Skip to comments.The hidden exodus: Catholics becoming Protestants
Posted on 05/17/2012 5:40:57 PM PDT by Gamecock
Any other institution that lost one-third of its members would want to know why.....
The number of people who have left the Catholic church is huge.
We all have heard stories about why people leave. Parents share stories about their children. Academics talk about their students. Everyone has a friend who has left.
While personal experience can be helpful, social science research forces us to look beyond our circle of acquaintances to see what is going on in the whole church.
The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Research Centers Forum on Religion & Public Life has put hard numbers on the anecdotal evidence: One out of every 10 Americans is an ex-Catholic. If they were a separate denomination, they would be the third-largest denomination in the United States, after Catholics and Baptists. One of three people who were raised Catholic no longer identifies as Catholic.
Any other institution that lost one-third of its members would want to know why. But the U.S. bishops have never devoted any time at their national meetings to discussing the exodus. Nor have they spent a dime trying to find out why it is happening.
Thankfully, although the U.S. bishops have not supported research on people who have left the church, the Pew Center has.
Pews data shows that those leaving the church are not homogenous. They can be divided into two major groups: those who become unaffiliated and those who become Protestant. Almost half of those leaving the church become unaffiliated and almost half become Protestant. Only about 10 percent of ex-Catholics join non-Christian religions. This article will focus on Catholics who have become Protestant. I am not saying that those who become unaffiliated are not important; I am leaving that discussion to another time.
Why do people leave the Catholic church to become Protestant? Liberal Catholics will tell you that Catholics are leaving because they disagree with the churchs teaching on birth control, women priests, divorce, the bishops interference in American politics, etc. Conservatives blame Vatican II, liberal priests and nuns, a permissive culture and the churchs social justice agenda.
One of the reasons there is such disagreement is that we tend to think that everyone leaves for the same reason our friends, relatives and acquaintances have left. We fail to recognize that different people leave for different reasons. People who leave to join Protestant churches do so for different reasons than those who become unaffiliated. People who become evangelicals are different from Catholics who become members of mainline churches.
The principal reasons given by people who leave the church to become Protestant are that their spiritual needs were not being met in the Catholic church (71 percent) and they found a religion they like more (70 percent). Eighty-one percent of respondents say they joined their new church because they enjoy the religious service and style of worship of their new faith.
In other words, the Catholic church has failed to deliver what people consider fundamental products of religion: spiritual sustenance and a good worship service. And before conservatives blame the new liturgy, only 11 percent of those leaving complained that Catholicism had drifted too far from traditional practices such as the Latin Mass.
Dissatisfaction with how the church deals with spiritual needs and worship services dwarfs any disagreements over specific doctrines. While half of those who became Protestants say they left because they stopped believing in Catholic teaching, specific questions get much lower responses. Only 23 percent said they left because of the churchs teaching on abortion and homosexuality; only 23 percent because of the churchs teaching on divorce; only 21 percent because of the rule that priests cannot marry; only 16 percent because of the churchs teaching on birth control; only 16 percent because of the way the church treats women; only 11 percent because they were unhappy with the teachings on poverty, war and the death penalty.
The data shows that disagreement over specific doctrines is not the main reason Catholics become Protestants. We also have lots of survey data showing that many Catholics who stay disagree with specific church teachings. Despite what theologians and bishops think, doctrine is not that important either to those who become Protestant or to those who stay Catholic.
People are not becoming Protestants because they disagree with specific Catholic teachings; people are leaving because the church does not meet their spiritual needs and they find Protestant worship service better.
Nor are the people becoming Protestants lazy or lax Christians. In fact, they attend worship services at a higher rate than those who remain Catholic. While 42 percent of Catholics who stay attend services weekly, 63 percent of Catholics who become Protestants go to church every week. That is a 21 percentage-point difference.
