Skip to comments.Why do Catholics leave, and what can be done about it?
Posted on 04/19/2012 11:58:25 AM PDT by NYer
I saw an advance copy of a survey by William J. Byron and Charles Zech, which will appear in the April 30th edition of America magazine.
It was conducted at the request of David OConnell, the bishop of Trenton, and its focus was very simple: it endeavored to discover why Catholics have left the church. No one denies that a rather substantive number of Catholics have taken their leave during the past 20 years, and Byron and Zech wanted to find out why. They did so in the most direct way possible and asked those who had quit.
The answers they got were, in many ways, predictable. Lots of people cited the churchs teachings on divorce and re-marriage, gay marriage, contraception, and the ordination of women. These matters, of course, have been exhaustively discussed in the years following Vatican II, and Id be willing to bet that anyone, even those vaguely connected to the Church, could rehearse the arguments on both sides of those issues. But there just isnt a lot that the church can do about them. No bishop or pastor could make a policy adjustment and announce that divorced and re-married people can receive communion or that a gay couple can come to the altar to be married or a woman present herself for ordination.
What struck me about the survey, however, was that many of the issues that led people to leave the church are indeed matters that can be addressed. Many of the respondents commented that they left because of bad customer relations. One woman said that she felt undervalued by the church and found no mentors. Many more said that their pastors were arrogant, distant, aloof, and insensitive, and still others said that their experiences over the phone with parish staffers were distinctly negative. Now I fully understand that parish priests and lay ministers are on the front lines and hence are the ones who often have to say no when a parishioner asks for something that just cant be granted. Sometimes the recipient of that no can all too facilely accuse the one who says it as arrogant or indifferent. Nevertheless, the survey can and should be a wake-up call to church leadersboth clerical and non-clericalthat simple kindness, compassion, and attention go a rather long way. I distinctly remember the advice that my first pastora wonderful and pastorally skillful priestgave to the parish secretary: for many people, you are the first contact they have with the Catholic Church; you exercise, therefore, an indispensable ministry. One respondent to the survey observed that whenever he asked a priest about a controversial issue, he got rules, and not an invitation to sit down and talk. Unfair? Perhaps. But every priest, even when ultimately he has to say no, can do so in the context of a relationship predicated upon love and respect.
A second major concern that can and should be addressed is that of bad preaching. Again and again, people said that they left the church because homilies were boring, irrelevant, poorly prepared, or delivered in an impenetrable accent. Again, speaking as someone who is called upon to give sermons all the time, I realize how terribly difficult it is to preach, how it involves skill in public speaking, attention to the culture, expertise in biblical interpretation, and sensitivity to the needs and interests of an incredibly diverse audience. That said, homilists can make a great leap forward by being attentive to one fact: sermons become boring in the measure that they dont propose something like answers to real questions. All of the biblical exegesis and oratorical skill in the world will be met with a massive so what? if the preacher has not endeavored to correlate the answers he provides with the questions that beguile the hearts of the people to whom he speaks. Practically every Gospel involves an encounter between Jesus and a personPeter, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, etc.who is questioning, wondering, suffering, or seeking. An interesting homily identifies that longing and demonstrates, concretely, how Jesus fulfills it. When the homily both reminds people how thirsty they are and provides water to quench the thirst, people will listen.
A third eminently correctable problem is one that I will admit I had never thought about before reading this survey. Many of the respondents commented that, after they left the church, no one from the parish contacted them or reached out to them in any way. Now again, I can anticipate and fully understand the objections from pastoral people: many Catholic parishes are hugeupwards of three or four thousand familiesand staffs are small. Yet, just as major corporations, serving millions of people, attend carefully to lost customers, so Catholic parishes should prioritize an outreach to those who have drifted (or stormed) away. A phone call, a note, an e-mail, a pastoral visitanything that would say, Weve noticed youre not coming to Mass anymore. Can we help? Can you tell us what, if anything, weve done wrong? Wed love to see you back with us.
The problem of Catholics leaving the church is, obviously, serious and complex, and anyone who would suggest an easy solution is naïve. However, having listened to a representative sample of those who have left, parishes, priests, and church administrators might take some relatively simple and direct steps that would go a long way toward ameliorating the situation.
Not so, my FRiend.
We want them to abandon their unbelief ... we pray that God grant them the grace of repentance and conversion ... we want them to join us in the light of God's Truth.
