Every single problem the Church has all flows from one central issue:
Our spiritual health is lacking.
In most places in the western world, Mass attendance is well below 40 percent. In other words: 60 percent+ willfully starve themselves spiritually.
An even greater number allow this to fester as the use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is widely disregarded and abandoned.
The overwhelming majority of Catholics in the United States and in the West have abandoned the sacramental life of the Church.
That sickness infects everything: our finances, vocations, outreach, quality of clergy, and institutions. It empties our convents, monasteries, seminaries, and closes our parishes.
It can become a chicken/egg discussion.
Did a falling sense of transcendence cause the fall in Mass attendance or did a fall in Mass attendance create a rush to make the Mass “more relevant” to retain those who stayed?
I don’t know. Maybe it is a mix.
If it seems as as if I am laying a lot at the feet of the laity, perhaps I am to an extent.
The clergy are not a separate species from the laity. We don’t have a Levitical tribe, and priesthood is not something passed on down from father to son.
All priests spent the first 25+ years among the ranks of the laity. It was while in the ranks of laity, especially in their families, that they learned (or should have learned) the importance of prayer and selfless service.
It is the family that they should have learned the necessity of fidelity and chastity.
As the domestic Church (the family) started coming undone, it affected everything it touched. From it came the next generation of clergy. It became a vicious downward cycle.
As the domestic Church became a place where we became comfortable with sin,
clergy was produced that also was comfortable with sin.
This, in turn, taught succeeding generations to be more comfortable with sin,
which created domestic churches, which became even more comfortable with sin, and so on.
The more comfortable we become with sin, the more uncomfortable we become with grace.
The more comfortable we became with sin, the more uncomfortable we became with Confession and Mass.
Perhaps this is why each succeeding generation drifts further and further away until many Masses in many parishes are seas of gray.
Perhaps that is why we see fewer marrying in the Church, fewer baptisms, fewer in education, fewer in the seminaries.
In starving ourselves spiritually, we have become spiritually anemic.
This is why I believe that a focus of the restoration of the domestic Church is absolutely necessary to the restoration of the Church as a whole.
Hence, it is why I am insistent that those families who have children in any education program go to Mass and make better use of Confession.
If we can get families to quit starving themselves sacramentally, if we can get our families to desire grace over sin, and if we can get our families to fully accept the grace God wants to give them, that changes everything.
Those families become the way Christ restores His Church.
Those families produce the future clergy who will teach what has been taught them–who having grown in a incubator of prayer, service, and fidelity, will teach the necessity of such to the next group of burgeoning domestic churches.
For my part, as a pastor of souls, I must emphasize this in the Mass, make this clear in our educational apparatuses, and make a clarion call to our families that fall under my pastoral care to strengthen their families as places of grace fed by the sacramental life of the Church.
To do this, I have to make people uncomfortable with sin and seek comfort in the mercy and forgiveness of Christ. That doesn’t mean browbeating. It means showing the superior way laid out by Christ which to follow will necessitate abandoning sin.
I truly believe fully embracing the sacramental life of the Church brings a springtime of growth to replace the long winter of our discontent.
It starts in the family. It starts in the laity. It starts in the domestic Church.