Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity, a moment in which we are called to reflect on the reality of God in our lives. However, as I prepare to write this simple reflection, I must admit that recent events have made me realized that the audience I am writing to is declining. In other words, there are less people who go to Church on a given Sunday in the United State that care about nurturing their relationship with God, making any explanation about the inner life of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit seem superfluous.
According to a recent Gallop pole, fewer that 4 in 10 Catholics go to church on any given Sunday and that the trend has been speedily increasing over the last 10 years. As I listen to countless parents and grandparents express their confusion and dismay as to why two generations of Catholics have abandoned the faith, I would like to offer four reasons that, many authors agree, seems to explain the reason for the decline in our young people.
1. Moral Relativism. For the past forty years or more, our society has moved away from believing absolute Truths. The thought of “everything depends” is often used as an excuse to justify anything done without considering cost or impact on others.
2. Generational Immaturity. As a consequence of moral relativism, a form of immaturity which is the refusal to take personal responsibility for one’s decisions and actions. The going philosophy of “do what feels right” rather than do what “is” right underscores this immaturity in the current generation. The abandonment of traditional relationships between men and women and institutions is often derived from a feeling that one doesn’t need anyone or have nothing to learn from those before them.
3. Loss of the Sense of the Sacred. It is naïve not to notice that, since the Second Vatican Council I the mid and early 60’s, Catholics have felt comfortable with experimenting with, modifying and even abandoning beliefs, attitudes and practices of the faith leaving the subsequent generation with less to confide in and dedicate to fundamental beliefs the Church professes.
4. Religious Confusion and Institutional Insecurity. There is no doubt that the horrible scandals of priest pedophilia and those who covered them up has severely damaged the Church’s credibility. Church leadership seem to have been lacking in confidence and clarity as to what the Church taught and defended. Such insecurity lacked the moral conviction and evangelical clarity to inspire the subsequent generation to participate or even want to follow.
As I think about the Feast of the Holy Trinity, I can’t help but be reminded that this faith I enjoy today was brought to me by a Church that has suffered and continues to suffer for it. Will we be the generation that, out of our comfort, gives it all up? If we do, God help us!