Catholic Men Need Priests Who Will Lead | Matthew James Christoff | CWR
A recent survey shows many Catholic men are ready to engage more deeply in the Faith—when priests make a commitment to actively evangelize them.
The New Evangelization has been a major effort in the Catholic Church for more than 40 years. Unfortunately, it has failed to stem several significant downward trends among faithful in the United States. Since 2000, 14 million Catholics have left the faith, parish religious-education participation of children has dropped by 24 percent, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19 percent, baptisms of infants has dropped by 28 percent, baptism of adults has dropped by 31 percent, and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41 percent. Something is desperately wrong with the Church’s approach to the New Evangelization.
The New Emangelization Project has documented that a key driver of collapse of Catholicism in the US is a serious and growing Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of baptized Catholic men have left the Faith, and many of those who remain Catholic neither know nor practice the Faith and are not committed to passing the Faith on to their children. Recent research shows that large numbers of young Catholic men are leaving the Faith, becoming “Nones,” men who have no religious affiliation. The growing losses of young Catholic men will have a devastating impact on the US Catholic Church in the coming decades, as older Catholic men pass away and young men fail to remain and marry in the Church, accelerating the losses that are already taking place.
While there are massive cultural forces outside of the Church (secularism, pluralism, anti-Christian bias, radical feminism, pornography, etc.) and missteps within the Church (failure to make men a priority, sex abuse scandals, etc.) that have contributed to the Catholic “man-crisis,” the New Emangelization Project has conducted dozens of interviews with top men’s evangelists that suggest a critical reason for the crisis is that bishops and priests have not yet made the evangelization and catechesis of men a clear priority. Men are being ignored by the Church, and they know it.
To gain deeper insight into the role of priests in the evangelization and catechesis of men, the New Emangelization Project conducted the Helping Priests Become More Effective in Evangelizing Men Survey in the fall of 2014. More than 1,400 practicing Catholic men from more than 1,000 parishes in the US participated in the survey.
Overall, the survey results suggest that only about one in five priests have made the commitment to actively evangelize and catechize men, but those who do have a dramatic impact on the faith lives of men. A large majority of men are ready to follow their priests, and in fact are longing for their bishops and priests to call, teach, and lead them. The survey underscores that large numbers of Catholic men are dissatisfied with the lack of attention from their bishops and priests.
Seven themes have emerged from the survey results.