Skip to comments.Why Catholics Leave the Catholic Church
Posted on 02/01/2004 6:29:10 AM PST by NYer
"There are not over a 100 people in the U.S. that hate the Catholic Church, there are millions however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Churchwhich is, of course, quite a different thing."
Attributed to the late Mons. Fulton J. Sheen 
In recent years a great many Catholics have left the Church. The reasons for leaving are varied, but the general trend falls into two categories: disagreements with Church teachings or a lack of interest. A few facts I found were as follows:
- In 1997, out of 60 million Catholics, only 25% practiced minimally (yearly confession and regular Sunday Mass) .
- In 1999, National Catholic Reporter conducted a study that showed a general decline in Mass attendance, while at the same time a trend toward more personal autonomy regarding all morals including the increased role of laity in the Church.
- Most Catholics fail to have a firm grounding in their faith. From experience, they only go because they think they must do so. Consequentially, when confronted about what they believe, most Catholics dont know what they believe or they give a dissenting viewpoint.
- Many Catholics are drawn to Charismatic movements because they want the Church to be a vibrant social institution.
From these facts it appears that those who associate themselves with being Catholic rarely go to Mass or are able to defend their practice of attending Mass. Furthermore, many think of the Church as being a social institution, rather than a sacred institution. Is it any wonder then that so many leave the Church in the first place?
The problem is partly that of education and outlook. Very few Catholics step back and ask themselves what it means to be Catholic. They simply treat religion as being some social function that they must engage within. When the benefits of this functional institution fail to appeal to them any longer, they will undoubtedly cease to engage in it. Therefore, those who have left the Church only to return later will also understand that Catholics cause Catholics to leave.
Many lay Catholics fail to be examples and educators. Frequently, this is because it is too hard and we direct them to priests or other religious leaders. Unfortunately, these religious leaders may not always be the best examples, as has been illustrated by the recent scandals within the Church. In actuality, everyone is part of the Body of Christ and the Communion of Saints is required to do their part in ministry to those within and without the Church. We are all called to be saints; subsequently, are called to be examples of Christ to others.
My own story can be given as an example. I am a non-typical Catholic as I was educated in a Lutheran elementary. When I was able to go to a Catholic High School, I felt exhilarated by the fact I would be where I felt God was, in His Church. It wasnt to say the Lutherans in my life were bad people. I knew many wonderful men and women who taught at the elementary school I attended. However, I felt going to a Catholic institution was a gift of grace. Unfortunately, Gods messengers at the school were hardly images of Gods grace.
Without getting into too much detail, Ill say that several of them were hardly reflections of any of the virtues the Church expounds. If anything, they were downright mean, treated me like I was some robot for them to control, and the result was they eventually tore my heart out in my senior year. One counselor even went so far as to say to my father that he, the counselor, thought I would become a criminal. I couldnt understand their negativity. I had done so well in school and they suddenly turned on me.
Ill admit, I wasnt the most stellar of Catholics. I didnt attend Mass as much as I should have. But somehow, I gained the favor of the devout teachers at the High School, which might say something about me. After I left school, I was inexplicably drawn to a Catholic Church and prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady. I prayed that God would make me find a way to be closer to Him. I attributed the fact that I didnt get into more trouble than I did to God and those times I prayed to Him.
Even in those dark times, when I felt God hated me, I still instinctively loved Him. But I didnt understand why things had changed so suddenly. It wasnt until I was brought back to be a full-fledged Catholic that I finally understood the reason I had left. And once I looked at what the Church really taught, I able to fully accept the Church for what it is, not what people made it appear to be.
I feel my disenchantment with the Church came about because I had never been taught about the mystical aspects of the Catholic religion. Congregations are often taught too much about the social aspect of the Church and how God helps people in the here and now. During my early days in the Church, I never heard stories about saints and sacrifice. That was the problem; I was never prepared to understand that the Church is a sacred institution. Whats worse is that I never met anyone who understood that concept either, so when faced with the question of why I was Catholic I was unable to justify it, because in a sense I never was a Catholic.
