What Is to Be Done? by Bob Meade

One of the first things a manager must consider is what needs to be done to prevent things from happening that he or she doesn’t want to happen. Obviously, in a business, what you don’t want to happen is to operate at a financial loss. You need to profit in order to survive. But preventing things from happening that you don’t want to happen is much more pervasive than that.

For example, think of all the things you do to ensure your children arrive at adulthood as well prepared as possible for what lies ahead of them. Think, too, about all the things you do to prevent illness or malnutrition for members of your family. Think about all the things you do to prepare for family emergencies, or your future retirement, or your home and automobile maintenance, and so on.

Do you have some fire extinguishers in your home? Do you have your furnace maintained annually by a professional? Have you checked the tires on your automobile to see if they have good treads on them? If you have a fireplace, have you had the chimney cleaned out annually? All these little things are done to prevent things from happening that you don’t want to happen. Now let’s talk about the Catholic Church and what is happening now that we don’t want to happen.

Some of us older people remember when going to nine o’clock mass required that we get to church early in order to find a place to sit. Otherwise, we stood behind the pews, as the church was full of other parishioners. Sunday schools were also filled to the brim with youngsters as the nuns led them through the catechism in preparation for their first Holy Communion or their confirmation. We were taught that marriage meant having children so that we could have more souls brought to worship the Almighty God. Those in public schools stood and sang the national anthem, pledged allegiance to the flag, and said the Lord’s Prayer.

In 1962 and in 1963, prompted by atheist Madeline Murray O’Hare and some others, the Supreme Court ruled that prayer was not allowed in public schools. Followed that ruling, the court stated that bible reading was also not permitted. Recalling those times, it was basically unheard of to have other organized activities such as baseball, soccer, or other games take place during the Sunday-morning churchgoing periods. But that, too, has changed, and now the noise from the fields competes with the voice in the pulpit.

The combination of those events has, to some extent, contributed to diminishing congregations as mom and dad and other family members attend the Sunday morning games. And the youngsters may not know what they’re missing, as there may no longer be a daily reminder of God and country.

While studies have indicated a growth in church populations, with higher numbers of evangelicals, Southern Baptists, and Mormons, it is a different story when it comes to attendance. The April 10, 2018, issue of Outreach magazine indicated that a comprehensive study showed that only 17.7 percent of Christian church populations attend church on a regular basis.

For any number of reasons, it must also be noted that there has been a diminishing number of those who are willing to commit their life to a religious order. Pew Research studies have shown that over the last 50 years, the number of nuns in the United States has shrunk by over 70 percent, dropping from 179,954 down to 49,883. During that same period, the number of priests has dropped by over 30 percent, from 58,632 down to 38,275.

In addition to those decreases, the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) reported in 2018 that in 1960, there were over 5.2 million students attending almost 13,000 Catholic schools. By 1990 those numbers had shrunk to 2.5 million students in 8,719 Catholic schools. Sadly, by 2018, those numbers had diminished further to 1.8 million students attending 6,289 Catholic schools.

When my wife and I retired to New Hampshire in 1994, our small town had four beautiful Roman Catholic churches, one of which was a “summer” church open during the summer months to accommodate the increased tourist population. Little by little, as attendance diminished in all the churches, things changed. There was no need for a “summer” church, as the other three churches had room to spare, so it was sold to a developer. Then another church, a little removed from the downtown area, was sold to a Baptist congregation.

Recently a large, magnificent cut-stone church, its nearby parochial school, and its rectory and office building were put up for sale and even had a buyer. The church was to be taken down, and it was not known what would be done with the other buildings in the property. If it had been taken down, it would have left the town with only one Roman Catholic church: a beautiful brick structure with a large rectory, a huge school building, and another building that houses offices, a community kitchen, and a multipurpose room with a stage. Outrage from church members and the public over the proposed sale put a halt on the plan—at least for the time being. However, the issue of diminishing congregations in the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian churches continues and must remain the primary focus of our decisions going forward.

There are a number of contributing factors to diminishing church populations. In addition to the courts requiring the removal of any religious activity from the schools, we have seen a significant change in marriages and families. While it takes 2.1 children to be born into family in order to maintain a stable population rate, our country’s birthrate—exclusive of children born to noncitizens—is 1.8 children per family. It should be noted that no country has ever survived with that kind of population decrease. However, recent statistics show that the birthrates of noncitizen families are such that our overall national birthrate is at the 2.1 number.

Contributing factors to low birthrates include young couples living together without getting married, women choosing to start their careers before getting married, and couples not marrying until they are near 40 years of age and having only one child. Simply put, careers and self-interests become more important than family.

The issue of family birthrates is not limited just to the United States. Countries like Germany and Japan have a median age of an incredibly high 46 years—too many old folks and not enough young. Many other industrialized countries have median ages in the mid- to high 20s and 30s, while Middle Eastern countries have dominant population numbers under 30 years of age.

Systems like Social Security were built on there being enough young people contributing into the system to pay for those collecting a benefit. In our case, while Social Security had 15 or 16 people paying into the system for everyone collecting a benefit when the system started, today there are less than three paying into the system for every one collecting a benefit. Soon that number will be two and continuing to diminish. Social Security now has $8.6 trillion in unfunded liabilities—not a good sign for the coming years.

Where is all this leading us? We have removed God from schools and the public square. Fewer and fewer people are attending church. The numbers of priests and nuns have decreased dramatically. Catholic schools continue to close, and there has been over a 50 percent drop in student enrollment. Birthrates in developed countries are at or near crisis levels. And children’s athletics compete with voices from the pulpit. This is not just a Catholic crisis; this is a Christian crisis.

At some point, there has to be a resurrection of faith. At some point, the closing of churches and schools has to become unacceptable behavior. At some point, we have to determine what needs to be done to prevent things from happening that we don’t want to happen.

What do we need to do to prevent a continuation of decreasing attendance in our churches? What do we need to do to bring God back into the public square and into our schools? What do we need to do to grow religious schools and orders? Is it time to look again at issues like celibacy, or expanded roles for women in the church, including priesthood? What needs to be done to bring the Word of God to those who have been absent? Preventing things from happening, that we don’t want to happen: this is the multifaceted task that needs to be addressed.


Bob Meade is a retired AT&T manager who resides in New Hampshire. He writes a regular op-ed column for the Laconia Daily Sun and has had a number of op-ed pieces published in the Manchester Union Leader.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.