...even after all of the evidence you show to the contrary, you state that things [in the Church] are not "significantly improving." Surely, things are improving drastically, even if not all is all right. Perhaps, I misread your summation. Please help me out.WT, I think we are now on the upside curve of the 'decline and resurgence' graph of strength within the Catholic Church in the U.S. The graphed line is intended to represent the precipitous fall when so much was lost in the past 40 years. My estimate of where we are now is marked at slightly beyond the low point and climbing.
We are a long way from climbing as fast as we fell, and we are likely to never reach the opposite of that severe decline rate in church strength. For example, weekend (Sunday) Mass attendance fell from approximately 70 percent attendance to 30 percent in 40 years--averaging about 1 percent decline per year for approximately 40 million Catholics (400,000 less Mass attendees per year). It is hard for me to imagine that we can gain 400,000 more regular Mass attendees per year over the next 40 years (but I do believe in God's miracles, especially when inspired by saintly lives and preaching!)
I cannot yet say that things are "significantly improving," although we seem to be advancing to that point. I will use the word "significantly" only when there is at least a sizable increase from the lowest value on the chart. I don't think we have yet reached that point--for example, in number of regular Mass-going Catholics, or in sacramental confessions and marriages.
Good Bishops are now coming on the scene, and one of the most optimistic reports I've seen is the news reported by Sandro Magister that Pope Benedict XVI is very carefully reviewing candidates for Bishops.
Much more than curia appointments, Benedict XVI has at heart the appointment of bishops.However, even a good Pope and good Bishops will have an extremely difficult job to restore and rebuild the Church to the point where most Catholics regularly attend Mass, get married before living together, and understand the importance of frequent confession. Moreover, the technologically adept secularists and pagans oppose the teachings of Christ and have a great deal more power in society than 40 years ago.
He dedicates much greater attention to these than John Paul II did. Before giving his permission, the pope keeps the dossiers of the designates on his desk for up to two or three weeks. And sometimes he rejects them, without giving an explanation to the competent curia dicastery presided over by cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.
Pope Ratzinger is very demanding; he wants bishops of quality, and doesn’t always find them. The pace of episcopal appointments has fallen by a quarter with him, in comparison with the previous pontificate.