10 ways to revitalize the Catholic Church

(Andrew Medichini/AP ) Reform is afoot in the Vatican. Pope Francis has tightened the reins on the Vatican bank, worked … Continued

(Andrew Medichini/AP )

Reform is afoot in the Vatican. Pope Francis has tightened the reins on the Vatican bank, worked through a grueling visit to Brazil, named a new secretary of state, and is now busy preparing for the October meeting of cardinals who will advise him on how to breathe new life into the Catholic Church.

The new pope’s agenda is simple: spread the good news of Jesus Christ in a freer and more convincing way. Christ stated the church’s mission very plainly: “Go out and make disciples of all the nations.”

Here in America, Catholic parishes need to take measures to better carry out this mission:

1. Parishioners and clergy must take responsibility for evangelization. The church is not a spiritual McDonald’s whose success largely depends on its managers, the clergy. Paraphrasing President John Kennedy’s call to service, “Ask not what the church can do for you, but what you can do for the church.” Evangelicals and Pentecostals have much to teach Catholics in this regard. Polls show Catholics stayed away from church because they were ignored, slighted, or scandalized. Sometimes they misunderstand church teaching. They need to know that they are missed and that the door is open for them.

2. A priest in France has attracted people to packed Masses largely by spending six hours every night in the confessional. (He also wears priestly garb on the street so that those who want a priest know where to find one.) Clergy here need to recommit themselves to the sacrament of confession. They must be available at convenient times for more than a perfunctory half-hour before Saturday evening Mass. Frequenting the sacrament themselves, priests can awaken in their parishioners the need for repentance and conversion.

3. A pope once said that one good catechist is worth a hundred outstanding preachers. Yet there are wealthy parishes that expect directors of religious education to work as unpaid volunteers! Catechism needs to be taken more seriously as a ministry. In many parts of the world, the minister whom Catholics see the most is their catechist, not their pastor. Parents must be willing to be trained and work as catechists. More adult Catholics must also take responsibility for handing on the faith. This also includes shouldering ministries that care for the least, such as visiting the sick.

4. Catholic colleges and universities believe unequivocally that it is an honor to be Catholic, and need to be demonstrably evangelical. The people who are often proudest to be part of Catholic education are in fact non-Catholics: Protestants, non-Christians, and even atheists.

5. More clergy and religious need to regard the church’s teaching on sexuality and family as good news. It is part of the Gospel, and not something to be ashamed of. Granted, it must be done with tact and understanding. But it must be done, with the confidence that is part of the saving truth given by Jesus Christ.

6. Pray. A Protestant pastor in Carthagena, Colombia, is organizing 3:30 a.m. prayer rallies in the streets where violence, poverty, and prostitution reign. Catholics here could even do the same in neighborhoods where indifference rules. The world has just finished a day of prayer and fasting for peace. Friday is still a penitential day even though Catholics are not required to give up meat. The U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference issues weekly intentions for prayer and fasting. These calls can make for powerful spiritual kindling.

7. Catholic social teaching is an essential consequence of the Gospel, which means we must be involved in the public square as Catholics. With enough prayer, sacrifice, advocacy, common sense, and sheer grace, Wall Street might cease being a casino; and likewise, civic leaders, public unions, and bondholders might be able to find agreement in the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression.

8. Pope Francis rightly warns us of the evil afoot in this world. Religious liberty is being threatened daily in the West, while 200 million Christians worldwide are in mortal danger because of their faith. Catholics must become more aware of the plight of our brothers and sisters abroad.

9. At the same time, we must forgive and pray for our adversaries. Recently, the parishioners of one of the many churches burned in Egypt wrote on the wall of their church that they forgave their enemies and would pray on their behalf to God, who is love. That’s Gospel!

10. Remember that being Catholic in America, or anywhere, means we can rejoice and trust Christ’s admonishment, “be not afraid.”

Father I. Michael Bellafiore is a Jesuit priest and instructor in theology at The University of Scranton.

