. Rather than have him confirmed with a group of kids whom he had never met, my mom had to get permission from our priest for him to be Confirmed in the parish attached to the school.

    I also recall something similar with one of my cousin’s baptisms, though it could be entirely different because it involves a different diocese, rather than have the baptism in another province some 6 hours away from the rest of the family members, and mainly because my aunt was the godmother and terminally ill and unable to travel, my aunt and uncle had to get permission to have a private baptism outside of their territorial parish and diocese.

  49. anilwang says:

    Please read what I’ve written, particularly the EWTN link.
    The key thing being objected to is the implication:
    * registration=belonging to a parish
    * registration=Proof of Catholicity
    * a *recent* American custom = Canon Law
    * tithing cannot happen without registration
    * participation cannot happen without registration
    * belonging to a parish versus belonging to a diocese
    * lack of registration denies you access to any of the sacraments.
    * belonging to one of the parish ministries is even required
    * not belonging to a parish ministries implies that you do not belong to an apostulate or other Church organization
    * going to a parish where you can *give* God the most implies McDonald’s spirituality where “it’s all about me”
    * participation is even required (especially for the chronically ill or disabled) for reception of the sacraments.

    As the article linked indicate, the local parish is responsible for you. If you live in an area and have a proof of Catholicity (e.g. baptismal certificate), your local parish is responsible for your burial if requested. And as other have pointed out, if you want your child to receive first communion elsewhere (*even* if you are *registered* there), the permission from the local parish is required. Both are keeping with the Catholic Tradition. It’s also compatible for parishes to request people register since it *helps* administration, pastoral care of parishioners, and assuring no-one falls through the cracks.

    What is not in keeping with Catholic Tradition is assuming registration=proof of Catholicity and registration is required to receive any of the sacraments. This is what I strongly disagree with.

  50. APX says:

    ” for Baptism, First Confession, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Marriage and funerals, the rule is that one member of the couple of the parents of the child, or one member of the engaged couple, for example, must be registered with the parish where they are seeking the sacraments.”

    No, Canon Law makes no reference to the requirement of registration. Registration is an administration thing to keep track of who’s actually attending that church and giving money to provide income tax receipts.

    For example, the Code of Canon Law on marriages states:

    Canon 1115 Marriages are to be celebrated in the parish in which either of the contracting parties has a domicile or a quasi-domicile or a month’s residence or, if there is question of vagi, in the parish in which they are actually residing. With the permission of the proper Ordinary or the proper parish priest, marriages may be celebrated elsewhere.

  51. Supertradmum says:

    Dioceses and parishes differ on the Canon stated above. Most parishes have the six or nine month rule for marriages and being registered in that Church. If dioceses vary from Canon Law, there are serious pastoral reasons for doing so. I know of no parish and even college or university chapels or basilicas which do not have a rule on pre-Cana classes or at least a weekend retreat, in addition to being members and registered members of a parish. As to membership, that is what registration means, not merely living in an area, although some parishes make that distinction in favor of merely living in the parish boundaries. I have recently talked to a priest about the now required pre-nuptial interview and I can assure you nothing gets done in slightly over a month. Many of these rules on listed either on the parish or diocesan websites, and even in the weekly bulletins.

    And, as I was personally involved in three dioceses in sacramental prep of various kinds, the registration rules were in place and enforced. I am referring to American dioceses, by the way, and not any other country.

  52. St. Epaphras says:

    Amen, sister! Pray, live it, ask God to make us saints… We can’t change hearts. Only God can do that.

