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.
"If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, It is mine to avenge; I will repay,and again, The Lord will judge his people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." - Hebrews 10:19-25
Ipsissima verba Scriptura, Ipsissima Vox Deus. Work out your own Salvation with fear and trembling.
Do this in memory of me.
Cor 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions,d puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
That's not the way it works...Every thing I've read and heard about Catholics and Izlamnuts is that you expect to face the White Throne Judgment in Rev. 20...
Problem is, there won't be any Christians there...That judgment is well after the Wedding and wedding feast of the Bride and Groom...We nor you are going to become the Bride of Christ and then face judgment...
Your religion claims that you and the Islamaniacs share the same father... And that then makes you brothers with the muzlims...
That's not the family I was adopted into...
Absolutely! The problem some people see in that - for which it is NOT the fault of the truth - is it seems to be saying God doesn't care when we sin or that such a gospel is "cheap grace" or a license to sin. Of course Paul dealt with the same exact contentions in his day but it seems no matter what he said or what other Scriptures say, there will always be those who interpret it wrong. Most, of course, are those who do not understand the gospel of grace in the first place because they have been taught (or it's just human nature) that nothing is free in life. They see the greatest thing in all the world - eternal life in Heaven - as something to be earned or deserved.
We know where such false teaching comes from - the father of lies himself. Satan's very first lie to humans was, "Did God really say...?". He caused doubt and from that doubt the first humans sinned against God. They doubted God's word just as those do today who insist that eternal life can not possibly be a gift of grace. Man always has to put in his two cents. It boils down to pride - an inability to accept we cannot merit Heaven. It is SO hard to admit our impotence or to submit ourselves to mercy by first admitting we NEED it. Even Satan's sin was the sin of pride - thinking HE could be as great and good as God. That HE was somehow above all the other created beings and equal to God. How far he fell from his lofty position! But fall he did and the rest of his existence is spent in drawing as many away from God as he can. He is VERY successful especially with those who esteem their own merit and goodness and rely upon it to earn eternal life.
It is ONLY when we submit ourselves humbly before God, acknowledging our sinfulness and what we REALLY deserve that God can lift us up and seat us with Christ in the heavenlies, make us his children and indwell us with His Spirit. He who humbles himself will God lift up. We learn to walk as he would have us by submitting ourselves to His discipline, knowing that He loves us and wants what is best for us. How much is missed by those who live in fear of a judgmental, condemning God who, as you say, sits by the zot button waiting to catch us in a sin. The Holy Spirit, which God gives to those who are His, is within us for keeps - never to leave us or forsake us - as the "earnest of our inheritance". There is nothing we can do to separate us from the love of God.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38,39)
I believe God's Word (and God's word) wholeheartedly. It is the bleatings of failed Catholics that I regard worthy of some weighted consideration.
From Matthew through Acts 8 you will find Israel's prophesied and long awaited Kingdom promised to them and offered to them through Christ's earthly ministry and the day of Pentecost, up until the stoning of Stephen. Acts 8 ends with Stephen looking up into heaven, and seeing the glory of God, and Jesus Christ STANDING on the right hand of God. STANDING, NOT SITTING.
You mean Acts 7?
WHY? Judgement was about to fall. Standing means judgement. Israel had allowed the murder of John the Baptist, demanded the murder of Jesus Christ, and actually murdered Stephan themselves. Strike three. They're out. Judgement time.
Who says that Jesus standing means Judgement? Your thesis is getting rather thin on the proofs. Strike three is an American creation. Are you saying that God's actions in Biblical times prefigures baseball?
Paul was commissioned to a two-fold ministry during the Acts period (Acts 9:15 with Acts 13:3, 47; 26:16-19). FIRST, Paul had a ministry of CONFIRMATION to the JEWS. That Jesus Christ was INDEED the Messiah. Remember, Paul was both Jew and Roman. Paul preached to the Jews concerning Jesus, the promised Messiah (Acts 13:14-41; 18:5; 26:22, 28:23). HENCE, Paul went to the JEW FIRST (Rom. 1:16 with Acts 13:5,24,46). SECONDLY, Paul had a ministry of REVELATION. Paul preached the UNSEARCHABLE (UNPROPHESIED) riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8); that is, the gospel of the UNCIRCUMCISION (Gal. 2:7), or the ministry of reconciliation by grace alone (2 Cor. 5:18-19; Eph. 2:8-9). This means that Paul preached the dispensation (fellowship) of the mystery (Eph. 3:9).
