A friend recommended this blogpost from an Illinois priest, Msgr Eric Barr. For a cleric of my generation, he does read a lot like the new brand of JP2/B16 priest. He appears sincerely troubled about religious disaffiliation. Patheos, the parent site, promoted this essay as blog-of-the-day, but there are some hit and misses in it. Hitting his spots, plus some of my commentary:
Lack of Religious Practice in Childhood. Yes. This would be an exit strategy from the beginning. Schools, even Catholic institutions, promote their own culture. Not family culture. Parents and others are absorbed into the mix, far more than I remember growing up.
One Parent Family. Thing is, one-parent families have always been with us. Mothers died a lot in childbirth. Fathers had at-work dangers and such. Both were vulnerable to disease, even if they weren’t poor.
Also, despite a public perception that the young lose their faith in college when confronted with the rational approach of the university, the young are disaffiliated at a much earlier age, happening at age eighteen or before.
For Catholics, I’d say the age is at most seven or eight.
Acceptance of Pluralism. Msgr Barr fears atheism.
(The young) come into contact with atheists, find them good, and decide that religious belief is non-essential.
I think the rejection of religion that wants to label others as bad, not good, is chasing away many more people. Let’s not portray same-sex persons, liberals, immigrants, people of color, etc. as good.
Identification of Political Conservatism with Religion. This one’s a yes. I’ve seen a whole generation of internet Catholics longing for the liberals to die out, and gleefully touting the smaller, purer, more conservative Church.
Lack of an Adult Experience of God. Yep. This one’s spot-on. Catholics treat sacraments as graduation events. That is why many believers have a second-grade practice of contrition, confession, sacrifice, the breaking of the bread, and so on.
Inability of Religion to Answer Major Questions. I think we can, but I suspect the question-answerers are more geared to apologetics. Not the deep questions of life that might mean we could listen to other religions and see what they might have to say about life, death, suffering, justice, and meaning.