  53. Supertradmum says:

    I just looked at several parishes online and all required parish membership for the sacrament of marriage plus, being active in that parish, or in the parish where they are registered, with a letter of permission from that priest to be married in the another parish, the parish where the person is registered. The minimum time was six months, because of preparation, checking of documents, and the longest was one year. The requirement of being active in the parish is one which has been in effect at least for five years that I know of…. As to membership, that means registration, at least in the Midwest parishes I looked up, although in some dioceses, the rulings are less stringent. This rule of official membership is not only applied, as I stated before, to marriages, but to the other “first sacraments”. The subsequent requirements for parents to take courses for baptismal prep, at least for the first baby, for First Communion and in some places, for Confirmation involve membership of the parish where one is seeking the sacraments. If one is having these sacraments done in a parish other than one’s own, permission must be given by the priest of the person’s parish, in all cases I have just checked. This includes, by the way Notre Dame baptisms, where the parents, if they are students, need permission from their registered parish priest. One can make ND one’s parish, but if one is not doing so, permission must be granted from the parish where one is registered. This is the language used. This is the norm with which I am familiar for parishes other than chapels on campuses as well. As a person who has been involved in all of this, I can assure you the Canon quoted above must represent a minimum which is not actually seen in real life, at least in the States. What happens in other countries, I do not know.

  54. LisaP. says:

    I firmly believe that a major problem of American Catholic parishes, which I think plays into problems as diverse as the scandals and fallen away Catholics, is this inclination to make priests managers, parishes administration units, hierarchies bureaucracies, and congregations social organizations. As my friend says, no saint was ever known for his excellent work in committee.

    Let me set up a few obnoxiously overdrawn parallels — Ted Kennedy gets a funeral because he’s registered but the little old lady at daily Mass every day for 30 years doesn’t because she’s not? My husband gives up a job for one making half the pay because he feels he can serve the whole community honorably through the second and not through the first, but he’s not contributing to the parish (which is part of the community) as much as the guy who greets folks at the Church door each Sunday? My family attends Mass every week even if our in-laws raise an eyebrow and it puts an obstacle between us and my parent (who is very anti-Church) but I’m not being part of the universal Church like the guy who filled out the form to register so his family can get their photos in the parish directory? My friend works at the local food bank, which serves everyone including the Catholics in the area, because the Catholic Church doesn’t have one, but she’s not supporting her parish like the person who teaches at the “Children’s Liturgy” that communion is symbolic?

    Way overdrawn, but my point is that the criteria of registration and “involvement” and specific parish tithing can be very, very poor ones for deciding whether I am supporting my parish community.

    I hate the requirements for sacraments. Part of me wonders if this drive to have people fill out forms and workbooks in order to receive sacraments might have spurred the exodus from the American Church that pre-dated Vatican II, even. How important can the bishop consider communion, after all, if he’s willing to deny it to someone because she hasn’t completed enough classroom hours? And if the bishop doesn’t value Confession, why should I? And if I don’t value Confession and Communion, why even stay in the Church?

    I don’t think I have any *right* to a sacrament. But what I do think is that God has decided in His grace to *give* me that sacrament if I choose to accept it. Priests have been called by God to carry God’s grace to me. Do priests and bishops not sometimes wonder, what happens when they get to those pearly gates and they’re asked why they didn’t bring baptism to this child, or communion to that child, or confession? And they say. . . well, he wasn’t signed up in my parish, so he didn’t have a *right* to baptism from me? Or, his mom didn’t take the class I told her to take, so I turned her away. How well, I have to wonder, is that going to fly? In the end, it’s not about what I want or what the priest wants, is it?

    I appreciate Supertradmum holding feet to the fire, keeping expectations high, not letting people off the hook. Thing is, I’m not abstaining from registering because I’m lazy or careless, I’m abstaining because for me it might actually be, oddly, an occasion of sin for me. I’ve seen too many very involved Catholic parishioners seem — seem — much more inclined to damnation than the homeless, drunk wreck in the back pew.

  55. Supertradmum says:

    LisaP, I think the problem is that people simply need to be catechized about everything. The ignorance of the typical person in the pew would perhaps astound you. There can be no fudging on catechesis and, in fact, we need more, not less. Some dioceses are considering a two year program for RCIA. I am all for this. Will some people not join up because of the time commitment, perhaps. But, the Catholic Church is not merely the local bowling club. It is the institution created by Christ on earth and has doctrines and rules in order to save souls.

    I had a girl go through a shortened RCIA course, not mine, by the way, and a year later she not only has gone as a witness to a lesbian “marriage”, but married outside the Church in a civil ceremony, not wanting to wait for an annulment. What happened? Bad catechesis and a lack of time to discern her own journey. We need time to fall in love with Christ and His People. This type of lack of knowledge and commitment form the basis for rules. No one is ever denied a sacrament, but if a person is not involved, or their families are not involved, this weakens the Church at all levels.

