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Trouble Lies Ahead . . . In Demographics And In Doctrine

September 12, 2020 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

Is demography destiny? Eric Sammons has done a lot of digging into the numbers, and he finds that the situation of the Catholic Church “is far worse than even the most pessimistic projections.”
Relying on figures from CARA, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Sammons reports that America’s population is growing twice as fast as the Catholic population. Moreover, what growth the Church has enjoyed is due almost entirely to immigration. And there, the figures show that, the longer a Catholic immigrant is in the United States, the more likely he is to leave the Church.
Well, wherever the growth came from, one would expect families to grow and Baptisms to increase, right? But between 1970 and 2019, “the number of infant Baptisms decreased by almost half” in the U.S. And most of the decrease has occurred in the last twenty years.
Adult Baptisms have also tanked. Since 2005, the annual number has fallen by 54 percent. And while our efforts to evangelize non-Catholics seem to be faltering, the situation is worse among cradle Catholics. The number of Americans identifying themselves as Catholic has fallen by ten percent since 2005. As the Pew Trust polls have found, self-identified “ex-Catholics” now constitute the second-largest religious denomination in America. CARA reports that their number has accelerated since 2000, and has now reached some 30 million.
And that number represents only those still living. How many millions of baptized Catholics have died outside the Church since Vatican II, deprived of the sacraments in their final hours? Did they realize the danger that posed to their eternal souls?
Or did they receive in their lifetimes even a minimal catechesis that taught them to bear in mind every day the Four Last Things? Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell?
One pastor puts the question succinctly: “Pray for invincible ignorance.”
“Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”
Sammons uncovers even more trouble: Although the nominal Catholic population is growing, the number of those attending Mass weekly has fallen by 50 percent since 1970. Again, most of the decline has occurred since 2000. And that figure represents the situation before the virus wreaked havoc in the Church.
Given the severity of the situation — and it is dire indeed — one wonders, why haven’t we been hearing about this from our shepherds? Undoubtedly they know a lot more about the situation than Mr. Sammons does. What are they doing about it?
Their minds have been roaming in distant, fallow fields.
A look at their recent overtures is revealing. Among their highest priorities on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are: “Stop the Federal Executions!” “Tell Congress to Support Nuclear Nonproliferation!” “The Moral Imperative of Budget Spending Priorities!” “Bishop Chairman Calls on Congress, ‘Tell White House to Reach a Deal on COVID Relief that Prioritizes Urgent Needs!’” And of course, the familiar refrain, “We encourage all the faithful to pray and fast to overcome the evil of racism and to build a just society.”

Looking Forward

Some shepherds do look beyond the present moment to posit long-term goals for the Church. What are they? Well, looking to the post-virus future, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, sees “a sign of hope [in] the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD)” which “supports low-income-led efforts to address poverty, create good jobs, and be a force of transformation in families and communities.”
Of course, CCHD is a secular Alinsky-style outfit that is ridden with scandal. Remember, the young Barack Obama got his first community organizing grant from the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Alinsky branch. Is that really a model for the future of the Church?
Robert Cardinal Sarah sees things differently: “We need priests who are men of the interior life, ‘God’s watchmen’ and pastors passionately committed to the evangelization of the world, and not social workers or politicians,” he writes.
One voice of reason does resonate a Catholic theme on the USCCB website. “Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, praised the Trump administration for ensuring that U.S. Global Health Assistance doesn’t promote abortion.”
His Excellency is one of the hierarchy’s strongest pro-life voices, but not even he mentions that, on this specific issue, Catholic Joe Biden wants to rescind Trump’s pro-life policies, broaden the international funding of abortion, and fully fund the International Planned Parenthood Federation that has worked with Communist China and its forced-abortion program for years.
In fact, a search of the USCCB site reveals zero items on Joe Biden and abortion. But while the website and the bishops’ PR “news service” ceaselessly promote the issue of racism, they are mute when it comes to the “preeminent issue” of abortion.
It’s worth asking your pastor if the bishop has instructed his priests not to discuss abortion with regard to Catholic Joe Biden and his position supporting abortion up to and including birth.

Looking Back

The coming months will be tough going for the Church and for America. When all is said and done, future historians will see in the virus, the lockdowns, and the violence as a turning point in our nation’s story.
Those scholars looking at the Church will zero in on one event that signaled the collapse of the Catholic Church in the United States. It was not the sex abuse and coverup scandals, the corruption, the McCarrick Syndicate, or the failure to confront the hundreds of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. All of these failures, when they are seen in retrospect, have been going on for years. Sure, they contributed to the collapse, but the bishops were able to hang together, and hang on.
The signal event, however, came with the pandemic. Holy Mother Church has seen plagues, wars, revolutions, persecutions, martyrdoms, and tyrannies over the centuries. But the virus crisis made secular authorities an offer they couldn’t refuse. Countless wannabe tyrants had been waiting for years for an opportunity to throw their weight around, and they seized upon the opportunity to transgress every common sense and constitutional limit of their powers.
In order to pull this off, however, they had to subjugate the only legitimate independent authority that they could not directly command: the Catholic Church.
And that meant the Catholic bishops.
There they found the weakest generation of shepherds in living memory. Instead of defying Caesar and calling on Catholics everywhere to rise to the occasion in prayer and sacrifice and the sacraments, our bishops meekly folded their hand. They went down without a fight. They acquiesced to the diktat that rendered the sacraments nonessential, and abortion and rioting essential. They closed down the Mass for months that in some cases might turn into years.
Without a fight.
Yes, this is the turning point. Other factors certainly contributed to the collapse. The bishops had been moribund for decades in their response to the secular culture. Years ago Timothy Cardinal Dolan admitted to the Wall Street Journal that, when it came to sex and marriage, to the family, and to Humanae Vitae, our shepherds were simply AWOL. These teachings were abandoned fifty years ago.
Instead, in the words of Rodney King, the bishops begged the rulers of this world, “why can’t we all just get along?”
Well, we’ll see how that works out.

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