success stories

Book: Laity: American and Catholic
Authors: William V. D'Antonio, James D. Davidson, Dean R. Hoge and Ruth A. Wallace
Sheed and Ward, Kansas City, pp. 187

Excerpt from Preface:

There have been many developments in the period since the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Some trends are clearly signs of hope and long-term viability; others point to problems which might contribute to organizational decline. The hopeful signs include continued growth in the number of Catholics, up from about 40 million in 1960 to about 60 million in 1992; an increase in the number of Catholic parishes — 20,000 in 1992, compared to 17,000 in 1960; growing numbers of teachers in Catholic schools; resulting in a better teacher-student ratio (down from one teacher per 28 students in 1960 to one for every 16 students today); a doubling in the number of students enrolled in Catholic colleges and universities (from about 300,000 in 1960 to about 650,000 in 1992); and, growing indications that Catholic lay people want to play larger roles in their parishes and want to collaborate with clergy in formulating policies which affect the laity's lives most directly.

At the same time, there are many areas of concern. There has been sharp declines in the number of priests and sisters, these trends are likely to continue; Catholics' financial contributions to the Church are the lowest of any major faith group; clergy and lay people alike are concerned about the quality of religious education young Catholics are receiving; some people are very concerned about the younger generation's willingness to support the Church in the future; there seem to be growing tensions between the hierarchy and lay people over issues such as the ordination of women and optional celibacy; there continue to be important divisions over sexual ethics; and concerns seem to be growing about the role that the Church's largest ethnic group — Latinos — will play in the Church in the years ahead.

In this book we examine both kinds of changes — those which point to the enduring strengths of the Church, and those which are problematic.

Excerpt from Book:

Vatican II council deliberations — particularly on the definition of the Church as the People of God, the importance of looking at the signs of the times, and the principle of collegiality — have affected the attitudes of the contemporary Catholic laity. In addition, the growing priest shortage has led to new developments in parish life, resulting in a growing empowerment of the laity, including the administration of parishes without a resident priest.

Pope John Paul II is wary of these developments. In public statements in 1987, 1993, and 1994 he cautioned against increasing the community of the Church by "clericalizing" laypersons and "laicizing" priests. Arguing that just as a shepherd cannot be replaced by one of his flock, a lay administrator's services and ministries are never "properly speaking" pastoral. Exercising tasks heretofore the province of the pastoral ministry "does not make pastors of the lay faithful."

We expect that an increase in active participation will be an ongoing challenge for lay Catholics. Some bishops will continue to encourage lay participation: others will opt for other solutions to the problem of scarce resources by recruiting priests from other countries and/or encouraging prayers for priestly vocations. Echoing the words of Pope John XXIII, we are convinced that the future of parish life depends on how we — the People of God, clergy and laity — "know how to distinguish the ‘signs of the times.'

Table of Contents:

1. Whither American Catholicism?

2. Maintaining Church Moral Authority

3. Human Sexuality

4. Three Generations of Catholics: Pre-Vatican II, Vatican II, and Post-Vatican II

5. Post-Vatican II Catholics: Central Tendencies and Intra-Generational Differences

6. Women's "Place" kin the Church

7. Changes in Parish Life

8. The Most-Committed American Catholics

9. Latinos and First-Wave Catholics: Are They Different?

10. Future Directions in American Catholicism