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.
Where in Scripture does it say that?
Why would you call yourself unteachable? If I thought that I would simply pray for you rather than continue to discuss.
Do not confuse me with others I have more respect for you then you proably know.
The Lord sees the inside better than us that's for sure. I do not judge. I know you care. We can have different views on Christ as long as we can declare 1John 4 we declare The Holy Spirit within us.
I trust in Jesus to overcome this world for me. But where we differ is this process. You declare you see it now in a special way. I certainly do not see that confession is wrong in my belief of Christ. I am not talking catholic either just any confession. I see 1john1 . When John puts down do not be deceived in this writing. I see an alarm going off as a warning in this writing.
Yes, let's return to the subject at hand. I disagree, of course, with your premise that those who leave Catholicism do so for "personal reasons" - since I left purely for theological ones as have most of those here who have testified of leaving. My "Protestant" Dad joined Catholicism so that he and my Mom could marry in the church (her Mom's insistence, though they had already married at a JOP). When they divorced some fifteen years later, he went back to the Baptist Church. 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.
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". 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.
Discuss the issues all you want, but do not make it personal.
My Church in MA consists of 80% former RC’s and all have left for theological reasons.
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.
"In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel." Rom. 2:16.
And let that be the day that you realize this truth.
And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
I'll bet if you did a survey and asked how many thought of themselves as "failed Catholics"...oh, wait, that's only what the "successful" Catholics call those who dare to leave. I'd venture that your fellow church members would laugh at that label, too.
The Essentials of the Catholic Faith, Part Three: The Will of God, Christian Morality
The Essentials of the Catholic Faith, Part Three: The Will of God, The Ten Commandments
The Essentials of the Catholic Faith, Part Three: The Will of God, First Commandment
The Essentials of the Catholic Faith, Part Three: The Will of God, Second Commandment
The Essentials of the Catholic Faith, Part Three: The Will of God, Third Commandment
The Essentials of the Catholic Faith, Part Three: The Will of God, Fourth Commandment
The Essentials of the Catholic Faith, Part Three: The Will of God, Fifth Commandment
The Essentials of the Catholic Faith, Part Three: The Will of God, Sixth and Ninth Commandments
The Essentials of the Catholic Faith, Part Three: The Will of God, Seventh and Tenth Commandments
The Essentials of the Catholic Faith; Part Three: The Will of God, Eighth Commandment
Catechism of Aquinas |SUMMARY OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS| THE OUR FATHER & FIVE QUALITIES OF PRAYER
A Brief Catechism for Adults - Lesson 34: The First Commandment
A Brief Catechism for Adults - Lesson 35: The Second Commandment
A Brief Catechism for Adults - Lesson 36: The Third Commandment
A Brief Catechism for Adults - Lesson 37: The Fourth Commandment
A Brief Catechism for Adults - Lesson 38: The Fifth Commandment (w / special prayer request)
A Brief Catechism for Adults - Lesson 39: The Sixth and Ninth Commandments
A Brief Catechism for Adults - Lesson 40: The Seventh and Tenth Commandments
A Brief Catechism for Adulst - Lesson 41: The Eighth Commandment
The Apostle Paul was a celibate Catholic priest. It was the Catholic Church that canonized him and venerates him as the patron saint of authors.
The premise posed by Metmom was that Salvation was based upon either faith or by works. Grace, as the subject of Romans 11:6, was not a part of that discussion. I would suggest you read James 2, especially versus 14 through 26 where a better discussion of the relationship between Faith, works and grace is discussed.
Then reflect on the meaning of I Corinthians 13:2:
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
Yes, Sister Katherine Marie. :o)
First of all, speaking the truth CAN be done with love, gentleness, patience and respect. It is ALWAYS my intent. That another interprets correction or disagreement over doctrine as "anger, malice or hate", when the comment is not a personal attack, is not something that can be controlled and has to fall back on the one who feels his ox is being gored, to coin a phrase.
The issue of grace vs. works most certainly DOES pertain to the faith vs. works argument. The very meaning of the term "grace" implies:
"Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people"
"the state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God"
"an excellence or power granted by God"
There is a special and specific reason why God chose the word. By it's very definition and use in Holy Scripture, it implies unmerited favor. Thus, when salvation is said to be by grace through faith and not of works, it is plainly understood to mean man does not work for the gift. The use of the word "gift" also relays that sense. The passage, Ephesians 2:8,9 says:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast"
There are many other verses throughout both the Old and New Testaments that speak of God's grace. This grace is balanced with his holiness and justice. His holiness demands perfect righteousness to be in his presence. His justice demands a satisfactory payment for sin. His love was what makes eternal salvation a free gift - another word used in Scripture. A free gift means exactly that - nothing is done to buy it or earn it but it is given freely. God says this gift is given to all who accept it by faith. In Romans 6:23, Paul says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Let me make sure you do not misunderstand my point here, I do not believe that a Christian should, or can really, just accept the gift and then continue on in his sinful life as if nothing changed. Jesus said quite clearly that he is the vine and we are the branches. We bear "fruit" by our position in Christ and this fruit IS good works - love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22) So, though we are NOT saved because of our works but by God's grace through faith, we are STILL created unto good works which God has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). A genuine, born again believer in Christ WILL demonstrate their faith BY their works - but it is NOT their works that save them. It is a GIFT given by grace through faith.
This is what they call a breakthrough moment. In comparison to this shared truth our other doctrinal differences are really quite insignificant. One by one, we are accomplishing that agate ring of His Church.
God bless you and good night.
I agree that should be our attitudes as we discuss things with eternal significance. I did not make the quoted statement, so I'm not sure if that is your "breakthrough moment" connected to me. I do not, however, see our "doctrinal differences" as insignificant as the issue of salvation by grace through faith vs. works is a paramount distinction. I DO pray for all those I communicate with here, so I will certainly continue to do so. Good night and God bless you, too.
Oh now thats a hoot. A Catholic trying to explain how others are using the Bible wrong. Im sure that right after the tell us how we interpret the Bible wrong they will explain how the Bible contains the story of the bodily assumption of Mary or that she was installed as queen of heaven.
If we truly live the two Greatest Commandments the "doctrinal issues" will take care of themselves.