There were a couple of things this week which got me thinking about why young people (particualrly those who go to Catholic schools) opt out at end of school or have well and truly opted out before leaving school. As Bishop Holohan of Bunbury said earlier this week, Confirmation has become the "Sacrament of Farewell".
People have put all sorts of reasons to this. The conservatives say that it is because the Church offers no challenges to young people and liberals say it is because the church is too conservative; and there is an element of truth in either argument.
However, a lot of the blame can be placed at the foot of modern approaches to the liturgy. After hearing Roman's description of his Graduation Mass, I thought of other Masses that I attended at school - thankfully they were not as outrageous. The liturgists have to extend themselves a little bit further all the time so that now they have a Mass of totally all their own creation. The emphasis is on what they can create and understand in the their own narrow world (ie. the Brisbane housewife approach to liturgy) and do not open up to the wider church and the cosmos. The Mass has then degenerated into a self-affirmation, or self-worship session.
I was serving at a Mass for an inner city Catholic School a few years ago. Although in the words of the headmaster that many of the students were "unchurched", all of these "unchurched" people were given tasks in the litugy presumably to be "inclusive". The order of Service book was more alppalling in that it had a description of the Mass (obviously to help the "unchurched" students) which was along the lines of "we first tell stories and then we share a meal together".
This, combined with my own experience at school, brings me to the conclusion of what is the reality. Catholicism, is so completely dumbed down when it it presented to high school students that it ceases to have any credibility at all. To a 15 year old "telling stories and sharing a meal" has no meaning and makes Catholicism look absurd. How can anyone call it a serious and credible belief system compared to any of the great religions of the world? How could any of this be of use to ones relationship with God? How does the faith have any relationship with western philosophy and thought?
To be frank, the Roman Catholic Church in Brisbane is killing itself. As the generations of un-churched parents send their un-churched kids to Catholic schools, in which a parody of the faith is presented, the church will find it harder to think that the Catholic schools are a tool for evangelisation.
Prepare for a very very small church in Brisbane in the future.