First, the subhead was, "Nominal Catholics shun services, links to parish." That's news? That's what defines a nominal Catholic. They are, by definition, "Catholic in name only." It would be news--wonderful news--if nominal Catholics didn't shun Mass or links to their parish. It would be wonderful precisely because they'd move from being "nominal" or simply cultural Catholics (which really isn't Catholic at all, if you think about it) to being actual Catholics.
But the crux of the story is that actual Catholics are any more indistinguishable from those who are nominal. To whit:
Even though Catholicism requires weekly Mass attendance, Catholics by and large don't consider it sinful to miss Mass, [This hints at the crux of the problem] according to survey studies by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University....So, let's put this all together, shall we?
Priests say they see people all the time who lose their spiritual footing and gradually slip away.
That happens most frequently when a person or a family moves and doesn't quickly connect with a new parish community, said the Rev. Michael H. Burzynski, pastor of St. Mary of the Cataract in Niagara Falls.
"The first week they feel guilty. The second week they feel less guilty. The third week, it doesn't bother them at all," Burzynski said. [So it is with all sin, isn't it? In any event, yet another clue given here.]
American bishops have been trying to get their arms around the problem for years, and the trend appears to be unrelenting, particularly in old Catholic strongholds in the Northeast. [Partly, this is the fault of no one except the economy and those who have helped construct our probably inexorable slide into a service economy (as opposed to the manufacturing based economy that made us the great nation we have been). The fact is that people move where there are jobs, and a lot of Catholics have left their historic homes in the Northeast and moved to the South and other climes. Atlanta has seen a huge influx of such people, for instance.]
"We're getting more and more like the European church," said the Rev. Martin Pable, a Catholic author and the recent keynote speaker at an evangelization conference at Christ the King Seminary in the Town of Aurora. "The fall-off rate is not as much as the European church, but we're on the same track." [At least Father recognizes this isn't a good thing, but yet another hint.]
Consider the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, which encompasses eight counties in Western New York. The estimated number of Catholics in the diocese dropped by 12.7 percent from 2000 and 2010 -- more than four times greater than the region's general population loss. [In other words, it's not just historic migration at work.]
Even worse, parishioners "registered" at parishes in the diocese declined by 19 percent.
Fewer than three-quarters of all of the area's Catholics -- 466,785 individuals -- now are registered in parishes, down from 578,088 in 2000. [Yet another hint, folks.]
Registration at a parish is thought to be one indicator of participation and Mass attendance, although many registered parishioners don't attend Mass regularly, and some unregistered parishioners actively participate.
No one has a good handle on exactly how many people in Western New York are nominal Catholics, but "it's a huge number," said Sister Regina Murphy, director of research and planning for the diocese.
The diocese also tracks two other statistics: total registered households -- meaning two or more people -- and total households "practicing" the faith. Both numbers fell by about 16 percent over the past decade, with an estimated 139,209 practicing households last year, down from 167,387 in 2000.
Murphy said it still was too early to judge the impact of the diocese's restructuring of parishes on those numbers.
At this point, departures because of anger over church closings appear to be "relatively minimal," she said.
"We do know there was a loss, but it was not catastrophic," she said. [This strikes me as about right. Most people understand what the sex abuse crisis has financially done to the Church. Even without that heinous situation, Catholics have had fewer babies in the last 50 years than was historically the case, thus contributing to declining collection plates and parochial school attendance figures (with the latter, so does the loss of low-cost religious to serve as teachers, thus driving up tuition, etc.). Plus, here's another thing: When it comes time to fill said collection plate, Catholics like to pretend it's still 1950 and that $1 will work just fine, Father, thank you very much. You should hear the stories of howling and screaming I've listened to priests and others tell when the subject is asking parishioners to be more generous. "WHY, THEY JUST WANT MY MONEY!!! FILTHY, MONEY-GRUBBING GOOD FOR NOTHINGS! I WORK HARD FOR MY MONEY! WHAT DOES THAT LAZY PRIEST/BISHOP DO?! HAS HE EVER DONE AN HONEST DAY'S WORK IN HIS LIFE!!! JESUS WAS POOR! HE OWNED NOTHING! WHERE IN THE BIBLE DOES IT SAY I HAVE TO GIVE MORE, HUH?!?! WHERE?!" Well, for a start, see Luke 10:6-7, Matt 10:10, 1 Cor 9:14, and 1 Tim 5:18.]
Besides, such changes in the profile of the American Catholic Church resulted from an increasingly mobile and secular society -- long-term trends spread throughout the country, Murphy said. [Yep.]"There's something historic here," she said. "We're becoming more secular, less religious. It's a societal thing." [And thus doth Sister provide the final hint.]
Hint 1: Though the Church teaches that not fulfilling one's Sunday obligation (i.e., missing Sunday Mass) is a sin against the 3rd Commandment and thus a mortal sin, "Catholics by and large don't consider it sinful to miss Mass."
Hint 2: "The first week they feel guilty. The second week they feel less guilty. The third week, it doesn't bother them at all."
Hint 3: "We're getting more and more like the European church."
Hint 4: Fewer than three-quarters of all of the area's Catholics -- 466,785 individuals -- now are registered in parishes, down from 578,088 in 2000.
Hint 5: "We're becoming more secular, less religious. It's a societal thing."
What does all this add up to? Catholics don't think they have to go to Mass, which indicates they've received extremely poor catechesis (i.e., religious education). After all, the Sunday obligation is one of the most basic things and one of the first things all CCD students learn (or at least should learn). If they don't know this--and why this is, most importantly--then there's something crucially deficient in their religious formation.
At first they feel guilty. On some level, they know there's something profoundly wrong with missing Mass, but not really understanding why, they eventually shrug their shoulders, figure God will understand/it's just another Church/man-made rule, sleep in, and enjoy the Bills game on the tube.
And because missing Sunday Mass and holy days of obligation are mortal sins (under the normal conditions, of course), the compounding mortal sin darkens their intellects and consciences.
As a result (and probably without realizing just precisely what they're doing), they raise their kids to think it's no big deal, and also that they can pick and choose what doctrines/teachings of the Church to follow. After all, they pick and choose the most fundamental one, the one that tells us that God made us "to know, love, and serve Him in this life so as to be happy with Him in the next," and that worship is the foundational way of doing this. Why should all the rest be sacrosanct?
Thus we become more like Europe, modernist to the core, by and large (for a definition of the heresy modernism, see here and here). Their churches have become museums or warehouses. So will ours (or, if you prefer, fraternity houses).
Additionally, beautiful, historic convents and seminaries are sold off for lack of sufficient numbers to fill them. Without seminarians and new priests and religious, and with many who are still around teaching horrible catechesis, should it surprise us that the number of registered--much less practicing--households is dropping precipitously? Should it surprise us that we are becoming more worldly or, in the words of Sr. Pat Murphy, "secular"?
Worldly, secular people don't care a whit about Church teaching, don't care for the Bible, don't care for objective truth, don't care for God. Why should they bother with Catholicism, which holds the first three sacrosanct precisely because they come from the Truth "who can neither deceive nor be deceived," that is, the Triune God?
Like most sees in the state of New York, Buffalo has been ruled for most of the post-conciliar period by modernists who got the nod from the apostolic delegate/nuncio precisely because they were modernists (important note: things are getting better). And where modernism thrives or is left unchecked by the ordinary, sadly, the Faith there whithers.
Why this "confounds" diocesan officials is the real news story, as well as the second pathetic part of the actual news piece.
Then again, if you think modernism is the way to go, and you can't believe there could possibly be something wrong with it, well, I guess it would be confounding.