    One of the biggest problems is that the children of older people fall away and do not pursue Catholic funerals, or assume someone else will pick up on the organization. I encourage all Catholics to have their funerals written down with an authority, paid for in advance and organized with the priest long before death, if possible. A priest is very hard put to work with non-practicing Catholics who expect him to do everything. And, living in places with severe priest shortages, one can understand the need for relationship with your priest and community.

    The fragmentation of families and the mobility of people require greater guidelines. The classes are necessary, as many parents are not practicing and will not bring their children to Mass even after Holy Communion, which creates a very bad situation, for example. The abuses are so common, these rules have become more clear for the benefit of the souls of those involved. The abuses regarding marriage are horrendous without catechesis. The list would be painful and long.

    The Church is inclusive, but also exclusive. The priests do not determine these rules for any arbitrary reason. They are in charge of the parishioners eternal life, and that makes them think and act with prudence. We need to feed each other. We need to build up our little parishes so that we are lights to those who have fallen away and family for those who have none. If we are weak, we cannot help anyone come back to the Church. I have read and re-read Revelation lately, as those early Churches were being called to perfect love. That is what we are called to be–lovers in a community and this I long for, as you do.

  56. LisaP. says:

    Supertradmum, I dothink I understand, and I’ve seen the sweat on the brow of priests and laypeople who have to deal with parents who haven’t been to Mass in decades but just have to put their little girl in the white dress, etc. It must be discouraging.

    But we’re putting the cart before the horse. It’s important to make sure a kid going in for First Communion knows what sin is, knows what mortal sin is, knows how to Confess and that she needs to be in a state of grace and abstain from food and assent to belief in the True Presence. That’s a sentence, not a week long religious ed course (around here, the diocese requires a year of religious ed *before* joining the sacramental prep class the next year). Young people have to know these essentials, and then God says they can receive the sacrament. God (and the Church) do *not* say a kid needs to know how to make a cruicifix out of foam stickers as a prerequisite for Communion, so I don’t know why a bishop would say so. We degrade the sacraments in peoples’ minds when we say they are so unimportant that we do anything but race a child to God the minute he wants to be with Him. Catechesis that is an *obstacle* to entering God’s presence is not catechesis at all, it’s not even means justifying the ends, it’s means substituting for the ends.

    If we truly believe the sacraments confer grace, why on earth would we deny baptism to a child because mom won’t take a class? Even if I grant the situation where the mom never brings the child to Mass again, at least that child has had one Mass and the grace of baptism and the end of original sin for her. Denying baptism, holding the sacrament hostage to get the mom (and dad?) in to get catechized, that’s dreadful. And, yes, the sacraments are denied. If I had refused to take the coursework in my previous parish I would have been denied the ability to have my infant baptized. Denied. I could have gone to another parish, but as above there would have been issues with that, no? Seriously, how can that be all right? Sins of the mother? It’s not that I said, “I want to baptize my kid but I believe the Church is false and I’m actually a Wiccan and will raise her to be one too.” I just said I didn’t think I needed a refresher (I’d already taken the course once and had two other kids baptized, we attended daily Mass frequently, Sunday Mass under obligation, Confession — but rules is rules).

    There is also the problem of horrific catechesis. If a bishop wants to require attendance at classes for sacraments or for entrance into the Church, it’s certainly his obligation to make sure BEFORE he does so that the classes will all be strictly orthodox. My husband would almost certainly have become a Catholic by now, and my sister is very angry — if he believes the Church is true, why wouldn’t he do anything reasonable or unreasonable to join? But the very unreasonableness of the RCIA process introduces doubt at to whether the Church holds the truth or not. As an example, my husband has been assenting to the teachings on sexuality that you reference for many years, as a nonCatholic — ya know how tough that one is? Uncomplainingly. He’s walking the walk. But he’s been told by our marriage prep leaders and by one kid’s First Communion leader that they don’t believe those teachings need to be followed. How can he surrender himself to an RCIA program that might teach him heresy? Now, maybe he needs to wait to convert until he can reconcile that paradox, the Church is true but many members are problematic. Maybe he’s supposed to discern more, as you say. But I tell you, I wish he could go to Confession and Communion, even imperfect as his conversion might yet be.

