“A stunning change”

That’s how the local paper characterizes the shifting religious landscape in what was once a staunch Catholic stronghold, Buffalo, New York.


Nearly half the residents in the Buffalo Niagara region are considered “unclaimed” by a religious group — a stunning change from just a decade ago, when the percentage of the population affiliated with a faith tradition was higher here than in any other metropolitan area in the country.

Catholicism, most mainline Protestant denominations, Judaism and some evangelical denominations in the Buffalo Niagara region experienced huge membership declines between 2000 and 2010, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, which last week released the results of the latest U.S. Religion Census.

The study also showed exponential growth of the local Muslim community, which is now estimated at 18,483 people in Erie and Niagara counties, up from about 5,400 a decade ago.

That makes Islam the second most-practiced world religion in Western New York, behind Christianity.

Judaism slipped to third, with a total of 8,084 adherents in Buffalo Niagara, down from an estimate of 20,150 in 2000.

The Buffalo Niagara region had a population loss of less than 3 percent — about 34,000 people — between 2000 and 2010. At the same time, membership in a religious tradition fell by 31 percent, or more than a quarter of a million people.

“That’s a pretty big drop,” noted Dale E. Jones, who conducted data analysis and mapping for the 2010 U.S. Religion Census.

The unclaimed category consists of 514,314 people and is now the single largest segment of the Buffalo Niagara population, when compared with the area’s religious groups.

But it doesn’t mean that all of those people have lost religious faith, Jones said.

“In one sense, it’s going to be a big number because it’s a catchall,” he said.

Other national studies still show that most Americans profess to be Christians.

“If you go knock on doors, 80 to 85 percent of people will tell you they’re Christian,” Jones said, “but they’re not Christian enough to belong in the local congregations.”

Catholicism alone lost more than a third of its members in Erie and Niagara counties — 217,944 parishioners in all — over the last decade, according to the census.

However, the chief researcher at the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo estimated the 10-year loss to be far less than what the census cites.

“It all comes down to how are you counting your members,” said Sister Regina Murphy, director of diocesan planning and research. “I know there’s been diminishment, but not quite 35 percent.”

Murphy pegged the membership loss in area parishes over the decade at about 19 percent, rather than the 35 percent cited in the study.

Read the rest.


  1. Paul Stokell says:

    Nice pic. Kinda like the “Sunday Morning” parody video not too long ago.

  2. Eugene Pagano says:

    Did the study make allowance for population shifts? Buffalo’s population, religiously affiliated or not, has been declining for decades.

  3. naturgesetz says:

    The article says, “The Buffalo Niagara region had a population loss of less than 3 percent — about 34,000 people — between 2000 and 2010. At the same time, membership in a religious tradition fell by 31 percent, or more than a quarter of a million people.” And later, “Catholicism alone lost more than a third of its members in Erie and Niagara counties — 217,944 parishioners in all — over the last decade, according to the census.”

    It seems population shifts come nowhere near accounting for the loss.

  4. friscoeddie says:

    When businesses lose 30% market share and same store sales drop 30%, new mangement, new initiatives are the answer. RCC never LOOKS for new management and all new initiatives are dismissed as heretical. =no hope until another Blessed John XXIII.. Lord hear our prayer.

  5. I don’t know that Buffalo’s bishops have been terribly remarkable. Effective evangelization requires thinking outside the box, not pining for some golden past.

  6. Barbara P. says:

    Its not just Buffalo. Our world is so full of science and technology that I think people are finding it harder to believe in the supernatural. Faith is not really something that can be taught. Yes we can learn the doctrines but I think belief comes from experiencing God and that is harder to do in our noisy world. We are sending out too much inteference. The Bishops need to refocus people on spirituality. I have had a few young adults in their 20s tell me that they think it is impossible to know if God exists. They look at me like I am crazy when I tell them it is not about so much about knowing as much as it is about feeling God at work in our lives.

  7. V2 was such a success in boosting church numbers, I can’t imagine why they haven’t planned Vatican 3.

  8. kenneth says:

    Secularism and agnostics/atheists are part of the trend, but not nearly all of it. I think many of the “unclaimed” are intensely interested in spiritual growth. They’re simply concluding that institutional religion adds no value to that quest and detracts from it significantly. People in today’s world have the sense and the resources to fact-check anything that’s told to them. They’re not interested in words, they’re interested in action and outcomes. More often than not, those words and actions reveal that most churches have nothing at all to do with spirituality and everything to do with raising cash and advancing partisan political and cultural agendas.

    They see leaders who are very strident and uncompromising in their proscriptions about morality. These same men, put to the test, are often revealed to be moral cowards. Some are revealed to be among the most amoral and sociopathic creatures our race has ever produced. They see that such men are not in fact anomalies but the norm in institutional cultures that self-select leaders based not on ability or moral fiber, but on their loyalty to the company line. They’re making rational investment decisions by concluding that such outfits bring nothing to the table and offer no return on their scarce capital – their time, their money, their emotional and spiritual investment.

  9. Fiergenholt says:

    Jess — set aside your ‘snarky” attitude for a minute.

    Behind the scenes discussions about the next Ecumenical Council have been going on for years. Frankly, I thought it might have been announced by now — say on the fiftieth year anniversary of the start of V2.

    History show that the average length between Ecumenical Councils is about 85 years. The 300 years or so between the final session of Trent and the opening of Vatican 1 was a serious anomaly — and it was way too long. There was almost a century between the closing of V1 and the opening of V2 — and that also was too long.

    The real problem now is not the need of a new council but the whole logistics of it all. In fact, there have been serious discussions at the level of national bishops conferences that the next council NOT be held in Rome but somewhere else. Would you believe that Sydney Australia was being pushed for a while?

  10. The Mainline Churches and the Catholic Church have been loosing membership since the 1960′s. And not necessarily to atheism or other non-Christian religions (at least here in the U.S.) the loss has been towards either “non associated” but “spiritual” and to Evangelical “non-denominational” sects and the Mormon and Jehovah Witnesses. Rodney Starkey had a very interesting study in his 1998 book “The Rise of Christianity” in which he shows that those religions are demand more, require a bigger commitment and put stricter rules and ask for deeper commitment are the ones growing and have grown more in the past. The more “liberal” and watered down the religion is, the more it looses its members. Experience shows he is right.

  11. vox borealis says:

    The silly season of the last fifty years, ushed in by (though of course not strictly cause by) Vatican II is the biggest reason for the collapse in participation. Thankfully the silly season is drawing to a close, though it will take a century at least to repair the damage.

  12. The main problem with this theory is that the collapse in Europe can be traced more to the forty to fifty years before the Council. The crest of clergy numbers worldwide was in the first half of the 20th century, and was in decline starting from the late 1940′s.

    The real silly season was 1914-1989, and it was political/international, and had roots going back to the 19th century.

    Sociologists point to Humanae Vitae as one singular event that inspired a post-conciliar exodus. In the US, if Vatican II liturgical reforms had not taken place, the hemorrhage would have been much deeper.

