This is a very complicated question and I’m sure that there are no easy answers, and probably no one answer – there are many.
Some people never went to church in the first place. Yes they came with their parents and grandparents when they were little. But not for a long time now. Sports and beaches were distractions on Saturday and Sunday as well. Night life – namely the “drinking culture” made many potential church goers far too tired on Saturday night to enable them to be in church on Sunday. Many have been lost along the way because their friends and parents didn’t go and some followed their example. Church scandals claimed a few as well. The poor example of church going parents, relatives and friends, did not help the doubters to go to church on Sunday no doubt. When you look at all this you realise there could be many reasons or obstacles that Christian Catholics face when they look at Church attendance.
It obviously does not help a person to go to church when most of their friends already are not going. Despite all of the above, recent research has revealed that there could be a more fundamental reason why people stopped going to church. Let’s face it, all the reasons I spoke of in the beginning, while real, are not insurmountable. Scandals, bad example, and temptation have been around for forever. Some people, despite all of the above, still go to church. Why do the others not?
Recently, researchers asked only Catholics, both church going and non-church going, a series of simple questions. The answers to these, give us something to think about. The questions were: 1. Do you believe in life after death? 2. Do you believe in heaven? 3. Do you believe in hell? 4. Do you believe in Jesus’ resurrection? 5. Do you believe in religious miracles?
I’m not going to get into the details of each answer, but a big picture certainly became very clear. Active church going Catholics answered all of the questions with a very big percentage of positive (yes) answers. Catholics who call themselves Catholics but do not go to church very regularly answered each question with an overwhelming negative (no) answer.
So do those who go to church actually believe what the bible and church teach as being true? And those who do not go to church not believe any of this? Have people actually stopped going to church because they cannot believe? The church for them is not a place of faith but perhaps something else – maybe a place of culture and tradition, a meeting place? To me, this research certainly gives us something to think about.
Simply and directly – our people do not know their Catechism. They forgot their R.E. lessons or just do not believe in spiritual things anymore.
The church is clearly a place of faith in Jesus Christ and a place of prayer and worship of our God.
Bishops, priests, deacons, sisters and all faithful must figure out how to rebuild the church. At least now it may be clearer of where we must begin.