Action Alert!

We're losing the next generation(s) of Catholics

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Dec 04, 2014

In the past few days I’ve spoken to two friends who work as musicians in two different parishes.

One friend had a story that sounded very familiar. The older parishioners die, and when their middle-aged children come to bury them, they’re completely lost during the funeral. They don’t know the responses, don’t know when to stand or kneel or sit. It’s clear they haven’t seen the inside of a church in years.

But the other friend said something different. In the parish where he works, the number of funerals has dropped dramatically. The death rate hasn’t changed, and the demographics of the two parishes are roughly the same. But at this parish the middle-aged folks aren’t bothering to arrange funerals for their parents.

When I questioned a few friendly pastors, they told me that they had noticed the same trends. The first—the people who don’t know how to behave at a funeral—has been evident for some years now. The second—the decision not to have a funeral—is now on the rise. A quick service at a funeral home is less expensive, and if you don’t really know what goes on in the church anyway, why bother with the funeral Mass?

We’ve already seen a similar phenomenon regarding weddings. The lapsed Catholics of the baby-boom generation were married in churches. It was still “the thing to do,” and anyway their parents insisted. But their children now skip the church service. No one complains.

The Catholic community is shriveling all around us! We cannot just accept this generational attrition, looking upon it as inevitable. We’re in grave danger of losing the next generation. This isn’t just one of the problems facing the Church today. This is the problem. Because if we don’t solve it, the other problems won’t matter.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Dec. 08, 2014 11:49 AM ET USA

    The loss of Catholics is, I believe, a direct result of failing to teach. Why go to church, get married in the church (get married at all), have funerals, etc.? We have the USCCB, many bishops, and priests expressing the same secularist drivel I can hear on network TV any day of the week. If there is no difference in beliefs and behaviors, why bother?

  • Posted by: bruno.cicconi7491 - Dec. 06, 2014 11:52 AM ET USA

    Is it a problem to be avoided, or is it one which already happened, and what we are relating are only symptoms?

  • Posted by: Nuage - Dec. 05, 2014 8:27 PM ET USA

    The main reason Catholics do not have Funeral Masses for their deceased any more is because we are no longer taught (nor do most priests believe) of the need to offer prayers, Masses, and penances for the dead. Most Catholics now accept the Protestant heresy that if you die believing in Christ, you are saved. Since Vatican II, the priest wears white vestments at a Funeral Mass and preaches that the deceased is now happily enjoying heaven. The Catholic belief in propitiatory prayer is now denied.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Dec. 04, 2014 9:05 PM ET USA

    "When to Son of Man returns, will he find any faith?"