Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Age of the Nones"

As the church gathers for another Sunday, another sobering reminder's come that we're not all that we could be... if anything, sad to say, far from it.

Echoing prior studies over recent years, a report released last week by Trinity College in Hartford honed in on the proportion of Americans identifying with no religious affiliation -- dubbed "Nones" -- which doubled (to 15%) from 1990 to 2008.

Of the influx (or outflux), 35% of first-generation "Nones" surveyed said they were Catholic at age 12 -- by far, the largest slice of the group. Among the regions most impacted by the shift is New England, where one in five residents now claim no affiliation.

The survey was an outgrowth of Trinity's 20-yearly study on American religious identification. Released in March, the college's ARIS report tracked the dramatic movement of the Stateside church's center of gravity away from the Northeast toward points South and West, with significant growth in Texas and California offsetting precipitous declines in the nation's traditional Catholic base.

Among the roughly 64 million who remain, national figures say that under a quarter assist at Mass at least once a week. That said, though, last year's widely-circulated Pew Study on the nation's religious landscape put the state of things in its starkest light with its finding that a tenth of the US' population -- a figure as high as 30 million -- had left the church.

To be sure, there's been no shortage of herd-riding on this from the very top of the ecclesial food chain, and well prior to the surveys at that. Long before B16 begged down a "new Pentecost" and urged a "renewal" in American Catholicism on his East Coast visit last year, earlier this month saw five years pass since John Paul II reminded a group of Northeastern bishops that "experience shows that when priority is mainly given to outward stability, the impetus to personal conversion, ecclesial renewal and missionary zeal can be lost and a false sense of security can ensue.

"The painful period of self-examination provoked by the events of the [clergy sex-abuse scandals] will bear spiritual fruit," he added, "only if it leads the whole Catholic community in America to a deeper understanding of the church’s authentic nature and mission, and a more intense commitment to making the church in your country reflect, in every aspect of her life, the light of Christ’s grace and truth."

Then as now, the pointers went largely unheeded.

Bottom line, gang: there's no shortage of work to do... and only when everybody goes all in can it ever begin to get done.

Buona domenica a tutti... let's get to it.