  • rb-freedom-for-all

    Yes, make Catholics in America stand up for everything that the church says. Then their won’t be any Catholics in America at all.

  • RJ H

    Great for the Pope who is the leader of the only Christian Church started by Jesus Christ! He needs to lead us to go back to immitating Jesus! The church standards do not change because they are from Jesus who never changes! Anyone who can not follow the strict standards, is not a Christian and not going to HEAVEN!!

  • Rongoklunk

    God could change the world and Catholicism for all time. All He has to do is show up, (as Woody Allen says), and we would all be believers. Just imagine if He showed up – maybe went on TV, or just flew around the sky waving to all of us looking up. Just imagine – there wouldn’t be any atheists anymore. No skeptics, no doubters, no folks who think that religion defies commonsense. It would truly be a wonderful day which none of us would ever forget. It would be one of the greatest days of all time, and it would change EVERYTHING.

    Unfortunately it’ll never happen. If he didn’t show up for the Holocaust – he’ll NEVER show up. He’s obviously just a character of the imagination, like the thousands of other gods.

  • RJ H

    You need to assure you are correct because your only way to die and go to HEAVEN is to be a CHRISTIAN!!! Don’t sell yourself short as the DEVIL wants you to do so you go to HELL!!

    It is your choice! Just repent of your sins, declare JESUS as your lord and savior. Get baptized.

  • jsword

    There’s hope for Catholic America. Come to St Peter Chanel in Hawaiian Gardens, CA and see for yourselves.
    You don’t have to go to Marseilles to see a priest in a soutane. St John Vianney is alive and in the confessional here for hours. This is THE place for Christian formation, which seems to be ongoing at all times of the day and evening! Yes, the self giving priests here are not afraid to be faithful to their priesthood and to their mission of making disciples and bringing souls to God. One of their most popular programs is the 10 week Ignatian Spiritual Exercises which attracts seekers from near and distant parishes. And it’s free. By the way, they are NOT Jesuits; they are the Oblates of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

  • ThomasBaum

    RJ H

    You wrote, “You need to assure you are correct because your only way to die and go to HEAVEN is to be a CHRISTIAN!!!”

    Does God know this?

    Ever given any thought to the fact that God has had God’s Plan since before creation?

    God became One of us for ALL of us, that is the GOOD NEWS.

    Only God knows “all of the details”, so to speak, but satan does not win even a little, just as God’s Victory is Total, satan’s crushing defeat is also total.

    A tie is absolutely and utterly unacceptable.

    Jesus “won” the “keys” and He will use these “keys” in due time, God’s Time.

  • ThomasBaum

    I thought the Good News, which Jesus asked us to Proclaim, was about what God did for US.

    Jesus’s invitation was to “Come follow Me”, it was not to follow His Church, follow one of His followers, follow the bible, follow the rules and regulations but to follow Jesus.

    Everyone’s “path” is different, Jesus did NOT call us to be a bunch of clones, if you think/believe that you are following Jesus in what you are doing, then do it, but no one can tell anyone else just how they are to follow Jesus, one might even say that it is a personal relationship and a personal path.

    Many people underestimate God and God’s Plan of Salvation, as it so clearly says, it is God’s Will that ALL be saved and that Jesus was/is the “ransom” for ALL.

  • Melchizedek2

    Msgnr. Baptista Ricca case, also: Cardinal Zin of Shanghai, Neocatechumenat . Is there H.Spirit in Vatican after Fides et Ratio, 1998 of John Paul II?Benedict xvi wrote scandalous biblically The infancy of Jesus, vol.III just for…kids and not for any student of religious class; Mark 3:21 dissapeared from Pope’s Bible? Cathesism nr 110 is a joke? What Hell is on? No need for Pastor (s) any more?

