Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 27, 2008
Overcome cultural divide in the church
A recent survey commissioned by the Knights of Columbus has found a huge cultural divide between practising vs. non-practising Catholics in the United States.
It found, for example, that while 59 per cent of practising Catholics consider themselves pro-life, only 29 per cent of non-practising Catholics describe themselves in that manner. Likewise, only 36 per cent of the regularly practising Catholics called themselves pro-choice; 65 per cent of non-practising Catholics adopted that label.
In general, practising Catholics hold views that are more traditional than those of the general U.S. population; the non-practising have an outlook that is considerably less traditional than the general population.
One should be a little wary of extrapolating these views to Canada. Our Catholic culture and the general culture itself are markedly different from those in the U.S. Unfortunately and annoyingly, the Knights – who have more than 200,000 of their 1.8 million members in Canada – did not bother to compile data for Canada.
Nevertheless, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson's comment – "Catholics who are no longer practising hold positions far outside the mainstream of Catholicism, and have significant disagreements with the moral teaching of the Church" – can likely be applied safely, albeit generally, to the Church in Canada as well.
A Catholic Church that vigorously evangelizes, that brings back its own to the fold, can also be said to be affecting the balance of opinion in the culture as well.
Faith is a major determining factor in the outlook of individuals and of society itself.
Moreover, sociologist Reg Bibby has often argued that those Canadian Christians who do not attend church regularly have not abandoned their churches. They have merely stopped going and are often open to the possibility of returning to regular church practice. Bibby maintains that churches wishing to evangelize should start with their own fallen-away brothers and sisters.
Ergo, a Catholic Church hoping to affect cultural attitudes should likely begin by reaching out to the non-practising baptized.
One not-insignificant issue is how to find these people. Non-practising Catholics do not have their own club nor do they say, gather at the river on Friday evenings.
Many, perhaps most, of them do, however, have relatives and friends who are regular church attenders.
Those of us who do attend Mass regularly have a choice – we can ignore the non-attendance of those close to us, we can try to badger them into attending Mass or we can gently share the importance of our faith. There is no guarantee of success with the latter approach; there is pretty much guaranteed failure with the first two.
The other place where non-practising Catholics do gather is at the Catholic school. For many families, the Catholic school is their church. Whatever their reticence about attending Sunday Eucharist, many express their Catholic identity by sending their children to Catholic schools.
Many also attend non-eucharistic prayer celebrations in the schools. The tie has not been completely cut. However, while some schools make an effort to reach out and ask parents to consider resuming the practice of the Catholic faith, anecdotal evidence suggests this is not widespread.
Next Sunday is Catholic Education Sunday in Alberta. It is a time to honour Catholic schools and those men and women who dedicate themselves to making the faith come alive in the classroom.
It is also a time to call Catholic schools to dedicate themselves more fully to the task of spreading the Good News to those who have lost sight of it. If we are serious about building a culture of life in our society, it is folly to ignore one of the most fertile grounds for planting the seed for that culture.
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