There seems to be this attitude within the Catholic Church that the crisis we are experiencing today can be blamed solely on the laity. There is a graphic of Bishop Robert Barron floating around social media with some text on it taken from a speech he gave sometime last year. This graphic and Bishop Barron’s quotation reinforces this idea that the laity are the problem.
I am unsure where the graphic originated, but I have seen it before. It didn’t seem worth talking about the first time around, but since it is picking up life again, I thought it would be worth sharing a few words on it.
If you can’t see the above image, the text reads:
“People say to me there is a crisis in the priesthood. I say there is an even greater crisis in the laity. 75% of all Catholics do not attend Mass. THAT is the problem.”
Bishop Barron does raise a valid point, which when 75% of the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world don’t attend Mass, we do have a problem. But this is only one part of the crisis, a part which we can trace its roots. Where I disagree with Bishop Barron is that it isn’t solely the responsibility of the laity to ensure the success of the Catholic Church. I also find it intellectually dishonest that he completely ignores the problem of the priests and shifts attention to that of the laity.
The laity gets its formation first and foremost from their parents. If their parents are not building them up in the faith, then they are getting their formation from their pastors every Sunday at Mass in the pews. They are also getting further formation from their bishops or cardinals who are these days writing articles for major publications and giving interviews for mainstream media.
Since the Second Vatican Council, we have seen many pastors completely drop the ball in regards to forming their flocks to be examples of truly Christian life. Most pastors have encouraged their flocks that God loves them just the way they are. They have encouraged family and friends of the deceased that they are now “in a better place” and “watching football with Jesus”, without acknowledging whether they lived a life worthy of Heaven. Even now, we see a complete misunderstanding of the teaching of mercy, assuming that God is merciful no matter what, and you can live a life of sin and still be admitted entrance to Heaven upon death.
Indeed, we see a crisis in the Church and the laity is an evident and glaring example of this crisis, but most of that can be traced back to the priests. Today, many priests are too busy looking to Protestants to figure out how the Catholic Church can encourage fallen away Catholics to come back. Of course, looking to those who protest the teachings of Catholicism shouldn’t be seen as the goal.
Instead, we should listen to what the Saints taught, after all, they lived a life worthy of Heaven and are now in perpetual adoration of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We should also return to traditional worship, that is, the Tridentine Latin Mass. There have only been a few Saints who celebrated the Novus Ordo, and even those few grew up with the TLM.
It’s time to admit that the laity is not at fault for what Bishop Athanasius Schneider has termed the Fourth Greatest Crisis of the Church. Until the clergy returns to teaching what the Catholic Church has taught for the last 2,000 years, and stands up and fights the greatest evils of our day, we will continue seeing fewer and fewer lay people in the pews, and in turn fewer priests and fewer parishes.