    Reform in the Church was long overdue, and still we were unprepared in this country for the suburbs, tv, the automobile, the youth culture, Vietnam, contraception, three critical assassinations, and the meaninglessness of institutional corruption. My assessment is that conciliar reform didn’t go far enough or deep enough. And as long as conservative Catholics cling to the nonsense of continuity/anti-rupture, the Church will likely take much longer than a century to enliven the Gospel.

    If we were serious about evangelization, we could get it done in a generation. But there’s too much navel-gazing on the Right these days.

  13. midwestlady says:

    Please, no council. We haven’t gotten over the last one yet. Another one and the population of the Church in Buffalo will drop another 50%. Another council isn’t the answer. The US is only about 5% of the global Church and the church in Africa and Asia is growing by leaps and bounds. The problem is with us.

  14. midwestlady says:

    This is nonsense, Todd. The “Spirit of Vatican II” has been, by far, the largest reason for the exodus from the Church, and also the largest single reason for the exodus from religious life.

    The other reasons people leave are well-known, having been captured in sociological surveys many times, such as the Pew Report. American Catholics are just too stubborn and stupid to pay real attention to such things and heed what they say.

  15. midwestlady says:

    Or pining for some radical future that looks like the Democratic party at prayer.

    You can’t try to compete with the culture to be the culture. If you do, you’ll lose every. single. time.

    We are something different. Something a person can’t get anywhere else. And we’d ought not to look like anything else.

  16. midwestlady says:

    Barbara, I could perhaps believe this if American literacy in science was even par with science literacy in Estonia or Poland, which we’re not. We’re way down the list. The difficulty is a) cultural, and b) the fact that Catholics are stuck in some kind of funk and don’t respond to much of anything.

    People get sick of being in a funk and leave. Check the Pew report for reasons for leaving, by percent of ex-Catholics:
    1. Just gradually drifted away, 71%
    2. Stopped believing Church’s teachings, 65%
    3. Spiritual needs not being met, 43%

    We take lousy care of our adherents. They come to church once a week, there is nothing going on during the week that’s worth attending, and if people don’t show up nobody notices. We’re about as much of a community as the people walking through a bus station on any given afternoon.

    We don’t really teachings at what gatherings we usually have, so it’s no wonder adherence them decays over time, if it ever existed for some people. We do not offer what we are capable of offering people and so they succumb to the culture which is all around them.

    And Catholics do not have help or company in prayer most of the time. There is no commmunity whatsoever in most parishes, all progressive blather to the contrary. People walk out the door and they’re 100% on their own.

    It’s a wonder the drop has been only 70%. The next decade is going to be worse. You watch.

  17. midwestlady says:

    Faith is a gift from God. It is not the product of experience. However, once a person has faith, it can’t be neglected or relegated to some back corner. If a person treats it like a burden, because the religious group they’re in treats it like a burden, it will disappear.

  18. midwestlady says:

    This is exactly what the Pew Report shows too. The leading reasons for leaving can all be attributed to watered down behaviors and opportunities within Catholicism. “Rich it up” and we will lose fewer people.

    The leading reasons for leaving the Catholic Church are:
    1. Just drifted away
    2. Don’t believe teachings anymore
    3. Didn’t have spiritual needs met

    This is for all those leaving Catholicism. The things that Catholics really love to complain about aren’t really very high on the list. And even where they seem to matter, it’s very likely it’s our equivocal and cantankerous ways of dealing with these issues that are likely to be causing the problem, rather than the so-called issues themselves.

    Frankly, when people come to mass, they come for 45 minutes once a week, and generally that’s the only time they ever show up at the parish. The rest of the time they are on their own. How could you expect this to turn out any better? It’s a wonder as many people stay as they do.

  19. Why does the church only seem to grow among the uneducated in impoverished societies? The Church has not figured out how to incorporate educated laity among its governing bodies, relying upon the clerical/hierarchical authoritarian model that was accepted only when the church was also claiming to be a civil power, and was dealing with the other civil powers of the world (mostly Europe) which also were monarchies and authoritarian.
    How do you bash Vatican II every chance possible, when I believe you mentioned recently that you converted to the catholic faith about 25 years ago? The years immediately following Vatican II were an amazing and refreshing and exciting time in the church, until the counter-revolution took hold. By the way, since you advocate being such a doctrinal stickler, are you aware that the highest earthly authority in the Church is a Council, supreme even to the Pope?

  20. There has been a serious decline of trust in all institutions, and even in the idea of Western Civilization and culture, the Church included. Consider the numbers of people who no longer marry, and even those who have and want no children. People today can’t even commit to their personal relationships. What makes anyone think they’re going to commit to the Church, or to civil institutions, much less to the idea of Western Civilization? The rapid acceptance of divorce, co-habitation, and same-sex “marriage” is a reflection of this. The ideals of Western Civilization have so little hold on modern westerners that people have no inhibitions about trashing an institution like marriage, that has served society well for centuries, in favor of what amounts to a social experiment, and one that is quickly revealing itself as a dismal failure and a threat to civil society.

    Christian leaders and teachers of all traditions have, for the most part, responded poorly to this phenomenon. Much of the effort to “reach out” to moderns has focused on watering down the ancient faith in favor of something that is supposed to be more attractive, relevant, or palatable. In short, giving moderns what is assumed they want. The problem is, the phenomenon of individualism makes it impossible to do even this, because what moderns want is their very own Jesus. Churches that have liberalized their teachings and traditions are failing even more rapidly than conservative ones because the basic premise on which they’ve based this strategy is fundamentally misguided, ie: give them a Jesus and a Church that is more a reflection of the modern culture and they’ll come back. What they fail to realize is that there almost is no such thing as a modern culture. Culture requires community, a commitment to a way of understanding how the world works and our place in it. Today, it’s every man for himself. We not only have “an army of one,” we have a culture of one. How does a Church that hopes to be relevant get a handle on such a thing? Moderns have, for the most part, abandoned the notion that there is anything outside of one’s self worth commiting to. Even modern pop culture can barely keep up, entertainers having to constantly transform and re-invent themselves in order to keep in the public eye and sell tickets.

    The so-called conservative churches, and those conservative movements within the churches, including the Catholic Church, are doing marginally better than the liberals because they are, at least, able to hold those who have not yet abandoned the idea that there is anything outside of one’s self worth committing to. There is still a significant number of moderns who hold to the ideals of Western Civilization. The liberal churches have little to nothing to offer them. Those churches that hold to the ancient faith, and those Catholic institutions that do so, are attracting the remnant of the West.

  21. midwestlady:

    “The “Spirit of Vatican II” has been, by far, the largest reason for the exodus from the Church, and also the largest single reason for the exodus from religious life.”

    How so? Any raw data to prove your statement?

    Disclaimer: Were it not for Vatican II and its spirit, I do not think that I would still be a “practicing (until I get it right) Catholic.

  22. I disagree. World culture has been incredibly complex in the past hundred years. We need look no further than the poor behavior of our leaders–both secular and religious–to note that hypocrisy is what drives many people from the Church. Or as some people put it, their leaders have left them.

    For many on the Catholic Right, it seems easy enough to boil it down to a matter of intellect: those who disagree with you are stupid. Whether you realize it or not, such a tack shows just how steeped many of you are in rationalism and the Enlightenment.

