Posted by: Thomas Richard | November 13, 2013

Catholics! Some of the Members are Wandering Away!

Movement among Cradle Catholics_edited-1The Catholic Church is not doing well in holding her own.  Of those Church members raised in the Church from childhood, a Pew Forum Study (Faith in Flux) found only about 2/3 (68%) of “Cradle Catholics” remain.  Of the 1/3 who leave the Church, about half leave and become Protestants and about half leave and remain unaffiliated with any religion.  A small part (3%) of the cradle Catholics leave and join other religious groups (Buddhists, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.)  But – about one out of three “Cradle Catholics” leave!

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

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

The Catholic Church believes and teaches that the Sacred Liturgy is the “source and summit of the Christian life”!  We have just noted that of the 1/3 of Catholics who were raised under this Church belief and left the Church for Protestantism, 71% left because their spiritual needs were not being met!  The overwhelming majority of those spiritually hungry former Catholics (78%) found their home in evangelical Protestantism, where Scripture reigns and “sola scriptura” is the dominant doctrine.  We Catholics ought – ought – to learn something from this.

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

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

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

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

“Jesus Christ is really present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.”
In 2001, 63% chose this statement.  In 2008, 57% chose this.

“Bread and wine are symbols of Jesus, but Jesus is not really present.”
In 2001, 37% chose this statement.  In 2008, 43% chose this.

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

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

Our Faith is not strong

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

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

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


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

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


  1. What statistics! Thanks, Thomas, for sharing the shocking numbers and the link to read more from the Pew Study Forum. Your conclusion asks: “What do we need to do? What do we need to do better? What do we need to do less, if at all? ”

    I agree with you: we need to care! We need to do more praying, humbly asking the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers into His Harvest — clergy and people — all of us who have been called that we might call others. We need first to care better about our own obedience to Christ, and care better about our brothers and sisters who are wandering away. Someone said that we do not enter heaven or hell alone, we are bound to bring others with us. What we need to do less, if at all depends on what we are choosing now. Are our priorities the same as Christ’s “one thing needful”? We need to do less of anything not leading us into a closer relationship with Him. Without Him we can do nothing — yet so many of us seem preoccupied with trivia.

    Mary, Mother and Model of the Church, intercede for us, that we may humbly say “Yes” to our vocation to holiness, trusting in God as you did. Nothing is impossible to Him Who is Love. He can take our few loaves and fish and feed thousands. He can make us the disciples we need to be and enable us to make disciples as He has commanded us to do.

    • Thank you, Deborah. And thanks for highlighting the questions, “What do we need to do? What do we need to do better? What do we need to do less, if at all? ” Certainly, personally, the Lord wants us to care – and caring, we will pray, and ask and seek what we might do in response.

      But what about corporately, as Church – what ought we be doing? This occurs to me, among other things: as the article points out, “Those who have left the Church … outnumber those who have become Catholic …, by a margin of nearly four to one.” Every Catholic parish that can practically do so, has an RCIA program, and an RCIA Team with an RCIA budget. RCIA rightfully has the attention of the Church and of our parishes.

      Question: Since persons coming into the Church through RCIA by the front door are outnumbered by nearly 4 to 1 by persons leaving the Church by the back door, why doesn’t every Catholic parish that can practically do so, have a dedicated “Returning Catholics” program, and a dedicated “Returning Catholics” Team with a dedicated “Returning Catholics” budget? WHY doesn’t a “Returning Catholics” ministry and outreach rightfully have the attention of the Church and of our parishes?

      Every parish ought to have this concern, and this priority. It ought to be part of the now-not-so-new “New Evangelization,” which still waits to be fully and sincerely engaged and embraced by our parishes.

    • In accord to what I read by the Angelic Doctor, I believe the solution is with the Lord in regard to Contraception. For St. Thomas says in De articulis fidei, “Through the Sacrament of Orders the Church is ruled and is spiritually multiplied; and through Matrimony it is increased physically in numbers.”

  2. Thomas these stats are alarming but I think those of us that are really trying knew things were not going well for the Catholic Church. Another stat that I have heard recently is that of the Catholics attending Sunday Mass only about 5% really know the Catholic Teachings.

