Possible solutions to the six causes in Part II

Unfortunately, none of the following proposed solutions will, of themselves, deal sufficiently with the causes of the problems. Many of these proposed solutions are interrelated and lack clear lines of authority for how to deal with them. Hopefully that will come with the section on Planning that follows. All of these proposed solutions or others should be incorporated in the strategic planning discussed below.  In all of this it is important to keep in mind the alleged conundrum (see above) we are dealing with.

6.1 Degradation of moral and other values

Although closely related to some of the other solutions below, dealing with degradation of moral and other values will require the New Senior Cardinal, the USCCB, and all of its members, all of the clergy and lay people to have the courage and knowledge to vigorously speak out when they see or hear immoral behavior or other challenges to our Catholic values and teachings. This should be one of the things Evangelism, as practiced by Jesus, calls on us to do.

The clergy especially need to be more proactive and creative when speaking out. Too often we see a reluctance to preach against those laws and cultural behaviors that are violations of God’s laws. It will take a skillful balancing act to avoid criticizing individuals while making it very clear that the criticism is all about their behavior not them as individuals.

At the same time we all must avoid partisan political beliefs or at a minimum, if we are dealing with borderline issues, include all valid political view points when making our point. For example, when proclaiming more needs to be done by the federal government to help those in need, we need to recognize the competing needs and potential higher priorities of the same federal government for our defense and economic needs. Too often when the Church speaks out on social issues the only message that gets out is one side of the issue and although they sometimes mention the other side, it gets buried in the text and lost in the headlines.

All of us need to be careful to not be, or even appear to be, hypocritical in our criticism.  We need to make certain we practice what we preach. Remember the alleged conundrum we are trying to deal with.  We should not be or even appear to be “politically correct”. If we do, then we are forfeiting our role and responsibility of being the moral leaders we must be. 

                Some of the more specific actions we need to consider are:

  1. The revival of the Legion of Decency by the USCCB about movies, TV shows, theater, and books. We need to publish these decency rating in all of our parish bulletins (and thus in our parish web sites) and in some of our homilies and other communications.
  2. We need to have groups of parishioners dedicated to sending letters to editors of local newspapers on these and all issues that are clearly against our beliefs.
  3. We need to purchase newspaper ads and make our views known in social media.
  4. Consider starting a Catholic movie studio that only produces first class movies.
  5. Consider starting a high quality national daily Catholic newspaper.
  6. Consider a Catholic Facebook and other social internet media outlets. There is much more we need to do.
  7. All of these solutions are actionable in all levels of Church planning.

6.2 Decline of family structure

                The decline of family values is closely related to the degradation of moral and other values in 1. above. We need more programs at the parish level that promote family togetherness. Actions speak louder than words. We need to develop and publicize “What it means to have a healthy family structure.” Things like having family meals, family prayer, family discussions about any issues confronting family members, Moms and Dads being on the same page in disciplinary matters (at least when in front of the family), etc. Many of these things will be included in both the sample family plan described in Exhibits I and II below and in the actual family and parish plans developed using these guidelines. These solutions are actionable mainly at the family and individual levels, but some apply to the parish as well. The parish should be known as and act like “The family parish”.

6.3 Boring and non-relevant liturgy

One of the most perplexing causes of the Church’s problem about the alleged “boring and non-relevant liturgy” is probably the easiest to deal with. It is perplexing because the Church’s liturgy is the most unique and universally used of all the various religions in the world. One would think it would attract more people than any other religious liturgy. It seems, however, that many people are more interested in what some would call entertainment or a populist form of liturgy.

We should find ways to do both. One to maintain the sacred elements of our liturgy and the other, to still make it attractive to the average church goer, especially our younger people. This can and should be done without lengthening the service. Some of the changes that might accomplish this at all high masses are as follows:

  1. Make sure all entrances to the church are staffed with smiling greeters that hopefully can recognize most newcomers and give them a warm and genuine welcome and pass their name on to the welcoming committee. Pass out calling cards. Have all guests stand and be recognized.
  2. We need a fairly large and talented choir as well as an orchestra.
  3. The choir and orchestra should start “performing” about 30 minutes before mass starts.
  4. The start of mass (procession) should be signaled by loud and bold music, flashing of lights even perhaps using drum rolls and cymbals.
  5. The lectors and cantors should be skilled in tonality, pauses and keeping it conversational-not preachy. Must replace the monotone orators and positioned near their lecterns so that they can begin immediately when it is their time.
  6. Homilies should be very brief (3-5 min) and frequently be supplemented with short videos of famous speakers (e.g. Bishop Fulton Sheen, Jim Caviezel, etc.). If possible, use live motivational type speakers.
  7. At offertory when choir and orchestra perform, feature a vocalist or duets of highest quality available. Even use video at times.
  8. At beginning of Communion Rite, have lay extraordinary ministers of Eucharist come forward for picking up their hosts and wine from side tables. Begin distributing to laity immediately so that they are finished at about same time as celebrant concludes the Communion Rite.  Consider use of sanitary small paper wine cups in lieu of drinking from chalice to encourage those that are averse to drinking from a common vessel.
  9. Have choir and orchestra perform for 5, 10 or even 15 minutes after mass.
  10. Have coffee, juice and pastries available in narthex for parishioners and newcomers to mix.

These solutions are mainly actionable at the parish level.

Father Robert Barron says, “What can be done to stop people from drifting away”?[1]I think we need to be a distinctive, strong, unique voice in the midst of all the cultural cacophony. I think one thing is that you have to preach the Gospel in its distinctiveness, and you preach what makes it unique, so people are not hearing in church what they are hearing every place else.”

6.4 Prayerlessness

Maybe many of us have forgotten how to pray or never knew how in the first place. Anyone who truly believes in God must believe in the power of prayer. We have read books on how to pray, but in its simplest form it is nothing more than “talking to God”. It can be done at home, in bed, while driving to work, on a work break, in church, or any place where there is some degree of peace and quiet. Singing can be a form of prayer, dancing or any one of the performing arts can be prayer. Praying can be done individually or in groups. There is no one form of prayer. The only requirement is that you must be thinking of God when you pray. The Holy sacrifice of the mass is a beautiful form of prayer. Saying the rosary is also a wonderful way to pray. Finally, reading and studying the Holy Bible and other religious books is prayer.

                We Catholics need to pray more and not be apologetic when “caught” praying. All Catholics should carry a rosary on their person, not only to remind them to pray more often, but to help them pray. Prayer should be talked about more by our clergy, but not in an abstract or theological way, rather as something we do in our everyday life. These solutions are actionable at the individual, family and parish levels.

6.5  Catholic doctrine and beliefs

                One of the problems with Catholic doctrine and beliefs is that they are too often presented as rules and Do’s and Don’ts instead of the beautiful positive way they are designed to help us live a more wholesome and fulfilled life and, most importantly, to save our souls. Look at the wonderful way Pope John Paul VI put it in his encyclical HUMANE VITAE[2] released in 1968. This document is a classic and every member of the clergy and all good Catholics should be required to memorize it (just kidding).

                Contrary to what some are doing, we should not be guilty of “relativism” by apologizing for any of our very sacred and profoundly correct doctrines and beliefs. We should resist the peer approval pressure to be “trendy” or politically correct. Instead we should be proud of them and “wear them on our sleeves”. These doctrines and beliefs represent TRUTH and cannot be compromised. This does not mean we should shove them in anyone’s face or otherwise flaunt them in excessive ways. Remember the CONUNDRUM mentioned above.

                There are many very talented people in the public relations and related businesses and we should employ them as necessary to help promote our doctrines and beliefs. Combined with our very knowledgeable and dedicated clergy this would be a very powerful force. How about “PROUD TO BE CATHOLIC” stickers on our cars? Too bold and strong? We hope not! These solutions are actionable at all levels of planning.

H. Richard McCord[3] Asks what can be done to help people better understand these teachings: “Pope Paul VI pointed out that the value of          people who are personal witnesses(testimonials) is oftentimes the most effective way of teaching. So, in situations like this, enabling people who have found truth and value and meaning in these particular Catholic teachings to be able to tell that story, to be able to witness to the value of that in their own life, undoubtedly has much more of an impact.”

6.6  Criticisms of the Catholic Church

We need to be very upfront about legitimate criticisms of the Catholic Church and totally transparent about our actions in dealing with them. At the same time we need to deal very aggressively and, as thoroughly as possible, with false criticisms and defend those involved as strong as possible. These solutions are actionable at all levels of planning.

[1] Ibid Father Robert Barron

[2] http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html

[3] Ibid McCord