Friday, April 13, 2007

About Mass Attendance

Recently, Abp. Dolan has asked parish priests to increase Mass attendance by 20% in the Archdiocese of Milwaukeee. This has spurred a few thoughts.

Terry Berres read the article in the Catholic Herald newspaper and extracted the following:

"Across the board, 37 percent of members show up on a regular basis to weekly Mass," according to an Archdiocesan planner.

That's interesting. Another source, CARA, offers the following statistics:

The Gallup Poll tells us that weekly-Mass attendance in the USA was 67% in 1965, 54% in 1975, 53% in 1985, 47% in 1995, 52% in 2000, and 45% in 2004. However, CARA's own data paints a VERY different picture.

According to CARA (a Georgetown U.-based organization,) weekly Mass attendance in 2000 was 33%, rising to 35% in 2005, and 36% in 2006.

Hmmm. Was it 52% or 33% in 2000? 35% (2005) or 45% (2004)? (There is a slight methodological difference which can be noted when reading the left-column stat-gathering basis.)

And then there's another voice--that of Fr. Reesman, a newly-ordained priest now assigned to St. Mary's/Elm Grove WI.

Fr. Reesman (who gets exceptionally favorable comments from Catholics whom I know) observes that the Archdiocesan list of 'suggestions' for increasing attendance may have a lacuna or two:

It is unsettling to see that praying and fasting for increased parish participation and Mass
attendance does not appear anywhere on the list now circulating. Which seems to suggest that we are ignoring the most fundamental piece of the problem: a lack of faith, not just on the part of
those who don’t show up for Mass, but also on the part of those of us who do.


Like the Evangelicals, we should be asking ourselves if we really think it makes a difference to
be Catholic or not...Young people do desire service and justice work, but when that is uncoupled from the cultic and the identifiably symbolic elements of faith and worship, it is merely social work. Anyone can do that- why be Catholic if you can join the Peace Corps instead?


Hospitality, hymns, and name tags are interesting ideas. But they strike me as falling into the
trap of those Evangelical congregations that tap into emotional or even fad centered trends to
hold onto members


If anything has replaced the ethnic parishes of the past, it is the new “niche-market” parish that
caters to the hospitality folks, the conservative folks, the social justice folks, the rich folks, or the
poor folks, etc, etc. The more Mass is tinkered with, the more we balkanize the diocese. Perhaps
the simplest remedy to all of the above is to follow the liturgical rituals as they are written and
published. If we do not, we create a generation of “church-shopping” Catholics looking for a
parish that meets their preferences and ideas, which is, at base, a formula for producing worship
of ourselves rather than God

So long as Fr. Reesman brought up all that 'cultic' liturgical stuff in combination with lingo-differences, he might have suggested LATIN Masses (in the Pauline Rite, of course)--but I quibble.

Fr R asks another question:

Initiatives to invite fallen away Catholics to return to church and to walk with new families are
always a good idea. But when we get people to church, do they have a reason to stay? Or are we
convincing them that being Catholic is just as good as being Congregationalist, Buddhist, or
nothing (because God loves them anyway).

Tolerance? or Anomie?? Indifferentism, with certainty.

And the trenchant close:

John the Baptist did not tell the crowds to gather into focus groups and put on name tags to upbeat music. He told them to repent. He told them to pray. Perhaps we should try doing the same.

Which leads me to an observation which Fr. Reesman's youth may (or may not) have allowed him to make:

Well over 50% of the people who leave the Catholic Church leave over issues 'beneath the belt.' Like it or not, forbidding divorce/remarriage without annulment and forbidding artificial contraception are Church teachings which fly directly in the face of the "sex, drugs, rock'n'roll" society of the 1960's. They are "hard teachings" of the first water.

And people who don't like them simply leave. I'll give them credit for being honest.

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