Oh, now the tune has changed. Now Paul is to the Jews and the Gentiles. Play on.
One more thing, for your consideration: The message and commission of the twelve was based on Israel's ACCEPTANCE of Christ. The message and commission of Paul was based on Israel's REJECTION of Christ.
Oh dear, the tune has changed back. So none of the 12's activities to the Gentiles matters? Only Paul's activities to the Jews matter?
Oh, and one more one more thing. Have you ever read in any of Paul's epistles that he was given authority to remit sins? He was an apostle. Yet you will not find a single Scripture that says Paul remitted sins. Have you ever wondered why?
It wasn't his job. He said what his job was: to sell this new religion. Paul was a functionary of the Church - a loud and mouthy and pushy Herb Tarlek. With a loud plaid coat and wide tie and a blinding white grin.
It fell to Peter and the original Apostles to form the hierarchy of the Church - the keepers of orthodoxy. They started off rather shaky - even Paul had to remind them - but remember that it was to Peter that Paul had to turn and to get his vetting, and to get his blessing later on.
No, I shall reject your thesis. Scripture records Paul as the super salesman, being Jew to Jew and Greek to Greek. He is all things to all men. Peter tells us that to misinterpret Paul will lead to our destruction. The rubble of the Reformation and the ruin of the Restoration testify to the truth of this tidbit.
I think that it would be polite to ping to whom you refer.
That is Colossians 2:16. That aside, I don't understand the point you are trying to make. How do you claim that Salvation is disqualifying you?
“Daddy! My Father will always forgive me.
Why I sinned an broke the picket fence but Daddy will always forgive myself.
So I sinned again I broke the window Daddy will always forgive me
I sinned and busted the pipes. Water is everywhere but Daddy will always forgive.
I do not have to humble myself Daddy will do it for me.
Why I am not responsible for myself. Daddy does it all by himself.
Daddy declared me a spoiled brat.
Why does Daddy call me a spoiled Brat.
He does everything I do not understand.
Oh Daddy! Oh Daddy!”
Is this yours?
And each time some new person sees it and begins a new journey of truth or someone needed to see it again for some verse or point. Dont ever tire of posting that smvoice.
Posting error ad nauseam does not correct that error. Mauling Scripture to the point of unrecognizability does not an accomplishment make. We hear bleating of dividing Scripture rightly. That does not mean chopping it into tiny bits and reassembling them in seemingly random order on a daily basis, pointing to it and saying "see".
Thank you for the testimony. The Catholic Church believes in the Gospel of Christ, by the way. I think that that is the difference here.
Uh huh. Speaking for God again? There's a resident twit on FR who occasionally posts threads like that.
Do you understand why antiCatholics who label themselves as failed Catholics and can't even get identification right are viewed askance?
So Judgement is what happens to other people? We really do have a different Bible.
Do not attempt to discern what is known only to God. It is He and not you that knows my heart and will judge us accordingly. Jesus will be my mediator.
"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, Abba! Father! The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him." - Romans 8:14-17
Your brother in Christ,
I John 3
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devils work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because Gods seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not Gods child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brothers were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps Gods commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
Are you implying that Jesus' message was something other than to love one another and that to hate one another was wrong? If you are then you are reading a different Scripture than I am.
The verse I posted in no contradicts Jesus nor was it presented in a deceptive manner. I only presented the voice of God. The relative postings of other FReepers will have to stand or fall on their own merit.
(side note: I have never before seen a Protestant use the Catholic tactic of posting an entire chapter to refute a verse or two.....well done! Now we just have to work on your conclusions)
The pope decreed mortal sin for missing sunday mass, Not God, and this over 1000 years after the resurrection.
He is The Father to HIS own and and a judge to those who aren't. He is not your father as you listen to another - through man made teachings and doctrines/traditions. As we know he isn't the father to your leader, the infallible one, he declared he belongs to Mary/his idol with "I'm all yours, Mary". Whine all you want, your leader declares the muslims are your brothers - why do you refuse to listen to your leader, the infallible one?
The sword of the Spirit skillfully wielded.