Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
MATTHEW 24:11-13 NASB
When I converted to Catholicism, I heard a lot about the New Evangelization. I thought that the push of this effort was to reach people like me--a former Protestant and an atheist. It didn't take long for me to realize that I was mistaken. The New Evangelization was actually the "Re-evangelization" of cradle Catholics who had slipped away from the Church never to return. It isn't actually "evangelization" so much as re-catechizing fallen away Catholics. My personal opinion is that this is largely a waste of time.
The motive of the New Evangelization is sincere, but I think the effort should be directed towards people like me who never got the real Gospel the first time as opposed to hearing it from birth to age 18 numerous times through baptism, first communion, and confirmation. I think many in the Church think that they failed these fallen away Catholics, but I can tell you that they didn't. Most cradle Catholics I have encountered are little more than spoiled brats who lightly esteem the treasure they so easily attained. Snared by the temptations of the world, their love has grown cold, and they have fallen away. The Church did not fail them. Those people failed our Lord.
Some think that the reason these lapsed Catholics fall away is because of a lack of proper catechesis. Somehow, the Church failed to teach the faith. Yet, I went from zero knowledge of Catholicism to knowing more than most cradle Catholics in a short time. I did this by reading two main sources--The Catechism of the Catholic Church and Catholicism for Dummies. The CCC is a publication of the Church while the dummies book was an old copy I checked out from the library. My RCIA teachers were competent, and they were always there for me. The rest I gleaned from the ocean of resources available on the internet. I find it hard to believe that lifelong Catholics were deprived of these resources. If you don't know the truth, it behooves you to seek it. Once again, it is not the fault of the Church but of these lapsed Catholics who can't be bothered to learn their faith.
Another reason people cite for fallen away Catholics are the modernist bishops, priests, and religious sowing heresy in the Church. I find that many fallen away Catholics actually like the modernism, so this sort of thing did not drive them away. They want a church that is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage and pro-divorce. But whether modernist or traditionalist, the Church still holds no interest for them.
Another avenue of blame is with the parents. Somehow, the parents did not reinforce or live what the Church taught. But I already know of many faithful and devout Catholics with apostate children. These parents pray, but they shouldn't blame themselves. They did not fail as parents.
The real interest for these apostates isn't what the Church has but what the world offers. These former Catholics are worldly. This life is more important than the next life. If you talk with any of them, they will give you a nice story about disappointment in the Church and blah blah blah. This is where church leaders have gotten the idea that it is the Church's fault for this mass defection. But this amounts to so much excuse making and deflection. The reality is that the fallen away want to live immoral lives or sleep in each Sunday instead of attending Mass. The world offers the easier path even if it does end in eternal damnation.
I push a little deeper than most, and I find once the subterfuge is wiped away that atheism lies at the bottom of it all. As a former atheist, I can smell another atheist. If God is not real, going to Mass becomes a cultural rite instead of anything of real importance. It's like a secular Jew who lights the menorah around Hanukkah but loves a good lobster. For the fallen away Catholic, the religion is a mere tradition to be observed for nostalgia but ignored in practice.
The bottom line on these former Catholics is that they are the salt that lost its saltiness. That salt has become worthless, and it will be cast out. Jesus says so in Matthew 5:13,
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.How can it be made salty again? What can you do that hasn't already been done? What can you say that has not already been said? And what excuse can any of these fallen away Catholics give to our Lord on the Day of Judgment?
The best way to re-evangelize these apostates is to go and evangelize those who have never had the benefit of being taught the faith from the cradle. I am with those who believe the Catholic Church needs to get smaller before it can become vibrant again. This is what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) said in 1969:
From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision.I agree with these words. They ring prophetic. I see parishes closing in dioceses like New York that are nothing more than graveyards for apostate Catholics. Meanwhile, they are building churches in South Carolina and Tennessee that have always been hostile to Catholicism. I have read enough of church history to know that the Catholic Church grows and thrives in adversity. The old Catholic enclaves have become comfortable and dangerous for the faithful. They have become partners with the world instead of antagonists. This is why their parishes that are centuries old are closing up shop.
I have dim hopes for the New Evangelization, but I have high hopes for the One True Faith. It will endure until the end as our Lord promised. I also know that the path to destruction is broad and most people go to Hell. The path to life is narrow and belongs to the few. I don't want anyone to go to Hell, but I also know that there is no one in Hell that didn't choose to be there. That choice is made in this life.