From the Director’s Desk…
Why Lose Catholics?
I just reviewed two months worth of news reports about parish closings. I found that 12 U.S. and two Canadian dioceses are planning to close or merge as many as 131 parishes, most because of the priest shortage. And those are just the ones we know about. Many dioceses aren’t saying how many parishes might close. Most are downsizing parishes to fit the number of priests, saying that a parish of 300 families isn’t big enough to stay open. Far too few are using parish life coordinators to keep parish communities together.
What no one seems to realize is that even after we get through this first round of closings, we’ll have to do it all over again. Take Boston for example. You remember. In 2004, Boston tried to suppress 84 parishes, at least in part to pay for the clergy sex abuse scandal. This led to parish protests, vigils, and canonical appeals. In the end only 64 Boston parishes closed. But it didn’t help. The Boston Archdiocese just announced the need for another reconfiguration process. Seems that by 2015 Boston expects to have just 212 parish priests for its 295 parishes.
At the recent consistory elevating new cardinals, Cardinal Kasper called upon the Catholic Church to critically self-examine itself in view of the “exponential” rise of Pentecostal groups. "It is necessary to make a pastoral examination of conscience and ask ourselves in a self-critical way why so many Christians are leaving our church," the Cardinal said.
I wonder. Are Catholics leaving the Church, or is the hierarchical church leaving them?
A 2005 survey of U.S. Catholics found that 81% would welcome back priests who left the active ministry to marry, 75% think celibacy should be optional, 61% believe that celibate women should be allowed to be priests and 54% believe married women should be allowed to be priests.
Why is it so hard for the hierarchy to think outside the box and welcome all the abundant vocations God is sending us, and not just the male celibate variety?
Would it be so hard to allow more lay participation in Church decision making?
If we did, we might be surprised at how many more Catholics stay Catholic.
A good friend recently told me her daily review of the Lives of the Saints showed that many, if not most, spent their lives “working for the reform of the church.”
If it’s true that we are all called to be saints, then the changes we seek are just a matter of time.
But how many Catholics will we lose in the meantime?
Sr. Chris Schenk CSJ, Executive Director