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.
You won’t know if you’re saved until your particular judgment, which is what both Scripture and the Church teach. The fact that you still haven’t learned that is proof that you left because of what St. Jerome called “ignorance”.
I hope it's not sacrilegious ... I don't intend it to be.
You won’t know if you’re saved until your particular judgment which is exactly what both Scripture and the Church teach.
My wife was RC and her father was EO. They both became Evangelical Christians. In my wife's case it was just opening Scripture that triggered her desire to join a Bible based church and for my FIL it was coming to services with us and really hearing The Gospel.
I think it's clear that the RCC is not capable of real reform and they will always have a problem with members leaving. I'm thankful that some, such as yourself, find Bible based churches.
The "once saved always saved" crowd will be in for a rude awakening.
What a great way to approach Bible study.
"Understanding this first, that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation. For prophecy came not by the will of man at any time: but the holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:20-21
"And account the longsuffering of our Lord, salvation; as also our most dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, hath written to you: As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction." 2 Peter 3:15-16
Great post mm, and I agree, wmfights. That IS a great way to approach Bible study. Instead of letting God's Word flow naturally, and comparing Scripture with Scripture, too many people take their preconceived notions of what they were taught It says. They bring "church baggage" with them, and want it to say what THEY want it to say. When it does not, and seems to contradict itself, they simply throw those Scriptures out, instead of COMPARING the Scriptures to find the answer. The Bible does NOT contradict itself. But preconceived notions do.
There is a natural flow and a clear way to find our way through God's Word. We first need to find out WHERE we ARE in God's timeline. And WHO we are, and WHO we ARE NOT.
This is not a doctrinal issue between separated followers of Jesus. Loving one another, "in our thoughts and in our words, in what we do and fail to do" in kindness, respect and beatitude, as yhe Word Incarnate commands defines us as Christians. It must accompany loving God because it is He who commands it. Those are the two Greatest Commandments. If you simply love God, as was preached in the Old Law you fail the mission given by Jesus.
"Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter." - Matthew 7:21
It is not our words that change anyone's heart, it is the Grace of God through the Holy Spirit that changes people. All we can do is to help prepare the way. Conversion never happens through force, coercion, insult or ridicule. It takes the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. Those, on whose lips and in whose actions we do not see evidence of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit are not acting in concert with the Holy Spirit.
"You have heard that it was said, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew 5:43-48
You’ve deluded yourself into thinking you already know where you’ll spend eternity. Scripture says quite differently.
It matters to Him.
>>So we must be cautious as Christians in the censuring of one another in the speaking of truth...<<
Here is the absolute truth, it’s freakin rude to have someone say, “I’ll pray for you.” and not say “Thank you.” This is simple Barney stuff taught to preschoolers. (”Please don’t forget to say ‘please’, thank you for saying ‘Thank you’ etc.) And you can go off on your interpretation of scripture to your hearts content (because the Word of God is absolute but one’s interpretation of it is up for debate) however it has NOTHING to do with a person who has such a closed heart that she can’t graciously accept a prayer given in kindness.
Oh, begone! Take your silly Robert Mitchum “Night of the Hunter” act to someone else.
Thank you! That’s so sweet - I wish I could think I was one of His lost sheep.
As Rhett Butler said, there are many “good phrases in that Book, aren’t there?”
"And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end." Dan. 12:8-10.
"Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: SEARCHING WHAT, OR WHAT MANNER OF TIME the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." 1 Pet. 1:10-11.
In other words, Old testament writers frequently did not understand the prophesies made known through them.
I'm pretty sure RnMom isn't claiming to be a prophet...RnMom is doing what we are called to do: STUDY THE WORD. Search the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so. Rightly divide the Word of Truth.
You appear to be using Scripture to say the believer has no right or duty to read and study God's Word. 2 Tim. 2:15 is maybe a good place to begin to understand how we become approved workmen for God. Hint: It's NOT by waiting for the magisterium to hand down doctrines to live by. Not by a long shot.
That accusation is hurled at EVERYONE who leaves the church for doctrinal reasons.
I guess you're not familiar with RnMom's Catholic history which she has posted on FR before.
In short, YES, she was a real Catholic. I have no doubt she knew more Catholic doctrine when she left the church than any 10 lay Catholics you randomly pull off the street.