In Fall 2012, an unnamed parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (presumably its pastor) hired the Villanova University economist and Director of its Center for the Study of Church Management, Charles Zech, to survey lapsed Catholics (presumably the parish’s lapsed members). The survey’s purpose was to discover their reasons for leaving the practice of the Catholic faith.
The study’s findings—methodological questions and generalizations aside—were (yawn) unsurprising:
- the sexual abuse scandal;
- dissatisfaction with the parish, Archdiocese, and Vatican; and,
- most who leave join Protestant denominations.
Interviewed by NBC’s local television affiliate, Zech noted that parishes do have some power to keep disgruntled Catholics from leaving. Most important is what Zech identified as the “quality” of the liturgy:
Liturgies are really important. I’m not sure that parish staff and clergy understand how important liturgies are to people, that they have good music and the liturgy be meaningful. People who feel they are not being fed by a meaningful liturgy—they’ll go where they are being fed.
That’s a very interesting observation. “Good music” will keep potentially disgruntled congregants from leaving? If so, then it would be interesting to learn exactly what kind of music is most likely to keep in the pews those apparently many congregants who disagree with Church teaching? Might it be Gregorian chant?
The Motley Monk doubts that is what Professor Zech is suggesting. But, for the 189 respondents who have left the Church, how the music makes them feel appears to be primary.
More important to The Motley Monk is another of Zech’s observations concerning the study’s secondary findings:
People who are going to leave the church over the scandal and the church’s handling of it have already left. So people leaving the church today are leaving for other reasons. A growing reason we found out was the church’s attitude toward homosexuals and gay marriage. A lot of younger people object to the church’s teaching on that.
Although Zech’s survey is neither reliable nor valid—meaning its findings, though accurate, cannot be generalized to the larger population due to sampling methodology—this finding may lend support to what other, more reliable and valid studies—like the Pew Research studies of faith and religion—have been noting and may very well be a trend. Namely, the nation’s young people don’t particularly care about the moral questions and answers to those questions concerning homosexuality and so-called “homosexual marriage.”
If this finding is accurate, this is not good news for Church officials. The nation’s Catholic youth are no different in attitude toward homosexuality and so-called homosexual marriage than are the nation’s youth in general, despite the Church’s vigorous and very public opposition. Are the nation’s bishops and pastors to believe that improving the quality of music will keep this generation’s young Catholics practicing their faith?
Again, if this finding is accurate, it suggests that post-Vatican II catechesis of the nation’s Catholic youth—whether in the Catholic high schools or parish-based CCD programs—has failed to form the consciences of Catholic youth to appreciate what Pope John Paul II called “The Splendor of Truth.” Instead, the secular, materialist, and consumerist “Culture of Death” has achieved results that may be nothing short of spectacular.
Yes, the Sirens are singing anew. And that’s apparently what lapsed Catholics want and, presumably, what parishes should provide them, according to Zech’s study, if they are going to keep disgruntled members from leaving.
Yet, The Motley Monk would note, this is a noxious prescription. As Walter Copland Perry has observed:
Their song, though irresistibly sweet, was no less sad than sweet, and lapped both body and soul in a fatal lethargy, the forerunner of death and corruption.
To read the NBC article, click on the following link: