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Why do Catholics leave, and what can be done about it?
cna ^ | April 19, 2012 | Father Robert Barron

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 O’Connell, 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 church’s 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 I’d 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 isn’t 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 can’t 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 leaders—both clerical and non-clerical—that simple kindness, compassion, and attention go a rather long way.  I distinctly remember the advice that my first pastor—a wonderful and pastorally skillful priest—gave 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 don’t 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 person—Peter, 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 huge—upwards of three or four thousand families—and 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 visit—anything that would say, “We’ve noticed you’re not coming to Mass anymore.  Can we help?  Can you tell us what, if anything, we’ve done wrong?  We’d 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.
 


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Religion & Culture
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Father Robert Barron is the founder of the global ministry, Word on Fire, and the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein. He is the creator and host of a new 10 episode documentary series called "Catholicism" and also hosts programs on Relevant Radio, EWTN and at www.WordOnFire.org.
1 posted on 04/19/2012 11:58:29 AM PDT by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...
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.

I can personally attest to this. When I left two different parishes, not one of them ever contacted me. In fact, I ran into the pastor from one of those parishes who struck up a conversation about the parish but never asked why I had left, nor did he invite me to return.

The pastor at my current parish, has called and personally visited all the previous parishioners. Many of them have returned. It does make a difference.

2 posted on 04/19/2012 12:01:46 PM PDT by NYer (He who hides in his heart the remembrance of wrongs is like a man who feeds a snake on his chest. St)
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To: NYer

The most frequent answer you will get from a Knight of Columbus about why he joined is “I was asked”.


3 posted on 04/19/2012 12:07:53 PM PDT by massgopguy (I owe everything to George Bailey)
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To: NYer

Threaten them with Hell Fire and Damnation like the Baptists do.


4 posted on 04/19/2012 12:11:43 PM PDT by MtnMan101 (THE PROBLEM WITH SOCIALISUM IS THAT YOU EVENTUALLY RUN OUT OF OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY)
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To: NYer

The Catholics that I know left because of the false doctrine of Rome.. I tried to stay after I was saved but the more I studied scripture the more I realized that Rome does not line up with it.. finally I had to go .

It is very easy to get an ‘annulment” from the church... Most of the people in the pews use or used birth control ...the church is full of gays..including a large part of their priests..

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


5 posted on 04/19/2012 12:19:29 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: NYer
I can personally attest to this. When I left two different parishes, not one of them ever contacted me. In fact, I ran into the pastor from one of those parishes who struck up a conversation about the parish but never asked why I had left, nor did he invite me to return.

The pastor at my current parish, has called and personally visited all the previous parishioners. Many of them have returned. It does make a difference.

Easy enough in a small parish, but we have over 4,000 family registered at ours. Not easy for our pastor to contact each one of them, let alone realize when somebody leaves. For some reason, I am still receiving parish news, raffle tickets, donation envelopes from my previous parish ... we moved parishes over 7 years ago.

Locally, the parishes just can't keep up with who's coming and who's going.

6 posted on 04/19/2012 12:21:34 PM PDT by al_c (http://www.blowoutcongress.com)
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To: NYer

>>In fact, I ran into the pastor from one of those parishes who struck up a conversation about the parish but never asked why I had left, nor did he invite me to return. <<

At my old parish, they were happy as a clam to have me gone. No one contacted me because they were thrilled that I was out of their hair. Just too orthodox for the Happy Catholic staff.

Sometimes, they know why you left and are glad you’re gone.

On the other hand, my husband said that he started to consider converting when my current Pastor, learning that the hubby was Presbyterian, invited him to mass anyway. Down to giving him a CCC and telling him that if he felt uncomfortable sitting in the pew for Communion, he was more than welcome to come up for a blessing. Just cross his arms before kneeling down and the Priest would know what to do.

We are very blessed.


7 posted on 04/19/2012 12:22:37 PM PDT by netmilsmom (I am Breitbart)
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To: massgopguy
The most frequent answer you will get from a Knight of Columbus about why he joined is “I was asked”.

