Okay, now for the bad news:
25. Nonetheless, in considering today’s religious situation, the Church is also obliged to take into account the extent to which Christians “have been shaped by the climate of secularism and ethical relativism?” (42) A prime category requiring examination is that of the “many people who have been baptized but lead lives entirely divorced from Christianity”.(43) This in fact constitutes a mass of “non-practising Christians” (44) even though in many hearts religious feeling has not been completely lost. Re-awakening these to the faith is a real challenge for the Church. Then there are “the simple people” (45) who express themselves, at times with sincere religious feeling and deep rooted “popular devotion”.(46) They possess a certain faith, “but know little even of its fundamental principles”.(47) There are, moreover, numerous other Christians, often highly educated, whose religious formation amounts solely to that which they received in childhood. These also need to re-examine and develop their faith “from a different standpoint”.(48)
Lest you think this was all a result of the immediate post-conciliar Church, the document Evangelii Nuntiandi is Paul VI’s and dates to 1975:
- (42) Tertio Millennio Adveniente 36b; Gaudium et Spes 19c.
- (43) Evangelii Nuntiandi 52. Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 19 and 42.
- (44) Evangelii Nuntiandi 56.
- (45) Evangelii Nuntiandi 52.
- (46) Evangelii Nuntiandi 48; cr. Catechesi Tradendae 54; Christifedeles Laici 34b; 1985 Synod, II, A, 4; Ad normam decreti (1971), 6.
- (47) Evangelii Nuntiandi 52.
- (48) Cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 52; Catechesi Tradendae 44.
In sum, three categories of Christians merit concern here:
- Those whose faith is dormant.
- Those whose behavior is outwardly Christian, but who lack some understanding of basic principles.
- Those whose formation ended in childhood.
The latter two categories are often to be found in church or associated with their faith communities. They are often targeted by those who organize adult faith formation. But I think the matter is more than good educational materials or competent adult catechists. How do you perk the awareness that there is more to faith that just what is lived? For those who are coming to Mass, there is the homily.
As for the three categories in general, the only thing outside of church is the witness of the lay apostolate in the world. People giving good example. Or rather, remarkable example.
Any readers seeing anything here, or anything in your own communities?