OPINION

How to fill up, or empty the Church...

An article for CathNews discussion board explaining how communications can be acting in different audiences to fill up or empty a Church...

Dear boardies,

I've just been engaged in a private chat with a very good friend who is into all the Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugore, "miracles", "apparitions" and "messages from Our Lady" stuff. She is a very dear friend and we get on great guns together and have some fabulous conversations about these things even if we do disagree very deeply. Boardies here might be interested in this argument I have just sent to her...

Please rest assured, [name deleted], I do appreciate and respect your point of view. Also, one of the really admirable qualities I do find in you is that you do not try and ram your particular perspectives down my neck. You do quietly endeavour to provide witness to what you believe. I endeavour to do the same. It is unfortunate that you and I do differ in that I sincerely also believe that all this "miracles" and "apparitions" business is in fact theologically false and is doing grave damage to the Church across the face of the Western world.

I do emphasize again though that (a) I respect that a lot of people do believe it all to be true and that Our Lady is giving these messages and (b) they believe that if this stuff was only proselytised more it would "solve" many of the problems the Church has in the world.

I disagree with those two propositions though. I think it appeals, and communicates to, about 5% of the world's population. Sure, when you assemble 5% of a city, or the world, in one place, such as Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugore, Guadalupe, etc., it does look mighty impressive. You cannot repeat that though week in and week out in every parish across the world.

If you have some communication that, say, appeals very strongly to 3 people in every 10, and is "neutral" or of no interest to, say, another 3, but is actually negative and drives the other four away, by a simple mathematical computation you can work out that if you persist with that communication long enough you will eventually end up with a Church without a congregation. I argue that is partly what has been going on across the length and breadth of the Western world for the last 35 years and why today 85% of baptised Catholic (on average) no longer want to have anything to do with the Church. In fact, I believe the figures are much worse than that. For every 100 people around 5 are attracted to that sort of thing, perhaps it is "neutral" or of no interest to, say, 70 or 80, but it does drive the other 15 to 25 away and has been doing so for about 35 years.

You would, of course, have precisely the opposite effect on the Church if these things appealed to, say, 5 people in every hundred, it was "neutral" or of no interest to 91, but only 4 people were "turned off" by the message. If you persisted with that message long enough you would fill up your churches eventually. If it was 5 people in every hundred attracted, and "neutral" or of no interest to 94, and only 1 person was being "turned off" by the message you would fill your Church back up a lot more quickly.

And if it was 25 people in every hundred attracted to some liturgical style or type of devotional practice, and "neutral" or of no interest to 74, and only 1 person was being "turned off" by the message you would fill your Church back up in next to no time.

Cheers for now

©2005Tom Scott/Brian Coyne/Vias Tuas Communications
Written: 26Feb2005

Tom Scott

"In spite of all that might be said against our age,
what a moment it is to be alive in!" James McAuley