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Bishop Robert Barron at the USCCB's spring 2019 meeting. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops / YouTube
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Bishops: Teaching the truth of Christ needed to bring Catholics back to the Church

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Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles.
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BALTIMORE, Maryland, June 25, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — When the U.S. bishops’ Evangelization and Catechesis chair raised the issue at the bishops’ recent meeting of an ongoing mass exit of Catholics from the Church, numerous prelates expressed concern over the issue.

A few bishops voiced the need to return to the basic truth of the Church’s teaching, and one bishop drew attention to a departure from the basics of the Faith driving the fall into sexual sin by some clergy and also steering people away from the Church.

Speaking of the sex abuse crisis and the hemorrhaging of Catholics from the Church, especially young people, Tyler, Texas bishop Joseph Strickland said the one is connected to the other.

“You talk about the young that are leaving,” Strickland said, “but isn’t that what’s happened with hearts that have stopped believing the wondrous truth of Jesus Christ?” 

Los Angeles auxiliary bishop and Word on Fire media company founder Robert Barron, chair of the Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, gave a presentation at the recent spring General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) about the alarming statistics on people leaving the Church.

Fully half of all millennial Catholics have left, he said. The median age of those deciding to leave is a shocking age 13, and for every incoming convert, more than six people are leaving the Church. 

Barron called it “the massive attrition of our own people, especially the young” and also “a bitter fruit of the dumbing down of our faith” as it’s been passed on in catechesis and apologetics.

“To look at this issue of who are the unaffiliated, why are they leaving and how do we get them back, I think, is a top priority for our Church,” he said.

The clergy sex abuse scandal took an overall focus at the bishops’ meeting, as the conference was voting on three measures intended to address the crisis and bishop accountability, and Catholics remain angered and upset over the hierarchy’s handling of clergy sex abuse.

Strickland highlighted from the floor of the meeting that while the clergy sex abuse crisis is going to take most of the focus, the two matters — abuse and Catholics leaving the Church — are connected.

“I think this is the critical issue,” he said, “and just in my own experience in a small diocese, I would encourage us all and I’m sure we’re all aware, but I think we need to focus that one really is connected to the other.”

The Texas bishop said the result is the same when people have stopped believing in the truth of Jesus Christ.

“So the salvation of souls really is what it comes down to, once again,” Strickland said. “I just wanted to really underscore what I believe is the reality, that it really is one topic of returning to the wondrous truth of Jesus Christ.”

“Helping the young, and the old and everyone in between, know the truth,” he added, “and really wade through what our culture constantly pumps out as ‘make up your own mind, your own opinion.’” 

Bishop Strickland has become known for his clear articulation and defense of the faith in the face of societal challenges, both at the bishops’ meetings and on social media.

Learn more about Bishop Strickland’s views and past actions by visiting FaithfulShepherds.com. Click here.

In addition to Strickland, a few other bishops spoke up at the assembly about the basics of the Faith being key in addressing the issue of bringing Catholics back into the fold.

Portland, Ore. archbishop Alexander Sample prefaced his comments by saying the clergy sex abuse crisis is the front-burner issue. However, he said, the bishops’ focus must be on teaching and living the Faith.

“But I think really this is the pastoral challenge and mission of the Church,” he said. “This is really where our focus and energy needs to be.”

Sample related how he’d told the young people in his homily at Confirmations in his archdiocese this year that this was a great pastoral concern of his, that, statistically, he knows that many of them will leave the Church, and he discussed why this is happening.

“Really the homily boiled down to what we need to get back to,” Sample said, “and it’s the basic proclamation of the good news, and the Kerygma.”

Kerygma, from the Greek keryssein, is the proclamation of the Gospel message.

Sample explained how he evangelized the youth he was confirming. “I shared with them, why am I a Catholic? Apart from being an archbishop, why am I a Catholic?” he said. “And it’s because what I believe about Jesus Christ, and the salvation that He has won for us through His passion, death and resurrection.”

“That He established a Church to carry on that saving mission in the world,” Sample continued, “that it’s God’s will that I belong to that Church in order to attain eternal life and salvation, and that that Church is the Catholic Church.”

“It was amazing, the response I got,” he recalled for his fellow bishops, “not so much from the students, but from parents, godparents, grandparents — that it was a real kind of awakening moment for them.”

St. Paul was most effective when he proclaimed Christ crucified, Sample said, “and that’s what I proclaim.”

“I think we need to be bold, because we have what so many of what these people are looking for.”

Green Bay bishop David Ricken said it is now not just the Millennial generation, but also their children about whom the bishops need to be concerned. There are also opportunities, he said, such as parents of Catholic schoolchildren and religious education, and those already in the pews.

The bishops could help these groups be missionary disciples, Ricken said, through understanding what the Kerygma is, stressing that this is the Church’s purpose.

“I think we really need to commit ourselves to be all about that vision and mission,” he said, continuing that the need “is critical, and it’s what we’re all about, because evangelization is the mission of the Church. In fact, the Church herself is that mission.” 

Kansas City, Mo. bishop James Johnston noted the steep drop-off in worship among the faithful.

“When you stop worshiping God, that also has implications as well,” he said.

“Intuitively, children realize, well, this is isn’t really important, if you look at the small percentage of people that worship God on Sunday,” Johnston said. “I think we have to pay attention also to emphasizing the importance, the basic importance of worshiping the living God.”

Richmond, Va. bishop Barry Knestout called attention to the power of the Catholic Church’s sacramental theology and Eucharistic Adoration.

The U.S. bishops will be revisiting the issue of Catholics leaving the Church at their fall General Assembly in November.

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