MARQUETTE, Michigan, December 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Contraception has been a “clear factor” in the steep decline of parishioners at Catholic churches across the United States, says Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette, Michigan.

“Not everyone wants to talk about it, but that is a clear factor in the decline of the Catholic community,” the bishop told Catholic World Report in a newly-published interview.

The prelate, who at 50 years old is one of the youngest in the country, lamented that many small parishes are struggling to stay open while there simply are not enough Catholic children to fill parochial schools.

“Couples are using artificial contraceptives to limit the size of their families, and sterilization is also becoming a common practice,” he observed.  “Families think they have the number of children they want, and then close off any further openness to life that God might want to bring into their family.”

He noted also that the drop in numbers is explained by Catholics leaving the faith.  “They are not well formed in the faith and have been swayed by a secular culture. They don’t see religious values as important,” he said.

According to the bishop, these problems resulted from poor catechesis in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which took place in 1962-1965.

“While I certainly don’t blame the Council, much upheaval occurred in the Church in its aftermath,” he said.  “Culturally, society was experiencing the sexual revolution, the women’s liberation movement, and the anti-war movement, among others. There was an anti-authoritarian spirit.”

“In this time of great confusion, catechesis suffered. We booted the Baltimore Catechism out the door, but there wasn’t anything to replace it,” he continued.  “I was taught the faith in Catholic schools using materials that were weak and insubstantial. I wasn’t being taught my faith. The liturgy suffered from experimentation as well.”

“My generation raised up the next generation. Since we weren’t taught the faith, we raised children who weren’t either,” he added.

As a remedy, the bishop called for a renewal of catechesis and the promotion of Pope Benedict’s XVI efforts towards liturgical reform.  “If we can get catechesis and the liturgy right, we’ll be well on our way to the renewal and growth of the Church for which we hope,” he said.

Bishop Sample said there are two “grave moral concerns” that the Church must address in the public square: the “protection of innocent human life” and “the defense of traditional marriage.”

“As a society, we must take steps to protect the unborn, and also the elderly and handicapped,” he explained.  “And, since marriage and family are the basic unit of society, the health of society rests on the health of marriage and family life. Anything which threatens either of these is seriously destructive.”