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Reader Mail On ‘Kids Staying Catholic’ Post

Only 35% of US Catholic parents care a lot about whether or not their kids become Catholic adults. Readers react
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So much mail in response to this post I put up about how only 35 percent of US Catholic parents say it matters a lot to them that their kids share their religious beliefs as adults that I started a new post. I want to share with you Lee Podles' comment on the original, in case you missed it:

Why has Catholicism in America (and other countries) collapsed so rapidly? Did Vatican II cause or contribute to the collapse? Or would the collapse have been worse without Vatican II?

Sociologists are puzzled by the rapid and almost complete evaporation of Catholicism in countries such as Holland. When they seek explanations, all people can tell them is “when I was young people went to church; that was a different era, now nobody goes to church.” But why did the change occur? It occurred in so many countries since the 1960s it is unlikely that there were causes unique to each country. There must a common element.

And whatever it was, it did not affect all Christian groups equally. Catholics were harder hit than conservative Evangelical Protestants, and liberal Mainline Protestants were as hard hit as Catholics. In my native city, Baltimore, there has been a 99% decline in mass attendance (there are also demographic factors in play). When I was a teenager, 250,000 Catholics attended mass very Sunday in the city of Baltimore; in 2022, 2,500 attend on a given Sunday. And the State of Maryland hasn’t yet released the Attorney General’s report on sexual abuse in the Baltimore archdiocese; I expect the number of people attending mass will be halved again.

I think that a major factor was the pace of change initiated by Vatican II. Catholics had developed habits, and suddenly many of them were broken: Mass was in English and Latin forbidden, Friday abstinence was abolished. Sexual morality was widely questioned by priest and theologians. The Catholic Church had developed a culture in which everything – teaching, rituals, disciplines, devotions, customs ¬¬-- reinforced everything else, and suddenly everything seemed up for grabs. There was no certainty; all Church teachings were called into question, even if they were not denied. Mainline Protestants had already gone through this process and had declined earlier, but now Catholics were going down the same slope. Pope Francis, who seems stuck in the 1960s, seems to think that Catholicism is overly rigid and needs loosening up. He is only accelerating the decline.

By contrast, Evangelical Protestants at least looked to the Bible for certainty. This certainty has helped preserve them to some extent from erosion; but can it last indefinitely? I wish them well; they are the main group preserving a Christian presence in America.
Some Catholics want a restoration of pre-Vatican II Catholicism. A key to the restoration is to restore the fear of hell. Catholics, according to this group, don’t believe that everyone is in immediate danger of going to hell. That is why they don’t evangelize, that is why they don’t go to mass, that is why they don’t go to confession, that is why they don’t join religious orders. They don’t fear enough about their salvation and the salvation of others. In other words, Catholicism’s strength is based on the fear of hellfire it can use to motivate its members to do the right thing. It worked for a long while, but I doubt it could work again.

Basing a religion on fear rather than on a love of the good may work for a while, but I have doubts that it is ultimately in accord with the message of the Gospel.

When I was growing up, most people in my parish attended mass because it was obligatory and missing it was a mortal sin which, if unconfessed, would inevitably send the person to hell. When the fear evaporated, so did the attendance

I am now in an Ordinariate parish, which as a 1½ - 2 hour sung mass every Sunday preceded by an hour of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and followed by a 1½-2 hour breakfast. People drive from the far exurbs to come. The large majority of the congregation is small children. The children are disappointed when they have to go to a church with a shorter mass, and even (and this astonishes me) will later watch our solemn mass which has been live streamed. I can’t remember a single hell fire sermon in this church; people come not because they fear punishment, but because they love God and seek to worship Him in beauty and because they joy in one another’s company. I think this is a sounder basis for religion, and children who grow up in it are, I hope and think, less likely to fall away.


Here's a letter from a Catholic priest:

You wrote, "one important one is that many bishops and priests are trying to be all things to all people, and keep everybody happy by being as generic as possible."  I think it is more accurate to say that many bishops and priests are trying to keep everyone over the age of 70 happy by being as generic as possible.

I've been a priest for over 25 years. In that time, the Catholic Church has become a social club for old people, and most of those who belong to the club are not interested in welcoming younger people.  We all know that for many years, young people are more drawn to transcendental sacred liturgy and a faith that demands something of them than the banal worship typically desired by older folks.  You have seen that in the Orthodox Church. 