Catholics who became Protestant also claim to have a stronger faith now than when they were children or teenagers. Seventy-one percent say their faith is very strong, while only 35 percent and 22 percent reported that their faith was very strong when they were children and teenagers, respectively. On the other hand, only 46 percent of those who are still Catholic report their faith as very strong today as an adult.
Thus, both as believers and as worshipers, Catholics who become Protestants are statistically better Christians than those who stay Catholic. We are losing the best, not the worst.
Some of the common explanations of why people leave do not pan out in the data. For example, only 21 percent of those becoming Protestant mention the sex abuse scandal as a reason for leaving. Only 3 percent say they left because they became separated or divorced.
If you believed liberals, most Catholics who leave the church would be joining mainline churches, like the Episcopal church. In fact, almost two-thirds of former Catholics who join a Protestant church join an evangelical church. Catholics who become evangelicals and Catholics who join mainline churches are two very distinct groups. We need to take a closer look at why each leaves the church.
Fifty-four percent of both groups say that they just gradually drifted away from Catholicism. Both groups also had almost equal numbers (82 percent evangelicals, 80 percent mainline) saying they joined their new church because they enjoyed the worship service. But compared to those who became mainline Protestants, a higher percentage of those becoming evangelicals said they left because their spiritual needs were not being met (78 percent versus 57 percent) and that they had stopped believing in Catholic teaching (62 percent versus 20 percent). They also cited the churchs teaching on the Bible (55 percent versus 16 percent) more frequently as a reason for leaving. Forty-six percent of these new evangelicals felt the Catholic church did not view the Bible literally enough. Thus, for those leaving to become evangelicals, spiritual sustenance, worship services and the Bible were key. Only 11 percent were unhappy with the churchs teachings on poverty, war, and the death penalty Ñ the same percentage as said they were unhappy with the churchs treatment of women. Contrary to what conservatives say, ex-Catholics are not flocking to the evangelicals because they think the Catholic church is politically too liberal. They are leaving to get spiritual nourishment from worship services and the Bible.
Looking at the responses of those who join mainline churches also provides some surprising results. For example, few (20 percent) say they left because they stopped believing in Catholic teachings. However, when specific issues were mentioned in the questionnaire, more of those joining mainline churches agreed that these issues influenced their decision to leave the Catholic church. Thirty-one percent cited unhappiness with the churchs teaching on abortion and homosexuality, women, and divorce and remarriage, and 26 percent mentioned birth control as a reason for leaving. Although these numbers are higher than for Catholics who become evangelicals, they are still dwarfed by the number (57 percent) who said their spiritual needs were not met in the Catholic church.
Thus, those becoming evangelicals were more generically unhappy than specifically unhappy with church teaching, while those who became mainline Protestant tended to be more specifically unhappy than generically unhappy with church teaching. The unhappiness with the churchs teaching on poverty, war and the death penalty was equally low for both groups (11 percent for evangelicals; 10 percent for mainline).
What stands out in the data on Catholics who join mainline churches is that they tend to cite personal or familiar reasons for leaving more frequently than do those who become evangelicals. Forty-four percent of the Catholics who join mainline churches say that they married someone of the faith they joined, a number that trumps all doctrinal issues. Only 22 percent of those who join the evangelicals cite this reason.
Perhaps after marrying a mainline Christian and attending his or her churchs services, the Catholic found the mainline services more fulfilling than the Catholic service. And even if they were equally attractive, perhaps the exclusion of the Protestant spouse from Catholic Communion makes the more welcoming mainline church attractive to an ecumenical couple.
Those joining mainline communities also were more likely to cite dissatisfaction of the Catholic clergy (39 percent) than were those who became evangelical (23 percent). Those who join mainline churches are looking for a less clerically dominated church.
Lessons from the data
There are many lessons that we can learn from the Pew data, but I will focus on only three.
First, those who are leaving the church for Protestant churches are more interested in spiritual nourishment than doctrinal issues. Tinkering with the wording of the creed at Mass is not going to help. No one except the Vatican and the bishops cares whether Jesus is one in being with the Father or consubstantial with the Father. That the hierarchy thinks this is important shows how out of it they are.
