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Christian Chicken Littledom

Lots of reaction from all over to that Pew Report on the decline of Christianity in America.

Eric Sammons on the Catholic blog One Peter Five is anxious: [3]

The first, and most important, take-away should be this: what we are currently doing isn’t working. I realize this might come across as blindingly obvious, but for many Catholic leaders it doesn’t appear to be. If you attend a typical Catholic event today, most of the talk will be about how great everything is: our schools, our parishes, our youth groups, etc. Nary any mention of the reality that our pews are emptying.

Another take-away should also be clear: this is not a simple problem with a simple solution. Millions upon millions of people are leaving the Catholic Church, and to assume it is for one reason alone would be terribly naïve and simplistic. Any attempt to stem the tide of fallen-away Catholics will need to be multi-faceted and address problems in every aspect of Catholic life.

The complexity of the problem doesn’t mean we just throw up our hands and give up. I think there is something buried in the Pew numbers that is revealing, and points to a possible solution. When you look at the “religious switchers,” it is clear that the mainline Protestants and Catholics are the worst at attracting new members, and the best at repelling existing members. Yet look at other faith traditions, such as Evangelical Protestants, Mormons, and Muslims: you see that they were able to maintain their numbers in an era of religious decline– the Evangelicals actually added more members than they lost.

Is there anything they hold in common, as opposed to mainline Protestants and Catholics?

According to Sammon, they take their faith seriously.

Orthodox Christians are so few on the ground in the US that they barely made a blip on the survey, but we are slightly declining. Gabe Martini, in a comment that appeared a few days ago (so was not in response to the Pew data), says that the chronic tribe-at-prayer ethnic clubbery of US Orthodox parishes is holding back growth, and preventing the Church from doing what it’s supposed to do for its people, and for the world. Excerpt:

For example, when a parish focuses practically all of its energies on an annual ethnic festival, what are they telling the world? That our faith is reducible to middle eastern treats and dancing? That our Church really is only for a certain culture or people? And what about the names we choose for our parishes? By leaving “Greek,” “Russian,” or “Antiochian” on our signs and letterheads, are we unintentionally misleading the world around us to think that the Orthodox Church is not a catholic and universal Church, but is rather solely for a particular ethnicity or tongue? These are simple matters, and quite subtle, but they all add up.

change_me

What if a parish devoted all of its efforts to catechizing the inquirers of their community? On smaller groups for fellowship, communication, and instruction? On creating true families with those they share a common faith, rather than simply with whom they share a common blood? (For an example that puts most canonical Orthodox churches to shame, see this presentation from the Copts—a people “being killed all day long” by extremists in Egypt and elsewhere, who yet have the time to focus on the Gospel for English-speaking people.)

What if parishes cancelled their annual ethnic festivals, and instead hosted choral performances that included full translations of the sacred hymns, and a presentation of the Orthodox theology of music and arts at the end? What if those in attendance were then invited to experience an Orthodox Vespers service immediately afterwards? Better yet, what if all of the parish’s efforts were directed towards making worship beautiful and heavenly? The statistics show that the people will come, they will stay, and the money problems will take care of themselves.

At Christianity Today [4], Ed Stetzer says Christianity is not dying, Christianity-In-Name-Only is:

Christianity isn’t dying and no research says it is; the statistics about Christians in America are simply starting to show a clearer picture of what American Christianity is becoming—less nominal, more defined, and more outside of the mainstream of American culture.
For example, the cultural cost of calling yourself “Christian” is starting to outweigh the cultural benefit, so those who do not identify as a “Christian” according to their convictions are starting to identify as “nones” because it’s more culturally savvy.
Because of this, the statistics show (on the surface) that Christianity in America is experiencing a sharp decline. However, that’s the path of those who don’t read beyond the surface. If there remains a relatively stable church-engaged, convictional minority, and there is a big movement on self-identification, that means that the middle is going away.

As the Pew Forum’s Conrad Hackett explained (before this release of the data):

To some extent, this seems to be a phenomenon in which people with low levels of religious commitment are now more likely to identify as religiously unaffiliated, whereas in earlier decades such people would have identified as Christian, Jewish or as part of some other religious group.

