Is the Church relevant to our lives?

Talk to any priest and his main complain will be the poor attendance at mass and poor participation of the parishioners in Church activities. In fact for every one who attends mass on Sunday, there are probably five others who do not. Why is this number of active participants dwindling over the years?

According to a new study commissioned by the Australian bishops, Catholics disconnected from Mass attendance and other parish life believe the Catholic Church is out of touch with the world today and is not relevant to their own lives.

This was according to the report “Catholics Who Have Stopped Going to Mass,” released by the the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference recently as reported in the Catholic Online dated 1st.December 2006.(www.catholiconline.com)

According to the report, the three most commonly mentioned factors that had the most powerful impact on Mass attendance, were:

1. Misuse of power and authority at all levels of the Catholic Church.

2. Irrelevance of the church to life today, as an institution “out of touch with Australian society.” “In their eyes the church had lost its ability to connect with the day-to-day lives of ordinary people and as a result they no longer regarded it as having the authority to guide them in living an authentic life.”

3. Lack of intellectual stimulation, with several noting that the sermons delivered in their parishes “were of poor quality, being ill-prepared, theologically unsound, badly delivered and irrelevant.”

It is encouraging that the Australian Bishops are taking the results of the study concerning “disconnected Catholics” rather seriously to further understand the very complex personal, spiritual and cultural factors which have seen a decline in church-going over recent decades.

I am sure if we conduct a similar study of our own “disconnected Catholics” the reasons given will not differ much from their Australian counterparts. I am sure most of our Catholics, “disconnected” and even a significant number of “connected” will agree that the Church is slowly but surely becoming irrelevant to their lives.

It is timely now for our own bishops and clergy to review the situation here in our own country and take proactive measures to make religion relevant to Catholics.

Today in Malaysia the ordinary man, especially the non-Muslims, is under tremendous pressures to cope with all the problems he is forced to encounter.

Managing the family is an arduous task these days. Firstly there are the marital problems to handle with the spouse and the in-laws. As a result divorce is increasing by the day even among Catholics.

Then there are the rebellious children under the influence a very materialistic and immoral culture. To them even their parents are becoming irrelevant because of out-dated moral values. Where does the Church stand in their lives?

In addition to these are the financial problems, increasing cost of education, health care, housing and lack of job opportunities. To make matters worse are the discriminating policies of the government.

How is an average wage earner going to manage all these? There is nobody to turn to for help and guidance. The government agencies are of no help. His Church which use to be the savior fails him miserably.

The priests make it even more difficult by imposing their own unrealistic conditions. They seem to be only interested in large crowds at the various celebrations to participate in the numerous rituals which are of no meaning to an already over burdened individual. Instead of reaching to these estranged Catholics, they in fact further isolate them.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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