Over the last decade or so, young priests have brought practices that fostered transcendence (offering Mass ad orientem, adding altar rails, offering the Traditional Latin Mass, the use of chant, etc.).  They have often preached on difficult topics and challenged people to repent of their sins.  These are the things that draw young people to Mass but more often than not, older parishioners would complain to the pastors and write letters to the bishops.  The bishops only hear the complaints (and many of them would be in agreement).  The priests are then called in and told in no uncertain terms to stop upsetting the faithful.  The practices stop and the young people then find the only place to go is a Traditional Latin Mass community.  While I have no problem with that, it is sad that so many young people do not feel welcome in their own local parishes.   

There is a real divide in the Church between those over 60 and those under 50.  Those over 60 run the Church.  The bishops and laity see their parishes as social clubs and they really have little desire to accommodate others who desire more formal and transcendent worship and a religion that makes demands on them.  Ninety five percent of the practicing Catholics I know who are in their 20s and 30s attend either Traditional Latin Mass communities or the few parishes that offer a more reverent and traditional Ordinary Form Mass.  The rest have drifted away, in part, because of the banality of the typical parish in the United States.  

Another reader:

I'm not sure if you saw the results of this other Pew survey, but parents seem to be similarly disenchanted with the ideas of marriage and parenthood: 


So parents don't care if their children share their faith, find a spouse or have children, but it's really important that they have a lucrative career?

There's a saying that I keep coming back to, people don't have ideas; ideas have people. And I think the current ideas (secular, post-modernist, moralistic therapeutic deism, girl/guy-boss individualism) have a solid grip on the vast majority of Americans and we're too convinced that we're stunning and brave, against-the-grain individuals to see it. We swim in modernity. We breathe it. Our children are daily baptized and catechized in it. And if we don't have a real grounding in something eternal, it will subsume us and our children.

As a mother of three young kids, it's alarming and the thing that keeps me up at night. We've moved to a more conservative church that preaches the Gospel, actively catechizes members (currently with the Heidelberg Catechism, which is a beautiful and moving work), and started a small classical high school to minister to families. My husband and I teach the importance of faith, marriage/children and fidelity to our kids, but always the modern world is seeping in. We left the public schools during the pandemic for the only private school we could afford, a Catholic school, and while the academics and teachers are objectively very good, I can see why Catholics are disenchanted. When you make church history and tradition the foundation of your faith, and then actively overturn, downplay and suppress them in order to be all things to all people, you've gutted the base of the faith. We need a rock, not sweeping affirmation.

A reader in suburban Chicago says he kept the Catholic faith despite the Church's efforts, not because of them:

I can see the straight-line collapse of Catholic belief across four generations of my large, mostly rural, paternal-side family.  

My grandmother approached sanctity in her humble acceptance of life's troubles, simple faith and personal conduct.  My dad claims he never heard her swear once.  Even with her eighth grade one-room country school house education she knew her Baltimore Catechism back and forth, had memorized large amounts of poetry, felt the rhythms of nature in her bones and I dare say was a better natural theologian than Pope Francis' American cardinal appointments of Cupich, Tobin and McElroy as she not only knew the Faith, as written, but lived it every day of her nonagenarian life without equivocation through everyone she met.

Among her eleven children there was a religious vocation (every generation we can trace back has had one or more). Only one left the Faith, but she came back to it in middle age, something her parents had daily prayed Rosaries over for years.  She was also the lone divorce in that generation.  Another aunt recalls how there used to annual May Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Corpus Christi processions, Rogation and Ember Days and other devotions, all of which fell by the wayside about the time I was born.  I'm told it was unusual for Catholics and Protestants to date each other in that time and place.

My generation, born 1958 to 1982, of almost 40 cousins runs the spectrum.  One became a priest, quite a few effectively converted or became indifferent because of a non-Catholic spouse.  Some remain culturally Catholic while rarely attending.  Others attend Mass weekly, but that's about the extent of their involvement.  My sister decided she was done with the Church at age 13 because "it didn't care for women".  Believe I'm the only one who prefers the Latin Mass.  Surprisingly, only four divorces among this crew in a nation where half of all marriages fail.  We were the generation of felt banners, Kumbaya and coloring book religious ed, all of which I experienced.  

I think it's fair to say I kept my faith despite the Church's efforts rather than because of them.  The example of my grandparents and aunts/uncles/parents loomed large.  As we all lived within about 40 minutes of each other, growing up was an endless procession of family events centered around baptisms, first communions, confirmations, weddings as well as the annual summer picnic and Christmas gatherings.  It was family more so than anything the Church did that helped keep me Catholic.  This is who we are; this is what we do.  Apparently made a deeper impression me than most my cousins.  

