I'm feeling like the Church shrinkage is due to poor Catholic education at least in part. And certainly the bishops and the institutional church are hapless; it’s no accident that the bishops tried to start a TV network that was dead-on-arrival while an obscure monastic nun made EWTN a fixture on every cable box. The problem with EWTN now is that it lost its star power (Mother Angelica) and now likely appeals only to the elderly. But I could be wrong.
And it was interesting to hear on a news podcast an author (Franklin Foer) say that the addiction to smart phones has a spiritual cost as they distract us from the eternal, non-superficial questions. It seems a perfect storm: modernity’s profound religious ignorance combined with a tech age of constant distraction. Looks like there is no hope, only Hope.
The answer is prayer, not money, but on the latter I think the way to go is to support non-institutional third parties like the Augustine Institute and the St Paul Center, both aimed towards high school kids and seminarians. Scott Hahn is also doing a lot of work in this area and the fact that two of his sons are in the seminary shows me he’s doing something right. So I stopped donation to local Catholic grade school and to the bishop's fund drive and started one to Augustine Institute.
A Twitter thread from professor Gregory Hillis, on the current bleakness:
I have students in my intro theology class write spiritual autobiographies and almost every one written by a Catholic witnesses to the failure of the Church in educating families and children in the faith.
I've thought a great deal about what needs to change. My first suggestion would be that catechesis needs to be mystagogical in approach so that children in particular are immersed in the experience of God, apart from which its doctrine and morality remain incomprehensible.
I mean by this primarily that attempting to teach the faith apart from an immersion in a genuine and profound understanding and experience of the sacraments is bound to fall short. Prayer and theology should never be separated.
My second response would be that young people have many questions and they should feel welcome to ask difficult questions without being made to feel as if they're virtual apostates for questioning the faith.
We're long past the time when theology teachers and clerics can simply say "Because the Church says so." They need to be allowed to doubt, allowed to explore, and allowed also to understand & experience the generous response the Church has always given to well-formed consciences.
I'm a convert as well, and many of the cradle Catholics I know who understand the faith are those who have explored it on their own independently of the church. They shouldn't have to do that.