    If indeed it were Vatican II, we would see the Church struggling less in traditional bastions of Catholic culture, like Buffalo, and facing more of an exodus in new outposts like Phoenix or Atlanta. Even conservatives acknowledge Buffalo’s episcopal leadership has been less liberal than Rochester’s or Albany’s. One might think the numbers in those other upstate dioceses are worse. But they’re not. Common sense would inform us there must be other reasons than the “spirit” under a traditionalist’s bed.

  23. My friend, I’ve been countercultural for almost as long as I’ve been an adult. I have no idea what the Democrats have to do with this thread. Please don’t insult me by associating my name with a conservative mainstream political party. You’ll need to do a lot more homework on your ideological opposition to find something that will stick.

  24. midwestlady says:

    Groups such as the Amish or the Mormons who tend to hang onto their adherents offer them a strong identity and a lot of fellowship. Those groups tend to expect a lot but the individual adherent gets a lot in return, and this is the key to religious involvement and satisfaction for these adherents. These are the cultural models within churches that tend to work the best. These cultural models are also NOT in real conflict with Catholicism as it is historically; rather, these models are not known among Catholics because we have drifted into another model which is decayed and more dependent on the culture–sort of the path of least resistance, which explains the resistance to these models.

    One of the key pieces of the Catholic church after Vatican II is a kind of minimalism in practice. Minimalism is death to the practice of anything, be it a marriage, a course of study, any kind of relationship. If you treat your friends like crap and never talk to them, they will barely know who you are in 20 years. This is what we’ve been doing as a faith in the US.

  25. And yet you refer to it as something of the human intellect. People who don’t have it are “stupid.” How can that be?

  26. I can agree with you on the dangers of minimalism. The Church is far from rigorous enough on all the faithful, including the bishops. People will respond to high standards and good leadership. It’s a matter of inspiration, not intelligence as you’ve suggested elsewhere.

  27. midwestlady says:

    Todd, you have an agenda and are taking my comments out of context. To have the research right in front of us, and not make use of it, is ridiculous. Yet, we would rather continue with our pet projects rather than deal with our real problems. This is the issue.

    Faith is not something that a person can manufacture on their own, and it is not gotten by experience like learnings from a lab experiment. On the contrary, people who leave the faith will tell you they learned something–that they didn’t want to participate any more.

  28. midwestlady says:

    No, this is not the problem. People in Europe and the US, your supposed educated societies, have created alternate structures for human needs for themselves. In the absence of religious identity and a compelling reason to belong to something other than the improved offerings of these societies, people drift away.
    Again, check some research before you make sweeping assumptions on the basis of pet theories. This patriarchal society nonsense is clearly not what’s happening.

  29. Very well put, Kenneth. There seems to be a lot of truth in your post, especially your concluding sentence.

  30. midwestlady says:

    The Church isn’t a department store. The fact that we’ve been treating it like a department store is the major reason for the decline.

  31. midwestlady says:

    Buffalo, NY is NOT a traditional bastion of Catholicism. It may have been at one time, but it has not been for a long time. Buffalo is about as famous as Erie, PA for its dissidence.

  32. midwestlady says:

    Then, Todd, you’ll understand that you can’t hope to imitate the culture to beat the culture. And yes, for most people they are in direct competition. The Catholic church has something different that no one can replace, but we’ve denigrated that to a lowest-common denominator experience, almost like we’ve been ashamed of the faith. And so people drop out, gradually adopt the mores of the surrounding culture and when we don’t “feed” them on a regular basis, that seals the deal. They’re gone.

  33. midwestlady says:

    Those are the 3 leading causes for leaving:
    1) drift away
    2) stop believing
    3) don’t get “fed”

  34. midwestlady says:

    This is exactly true. We are anemic. People can go to mass for years and never know the most basis things about Christianity because we don’t give either the teachings or the adherents enough attention. We’re only together for about 45 minutes once and week and that’s it. People just walk out after mass to their regular lives which may or may not have anything to do with mass. This disjointed way of behaving is why people give the 3 main reasons for leaving that they do.
    1) drifted away
    2) stopped believing
    3) don’t get spiritual needs taken care of

  35. Cathy J says:

    How does the “very strident and uncompromising” view of Catholic leadship jibe with the other assertion in the poll–that the largest growing religious group is Islam?

  36. midwestlady says:

    It’s not only leadership from the hierarchy. This is one other big feature of minimalism for Catholics. They’re always trying to get somebody else to do their work for them, aka farm it out. Parishes have got to get into the act and make contact with people, and give them some alternatives to the culture and some reason to consider their faith not as a burden, but as something worth having.

  37. midwestlady says:

    And both sides of the popular controversies are about equally likely to sit back on their hind ends and look for someone else to do the work, Todd. Catholics, from both ends of the spectrum are both very big on blaming and very small on action. Sad but true.

  38. midwestlady says:

    And the action I’m talking about is not some big indictment of the USCCB or the Vatican or some such nonsense. What I’m talking about might be a movie night or game night at the Church, or a weekly rosary gathering or an opportunity to tutor kids from local schools. This is local stuff to attach people to their parishes in a real way and let them see that Catholicism is far more than fighting over birth control while not being taken care of spiritually.

  39. midwestlady says:

    It clearly doesn’t. There are 2 things that Islam has that people find attractive. Islam has a very highly developed sense of corporate and personal identity and it demands a lot from its followers.

  40. midwestlady says:

    BTW, the same thing is happening in Europe. The Islamicization of Europe is well underway. Some of it is because of immigration, but some of it is from rapid rates of conversion as well.

    People have religious needs and if you fail to feed them, they will leave and go elsewhere.

  41. And yet Erie is doing relatively well under Bishop Trautmann as far as priesthood vocations go–far better than many more conservative Northeast dioceses.

    This discussion seems akin to “I know what I know; don’t confuse me with facts.”

  42. You pose a good question, CathyJ. I suspect, but cannot prove, it is because of a change in the make-up of the population in recent years as opposed to Islamic conversions by long-time residents.

  43. Your post makes no sense as a reply to me. I’m glad you agree with my support for being countercultural. Maybe we leave it at that.

  44. “Catholics, from both ends of the spectrum are both very big on blaming and very small on action.”

    Often true, but it’s not a universal truth. I would not have twenty-four years as a parish minister if I were “small on action.” There are people who see action as vital to their expression of faith. And there are others who seem to exemplify blame–perhaps you are one of these where Vatican II is concerned.

  45. midwestlady says:


    Yes, you have the big picture pretty well laid out here. The problem for individuals is the individual picture that flows from this dynamic you’ve described.

    The “reaching out to moderns” has created a streamlined minimalistic method of relating to the Church which is no more than giving them a religious pit-stop, which they rightly perceive as so small that they can do without it. They also take the lesson, which is obviously given–that their secular life must be so important that even religion moves over for it. How dare it get in the way! We’ve tried to compete with the culture on its own terms, and we’re losing because religion is not that kind of thing, but we’ve sold people on the fact that it is.