My parents and those aunts/uncles still living continue to attend Mass weekly, but they largely saw their duty complete if they took their kids to Mass, enrolled them what passed for religious education, and got them through the first four sacraments of baptism, communion, confession and confirmation.  There seemed to be an implicit belief in 'holy osmosis' that these would be enough to propagate the Faith as it had been for them.

My generation is now geographically scattered, though a substantial number still live within a couple hour drive of the ancestral area.   The generation behind me...I don't know most of my cousins' children well, if at all, but those I've met who were raised in the remaining Catholic households seem to be a swimming with the spirit of the times and non-practicing.  Some in their 20s have not yet even had the Sacrament of Confirmation, something typically done around junior high in my day.

Despite their very large number of descendants, I believe the number of my grandparents' great-great-grandchildren who actively practice the Faith may be able to be counted on two hands in 2035.

Another reader:

Honestly I struggle with this.    As a Catholic convert, I want my son to stay in the faith as he ages.   But most importantly, I want him to follow Jesus.   

I joined the RCC because I thought it was the closest to authentic Christianity I could get.    But the fact is that we, as Gen X,  were encouraged by our parents to find our own path as our parents were knocking down their traditions and heritage.     And that's what Gen X did.    You found the RCC, then Orthodoxy.     I found nondenominationalism, then the RCC.     

So should it really surprise us that Catholics and other Christians aren't particularly loyal to their faith?   In a lot of ways, loyalty and fidelity weren't modeled to us.   Some of us are trying to uphold a traditional model in this crazy culture.   My family does it because we've experienced first hand what chaotic family life can do to kids, so we didn't want our kids to have the same messed up experience.    But for us, it was always an attempt to bring order to chaos.   It wasn't an effort particularly grounded in religion or 'faith'.   

I told my son recently that I don't care about his label, but I really just want him to keep following Jesus.   I think Catholicism is the best tool for doing that and emphasize that point to him, but I want him to keep his eyes on Jesus, always.   There comes a point when kids take the faith of their parents and make it their own.  I'll be encouraging him to stay Catholic and be in the Catholic life, but it's really up to him to participate in religious life after a certain point.   

If our communities don't make being faithful a value, then why are we surprised when the kids aren't faithful?  

If our communities don't provide opportunities for young adults, then why are we surprised when they find community elsewhere?     Expecting them to show up for the sacraments when they haven't shown up for 15 -20 years after confirmation is just stupid and bad planning and overly optimistic.     

One of the big draws for me to Catholicism is the community because I've never really had that connection to other people.     My family was very isolated and did its own thing, so I didn't have community resources to draw upon when things got rough.   My family was not involved in the community and doing things.   That kind of thinking led to my dad dying alone, except for a couple of aging friends and immediate family.   There wasn't anyone to help or personal connections to draw upon when things got rough for him.   It was sad knowing that only a few people noticed that he died. 

One of my big goals for our family has been to help my son create a strong Catholic community and that's always a message I give him.    Be faithful, keep your eyes on Jesus, and don't be a loner when it comes to your faith life.   You need community.    

An Evangelical reader:

At age 68, I've been a deeply convictional evangelical for 54 years, and my career was in academia (Ph.D. in social psychology).  So I understand both communities, or statuses if you will, and I think there is much deep misunderstandings on both sides.

I don't see my faith as "pietistic" in the sense of anti-intellectualism at all.  There is a long-standing debate in apologetic circles as to whether, if one's faith in God rests on seemingly neutral evidences or arguments, then (paraphrasing Pascal) one is attempting to defend something certain with reference to something else that is necessarily less certain.  I think it is that recognition that sometimes fuels a certain skepticism about autonomous reason (if such exists) in my faith circles.  I believe that Calvin was right in suggesting that our hearts are idol factories.  But, of course, that's true of all of us, those in my corner of the theological universe not excluded.

There is also a sense, though sometimes vaguely worded, that the Catholic church over time became drawn to a linkage between Hellenism and the world of the Bible itself that may not be quite sustainable.  I think it was Cornelius van Til who used Daniel's metaphor of the statue whose feet were an admixture of iron and clay to describe that, whether fairly or not.