    I’ll stop rambling now, just understand that I truly believe I get the good intentions. But here’s what I think happens, one “faction” gets “control” of the American Church and they force people into classrooms to listen to their arguments on pain of losing access to the sacraments. Then another “faction” gets “control” and — forces people into classrooms to listen to their arguments on pain of losing access to the sacraments. Just because I think faction #2 has it right, doesn’t make this behavior any less similar. And sixty years later, we’re wondering why people have kept leaving the Church, no matter which “faction” has been in “control” — maybe they began to feel that the church of the hoop-jumping didn’t seem very Christian? Maybe if every group that manages to get into “control” thinks their arguments are more important than the graces of the sacraments, the sacraments really don’t mean anything after all? Honestly, I do think I understand a bit the fear of someone slipping through and slipping away, but look at not the intentions of the requirements but the affect of them — are we seeing better formed Catholics and more participation? No, we’re seeing people continue to leave, and continue to err. Maybe this program works where you are, but it’s not working here. It’s just dividing Catholics between the insiders and the fallen away, not what you’d want, I’m sure.

    The sacraments themselves will bring people to God, and that child who has communion and then mom and dad never drive her to Mass again, when she’s 18 or 25 or 56 and she can drive herself to Mass she may remember that one communion, and follow the invisible thread back. Let God be God, improving on Him only stands in His way.

    (There’s a great movie called “Divided” on Protestant youth groups that really hit home for me, I highly recommend its insight.)

  57. Supertradmum says:

    LisaP. you and your husband seem to be living in heroic virtue and for this you are commended. I can understand your frustration with bad catechesis , which seems to be a phenomenon here in Europe, where I am visiting, as well. You frustration is felt by thousands who want the Truth.

    May I put some of your comments in perspective, however. Firstly, the sacraments are only given in the context of the Church; that it, these efficacious means of grace are not “magical” and cannot be seen as separate from the larger life of the Church. This means that a sacrament is given in context of a family, a supporting group, or the larger community, and not given in isolation. In fact, the Church teaching on sacramental graces is that one must be prepared to receive the grace and be in a position to stay or live in that grace.

    Secondly, children are the responsibility of their parents, and sadly, this means there are many children who are not only denied grace, but not being led to the deeper life of faith, hope and love in Christ because of the neglect of their parents. Now, a child of the age of reason can decide to be baptized, confirmed, whatever, but it would be the responsibility of the parent to teach and guide that child if the child is too young to get the information and sacramental life himself. The child after the age of reason is responsible for his or her own soul in so far as he or she is given knowledge and guidance. The sacraments do give grace, but it is quickly lost without the life of grace being lived out. For example, if a baby is baptized and receives sanctifying grace, there is no guarantee that after being in an environment of neglect and sin that the child will automatically return to the Church. That would be magical thinking. We have free will, and even children sin, especially in this world of terrible temptations, such as porn, etc. Without regular access to grace, in the daily and weekly reception of Communion and going to Sunday Mass, grace is lost and the soul is in the darkness of grave, even deadly sin. Grace makes us children of God and heirs of heaven in baptism, but we need to pursue those gifts of virtue. Nothing is magical about the hard life of the Christian, even for a child.

    Also, the reason for good catechesis, and I know it is rare, it that our religion is on of Faith and Reason. We do not merely believe, but think as Catholics and one has to be trained to do that–first, hopefully, in the family and then through more education and the sacramental life. Our religion, as Catholics, is based on the Scriptures and Tradition and these must be known in order to live in the pagan environment we find ourselves in for many reasons, none less than making good decisions on a daily basis.