Yep.

8 posted on 04/19/2012 12:22:59 PM PDT by al_c (http://www.blowoutcongress.com)
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To: NYer

I left when they brought out the guitar music and the awful weekly missals with bad art and the sermons on the song “The Sounds of Silence.” That was about 1971. Luckily, we have many beautiful churches in New York City that still have the spiritual mystery and glamor that is so important to those of us who grew up in pre-Vatican II.


9 posted on 04/19/2012 12:25:03 PM PDT by miss marmelstein
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To: RnMomof7

I believe your case is covered under “Church teachings.” The article is about other issues.


10 posted on 04/19/2012 12:26:08 PM PDT by D-fendr (Deus non alligatur sacramentis sed nos alligamur.)
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To: RnMomof7

>>Most of the people in the pews use or used birth control ...the church is full of gays..including a large part of their priests..<<

Wow! Aren’t you blessed to have found a congregation of perfect people! Amazing!

Me? I’m a sinner, big time. I’d rather spend my worship time with the flawed. It makes me feel welcome.


11 posted on 04/19/2012 12:26:18 PM PDT by netmilsmom (I am Breitbart)
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To: RnMomof7

Nah, we don’t want folks who reject Christ’s divinity. Goodbye to them and good riddance..


12 posted on 04/19/2012 12:27:53 PM PDT by Cronos (**Marriage is about commitment, cohabitation is about convenience.**)
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To: RnMomof7

-—the more I studied scripture the more I realized that Rome does not line up with it.. finally I had to go.-—

Fortunately for you, your interpretation of Scripture is infallible, and you have no need of correction from any source, outside of the Bible, which was communicated directly to you by God.

I can’t figure out why you bother posting. You’re already saved, so why bother with us reprobates?


13 posted on 04/19/2012 12:28:05 PM PDT by St_Thomas_Aquinas (Viva Christo Rey!)
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To: RnMomof7

A lovely bigoted post! It’s very hard to believe you were once a Catholic. I’m a lapsed Catholic and still find your remarks repulsive.


14 posted on 04/19/2012 12:31:05 PM PDT by miss marmelstein
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To: Cronos

My favorite poster - Cronos - is here. Give ‘em hell, Cronos.


15 posted on 04/19/2012 12:33:01 PM PDT by miss marmelstein
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To: RnMomof7; 1000 silverlings; Alex Murphy; bkaycee; blue-duncan; boatbums; caww; count-your-change; ..
The Catholics that I know left because of the false doctrine of Rome.. I tried to stay after I was saved but the more I studied scripture the more I realized that Rome does not line up with it.. finally I had to go .

Exactly my situation. As I've said before, when I first got saved and felt the need to start attending church again, I went BACK to the Catholic church since that was the church I was raised in. But the same thing happened to me. I saw the discrepancy between what was taught there and what is blatantly obvious from just a careful reading of Scripture that I had never read before.

I had no preconceived notions of what to expect out of Scripture. Well, except what the Catholic church taught me. But then I saw the conflict between what it taught and what Scripture said and that was enough for me.

16 posted on 04/19/2012 12:36:17 PM PDT by metmom ( For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore & do not submit again to a yoke of slavery)
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To: RnMomof7
As a Catholic, I could dispute what you write, but to no avail.

You believe what you believe and I what I believe.

We are both about 70 years so it won't be long and we will find out the real truth about God.

If you are right, pray for me, as I will do for you.

17 posted on 04/19/2012 12:37:26 PM PDT by USS Alaska (Nuke the terrorists savages.)
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To: MtnMan101
Threaten them with Hell Fire and Damnation like the Baptists do.

If that were true it would be funny. Sadly, it's not.

18 posted on 04/19/2012 12:37:51 PM PDT by loboinok (Gun control is hitting what you aim at!)
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To: RnMomof7

>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<

Didn’t Jesus hold a “mass” the night before he was crucified? If God became a man and stepped into our world, was the last supper considered “man-made’?