Christ has those who know and love him in many surprising places, and they can be found in Orthodoxy, Catholicism, mainline Protestantism, evangelicalism, and sometimes elsewhere.  Naturally those like me are drawn to the idea of the invisible church, made up of all such persons, though this can tend towards the kind of atomistic individualism that is rife in contemporary America.  And, of course, evangelicals like me lack anything like the Catholic magisterium, but we have our own hidden fences that can't be crossed, too.  And we don't always speak the same dialect.

Don't get me started on the Council of Trent, another topic for another time.  Anyway, thanks for this opportunity to respond.

Back to Catholic readers:

Rod, catholic all my life, 64years old, cath schools k-12. college educ. white, italian american. Came to me some years ago a study that showed that fathers seem to have the greatest impact on kids cont to attend church as adults. Interesting study that. not sure how its held up. I have thought about the faith coming to me from people and coming to them from others... going back into the past. all the way back to the 11. Yikes!  I didnt want to be the terminus of said chain. I have taught the faith till my adult kids say, "you are a radical catholic father, we dont know anyone like that" (i dont think they mean it complimentarily, but i like)

Interesting point here:

Your essay about religious people raising non-religious children made me think of all the religious people who were raised by non-religious people. I wonder if the latter outweigh the former; anecdotally, we seem quite common.

I think there are two kinds of people with good chances of raising religious offspring:

Shallow, possibly bitter atheists/non-believers with wild and unpleasant lifestyles, and religious people who genuinely delight in God and His ways and have a certain peace and charisma to show for it.

And there are two kinds of people more likely to raise non-religious offspring:  stale/cardboardy religious people who feel that their religion is a necessary burden (those who follow the rules - or pretend to - out of duty, but without love and joy), and kind and happy atheists.

Children will look at where you are, so to speak, and based on that, follow the path you took, or run the other way.

Actually, the Old Testament is full of chronicles of generations in which the father was righteous and God-fearing, but the son worshipped in high places and did treacherous things, and then the next generation was God-fearing, and so on. This is nothing new.

A powerful one here:

I am a cradle Catholic American man in my late 30s, married, with two kids.

The Pew finding that 34% of Catholic parents don't even care if their kids share their religious beliefs doesn't surprise me. After all, what even are their religious beliefs? Pew has also determined in the past that only 1/3 of Catholics actually believe in the Church's doctrine of transubstantiation, arguably a fundamental, defining doctrine of the Catholic faith. Although there has been much hand-wringing among prelates regarding this reality, it doesn't seem to me that anything has been done. Bishop Robert Barron was among the most outspoken churchmen when Pew shared this finding, but his only proposal, so far as I am aware, was more catechesis. While that sounds nice, I simply don't believe that any amount of catechesis is going to convince Catholics of the real presence while smiling Boomer women gather at the altar, apply their ritual Purell, then step down and casually hand the Eucharist to anyone who's willing to make the sacrifice of waiting in line for a minute.

Although the disbelief in transubstantiation particularly stands out, you can also find significant numbers of Catholics who disagree with Church teachings on abortion, contraception, homosexuality, you name it. The faith already hasn't been passed on. Most Sundays, I feel like a sucker, like everyone knows that this Catholicism stuff is fake and I'm the only person there dumb enough to believe it. If I weren't convinced that the teachings of the Catholic Church are true and all other denominations are false to the extent that they contradict Catholicism, then I would leave in a heartbeat. So I feel like a prisoner, and I'm really conflicted about my own children following this path. My hope and prayer is that what the Boomers think is a new springtime of Vatican II but is actually a long winter will end as my children come of age, but I just don't see that happening.

I could go on and on about the state of the Catholic Church, but at the end of the day, I just don't think we really prioritize God. Previous generations of Catholics built churches where they would encounter Him and went to great lengths to offer Him the worship they were capable of offering. Today, we build churches where we can encounter each other. We debate liturgy and music endlessly, but the whole discussion is framed in terms of personal preference. Call me crazy, but I think there is a reason why Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and it was only the second greatest to love your neighbor as yourself. If you don't love God above all else, then you will not know what it truly means to love your neighbor, and you will not succeed at either.

Yes! This is what I mean when I say that we have got to get back in touch with the wild Christian spirit that led a man like St. Colman Mac Duagh to go live in a cave in 7th century Ireland for seven years. No, I'm not saying that we should all become cave hermits. I'm saying that we need to learn to love God so much that we have that kind of sacrificial desire for him.

UPDATE: More letters:

Your "Kids Staying Catholic" post (and the comments you published) spoke to me.

