The Diocese of Scranton is reporting a projected Catholic school enrollment drop of 9.4% for the 2008-09 academic year. There seem to be a variety of factors behind this decline, including a poor economy and an ongoing dispute between the teachers union and the diocese.
There may also be a third factor:
Mass attendance has also decreased over the years. About 36 percent of registered parishioners currently attend Mass on Sundays. [Diocesan spokesman William] Genello was unable to provide a number from prior years, but said there has been a definite decrease.
“When you make a commitment to send your child to Catholic school, it’s an indication of the value you put on your faith as well,” Mr. Genello said. “If the majority of people are not attending Mass, you have to also wonder whether that affects their decision regarding Catholic schools.”
Mr. Genello may be blowing some smoke here in an effort to deflect criticism away from what many see as his employer's management blunders, but it is also possible that he does have a point.
Here in DOR we have seen our Mass attendance rate fall from 32% in 2000 to just under 25% last year. In those same 7 years we also saw tuition skyrocket while Catholic school enrollment plummeted. I tend to believe that soaring tuition played a much larger role than declining Mass attendance, but I also think it's impossible the discount the latter entirely.
Update: FWIW, I can relate somewhat to Mr. Genello when he says,
"If the majority of people are not attending Mass, you have to wonder whether that affects their decision regarding Catholic schools."
This past year I taught religious ed to a combined group of nine 7th- and 8th-graders. Two of my students attended Mass regularly with their families, one showed up only when it was his/her turn to serve, and the other six came on Christmas and Easter, maybe.