    Without proper training and nurturing, grace dies and the soul dies. Being in grace is not a static position, but one of daily nourishment and that is where a good Church community helps. However, I am not in such a one. In fact, I had to go to a priest yesterday about a liturgical abuse which was making the Mass illegal. That I had to do this, and had to hear the anger of those who were wrong about a liturgical practice, was very painful and hard. That the community is not obedient is obvious, and that the people believe all kinds of stuff which is not Catholic doctrine is also obvious. The Church I have been attending is not a Catholic community, for as Fulton J. Sheen said, “What does one call an ignorant Catholic? A Protestant.” What amazes me is why my fellow Catholics, or rather pseudo-Catholic-Protestants, do not want to learn the Truth, as the Truth sets one free. Absolutely.

    I am up against the very factions you describe-the pro-Humanae Vitae group, the pro-women priest group, the pro-gay group and so on….That you and I persevere may gain us heaven.

    As to bringing new people or lapsed Catholics back, this in itself is an act of Faith, as I know the Catholic Church is the one, true, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church and therefore, I pray and teach and support when I can, where I can. But to bring someone back into an anemic community is difficult, indeed.

  58. LisaP. says:

    Oh, no, if I’ve painted my family as heroically virtuous I’ve mis-written! Thanks for the encouragement, but we screw up as badly as anyone else, we just don’t want to add foreign mistakes to our inborn ones!

    I do fear magical thinking, and I’ll have to consider whether I’m treating the sacraments even a little bit as such.

    I’ll certainly be thinking on this thread quite a bit today, thanks. (As an aside, my kid and I are starting to read some of Fulton Sheen, I need to find some youtube of him, with the Avengers coming out I’ve got to show them the guy in the cape!)

  59. Supertradmum says:

    LisaP, I have a blog and I do a lot of basic sacramental teaching. Just click on my name. God bless.

  60. Volanges says:

    I was parish secretary for 13 years. We never refused Baptism, funerals, weddings, etc. on the basis that one was not registered. Every Catholic who lived within our boundaries was a member of the parish, whether we knew who they were or not. You call to have your child baptized, we ask your address and if you’re within our boundaries Fr. will meet with you and you will be able to have your child baptized. Same with marriage. Once we have your name & address I’ll add you to the parish roster for statistical purposes [and to make it easy for the ladies to call you up to make a dessert or a salad for the Fall Fair supper ;o) ]

    I know too many people who regularly throw a $20 in the collection plate but don’t use envelopes because they’re not interested in a tax receipt to ever base the idea of parish membership on who “gives” based on their recorded financial contributions.

    There are people we see at Mass every week but whose name never appears on any list.

    Something is very wrong if your name must appear on a list to receive sacraments.

  61. poohbear says:

    Wow, so the money I give every week and every holy day and every special collection and every Christmas and Easter Flower collection doesn’t count because I’m not registered? Actually I’m hurting myself because I don’t get a tax receipt, but then, that’s not why I give. Also, as far as I know, tithing isn’t a Catholic requirement, but if it were, it would include donations to other causes besides the parish like Fr Z and the monks and sisters and the food pantry, and the Christmas giving tree, etc.

    Because I have several health issues and can’t be involved in every club or group or don’t fit the requirements of other clubs or groups or things happen when I’m at work (i work rotating shifts) means I’m not a good Catholic? I never knew.

    Some of the responses here are some of the reasons a lot of people leave the church. Its why I left the church many years ago. Being part of the church is not about how much money you give or how many activities you participate in, although it is nice to be involved if you can. Thank God I realized this and returned to the flock!

    Here’s a true story: I used to attend daily Mass at parish A. My work schedule changed and their daily Mass was after I had to be at work. I started going to daily Mass at parish B. After about a week a woman who sat near where I always sat came over to me one day before Mass and introduced herself and welcomed me to the parish. I thought that was really nice of her, until I heard her telling all the other women while in the Communion line who I was, where I was from, why I was there, etc. She pretended to welcome me, but was really just being nosy and gossipy. Maybe if people sincerely welcomed newcomers to their parish, people might be more inclined to get involved.

  62. Bea says:

    Somebody up above said “Where the Bishop is there is the Church”
    Many moons ago (not super moons) what we used to say is “Where the Pope is there is the Church”

    A delegate was once sent to Ireland by the Pope (sorry, I can’t remember what pope, what delegate or what year), but this was said by him: (after visiting with the 26 or so bishops) “I just came from speaking with 26 Popes.” Maybe somebody more knowledgeable than I can remember the particulars.

