The news cycle is fickle. A big news story is only big until a new big story comes along. This is true even with Catholic Church news.
We’ve known for quite some time that 78 percent of Catholics in the U.S. do not go to Mass regularly, but in late July the big news was that over 69 percent of the Catholics in the U.S. who are not going to Mass regularly also do not believe Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist. And even 33 percent of Catholics who do go to Mass regularly do not believe in the Real Presence.
These numbers are very disturbing. Add these to other poll numbers on young Catholics abandoning their faith, the increasing number of ‘Nones’ and those who subscribe to Moral Therapeutic Deism, and the bleak picture of Catholicism in the U.S. today suddenly becomes very clear.
It’s also concerning that not that many of our Church leaders seem to be bothered by these numbers. I actually expected the Pew poll news to set off some alarm bells, but it appears I was mistaken. Instead, stories on the Amazon Synod and the Germany Synod quickly re-grabbed the headlines. The ‘69 percent of Catholics who don’t believe in the Real Presence’ story became old news.
What’s Being Done?
In all fairness, 10 days after the Pew survey numbers were released the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) did ask the laity on Facebook for advice on what to do about the shocking numbers. According to a LifeSiteNews article, “The laity overwhelmingly responded by calling on the USCCB to reinstitute traditional liturgical practices.”
To the best of my knowledge the USCCB hasn’t responded to this suggestion with any kind of formal statement. One can only hope the USCCB is taking the poll numbers to heart and is trying to develop plans to address the problem.
A few bishops have also responded individually to the survey results by issuing pastoral letters and calling for better catechesis. Some Catholic commenters have echoed this sentiment. A number of priests have also supported the call for a return to traditional liturgical practices. But for the most part no alarm bells seem to be going off.
It’s not news that there are now two to three generations of poorly catechized Catholics out there. Many of these Catholics are not living or practicing their Faith. Many of them are cafeteria Catholics. But far too many are lapsed Catholics or Catholics in name only.
Better catechesis is certainly needed but it is not going to do much for the two or three generations of adults who are not even going to Mass. Reaching out to these lapsed Catholics and re-catechizing them is a formidable task. And much as I’d like to see a return to the Traditional Latin Mass, this is not going fix the problem either. Today it’s not just one sheep that has left the other 99. Today 78 sheep have wandered off and only 22 are left.
What Can We Do?
Does it concern you that so many Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence? Does is bother you that 78 percent of Catholics do not even go Mass on Sunday with any regularity? These numbers are very troubling.
There are far too many lapsed Catholics in the world today. Not only have they cut themselves off from God’s graces, but by not going to Mass on Sunday they’re putting their immortal souls in dire jeopardy. The third Commandment is not a suggestion, and those Catholics who choose to sleep in on Sunday, or choose another activity over going Mass, may be breaking both the third and first Commandment at the same time. And they are doing so over, and over, and over again.
As with many of the problems facing the Church today it may be time for the laity to step up and take action. Every Catholic shares in Christ’s threefold mission of priest, profit and king. As the Catechism tells us, “783 Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king. The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them.”
Be a Good Shepard
Just as the Good Shepard leaves the 99 to find the one lost sheep, every faithful, devout Catholic should be looking to bring their lost brothers and sisters back to the fold. And there are a lot of lost sheep out there.
Chances are that you know one or more lapsed Catholics. Maybe they are friends or even family members. Pray for your lapsed Catholic friends and loved ones, and do not stop praying for them. But when the opportunity presents itself, talk to them. Try to find out what caused them to lapse. Then silently pray to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to help you get your lapsed Catholic friend or loved one off the wide path and back on the narrow path. You just might save a soul or two.