While the hierarchy worries about literal translations of the Latin text, people are longing for liturgies that touch the heart and emotions. More creativity with the liturgy is needed, and that means more flexibility must be allowed. If you build it, they will come; if you do not, they will find it elsewhere. The changes that will go into effect this Advent will make matters worse, not better.
Second, thanks to Pope Pius XII, Catholic scripture scholars have had decades to produce the best thinking on scripture in the world. That Catholics are leaving to join evangelical churches because of the church teaching on the Bible is a disgrace. Too few homilists explain the scriptures to their people. Few Catholics read the Bible.
The church needs a massive Bible education program. The church needs to acknowledge that understanding the Bible is more important than memorizing the catechism. If we could get Catholics to read the Sunday scripture readings each week before they come to Mass, it would be revolutionary. If you do not read and pray the scriptures, you are not an adult Christian. Catholics who become evangelicals understand this.
Finally, the Pew data shows that two-thirds of Catholics who become Protestants do so before they reach the age of 24. The church must make a preferential option for teenagers and young adults or it will continue to bleed. Programs and liturgies that cater to their needs must take precedence over the complaints of fuddy-duddies and rubrical purists.
Current religious education programs and teen groups appear to have little effect on keeping these folks Catholic, according to the Pew data, although those who attend a Catholic high school do appear to stay at a higher rate. More research is needed to find out what works and what does not.
The Catholic church is hemorrhaging members. It needs to acknowledge this and do more to understand why. Only if we acknowledge the exodus and understand it will we be in a position to do something about it.
“If Scripture is the authority by which the RCC has its authority, then it cannot have more authority than the document (Or person) which gave it that authority.”
The reality is that while Scripture (along with Tradition and history) is invoked in support of RC claims to authority, that is an interpretation of such, in which others would differ, including the EOs on some aspects, and what makes the RC interpretation authoritative is her claim to assured infallibility.
The RC argues that she gave us the Bible and thus she uniquely has the authority to tell us what is means, in this case that it means she has the authority.
However, according to that principal the would-be followers of the itinerant preacher in Galilee should have submitted to the authority who sat in the seat of Moses, over the nation that had the promises of the Lord’s presence, guidance and perpetuation.
We instead, as said before, hold that writings were supernaturally established as Divine (due to its Heavenly qualities and attestation), and that Truth was given and preserved without an assuredly infallible magisterium - and God can raise up men to correct those who presume as much - while Truth claims are established upon conformity with Scripture in text and in power, and thus the church began and is preserved as the body of Christ, He in them and they in Him, though in much need of perfecting.
I combined both responses so that I can address them together because you are both saying the same thing. It is the Roman Catholic Church which USES Holy Scripture to "prove" its authority. Holy Scripture, which even the Catholic Church attests to, IS the Word of God and "all Scripture is given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit". It is GOD-breathed truth revealed to men and recorded in a format that is both accessible as well as transcendent. The Catholic Church claims that "it" wrote Scripture and in the next breath proceeds to quote the verses that it says it has derived its authority. "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.", the magesterium quotes and then proceeds to interpret from that that only the Roman Catholic Church still has a person sitting on Peter's seat, they're still here ERGO it alone is the One, True Church.
Without the Bible, the Catholic Church would have nothing but its own word to lay claim to being the church Christ established. So this is why I question every time a Catholic makes such statements as, "Scripture derives its authority from the Church". Holy Scripture is the authority by which ALL truth claims must be measured and this was confirmed by ALL the early church fathers and leaders of the first and second century church as well as Scripture ITSELF. Jesus confirmed HIS authority by appealing to Scripture. Without Scripture, the Catholic Church has only its own statements to go on and its own selective history to back up its claims. That is why these few verses are even cited in the first place.
