success stories

Posted June 14, 2004

Why are our Catholic Churches half empty?

Children of the Council

by Andrew Greeley in America June 7-14, 2004
To read the complete article please purchase America


The conclusion of the article by Greeley

The Blame Game

So who is to "blame"? [For half empty churches] The fathers of the council for reintroducing change into the church? Their predecessors, who governed the church with threats of sin and damnation? Leaders who postponed change for so long that the release of pint-up pressures caused a revolution?  Leaders of the church after the council, who, having lost their nerve, tried desperately to restore some of the status quo ante through more rules and condemnation? Parish priests who believed that they could keep people in church on Sunday no matter how dull and boring the "celebration" was? Priests how denied the evident truth that their homiliesbored the laity to death? Liturgists whose fussy rubrical games were indifferent to the religious needs of the laity? All of the above?  

Make your own choice.  But do not blame the laity, as many priests and bishops do.  The laity neither preserved the old wineskins beyond due time nor poured the new wine into them, nor did they fail to lead wisely in the years after the wineskins broke.  

[I would like to add to Greeley's suggestions, the fact that the church never embraced social engineering needed to establish the changes of the council. It never had a well thought out game plan on how to create change and utilize proven change strategies in a disciplined manner. It didn't go anthropological and enter into where the laity truly are in their daily lives. Nor did it use the media to its fullest to educate the people in the pews about the necessity of change and its post-modern benefits. It maintains a logic of thinking that has not as yet added to its thinking the benefits of the social sciences. Nor has it appreciated how the social sciences and theology complement each other. Social engineering is not a panacea in itself, but better utilized would have enhanced the changes of the council.]  

[In the Dictionary of Spirituality under the concept of prophecy,  a prophet is one who studies as well as possible the social conditions so that he or she can speak directly to their benefits and ills. In a very true way, a prophet is a sociologist and anthropologist who knows his people and their circumstances in detail. If the church started from this logic of thinking, one wonders how many more Catholics would be in our churches now volunteering their services and enhancing our faith communities. The better they were understood and spoken to on the level they are at, the more effective would have been our church. Understanding requires council,  research and a humble disposition that says, "Am I on your wave length, and do you feel you are on my wave length? Are we sharing our spaces with each other?" We still don't know how to talk to each other because we still do not know each other well enough.]