Currently the “Catholic blog directory” lists over 2600 Catholic blogs. In addition there are many established Catholic websites, including those of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Vatican, and a number of Catholic publications sites and yet others featuring popular Catholic commentators. As rank amateurs what do we hope to accomplish you might ask?
Well quite a lot actually…
It is a truism, that in the United States objective measures of the practice of Catholicism indicates the faith is on the ropes. Its true that many well known commentators write about a “New Evangelization” or The “Springtime” of the Church, which will blossom as the teachings of the Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict are fully assimilated and Vatican II is finally understood “correctly”. Maybe there is a place for this kind of optimism, but if some Martian anthropologist was to land on the planet and study Catholicism objectively, its hard to imagine how they would reach this conclusion. Rather than suggesting new vitality, empirical facts suggest the Church has a serious disease. The optimists might reply that hard data does not tell the whole story. It is, one could imagine, possible we are on the verge of a great new Catholic revival. On the other hand, at some point this kind of “evidence free” happy talk can verge on delusional. If someone is driving towards a cliff at 80 miles and hour, and denies that bad things are about to happen, he is not an optimist, he is a lunatic. One best grab the wheel and change course. We can site a plethora of statistics to support the idea that we are headed over the cliff, but we will pick just one. The source is Georgetown Universities Center of Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).
The Church considers the Mass as” the source and summit of Christian life”. This is obvious for those who prepared for First Communion with the Baltimore Catechism. Back then we learned “The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the Cross because the offering and the priest are the same-Christ our Blessed Lord; and the ends for which the sacrifice of the Mass is offered are the same as those of the sacrifice of the Cross”..hm-mm…. Sounded like a big deal back in the day, before it became about celebration and celebrants and what not. In any case, even now it is still considered a “grave obligation” to attend mass weekly. At least that is the “formal” teaching. The Catechism currently says “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation,…..Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin”
So it seems like believing Catholics would at minimum attend mass. Instead the data shows they don’t. Right now only 25% of self proclaimed Catholics attend Mass weekly. On the face of it one would have to say that 3/4 of all Catholics are in a state of material mortal sin. In fact this is worse than it even seems on the face of it, since the number of people born before 1943 who attend Mass at least a few times a month is 64%, while for those born after 1981 it is 34%, and only 17% go once a week. So 66% of those 32 and younger attend sporadically if at all. They clearly do not believe it represents the sacrifice of the cross, nor do they believe it is a serious sin to miss. Hard to say what they believe except that it is relatively trivial. Not quite as important as the kids soccer game. It would also seem to follow that since most people feel free to disregard the Church’s teaching on the seriousness of missing mass, then most people simply do not believe the Church can speak for Christ. ( The deny what Jesus said, when he told the Apostles he who hears you hears me…) In fact they deny that the Church is what it claims to be. In what sense are such folks Catholic?
Still their are plenty of blogs and websites that are good at pointing to the disaster. A lot of traditionalists whose concerns we sympathize with, unfortunately seem to almost revel in the ongoing mess. We understand the impulse to point out that fools behind “happy clappy” Catholicism have pretty much wrecked things. Still schadenfreude is a poor excuse for a blog. It is easy to point out what is wrong, and harder to point a way forward. This is the real challenge. Now there are not a lot of blogs out there that simultaneously recognize the gravity of the current mess but offer any hope of a path forward out of the darkness. The choice is between commentators who recognize that the Church is belly up, but seem to perversely relish every new revelation of how deep the rot is, versus others that live in an alternative universe that thinks there is some new birth of orthodoxy and devotion just around the corner even as the number of people who become clergy, attend mass, send their kids to Catholic School, go to confession, etc. continues to plummet.
Our goal then is two fold: We want to recognize the mess in all its ugly implications and not flinch from the facts, but We still want to also try to think about what practical measures we can do to turn things around. We would suggest that the first step forward is to begin to recall some things the Church knew when it was healthy and to begin to do some things that it did when it was strong. This does not mean necessarily reduplicating the past mindlessly, but uncovering the underlying principles that are in reality timeless, and apply them to the present. It is not just quoting Aquinas or the Fathers, but asking how would a modern day Aquinas approach theology in the light of modern science. It is about asking what would a St. Francis DeSales or a Francis of Assisi in fact say about the modern world, not what the mythical St Francis the hippie would say, but what the real flesh and blood historical St Francis might say if he was alive now.
The is an old medical adage tossed around by physicians in training.. If what you doing is working, keep doing it, and if what your doing is not working.. then stop. We need to begin to recognize the difference between what worked and what does not work. That is the reason for this blog. Welcome to the ride.