    From my own experience after 18 years old my Catholic Learning ended and did not start again until 40 some years later. My teaching up to 18 never even talked about the Bible and the Mass was in Latin except the Readings and Gospel. I do remember the Priest’s Homilies were way over my head.

    Since my coming back to the Church and attending your Bible Study Group I learned more in those 3 years than I learned in my first 18 years. I also have learned how to teach myself. With all the tools we have at our disposal these days if a person wants to learn it is all there for the taking.

    I truly believe and I know you do because we have talked on this subject many times, the Catholic Church Leaders have to become more involved in putting in place a system that will take the 18 year old the next step in continuing to understanding the Catholic Teachings which will show them the way to continue growing their Faith through out their lives.

    In conclusion if the Catholic Church does not put a system in place to teach adults and not just the children we are going to continue as we are.

    With all Gods Love,

    • Hello Francis –

      It is very good to hear of your growth in the Word! This is a very beautiful thing about Scripture: once a person begins to hear – really hear – the holy Word, Scripture, then he has begun a very personal relationship with the Word, Jesus. He has learned how to listen to Him! This is a treasure of great importance and value. He has learned to listen, so as to hear, and hear, so as to believe, and to believe, more and more, deeper and deeper, so as to grow increasingly in Him, and with Him, and toward Him.

      Thank you for sharing that with us all, because it is an encouragement to us all – to respond to His call with an ever-deeper Yes.


  3. Interesting article. Even the parishes that have Scripture studies have only a small percentage of the parishioners participating. The catechesis needs to begin in the homilies; there also needs to be an emphasis on adult education outside the mass. You say a budget for returning Catholics- what about a budget for ” remaining Catholics?”

    • Hello Barbara – I agree completely – and so does the Church! “Officially” that is. Many official documents from our pastors at the episcopal level declare beautifully and clearly the “shoulds” you mention: we should have adult catechesis as the norm in our parishes, not the exception. This should be reflected in budget priorities, in staffing decisions, in calendar planning, in room availability, in programming decisions, and so on. It is in the doing of it, that we fail. The theological clarity at the top does not seem to make it down to the programs in parishes where the people are.

      Bl. John Paul II, as in so many things, had it right when he wrote this: “First of all, I have no hesitation in saying that all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness.” (Novo Millennio Ineunte #30) But how many of our parish initiatives have far lower a focus and intention?

  4. Friends,

    Just happened on this site while surfing the net and I had some views on the topic, so I thought to post.

    Personally I have found that our pastors share much of the blame. I find that many of them are following their own version of the Church’s teachings and in turn, they push their ideas through homilies and other occasions when the Church’s teachings are to be elucidated. For instance, at the midnight Mass on Christmas eve, here in Toronto, the homilist took pains to explain to us that as Jesus was born into the human condition, he was subject to all the uncertainties associated with it…i.e. he may have been born blind or Mary may have had a premature delivery on the road, or…(and the homilist listed a number of negative possibilities that might have occurred concerning the birth of Jesus). At that point he ended his homily. That was it…What was the message in that “associated-with-uncertainties-birth-of-Jesus” was not explained. Was he trying to say that Christianity is a faith that exists because of sheer chance that no negative happening occurred in relation to Jesus’ birth?… I don’t know. To many of us who believe that God’s hand was over Jesus, from the time he was conceived in Mary’s womb, this highlighting of negative possibilities was confusing. But then the homilist had commenced his sermon with a couple of jokes, and everybody laughed, some louder than the others, so all was well.

    In other places we have priests interpreting the Gospel in comical ways, as for example the joke about how the miracle of the loaves and fishes was not a miracle about the loaves and fishes being multiplied but was a miracle in the sense that Jesus induced all the people in the crowd to share their food with one another, which they had apparently concealed under their cloaks!!! I thought that this was something that was being promoted in the West until I heard a priest give this teaching in Mumbai, India. Such things make the congregation take their pastors and also their faith lightly. This is an easy preliminary step for a layperson, especially youth to believe that there must be nothing in this “Catholic faith” if its own purveyors can mutilate its teaching and get away with it.