    The experience of Catholicism for most people–on the ground–consists chiefly of 3 things:
    1) you go to mass (if you feel like it, only about 40% do so weekly)
    2) you listen to people argue about birth control & gay people while not being attended to spiritually, and wonder what’s up with that
    3) you might try to pray and make sense of your spiritual life by yourself and you listen to what your friends say, especially your protestant or Muslim friends who seem to be much better off at least personally in their religious stuff
    4) you watch other Catholics drift off and they don’t get hit by lightning

    That’s it. That’s the experience of being Catholic on the ground in America in 2012 for most people.

  46. Catherine says:

    Can someone please explain what the “nonsense of continuity/anti-rupture” is for those of us who are not familiar with the term? Thank you!

  47. Catherine says:

    This sounds about right to me, Midwestlady, and I don’t really think this is a “conservative” point of view. I think you and Todd are closer than you think.

  48. Barbara P says:

    The experience is the gift. We live in world where people are used to scientific or technological explanations and where the Supernatural is looked at with sceptism.

  49. Catherine says:

    We are indeed really lousy at taking care of our adherents. I include myself in this criticism. How many parishes actually welcome new members? I had a neighbor who is a former Catholic, and who had to deal with the suicide of a family member. Her new pastor (evangelical Protestant) and his wife were the first people at the house. The entire church took care of her with food, visits and loving care. There are good and generous people in every Catholic parish, but there are very few with that kind of sense of community.

  50. midwestlady says:

    Todd, it wasn’t the council itself so much that was the problem; rather it was the hermeneutic of rupture that occurred after the council. You are correct that the 20th century was a pivotal period in Catholic life. I remember 1960. We were dreaming of putting a man on the moon and eliminating poverty on our own steam; it’s rather impossible to explain to younger people the sense of limitlessness and optimism that was felt by the entire culture. Noting old was good; everything modern was preferred. We were masters of the world! This infected the church in a big way. Rosaries were out; activism was in. Beauty was out; function was in. Society was out; community was in. Patience was out; action was in. Persistence was out; efficiency was in. I could go on but I won’t. We streamlined faith because there was so much to look forward to that didn’t involve sin, discipline, salvation and death. All that was old, old, old and we might discover how to live forever!!! Yay! It was pervasive. By trying to appeal to modern man with all of our innovations in the Church, we only confirmed to them that the world mattered more than the Church–and by extension the faith. After all, even we moved everything over for it. Since that was being taught more convincingly than anything else, Catholics in the pews learned it, and learned it well. People came to see religion as just one option among many, and this leads immediately in the modern minimalistic mind to imagining how you could do without the bothersome old thing. That’s what happened.

  51. midwestlady says:

    In a nutshell: The hermeneutic of rupture is the contention that the old Church was terminated in favor of a “New Church” at Vatican II, that there was a definitive break in tradition, customs, doctrine, practice and creed at the close of Vatican II. There were distinctive practices and views that accompanied this contention and you’ve probably all heard many of them. This combox is too small to use as a complete discussion. Many books can and have been written on the topic from all aspects.

    The Church has now spoken out definitively about this. The hermeneutic of rupture is a false contention. Common practices have changed because they are only temporal and can change, but the deposit of faith, the doctrine & teachings of the church and the tradition have not changed.

  52. midwestlady says:

    I think Todd and I agree on some practical things. I don’t subscribe to the hermeneutic of rupture as he does.

    I believe that the church we have now is the same church we’ve always had, with the same doctrine, creed, tradition and beliefs. The practices have changed somewhat but it has always been the case in the church that ordinary practices have changed with the times. There was no definitive break at Vatican II and I can tell you why:

    The Second Vatican council gets its authority in the very same way as all the other councils we’ve had, and there have been 21 in total. Because this is the case, they can’t contradict each other and have to be seen as a whole picture. This is why there can’t have been a break in the Church as the hermeneutic of rupture claims there was. It’s simply not possible.

  53. midwestlady says:

    And, Catherine, it’s not a “conservative” point of view. Todd may think I’m a radtrad or whatever, but I’m not. I’m neither “conservative” nor “progressive.” Those terms don’t really apply to what’s going on in the church because they’re American political terms and this isn’t American politics.

  54. Catherine says:

    Todd, I don’t blame the Council for everything, but anyone who didn’t think that there were bad things going on in the Church in the late 60s and early 70s was not paying attention. I suppose I am exactly the right age to have experienced one kind of Church, and then what started to seem like the absolute collapse of an entire Catholic world. I think it is difficult for younger people to appreciate how traumatic that era was, and not just for Catholics. Years ago, I was a freelancer for a leading Catholic publication. I had to stop writing for them, because I would cover certain events, and hear things said by priests and nuns that made my hair stand on end. Of course, the Council itself was not to blame, but it was used as an excuse for actions by people who did not have the welfare of the Church or the faithful at heart. How do we explain the almost complete abandonment of one of the sacraments, i.e., the Sacrament of Reconciliation? The total breakdown of religious orders that had survived the centuries? Something went wrong in that period. It is not unreasonable for people to look at the aftermath of the Council for clues to what that was.

  55. Catherine says:

    Thank you for the explanation, Midwestlady. I’ll look for more background on this. I endorse what you said above about what the world looked like to those of us around in 1960 — fresh, new, limitless. And then it all started to come apart…

  56. midwestlady says:

    Todd, I know that people get fixated on blaming leaders, but that is not the cause of the problem. Everything but everything does NOT flow from the top down like that, any more than it flows from the bottom up. Any relationship is an interplay.

    What happens today to me as a Catholic has far more to do with what goes on in my parish today (which is pretty much nothing) PLUS what I make of my faith today (which I hope will not be nothing but that’s 100% up to me). It has almost nothing to do with what’s on the bishop’s calendar or God forbid, the pope’s calendar.

    My Catholic life, it is true, is placed in a context that’s been determined to a large degree by the Church–its history and doctrines, creed and scripture. But that does not limit my creativity today; rather it gives it body and strength and a reason to be. The thing that weakens it is the lackadaisical response of the local parish to what we’ve been given PLUS the demands of the culture I live in. And this culture is intensely demanding.

  57. Catherine says:

    PS I certainly wouldn’t want to be part of a Church newly-created in the 1960s — one of the sources of comfort I have as I read the horrors coming out of the trial in Philly is the thought that I’m not just in a church with the abusers and their enablers, I’m in a church with Augustine, Aquinas, Teresa of Avila…well, you get the idea.

  58. midwestlady says:

    Yes, and now we find ourselves in an aging culture, trying to parcel out resources and obsessed with fairness, legality and time. Thus the minimalization of faith takes a new more contentious and more urgent tone. The culture demands that we minimalize our religion and just come along nicely. After all, we agreed with it before……..why are we being so difficult now?

  59. midwestlady says:

    Yes, Catherine. Those people are not just phantoms of the past. They are sources of strength and courage. They lived in tough times too, because after all, these aren’t the only tough times there ever were, and ours aren’t the only emergencies people ever faced. They got through and we will too, with faith.

  60. I think we agree on the gravity of the current situation. But I can’t agree that rupture is necessarily a problem. The very nature of conversion implies a break with the past, a rupture from sin and from old ways of doing things.

    “Beauty was out; function was in. Society was out; community was in. Patience was out; action was in. Persistence was out; efficiency was in.”

    Most of these were byproducts of industrialization. They didn’t just happen in the Church. It seems silly to blame Vatican II for many of the same experiences non-Catholics suffered.

