Declining American Catholic Numbers is a Call to Action
NOTE: This column is hosted by and has been updated from it’s original at Spokane Faith & Values. It has graciously been given permission for reposting at MtnCatholic.com.
A survey is an interesting thing.
Though valuable in its ability to grasp the perspective of vast groups of people, a survey nevertheless holds no bearing on the inherent truth of something – it exacts precisely zero influence over the rightness or wrongness of a particular issue.
For example, if the Pew Research Institute existed in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, a poll of religious beliefs about whether or not Christ was divine would have resulted in a two-thirds majorityamong bishops of the day in denying the divinity of Jesus. That information, though giving the reader a sound testament of the persuasive capabilities of the chief evangelist of such a belief (Arius), stands in direct contrast of the truth of that particular matter; for Jesus is, always has been, and always will be, the begotten Son of God, who is both fully divine and fully human.
And so, as a Catholic, the 2014 Pew study on America’s religious landscape, while interesting and informative in a certain respect, wasn’t terribly troubling to me on the whole.
I wasn’t surprised to see the continued decline in religious practice and belief on a generational level. From my own experience in the Catholic world, I know that those in my parents’ generation were taught the motions and the rules by their parents, but weren’t often taught why those motions and rules mattered; they were catechized, but not evangelized. They knew Jesus’ church, but they didn’t know Jesus.
And so, it’s no surprise that their children have sniffed out something that’s not being done out of a place of understanding and intentionality. Doing something “because that’s what we do” is rarely good enough for kids, because kids want answers to their questions. So, when no good answers are offered — and when the Sunday practice often contradicts the rest of week’s activities — they’ll call B.S. faster than you can say “transubstantiation”.
But the story isn’t over, and the last thing the church is doing is giving up. So, what that survey does do is reaffirm the call to action and identified priority on evangelization that we’ve heard for decades, first from the Second Vatican Council (“Vatican II”), from Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and now from Pope Francis.