    As a businessman, I think that what is lacking in the Church hierarchy is accountability. Unlike Church organizations like the Legion of Mary, etc, priests (I think) do not record the details of their pastoral work – who they have met, what was the outcome, any follow up needed, etc, the purpose of the record being for the Rector/Parish priest to assess which areas require more work, what kind of work, etc, And the purpose of the Rector/Parish Priest’s report to his bishop being to enable the diocese to focus Catholic resources in the areas that seem to be more needing of it, etc. Another area where accountability needs to be urgently introduced is in respect of the teachings/ideas that priests purvey. Priests ought to be directed to provide a gist of their homilies or they should be directed to follow vetted books which provide homilies to a specified topic/Gospel passage. This should be done at the beginning of a liturgical year. Thus, not only will this increase the likelihood that the Church speaks in one voice but it will reduce/eliminate the possibility of confusing ideas and contradictory teachings being delivered to the faithful.

    In the business of making money, we examine every process to make it more efficient and we conduct year-end post-mortems to improve our profitability. But in the business of getting souls for God, it appears that there is nary a concern.

    • Hello Alfred,

      Thank you for this insightful and important comment. I appreciate your comparison of worldly business sense to the lack of a parallel prudence in the Church, in her “business” of saving souls for God. I hope you can give such insights and suggestions (as in “accountability”) to the hierarchy! Indeed, the Church assures you of your “right and duty” to make such observations and recommendations known both to the hierarchy and to the laity, in Canon Law – which is quoted also in the Catechism:

      907 “In accord with the knowledge, competence, and preeminence which they possess, [lay people] have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons.”[CIC, can. 212 # 3]

      The matter of poor homilies (poor because of heterodox teachings, or because they lack heart, or because they are watered down with trivia and counterproductive joking, or whatever) is an issue in itself and deserves much attention and “accountability.” I need to pray more about this, and grieve less! I do grieve about it, because it is so important in the weakening of the Church today. May God help us!

    • Dear Alfred,

      Thanks so much for your reply. Being a member of the Legion of Mary, I can appreciate especially your comments on the need for accountability, among both clergy and people. The founder of the Legion, Servant of God Frank Duff, was graced with a profound love for the Mystical Body of Christ, and showed by his example how all of us, by grace, are called to the building up of the Body in love.

      For those unfamiliar with the way in which the Legion began, a small group of parishioners who had made St. Louis De Montfort’s Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, met one evening with their parish priest to discuss how they might “live” their consecration. They prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance, then prayed the Rosary, and from that meeting, the Legion of Mary was born, Sept.7, 1921.

      Bl. Pope John XXIII said, “The Legion presents the true face of the Catholic Church”. I believe he said this because he saw clergy and people working together toward their call to holiness and Jesus’ command to go and make disciples…(Mt.28) There are millions of Legion members all over the world, but personally I think the majority of clergy knows little of the hidden work the Legion does; some are too busy to investigate, and some feel they have other priorities.

      I’m glad Thomas, in his reply to you, pointed to paragraph 907 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states clearly our right and duty to share our opinions with our pastors. Many Catholics are unaware of this and while they may offer criticism, may not do so with the respect and competence they need in many instances. Nevertheless, we need to work together as God’s People in the building up of Christ’s Body, His Church. We need to speak the truth in love, if every part of the Body is to function properly. (cf Eph 4: 15- 16)

      The reasons many persons have left the Catholic Church are myriad but your points on homilies, lack of accountability and the terrible reality of seeing so many CEO’s rather than Shepherds seeking the lost are all heartbreaking. My husband and I continue to pray and do what we can in our parish, and I’ve contemplated several times writing to our Bishop — perhaps that is my next step. Please let us pray for one another, for the Church, and for all those in most need of His Mercy.

      PS I have some good Legion of Mary friends in Canada.

