These three things (confusion, negotiation, and loss of Catholic identity) are some of the things that are causing the Church to bleed people out to the evangelical Christian churches. Poor catechesis is the biggest reason (why on earth would you leave the Church if you know that it's where you can get the Jesus in the Eucharist-and what that means?), but a close second is a loss of our Catholic identity (Pope Benedict is all about this. So is Fr. Z.).
Why else would a "Good Catholic family" choose to send their kids to a decent public school when they could send their kids to a decent Catholic school? Why else would a good family leave St. Peter's for the Hope Evangel Church of Christ (led by a former Catholic who is now their pastor)? It's not really because they can't afford the tuition (if it's important to your identity, you find a way to sacrifice to make it happen). It's not really because the evangelicals demand less than the Catholics do (I think in many instances, it's the opposite).
It's because Christian denominations have become interchangeable to Catholics. On the whole, many adults don't know basic truths (facts) about the Church and what She teaches. A 2008 survey by CARA showed that just 57% of all adult Catholics surveyed believe in the real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
I've seen it myself in the parish where I am. I have seen families who think that going to any church is ok, if they go at all. I've worked with families that have the kids go to CCD and to Sunday school or youth group at another Christian church-and see nothing wrong with it. They don't know there are theological differences between the different approaches to Christianity and they don't seem to be aware of any confusing messages that the children might pick up.
We have lost a sense of what makes Catholics, well, Catholic. How many families do you know that gets together for a Rosary every night-or once a week? Gosh, how many of them even get together for dinner every night? How many people do you know who wear a scapular? I can only think of one I know for sure-and he's a 90 year old priest. How many people do you know who wear a Miraculous Medal-and WHY? Wearing a cross around your neck is kind of fashionable. But how many people do you know who do it with real devotion and not just as another piece of jewelry?
In the interest of full disclosure, the only one of those things to which I can say, "yes, I do that myself" is the one about the Miraculous Medal. I was going to say that our family is doing it's best, but we're really not. We're not doing our best because it's a little work to do all of those things.
Yes, to reinforce a Catholic identity, or to develop one, takes work. It takes living intentionally. So many of us (me especially) are content to float through life, going through the basic motions of what it means to be a Catholic Christian. We say grace before meals (most of the time), we go to Sunday Mass, we say goodnight prayers with our kids, and all of these are good things. BUT aren't we all called to do more? Didn't Jesus give His life for us? Doesn't that require a radical commitment from all of us? And a renewal of that commitment every day?
(stay tuned for part 3)