19 posted on 04/19/2012 12:38:28 PM PDT by jp3 (BABIES, GUNS & JESUS...HOT DAMN!!)
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To: miss marmelstein

Thank you.

If you’re ever in the Detroit area, drop me a FReepmail and you can join us for Mass.

You’re always welcome!

(we even have screened confessions before EVERY mass, for your sacramental pleasure)


20 posted on 04/19/2012 12:42:09 PM PDT by netmilsmom (I am Breitbart)
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To: Cronos
Nah, we don’t want folks who reject Christ’s divinity. Goodbye to them and good riddance..

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.

21 posted on 04/19/2012 12:45:38 PM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: USS Alaska

>>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.


22 posted on 04/19/2012 12:48:22 PM PDT by netmilsmom (I am Breitbart)
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To: NYer

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.


23 posted on 04/19/2012 12:49:14 PM PDT by moodyskeptic (Counter counterculturist)
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To: NYer

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.


24 posted on 04/19/2012 12:49:46 PM PDT by tiki
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To: NYer

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.


25 posted on 04/19/2012 12:52:02 PM PDT by NTHockey (Rules of engagement #1: Take no prisoners)
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To: netmilsmom

Thank you!

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!)


26 posted on 04/19/2012 12:56:36 PM PDT by miss marmelstein
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To: St_Thomas_Aquinas; metmom

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..


27 posted on 04/19/2012 12:59:18 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: NYer

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.


28 posted on 04/19/2012 12:59:44 PM PDT by MomwithHope (Buy and read Ameritopia by Mark Levin!)
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To: D-fendr
I believe your case is covered under “Church teachings.” The article is about other issues.

LOL

29 posted on 04/19/2012 1:00:02 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: MomwithHope

Actually believing that error is what KEEPS some catholics..


30 posted on 04/19/2012 1:01:14 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
"It is very easy to get an ‘annulment” from the church... Most of the people in the pews use or used birth control ...the church is full of gays..including a large part of their priests..

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.

31 posted on 04/19/2012 1:01:29 PM PDT by Natural Law (If you love the Catholic Church raise your hands, if not raise your standards.)
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To: USS Alaska

I know my eternity..do you know yours?


32 posted on 04/19/2012 1:02:40 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: netmilsmom
"I think that some people are going to be REALLY surprised about who they meet once they walk through those pearly gates."

Not as surprised as they are going to be when they discover that the Pearly Gates are the servants entrance.

33 posted on 04/19/2012 1:05:46 PM PDT by Natural Law (If you love the Catholic Church raise your hands, if not raise your standards.)
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To: moodyskeptic

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?


34 posted on 04/19/2012 1:05:46 PM PDT by miss marmelstein
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To: NYer

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.

SnakeDoc


35 posted on 04/19/2012 1:07:21 PM PDT by SnakeDoctor ("I've shot people I like more for less." -- Raylan Givens)
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To: miss marmelstein

:)


36 posted on 04/19/2012 1:11:03 PM PDT by netmilsmom (I am Breitbart)
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To: RnMomof7

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.


37 posted on 04/19/2012 1:11:59 PM PDT by miss marmelstein
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To: RnMomof7; USS Alaska

>>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.


38 posted on 04/19/2012 1:16:38 PM PDT by netmilsmom (I am Breitbart)
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To: MtnMan101
Threaten them with Hell Fire and Damnation like the Baptists do.

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.

39 posted on 04/19/2012 1:20:29 PM PDT by NYer (He who hides in his heart the remembrance of wrongs is like a man who feeds a snake on his chest. St)
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To: SnakeDoctor

>>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.<<

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.


40 posted on 04/19/2012 1:20:55 PM PDT by netmilsmom (I am Breitbart)
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To: RnMomof7
The Catholics that I know left because of the false doctrine of Rome.

Specifically?

41 posted on 04/19/2012 1:21:46 PM PDT by NYer (He who hides in his heart the remembrance of wrongs is like a man who feeds a snake on his chest. St)
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To: netmilsmom
Sometimes, they know why you left and are glad you’re gone.