In short, and as I put it, the “nominals” are becoming the “nones” AND convictional Christian practice is a minority, but generally stable, population. If that is the case, and that is what the data is showing, than the decline is primarily (not exclusively) that nominal Christians are becoming honest reporters.

Russell Moore says the same thing: [5]

Bible Belt near-Christianity is teetering. I say let it fall. For much of the twentieth century, especially in the South and parts of the Midwest, one had to at least claim to be a Christian to be “normal.” During the Cold War, that meant distinguishing oneself from atheistic Communism. At other times, it has meant seeing churchgoing as a way to be seen as a good parent, a good neighbor, and a regular person. It took courage to be an atheist, because explicit unbelief meant social marginalization. Rising rates of secularization, along with individualism, means that those days are over—and good riddance to them.

Again, this means some bad things for the American social compact. In the Bible Belt of, say, the 1940s, there were people who didn’t, for example, divorce, even though they wanted out of their marriages. In many of these cases, the motive wasn’t obedience to Jesus’ command on marriage but instead because they knew that a divorce would marginalize them from their communities. In that sense, their “traditional family values” were motivated by the same thing that motivated the religious leaders who rejected Jesus—fear of being “put out of the synagogue.” Now, to be sure, that kept some children in intact families. But that’s hardly revival.

Secularization in America means that we have fewer incognito atheists. Those who don’t believe can say so—and still find spouses, get jobs, volunteer with the PTA, and even run for office. This is good news because the kind of “Christianity” that is a means to an end—even if that end is “traditional family values”—is what J. Gresham Machen rightly called “liberalism,” and it is an entirely different religion from the apostolic faith handed down by Jesus Christ.

Here’s what I think:

1. Moore and Stetzer are mostly right. This is a winnowing-out of nominal Christians, and it could make the church stronger. The down side of this is that a post-Christian culture can and will slide into an anti-Christian culture, one that will not content itself to let us be weirdoes off by ourselves, but will actively attempt to suppress us. I am certain this will happen. It may be good for us, ultimately, but I cannot say that I’m looking forward to watching institutions be torn apart.

2. This will probably be good for the Orthodox Church, because it might force leadership stuck on worshiping ethnicity and ethnic identity to grasp that this is the way to death. An Orthodoxy that is about nothing more than the tribe at prayer is not true Orthodoxy, and will not survive in a culture in which there is no felt social pressure to go to church. On the other hand, as the Episcopal church’s experience shows, a leadership class can be willing to suffer staggering decline and still double down on the path to suicide. By the time the leadership in many Orthodox churches realize how far it has declined, it might be too late to turn back from the falls.

Orthodoxy is also going to have to learn how to evangelize. This may be hard at first, because Orthodoxy is not a form of Christianity that can easily be summed up. It is strange for Americans, and it is demanding. Yet this is its strength! But it somehow has to figure out how to get Americans to come see for themselves what it’s like.

3. This is a disaster for Mainline Protestantism. But you knew that. This is not news. I am aware of some Mainline congregations in Dallas that are genuinely thriving, but as far as I can tell, they are doing so because they are resisting the denominational tide toward liberalization and conformity with the world.

4. Catholicism is in the most difficult position of all. In my experience as a Catholic, most of Catholicism at the parish level is effectively Mainline Protestantism, with the same milquetoast preaching, catechesis, and spirituality that is killing those churches. The challenge is that Catholic ecclesiology makes it difficult for the faithful to church-shop for parishes where the priest and the ethos is robustly Catholic. And a priest who is strongly evangelical and orthodox in his Catholicism may run into a buzzsaw of laity who reject the Church’s teaching, and want to keep the desultory status quo, and try to shut him down. A particular challenge that orthodox Catholic parents have is that they sometimes have to work against the institutional church to raise children who know and believe what their church teaches.

I don’t have the faintest idea how parish life can be revived under these conditions. Maybe you do. Those Catholics who want to remain Catholic, and want their children to remain Catholic, are going to have to give up waiting for the institution to come to their aid, and get about doing the work themselves, somehow. I suspect movements within the Catholic Church, like Communion & Liberation, will grow in prominence.

The overall bottom line: churches that do not give people a reason to stay, and — more importantly — do not form them in the habits of the mind and heart that thicken their attachment to the practice of the faith — will continue to unwind. When I talk about the Benedict Option, I’m talking about embracing practices that anchor us more deeply to God and to our faith traditions. We are all — Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox — going to have to start thinking and behaving more monastically. Try to be all things to all people, and you will be nothing to a dwindling number. Evangelize, yes, but stop focusing so much on seekers, and instead build up the faith of finders.

81 Comments (Open | Close)

81 Comments To "Christian Chicken Littledom"

#1 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On May 13, 2015 @ 4:25 pm

@Hector_St_Clare, the data claims that nones are growing and their median age is falling. So no matter how you slice it any birthrate advantages aren’t helping. There are more nones, either by birth, apostasy, or both.

#2 Comment By grumpy realist On May 13, 2015 @ 6:36 pm

Brigid–this old canard again…..it’s quite possible to have a consistent system of ethics without belief in a Big Honcho up there with a thunderbolt to smite people who go against His laws. I suggest looking at the philosophies developed by the Greeks and Romans–the Stoics, Epicureans, Neo-platonists, etc. Or you could look at societies throughout the world. China has traditionally had two philosophies–Confucianism and Taoism. Lots of gods, but not in existence as authorities for either of the philosophies.(Unless you want to claim that the Chinese treated Confucius and Lao-Tze as Prime Movers, which they definitely didn’t.)

Please don’t confuse the existence of a system of ethics with requiring a god. It’s more convenient to have a god around to act as buttressing authority for your system of ethics, but it isn’t necessary.

#3 Comment By J_A On May 13, 2015 @ 6:44 pm

Hector_St_Clare says at 10:39 am

“What do you have to offer me?

Everlasting life. The forgiveness of sin, and the ability (and duty) to deal with others knowing their sins are forgiven too. And the love and approval of the only Person whose love and approval ultimately matters.

I think that’s rather a big deal.”

But everlasting life is not a gift to Catholics, or to Christians alone, but to all mankind. And for sure God loves His Muslim snd Budhist and Hindi children as much as His Catholic children. Otherwise, ahis love and approval would be contingent on accidents of birth. Is being born in the country with the (capital T) True religion a requisite to be loved by God?

I would posit that God loves equally all of His children that act with goodness and charity towards each other, irrespective of arbitrary definitions of sin (is dancing sin? Drinking alcohol? Eating pork? )

#4 Comment By Eric On May 13, 2015 @ 6:57 pm

“How else do you have laws or morals without some sort of religion.”

With the empathy that all of us except psychopaths possess. Even chimps have morals.

#5 Comment By JonF311 On May 13, 2015 @ 7:30 pm

Re: I hope we will see you at the liturgy on Sunday morning in our parish!

My flight home that Sunday does not leave until very late in the afternoon, so I plan to be there.

(By the way, you realize this captcha with its burgers and steaks and pizza will be a source of major temptation to some of us next fast!)

#6 Comment By bruce On May 13, 2015 @ 8:41 pm

I am an apparently rare thing — a recent convert to the United Methodist Church. Sunday Communion has become a surprisingly important part of my life, and what or host denigrates as MTD theology works pretty well for me. I appreciate the appeal — and the works — of some doctrinally precise churches, but if you want me to believe your 14 points of truth … Well, sorry. John Wesley had my number.

What I will say about my church, though, is that we do more evangelize. The Mormons spend two years of their youth knocking on doors talking about Joseph Smith’s revelation. Evangelicals will stop you on the street corner and ask about your soul. Methodists? Whoa. We don’t roll that way.

And of course, there is probably a whole long conversation to have about churches too shy of their convictions to even invite a friend.

#7 Comment By VikingLS On May 13, 2015 @ 9:34 pm

Unless the festivals are actaully a distration from the work of the church I don’t see the problem with them, but the healthiest parishes I know don’t have them.