To reiterate something I said earlier: Catholics cause Catholics to leave. But Catholics also help Catholics to stay. It all depends on how we are instructed. Because the better we understand the concepts of the Catholic faith the better we can defend our own belief. And the better we understand our own beliefs, the more we can help others understand their beliefs as well.
The sad part is that many righteous Catholics have very ungracious attitudes toward people in the Church. They treat non-righteous people as being less than Catholic and subsequently alienate them from the Church. These non-righteous Catholics, however, are not necessarily bad people. If anything, a great many of them are saints waiting to be instructed. But the problem is they are very hurt spiritually and, because other Catholics drive them away, they fall into the clutches of the devil.
As I explained, the reason I returned to the Church was because I accepted the Church for what it was, a Church of sinners. And all too often, we forget this truth and act just as self-righteous as those we condemn, because we are judging ourselves superior to them. And even if in truth we may be more justified than the righteous, we should consider the fact that we are not perfect either. If anything, we should begin to look at ourselves and ask if we could be treading the same path.
Below are a few tips for those who are considering leaving the Church or for those who have left.
- Remember that just because you may not like the messengers, it does not make the message any less true. Imagine that you are being sent a love letter from someone who you dearly care about. The person delivering the message may be rotten, but you want the letter because it is from your beloved.
- Look for good examples within the Church upon which to focus. For example, all the disciples had their quirks and Judas was one of those who Jesus originally called, but does that mean that Jesus was flawed because He chose them?
- We should be thankful that Jesus allowed flawed humans to be his disciples because it serves as an example of hope for all of us. If they could be so flawed and still be close to God, what does that say for the rest of us?
- Pray and pity those people who cause trouble within the Church. If we are true Catholics, we should never forget that Jesus called us to take up our crosses and follow him . That included being mistreated by the self-righteous Pharisees.
- Read about the saints and see how they too were mistreated during their lives and try to find a common bond. When you do this, you begin to become purified in your actions by learning patience and humility that comes with accepting trials.
- Take the time to actually learn what Catholicism teaches and pray to be guided. When we understand that our problems may be actual graces from God so as to draw us closer to Him, we may better understand what is happening and as a result be able to cope better. In fact, these trials will make us better Catholics if not at least more noble people.
We are called to both the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The Spiritual Works include instructing the ignorant and counseling the doubtful . But this includes instructing ourselves as well. If we do not instruct ourselves in our Catholic faith, then how can we help others in theirs? A great number of people, because of ignorance, do not realize the treasure that they leave behind. I should know because I myself was ignorant. And even though I felt God was with me during my darkness, I never realized how precious a gift God gave until I began to study and practice my faith completely.
Perhaps this was for the best, because it allowed me to understand the mentality of those who have left. I do not know for sure. But I do know that I have never felt closer to God than I have as a Catholic. To truly elaborate on this would take a book in and of itself. Not too long ago, after doing some research on Protestantism, I began doubting why I was Catholic. But, I came up with two reasons why I could never leave. The first was that I would not be able to rely on the intercession of the saints. In particular, I would have to give up on the great love I held for the Blessed Mother who had helped me out of my darkness. This didnt make sense because if the saints were up in heaven, then that meant they were closer to God. And if they were closer to God that meant they could better pray for me, one who was encumbered with half my being in the world. So how could I give up that grace? How could I give up their spiritual friendship?
Second, and most importantly, it would mean that I had to give up receiving the Divine Being of Christ in the Eucharist. This made even less sense because St. Paul explicitly states in 1 Corinthians 11:28-29 (New Jerusalem Bible) to discern the Body and Blood when partaking it. Worse, it would mean forsaking the intimacy of actually taking Christ into me. I would be turning my back on Him!