  5. Thomas,
    Thanks for your reply. Yes, I agree that all of us, members of the Body of Christ, have a duty to help preserve the Body, and in so doing, give glory to its head, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    However, this requires not only perseverance, but courage in great supply, as fellow lay-persons are rarely happy when the status quo is disturbed, more so when it is disturbed to achieve orthodoxy because orthodoxy involves living by defined rules. The priest is also unhappy..and this often causes me to pause because: (1) I think that the priest displayed tremendous self-sacrifice in choosing to put his life aside to take up the priestly vocation and is therefore deserving of extra consideration and more gentleness when he errs. But even while one displays restraint and tries dialogue with them, they are the more aggressive and insist that they are right and will continue to do what they are doing (I have had this experience); and (2) I think – what if the priest has been formed in a teaching environment that encouraged him to believe that faith is “between me and my God” i.e. that each one is entitled to make of the faith what he thinks it is? In that case, attacking the foundations of that priest’s thinking by convincing him that what he is doing is wrong, without providing an alternate way of thinking is akin to creating an atmosphere of perennial doubt in someone’s mind which is extremely harmful to any person, more so to a priest as they tend (I think) to be less open about their own troubles than are common people. And very few laypersons can/ are inclined to/ are welcomed to keep on interacting time and again with the same priest on the subject of something which is, in fact, nothing other than telling the priest that he is not teaching the authentic word of God. And the hierarchy gives the impression that one is compromising their safe and snug position when one goes to them with a problem (my only interaction with an Archbishop’s office to seek their intervention, was not about any priestly dissonance, so perhaps generalizing may be excessive, but considering that I had gone to them about a much lesser issue that a priest’s heterodoxy, I can’t believe I will get a better outcome).

    On the other hand, lay people who attack priests/ their teachings can cause tremendous damage to the body of the Church, because there will be many people who don’t know what the fuss is about and take sides for reasons other than the point at issue and so, may even end up asserting the false teaching because it comes from a priest!!!

    In that context I think that, at present Deborah’s solution is the only way to go….pray, and do what you can in the parish.

    But it is painful to see all the efforts of the Church to maintain and preserve the Deposit of Faith over the ages, through the blood of the martyrs, the sacrifices of many stalwart clergy (St.John Marie Vianney, among others), laypeople, etc, being compromised because some priest has not understood the concept of faith which requires strict, even blind adherence to Church teachings, and besides when one priest gives wrong teaching, it affects a whole crowd of people who listen and from each such single sermon, a multitude of people with wrong notions of the Faith, go out thus creating the conditions for hemorrhage of Catholics from the fold of the One True Church.

    I can never understand why, laypeople/priests do not have the courage to leave the Catholic faith when they do not accept the teachings of the Catholic Church in its undiluted form. I only rest assured in the sure knowledge that the Lord will do whatever it is that is right and just, whenever it is the right time to do so, if we have faith and trust Him, and since His record is 100%, it is easy for me to retire at the end of the day without any frustration whatsoever, knowing that He has everything in His loving Hands and that is why I thank Him for His Great Fatherly Love which, for me, is the solution to everything.

  6. Deborah,
    I am happy to know that you are a member of the Legion of Mary and thank you for your service to the Church through the Legion of Mary. The Rosary, which you Legionaries recite incessantly, is truly a help to Our Lady to keep Her children safe. We do not know just how powerful the Rosaries are but will come to know of it when we stand before God, My late father was a Legionary for more than 50 years and in the last few years of his life (he died at 90) he always used to say that Mother Mary kept him alive to be able to do a little more for God through the Legion. From him, I learnt about the Legion but, being interested in a more active form of work for the Church, I took up a voluntary catechist’s post until I found that my requirements of travelling out of the country clashed with the teaching hours. From then onward I began to attend Church seminars, talks etc because I had begun to notice the odd un-Catholic teachings that were coming from higher places (i.e. the pulpit) and then I began to get under the skin of various lay-people and priests when they (I must admit – in my opinion) veered from the teachings of the Catholic Church or took up positions that unnecessarily caused doubt in the minds of the faithful.

