Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Prophetic Voices 2

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst … Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me … Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” … As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. John 6:

Surveys show that since the mid 60's there has been a sharp decline in participation in the formal practice of religion among Christians. In one Canadian survey taken in 2012, when asked - did you attend a religious service in the past month - 23% answered YES, 77% answered NO. However, more than 7 out 10 people describe themselves as spiritual.

In 2007, Reginald Bibby, authored a paper with the title: Religion À La Carte in Quebec : A Problem of Demand, Supply, or Both? - link. 
"Quebec provides a fascinating case study of secularization and its limits. Prior to the 1960s, this historically Roman Catholic province may have had the highest level of church attendance of any region in North America. Since the 1960s, attendance has plummeted to the point that it now is among the lowest. Many observers assume Quebeckers have given up on religion, holding only to a kind of “cultural Catholicism.” The author draws on extensive census and survey data to show that Catholicism in Quebec remains highly pervasive, characterized by ongoing identification and the selective consumption of the Church’s teachings, particularly with respect to everyday life. However, large numbers of Catholics who have limited involvement in the Church indicate that they are receptive to greater participation – if the Church can touch their lives in significant ways......"
In the past, people may have gone to Mass on Sunday because it is was the Law, they were bound by a moral obligation that had mortal consequences. Failure to make your Easter duty bore the consequence of excommunication from the Church. Now, more and more people believe it's their choice to go or not, and how often. "What do I get out of going to church", is the issue now.

Catholics who attend services less than once a month are receptive to greater involvement, point to the fact that significant numbers of Catholics are open to ministries that can touch their lives and the lives of their families. But the important qualifier is that they have to find that such involvement is worthwhile. Most are not inclined to attend services more often simply because “that is what a good Catholic is expected to do.” Duty and deference have given way to a desire for worship experiences and ministries to children and young people, for example, that add something to their lives. (pg.15)

So is this a people's problem or a Church's problem - a failure to believe or a failure of ministry? Bibby's paper opens up the question but leaves it open for further study. 
An adequate assessment of such prospects is well beyond the scope of this paper. But one can initially see that many Roman Catholic leaders in Quebec and elsewhere have a mindset where they see involvement in the Church as something that is simply expected of practicing Catholics, rather than being conditional on the quality of ministry of the Church.
Apart from inclination, it is not readily evident that Canadian Catholic seminaries, for example, are training priests to assume leadership roles with a strong emphasis on ministry – beyond the celebrating of mass and the administering of core rites of passage. A cursory of glance at the current course offerings of Roman Catholic seminaries across Canada reveals that relatively little attention is being given to courses that attempt to understand the cultural context of ministry; focus on effective ministry to children, youth, and families generally; address issues relating to the enhancing of worship and music; help priests carry out effective pastoral work; and courses that prepare priests for the large amount of time they will to give to administrative and organizational tasks. Far more attention is given to traditional core courses that address the scholarly aspects of the priestly role – Biblical studies, theology, archaeology, Church history, and the like. (pg. 16)
Where is the problem ... with the ministry of the Church ... or with people's unwillingness to hear and believe? (And on a personal note, the same question asks ...?)

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