This is the church, this is its steeple, open the doors, and -
hey! where the hell are all the young people?
What's the Church?
There is an interesting article on Global Pulse asking the perennial question, "Why are young people leaving the Church in such numbers?"
Religious people, bishops and priests and Catholic educators, and apparently parents and grandparents seem to be constantly wringing their hands over youth leaving the Church, stop going to Mass, and living in
How to get them back? That seems to be the question - or should it be, "Why did they leave?" How about, "Were they ever 'there'?"
Loosing my religion.
The Pulse article by Thomas Baker is actually his review of a new book on the subject:
Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church by Christian Smith, Kyle Longest, Jonathan Hill, and Karl Christofferson, Oxford University Press.A line in the review which caught my attention, pointed out that the majority of 'emerging Catholic adults" seem to be those who are "perhaps willing to identify themselves as Catholic, attending Mass sporadically at best, and in general living life with their Catholic identity as a more dormant, if not entirely irrelevant, force." Is this the demographic the Synod Fathers are concerned about? Are they the marginalized on the peripheries? Because if they are, they are stuck in between two "pockets" of very, very traditional young Catholics, and those who are totally and completely "disengaged" - gone.
It seems to me all the discussion on the 'how to get them back' needs to be dealt with after we understand the causes which led to their leaving in the first place - or perhaps admitting they - along with their parents - were never really there.
As Brown points out - but doesn't seem to be convinced it is the only reason:
The article goes on to discuss the issues young people use to explain their 'falling away' - reasons which also are an all too familiar trope:
But never mind the post hoc theorizing—what do these young people themselves report about the reasons for their weakened ties to Catholicism? There is little evidence from the authors’ interviews that the issues so neuralgic for many Commonweal readers—the male hierarchy, bad preaching, sexual abuse, the church’s position on gay Catholics and marriage, the alliance of so many bishops with Republican political agendas—are at the top of their list of problems. (Other studies, such as those cited by Robert Putnam and David Campbell in American Grace, do suggest a recent trend of young people abandoning religion because of its closer alignment with conservative politics.) Instead, the most obvious factor identified in both the interviews and the survey data in Young Catholic America seems to be disaffection from Catholic sexual teaching, dramatically so with respect to both premarital sex and birth control. - GPI have no doubt we will be hearing the abuse crisis excuse for decades. The problems with Catholic sexual teaching is nothing new - it has pretty much been the dominate complaint for the second half of the 20th century including today. Hence the Synod on the Family.
Which leads me to the Hollywood Boulevard interviews I sometimes catch if and when I watch Jimmy Kimmel.
The Pope and the bishops and intellectuals need to watch more TV - then maybe they will 'get it'. Popular culture is a mirror - look real close, and you will see the underbelly of decadent 'virtue'. Watch - but be careful - sometimes you may see real Catholics on late night who think they know something, but they sometimes just screw it up more. Colbert too? Yup. And his quests.
That said, the other night, Kimmel did one of his interviews of passers by on the 'Walk of Fame'. It is a funny sequence because they show the strangest people with the dumbest answers to the most preposterous questions. Among the questions last night was, "Who is the Pope?" or "Do you know who the Pope is?"
Of course it is random and I know it is not scientific and all of that. I know it is anecdotal and not real data - but believe me - it's not atypical. No one knew who was pope. One woman came close - responding, "Some guy - I think John Paul 2 or somethin'. Did I get it right? Did I get it?" Others said, "Some old guy quit and another took his place - I dunno." The standard was "Some old guy." and one said "Huh?" He didn't know what a pope was.
Some of the 'contestants' were high or on their way to get high - maybe that explains part of it?
My point here is that I'll bet not many young people care about what the Church teaches, or what the Synod Fathers are discussing, or how cool the Pope is - or even who or what he is.
I think that may be a point in Baker's review as well... maybe not.
One thing I am convinced of however is this - any further attempt at watering down Catholic teaching will not attract authentic conversions. It hasn't worked that way for well over 50 years, I don't see how it could be effective now.
Instead of reformation, I think we need restoration.
But who am I? No one. Just some guy without credentials.
A Kimmel interview on Hollywood Blvd.
Words of wisdom...