  • Catken1

    “More clergy and religious need to regard the church’s teaching on sexuality and family as good news. It is part of the Gospel, and not something to be ashamed of. ”

    Yep, the teaching that a man is human from conception to death, and a woman from conception until loss of virginity (at which point she becomes the property of any fetus who attaches itself inside her, even as a result of rape, and may be used by that fetus without any regard or consideration for her wishes or what happens to her as a result, without any possibility of preventing conception and the resulting nine months’ subhuman status by any means other than lifelong celibacy), is something to be PROUD of! It’s a GOOD thing that your church places a blastula without nerve endings or brain cells as a full human, and treats its living, thinking, feeling mother as a thing to be used!

    And then there’s the treatment of families I KNOW to be loving, healthy and harmonious families as “intrinsically disordered” just because they have the “wrong” arrangement of chromosomes and/or genitalia. That makes SO much sense. We really sanctify marriage by makiing it an animalistic matter of “male bits plus female bits = as many babies as you can produce before the unimportant female attached to the female bits dies of exhaustion”, rather than emphasizing the deep love and commitment between two people, and their responsibility to themselves, their children, and the planet to ensure that they have the resources – emotional, physical, and financial – to provide for all the children they bring into the world.

  • Catken1

    RJ H – Shouting a statement of beliefs without any evidence to back them up does not in fact make you more credible, or convince anyone who isn’t already a believer.

  • Mrs D

    Hello Catken1,

    I have thought long and hard about under what circumstances would I say that abortion is OK. In truth I can tell you that if I ever fell pregnant from the result of a violent rape, I would not abort the child growing inside of me. If this child managed through the pregnancy and was born, I would not expect my husband to raise this child, I would adopt out the baby.

    Also in truth I can tell you that if I were pregnant and my own life were at risk and doctors recommended that I abort the baby, I still would not kill my child. I already have 3 children, so this is no simple gesture. It is just in these circumstances when you surrender your life to God that He will grant you the miracle.

    This is just what happened to my aunt in Australia. Pregnant with her 2nd child out of wedlock & extremely ill, the hospital doctors recommended abortion. My aunt was left alone briefly in her room, when the entire room filled with light and the space grew in dimension. A gigantic angel appeared, light filled, bearing a long sword. My aunt refused the abortion, and delivered a healthy baby boy, naming him Michael after St. Michael who personally intervened by the grace of God.

    Christ Jesus has brought me, a woman with a horrible childhood, the greatest joy.

    The world has enough resources to feed everybody, but evil greed in the hearts of mankind continues to stymie the Lord’s perfect creation.

    Dear Catken1, you were born for a purpose. You have not found that yet, that is why you are so bitter & ready for a fight. Free yourself. Turn to God & ask him directly to prove that He exists, that He loves you, and ask Him why you are here on earth. You think I am a nutter? Then just try it to prove me wrong.
    You are no accident, no mature bunch of cells. Inside your body is your soul, created at the moment of conception, a soul that is hurting now and can never be satisfied with all trappings of the material world, because your soul can only be satisfied with True Love

  • TreeBark

    I’m not impressed. None of the points address the systemic core issues that are important when you are on the outside looking in.

  • EBunker

    Add number ELEVEN to the list which is the Catholic Church’s vigorous campaign to gain amnesty for the 20-30 million illegal aliens who have invaded the US, many of whom are Catholic. The church is all too happy to provide assistance to these criminals who have stolen identities from US citizens in order to take their jobs at depressed wages, steal housing assistance, food, healthcare and education from hard-working, tax-paying American families. The main interest of the church is replace the rapidly dwindling numbers of the parishioners at a massive cost to the US taxpayer of trillions of dollars.

  • weldonterry

    A useful list of suggestions – except for point 5, which is part of the problem, not part of the solution. CDF teaching on sexuality is emphatically NOT part of the Gospels. The celibate Catholic priests and bishops to consistently present it as such, simply undermines their credibility with the overwhelming majority of adult Catholics, whose understanding of the realities of human sexuality and loving relationships is based on real – life experience and the findings of science – biological and social, not medieval theology manuals.

