The Body of Christ is bleeding. We hear this often, usually in reference to Christians who are undergoing terrible persecutions in Syria and other parts of the Middle East.  And, as sad as these stories are, we don’t have to look far to recognize that the Body of Christ is also bleeding right in our own backyards, even in our own families.

I am referring to the fact that the Church is bleeding people. According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, “nearly 13% of all [adult] Americans are former Catholics.” That’s almost 1 out of every 7 of our friends and neighbors. And the bleeding is getting worse. “Since 2000, 14 million [American] Catholics have left the faith.” (Catholic World Report, April 2015)  The Pew Research Center also reports that “nones” (i.e., the religiously unaffiliated) are the fastest growing “denomination” in the U.S.  Moreover, this “denomination” is attracting a disproportionate number of our young people. Last year, the Dynamic Catholic Institute created a stir by simply telling the truth: “85% of kids who get confirmed will leave the Church within 7 years of their Confirmation.” Again, the Pew Research Center states: “Fully 1 in 4 members (26%) of the Millennial generation… are unaffiliated with any particular faith.”

My question is this: Why aren’t we stanching the flow? Where is the tourniquet? We talk a great deal about improved RCIA programs and evangelizing the unchurched, as well we should. But unless we slow the exodus of the “churched” our best outreach efforts will barely make a dent in the losses.

Here’s my proposal: Let’s just ask our young people to stay. More than that, let’s ask them to step up and take a solemn vow never to leave the Church. Why not make this a condition for receiving the sacrament of Confirmation?

I can hear the laughter already.  In our enlightened society, we could never ask people to commit to something – especially, young people. And, if we’re really honest with ourselves, deep down we’re a little embarrassed to ask. After all, ours is the church of the sex scandals. We have repressive attitudes toward women because we state that abortion is morally wrong and, of course, we hate the LGTB community, because we proclaim that marriage has something to do with the continuation of the human race.

Well, let me offer a few contrary observations. For all of our vicissitudes, the Church feeds, clothes, educates, and heals more hurting people than any organization on the planet. Our young people need to hear this. What’s more, the teachings of the Church offer more balanced wisdom, than you’ll find anyplace else: compassion, forgiveness, and mercy, balanced with courageous protection of the weak and the disciplined pursuit virtue.

But, more than that, the Church offers a relationship with God. We have the transcendental power of the sacraments, combined with the earthy accountability that can only be found in a human community.  We don’t allow a retreat into individualistic seclusion where we make up our own rules as we go. It’s true that we are not a perfect people. But, when we sin, it is because we have failed to live up to the high standards we profess, not because we don’t profess them.

Over and over again, Jesus identified with his people (cf. Acts 9:4, Mt. 25:5-40, Col. 1:24). Jesus and his people are so closely bound up together, that they cannot be separated. So, it’s not just a metaphor to say that Jesus’ Body is bleeding.

When are we going to stanch the flow?