A site called Rethinking Youth Ministry has an article discussing the age-old question of whether or not we should force young people to go to Church... It's worth a look. (picture right, theirs!)
It's a question which every Christian parent has to tackle and which every parish and youth group probably has fairly forceful opinions about too.
There are basically two viewpoints, and I can see the wisdom in both. One says that young people, at least to a certain age, should be forced to go, because it's part of who they are and it may help them to develop an attachment. The other says that we are free to make our own choices and therefore we should be, well, free to make our own choices.
As I say, I can see both points. What usually happens in the West is that Catholic parents drag their kids along until Confirmation and then after the Bishop anoints them, they (the parents) announce to their offspring that going to Mass is now up to them. So, predictably, a huge percentage fall away and stop going.
To be honest, I don't much care about the should we force them debate, because the debate betrays a much more important question, which is how come so many don't want to be in Church?
I mean, the Catholic faith is the story of our God and his covenant with his people, handed down through the generations. And Mass is the Body and Blood of Christ becoming present on the altar to strengthen and renew us. How on earth could people not want to be at that?
But yet, they don't. For some strange reason, we have taken that amazing stuff and made it - at least in the minds of many people - quite dull!
A few years back in Ireland, loads of people stopped going to Mass in the wake of the abuse scandals. A lot of Catholic commentators felt rather smug in pointing out that these people had been looking for a guilt-free reason to lapse for years, and had finally found it. They were probably right. There was probably more than a wiff of 'yes, finally!' in those decisions to lapse, and we felt rather pleased with ourselves for rumbling them, but as we did, we once again failed to look at the big white elephant in the room which is that a huge amount of Catholics find the practice of the faith utterly dull and disengaging.
That's the problem. That's the issue we need to pour our resources into. Not cleaver commentaries or debates about freedom vs. routine. We need to make the most amazing thing in the world actually seem like the most amazing thing in the world so that 'forcing them' becomes utterly irrelevant. And if we don't have a clue how to do that, we're in the wrong job!!