Attendance is falling so low that New York will close some parishes and merge others. How will the Catholic Church respond to reinvigorate the faithful?
As we go through the years we see many practices that separate the world from the spirit. What once was a world filled of faith and hope has now turned into disbelief and trying to fit into a temporal world. This is not just an opinion, but a true surveyed fact as religion has become less important to citizens within our country. The Pew Research Center actually did research showing that 3 out of every 10 adults do not or barely attend church services.
It is not only clear that religion is not only unimportant to people and families, but it also confirms why Catholicism is suffering in attendance and contributions. The Archdiocese of New York will be rearranging 122 parishes out of the 368 in their local area. This will include but not become limited to merging some while closing others down.
This trend in downsizing parishes is a trend that continues to expand outside of the New York area. The Archdiocese, which still serves over 2 million members, cannot continue to support its parishes as fewer and fewer are attending mass or schools while costs are increasing.
How do parishes close or merge?
It may be hard to understand what happens when a parish closes, but there are distinct differences between parishes and churches closing. The church is where people go to worship whereas a parish is more like a territory that is assigned to a church and often includes other community services such as a school. There are Canon laws that provide certain guidelines for closings and mergers.
How will the Catholic Church respond?
The new Pope is actually taking a bold stance by polling Catholic Church members while refraining from passing judgment on certain topics such as homosexuality and contraception. While some feel this is a mistake, others feel that the Pope is trying to connect with people outside of the church and create a more welcoming and friendlier Catholic Church.
Some Catholics are very conservative while other Catholics are more liberal. There is an obvious divide between the two views, but the Pope is trying to appease both sides of the debate. Recent comments have shown that he is accepting of evolution and the “Big Bang” theory. Although some believe that the Catholic Church is going against its own doctrine, their leadership seems to be adapting to the ever-changing world. Some believe that this is a great advancement that can bring more believers to the faith, but others believe this is blasphemy.
What will happen to the church as a result of this obvious divide is yet to be determined. All anyone knows for sure is that the Catholic Church’s congregations are dwindling, the church is losing money and the future is left unknown as to what will occur.
More Catholics but fewer Churches?
Yet if that’s the case — and religious institutions are starting to see a decline in members — then what’s the story behind the Catholic Faith? The only thing that seems to be diminishing in the Catholic order is the number of parishes, not the number of members.
Currently, the number of Parishes are total to about the same as they were in 1965; with about 17,483 total Parishes still open to the public (1965 number was at 17,637), and that is a large decrease from 1990 which saw an astounding 19,620 Parishes.
So what could have caused this decline in church attendance?
Well, spirituality could lay a hand in this, or maybe it’s a slightly tarnished image. The theory that the scandal rate — the sexual exploits of certain Priests — might be one reason as to the dwindling amount of parishes. The forever-tarnished image could cause even the most devout to seek out new places of worship.
Or perhaps Catholics have felt disconnected from the Church in recent years for other political reasons. Some more liberal Catholics could have felt pushed away by Pope Benedict XVI’s more conservative tendencies while current conservative Catholics could feel similar sentiments toward Pope Francis’ teachings. The two most recent heads of the Church have been polarizing figures in the opposite ends of the political spectrum, which could contribute to the Church’s alarming lack of attendance.
- Pew Research Center – 2013
- New York Post
- Huffington Post
- Catholic Answers
- Think Progress
- The Independent
- Pew Research Center – 2014