I am coming from the opposite perspective from most of the comments I have read; I was raised Catholic and have since become nonreligious.

My background was being raised in a Catholic family, with all of my older relatives — as far back as anyone can remember — being ardent Catholics from Catholic countries. As a child, my grandparents helped financially support my Air Force family being able to put all of us kids through Catholic schools; we went to weekly Mass, and occasionally morning Mass before school; I went to years of Sunday bible studies at local perishes; and I was put through all my sacraments on time. I recently graduated from a Catholic college, like all my siblings and the majority of my relatives.

All of this to say that I think I had an unusually Catholic upbringing by actively-practicing Catholic parents, and yet ended up a nonbeliever (or a "none" on the Pew polls).

I won't dredge up the debate over the existence of God, but I will note the emotional disconnect. The religion I remember from when I was very young and the religion I am sometimes startled to find when attending Latin Mass today — the air of mystery, the sense of being part of something sacred, the feeling of eternal importance to every decision — felt "dead" to me in most of my day-to-day Catholic experiences. I remember as a 13-year-old feeling betrayed because it felt like none of the adults teaching me religion could even be bothered to take themselves seriously: their arguments didn't make basic sense (and didn't match what I have since learned are the actual Catholic teachings), and they were entirely too relaxed about good and evil for people that thought they could literally be punished forever based on their actions.

As an adult, the moments I have felt closest to Catholicism were in moments like reading the autobiography of Dorothy Day, (re)reading almost anything by C.S. Lewis, and in listening to a Latin Mass sermon on the value of redemptive suffering.

I am not currently able to bring myself to believe in the existence of a god. However, I still find myself noticing the deep emptiness behind daily life, and craving the community, mystery, and commitment to the Good that Catholicism once promised me. I have since found those in secular communities, but I am deeply sad for the lost 13-year-old I once was, questioning whether there was any meaning left in the world.

Perhaps I am not the best person to be giving advice, but for what it's worth, my advice to the parents that want their kids to stay religious is: let the religion actually mean something, and act like you are taking its radical implications fully seriously.

Perhaps this email was too navel-gazey, but your article spoke to me more deeply than I expected, and I felt compelled to respond.

Another e-mail from an ex-Catholic:

I'm 39. I grew up in a strong Catholic household. I attended parochial school, I was an alter server, we went to Mass on every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, two Catholic newspapers were delivered to the house, and EWTN was frequently on the TV. 

The sex abuse scandal broke at the absolute worst time for me to have remained a Catholic. Like many, I drifted away in young adulthood. There was no way I'd go back after my parish turned out to have hosted a predator, and with how corrupt the entire diocese was. Based on public evidence and some anecdotes I'm convinced that more than half of the priests in my diocese were gay. The predators were there, but were in the minority. Still, they were protected. To the people who say "well the # of predators is the same as the general population" I say even if that's true shouldn't the church be held to a higher standard? They lost their moral authority completely. 

It was because of them that I was open to marrying an Evangelical, and did. I sometimes long for the liturgy and the depth of the Catholic faith but I no longer regret moving away from it. One thing that does sadden me is that they are selling the closest Catholic high school (and only Christian high school in my county). The facility and the 100+ acres it sits on are being sold to raise funds to pay off sexual abuse victims. The chickens are coming home to roost and I can't say I feel sorry for those who were serving in my diocese. They caused tremendous harm and drove countless souls away from Christ.

Yet one more e-mail from an ex-Catholic, but this one might be on his way back into the Church:

I grew up attending Sunday mass in Northern Michigan with very few Catholics around. We were a family of 6, my brother and I served as altar boys, my mom sat on the parish council and my dad managed the church softball team, so we were very much part of the parish community. I was deeply interested in Jesus and the gospel. I would talk to Fr. Carlson about parables and miracles, I felt God in my life and loved my faith! My father was devout, but he didn't really share it with us. He took us to mass, sent us to Sunday school and called it a day. I honestly can't remember talking to him about God, ever. When I left the church in HS he didn't say a word. I was in the room when he received his last rites and I felt like an anthropologist, observing something removed from me. I can't express how much I regret feeling that way.

By High School, I was done with God. My HS priest was my weightlifting partner and I would torture him with my smart ass banter about God. I was too clever for that. And I excelled at everything, sports, academics, social life. I really felt like the religious aspect of my education was a formality. I never gave mass, retreats or any of it a chance. And I went straight to the other side - sex, drugs and self abasement. And that went on from there.  