  61. I’ll weigh in here as a critic of the Holy Father’s interpretation. I believe it to be a misdiagnosis of the situation as well as of the pastoral need in times of reform. A heroin addict doesn’t need continuity. An addict needs treatment, 12 Steps, a positive support system, and more often than not, a complete break with the people and situations that encourage addiction.

    Peter and his business partners didn’t give up fishing on Sundays to hang with Jesus part time. He left his nets and followed. “Rupture” is a delicious-sounding word, but I think what Pope Benedict is missing here is metanoia, a turning around that leads to renewal.

  62. I’d prefer to say I advocate for a “hermeneutic of metanoia.” And I have no problem self-identifying as either a liberal or a progressive. Or as an unorthodox orthodox Catholic.

    Catherine is right: I’m not all that much different than midwestlady. Do you know why?

  63. midwestlady says:

    Yup. They take it seriously. They demand more of your time and attention but you also get a lot more than they demand.

  64. midwestlady says:

    We also have a problem with new converts leaving after RCIA because they don’t “mainstream” into the parish. The convert experience in Catholicism is complex and difficult as you might imagine.

  65. I think “bad things” have always gone on in the Church. I don’t really believe in “exceptionalism,” the notion that one generation or another is inherently more or less moral, immoral, special, or what-have-you.

    I became a Catholic at age 11 in 1970. I found my Church to be lively and engaging, though not without its warts. My experience of the Church has been progress on the Bible, on theology, on liturgy and music, and on a sense of evangelization. But it’s also been one of institutional scandal, fear, retrenchment, and plain human failure and sin. It doesn’t faze me. That’s why, in part, I’ll never leave.

  66. midwestlady says:

    And yet, you’ve been busy blaming the hierarchy left and right in this thread. “Conservatives” and “progressives” have different focuses of blame, even though they’re both rabidly interested in blaming anyone but themselves. Conservatives tend to blame some evil people who take thing away from them, whoever those people are; progressives tend to blame the hierarchy. However, both groups are angry, both tend to be hyper-clerical, and both are fixated as hell on their own views of the world that are stuck like flypaper in the 20th century.

  67. midwestlady says:

    I can even be more specific than that: Conservatives tend to blame Vatican II itself, not the perversion of Vatican II, but Vatican II itself. And they’re not just joking or trying to figure out what happened. No, it’s a blanket condemnation. Old is better just because it’s old. Not for any logical reason, just that.

    On the other hand, progressives lambaste the hierarchy every single chance they get on every single issue they can think of. They agitated for a new church after Vatican 2 and they’re still agitating for it. Newer is better just because it’s new. Not for any logical reason, just that.

  68. No, I think this is a caricature. I’ve criticized the pope’s assessment–that’s not blame. But once I did blame groomed bishops–it is fairly demonstrable that decreased church attendance in Boston and other locations over the past ten years are linked to Cardinal Law and others who, by their actions, have not proved the leaders they needed to be.

    Liberals tend not to be clerical, though many of us do have fixations on groups of people.

  69. And also, I’m less interested in what other progressives have said or done. I don’t agree with all of them.

    For the record, I’m far more interested in applying monastic spirituality to mainstream Catholic life. Now *that* goes back a lot farther than even Trent, and is far more traditionalist than what passes for conservative in some Catholic circles these days. Many traditionalists are modernists compared to some of my views.

  70. midwestlady says:

    The Church is NOT a heroin addict.

    And, um, Todd you are claiming that you’re more Catholic than the pope, which is kind of funny. It sort of reminds me of the little rural anti-popes we have in this country. We’ve got a couple last time I checked. Have you seen those online? I won’t give names but you can google Kansas pope to find one of them.

  71. I think I have a point-of-view that differs to some degree from yours. It’s hardly an agenda in a sense of an attempt to discredit you personally. I just don’t think the facts back up many of your observations or opinions.

  72. midwestlady says:

    Again, the hermeneutic of rupture, hermeneutic of metanioa. Put any name on it you want, Todd. It’s the same thing. And it’s wrong.

  73. midwestlady says:

    Let me guess, Todd. We both believe parishes should do more.
    One difference though, among many. I don’t lambaste the pope every chance I get.

  74. No, but the Church is St Paul, St Francis, Ste Jeanne d’Arc, and many others who indeed embraced metanoia, a rupture from the past, if you will.

    I’m far from more Catholic than the pope. I just disagree with this one assessment of his. No more. No less. I can back up my observations with the testimony of the saints and Biblical figures.

    Disagreeing with the pope on a prudential assessment does not make me a pope. But if you care to show me more saints who adopted a gradual extraction from the world while gradually following Christ, I’m all eyes and ears for you.

    I’ll restate it. My sense is that conversion is indeed a rupture, and that the life of a believer involves a continual struggle to embrace God’s grace. And when we have failed, sometimes we need to break from sin. And to outsiders, it may well look like a rupture.

  75. midwestlady says:

    So is the experience of being an atheist a gift too. It’s an experience.

  76. Neither do I. I criticized one point: his diagnosis of rupture versus continuity. I happen to think he has a brilliant mind, he is a mystagogue with few peers, and I believe he is sincerely devoted to the Church.

    You don’t need to guess. You can always ask.

  77. midwestlady says:

    That’s not true. I’m a secular Franciscan and St. Francis would read you out at the top of his lungs for defying the pope the way you do. The things you list are creative adaptations WITHIN the tradition of the church. They are not ruptures. The HUMILIATI and the WALDENSIANS were ruptures and that’s why they’re gone.

  78. Defiance is a caricature. The caps are impolite.

    If you wish to continue this discussion, please do so by email. I am easy enough to locate in at least two locations. I welcome continuing dialogue there, or on my web site. It is likely you and I have tried the patience of our blog post and some of his readers. Good day to you.

  79. midwestlady says:

    You have to understand that there was very big difference between a group like a Waldensian group and a Franciscan group. In the 13th century, there was a lot of unrest, corruption and apostacy, just like now. There were many reformers that emerged from the ancient folk practice of the penitents. Most of them started out meaning well, but they defied the Church and fell into grave troubles, not only with the Church, but with their own people and with townspeople. They were not genuine as they were agitating for change on their own terms and soon became as corrupt as anyone else.

    St. Francis was a dramatic departure from the popular culture of “would-be reformers” from which he emerged. He was uncompromisingly faithful to the Church, and sought to reform practice in the existing Church. There are writings of his, and writings by his close associates in the 3 orders that attest to this.

  80. midwestlady says:

    Barbara, my question should have a question mark. Like this:
    So is the experience of being an atheist a gift too? It’s an experience.

    Faith, Barbara, is more than an experience. You can have an experience like a halucination, but that’s not faith. It’s a phenomenon, and it could even be a medical phenomenon, not having any content in reality on the experiential level.

    Faith happens on another level with another faculty in another part of you, in your soul. And your imagination and your other faculties come along when your soul stimulates them or overflows. This is why you can still have faith when you are in hardship, or your prayer goes dry and you feel nothing and still you go on. Only God can give you faith in a magnificent working partnership between you and He. If you have faith, you are fortunate indeed.