    Nowhere in the Gospels did Jesus say anything at all about the purpose of sexual expression as solely for procreation, or against contraception, or against loving sexual relationships before marriage, or against masturbation, or against same – sex relationships,. (He did, however, go very willingly to the home of the Roman centurion to heal his sick “servant” – even though the cultural standards of the day mean that the onlookers would have assumed that this relationship between a Roman centurion, forbidden to marry, and his “pais” (slave / boy) would have been a sexual one).

    Just about the only thing that Jesus Christ had to say about sexual relationships, was to insist on the importance of fidelity in marriage, not to invent rules on sexual behaviour outside of it. Would that the clergy who promote the Gospels in defence of CDF sexual ideology, would pay a little more attention to what is actually written in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

  • cricket44

    YOUR choices, Mrs.D, are yours to make. Every other woman has that same right.

    No one else is required to live by your beliefs.

  • DeaconEd Peitler

    11 All ministries of the Church – paid and voluntary – must be carried out by Catholics. How else can the mission of the Church which is to evangelize, be successful if it is not done by those who believe in the kerygma? This does NOT mean that the ministries need only be FOR Catholics since, because they are evangelical in nature, are for ALL -but carried out in the name of Christ and his Church by CATHOLICS.

    Could you imagine if the sales force for Coke was made up by those who also held part time jobs as salesmen for Pepsi?

  • Top_8305

    weldonterry wrote:
    “…the cultural standards of the day mean that the onlookers would have assumed that this relationship between a Roman centurion, forbidden to marry, and his “pais” (slave / boy) would have been a sexual one).”

    Perhaps, the Centurion was celibate, being a devout, God fearing (the beginning of wisdom) man? Your speculation is just that; and given that the Centurion was a warrior, he may well have been a stoic, spartan person, especially considering having such faith that Jesus commends it beyond all in Israel. (not all people were hedonistic, many warriors found strength in denying the passions; many warriors lived SPARTAN lifestyles). Using such sophistry, people draw absurd conclusions about the Disciple that Christ loved…

    You are the one who needs to pay more attention to what Holy Scripture says (sorry, can’t extract the Gospels from the rest of The Holy Word of God)…

    States of Discipleship are listed in Mt 19:1-12 (single & chaste, consecrated virginity, married); any state omitted is not part of God’s Will

    Jesus did not come to abolish the law; the moral teachings of the OT: not the smallest letter/part of a letter will pass… (Mt 5:17-20, Lk 16:17)

    Ex 20:14; Job 31:1; Pr 2:10-11,16-22; 5:15-21; 6:24-25; 7:1-5; 31:3; Mt 5:28; Ac 15:20; Ro 13:13; 1Co 6:13-19; 7:1-2,7-9,25-26,36-37; Ep 5:3; Col 3:5; 1Th 4:3,7; Rev 14:1-5

    Continence (self-restraint; especially: a refraining from sexual intercourse)
    Job 31:1; Mt 5:27-28; 19:12; Ro 13:13; 1Co 7:1-9,25-29,36-38; 9:27; Col 3:5; 1Ti 4:12; 5:1-2; Rev 14:1,4-5

    The Church is the Pillar and Bulwark of Truth (1Tm 3:15), not your twisted, fallible, private interpretation (2 Pe 1:20, 2:16)

    God Bless you

  • Top_8305

    The Narrow Gate. [13] “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.[14] How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few. Mt 7

    [24] “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. Lk 13

    The True Disciple.
    [21] “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.[22] Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?'[23] Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ Mt 7

    [33] But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father. Mt 10 This includes denying His Truth…
    [Mk 8:38; Lk 9:26; 2Ti 2:12; Rev 3:5]

    [28] Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mt 20

    [27] Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, [28] for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of MANY for the forgiveness of sins. Mt 26

    [24] He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for MANY. Mk 14

    Jesus wants to Save all, Died for all, but our choices in our free will can disqualify us from His Redemption. Scripture is clear about this. He doesn’t reject any of us, but we can reject Him even as “Lord, Lord” is called out by disobedience to His Truth.