What I think is fundamentally wrong in stating the Church is the authority over Scripture is that they can - and they have - decide whatever they choose is or is not the doctrine of the Christian faith. It no longer is a prerequisite that the doctrines be based on Scriptural grounds and, when that happens, the Church sets itself ABOVE the very Word of God. Now, that may be perfectly acceptable to some people because they have become convinced that their church is always right about everything it says and nothing it proclaims or even does is subject to error. But, by the same token, there are others to whom the Scriptures have preeminence and the Word of God, IT IS WRITTEN, is the authority by which all truth claims are measured. And that makes the church SUBJECT to it and not the other way around.
You think the Pharisees weren’t pointing to Scripture when they accused the disciples of “harvesting on the Sabbath?”
Just about every slander leveled at Christ was based in a Scripture reference.
Referring to Scripture means nothing. Rightly dividing it, does.
I’ve seen Protestants here spewing Scripture like they have Tourette’s to sanctify their vanity, but most of the time the citation is so polluted with subtexts and pretexts on how the passage is “supposed” to be understood that they can no longer tell the difference between the word of God and their own preferences.
What language do you have to be told that is incorrect before you "get it?"
Sort of like the belief in the bodily assumption of Mary? Or the concept that Mary is the Queen of heaven.
Then find me the Old Testament Scripture that let Simeon know he would see the Messiah before he tasted death.
Utterly unrelated, but I understand why you would try to get onto another subject...or are you unfamiliar with 2 Tim 2:15?
You are right that we are saying essentially the same thing, and I appreciate that from a Protestant perspective you are right, but you actually have it backwards. The Church and Tradition preceded Scripture by over 300 years. The measure of Canon was the selection of writings that agreed with the Church's existing dogmas and doctrines. That is why it is so perplexing to witness Protestants insist that Scripture contradicts the Church. It was only the authority of the Church that gave credibility to the Canon of Scripture. Without the Church the Bible would be no more credible and no more widely accepted than the Encyclopedia of Lost and Rejected Scriptures.
Peace be with you.
The brainwashing is complete.
I guess Jesus didn't know what He was doing when He stated *It is written* as the final authority BEFORE the Catholic church came into existence. Eh?
papertyger: You have it backward. The Church does not derive it’s authority from Scripture; Scripture derives it’s authority from the Church.
pt: You have it backward. The Church does not derive it's authority from Scripture; Scripture derives it's authority from the Church.
Just when you think you've heard it all.
Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. Mark 2:28.
I hear much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but nothing coming out of you that confutes from Scripture.
I know, and evidently that is my fault - I misread what papertyger was getting at, and assumed that he was comparing physical flesh and blood via transubstantiation to a somehow physical 'born again' concept. I am sorry for that confusion.
There is a literal second birth, but *literal* does not by default mean *physical*.
When we are saved, born again, if you will, we are transferred to the kingdom of the Son He loves and are seated with Him in the heavenly realms NOW. I am not there NOW in the physical as I am still here on earth, but spiritually I am seated there with Him as a matter of fact.
You and I are in perfect agreement in this regard - what is happening in the spirit or to the spirit is certainly real, and is of much greater importance than what happens in the physical realm.
829 "But while in the most Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle, the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness. and so they turn their eyes to Mary":306 in her, the Church is already the "all-holy."
But back to the search for appeal to Scripture for its authority. It IS in there, bits and pieces of verses quoted just enough to show that the CCC does appeal to Scripture to give it its authority.
881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the "rock" of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock.400 "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head."401 This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.
882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful."402 "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."403
Then on what basis do you deny "transubstantiation?"
A proper discussion of transubstantiation requires that we have a thorough understanding of the difference between a substance and a property. There are physical properties of the Eucharist that are not germane to the Catholic teaching of the Real Presence.
We have to remember that many of those we encounter in these threads literally worship Scripture. They do not understand the difference between the author and the authority. It is expected that encounters with the truth about Scripture will cause them to initially recoil and then lash out at the messenger. Pray that they gain the gifts of knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
Peace be with you.