Fr. Dwight Longenecker over at Standing on my Head has taken a close look at modernist Christianity and concluded that its long term prospects are poor.
He offers 10 reasons for his opinion (see here), but I would like to focus on just two of them.
Modernists deny supernaturalism and therefore they are not really religious. Now by 'religion' I mean a transaction with the supernatural. Religion (whether it is primitive people jumping around a campfire or a Solemn High Mass in a Catholic Cathedral) is about an interchange with the other world. It is about salvation of souls, redemption of sin, heaven, hell damnation, the afterlife, angels and demons and all that stuff.
Modernists don't deal in all that. For them religion is a matter of fighting for equal rights, making the world a better place, being kind to everyone and 'spirituality'. It doesn't take very long for people to realize that you don't have to go to church for all that. So people stop going, and that eventually means the death of modernist Christianity. The first generation of modernist Christians will attend church regularly. The second will attend church sometimes. The third almost never. The fourth and fifth will not see any need for worship. They will conclude that if religion is no more than good works, then the religious ritual is redundant.
Modernism makes no great demands for its devotees to be religious. Ask any modernist, "Why should I come to Church?" What would he answer? "You don't have to come to church. It's there if you want it. If it does you good, and makes you feel better, we're here to serve you." Modernist Catholic priests wring their hands and wonder why no one comes to Mass anymore. It's because for forty years they've been saying, "It's not really a mortal sin to miss Mass. You should come because you love God, not because you fear him." While this sentiment may be laudable, they shouldn't therefore be surprised if no one comes to Mass.
While the remainder of Fr. Dwight's reasons are all sound, these two seem particularly relevant to the situation here in DOR. In fact, they go a long way toward explaining how we have arrived at our present state.
About 4 years ago I made a presentation to my local PPNM Steering Committee. At that time I had 6 years' worth of diocesan Mass attendance numbers along with 8 years' worth of our planning group's Mass attendance numbers at my disposal and I was very concerned with the sharp downward trend shown by both data sets.
I turned that data into graphs and projected them onto the wall for the 20 or so people present to see. The ensuing discussion quickly focused on reasons why people no longer attend Mass. Toward the end of the discussion I offered my opinion that most folks don't believe it's a sin to miss Mass without a good reason and that they feel that way because no one has told them any different. Furthermore, I added, we seem to have stopped preaching about sin all together.
You would think I had 2 heads, the way those people just stared at me.