Some stats that jumped out at me and what they might mean.
- Catholics divorce at a lower rate, but live with an unmarried partner at a higher rate than other Christians.
- 72% of Catholics have a certain belief in God. 1% do not believe in God. How someone can still be Catholic and not believe in God is beyond me.
- Only 56% of Catholics say that religion is important in their lives. Compare to Evangelical Protestants at 79%.
- Less than half of Catholics (42%) go to Church one or more times a week.
- 20% of Catholics pray once a month or less.
- 48% of Catholics believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
- 58% of Catholics believe homosexuality is "a way of life that should be accepted by society".
There are several reactions faithful Catholics might have to such statistics. One is to toss the cultural Catholics under the bus. I have heard a number of Catholics say that such people aren't really Catholic. In one sense this might be true, because they aren't living out the faith. But, in another sense it isn't, because we don't disown family because they act a certain way. It just shouldn't be done, even if they are off the reservation.
I think the best reaction to such statistics is to double our efforts. We need to do several things.
- We need to really work hard at re-evangelizing Catholics and then forming them. Our parishes need to start to become welcoming communities that form adults with life-giving catechesis. It starts first with evangelizing the adults by engaging them in the basics of the message of the Gospel. Then we need to take them deeper. Too many parishes have catechesis upside-down. It isn't primarily for kids, it is primarily for adults - every document from the Church on catechesis teaches this. We need to engage them in Bible studies, classes on doctrine, presentations on the faith, etc.
- We need to really get out of our own comfort zones. Before we start to throw blame around, look in the mirror. How many opportunities to evangelize someone have we let slip by? How many of our own family or friends who are fallen-away Catholics need to be evangelized? How many cafeteria Catholics do we let slide by without really engaging them in dialogue, inviting to a church event, buying them a book, etc?
- We also need to support our bishops and clergy when they do something courageous. Look at the number of Bishops in the past few years that have stood up for life issues or against the cultural tide that is sweeping against the Church. We need to support them and thank them when they do such things.
- We need to pray. A lot more.
- We need to do a much better job of forming Catholics when they come into our doors. Better homilies. Better Sacramental formation (with an emphasis on evangelization and not just hoop-jumping). Better outreach.
- We need to live more integrated lives. Root out the places where we are not living out the faith.
- Campus ministry is one of the most important and forgotten ministries in the Church. This is where the future leaders of our Catholic Church are lost or made. With more than 80% of students who stop going to church by the time they graduate college, we are failing miserably here on a national scale. We need a major initiative to drive these numbers into retreat.
God make it so.