  81. Catherine says:

    OK, Todd, I’ll bite — why are you and Midwestlady alike?

  82. Fascinating comments. I don’t disagree or agree necessarily with any of them…just trying to learn after 75 yr but still confusing to me. Generalizing about anything is difficult for me. I grew up Catholic, Catholic schools before university, strong Catholic parents and wife. But I drifted away for many years because faith wasn’t strong enough I would guess. I’ve studied the Catholic faith some more in these later years and I still have trouble believing. I’ve just simplified the mystery to the 10 commandments and the sacraments that apply. I credit all my success to God and yet I don’t believe in prayer except to give thanks. I’ve never seen where it changes anything. I don’t need “community” nor do I particularly want it. The Church is a not a “crutch” for me. I never miss Mass anymore and the Eucharist is a must for me. And finally, V2 changes that led to the very distracting singing throughout the Mass, the silly hand-holding and arm-waving–i refuse to do it–are negatives for me. Am I eccentric or what? A Catholic forever.

  83. Catherine says:

    Aha — I just came up with a guess. Is it because you are both converts?

  84. We are both intentional Catholics.

  85. midwestlady,

    I don’t live in the midwest. I’m in the south. I have to say that my experience of Catholicism on the ground is a bit different. Certainly, Mass is the primary experience of Catholicism for Catholics, at least those who do bother to attend. I have to disagree about the arguing about birth control and gay people, though I don’t disagree about the religious vs. secular message (ie: I was aghast when I read here that Catholic Churches in New Jersey schedule sports practices and games on Sunday mornings!) I, for my part, have never heard a sermon about gays, have heard only one about birth control in my entire life (I’ll be fifty-one this year), and have rarely engaged in a discussion about birth control or gays among my fellow parishioners. Certainly using birth control is no obstacle to getting married in the Church, anymore than is co-habiting before marriage. Being married outside the Church is no obstacle to assuming or being granted leadership positions in the parish, anymore than it is an obstacle to receiving the Blessed Sacrament. One of the recent Grand Knights at our parish K of C chapter is married outside the Church, and another is on his third marriage (or fourth, not sure). Being gay is no obstacle, either. We’ve had four music ministers over the last twelve years at my parish (well, one of the parishes I attend; it’s a long story), and three of them have been gay. The one who was married was run off by the associate pastor who wouldn’t stop hitting on him. I really think that the big issues that consume so much of the headlines have little to do with the on the ground experience of Catholics. Or, at least, no one that I know of at the parish level is actually arguing about them. Honestly, I think if anybody has much ground to gripe about not being respected or represented at the parish level, it’s those Catholics who are committed to living what the Church teaches.

    Living in the south, I have lots of Protestant friends (few Muslims), but I don’t find in my conversations with them that they’re doing so much better spiritually. Yes, they may talk a good game, but the divorce rate among even conservative Protestant Christians is through the roof, so much so among Protestant clergy that it’s become a scandal for them (though I’ve never read a story about it in the secular papers). I think the dissatisfaction is across all religious divides, frankly, and even secular divides.

    As for not being attended to spiritually, I’m not sure what the answer to that is. There are opportunities, I know. Golly, it’s almost constant that we’re hearing about another small group starting, or some parish program for prayer or bible study that everyone’s encouraged to sign up for. It’s a rare Sunday anymore than someone isn’t manning a table after Mass asking for volunteers for something or other, or to join the next prayer group or book group or study or what have you. The pot lucks and ministry dinners are so numerous a family could probably eat for a week without bothering to cook for themselves. I wonder if the not being fed spiritually really comes down to, again, I’m not getting the Jesus I want, so why bother.

  86. MId west lady- I disagree with you strongly about Vatican II imposing a minimalism on the faithful. Vatican II greatly improved the huge problem of Catholic spirituality and dogma which I will call ” trickle down spirituality”. Many people were activated by Vatican II and became readers, Communion Ministers both at Mass and to the sick and homebound. Many liturgical ministers find a real significance in this participation. Since Vatican II, “Father” just doesn’t say mass AT us any more, but the liturgy is in English, there is a greater emphasis on better homilies, and lay people act as the liturgical ministers.
    Also, I take issue with your contention that progressives criticize the hierarchy “not for any logical reason”. People are always giving logical reasons: 1) the wasted billions of dollars in the sex scandals, prolonged suffering of victims and their families due to the mismanagement of the problem and the solution; 2) secretive unaccountability with the laity; 3) lack of “real world experience” in making and enforcing policies, and in declaring doctrines 4) culture of misogyny; 5) obsession with micro-management and “control” in the spirituality of the faithful; 6) institutional culture hostile to married priesthood for cradle Catholics (not just married Episcopalians) and hostility to women’s ordination . There are more. The criticisms are not illogical.

  87. midwestlady says:


    Thank you for replying with an account of what your situation is like. It’s interesting. The thing that sticks out for me is how many pot lucks you have. Wow! You must be in a big parish.

  88. midwestlady says:

    “I wonder if the not being fed spiritually really comes down to, again, I’m not getting the Jesus I want, so why bother.”

    This is a typically Catholic response. And it’s why people do a lot of the things they do. I mean, if a person is looking for something more than 45 minutes a week and out the door, is this the Catholic answer? AKA “Figure it out for yourself,” or “tough,” or “there’s something wrong with that?” See this is the uphill battle in the Church. Minimalism. Minimalism. This is why people go off looking for something else and until Catholics confront this basic fact, we’re going to continue losing people.

  89. midwestlady says:

    As opposed to cultural Catholics, Todd? Yes, I think you’re correct on that one. We are both intentional Catholics, I think.

  90. No, it’s not a big parish. We’re small by most big city standards. But, being a small diocese, there aren’t many options. There are only five parishes in our city, and that’s counting the university center (two more are outside city lines but in our county), and our city is the See city.

    I was being a bit hyperbolic, but we do seem to have a bunch of dinners. It’s very regular, anyway. The bottom line is, if people want community, and they want to be spiritually fed, there’s no short supply of opportunity.

  91. midwestlady says:

    Drake, years ago after my formal conversion, when I first looked at this problem in some detail, I realized that Catholics still do the same things as they did pre-Vatican 2, but they do them with a different intention and a different amount of “overtness.” I think that there’s been some minimalism for a great long time, and although it was certainly present, it wasn’t really overt among laypeople before Vatican II. It may have been somewhat overt higher up, but not among laypeople. That changed after Vatican II, to become far more overt. I’ve been an observer for a long time, some of that as an analytical observer. My sister converted long before I did.

    Before Vatican II, I was a witness to some lightning fast masses, those head doilies, strange artworks, burying statues in the yard, etc, all of which looked pretty silly to me at the time. But even those things were approached by Catholics with a sense of purpose and Catholicity, so I was respectful about it. But I was also witness to some very earnest religious observance and piety, which didn’t look silly at all. They were very earnest and intentional, even I could tell that.