#8 Comment By Chris Atwood On May 13, 2015 @ 9:44 pm

Stetzer and Moore are NOT right and present no evidence whatsoever to show that they are. A broad trend does not work like they think it does–affecting only those on the edges, and not those on the high end of commitment. Think of it this way: there are zones of commitment from totally commitment to fairly committed to somewhat committed to not very committed. When a trend like “less interest in bowling clubs” happens, it will be obvious in those marginally interested actually dropping out and the number of barely hanging on bowling clubs disappear. But simultaneously with those in the not very committed category dropping out, your going to also see movements from the totally committed to fairly committed from the fairly committed to somewhat committed from not very committed at all. If you actually read the report the decline in Christian affiliation did not just influence the Bible Belt or the South, it influenced every region of the country and every demographic. Are you telling me that 30 year old North Easterners were going to church because in 2002 it was “the thing to do” due to social pressure? Uh-huh. But the decline hit them as well. Where do these “nominal Christians” keep coming from? Well, when a trend of decline like this hits, they’re on average the last decade’s somewhat committed believers.

People like Stetzer and Moore, who let wishful thinking override elementary common sense, are examples of the problem, not the solution.

#9 Comment By Bernie On May 13, 2015 @ 10:50 pm

“This, however, is where I see a ray of hope for LGBT people of faith. There is a opportunity here, for any faith community up to the task, to truly reform the Christian church into what it was meant to be in the first place — a community that accepts people where they are and offers them genuine love and support.”

Reform is indeed needed for Christian churches that do not welcome LGBT people. Catholic teaching is that all homosexuals are to be loved and not discriminated against. The homosexuals in my small southern town are welcomed to Mass by the community – they are our friends.

We accept them for who they are and I hope they accept me for who I am – a sister in Christ and a sinner. As a Catholic, when I have seriously sinned, I must go to confession before I can receive the Eucharist. This is true of ALL CATHOLICS. I could have engaged in pornography, seriously cheated or slandered my neighbor, practiced unethical business practices that hurt others, engaged in adultery or cohabitation, made an idol of popularity by joining in bullying others, etc., etc. I need to repent, be sorry for my sin, and make a firm resolution not to commit these serious sins again. Only then may I receive the Eucharist, or my Communion is sacrilegious, which is another grave sin.

It is not the welcoming of LGBT people that is often the issue in the Catholic Church. It is the negative emotions and division that occur in the congregation when known ACTIVE gays in the community present themselves for Communion. This is an affront to the Holy Eucharist and presents scandal to the community – and the recipients know it. This behavior is an insult to everything Catholics hold holy about the Eucharist. A chaste homosexual is welcome to receive Communion, but not one who engages in sodomy when he is not sorry for this and has no intention of stopping it.

It is seriously incorrect to believe that the early Christian Church did not instruct and expect Christians to change their lives and go to confession for serious sin before receiving the Eucharist. It is not because they did not accept and love them; it was because Scripture demanded this. There is ample writing among the early Church Fathers regarding confession to a priest and its relationship to the reception of the Eucharist. See:

[6]

#10 Comment By KD On May 13, 2015 @ 10:59 pm

“Heidegger: If I may answer briefly, and perhaps clumsily, but after long reflection: philosophy will be unable to effect any immediate change in the current state of the world. This is true not only of philosophy but of all purely human reflection and endeavor. Only a god can save us. The only possibility available to us is that by thinking and poetizing we prepare a readiness for the appearance of a god, or for the absence of a god in [our] decline, insofar as in view of the absent god we are in a state of decline.27

SPIEGEL: Is there a correlation between your thinking and the emergence of this god? Is there here in your view a causal connection? Do you feel that we can bring a god forth by our thinking?

Heidegger: We can not bring him forth by our thinking. At best we can awaken a readiness to wait [for him].”

The Spiegel Interview, 1966

#11 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On May 13, 2015 @ 11:44 pm

I just want the right-wing interpretation of God’s will to stop imposing its beliefs on me and my community. That means I want my gay friends to marry if they desire. I have as many gay friends as I have Christian friends, and I see no reason why the one group should impose its Biblical/Natural Law interpretations on the other group which does not share those interpretations.

