My friend Robert W sent me a link to this piece by Rod Dreher which in turn refers to this piece by Matt Walsh which is pretty well summarized in its title: "Maybe Christianity In America Is Dying Because It’s Boring Everyone To Death":
And this is the problem with Christianity in this country. Not just inside our church buildings, but everywhere. It often has no edge, no depth. No sense of its own ancient and epic history. There is no sacredness to it. No pain. No beauty. No reverence. Or I should say Christianity has all of those things, fundamentally and totally, but many modern Christians in every denomination have spent many years trying to blunt them or bury them under a thousand layers of icing and whipped cream and apathy.
Well, yes. And Dreher says:
Walsh says that the lameness of the service he attended surely has something to do with the Pew numbers out this week showing that Millennials are abandoning organized religion. If the only thing I had to go to on Sunday morning was services like the one Walsh describes, I would stay at home. There’s no there there. Catholics have their own version of this kind of thing, and I used to patiently endure it by silently repeating the mantra, “Ex opere operato.” It’s beyond tragic that so much of the Catholic Church in the United States has cast aside the treasures of spiritual and aesthetic depth in its patrimony.
Well, yes, again. There are quite a number of us who fully grasp these problems, and to tell the truth are weary of talking bout them. They're real. But I've come to the conclusion that even if the liturgy were always reverent and beautiful, and all the clergy and faithful were shining lights of truth and charity, the basic situation of the Church in the formerly Christian world would not be much different. The fundamental problem is succinctly stated by a commenter on the Dreher piece who signs himself "Dominic 1955":
There is no man so blind [as] those that do not want to see and no man so deaf as those that do not want to hear-which is ultimately the problem with “Modern Man” (which in turn is a fantasy like the New Soviet Man) in that no matter what the Church did, he was done with it.
That's part of a long comment which I encourage you to read (that link should take you straight to it). Casting doubt on the whole Vatican II reach-out-to-the-modern-world enterprise, he concludes, somewhat chillingly:
We are dealing with a scourge of God, a hardening of hearts the scope of which probably hasn’t been seen before, not something to dialog with.
A while back I read a piece in America describing all the things the Church does to alienate young people. Some of it was fair criticism, some not, but I found myself becoming impatient with the whole premise: if young people leave the Church, it must be the fault of the Church, and when we figure out what they don't like and stop doing it, and start doing what they do like, they'll stop leaving. Young People--who collectively are treated as a semi-mythical entity somehow continuing to exist in the same essentially callow state for decades on end--thus escape all blame for the situation, absolved of responsibility for their own fundamental choices. This is both mistaken and futile.
The more typical truth, I have little doubt, is that young people leave the Church because they're much more interested in other things and because it tells them they can't do what they want to do. And what they want is to enjoy sex and the many other pleasures and comforts which life in a rich and licentious society has to offer. That is to say, Young People are Modern Man in his youth. Sometimes I think the solution to the mystery of the great apostasy is that our material progress has made life so comfortable for so many that they no longer see the point in paying much attention to the spiritual life, except in a consumerist or therapeutic sort of way. No, that's not the whole story, either, but it's an important factor.
There is just not a great deal that we can do to make the faith attractive to people who simply don't see, or want to see, the need of it. And they don't see the need of it because they don't see the need of salvation.
Addendum: another piece of the puzzle, probably as big as the lure of the pleasures of the world, is the triumph (or seeming triumph) of technology over so many of the ills that have beset mankind since the beginning, and the support which this triumph gives to the elevation of science to the position of explainer-of-everything, and explainer-away of religion. If my memory is correct Newman described a "deep and plausible skepticism" driving out all else. As illogical as the idea that advanced technology and "the modern world" in general somehow make the idea of God implausible may be, it seems to be very powerful.