No Priests? No Eucharist.
May 6, 2017
Noted Catholic commentator Phil Lawler wrote a very sobering assessment of the health of the Catholic Church in the U.S. Northeast in a column published on the Catholic Culture web site last week (CatholicCulture.org).
Lawler, a former editor of both the Boston archdiocesan newspaper and Catholic World Report magazine, questioned the upbeat media attention paid to the opening of a new church in downtown Boston last month dedicated to Our Lady of Good Voyage. Reported in the press as the “first” Catholic church to be opened in Boston in the past 60 years, the new church is just that — a building, not a parish.
Like many dioceses in the Northeast including our own, Boston has been going through pastoral planning and right-sizing to meet both the priest shortage and demographic realities. Lawler holds that the Catholic population in many Northeast dioceses has stayed the same or increased, chiefly with Hispanic and Asian Catholics. What hasn’t increased has been the number of the faithful attending Mass regularly. Catholics aren’t practicing the faith anymore.
(One look at the Easter weekend Mass attendance here at Holy Family — or the collection totals! — compared to what it was the weekend following Easter and you see Lawler’s point plainly.) If people aren’t practicing the faith, then the sons of these people aren’t aspiring to priesthood. No priests? No Eucharist. No Eucharist? More shuttered parishes. “In two generations, a thoroughly Catholic society can become mission territory,” he says. “Look at Boston. Look at Quebec. Look at Ireland.” Dare we add, “Look at Hartford?”
For too long, argues Lawler, we as Church have been “congratulating ourselves on minimizing our losses” when instead we should be following Jesus’ commission to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.... We should be bringing more people into the church” and not closing parishes in what he calls “wholesale diocesan retrenchment programs.” The fault, says Lawler, lies with us. We’re simply not living up to the Gospel mandate. We call ourselves followers of the Lord’s, but we’re not living up to our baptismal calling.
Lawler is especially critical of those who believe that the “faith will make a comeback in another generation or two,” or that young people return to the Church when they settle down and start families. It hasn’t happened in the past in any sizeable way, nor is it likely to happen in the future. His remedy? He sees what’s not being done and what needs to be done. We need to stop everything. “We just don’t need another ‘renewal’ program. … We need to figure out what has gone wrong” and repent! We can’t bury our heads in the sand and continue business as usual; or just keep plugging away and let God solve it for us. Nor can we admit that organized religion is passé, and that all that matters in life is that we’re kind to one another and teach our kids the same.
Read the column in its entirety at here, and see if you agree with him or not.