The Crisis in the Pews

The Crisis in the Pews June 16, 2023

If you’re a Catholic who regularly attends Mass, I’m sure you have noticed that the pews are not as crowded these days as they have been in the past. If your parish is like mine, you will also see the people in the seats predominantly have either gray or no hair. This is a growing and serious issue for the Catholic Church. Mass attendance is down significantly with fewer young people attending regularly. What has happened to cause this? Let’s take a look.

Where Did Everyone Go?

There have been a number of significant factors that have contributed to this problem. I believe first and foremost the sex scandal has been a huge contributor. Another growing problem for the Catholic Church has been the division amongst the American people resulting in increased attacks on Catholics as well as the Church itself. 

Is the Scandal Finally Over?

Who knows? There is more focus on the problem, but the Church has been “less than forthcoming” in my opinion as to what is being done to find any remaining offenders, and victims yet to come forward. The lack of transparency has resulted in a complete lack of trust in the Church where the scandal is concerned. Granted, the Pope made changes to Canon Law by revoking the “Rule of Pontifical Secrecy” that had been used to deny access to victims and law enforcement of data obtained investigating sex abuse charges. we need to ask who thought this was a good idea in the first place. The Church also announced that they were making “changes” to what the Vatican considered “child pornography.” I cannot understand why there is subjectivity there. There have been a number of investigations from outside law enforcement agencies, but very few convictions. I believe that over 99+% of priests and other clergy are good people helping their flock to find God and live in harmony with Him. If the Church intends to truly address the crisis in confidence related to the scandal, I believe they need to get out of the way and have outside organizations review their policies and all complaints related to the scandal, and share the results publicly. Until then there will always be questions.

Challenges to Church Attendance

The decline in mass attendance started in the 60s and 70s as society in general became “less religious”. There is some data indicating that Pope Pius XII started to see some decline back in the 50s. It is estimated that since 1970 mass attendance has dropped over 30%. 

The scandal exacerbated the problem significantly and the lack of response from the Church has been a major contributor. Covid kept people from attending Mass in-person, and streaming live Mass via video was our only option. In today’s world technology is embraced and continues to keep some people away from in-person Mass. 

Society may have been “less religious” back in the 60s and 70s, but there is an all out assault on the church and catholic values in general leading up to today. The “Sanctity of Human Life” is under attack in society in general and the catholic church specifically since we stand first and foremost for all life. Now with our government “weaponized” to go after its political and ideological enemies the overriding message is we are the extremists and do not represent the core values of society. God is not considered a part of the “core values” of society. 

What’s Next?

In my opinion we need to continue to hold the Church accountable for transparency on required process/procedure changes, and remaining prosecution for open cases related to the sex scandal. The Church needs to step aside and show Catholics they have the necessary checks and balances needed to prevent and/or detect future occurrences.

I also believe all Catholics need to embrace our responsibility to be evangelists for God. We as Catholics need to stand firm to preach God’s message in an effort to get people to embrace God’s values and not society’s. We need to live the Gospel ignoring the noise from society and be the example for others who may be afraid to speak out. We can start in our own communities in an effort to bring as many people as possible back to Mass. What we as Catholics allow is what will continue. There is so much more at stake than just attendance at Mass, but it has to start somewhere.

God Bless



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