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.
But that passage in no way refers to those who have been born again, for it's talking about those with impenitent and hard hearts. That's not someone who has repented and been born again.
So those who haven't repented and received new life in Christ WILL be judged by their works, as it's the only thing left for them to be judged BY.
Galatians 3:1-29 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vainif indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith 6 just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness?
7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, In you shall all the nations be blessed. 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them. 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for The righteous shall live by faith. 12 But the law is not of faith, rather The one who does them shall live by them. 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for usfor it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, And to offsprings, referring to many, but referring to one, And to your offspring, who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
Is it then your contention that those who are indeed reborn from above are incapable of inpenitence or that penitence is no longer necessary for them? Or are you saying that those who are reborn are no longer capable of sin?
I am not surprised in the least that the writer of the article makes it sound like people only leave for personal reasons and not theological ones.
It is, after all, written from a Catholic perspective. To admit to the fact that most people leave for theological reasons would be to admit that there is something wrong with them theologically.
That then leaves the Catholics who absolutely insist that people only leave for personal reasons able to feel smug about themselves and their church as they can then accuse, or imply, that everyone who states that they leave for theological reasons is lying.
After all, they even have a *study* to prove it.
Most of the testimony here of the failed Catholics involve personal reasons, the rest involve the insistance on the authority to form one's own theology as one wishes and whenever one wishes.
Later on, he started going back to the Catholic Church, but NOT for "theological" reasons, but because he said he liked how all the priests he met on the golf course drank and told dirty jokes back at the bar.
If Einstein drank and told dirty jokes at the bar, would that make him wrong?
As to your insistence on continuing to misstate Smvoice's comments, all I can say is NO ONE has said anything about "rejecting the Gospels and the acts of the Twelve. It is to Paul in whom lies our salvation".
That is the constant theme of the antiCatholic. You have participated in that theme as well, although nowhere near the level that some others practice. I will challenge you to deny that I have had postings to me that state that the Gospels were for the Jews only and that Paul's Epistles are bruited about as the only formula for salvation. Your cohorts might be able to shed some light on the situation.
If, after all these many times, you STILL do not get that, I would suggest that you refrain from trying to engage in further dialog until you have done some more reading about the subject. I can suggest a few links for you that can help you to sound less uneducated about the topic. Let me know.
I have done what I consider to be sufficient reading on the subject. If you have more, then I would certainly entertain the notion of further education. I value your opinion, certainly much more than some of the folks that you hang out with.
The fallacy in that statement is the presupposition that the Church would accept that any theologically based decision to leave were made on valid grounds and not merely a vain or errant rejection of authority or a rejection of divine truth. Care to wager on how often that happens?
Let this be your last description of the Apostle Paul that resonates through your posts about how much the Catholic Church respects Paul. That he was a great apostle.
It's amazing how much the Baahble Bleevers (tm) don't actually read the Bible, isn't it? Why don't you read what Paul describes himself as, and get back to me? Scripture is plain and failed Catholics are wrong.
Non Catholics normally use the Bible wrong. The difference is that private interpretation is Scripturally forbidden.
The whole Mariology thing is partially extra Scriptural, yet believed from the first century by the Faithful. Same as iconology. St Luke was the first to write (paint) an icon - that of Mary - and yet we have the Protestant iconoclasts (born of Islam) who wail and gnash their teeth against icons to this day.
Another one for you homepage, gamecock.
Paul, who Jesus said was His CHOSEN instrument to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, whom God used to pen Holy Spirit breathed Scripture as Peter himself declared.
Just goes to show that nobody is safe from the Catholic church.
New Testament works are not some mindless or heartless act ritually performed to demonstrate obedience, they are evidence of cooperation with grace and of faith and they confer further grace. Faith itself is a work because it is awillful act.
If the only evidence of your conversion is your own proclamation that you are saved then grace is probably running a deficit in you.
Another one for you homepage, gamecock.
And you object to this description why? Scripturally, Paul describes his mission and the altercations that he gets into. I'd suggest that if you were serious about Christianity that you'd actually read Scripture instead of merely posting it in a gotcha game, when you think of it.
Paul never claimed that he was the replacement for Jesus, or the successor, as you guys claim.
It's projection, plain and simple.
Very good. Quantity is the edge in Protestant theology. Where does Moses fit into this thinking? And why does Isaiah keep coming up (he wrote less than Peter)?
Of course we sin...We all sin...However;
Rom 5:13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
We are not under the law, we are under grace..
Rom 4:8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Thank God for Jesus...
I’ve tried to make numerous replies but I am not allowed for some reason...I am being treated as a new member with no posting privileges...
I am not allowed to even contact the moderator...Don’t know what going on...Been blocked somehow for some reason...
You guys are great. It is to Paul to whom we must turn. Jesus is simply an amulet or magic phrase that Paul invokes. What manner of Christ is there in your Christianity? Why don't you lecture me again that we must forget the Gospels because they were only to the Jews, and eliminate Acts, except for the parts played by Paul?