The decline of the mainstream Christian churches is self-evidence in most parts of Western society. The world-wide increase of Christians comes from nations of Africa, Asia, and former Soviet republics. The latest casuality, much to my surprise as an Australian, is the confessional numbers in US Catholic churches. While older parishioners persist, young people are staying away, preferring to see “their faith as a spiritual and less an institutional concern”. An online Boston Globe article shows Boston Catholic churches desperately ‘spruiking’ the benefits of confession via radio and web-site campaigns. The best they seem to hope for is “planting the seed”.
Perhaps the Roman Catholic Church has more systemic image problems with the young, issues inconsistent with today’s community attitudes – explicitly anti-homosexual attitudes by Catholic leadership; rejection of women for religious leadership roles; continued rejection of condom use; celibacy of the priesthood; prolonged hiding of child-abuse by church officials; stigmatising many sexual behaviours as ‘sinful’; concept of being born with an original ‘sin’; the improbability of doctrines like ‘Transubstantiation’; and inability to explain problems of evil (all-powerful, loving God with needless suffering). Is any sort of advertising campaign, no matter how slick, going to overcome these impediments? This is especially so when combined with largely antiquated and irrelevant ceremonial practices often held in ostentatiously ornate buildings? These attitudes and practices, even if unfairly stereotyped at times, are condemned by so many in society as well as by the younger people.