    One area that I have found requires enormous participation of staunch, orthodox Catholics with tons and tons of patience is on the Internet. In these days, news websites allow readers to respond to news items/op-eds, etc and very often there are news items concerning the Catholic Church and/or news items which the Catholic Church haters/baiters can easily turn around and use as an opportunity to spew venom on the Catholic Church. Worst of all is that the posts of these people create doubt in the minds of passive/un-informed Catholics or in the minds of people of other faiths about the Catholic faith (which matters, because we are called to evangelize people of other faiths as well). When these haters realize that a poster is countering them by pointing out their errors/inaccuracies, they act in a group to each flag the remark with a “thumbs-down” because when the number of thumbs-down for a post outnumbers the thumbs-up for that post by a certain number, the post is blanked out and the Church haters can continue their devilish work untroubled because the orthodox reply/response has been blanked out. The news on the net can be read the world over, so one doesn’t know who will benefit by reading the authentic teaching of the Church, especially when it is juxtaposed with a popular wrong view and the fallacy in the wrong view is set out. So I pray that more properly-formed, staunch Catholics jump into the fray, in this nascent field, as well, besides wishing more members to the solid backbone institutions like the Legion of Mary, for the greater glory of God.

  7. I have only just come across this excellent article and the very pertinent comments. I am writing from Wales but I recognise many of the points made.
    I would say that my experience of Catholic education in the 50s ( I left school in 1961) was slightly different in that I felt that I had had a good grounding in the Faith as a young child and some useful teaching in apologetics and papal encyclicals in my later teens. In my day, the Bishop used to send priests round every year to inspect religious education in our school and ( I believe) in other Catholic schools in the diocese. Now, that is no longer the practice and the R.E. syllabus and exams are more geared to the secular system and requires more knowledge of other faiths and other Christian denominations. When I was young, I never met any Catholic who did not know his/her faith and who was not able to explain and defend it if needed. Today, many, if not most Catholics, neither know nor care that they do not know. They go along with secular thinking especially on sexual morals. Of course, the clerical sex abuse scandal gives them licence for their views.
    As for homilies, if it is not unkind to say so, they are usually vacuous and unmemorable. I read that the hierarchies in most countries feared a flight of the faithful in the wake of Humanae Vitae and so did not take up the teaching. That, I judge, was the actual beginning of what has turned out to be the collapse of the Church although, reading the Majority Report on the Birth Control Commission set up by Paul VI, there were clear signs in that Report of what was to come. Did not Paul VI say that the smoke of Satan had entered the Church?
    I hear that Archbishop Chaput, among others in your country, is fighting valiantly against the corrosive effects of the last fifty years lack of sound catechesis and collapse of the traditional prayers such as Benediction, the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, Novenas, and Quarant’ Ore which was a wonderful tradition in the diocese I lived in till I left home. Such practices are slowly returning and there must be more of them. Prayer, penance and fasting allied to good teaching especially, explaining Papal teaching in their encyclicals and Bl. John Paul’s Theology of the Body and our churches will be full to bursting as they were in my childhood.

    • Hello lochain,

      Thank you for adding to the “very pertinent comments” to this article, from your experiences in Wales. I am especially grateful to hear from Catholics in other parts of the Church, in other parts of the world. It is amazing to me that we share so much in common, though so spread apart in physical distance. The spirit of this world is at work all over the world, but so is the battle with him.

      The Holy Spirit is present everywhere, and is at work everywhere – this is a great consolation and comfort to me, and surely also to Catholics around the world. We share the grief of much laxity and worldliness in the Church, but we share also the joy and consolation of His promises and His Presence. We share the great and powerful hope that He gives us: in and with Him, we will overcome.

  8. Thank you for sharing this great article! More people need to read this.

    When I took the classes in preparation for my First Communion/Confession, we were handed a St. Joseph’s Baltimore Catechism but we never even got into it in classes. It was really just basic stuff (how Confession works, how to receive Communion, etc.). When I was preparing for Confirmation, it was pretty much the same story. The instructor never taught us any history of the Catholic Church, never explained the different parts of the Bible, never taught us anything about the lives of the saints, and likewise, I never knew that there was so much more to the Church. In the past couple of years I have been reading everything I possibly can about the faith. I dusted off that old Cathechism and studied it. I joined an online Catholic forum and started asking questions. I started reading the Bible and looking up things that I didn’t understand. I even attended a Latin Mass a couple months ago (it was truly incredible). So yes, catechesis is a HUGE part of the puzzle.

