DISILLUSIONMENT with the Catholic Church in the wake of sexual abuse scandals has contributed to a steady decline in Mass attendance, a report to the church's 43 bishops says [regarding Australia].
It also cites the restricted roles of women in the church, and a feeling that its leaders are "not intelligent, not vibrant and not relevant" as reasons for the decline.
Those who have stopped going to Mass who were interviewed for the church project Disconnected Catholics, published yesterday, complained of the silencing of prominent theologians and other Catholic thinkers, decisions being made without consultation and a church focused on rules, not compassion.
Some said their parish priest promoted an anti-intellectual environment where "his word was law and critical thinking discouraged". Others pointed to their priest's problem with alcohol, sexual indiscretions or abuse as a key reason for not attending Mass.
For some Catholics, faith no longer provided meaning or made sense. However, this was not driven by better education or widening scientific knowledge but a questioning of church teachings, the role of religion in world conflicts and a sense of uncertainty about the meaning of life and the existence of God, the study said.
"They spoke about fear and guilt, saying that these things prevented them from being able to trust in God and reach a more mature faith. Even after they had stopped going to Mass, they continued to feel guilt and to be conscious of a fear of going to hell."
Catholic bishops promised yesterday to learn from the study's findings and use it to form pastoral strategies to reach out to those Catholics who had ceased practising their faith and "chart a way forward".
The bishops noted that many of the study's participants were still open to returning to Mass. Half said they still attended Mass occasionally, and almost one-third said they might return to weekly Mass attendance.
Attendance has been falling in all age groups under 75 but, worryingly for the church, it has identified up to 60,000 young Catholics between the 1991 and 2001 censuses who no longer identified themselves as such.
"The research project is part of our deep and ongoing desire to connect with people who have left the church and to listen to their experiences, so that we might identify ways to reach out to them and welcome them back," the bishops said.
The research on Disconnected Catholics was carried out by the Pastoral Projects Office of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and involved interviewing 41 Catholics aged between 29 and 74. Other reasons given for non-attendance included time clashes with sport, work or family, people not feeling welcomed, sheer laziness and unkind gossip.
Sunday, December 3, 2006
Posted by Matthew
The Mass = the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross as the Eucharist (Communion) is truly Jesus Christ! We need to hope for better catechism in the future. A lot of these dropouts do not understand what a wonder they are truly missing! We don't go to Mass to get something out of it; we go to praise the King of Kings.
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