These were the reasons I never considered it further and have never looked back. I can only hope that others see these as good reasons for not leaving or, better yet, for returning to the Catholic faith.
As Aquinasfan suggested, pick up some of these pamphlets and leave them in conspicuous places or simply hand them out to lapsed catholics.
Catholic Ping - let me know if you want on/off this list
What he says about the mysticism or the supernatural/spiritual aspect of Catholicism is part of its great beauty.
So many don't outsiders and/or protestants don't understand the communion of saints until it's explained to them. That we are all together, one family who pray together and are at one with the Great Trinity.
Even liberals like that! Hehe
I do not believe that the saints only intercede for Catholics. Surely they intercede for far more than we can imagine.
Worse, it would mean forsaking the intimacy of actually taking Christ into me.
There doesn't seem to be a workaround for that. For a long time I've wondered, however, if graces are diverted from *some* Catholics and showered on those outside the fold because some are worthy of those graces through their faith and struggles.
Today's Mass Readings include St. Paul's discussion on 'love'. In his homily, Fr. Robert Altier makes an astute comment about catholics.
"One of the things we need to be exceedingly careful about is that God in His mercy has given to each one of us a desire and, I trust, a love for His truth that what we want is the fullness of His truth. But we also must realize that the average Catholic these days does not know very much about what that truth is. They have not been taught and it is not their fault. Certainly, they bear some responsibility to be able to learn the truth just as each one of us has had to do. But the question has to do with our attitude toward them. Do we stand in a judgmental way looking at them? In a prideful way? Do we put them down? Do we think that somehow we are better than they because we have got it and they do not? Imagine standing before the Lord one day and hearing Him say, You had faith, but you had not love; therefore, you had nothing at all. That would not be a good day. If we have faith, it must be exercised in love. "
"Look once again at the characteristics of love and ask yourself, Is this me? Is this what people see when they speak to me, when they see my example? Am I patient and kind and gentle and selfless? Am I enduring all things and bearing all things and accepting all things? Am I truly seeking only the good of the other? Am I doing it in a way that will build them up rather than tearing them down? That is what love requires. Each one of us needs to look extremely seriously at this matter because Saint Paul makes it exceedingly clear: If we have not love, we have NOTHING. Jesus commanded us to love; He did not make it an option. He did not say, If you have faith, you dont need love. If you have the gift of prophecy, you dont need love. If you have found the truth, you dont need love. Nowhere will we find that. But love encompasses all of these other things, which is why, if we do not have love, we do not have the fullness of faith, the fullness of truth. If we have no love, we have no part in Jesus Christ, because God is love and only those who love can know God. "
Very true. I once heard a Bishop, whom I respect a great deal as a holy man, say something that has stuck with me.
He said something like this: The main root of so much of the division in the Church right now is the utter absence of significant, deep, and profound preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity. The Church will be healed of her divisions as soon as Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity become the primary focus of preaching, teaching, evangelizing, prayer, worship, and action. Yes, even liberals like it (or perhaps do not know how to react) when the message is Jesus and the Holy Trinity. They react with fear and anger when the first message is sexual restraint, Church authority, or some ecclessiological doctrine dissacossiated from the truth of the Trinity and Incarnation. For too long Catholics have been obsessed with the state of the Church. We have been preaching competing ecclessiologies to each other, and the whole Church is drowning in a self-reflecting, self-absorbed, introspecting mode that leaves Christ and the Holy Trinity off to the side or in second place. We preach the Church, but not Christ. In reality, we should first proclaim Christ and the Holy Trinity, and the ecclesiology will take care of itself. How many "conservatives" do that? How many "conservative" Catholics are people whose whole lives are obviously and undeniably centered on, aimed at, and absorbed in the Holy Trinity and Jesus. As soon as the conservatives become living icons of the Holy Trinity, liberalism will evaporate. Until then, liberalism will continue to exercise its pernicious influence.
