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.
So the truth comes out. Sheesh, when I relate on FR that I was taught that as a child, I'm accused of making it up (aka lying).
Jesus spoke the truth and being Jesus, he always did it in love. How could He not. And yet, look at some of the ways He expressed that. The woes and the clearing of the Temple.
In the end, they crucified Him, simply because He spoke the truth. The enemy does not like being exposed and will always react to the truth.
Before someone goes around accusing others of being *unloving* and that's why they're being taken wrongly, they need to make sure they're not simply blame shifting because they're being offended by the truth.
1 John 5:13 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
So who's wrong here? You? Or the Apostle John and the Holy Spirit?
The fact that you still havent learned that is proof that you left because of what St. Jerome called ignorance.
Who cares what Jerome had to say on the matter? Who's he anyway?
>> “Didnt Jesus hold a mass the night before he was crucified? “ <<
Most certainly not!
Jesus demonstrated to his own, how to celebrate the REMEMBRANCE of his death at Passover, not how to hold a pagan seance with a false priest presiding over a lie.
Thanks for the ping.
Good that they are looking candidly at themselves.
>> “Specifically?” <<
She stated: “prayer to saints..a deified Mary,a non biblical priesthood and mass.”
What more answer could need? Those four things are a total denial of Christ.
Wife & I recently moved to Jacksonville, FL. We had been attending a WONDERFUL Maronite parish in SC that was very small with an incredibly active priest. I retrospect I wish we had carted the people & the church building down here with us.
We get to Jax & discover there are no small parishes. They are all very large. There is a Maronite rite parish close by but they speak 90% arabic & 10% english. There’s a Latin rite parish less than a mile from the house but the Pastor of the parish read with dripping disdain the Bishop’s letter about the HHS mandate. “How can I be bothered with such nonsense” was his tone as he read the letter.
We attended a Latin Mass on Sunday evenings at a Syriac Rite parish for a time. Finally we discovered a parish that brooks no BS on any level on any issue and we are grateful the Lord has led us there. Thankful we were able to make the journey!
Mary is NOT a god in the Catholic faith.
>>Uh, no...I dont stalk her on Catholic threads so how the hell would I know anything about her? Fine, shes another angry ex-Catholic.<<
I admire you greatly.
Personally I don’t really care at all what religion anyone is. And with that, a person can make up any story to fit an agenda. If I told you that my Uncle is a Bishop, it could be true or it could be false. If I told you that I have five kids, it could be true or it could be false. How would anyone prove it?
So some of the stories on FR (especially those that are used to belittle others) I take with a grain of salt. I’m just perfectly okay with what I do, no matter how sour or bitter anyone else is.
I remember Dear Judith Anne flipping out with the twisting of Catholic teachings. I would tell her, let it go, some people are shallow and need to slam us to make themselves feel better. Now I know she is up there praying for those that brought her to tears. SOMEONE can’t muster up a thank you to a poster who offers a prayer. Yet, these are the same people that when a loved one is sick or something disastrous happens, asks for prayers and we are on the front line.
I remember seeing one and wanting so badly to say, “Will you take Catholic prayers?”, but I try not to be nasty.
The only thing that really makes me angry is when people denigrate the beauty and art of the Church as some sort of paganism. (Ya know how we worship statues, lol!) The Church gave the world Leonardo and Michaelangelo and I, for one, am damned grateful!
Take care and keep cool.
Where exactly did you read this?
God willing, He leads them to it. Thank you, Jesus Christ.
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.
As much as I dislike disagreeing with friend Cronos, I will, and side with you AB.
Matthew 5: 10 Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: 12 Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.
We bring the Gospel of Jesus to those who at the moment prefer the gospel of the god in the mirror. We are not thanked overly much for it.
Rome is a city, not a church.
Jesus said it was so, what's not to believe?
For the anti Catholic, it is not about Jesus. It is about Paul. Remember we went through a series of lectures that Jesus was irrelevant - it is Paul to whom we must turn. The Gospels were to the Jews only. Jude was to the Jews. Peter was to the Jews. John was to the Jews. James (the epistle of straw) was definitely to the Jews only. The lecture continued to the effect that since the Jews rejected Jesus, anything that was said to them was completely separate from what the Gentiles were to believe.
I challenged several of the antiCatholics to count the times and amount of time that Paul went to the Jews, as opposed to their claims, based upon Scripture. There were two who confirmed my statements. They habitually debate honestly. The rest huffed and puffed and disappeared.
Their premise is wrong and therefore their conclusions are also wrong.
It's not what Scripture teaches at all. You're wrong there. Show me one verse that tells us we won't know until we're standing before God.
1 John 5:9-13 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1:9-14 9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
John 3:14-18 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
John 10:27-29 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
Ephesians 2:1-10 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
What Catholics fail to realize is that when someone is born again through faith in Christ, they ARE saved, present tense. The transaction has taken place in the spiritual realm.
So we can say, like Paul, .....
Galatians 2:20-21 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Now that I am alive in Him, I am seated in the heavenly places with Him.
My salvation is something I already have possession of.
I have been blessed with orthodox and wonderful bishops in the past and have been saddled with a bishop sent in about 5 years ago that I have publicly put down in a Catholic television coverage and continued to do so in public and in diocesan meetings.
My parish priest and deacon pounded my back and shook my hand and continue to do so to this day. The deacon's wife introduced me to her mother as 'the Conservative of the parish'.
Do you have an orthodox bishop and parish priest that you can turn to? Most of the young Latins are way more orthodox than the ones from the hippie generation.
I have often seen that example used to justify very unChristian behavior, but none of us are Jesus. He never told us to drive out the money changers and overturn their booths, he told us to love and forgive one another. Unless we are able to perfectly judge the living and the dead, heal the sick, raise the dead, forgive sins and take up our cross and be crucified we cannot claim for ourselves the privilege of His actions nor the vanity of His name.
"Before someone goes around accusing others of being *unloving* and that's why they're being taken wrongly, they need to make sure they're not simply blame shifting because they're being offended by the truth."
I haven't seen anyone called unloving, only actions and words being absent the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. I'm not blame shifting because I am not offended. However, I know from my own experience that if anyone has true charity in their hearts there will not be harsh tones, condescension, insults, and innuendo on their lips nor contempt, indifference and arrogance in their deeds.
" You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?" - Matthew 7:16