If Christianity had never existed, if every doctrine in sacred texts concerning homosexuality had never been written, it would still be equally possible for any given culture to abhor homosexuality. It would be no mor or less true, nor more or less bigoted, for the lack of religious foundation.

I want my gay friends to marry if they desire… is the kind of whining narcissism I have been noting for some time. What you want, and what your gay friends desire, are worth discussing, but there is no particular reason that it should or must happen. It may, in the civil context, be a reasonable request. It is, in any case, the right of any Metropolitan Baptist Church to perform marriage rites for a gay couple.

Irving… if you don’t like America, go back where you or your ancestors came from. 🙂

#12 Comment By mhornbeam On May 13, 2015 @ 11:48 pm

Hector –

Those are all good things. I don’t want you to think I am discounting anything you have said.

In sales you have to come from the other person’s point of view. (Forgive me but I sold furniture so I can explain it a little better with those examples)

I could not sell a sofa on the merits of my favorite features. I may love the look of a really contemporary sofa but the customer may be looking for comfort. I can’t convince the customer to want what I like, I have to find what is important to them and give them what they want.

That’s where I think the church is failing. I do not want the Church to change its message or change its beliefs in any way. I may think women should be ordained so I go to a church where our head pastor is a woman. But I would not go to the Catholic Church and demand that they change (others do, I know, but I don’t think that’s right).

You may find eternal life compelling, others don’t. You have to find out what the person you’re evangelizing wants or thinks is important and find a way to give it to them. Does that make sense?

#13 Comment By panda On May 14, 2015 @ 6:46 am

Brigid:

A. “I think it illustrates that the 1/2 inch deep philosophy is not appealing to people, especial young people.”

B. “How else do you have laws or morals without some sort of religion. If there is not God or any sort of higher power why shouldn’t someone lie, cheat, and steal to get the job with the most money. ”

Thanks for this little bit of comedy in the early morning of a busy day!

#14 Comment By KD On May 14, 2015 @ 7:25 am

Grumpy Realist writes:

“it’s quite possible to have a consistent system of ethics without belief in a Big Honcho up there with a thunderbolt to smite people who go against His laws.”

What is a consistent “system of ethics”?

Morals means customs. We can talk about a system of customs, but the “system” in this sense is that the customs are wide-spread and viewed as obligatory on all members of the community. In other words, piety. It is unclear how you preserve a system of customs without some sense of reverence and unquestioning obedience. Obviously, this does not require belief in a comic book super hero in the sky, as none of the Fathers of the Christian Church ever believed in such a being, yet there was a system of customs which prevaded and defined Christendom.

Most “systems of ethics” I encounter are a bunch of empty phrases, unless they emerge out of generalizations about systems of real customs (e.g. Christian ethics). “Freedom”, “Good” etc. mean whatever your party says it means, or even better, mean your ability to practice whatever base impulses you may have against the better judgment of society (while, of course, denying the same to other people). When your party takes power, they can create an ethical system in divorce or quasi-divorce from Christian customs, like the German National Socialist Workers Party or the Bolsheviks or our friends ISIS.

People in the cultural destruction business (devaluation of traditional customs and mocking reverence for tradition) are not interested in creating anarchy for its own sake. Power abhors a vacuum, and where the family and the church recede, the State will follow.

#15 Comment By KD On May 14, 2015 @ 7:42 am

If you seek to supplant customs that promote fertility, and replace them with customs that promote sterility, then there is no future for you and your followers. This is eternal law.

#16 Comment By grumpy realist On May 14, 2015 @ 11:19 am

KD–WHAAAT? So you think that the only reason that the Japanese are able to work together so well in a group culture is PIETY?!!

What stuff have you been smoking?!

#17 Comment By JonF On May 14, 2015 @ 1:07 pm

Re: If you seek to supplant customs that promote fertility, and replace them with customs that promote sterility, then there is no future for you and your followers.

Which is why the original Benedictine communities doomed Christendom in the early Middle Ages. (That’s not a trivial criticism; I’ve seen demographic studies which strongly support the theory that the popularity of monasticism greatly hindered Europe’s recovery from the population collapse of the 6th century. What it did not hinder was Christianity)

#18 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On May 14, 2015 @ 2:14 pm

I could not sell a sofa on the merits of my favorite features. I may love the look of a really contemporary sofa but the customer may be looking for comfort. I can’t convince the customer to want what I like, I have to find what is important to them and give them what they want.