Let me give an illustration. Imagine joining a club the whole purpose of which is to talk about the club. You go to the club's meetings, and people talk about the club, and what the club should do. Eventually, it becomes clear that the club is about nothing if it is only about the club. Same with the Church, the Church is nothing unless the Church is first and foremost about Christ and the Trinity.
He's correct, it's all about Him. The country club aspect can be very debilitating to us.
While surfing the Internet one day, looking for a homily, I stumbled across this web site. I don't believe in coincidences! .... so, I will say that I was definitely 'guided' to this particular site. After reading just one of Fr. Altier's homilies, I determined that these veritable treasures needed to be shared with others, especially those of us who frequent this forum.
Freeper Salvation maintains a ping list for the Daily Mass Readings. Fr. Altier's daily homily is my contribution to her thread. Since the daily homily is not posted until after noon, they won't appear on the Daily Mass Thread until sometime in the afternoon. If you are not yet on Salvation's ping list, you may want to drop her a freepmail. Those Daily Mass Readings help me through the busy schedule of my day. Oftentimes, it is not possible to open a bible and sit down to read it. By visiting Salvation's daily thread, my soul is fed and refreshed each day. Here is the background story of Fr. Altier's homilies. God bless!
"The voice of one crying in the desert, 'Make ready the way of the Lord.'" A desert in bloom speaks a language of praise, - Father Robert Altier
Its beauty in stillness grows rich beyond sight.
Adorned for a banquet her splendid array,
Whose barrenness blooms for the King, His delight.
Creation her beauty inspired it sings,
In likeness to once a poor maiden avowed;
Resounding her elegance mystical brings,
Humility speaks exaltation aloud.
My heart gives in silence to love a great voice,
I cross my true passion, desires refine;
Ulterior motives suspended by choice;
To suffer rejoicing for love is divine.
In everything immanent Spirit reside;
Indwelling the darkness enlightened abide.
A desert in bloom speaks a language of praise,
- Father Robert Altier
Father Robert Altier is a Roman Catholic priest in the archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis. Ordained in 1989, he currently serves as assistant pastor at the Church of Saint Agnes in Saint Paul, Minnesota. A member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, Fr. Altier has a great devotion to the Holy Eucharist and Our Blessed Mother Mary, and is loyal to Pope John Paul II. Fr. Altier serves as president of Help the Helpless, a charitable organization benefitting handicapped children in India. His deep commitment to providing orthodox instruction of the Catholic Faith to the faithful led him to begin the ever-popular "Fundamentals of Catholicism" series which is attended by 150 people each year and is now in its 14th year. Recordings of this series and over 150 other talks by Father Altier are available through Divine Mercy Tapes (651-454-8800) and Leaflet Missal Company in Saint Paul, MN.
About A Voice in the Desert...
This site was initiated and is maintained by parishioners who, having received many graces through the inspiring homilies given by Father Altier, wanted to provide a way for more people to benefit from these daily homilies. It is our hope that by listening, reading, and meditating upon these words, you will be filled with an intense desire for holiness, a true longing for union with God. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the greatest prayer of the Church and yields bountiful graces from God for all the faithful, even the entire world. We encourage you to assist at Mass as often as possible. In cases where daily attendance is impossible or a daily homily is not given at the church you attend, we hope this site will be helpful. If you cannot get to Mass daily, may we suggest that you read the Scripture readings for the day, then listen or read the homily, and make an Act of Spiritual Communion with Our Lord. Father suggests the following prayer:
An Act of Spiritual Communion
My Jesus, I believe that You are in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I long for You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You have already come, I embrace You and unite myself entirely to You; never permit me to be separated from You.
- Enchiridion of Indulgences
It's sad that people leave. It's very sad that there are problems severe enough that make people feel that way.
Why a Catholic university would become involved with the culture of death is very disturbing. This kind of hypocrisy should not be present among genuine Catholic spiritual leaders:
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