    As far as I’m concerned my Bishop is in Rome. The bishop in my territory does his own thing:
    Supports, defends, and consults with the educators from Notre Dame, is into Illegal Immigration big time, praises democratic representatives and anything democrat, no matter if their voting record is 100% pro-abortion, defends homosexuals calling us to empathy, lies to the media (at one USCCB meeting he was interviewed by the press and defended his decision to ordain a seminarian some years previous (who was that year involved in a pedophile scandal), citing his experience and concerns with him, upon his return 3 days later when questioned on the same issue, by the local newspaper, he suddenly couldn’t remember the particulars), he refuses to send priests to train for the TLM and has turned down requests for the TLM with the flimsy excuse that the priests must know Latin fluently before they can celebrate. How can I call this man “my bishop”?

    I feel like an orphan without a shepherd.
    Sorry but I will take exception to: “where the bishop is there is the Church”

    I will add that I DO pray for him. Hasn’t done any good yet, but God has his own time schedule.
    And perhaps he (the bishop) was sent to us as a cross to bear.

  63. wmeyer says:

    Interesting. So many good Catholics up in arms over the question of registration. And so many new canonists.

    But I am curious. Why, oh why, is it so difficult to simply register in your parish? And if you have issues with your bishop, why do you not write to him and say so? I’m sure he receives letters of support from the “good Catholics” who support abortion, ordination of women, and socialism.

  64. Batfink says:

    2 questions:

    1) Genuinely – what is parish registration? I have never heard of it in any of the three countries I have lived in. Do you have to fill in a form before you belong to a parish?! I’m not trying to be rude, I’m just absolutely ignorant of the term and what it might mean.

    2) @asperges – there’s a Dominican Rite Mass in the UK? Where? I want to go! I’m a Lay Dominican, I would so love it!

  65. Alice says:

    In the USA, to register at a parish, you go to the office and fill out a form with your name and address and date of birth. If you have a spouse and children, you will need to give their names and dates of birth as well. You also need to let the parish know relevant sacramental information for the whole family such as who is baptized, who has received First Communion, who has been confirmed, whether you and your spouse were married in the Church. Some parishes also ask for a Baptism certificate for everyone when you register, others only request that before major sacramental milestones (First Communion, Confirmation, marriage). Basically, it tells the priest that you really are Catholic and whether you are a Catholic in good standing. (You can be a parishioner even if you are not a Catholic in good standing, of course, but the priest should know who is and who isn’t.) Because canonical parishes are only enforced in a handful of dioceses in the United States, yes, this is normally how you join a parish.

  66. AnAmericanMother says:

    Alice, Batfink,
    That was our experience, too. Since we were confirmed when we came in (converting from the Episcopalians), the parish did ask for our baptismal certificates. We filled out a form and that was that.
    Our home parish is not our “territorial parish”, but nobody ever said a word to us on that score, and nobody around here seems to care. You would be hard put to figure out WHAT a parish territory is — I wound up looking just out of idle curiosity, couldn’t figure it out from any online information, and I had to call the archdiocese and talk to 3-4 different people before I found somebody who knew.
    But ten years ago our territorial parish was a mess of the happy clappy hippie variety. I used to shudder whenever I wound up going there for daily noon Mass (which our parish doesn’t have). They have cleaned up their act since the FSSP parish arrived in the neighborhood – but we are very happy in our home parish and have no intention of moving either to the FSSP (great though they are) or to the territorial parish.

  67. Supertradmum says:

    Alice, thanks for your comment, but may I add two things. I have never been in a diocese or parish where registration was not required, and even my parents, who have been married for 64 years, have been registered in their parish for umpteen many years. Maybe Midwest parishes are just more organized. This has been the case in several dioceses. Secondly, registration is not merely for the benefit of the priest, but all of us who have worked in various positions, such as sacramental prep, RCIA, marriage prep, etc. Some Catholics are naive about what it takes to organize parents, children etc. so that they are in a good spiritual position to receive the sacraments for the first time. Again, with the increased mobility of people, such a relationship with a parish is a necessity. I am also convinced, as you can see above, that registration, or parish membership, if you prefer that term, is a sign of commitment flowing from our baptismal status as sons and daughters of God and the Church. I suspect that it is really those of us who have actually worked in these areas, got married ourselves, and raised children, who understand the importance of such a committed relationship. Do we not all want to belong to a family and have an identity as such? For those of us who do not have Christians or practicing Catholics in our own blood families, the parish is our primary family.

