Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: "'New Evangelization' Tactics Seem Based on Incorrect Assumptions That Lapsed Catholics Don’t Know Church Dogma"

This is one of the good ones, one of the birdcage droppings that fertilize the mind: Questions from a Ewe asks why it is that the "Francis effect" seems to be having little impact among American Catholics, when it comes to Mass attendance. In her diocese in 2013, 6 of 10 diocesan counties had the lowest records of weekly Mass attendance ever, since anyone began counting. As she notes, this echoes Pew findings, which show Mass attendance among American Catholics continuing to decline despite the Francis "bump."

And so what to do? In their pastoral wisdom, the leaders of the church are placing all of their eggs into the basket called "new evangelization." The problem is that people just haven't heard the church's teaching clearly enough, understood it well enough, had it conveyed to them with enough smiles, this pastoral strategy assumes. As Ewe suggests, "This seems to consist of telling people with whom they disagree that they are wrong and/or damned but delivering the message with a perky smile, modern lingo and perhaps a 'friendly' handshake or over an adult beverage."

As she concludes,

"New Evangelization" tactics seem based on incorrect assumptions that lapsed Catholics don’t know church dogma or scripture and just need these screamed or sung at them in bars, Jesus pep rallies, and other spiritu-tainment venues until the person wakes up and says, "Hallelujah, I’m going back to church."

But as Ewe notes, when study after study proves that Catholics do know the teaching of the church but disagree with it in some important respects, then perhaps the pastoral strategy of the leaders of the church might need to shift--that is, if they're really concerned about the fact that Catholics are leaving the church. Perhaps the hierarchy might need to re-evaluate its "us-vs.-them" mentality which imagines that God speaks to "us" in some unique way, leaving "them" to receive God's word from "us" at the top of the church pyramid. 

So that's one valuable birdcage dropping I've noticed in the past week. Another is from Frank Strong's Letters to the Catholic Right blog (Frank's Episcopalian, but writes incisively about Catholic issues, hence my inclusion of this posting under the rubric of Catholic birdcage droppings). Frank zeroes in on the reaction of the Catholic right to the recent finding of the Guttmacher Institute that abortions are at their lowest level in the U.S. since 1973. Because contraception. Because of the increasingly wide availability of contraception. I discussed this report some days ago.

And guess what Frank finds among some of the folks in the Catholic right whose work he reads? Though abortion is their big thing, the thing on which they maintain Catholics should hinge everything as they make political decisions, they're not happy with the Guttmacher findings. They're not happy, it appears, with the finding that increased access to contraception diminishes the number of abortions in the U.S.

And so they're dusting off antiquated reports that appear to demonstrate that more access to contraceptives among college students = more sex (but = fewer unwanted pregnancies = fewer abortions), and Frank concludes that Amanda Marcotte has it right when she says that the anti-choice movement is more about punishing people for having sex than it is about saving life, about being pro-life. 

Because why on earth else would the Catholic right trumpet "a study that suggests that birth control prevents (what in their minds is) abortion as a reason to oppose birth control"?

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