30 November 2018

How to Revive the Catholic Church

Mr Holdsworth with some very pointed ideas on how the Church can restore Her 'brand' in the modern world.

A loose transcript:

There is a fundamental crisis of identity taking place in the Catholic Church and if don’t believe me, let me offer an analogy: Imagine a large company whose fundamental purpose was to sell Animal Print Blankets. In order to accomplish this task, it employed a large work force of sales people. At the end of the year, when the company assessed its year end, it discovers that it made 10 blanket sales. Any reasonable leadership would look at that outcome and realize they have a crisis on their hands. It would either take drastic measures to adjust its game plan or abandon the venture altogether. As all Catholics should know, evangelization is the fundamental mission of the Church. This is the work of proclaiming the message of Christ to the world and inviting people to respond by adopting the faith. Pope Paul VI, said as much in Evangelium Nuntiandi which Pope Francis has described as the greatest pastoral document ever written. In it, he writes, “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity.” Now, before I make my point let me dispel what might be a crude interpretation that some of you might be jumping to. I’m not comparing evangelization with sales. What I do want to compare is two organizations with different missions, but missions none the less. One is to sell a product the other is to evangelize. If any organization were to catastrophically fail in their mission the way I described our blanket sales force, then there would be some serious consequences for that. I attend one of the largest parishes in my Archdiocese. Last year, we welcomed 2 people into the Catholic Church at Easter. We have a membership of over 2000 families who are called to be participants in the mission of the church and managed to attract 2 new people last year. I realize that addressing this issue is an intimidating challenge, but if we aren’t embracing our deepest identity as a community of spiritual outreach, than what’s the point of keeping the lights on? If we’re going to address this issue, then we need to diagnose why the faith has seen such a dramatic decline over the past century. There are a lot of things that we could point to but let me focus in on one that speaks to my own area of expertise, which is our brand. By brand, I’m not talking about candy bar packaging. I’m talking about the impression that people get when they think of something. Everyone, everything, and every organization has a brand. When you say the name of a person or an organization, what do you think of. If someone says, Catholic Church, what do you think most people think of? Do they think of a rich cultural and intellectual tradition? Do they think of social justice? Do they think of an authentic pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty? Or, do they think of sex abuse, intolerance, superstition, and an aging population of rule followers? For many, it’s the latter and the reason for that is that we haven’t been deliberate about telling our story. We’ve been letting other people tell it for us and when they do, they take the opportunity to create an impression that is unflattering and with no voice to counteract that, people adopt those conclusions. In everything we do, we are communicating and representing our faith. We’re leaving people with an impression of who we are and what we represent. This is especially true for our liturgy, our architecture, the practice of our faith, and our approach to communication. When we allow or encourage silly or trivial music to dominate our liturgy, we signal to Catholics and non-Catholics that our faith is silly and trivial. When we water down the practice of our faith so that it demands so little of its adherents, we are suggesting that this isn’t something that you should take seriously. When our gathering areas feature bulletin boards that belong in a kindergarten classroom, we’re giving the impression that Catholicism is for the simple minded. When our Church buildings are designed to look like shopping malls, we’re reinforcing the idea that there’s nothing of substance or value here. When our websites look like they were built in 1998, you get the point. If our culture believes that Catholicism is irrelevant to today’s culture, we have to take the blame because all of these careless things that we’re doing are reinforcing that sentiment. So we need to be more deliberate about all of these opportunities that leave an impression on people. The Catholicism that I know is bold, authentic, intensely spiritual, and filled with a rich history of communicating transcendentals in profound ways. Let’s start reinforcing that impression in everything that we do!

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