It may be one of the under-studied and under-reported problems plaguing the American Church.
Msgr. Owen Campion takes a closer look at this phenomenon, and its impact, in Our Sunday Visitor:
A serious problem is developing in American Catholicism — namely, the decline in regular weekend attendance at worship services in a church.
With this decline inevitably comes a diminished sense of personal Catholic identity, and then, obviously, a slackened sense of commitment to Catholic beliefs and moral principles.
Contributing to this decline is the “shopping around” for parishes, greatly enabled by the easy mobility in our society, but also by the subjective view of the Mass that many Catholics have assumed. Added to the mix is the effect of fewer parochial schools, anchors that kept families close to their parish.
People choose their parishes no longer according to the neighborhood in which they live, but because they like, or dislike, the pastor, or the music, or the décor of the church, or the friendliness of the people, or the schedule of the liturgy. There may be an argument with the pastor, or the parish secretary, or the religious education director, or whomever.
This “shopping around” often is the first step toward dropping the habit of regular weekend attendance at Mass. Priests are transferred. Music directors come and go. The church may be redecorated.
With no alternative parish that meets all the personal requisites, many people simply stop going or go rarely. Then their ties to the Church weaken.
None of this likely will change for the better any time soon. The Catholic situation increasingly will be affected as churches are closed, and as Masses are celebrated less frequently because of the lack of priests. With fewer options to find preferred homilies or music or décor, Catholics accustomed to picking and choosing their place of worship will have fewer choices. Travelling longer distances to attend Mass will aggravate the problem. Under these conditions, will people be less likely to go far or to make concessions?