Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Downward Slide

The Gallup poll:

PRINCETON, NJ -- According to Gallup Poll trends on church attendance among American Christians, weekly attendance among Protestants has been fairly steady over the past six decades, averaging 42% in 1955 versus 45% in the middle of the current decade. However, attendance among Roman Catholics dropped from 75% to 45% over the same period.

Most of the decline in church attendance among American Catholics occurred in the earlier decades, between 1955 and 1975; however, it continued at a rate of four percentage points a decade through the mid-1990s, and church attendance has since leveled off at 45%.

Whatever the causes, it is clear that U.S. Catholics' once-nearly uniform obedience to their church's requirement of weekly mass attendance has faded, and Catholics are now no different from Protestants in their likelihood to attend church. This has occurred among Catholics of all age categories, but is most pronounced among those under 60. The good news for the Catholic Church is that the drop in attendance seems to have slowed or abated altogether in the last decade, spanning a most difficult period for the church around 2002, when attendance did suffer temporarily.

Unless something else happens, have we reached our 'smaller, more pious' Church, at least in the US, as suggested by Benedict? Of course, nowadays, Mass attendance doesn't exactly correlate with following Catholic doctrine...


Anonymous said...

And the Protestants achieve that figure for attendance with no threat of damnation which we have but which apparently is not taking...or in the words of some theologians, it is not "being received".
Benedict's comment about a smaller Church also means less work for the Vatican and for him in figuring out why these things are happening.
And Rome never has any responsibility in such a paradigm.
If demographic failure within Catholicism is always looked at as a hidden victory for the truly faithful and as proof of the sanctifying grace of the remnant minded, then there is never a reason to analyze and inquire of the laity why they don't attend Church on Sundays. Failure is success for us... so why inquire. On the contrary, Catholicism should have a think tank that both analyzes such things and which serves as a devil's advocate when a Pope overturns an immemorial tradition like the death penalty (stretching from Genesis 9:5-6 to Romans 13:3-4 with a hiatus of pacifism on the issue until Romans 13:3-4 became canon and then from Augustine to Pius XII supported).
Charge each Catholic a one time .25 cents in one year for the think tank project and that would be over $250,000,000 which would fund it forever. What happens now is that if a Catholic author in some college is doing a book on a topic, that is fine and if he or she is not...fine.

Jacob said...

Anonymous 4/11/2009 1:35 PM:

Eh, I don't know if Rome doesn't have any responsibility in 'such a paradigm.' A prime directive of the Church is to go forth and spread the Gospel.

Your idea of a think tank though is interesting. What would make such an institution safe from those who would corrupt the Catholic teachings?

Anonymous said...

The Pope would have veto power while the think tank could register a public complaint about the veto but they would have to abide by the veto. What we have now is a conformism that is suspect to any intelligent person considering conversion. The same Cardinals and Bishops who now laud the death penalty virtual nullification, if they lived in 1952 when Pius XII affirmed the death penalty, they or most of them would be lauding that position. There is a lemming factor that is fine when issues have been resolved infallibly;but that same lemming tendency does not edify anyone when it pertains to issues less than infallible.
See Ott's Intro for the many levels:

Pan down to section 8. Here is an exerpt:

5. Common Teaching (sententia communis) is doctrine, which in itself belongs to the field of the free opinions, but which is accepted by theologians generally.

6. Theological opinions of lesser grades of certainty are called probable, more probable, well-founded (sententia probabilis, probabilior, bene fundata). Those which are regarded as being in agreement with the consciousness of Faith of the Church are called pious opinions (sententia pia). The least degree of certainty is possessed by the tolerated opinion (opimo tolerata), which is only weakly founded, but which is tolerated by the Church.

To me the current death penalty position is opimo tolerata and should be discussed rather than promoted by Bishop who would change on it live wildfire if the next Pope changed on it.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the "think tank" idea... Is this not what the Curia and the various congregations, synods, and national conferences supposed to be doing in function?

I fear that, while in principle may be good, this idea could turn into a very political and damaging step. The Pope, through the Magisterium, is responsible for teaching doctrine. When promulgated ex catedra, we do not have a "veto" right. We either accept it or we fail in upholding Catholic teaching.

Unless I am mistaken, of course...