How many times have you heard the phrase “separation of powers” or “separation of church and state” or “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof?” If you haven’t heard it before, maybe study up on the laws and rules of this country they didn’t teach you in public school. In short, it means the church is a separate body, not to be governed by any state or government entity.
Occasionally, the Church and State enter into conflicts. An example of this would be in Houston, a few years ago, the mayor and council demanded to sign-off in advance on any sermon at weekly services to make sure it is worthy; this was struck down. The church often talks a great game, then Covid-19 hit, and they let all Hell break-out.
In particular, the Catholic Church has been bleeding members for quite some time; basically, in a given year, about 30 members would join the Catholic faith at our church. On average, we lost at least that many due to death in an average month. The numbers do not add up. When the shutdowns started, the church (via the bishop, the controlling entity for the Diocese) said it was ok simply watching Mass on TV or the Internet or listening on the radio, and not participating in the Eucharist (Holy Communion) was ok. Even though the Catholic faith says you must participate in the Eucharist weekly, the church bowed to the State.
While the church did eventually open up outdoor services, it was very limited, and sparsely attended. We started a live stream, but again folks didn’t attend. The church made it comfy for folks to watch Mass in their pajamas while sipping coffee. A few weeks turned into months, which turned into a year plus now. While churches have re-opened, it was to smaller crowds; 100 folks max. They made it easy to opt out as the bishop continued the “you don’t have to attend in person, it still counts” decree.
My point here is a habit is formed over time, and it takes discipline to really form a habit. You have to hold yourself accountable. In the case of the church, folks broke habit. After missing for a couple weeks, it became months, then a year plus. These folks are not likely to return. This is similar to a workout regime at the gym. It takes a while to form a habit, but it can be broken, and once broken, it’s hard to get started again. It’s easy for folks to wake up and turn on the TV. Lord knows, as Americans, we consume enough of that already!
A new habit has been formed, and not a good one for the local parish.
Speaking of the local parishes, let me again use my parish as an example. We have 5 masses each weekend, and weekly collection (AKA the offering) ran about $17K a week prior to Covid. Now it runs about 5K, and I feel that is drastically overstated. Our priest gave a long diatribe about how we are required to give 10% of our annual income to the church. Keep in mind, I have never heard that amount before, and in the Catholic faith, the word “tithing” was always used to describe the Mormon religion, one the Catholics view as a cult. Our priest used his entire sermon to speak about money and finances, lacking any self-awareness that the church shut down for about a year. During that time, many folks hearing his words were out of work or otherwise adversely impacted.
My father remarked that he was surprised that most of the congregation “regulars” at the early Mass had yet to return, speculating they may not have been vaccinated yet. While this thinking is all well and good, the demographics at that Mass are almost exclusively 70 plus in age. These folks have had about 6 months of time to get the shot, and by now, its likely most have received it; however, they just aren’t going to attend service anymore. Think about it, the excuse was “the church is closed” “I will return when I get the shot,” now it’s, “I will return when the numbers go down.” These folks ain’t coming back in large numbers.
The church bent over for the Governor and the state government. It, like any other organization, showed its true colors. They talk a good game, but … The consequence of their action is that most watch EWTN or some other form of online church and have no intention of returning. They are spinless and they showed it. The folks holding out hope for a mass return to the church will be vastly disappointed, its hollow words as far as I am concerned. Nowadays, there is no separation of Church and State and the bishop here proved it to be true. Now the church is concerned about money…yeah that’s rich.
Jake the Snake