Flash forward 30 years and I am married with 2 school aged boys, living in Chicago. Several years ago we left CPS for Catholic school and haven't looked back. We wanted the benefits of small classes, involved families, and no union politics. Since then, the cray cray LGBTQ/BLM teachers and lockdown loonies proved we made the right call.  The archdiocese opened schools in the fall of '20 and saved our kids from the worst of the pandemic overkill. But we are not Catholic, as I have always understood it. My wife was raised methodist and is not religious. We don't attend mass as a family. We do not say grace.  

Last year my youngest decided he wanted to be baptised and complete the sacraments with his friends. He told me he wanted to be close to God, to be Holy. When he was baptised, I wept. I find myself exploring the gospels again, and I've decided that I will be confirmed with him, something I didn't do in HS because, of course, I was too clever for that. I've started to pray again, after decades of not even acknowledging God. I feel my soul more than I have in so long, and it is hurting.  So much more to do, but I've made a start.

I don't know that I will ever be truly Catholic again. I've spent so many years among the unfaithful, the self-obsessed and the wicked. Hell, I work in Democratic politics. It's a madhouse of lost souls (like me), unrepentant sinners and straight up demons. Not sure where I go from here, but my son has given me hope. He's bringing my faith back. It's a gift from him, but might also be a gift from God. I'm weighing things with different equipment lately. It feels like the sun breaking the fog. My son is bringing my faith back to me, and I can't think of a better thing he might have done. 

May God bless that boy!

UPDATE.2: This is really a good one:

I'm a convert from a Calvinist tradition (now 66, and came into the Catholic Church in 2003) who lived a lot of my adult life overseas. I grew up singing the Scottish psalter in four-part harmony, and classical and Renaissance music in choirs and singing groups outside of church. Right after converting, I was in Africa, and those liturgies were lively and inspiring. I've been back in the US since 2011. Profoundly frustrating.

Bishop Barron rightly urges Catholics to live the faith and to evangelize. I try to live it every day, but I would not feel tempted to invite a non-Christian friend to attend Mass almost any of the places I've worshipped, with the exception of a Byzantine Catholic liturgy I attended for a while. The thing is this: the public face of Catholicism is her church buildings (often execrable now) and the Mass—the most obvious positive commandment of the Church is: go to Mass weekly! This is what the minimum outward observance consists in. I was struck by the words of the priest who wrote you about the Church being treated as a social club for the over 60s---I would add, the over 60s who grew up with the saccharine songs written then—and I mean both music and words. They're kitsch. You can close your eyes to a sentimental painting or statue, but not your ears to the music—it forces its way in. Is there a better way to drive away the young than a forced diet of kitsch? I can't think of one. In addition, many symbolic pointers to transcendence have been carefully (or carelessly) stripped from the Mass since Vatican II. Note that I'm not committing the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy by claiming causality--I don't think V-II called for what we now have, and we could change it.

In an essay not long ago, Bishop Barron tried to pull the "I'm neither left (religious liberal) nor right (traddie against V-II) but here in the center" move. The problem is, the center has a Mass created and evolved in the late 60s, with music from the early 70s (or new but in that style) written by sentimental semi-liberals (theologically) at best. The left took the high ground, in the battle metaphor the bishop adopted, by writing the hymnal for the new Mass everyone got. Christ is present, but what is presented to our senses is this schlock. The theological liberals, even when dead, still hold that high ground. The Catholic Church as a whole spends millions on music in the U.S.: terrible music. I think the bishops were largely anesthetized over their careers, forced to sing these lousy hymns as priests until they forgot how bad they were. (Maybe some like it for its campiness.) Reverent performance of schmalz is the best option available for most Catholics, but it is not enough (in fact it's rather weird): beauty, not reverence alone, is the pointer to transcendence, and thus to God himself. 

Ironically, the Catholic Church owns a gigantic treasure-trove of beautiful music, which is kept in the basement, mostly neglected or shunned. But another problem is that with the hierarchical nature of the Church, this new tradition is now firmly set—despite incredibly shallow roots, it's a tradition! It's a strange tradition, in that it is top-down—steady Mass attenders often don't sing. It was "not accepted by the faithful," but it continues to be presented to them: eat these mushy canned peas, and be thankful! It seems to carry on even as older Catholics, some of whom apparently find it comforting, die off. We, like the world, need miracles to save us from what we are.