Most U.S. adults who attend religious services express confidence in their clergy’s advice on a range of questions, at least to some degree. But a 2019 Pew Research Center survey finds that Catholics have considerably less confidence than Protestants, and are less likely to claim a close relationship with their clergy.
Among U.S. adults who attend religious services at least a few times a year, Catholics are less likely than Protestants to say they have a “very” or “somewhat” close relationship with their clergy. Six-in-ten Catholics (61%) say this, compared with about eight-in-ten Protestants (78%). Just 8% of Catholics say they are very close with their clergy, compared with a quarter of Protestants. And while only 22% of Protestants say they are not close with the clergy at their church, the share among Catholics is nearly twice as high (39%).
What does this say about us? What does this have to say about our Church? Do we need change?
What Does This Say About Catholics?
Volumes. This speaks volumes above our almost-silent voices. In the same 2019 survey, the Catholics who responded said they were much less likely to seek the advice of a priest on particular subjects when compared with the Protestant church members. These subjects included: growing closer to God, scriptures, marriage or marital problems, parenting issues, financial issues, anxiety or depression, abortion, immigration or global climate change.
It is up to us to reach out and develop these relationships with our clergy. In today's world, our priests are indeed very busy, but they are rarely unwilling to talk with you. In many parishes, priests are cycled in and out, so some may not know you. If that is the case, a great start would be to make an effort to introduce yourself and your family. Studies have shown that people who like their priest are 11 times more likely to attend Church on a weekly basis. It is a personal relationship that most people are seeking.
What Does This Say About The Church?
How could we be doing a good job if attendance is down if more people are going to Church?
It's hard to say that the Church is doing a good job when attendance is down.
According to a Gallup 2018 Poll, from 2014 to 2017 an average of 39% of Catholics reported attending church in the past seven days. This is down from an average of 45% from 2005 to 2008, and represents a steep decline from 75% in 1955.
People commonly rail against the Church itself for this, complaining is that it should change and 'keep up with the times' - but this is the exact opposite of what needs to be done. Instead of conforming to the whims of society, a better solution for the Church is to encourage society to adapt to the teachings of Christ.
The liberalization of the Church has not worked well in the past. As Gallup first reported in 2009, the steepest decline in church attendance among U.S. Catholics occurred between the 1950s and 1970s, when the percentage saying they had attended church in the past seven days fell by more than 20 percentage points. It then fell an average of four points per decade through the mid-1990s before stabilizing in the mid-2000s.
Since then, the downward trend has resumed, with the percentage attending in the past week falling another six points in the past decade. The major periods of decline are directly linked to the liberalization of Church Doctrines and Teachings. Perhaps people are staying away because they are seeking a more formal expression of religious teachings and practices - the teachings and practices of the early Church.
Do We Need Change?
Yes, we do.
“[W]hat you have heard from me before, many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (Paul of Tarsus, 2nd Letter to Timothy, c. A.D. 50)
“It is within the power of all, in every church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were instituted bishops in the churches by the apostles, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew anything these [heretics] rave about.” (Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, c. A.D. 189)
“We must hold to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church, which is catholic and which is called Catholic not only by her own members but even by all her enemies. For when heretics or the adherents of schisms talk about her, not among themselves but with strangers, willy-nilly they call her nothing else but Catholic. For they will not be understood unless they distinguish her by this name that the whole world employs in her regard.” (Augustine of Hippo, The True Religion, c. A.D. 390)
Brother and sisters, the power is within us to change many things. We must fully believe in Jesus Christ, and we must work for Him. And in the end, we will enjoy a much better life both here and now, and in the hereafter.
Staying home from Mass because you may or may not like a Clergy member is simply an excuse. And at this time, we do not need excuses - we need action. We need a strong Church now more than ever, and the only way to do this is to have you in the Church.