    To be completely honest though, I think priests could do more when it comes to teaching the faith. I mean, they’ve got the people in the pews for a reasonable bit of time on Sundays, so why aren’t they talking about some of these things? Or at least teaching people the importance of the faith and why they should be learning more about it. When I went to Christmas Eve Mass last year, the church was full of people who only came to church once or twice a year. I was hoping that the priest would have some good things to say about the importance of practicing our faith so that we may gain eternal life, but instead he talked about how we need to stand together and then we will be strong. I’m no expert, but I think we need more than “standing together” to float the boat.

    • Hello csawchuk2012 – thank you for your comments. I’m sorry to say that many Catholics share your story of a serious lack of substance in the formation we are given in the Faith. And in the homilies we are given in the Holy Mass. Still we are blessed, and greatly, in the Church! We have the sacraments, and we have a great army of saints who have written much that can build us up and strengthen us for the journey. God is faithful, and He does provide all that we need. Sometimes we have to search a bit to find it, but that’s OK too.

  9. Can the Real Presence of Christ be outside the Eucharist?

    It strikes me, a real faith in Christ, able to mean something to people in a mess, and if there is ever going to be such a thing, will start and finish away from the Eucharist .

    • Certainly faith begins before receiving or even “understanding” Eucharist – Eucharist is a great and profound mystery! But when the awesome truth of Eucharist is heard, received and believed, then one understands that in the Eucharist is the “finishing” of all worthy human activity. Whatever the mess, no matter how messy, it is in truth resolved, healed and brought to true peace in Christ! And that is the promise and the truth of Eucharist: Jesus Christ, body blood soul and divinity, offered and received.

  10. The decline is a direct result of Vatican Council II with its evil fruits. The Council was followed by negative changes in the Mass and other liturgical services which were banal at best and blasphemous at worst. Also included is weak teachings about the Church by priests and nuns.

    • I can understand your conclusion – that the crisis in the Church is “a direct result of Vatican Council II” – I have heard the same sentiment from many, many Catholics. And it is true that “banal” and even “blasphemous” liturgies followed in a period of experimentation, when a search for “relevance” was begun. Also true, a drastic decline in strong and clear catechesis.

      I suspect, however, though it cannot be “proved”, that even if Vatican II had never happened, there would have been a mass exodus from the Church anyway, as the dark spirit of this world erupted with power and chaos followed in cultures and nations around the world. If the faith of Catholics had been truly deep and strong before Vatican II happened, we would have had the inner strength and fidelity to the truth to endure! But instead, many Catholics were shaken to the core – and many left.

      We need an inner renewal – not merely better outward devotion and reverence, but interior zeal and commitment. We need to clean the “inside of the cup” – not merely that which is outer, and visible. We need to find Christ! We need to grow in knowledge of holy Truth. We need to develop a true interior life of prayer.

  11. I am a charismatic convert to Catholicism. I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1981. I met my husband at a charismatic prayer meeting and we were married in 1985 in a Lutheran church. He wanted to become Catholic and started praying rosaries for me to be willing to convert. I know God as a personal God who wants to communicate with us and He began talking to me about the Eucharist. He showed me that Jesus is real in the Blessed Sacrament. I had the usual issues with the Virgin Mary and some other questions. We started the RCIA process and both became Catholic in the late 1980s. Later, we both became Secular Franciscans.

    What I see is that too many Catholics do not have that personal connection to God and that the Eucharist is not real for them.

    • Hello Janet,

      Thank you for your comment – and for your “yes” to God in the Catholic Church!