    After Vatican II, the piety with which things were approached diminished for a lot of reasons. And many of the things I considered “strange” or “silly” also diminished, and they took with them the strong sense of identity & commitment–the earnestness–I had seen before Vatican II. It was almost as if everyone had realized a great disillusionment, that somehow they called off the party because the cake and ice cream didn’t arrive after all. It was strange. There was a lot of making-do. And one of those ways of making-do was turning to the culture for comfort and meaning. And this is what happened. The whole thing shifted from what it maybe incipiently or covertly was, to what it overtly and patently is. You might say people are being more honest about it now, or you might say they don’t realize what they need and they’re grasping for what they need but don’t know how to find it. Or you might say both.

  92. midwestlady says:

    Yeah, Drake, you can see how much better it is in Buffalo. Over 30% of the Catholics there love the new way of doing things so much that they up and left.

  93. Catherine says:

    Drake, I don’t think Midwestlady was saying that Vatican II imposed minimalism — I think she was describing the positions of some conservatives who do blame Vatican II for everything – she didn’t say she was one of them. I’m not a progressive, by anyone’s standard, but I agree with many of the criticisms you list, with the exception of “hostility to women’s ordination.” There is a case to be made that a married priesthood is part of the tradition of the Church, and could be a constructive step towards bringing the churches of East and West together again. I would have no problem should the church begin ordaining married men. No such case can be made for ordaining women, and the experiment in the Anglican church has been devastating for them.

  94. midwestlady says:

    It collapsed, Drake. It fell in on itself and it’s still falling. 31% in 10 years is astonishing, I mean sci-fi astonishing. Even if the apologetic estimate of 19%, which is probably there only to save face, is correct, it’s still bizarre, shocking and completely foreboding. There is no way to explain that sort of decline away as a fluke. This is what happened in Europe 20 years ago.

    Did you take a good look at that Camden survey posted in the Camden thread the other day? It tells a similar story. It’s not just Buffalo.

  95. midwestlady says:

    I was describing things across the spectrum, Catherine. Conservatives have their version of minimalism; progressives have their version; pew Catholics have a version. It’s something that’s crept up on us and become increasingly acceptable and desirable on us as a church.

    There is evidence that it started to creep in before Vatican II, but was somewhat covert because of commitment and piety before the shocks of Vatican II. I’m talking about laypeople in the pews now, not intelligentsia types, pre-conciliar theologians, religious specialists or anything like that. There is evidence of some experimentation along minimalist lines among them a few decades earlier. But the rank-and-file laity really wasn’t aware of a lot of that.

  96. Catherine says:

    I have to say that I do think more “bad things” happen in some eras than in others. In the Church, we have seen eras of corruption and eras of renewal. These things don’t happen purely because of abstract forces, but because people made wrong choices. I don’t make the mistake of thinking Catholicism started with the Council of Trent, but I don’t think it started with Vatican II, either. There was a vibrant, distinctly Catholic community when I was very young that splintered during my young adulthood. Now, when I go to confession, and find a church empty, except for the priest in the confessional, or when I see Catholic schools being closed all over the place, I can’t call what I’ve seen happen in the American church in my adult life “progress.”

  97. Catherine says:

    Midwestlady, I think your description of the spectrum is pretty accurate.

  98. midwestlady says:

    There may be more than one way to describe “intentional,” so let me be clear: I am Catholic on purpose. I am a convert, as Catherine has remarked, and I believe that you are too, correct Todd?

    I do not belong to what they call and “intentional Eucharistic community” the way I see it described online. I do belong to a normal Catholic parish.

    I am also a Secular Franciscan and work at building and maintaining a Christian, Catholic and Franciscan life.

  99. pagansister says:

    VERY well said, Kenneth! :o)

  100. Deacon Norb says:

    Catherine at 8:54am this morning said:

    “The total breakdown of religious orders that had survived the centuries? Something went wrong in that period. It is not unreasonable for people to look at the aftermath of the Council for clues to what that was.”

    I have been away from the blog for a while but — now that I am back — I have rather enjoyed watching the intensity of this specific comment stream.

    To reply to Catherine’s above remarks. It is far more reasonable to look at the church of the 1950′s for clues as to what went wrong — if anything — in that period. The roots of dissonance were there long before Vatican II.

    –Over the years, I have interviewed several formation directors/ mistresses of novices ( whatever they may be called) — the folks in those religious communities who took big hits during the “Great Exodus.” To a person, they insist that the men and women who left their religious communities in 1968 should NEVER (and that is the exact word they used) have been there in the first place. Lots of specific reasons: but parental pressure and women’s liberation seem to continually surface. Recall that prior to 1960; the only way a Catholic adult woman could have a graduate degree and a strong professional career (doctors/nurses/hospital administrators/ college professors/business managers/ portfolio managers/ etc) was if she was a religious sister

    –A large majority of the bishops and priests (and yes, the few deacons) who were caught up in the pedophile crisis were products of seminary formation PRIOR to — or during the early stages of — the Council. Please examine whatever raw data that you may be able to find from your own diocese. I did examine a large pool — and of some 50+ bishops and priests so identified that I did some research on — all of them had deep roots in the pre-concilliar church in some way.

    I am a big fan of Vatican II — have always been a big fan of Vatican II. The council hit exactly when I was a student at a major Catholic University and it totally changed my faith forever. It was empowering, energizing, and I am a stronger Roman Catholic because of it.

    Whenever I read comments disparaging Vatican II, I wonder why folks are making those rather dogmatic statements about what the council was or was not about when they do not have a clue.

  101. midwestlady says:

    Not only that, Deacon Norb, but the aftermath of the council was decidedly different for the laity than it was for consecrated religious. The laity had one set of directives to deal with; the consecrated religious had quite another because they had been directed to go back to the sources, and honestly some of the congregations founded to staff a particular school or hospital or provide a particular service couldn’t go back to the roots! In a lot of cases, they either couldn’t figure out what they were, or the building had long since been torn down and they’d gone on to other things.

    This is why the laity and the consecrated religious (sisters, nuns, monks, friars, but especially sisters) are in such a different place now than laypeople are. Don’t let the diminishing numbers fool you. The mechanisms are far different.

  102. midwestlady says:

    Ooops. Typo: This is why the laity and the consecrated religious (sisters, nuns, monks, friars, but especially sisters) are in such a different place now (edit). Don’t let the diminishing numbers fool you. The mechanisms are far different.

    This business about consecrated religious life is really another topic entirely.

  103. midwestlady says:

    Well, you see, the timing was just right for you. It perhaps coincided with a period in your life when you wanted to commit to something new and different and young. And that’s what you took away from it, which is wonderful. But that’s not how it hit many people. For many people it was the occasion of much pain and suffering. It still is, even after all these years, and those people are not scoundrels, nor are they weirdos. Many of them sit in every parish in every town across the country but they no longer weep because you can only weep for so long. Now they just do what they need to do. Or not.

    As I put farther up in the thread, I’m a convert, and I was an observer of the Church for many years before I was willing to commit to it, as may converts are. So I don’t have the over-whelming pain that some endured but I have seen it and I am sorry for the tragedy of it. I understand it because it’s loving and losing which is familiar to me.