: - )

You're right. While still a parishioner, I challenged him on liturgical abuse, and won. He probably did a liturgical dance the Sunday after I left.

42 posted on 04/19/2012 1:25:26 PM PDT by NYer (He who hides in his heart the remembrance of wrongs is like a man who feeds a snake on his chest. St)
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To: MomwithHope
No one has yet posted what I believe is at the root of anyone leaving - no longer believing in the Real Presence.

Jesus said it was so, what's not to believe?

43 posted on 04/19/2012 1:30:21 PM PDT by NYer (He who hides in his heart the remembrance of wrongs is like a man who feeds a snake on his chest. St)
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To: netmilsmom

We’ve got a not-insignificant number of ex-Catholics in our (rather large) Baptist Congregation. I’m sure there are some Catholic Churches filled with disgruntled ex-Baptists somewhere.

Find the truth. Find Salvation. Find Christ. Doesn’t matter much to me how you get to Him.

SnakeDoc


44 posted on 04/19/2012 1:31:49 PM PDT by SnakeDoctor ("I've shot people I like more for less." -- Raylan Givens)
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To: netmilsmom; RnMomof7; USS Alaska
"Cause let me tell you, if your interpretation of Christianity is rudeness or inconsideration, you’re doing it very well."

Let me tell you what I told an equally smug anti-Catholic earlier today:

I sincerely hope that you continue to proclaim the Gospel with all of your fervor and zeal. I only ask that you consider the cautions given us in Scripture and Tradition to do so with love, gentleness and respect, not rancor, disdain and arrogance. When we evangelize it is not we who convert hearts, it is the Holy Spirit. But our actions can assist or impede the process. In doing this it is our actions and our perceived motives that first come into play. We can only open minds, open eyes, and open hearts by gently preparing the way.

From the Cross Jesus taught us that ignorance can affect the imputability and responsibility for sin and even absolve sin when He said; "Father forgive them for they know not what they do". Whenever any of our words or actions causes anyone to recoil in anger, hatred or fear from the Word of God we take on a shared responsibility for their sin because, as Christians, we know better. I pray that you remember this when declaring your own Salvation.

May the Peace and Blessings of Jesus be upon you.

45 posted on 04/19/2012 1:37:45 PM PDT by Natural Law (If you love the Catholic Church raise your hands, if not raise your standards.)
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To: miss marmelstein

“I’ll work myself back one day”

The work has already been done...just go back to HIM!...(no matter what religious persuasion, Catholic or Protestant, that holds the truth for you.)

You don’t have to look beyond the Bride to the “sellers of oil”; she’ll have what you need to prepare for the coming of the groom and the celebration of the wedding to come! For the Bride has the responsibility to see to it that her maidens, attendants, and guests have what they need in order to take part in the marriage supper of the Lamb! Don’t be caught outside and unable to get back in!


46 posted on 04/19/2012 1:40:58 PM PDT by mdmathis6 (Christ came not to make man into God but to restore fellowship of the Godhead with man.)
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To: NYer
Jesus said it [the real Presence] was so, what's not to believe?

Some people know the Scriptures better than Jesus does.

Just ask them ... they'll tell you all about it.

47 posted on 04/19/2012 1:41:57 PM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: NYer

>>He probably did a liturgical dance the Sunday after I left. <<

LOL!!!!


48 posted on 04/19/2012 1:44:39 PM PDT by netmilsmom (I am Breitbart)
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To: NYer
Here's an interesting link where former Catholics tell why they left. Being an ex-Catholic and having gone to parochial school through the 12th grade, I have to agree with them.

Catholics Come Home Commercial
49 posted on 04/19/2012 1:45:07 PM PDT by crosshairs (As long as there is evil, "Coexist" is impossible.)
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To: SnakeDoctor

Amen!


50 posted on 04/19/2012 1:46:18 PM PDT by netmilsmom (I am Breitbart)
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