One should not confuse commerce with religion, any more than one should pretend that the government can be “run like a business.” In the latter instance, government makes no profit and has no source of revenue except taxes. In the former case, a religion is offering what it sincerely believes to be the ultimate, cosmic, transcendent Truth, without which nothing else really makes sense. This cannot be amended to “give the customer what s/he wants.”

What churches can do better is work on how to get the attention of people who might respond to the church’s message. Last time I went to Walgreen’s, there was a guy age 45-50 shouting at people that “Jesus Christ hung on nails for you.” He was not getting anyone’s attention. On the other hand, that orthodox Presbyterian who got the future Mrs. Butterfield’s attention… he got something right, whether his doctrine is right or not.

Churches also need to constantly evaluate whether they are living up to their own teachings. Martin Luther King was effective, among other reasons, because he challenged many religions on the basis that they were not, and there was something they could do about that. Even the Southern Baptists got the mention in the end — the Gospel trumped the worldly concerns of the denominations’ founders.

#19 Comment By KD On May 14, 2015 @ 2:38 pm

Why I am a culturalist and a Darwin skeptic comes down to the traditional function of religion in society: to facilitate social cooperation in non-kinship groups, which makes it possible for human beings to create social organizations beyond the level of family or extend clan. This cooperation is not based primarily on coercion, but on a shared aesthetic or love for a particular vision of life. Critical to human evolution, at least, are irreducibly holistic and teleological cultural systems of meaning/language/symbolism. This is why people adopt unrelated children.

Attacks on customs/religion/family break down social cooperation, and necessitate increased coercion. Thus, true liberalism, in my view, must be pluralistic, about maintaining semi-autonomous social institutions between the citizen and the government, not about “individual rights” which are used to destroy the institutions that could check the abuse of state power. It is in the space between social institutions, and between tradition and law, that a real individualism is possible.

#20 Comment By KD On May 14, 2015 @ 2:47 pm

Grump Realist:

Piety is reverence for your received customs. It’s why people pick up someone else’s garbage on the beach when no one is around. For example, Christian cultures developed a separation between the Institutions of the Church and the Institutions of the State. Obviously, this is completely arbitrary. Many societies don’t do that. Yet some people regard the Christian principal of Church and State with reverence, and with little actual rational justification. Likewise, freedom of conscience is one of those flakey Protestant ideas–why shouldn’t the State tell you what to believe? All atheist states do.

#21 Comment By mhornbeam On May 14, 2015 @ 3:50 pm

Siarlys –

I am not trying to conflate the two – like I said the examples work better for me.

I agree with you, the Church needs to get the attention of the people. Some people respond better to the salvation part, some people want the beauty, some people want the community and on and on. That guy outside Wal-Mart might make a few people listen to him if he connects with what they want. He is telling people what he wants to hear and he confuses that with what other people want to hear.

#22 Comment By KD On May 14, 2015 @ 4:16 pm

JonF writes:

“Which is why the original Benedictine communities doomed Christendom in the early Middle Ages.”

You can imagine what would have happened if 40% had become celibate–which is about the order of the fertility difference between seculars and traditionalists.

#23 Comment By Rob G On May 14, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

“Piety is reverence for your received customs.”

W. Berry refers to it as “affection.” See his Jefferson Lecture from a couple years ago.

#24 Comment By Kathleen On May 14, 2015 @ 6:28 pm

Dominic 1955 says:

“How wrong they (we) are! Our Faith teaches us that the Church is indefectible, the Pope and the Ordinary Magisterium is infallible-so why worry?”

Dominic, thank you for sharing much insight.

The problem is that “ex opere operato” is breaking down for me. It’s starting to feel cheap to say a three “Hail Marys” and an “Our Father” for penance.

