24th Sunday of the Year

Dear Friends in Christ,

“I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

These are powerful words. They are words of faith, and they testify to a heart and mind converted by the truth of the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. These are the words spoken each year by hundreds of thousands of men and women who were baptized into the Lord Jesus but outside of the Catholic Church and who later are called into full communion with the Church.

This bold profession of faith should encourage those of us who are already Catholic to take great care to nurture and preserve our faith, lest we join the vast army of ex-Catholics who will soon constitute the single largest religious body in America. In both 1990 and 2008, the American Religious Identification Survey was taken, and the findings are startling. In the six states of New England, the Catholic population declined from 50% to 36%, a drop of more than one million persons in 18 years. At the same time, the number of Americans who have no religious beliefs increased from 8% to 15%, and the self-identified Catholic population declined in 29 states. These findings confirm similar results published in the Baylor University Religion Surveys of 2006 and 2008 and the 2008 report of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which found that although one in three Americans were raised in the Catholic Church, only one in four still identify themselves as Catholic—meaning that 10% of all Americans are ex-Catholics.

These are the bitter fruits of the false catholicisms I call casual, cultural, and cafeteria catholicism, and these false forms of religion yield only spiritual mediocrity, doctrinal confusion, unstable commitments, and a negotiated truce with sin which leads to the death of the soul. The antidote for this deadly disease is accepting the truth of God’s Word which calls us to radical conversion, deep fidelity, joyful discipleship, and courageous evangelism; that is Evangelical Catholicism. You probably know a Catholic who no longer goes to Mass, hasn’t been to Confession in decades, and rejects the divinely revealed truth about marriage, human sexuality, or abortion — the usual battlegrounds in our time between the Gospel and the ambient culture of relativism. To such persons the greatest gift you can give is the witness of your own faith, and I ask every member of this parish family to identify one or more of these fallen away Catholics and help them return to the Lord Jesus and his holy Church. One means of doing this is to invite them to the Introduction to Catholicism, the class which just began and which will culminate at Easter with the Baptism of new Christians and the reception into full communion with the Church of those who are already baptized. Let us all be inspired by the courageous souls in that class who are already pondering what it means to say with life-changing conviction: I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.

Father Newman