  • rege1

    I didn’t see anything in Mrs. D’s post suggesting that she was proposing to force Catken1 to accept her beliefs. Her presentation looked like polite and gentle persuasion to me.

    Why is it that only Christianity is considered to have no right to evangelize its beliefs in our society? Our cultural elites maintain that the producers of the Miley Cyrus VMA video have a sacred right to proselytize their beliefs about sexuality and the dignity (or lack of same) of the human person. Madison Ave. has the same right, as does the MSM, as does the NEA, etc., etc.

    Only Christianity, and the Catholic Church in particular, has to be muzzled.

    Beliefs that are so powerful that they must be silenced are dangerous ideas. Why are they so dangerous? Maybe it’s because they’re true.

  • rege1

    Rongoklunk, He did show up — in Palestine 2000 years ago. And that fact does make Christianity different than other religions.

    But He didn’t manifest Himself in the way that we would have expected He inverted our corrupted values: humility rather than pride; service rather than self-aggrandizement.

    And if He *had* come in the manner of an earthly potentate, then would we become his loving friends, or his cowering subjects?

    God wants to us to choose to accept His love and love Him in return in perfect freedom. Even many of His followers forget that message.

  • cricket44

    Who is stopping Mrs. D from saying her piece? She said it and I disagreed. Win/win.

    No one is being muzzled. It’s a slap in the face to those who really *cannot* speak their faith without fear for their lives to claim such a thing.

  • rege1

    No, you said nothing about agreeing or disagreeing with her piece. Your words implied that she was trying to force her beliefs on the person she was dialoguing with. I see this all the time: simply stating Christian beliefs is seen as being coercive. Christian beliefs do have power, but not that kind of power. Your reaction is an unintended acknowledgement of that power.

  • ThomasBaum


    You wrote, “Jesus wants to Save all, Died for all, but our choices in our free will can disqualify us from His Redemption. Scripture is clear about this. He doesn’t reject any of us, but we can reject Him even as “Lord, Lord” is called out by disobedience to His Truth.”

    Right now, we have free will and can reject Him but I happen to believe/think that after we die we can not make that decision but God has already died for ALL, as I believe and you said, so it becomes His Decision then and seeing as Jesus reportedly said, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself”, could be that God has not only made that decision but has tried to let us know.

    It’s God’s Plan and God has had God’s Plan since before creation and God’s Plan truly is GOOD NEWS, I suppose not many Proclaim the Good News as Jesus asked us to for the simple reason that many think/believe that the ‘good enough news’ is the Good News and it is not, actually the ‘good enough news’ is horrific news.

    As far as “Jesus wants to Save all, Died for all”, are you saying that Jesus’s wants are for nought and that Jesus died in vain?

  • ThomasBaum


    You wrote, “The Church is the Pillar and Bulwark of Truth”

    The Catholic Church teaches that the “Church” is not bounded by those that are Catholic nor is it bounded by those that are considered Christian.

    The “Church” is the Body of Christ and I suppose only God knows what is/are the “bound/bounds” of the Church if there is/are a “bound/bounds”.

  • clfdwlr

    So when you go to catholic school, in history class do they teach that you that the earth is of thousands of years old of years old like the bible says or that it’s hundreds of millions of years old like science says?

  • clfdwlr

    It is really over for the church. People will not be returning. We are no longer sheep, and we won’t fall for your boogie man any more. It’s over Johnny.

  • cricket44

    My words implied nothing. Mrs.D told Catken her personal beliefs as absolute truth. It is obviously not Catken’s truth.

    Your reading into my words is the usual hyper-defensiveness of way too many U.S. Christians. Not all, happily, but the attempts to portray disagreement or differing opinions as you being “victimized” or “silenced” because of your faith is deeply offensive to those who actually are.

