Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bishop Wenski comments on decline in Catholics in the US

A recent Pew Research Study found the number of Catholics in decline in the US, despite large numbers of Latino Catholic immigrants. Bishop Thomas Wenski comments at Catholic Exchange.
"Something changed though when their children and grandchildren(of early 20th century Italian, Irish, Polish immigrants) entered into the American mainstream. Catholics were assimilated - or absorbed - into American culture resulting in an erosion of Catholic identity. The parish play a lesser role in their lives. The strong individualism of our culture undermines the sense of a "collective identity". And thus Americans become individual "consumers" of religion, picking their religious identity "a la carte" as it were. Churches are seen as merely voluntary organizations and affiliation or non affiliation a matter of personal taste or choice. The attraction of the Evangelical denominations with their emphasis on the therapeutic side of faith seems to bear this out."
Monisgnor Michael Mozia, a Moral Theologian on sabbatical from the seminary where he is a professor his native Nigeria, has written 8 books on this and similar subjects, which I will be reviewing in the next few months. He has been coming to the USA for summers since 1996 and has some keen insights into the spiritual decline of Catholicism in the USA. He says that, "The three biggest enemies of the faith are: materialism, secularism and consumerism".
We see ourselves a consumers who pick and choose which church makes us comfortable. Now, I certainly advocate choosing a parish wisely, however, others take this too far and choose the denomination which allows them to live with the least amount of sacrifice. And for too many, this is NOT the Catholic Church.
We also compartmentilize our lives, leaving religion for Sunday morning, if there's no soccer game, that is. We don't want Christ having more of our lives than necessary, we don't want to stand out as different, and risk rejection. And we don't let anything get in the way of our passionate pursuit of the almighty dollar.
May the Lord have mercy on Americans, to whom so much has been given, and who give so little in return!


Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

Msgr. Mozia has an important insight here. Do you have a reference?

Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

In fact, I can go further. When Jesus spoke of the frailty of faith in the parable of the sower and the seed, he identified the seed that fell on the foot path (the dominant culture, in this case, secularism), the seed that fell upon rock (philosophical pragmatism, or materialism, symbolically represented by having a hard head), and the seed that fell among thorns (consumerism, or an excessive concern with material well-being). People in the first group are easily led away by the lies of the devil. People in the second group are quickly discouraged from the practice of faith when they find it impractical -- ultimately ignoring, or missing the point of, the role of grace. People in the third group easily fail in the practice of faith (even though they continue to believe) because their love is dominated by various lusts.