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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Obama goes to church

For probably political reasons, Obama went to church last week for the fourth time in 19 months. Not a sterling record but who am I to say anything? It’s four more times than I have been to church in a much larger time frame than that. I don’t think church is a necessity for the average person to lead a proper and honest life although it probably can’t hurt.

Churches are suffering an attendance problem, especially the Catholic Church. I grew up in the ‘50s as a non Catholic in a heavily Catholic neighborhood in the heavily Catholic city of Cincinnati. Our family lived three blocks from a large Catholic Church, St. Mary’s. It was an old neighborhood with street parking only and the cars of those attending the myriad of masses on a Sunday were parked all the way to our house.

The Catholic kids I knew were well trained and never missed an opportunity to tell me my Presbyterian Church was totally incorrect in its doctrine and that the Catholic Church was the only “true” religion. St. Mary’s was run by the Jesuits and they are great teachers and brainwashers. I heard a priest say once that if they could keep a kid until 15, his thinking would be irreversible. He was wrong; I knew several who left the church.

The remarks of those kids didn’t bother me as I wasn’t crazy about church anyway and I quit going as soon as I was old enough to pull it off. But, in those innocent days of the ‘50s when most kids did as they were told, Catholic Church attendance was high. A Gallup Poll from 60 years ago shows that 75% of Catholics went to Mass. Today it is 45%.

Currently, two out of three Catholics in the greater Cincinnati area don’t go to Mass anymore. It’s not just there that this is happening; Mass attendance has been declining for decades across the country as people find things they would rather do. Some cite busier schedules, changing cultures, and what I believe is the main reason: discontent with Catholic leaders.

The Church is against birth control and is firm about an all male priesthood. Also, the many clergy abuses with children have hurt the cause as has the mild punishment handed out.

In the past, the poor depended on the Church for a social life as they were shunned by society. Today, Catholics are as rich and educated as anyone else and don’t depend on the Church as much. Also, many are turned off by the churches liberal attitude based on more government control and higher taxes.

A few years ago, the Catholic Churches of Phoenix ran TV ads asking “Catholics to come home.” Whether they did or not, I don’t know but in 2004, Bishop Thomas O’Brien of Phoenix was discovered to have been harboring pedophile priests for 20 years. Shortly after that, he was arrested for a felony hit and run accident. Such activity by a church leader is inexcusable and didn’t help church attendance.

Is church attendance on the decline? Recent figures say “yes”, especially for the Catholic Church.

To leave a comment or to read 51 other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not receive a virus. Jim McAllister writes for the Arizona Republic

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