A month ago, my parish was conducting “listening sessions”, as required for the forthcoming abominable synod. I considered attending one, wishing to draw attention to what I consider the life-and-death issues for the Church today: beefing up our catechesis and apologetics work and trying to find a way to reduce the rate at which young people are leaving the Church. Then I saw that there was a pre-set list of questions, all having to do with how we can be more inclusive and bullshit like that. Obviously, there was no way any of my concerns could even be discussed. So I wrote an email to the parish priest, trying very hard to appear more moderate than I do here. I never sent it. I don’t know my priest’s sympathies, and I’m the head catechist with nearly full control of the curriculum of the last (and therefore most important) grade of religious education, a position where I might actually do some small good on a local scale on these very issues. I can’t risk that opportunity by making silly, futile gestures.
Here’s the letter.
Dear Father X,
I had considered attending yesterday’s “Disciples in Dialogue” session, but the list of questions seems to preclude what I consider the most needed discussions, and I do not think you would have appreciated me attempting to hijack the meeting. However, I hope you will indulge my sharing my concerns with you.
Each night, when I say my prayers, I beg God to help my children persevere in the Faith, terrified by the knowledge that their apostasy is not only possible, but even likely. I have read that about half of children growing up Catholic abandon the Faith by their twenties, with the average age of disaffiliation now as low as 13, and we can only expect this to get worse.
People do not abandon a belief for utter skepticism; they exchange one belief system for another. Catholics don’t operate in a vacuum; we are faced with a confident, aggressive, and proselytizing rival, one that completely controls the media, schools, and corporations, and is waging a one-sided ideological war against us. Furthermore, we face a fundamental disadvantage in trying to retain the allegiance of our children. The influence of parents wanes in their childrens’ teenage years; formal catechesis in our parish ends at 6th grade. But young people’s exposure to anti-Catholic propaganda only escalates from this age. Consider children who go to college. They will be taught college-level atheism, and will only have sixth-grade Catholicism to counter it. No wonder many come to think of the religion of their ancestors as childish.
Consider any issue on which the Church and the world disagree. When do young Catholics hear the Church’s teaching explained and defended on the immorality of artificial birth control, abortion, and homosexuality, the indissolubility of marriage, the sacrificial character of the Eucharist, the need for a distinct, all-male ministerial priesthood, the unique and exclusive role of Jesus Christ and His Church in the salvation of mankind, the reality of Purgatory, etc? When are they taught about our glorious history and the great civilization we created, and when do they learn about the horrific legacy of our enemies and putative moral betters, of the murderous tyrannies of the Jacobins and Bolsheviks? Our children only become old enough to hear our side of things when we are losing access to them! We may wish to avoid controversy, but the advocates of opposing beliefs are relentless in their attack on our metaphysics, morals, and history. And let us be honest–a person who will only accept Catholic doctrines that the New York Times lacks the interest to contradict is already an apostate.
If the Church is serious about the salvation of souls, we must focus on the urgent problem at hand and set concrete, realistic goals. A plan to reduce the rate of apostasy of our youth by 30% in 15 years–that would be something worth the bishops thinking about, although I have no hope that they will do so. Every parish should be thinking about it and prioritizing it above everything else except, of course, the ongoing distribution of the sacraments. The Church has done enough “listening” to her implacable critics; now she needs to talk back and defend herself, or soon there will be no Catholics left.
As I said, the problem is systematic; just demanding more devoted parents or more skilled catechists will probably do little good. We must also be clear about the difficulty of what must be done. We must convince our children that the Church is right not only when she agrees with the world (what value is there in that?) but also when she disagrees with the world, and furthermore that the truths the Catholic Church professes are so important that we must be willing to accept the inevitable social ostracism and career hardships that disagreement with the world inevitably brings. I have no idea how this can be done, but I’m quite sure we won’t do it if we don’t even try.
Thank you for your time. Sincerely,