    I love history, and I love the history of the Church. I’m fairly open-minded but it pains me to see the church flounder and diminish like it is in the US and Europe. The minimalism, the inertia and cheapness of the practice of the faith in the modern age pains me. I am well-enough read to realize that these things have happened before and honestly, they probably have to happen. It’s how things work, right? Growth, decay, failure, regeneration: lather, rinse, repeat. It’s the frailty of human beings at work. Even with God’s help, we cannot refrain from it. About every 500 years or so, it seems, this happens. St. Francis saw the one 2 cycles ago. I see this one. Yet, I still find it difficult to accept because it’s happened now. In my lifetime. I ask myself: How deep are we into the decay? How far will we fall? No one ever knows the answers to these questions but God.

    It’s possible that the popular reaction to the 2nd Vatican Council was a display of the decline-in-the-making and that’s what we really saw. Or it’s possible that God will use even that to make something new further, much further on down the road after we’re all gone. The bright light is the growth in Asia and Africa. Perhaps God will raise up a new creative culture or another great and brilliant saint, this time with an African or Asian face, now that the faith is being de-European-ized, and that was really the point of Vatican II. Or perhaps this is how the world finally winds down, now that just about everyone has finally heard the Good News, which was among the most pressing goals of the Gospels. I don’t know.

  104. I would hazard a guess that the exodus has more to do with stridency of adherents of either end of the Catholic spectrum. It is this stridency that leads people to see that their spiritual needs, and emotional needs are not being met. Vatican II was a response to a variety of issues that both of John predecessors notices. I doubt that anyone expected the responses on either end of the spectrurm of Catholic thought. Instead of looking to blame an event or each other, I think that if both extremes toned it down, and focused on the two greatest commandments, and lived them the church would be growing again. It might be surprising how many things that make us catholics are agreed on, and how few disagreed on.

  105. Catherine says:

    Well, I don’t think I made any dogmatic statements about Vatican II. My favorite Catholic writer is Frank Sheed, who was a great advocate of reform, so I am not one who thinks all movements for reform in the pre-Conciliar decades were a bad thing. I’m sure there were people in the priesthood and religious orders back then who should not have been there. Believe me, I knew some of them. When I was writing for a Catholic publication back in the 80s, I met members of religious orders who clearly didn’t believe Catholic teachings on…well, on anything. Some of them stayed in their orders because they didn’t have anywhere else to go, and did a lot of damage. This wasn’t so nice for the naive lay people who sent the checks! It sounds like you are a bit older than I am. If you attended a Catholic college in the early sixties, believe me, you missed some of the worst of the unpleasantness of the era. I think my age group caught the worst of it, including some of the more distressing changes in the Church.

  106. midwestlady says:

    What you have there is another variation of minimalism, albeit a softly-stated and more subtle version. You’re telling a certain percent of the Catholic population, after they’ve had their allotted 45 minutes a week, “tough,” “figure it out yourself,” and “that’s the program and that can be all there is to it because I said so” and “this is not real, it’s only a thing I was born into and let’s get it over with as soon as possible and get back to what really matters.”
    Is that really all Catholicism is or should be? When did it get to be that?

  107. midwestlady says:

    No Catherine, I think I’m closer to your age. I grew up in a small town and the school here didn’t react to the council right away. There was some foot-dragging here, although the parish came along when it had to, and actually that very parish is a real mess now.

  108. Catherine says:

    Sorry have confused matters, Midwestlady. I was trying to respond to Deacon Norb’s response to me. He said, “I am a big fan of Vatican II — have always been a big fan of Vatican II. The council hit exactly when I was a student at a major Catholic University and it totally changed my faith forever.” The Council hit when I was in grade school, so I am a bit (:-))younger than he is.

  109. Midwestlady
    You carefully ignore the thrust of my comment – the stridency of people on either end of the spectrum. Instead you make an accusation. I am not telling any set of Catholics that they have 45 minutes, I am suggesting that the urge that you present in this blog in other places is why people leave the church. Instead of acceptance and charity you set sides. Instead of thinking about how you may be judged, you judge. You are the person who has stated that as a convert this is what I believe and then react when life-long catholics disagree, saying you think it ok to diss a convert.
    You are right lets get back to what really matters – it is our belief in the Eucharist that makes us Catholic, it is the Nicene Creed and our belief in that which makes us Catholic. It is following ALL of the Magisterium that makes us Catholic. I is attempting to follow what Christ demanded of us that makes us Catholic. It is not picking apart what other people say as they try to be practicing Catholics.

  110. Midwestlady says:

    Andrew, you said: “I am suggesting that the urge that you present in this blog in other places is why people leave the church.”
    Yes, by golly, that’s what I’ve been saying and you got that point, at least.

    I’m not heavily concerned about whether I’m being judged or not. I know that might be an anomaly among Catholics, many of whom are hypersensitive about being judged, but this is the internet, and you can’t control what other people thing, and you shouldn’t try. Being judged is not particularly an issue for me. I’m interested in the ideas around why people leave the church. After all, that’s what this thread was actually about–the fall in membership in the church in Buffalo, New York.

    I reacted with my statement about dissing converts, because when certain people couldn’t come up with anything about my questions and assertions that was logical and sequential, they simply lobbed “you don’t know what you’re talking about because you’re a convert” at me. And now you’re doing it too!

    Andrew, are you saying that it’s off-limits, out of bounds, to actually talk about what the word “Catholic” might mean in a variety of contexts? Are you saying that it’s taboo to discuss what it might mean to be Catholic, not Catholic or ex-Catholic? Including the context of Buffalo, New York, where 31% of the Catholic population has up and left in the last 10 years? Interesting.

  111. Midwestlady says:

    BTW, Andrew yes, people leave the church over just such “urges” which are really “needs” that are not being filled by the huge number of moribund parishes in the US.

    But leaving and talking about why they leave are NOT the same thing. It’s not a taboo subject if it is to be understood or remedied. As the old, but useful, saying goes, “If you want to get better, first you have to admit you have a problem.”

  112. IntoTheWest says:

    Well said, Andy.

  113. IntoTheWest says:

    No, midwestlady, you made some appalling comments and then, when pressed to explain yourself, you dodged the question while deliberately misrepresenting other people’s words. You’re an overbearing boor, which is why so very few people continue to respond to your posts after a while.

  114. Midwestlady says:

    Well, hello, IntoTheWest,

    I would return the compliment but I don’t usually call people names in blogs, so I won’t elaborate. I think, in fact, you were the one who lambasted me with the fact that I wasn’t a cradle catholic.

    I repeat what I told Andrew, because it bears repeating. You can’t control what other people think. You might want to, but you can’t.

  115. IntoTheWest says:

    Nope. Didn’t “lambaste” you because you weren’t a cradle Catholic. Not at all. Merely pointed out that, after all your self-aggrandizing, pompous holier-than-thou posturing, you had exhibited a complete lack of understanding about what Catholicism is.

    I don’t want to control what other people think. I think it’s far more interesting to let them spew what they think all over the place. Like your thinking that it is somehow fitting to require your fellow Catholics to attend various parish events in order to be deemed Catholics in good standing. That sentence told me exactly what you think and what you are. It’s good information to have, and all I’ll ever need to know about you.

    Anyway, continue having “discussions” with yourself. You might want to think about getting your own blog instead of usurping the comboxes of other people’s blogs in order to respond ad nauseam, including responding to yourself…which is just bizarre.

  116. Midwestlady says:


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