      John Paul II certainly agrees with your understanding of the problem. He wrote, of catechesis in the Church:

      … the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity. (Catechesi Tradendae 5)

      A while back, I wrote an article for HPR Magazine, that concluded with this, concerning teachings and homilies in the Church:

      Bishops, priests, deacons: please do not waste the sacred ambo on mere platitudes, or moralisms, or budget needs. Every “problem” the Church has, or will ever have, has its resolution in Christ. It is to him that we must turn. Relationship with him is the one thing needful; without him anything and everything is futile. We must meet him, and find ourselves anew in him. Apart from him, we can do nothing. Preach him! Ground every parish activity—explicitly—in him! When our parishes meet him, then the rest can follow: formation in the pillars of the faith, growing in a life of prayer, living the liturgy out in the secular world, bringing his saving light into homes, into families, into workplaces, into nations, into the world. In Jesus Christ, we can arise.

  12. Hi. I think, somewhat paradoxically given so much of Protestantism that the problem is at least significantly the fideistic presentation of the church that the profoundly unintelligent secular culture dogmatizes incessantly. I was fortunate .. blessed.. (not the goddess Fortuna :-)) to have been rescued by the church and acquired a deep and renewed interest and thirst for her depths. This was occasioned by the sacrament of reconciliation by the way which occasioned what I would gladly profess was a deep and personal experience of God within me. A very patient and humble aged priest was the instrument of this great grace that is my bedrock in memory some times.

    But what I really wanted to say is how can anybody “get” the faith without Aquinas and formal and final causes.. the end and purpose of things. .the perfection of being in a natural hierarchy. In short PHILOSOPHY which I was again blessed to be able to study as an adult at the Basilian St Michael’s College at the U of Toronto, Canada. There is pure intelligence literally and figuratively flowing through the church… sanity!

    And we can discover genius in Thomistic philosophers like Ed Feser , Aristotelians like the late Mortimer Adler and many others. Our fundamental English word “information” comes via Aquinas from Plato. Want to know the power of reason and why Ockham’s “conceptualism” is silly? Why empiricism is absurd as a philosophy? Why atheism is incoherent and why an atheist if he really thinks he’s an atheist.. should not use words… universals essences ordered by Mind.. Etc. We have a powerhouse of joyful.. gleeful genius and grace for the mind that can fill you to overflowing in peace and confidence with the light God gives us through our of course necessarily infallible church and her sacraments wherein God literally comes to us, and we have the tools in Thomism to singularly if not exclusively bring joy and understanding and peace to our questing spirits. Christ’s born again experience can certainly apply to our intelligence. Thank God for our excellent Catholic philosophers.

    • Thank you, info782, for your joyous testimony! Your words dance on the page.

      It is remarkable how the Church can offer overflowing truth, and wisdom, overabundantly for any and all searchers, from great minds to simple ones, from magnanimous to timid, rich or poor in the things of the world, all that any can hold – if they will but reach, and embrace. God is so very, very good.

  13. Solution Step #1: Get as many people baptized in the Holy Spirit as soon as possible.

    • Hello Christopher – Thank you for your comment. It is true that, once a person comes alive in the Holy Spirit, that Spirit does move the person to zeal, to holy fervor, and to an awakening to a truly new life in Christ experientially. It is no trivial matter, however, to “get” that for or to another person! God is at work, however. And He knows very well what He is about, and when His will is to be completed.

  14. As a fully committed Catholic, now in my seventh decade, I have observed that most parishes I’ve been attached to, have had no evangelisation whatsoever. I put the blame wholly on the priests and bishops – no attempt appears to be made to draw back lapsed Catholics. This could easily be started by following up the parents who have brought their children to be baptised but never to be seen again after this, except for marriage perhaps.

    • I’m sorry to say that I also put (at least most) blame on the clergy, local pastors and bishops. The first problem is the lack of solid catechesis – solid formation in the faith – for the laity who are active in the Church. If the laity were better – much better – formed in the faith, then they could and should be fellow evangelizers with the clergy, of the lapsed or fallen away “former” Catholics.
      Within the problem of clericalism, there is – it seems to me – a “tyranny of low expectations” toward the laity. Maybe it is condescension, maybe fear of driving away parish members who are content with their tepid faith – whatever. But it is not right to welcome in members to a parish, and fail to rightly form them in the Faith toward full maturity in Christ (Heb 6:1, Eph 4:13).

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