  • Normanbates2001

    I converted to Catholicism 7 years ago after being an atheist most of my life, I’m not a sheep as it’s not where I wanted to be, it’s where the truth led me. I just spoke at mass this last weekend to ask people to consider RICA- Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults because that’s what I do with a lot of my free time now. Best decision I’ve ever made with my life.

    I know a friend who just went to confession after a 20+ year absence of Church most of which was atheistic, I know a former prostitute who did the same late last year after 20+ years, and a former gang member who did the same just a couple months ago after yet another 20+ years.

    You might not feel good about it and from those emotions, decide to say otherwise, but people will always be returning and it’s because God will always welcome them with open, loving arms.

  • Normanbates2001

    My good man!- You learn about science in science class, you learn about theology in theology class. They are not the same class and yes, you learn about evolution as the Church hasn’t thrown out that idea at all (it does not contradict the bible if you read the Bible correctly and not as all literal all the way). My mother went to Catholic school in the 60’s– How come she learned about evolution when today our PUBLIC schools are still discussing?…

    It’s because it’s Protestant Christianity, which makes up most of America’s Christianity, may deny evolution in favor of a few lines from the Bible. In the Catholic Church, it’s your choice to acknowledge evolution but any Catholic whose been to a science class will do so (including most Popes, as a matter of fact the guy who came up with the Big Bang Theory is a physicist, but also a Catholic Priest- Georges Lemaitre is his name, go look it up!)

  • Normanbates2001

    Didn’t He tell a cleric that he was going to be worse off on the day of judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah?

    How is that not referencing Sodom and Gomorrah?.. and to say ‘worse off’- of course I’m paraphrasing so bear with me, but the point was that He made a comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah, and to give the ‘worse off’ idea, it implies that it was bad in the first place (it’s a story that ancient Jews used to symbolize evil). So, he was also Jewish and a lot of the “rules”, like commandments, where already established with scriptures that He would have been reading. He didn’t have to constantly restate what was already written, he only said “it is written that” a few times but he didn’t recite the entire Old Testament.

  • Normanbates2001

    I think when one is thinking ‘revitalization’ they don’t only mean ‘evangelization’ or ‘proselytization’; I was once an atheist and had a long road to the Church because I addressed some of the issues your probably thinking as I had those thoughts myself; but what are you talking about?

    anytime you want to get specific let me know: normanbates81@hotmail.com

  • greenkiwis

    Holy cow, I wish you knew a single thing about how social security, taxes, welfare, or food stamps work. Seriously.

  • profling

    If you want to revitalize the institutional Church, stop talking, and restore the symbols that mediate directly with God. Go read Joseph Campbell’s comments on the value of ritua l(1972).

  • profling

    You’re totally obtuse if you can’t see that religion is not science.

  • nkri401


    Not meant to be an insult but by definition now you’re a sheep. Why do you think you are called “flock” led by a “shepherd”?


  • nkri401

    Choice is not a bad thing and a good sales man can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo.

  • nkri401

    We are all born as an atheist – that you were atheist until 8 years ago does not give you any more theological authority than the one who was an Italian until naturalized to be an American.

  • nkri401

    If Mrs. D said “however, I respect other women to make their choice without the Governmental coercion”, it would have been a lot clearer as to what she meant. My guess is that she’s happy with laws like “mandatory use of probes”.

    Of course, I could be wrong…

  • hamburke

    I taught science in a Catholic school – you teach both evolution (with God being the instigator and guide) and creationism. I was also a student in Catholic school and took a high school comparative religions class where we examined several aspects of the Judeo-Christian religion that read like myths – in fact, the creation story in the Bible is actually much older than the Jewish faith and is a story that was fairly common when the Bible was being first written.

  • royvb

    I agree. The church is the people, and the article stresses how the hierarchy needs fine tuning. Try making prayer meaningful. Eliminate “thy” and “art in heaven”. We don’t think to talk that way, so hy pray that way. From the pew – try an Our Father in OUR language and see how different it feels. It is not a play, and we do not need scripts. Pray from the heart and mind and not rote.