We do indeed need to show joy as Catholics.   My motto — “Be happily and uncomplicatedly Catholic.”

Michael J. Sheehan Archbishop of Santa   Fe



Three cheers for Bishop David O’Connell, C.M. of Trenton, NJ.  If Proctor and Gamble, whose purpose is to sell soap, discovered that they had lost 40% of the sales of Ivory Soap, they would conduct a massive market search using experts, surveys and study groups to correct this problem. Their management team would go to no end to understand and solve this problem.

The Catholic Church inAmerica, whose purpose is to bring people to Christ, has lost 40% of its adult members and shows damned little concern. The Church is pleased with an overall increase in numbers, which is credited to the influx of Catholics from Central andSouth America, and pays little heed to the massive drop-off of members. Last year, Georgetown University report estimated only 22% of Catholics attend Mass.

The Church’s governing body is comprised of aged bachelors who, with rare exception, believe there is no today and tomorrow. One of the exceptions is Bishop O’Connell who asked Charles Zech and Father William Byron (a man I have long admired) to conduct a study about the empty pews. They interviewed 300 fallen-away Catholics from age 16 to 90. One response was, “I had the right religion with the wrong people running it.”

Here are some of the many concerns of those who have left the Church:

– A lack of community (none of the drop-offs had been contacted by their priestsor fellow parishioners; “The pastor crowns himself a king and look down on all”)

– A dislike of the Church’s handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal and the fact that gays, divorced and remarried Catholics were unwelcome atMass.

– Too much emphasis on abortion and contraception, and not enough attention to the underprivileged, war and health.

– Lousy homilies that are pointless and can’t be remembered by the time a parishioner walks out the church door.

– A lack of respect and equality for women.

– A need of immediate attention for a fresh explanation of the nature of the Eucharist (note: check out “Communion, ho-hum” in Light Reading for Good and Wayward Catholics)

In a recent column, E.J. Dionne wrote, “Too many bishops seem in the grip of dark suspicions that our culture is moving at breakneck speed toward a demonic end. Pope John XXIII, by contrast, was more optimistic about the signs of the times. ‘Distrustful souls are only darkness burdening the face of the earth,’ he once said. ‘We prefer instead to reaffirm all our confidence in our Savior who has not abandoned the world which he redeemed.’ The church best answers its critics when it remembers that its mission is to preach hope, not fear.”

Now it’s about time that other Church leaders will wake up and follow Bishop O’Connell’s example in acknowledging and attempting to correct a major concern for Catholic America.

(And let me have your thoughts about this:

Recommended readings

– “If They Perish” by James M. Kushiner in May/June Touchstone.

– “The Death of Honesty” by William Damon, a senior fellow at the Hoover  Institute at Stanford University in the May-June issue of UTN.

“The Forgotten Jesus” in April 9 Newsweek.

“A Troubling Case” by Robert Moynihan in May Inside the Vatican. (comment, I don’t agree with him!)

“Interfaith Ignorance” by Patrick Gray in May/June Touchstone.

– “Renewing Dogmatic Theology” by Bruce Marshall, in May First Things.


Roster of Joyful Catholic Priests

The media loves to publicize bad priests, and we should give recognition to our Joyful Catholic Priests. Send me your recommendation for ones you think merit membership in this splendid group. (


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