>>We are both about 70 years so it won’t be long and we will find out the real truth about God. <<
I think that some people are going to be REALLY surprised about who they meet once they walk through those pearly gates.
Some of left because the Church went squishy. Bad pop music and hand wringing sermons with liberal appeasements. I visit now and again, hoping the Church will snap out of it and return to the unpopular truth. Still waiting.
I’m reading Barron’s book “Catholicism” now, good book and I recommend it to both RC and Protestants who are curious.
Ha Ha, he probably thinks you are still sitting in one of the back pews.
Our last priest was an unmitigated disaster, he would forget to mention the Mass intentions and people would come into the office crying because it was a special day for them. He would say something like “Well, it was in the bulletin.” and we would be left trying to salve hurt feelings. I could go on but I’d rather not relive the nightmare.
Our new priest is totally different, he is at the parish hall all day unless he is called away. He even helped us clean beans this morning! He will go to the hospital or take a confession or just meet and talk with anyone who presents themselves and asks for a meeting.
We have a man in town who is dying of cancer that we all know and our priest didn’t even know that he was a fallen away Catholic but he asked if he could go visit him. As it turns out the man called the other priest in town and asked for Last Rites but our priest was ready and willing just to go visit a person that he really knew nothing about including his religion, he just wanted us to ask for permission.
I never left the Church; my bishop told me there was no place in the church for people like me (Conservative, Traditionalist). I have not been invited back by any of the succeeding bishops.
I’ll work myself back one day - probably on my death bed like the great Oscar Wilde (not that I compare myself to him, lol!)
Just how me the priesthood in the NT church... Show me the mass..show me the prayers to the physically dead..show me the assumption, show me purgatory, ..the fact is one does not need to be “infallible” to knw man made lies when one sees them.
My church looks more like the NT church than Rome does..
No one has yet posted what I believe is at the root of anyone leaving - no longer believing in the Real Presence. If you believe that then none of the other outer stuff matters.
Actually believing that error is what KEEPS some catholics..
So those issues are non issues.. things like the mass, prayer to saints..a deified Mary,a non biblical priesthood and mass..those are marks of a man made church..not the church of Jesus Christ..so we leave
In other words, you left because the Church did not change to embrace your new found doctrines and dogmas. And because you established that "lining up with Scripture" as you saw and interpreted them was the effective test of fallibility and authority.
Faith is an act of the will and is linked with obedience. I can confidently say that you left the Church, it didn't leave you.
I know my eternity..do you know yours?
Not as surprised as they are going to be when they discover that the Pearly Gates are the servants entrance.
I think the first wave of Catholics who kinda gave up on the Church were those who were subjected to “liberal appeasements.” But there seems to be a second wave who don’t like the Church because the “liberal appeasements” don’t go far enough!
Weird, isn’t it?
A good follow-up question would be, “where did you go?” Did they quit Christianity altogether? Switch to a liberal denomination? Switch to a conservative evangelical denomination?
I’m not Catholic. Never have been. I wouldn’t mourn those who switched to a liberal denomination or quit because of doctrine. Molding doctrine to fit the believers is a lousy idea.
I’d also be less concerned about someone leaving my church because they found another church or another conservative denomination that fits them better. There are a lot of good churches out there ... maybe even a few that the Catholic Church could learn from.
Those that left the faith because of PR or something are recoverable.
Were you really EVER a Catholic? Fallen away Catholics - or lapsed Catholics - have a great deal of angst and pathos regarding their lost faith. You seem to have only hostility.
>>I know my eternity..do you know yours?<<
That poster just volunteered to pray for you, right here, right now.
The least you can do is say thank you. Cause let me tell you, if your interpretation of Christianity is rudeness or inconsideration, you’re doing it very well.
Prior to Vatican Council II, this is precisely what they did. Back then, the churches were packed to overflowing - no air conditioning. Another admonition made back then was to NEVER enter a non-Catholic Church. Since VCII, it's all about ecumenism. Is it any wonder catholics are confused.
>>Id also be less concerned about someone leaving my church because they found another church or another conservative denomination that fits them better. There are a lot of good churches out there ... maybe even a few that the Catholic Church could learn from.<<
There were a few years in The Catholic Church where the libs took over and it was all Sweetness and Light, Happy Catholic, God made the flowers and God made the trees. Those who were in the pews and classes at that time lost out on a lot of instruction.
I have you agree with you. If someone could not find Jesus in a liberal parish and went to a conservative church, I’m not as upset as I probably should be.