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02/03/2019

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I’m an American/Canadian in my 30s, with two small children. There was a time not too long ago when I might have seriously have considered becoming catholic. I was (am) severely disillusioned with the fundamentalist Protestant environments I grew up in. A few of my peers did so. But after seeing how the leadership has responded to the sexual abuse scandals, repeatedly, over decades, by sheltering abusers and shuffling them around, that inclination has long since passed. You can keep supposing that the decline is due to “persecution” or because young degenerates just like having sex too much, but the bigger problems by far are that I as a parent, and many in my situation, have no confidence that my children would be safe in your churches; and, that the faith of your own lay people is under active attack from the very highest levels of your own leadership. I think the future of catholicism in this country depends very much on its leaders finally making a true confession, and I don’t see any evidence of that happening.

Interesting remarks. Granting your points for the sake of argument, what you say doesn't really address my broad observation. The fact that you were even interested puts you in a pretty small minority. That's really my main point: that most people don't even see that the whole thing has any significance at all to them. To use a crass metaphor, nobody evaluates a product that he's not in the market for.

I don't blame you for rejecting the Church over the abuse question. And in general I share your disdain for many of the hierarchy. In fact though your children would be at least as safe in a Catholic environment now as they would be anywhere. The rules that have been put in place now are quite stringent. Highly-placed creeps like McCarrick ignored them, but a bishop is not going to be around children in any but a very public setting. The relevance of that sort of thing is not so much physical danger to anyone outside the creep's immediate circle as the general institutional rot represented by a significant number of active homosexuals.

I didn't use the word "persecution" because I don't believe it's applicable. We're a long way from anything that would merit that term. But there is going to be increasing pressure on Christians in many situations to give up or at least hide their beliefs. I don't think that's arguable. Rod Dreher documents instances frequently.

"young degenerates just like having sex too much" is kind of a caricature of what I said. It's really just the age-old world-flesh-devil obstacle. Or the situation of the young man with many possessions. The world (in that sense) today is a pretty cushy place and can provide a better illusion of sufficiency than in the past.

"the faith of your own lay people is under active attack from the very highest levels of your own leadership". This is more or less true, and has been true for at least fifty years. I had to confront it when I converted many years ago, and that situation was even worse at the time, or at least more obvious. One either accepts that God will preserve the Church even from enemies within, or not.

I am surrounded by pius young catholics - the seminarians, the MDiv students, the MTs students, even the PHD students. I I would guess it in the future the church may be smaller but it will be extremely ardent.

In 2015 When I walked to Santiago with a friend I said to her that the church had not dealt very well with the move of people from the countryside to the cities. She replied that the church had really struggle to deal with suburbanization. In other words she said that it wasn’t the move into cities that was a difficulty it was the move in to the suburbs.

Joel’s comments make me think of a conversation I had it the weekend with a former student who is being received into the church at Easter. He consider joining into 2009 but there was a massive sex abuse crisis and that put him off. Then he consider joining again in the summer of 2018 and again that was a massive sex abuse crisis. At that point he decided that whenever he began considering it there was going to be a sex abuse crisis and he might as well get on with it.

If you become convinced of the Church's position as the foundation of Christianity, then you have to accept that many of its members, including those at the top, are going to do horrible things. You know that because it's happened so often in the past, and unless you're sort of stupid about human nature you know they will happen again--not necessarily the same things, but things just as bad. I guess in addition to my natural cynicism about human nature I had read enough history not to have many illusions.

Still, though, to have it going on in your own time is hard, and I'm sure much more so if you personally experience some kind of evil.

" in the future the church may be smaller but it will be extremely ardent."

There's a speech or something that Ratzinger gave in the late '60s where he talked about the likelihood of the Church shrinking. I'm sure you've seen it. Some have taken that to mean that he wanted to purify it, but I don't think that's it. I think he was just recognizing the way things seemed to be going.

George Weigel talks a bit about that “purify” reading of what Ratzinger said about a smaller Church in a piece at First Things -- two paragraphs that jumped out:

...Ratzinger in 1969 was describing what he imagined to be inevitable in his German situation, given the acids of secularization that were then at work, often aided and abetted by avant-garde forms of Catholic theology. In a society increasingly defined by the pleasure principle and a culture whose first premises included aggressive skepticism about biblical religion, Catholicism could no longer live by the old ethnic transmission belt. In the future, people were not going to say they were Catholic because their grandmothers had been born in Munich. ...

The further truth to be taken from Ratzinger’s vision of the Church’s future is that 21st-century Catholicism “will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members.” Lukewarm, pick-and-choose Catholicism will not survive the cultural and political tsunami that’s coming. All-In Catholicism can do more than survive; it can convert.

"There's a speech or something that Ratzinger gave in the late '60s where he talked about the likelihood of the Church shrinking. I'm sure you've seen it. Some have taken that to mean that he wanted to purify it, but I don't think that's it. I think he was just recognizing the way things seemed to be going."

He talked about that in one of those Peter Seewald books. Clearly, he just believed that that was the direction we were heading.

There seems to be parishes that are just hanging in there with a shrinking elderly population, and others that are bursting with ardent young Catholics. Our parish was once down to about 35 families, but now it is full of young involved families. We have lots of Baptisms, and also a very orthodox group of young singles. As far as I can see, the liturgically sound churches are more attractive to the young, many of whom are converts.

AMDG

I think that's a discernible pattern. The Ordinariate seems to attract the old and the young.

From Weigel's piece (thanks, Marianne): " In a society increasingly defined by the pleasure principle and a culture whose first premises included aggressive skepticism about biblical religion...." Yes, that's it in a nutshell. When you have a society that is *defined*, at least in its mainstream defaults, by those, you have a situation in which even to continue in the religion in which one was raised involves swimming upstream.

It's easy and tempting, at least for me, to start thinking of "smaller and purer" as a good thing. Yeah, let those lukewarm people go ahead and leave. But that's wrong in many ways.

Has anybody read Knox's Enthusiasm? Among other things it's a fascinating study of zealots vs. the lukewarm.

I live in an area with a large immigrant population, mostly from Asia. A disadvantage is that sometimes signs around town are not in English, but an advantage is that our parishes are bursting at the seams. Our own parish has been split into two recently and a new church building will be constructed. In fact, wherever I go to Mass in our city I find the churches pretty full, and most parishes have 4-5 Masses on a typical Sunday. It seems pretty healthy.

On the other hand, at our neighbourhood Catholic school we have found that our kids are the only ones in their classes who go to Mass regularly on Sundays. Practice of the faith seems to be at dismal levels.

By getting involved in some church-related activities -- catechism, choir, etc. -- we've met quite a number of young Catholic families who are devout, but they are not thick on the ground. We spend a lot of time driving in order to visit them...


That sounds very roughly similar to the situation in which we raised our children. Not the best but not the worst, either.

I think it's those in-name-only Catholics who are likely to disappear over the next 20-30 years. But the thing about the faith is--and maybe this is true of any religion--you never know when it's going to spring to life in the heart and mind of someone who has been indifferent.

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