  68. LisaP. says:


    Here’s why it’s difficult to register with my parish.

    1. I will get spammed, junk mailed, etc. I will open myself up for being asked if I want to be a minister of one kind or another and if I want to teach something or other. I will be sent envelopes.

    I know, it sounds bad. But I have been burned. As I said above, I have gone that route — done a lot of volunteer work for a parish, worked for a parish, been “known” and part of the “family” — it has not been good for me. It has made me part of the system of social clubbism that the parish fostered. If I didn’t give into it, I made people uncomfortable. If I gave into it, I endangered my soul. I remember overhearing the music minister there, a paid employee who desecrated the Mass with horrific music, complete with bongos and the singers sipping their water bottles all during Mass, including during communion. She was talking on the phone and bemoaning something or other, and talking about how they had to bear up because they were “doing God’s work”. Every person who follows her vocation should be “doing God’s work”. It was a very bitter time for me, and a scary one. I don’t like that way of thinking, and I don’t want to risk ever being there myself.

    2. Why not write the bishop? I have. My husband wrote an article in NOR. I wrote letters to the priest whose toilet I was cleaning. I have spoken to three priests about what seemed abuses to me, and I’ve spoken to one bishop. They were bad experiences. My inclination now is to say that if the bishop wants to know how I feel about my parish, he can show up one day and ask me. If the priest wants to know if I approve of X, Y, and Z, he can have a chat with me. I’m there at Mass. I’m in the pew. I’m there with my kids. You want to know why I’m not in religious ed? Ask me. I’m not forcing my opinion on them anymore. The yucky stuff I’ve seen is out in the open, the bishop comes to Mass at the parish it’s obvious. He doesn’t need me to fill him in. If the liturgy is abused regularly in a parish, I’ve come to believe the bishop knows. Maybe he has directed the abuse, maybe he tolerates it, but he’s not in ignorance. I put my time and energy into finding and filling my own vocation now. My life as a Catholic encompasses more than the parish.

    Why do I feel so strongly about all this? Because although I recognize there are good people doing good work within a parish system, I buck at the idea that being a good Catholic means being a good member of the parish club. I personally don’t see St. Therese, St. Theresa, or St. Catherine being any the poorer as Catholics because they weren’t on a parish council. It’s not that being on the council necessarily makes you a bad Catholic (although I think it’s wrong to underestimate the risk) but it doesn’t make you an automatic good Catholic. I also don’t like the social club/administrative model for the parish, I think it’s damaging, and I think it’s been used by “liberal” Catholics to push their agenda and “traditional” Catholics are now in danger of adopting those same methods now that the numbers are turning. If orthodox Catholicism is right, it needs to win out with good people living good lives and living their Catholicism in the world, and by being at *Mass* and taking the *sacraments*. If orthodox Catholics decide the way to reform the Church is with the same kind of social cliques and enforced seatwork that dissenters have used for years, they will be find that the end does not justify the means. (Not referring to anyone here, just in general terms).

    Now, reform the Church first, so that parish membership really does mean someone will call me when Suzy is having a baby and needs meals, I’m all in. But as long as registering means I’ll be asked to be on the committee for selecting a fundraising organization for the drive for a new church building — no way! :)

  69. wmeyer says:

    I understand, completely. My own parish appears to maintain at least three mailing lists, so when I gave them my new address, we got envelopes each month, but no diocesan newspaper. Thankfully, we do not get junk mail from them, though that may be a result of their mismanagement of mailing lists. Hard to know. And I know we’re registered, and that I get my papers each year for tax use, so I am content. As to the rest, I let sleeping dogs lie….

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