As an aside, for a really bad sins, perhaps a more appropriate penitence would be to read the Vatican II document, “Gaudium et Spes” instead of saying three “Hail Marys”. I was surprised to hear Catholics refer to these documents with so much undeserved reverence. I have been forcing myself to read these things. Gaudium et Spec is a prime specimen of the ambiguity, dated sociological insight and mid-20th Century arrogance that characterizes all Vatican II documents in lesser or greater measure.

Reminds me of other historical documents: [7]

Back to ex opere operato. The priests are losing my respect. If they cannot discern what sin is, how can they forgive it? If they are unable to uphold nearly 2000 years of church teaching on sexual ethics and instruct the faithful in accord with the Catechism, how am I to respect them? I know, my Protestant roots are showing.

After disappointment following conversion, I decided to take a look at the cold hard truths of the present Church. I read “Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church” by Catholic author, Leon Podles. Podles documents how sex rings of priests sodomized altar boys. Priests would absolve each other before moving on to the next boy. If “ex opere operato” is all that is necessary to regain a right relationship with God, then priests are absolved before moving on to the next boy. This does not work for me. I am grappling with “ex opere operato” and do not have the theological training to find my way through the thicket.

When I point out my concerns to Catholics, they are often dismissive; they will point out that the Church has always had problems. Of course this is true.

But some mystics portend significant problems with the Church and do not so easily dismiss our present predicament: I have been reading about 20th Century Catholic mystics and Marian apparitions. “The Fourth Secret” by Italian journalist, Antonio Socci documents appearances of Our Lady and how she has repeatedly come to warn us of the coming chastisements due to the Church’s sacrilege and heresy.

Also, professor of religious studies, Joseph Laycock’s “The Seer of Bayside: Veronica Leuken and the Struggle to Define Catholicism” offers perceptive analysis on how the modernization and immanentization of Vatican II, rendered the Catholic hierarchy unable and unwilling to engage in dialogue and offer constructive guidance to the 20th Century (fairly odd) mystic, Veronica Leuken.

Laycock’s book:

[8]

Socci’s book: [9]

#25 Comment By Kathleen On May 14, 2015 @ 6:31 pm

Sorry, Rod. I meant to post the above under “Changing the Church from Within”. Will post it there instead.

#26 Comment By KD On May 15, 2015 @ 12:35 am

[10]

#27 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On May 15, 2015 @ 5:57 am

@JonF, the sixth century wasn’t all bad. The Chinese scholar Yan Zhitui makes the first reference to the use of toilet paper in history. I’d say humanity was on the march!

#28 Comment By JonF311 On May 15, 2015 @ 7:16 am

Re: You can imagine what would have happened if 40% had become celibate–which is about the order of the fertility difference between seculars and traditionalists.

Are you seriously claiming that 40% of the people nowadays have no children?
Also do bear in mind that right up until the late 19th century roughly half of all children did not live to adulthood (yes, there was a lot of variance in that figure). Population grew very, very slowly because of this, because the effective fertility rate when taking childhood mortality into account was right around replacement. It was not even uncommon for a family to suffer the loss of all its children.

#29 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On May 15, 2015 @ 9:27 am

It’s not about IQ or educational attainment

Uh, the relationship between female education level and fertility is much stronger than the relationship between religion and fertility so, yes, it is about IQ and educational attainment. (Evangelical Christians have about 65% more children than nonreligious women: high school educated women have closer to three times as many children as graduate school educated ones.)

In fact, it’s quite possible that the religion-fertility link is due entirely to the fact that traditionalist Christians tend to be less educated. If that’s the case, then as religiosity falls off among the working class, the religion-fertility link will vanish. It’s also possible that similar psychometric traits incline people to both religious traditionalism and high fertility. Either way, though, the link between religious traditionalism and fertility is quantitatively smaller, and more causally dubious, than a lot of people seem to think.

#30 Comment By KD On May 15, 2015 @ 9:43 am

JonF311: I don’t know how to explain this. If you plant seeds, and 40% die off, its the same as if you plant seeds, and the collective yield of your plants is down 40%.

But don’t believe me, see my link to what the Humanists are saying. After all, they are the only group that doesn’t suffer from science denial and understands population genetics.

#31 Comment By CatherineNY On May 15, 2015 @ 2:18 pm

The Onion is all over the Pew report: [11]