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.
Catholics vote for what you just described, Evangelicals vote against it, it is why some would leave what you described and seek what they believe to be a deeper, more conservative form of worship, and congregation.
I have been meaning to post for years on something like that, it goes beyond the service, you brought up a very good point that can be much elaborated on.
I just posted this in another thread and is appropriate
here. It doesn’t matter the exodus now...
God knows what is going to happen. Its been awhile, in my reading them, for fourteen years the Catholic messages from Heaven and the Protestant point to..are in preparation for one thing...the Remnant is Roman Catholic. The world is close to the Great Tribulation, the end of the 6th Day.
My advise, pray, repent from the heart and confess your
mortal sins. Believe in the Holy Eucharist and any misunderstandings about the faith will fall away.
God has always desired everyone believe the same. He is
going to help (free will is a gift) make it happen with
I put one word in CAPS.
~ ~ ~
God Speaks Will You Listen
...Hence lukewarm Catholics will persecute my faithful Catholics. After the warning, there will only be one church. All Protestant denominations will have no reason to exist. For all Protestants will see the truth in my Catholic Church. Those Protestants who in their pride reject my truth, will become apostate and persecute my true Catholics. Many Protestants will enter my church because of the warning. The ungodly will persecute my faithful remnant because the ungodly rejected my mercy. A fierce persecution will rage like a fire in certain parts of your world. Europe, North America, and Latin America will persecute my faithful severely. My son, the largest number of converts will come from the pagan religions. Many Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and tribal peoples will accept my mercy and truth because of the warning. My church will experience a large amount of growth in those areas. I will need my faithful to teach these converts. Many miracles will take place at this time. Bilocation and other miracles assisted by my angels will occur. My faithful may be teaching in different areas of the world. After the warning, there will only be a short time given to mankind to repent. If no repentance is done, I will allow Satan and the antichrist to chastise a sinful generation. At this time, many faithful will be: called home, persecuted, martyred, and taken to my refuges. Only those who are not spiritual babies with my divine life residing in their souls will endure those days and enter my era of peace. My son, at baptism all my children receive sanctifying grace, but many do not
progress beyond spiritual infancy. I will not lose any the Father has given to me. My spiritual babies will come home to be with me to prevent the loss of their souls. A soul who does not partake of my Eucharist REMAINS a spiritual baby. Just as a human baby must eat solid food to grow to adulthood, so spiritually you must receive my graces through the sacraments to mature to spiritual adulthood. The body must be fed to grow. Likewise, the soul must be fed to grow and mature. Satan knows this truth. This is why he has deceived many of my people with false interpretations of my scriptures. Many teach the physical nation of Israel is the fulfillment of my scripture. Many teach the antichrist will resume the Jewish sacrifice in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem to constitute the abomination of desolation. This is a false teaching, not from God, but from human understanding. My son, in the book of Daniel, the persecution by the Jews under Antiochus can be considered a partial fulfillment of the abomination of desolation. But the complete fulfillment has not yet taken place. At my death, the veil in the temple was rent in two and the old sacrificial covenant was replaced by my new covenant. My sacrifice on the cross was the final sacrifice for my peoplesâ sin. I am the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. I am the seed of Abraham, the son of David, in whom all the nations of the earth are blessed. My nation of Israel is my church, not the modern nation of Israel. My people are now all those who become part of my church through sanctifying grace. The complete fulfillment of the prophecy from Daniel of the abomination of desolation will occur: when the continual sacrifice of the mass is abolished by the false prophet and the anti christ. Acceptance of the protestant doctrine of the mass by an anti pope will be the fulfillment of the prophecy. The temple of God is my Holy Roman Catholic Church. My faithful remnant will be persecuted worldwide...
The people who leave the Catholic Church are badly catechized. If they knew the faith, they would not leave.
The Church is going to experience her crucifixion but after,
in the new time, the Millennium, everyone will believe in
Our Lord’s presence in the Eucharist.
You are absolutely welcome to have all the regular National Catholic Fishwrap (a/k/a NCR) readers that you’d like. If you can do something with them, all the better to you.
I have never met a “former Catholic” who attributed their loss of faith to theology or unfulfillment (though some Catholics complain about both); every “former Catholic” I know (who actually attends services anywhere else, as opposed to just becoming a non-Mass attending Catholic) did it over personal involvement with the divorce/remarriage question.
Here in NJ our former governor did it after leaving his Catholic wife & child; he went to an Episcopal seminary and moved in with his boyfriend.
Now you have.
Wow. In a time when all of Christianity is under attack from our own government, athiests, gays, Muslims, etc. here we are arguing over who has the greater numbers or who’s losing the greater numbers. We’re right, you’re wrong. Pride. Last time I checked, that was a sin.
We should be above this, FRiends.
I’ve seen them on TV, too; cyber-people are whatever they want to be.
Preach it, sister!!!
Truth hurts, eh?
It’s too bad Catholic have to attempt to have threads that reveal the truth about Catholicism pulled on such petty grounds.
That's what I just love about practicing Catholics. The character of Christ just shines through every post......
Wrong. We want Christ on HIS terms, not the Catholic church's.
badly catechized, skip,
badly catechized, skip,
badly catechized, skip,
badly catechized, skip,
badly catechized, skip,
How many times do you have to be told that that is not true and yet still persist in believing that excuse.
I don't know why it's beyond the comprehension of some that they can know exactly what the RCC church teaches and STILL reject it.
There are former Catholics on board here who used to TEACH catechism classes.
We KNOW what Catholicism teaches and since it doesn't line up with Scripture, we reject it.
My last boss divorced the Church because he didn't like the priest's hospital visits to his daughter (as he explained it - they weren't 'concerned' enough).
Always personal. Nothing to do with theology or faith.
Everything to do with the god in the mirror.
First off, preach it to your fellow Catholics who vote democrat in the elections and have put the likes of Kennedy, Kerry, Pelosi, Schumer, etc into office, those very politicians who ARE attacking this country and Christianity. Catholics vote dem in much higher percentage than other religious groups, and are thus as a group, more culpable in what's happening in this country than others. They need to seriously clean house for that criticism to hold water. I will not align with any group which votes that way.
And we're not into a bragging game here about who's got the greater numbers.
We're telling people why we left the RCC and being called liars on it, as usual.
Some people persist in maintaining that former Catholics left the Catholic church over morals and because they were poorly catechized when person after person on this board is saying that it's over theology and doctrine and discrepancies between Catholic church doctrine and the clear teaching of Scripture. I for one, will not continually be back-handedly called a liar and let it rest.
Catholics engage in the *Were right, youre wrong* with the best of them.
People's eternal destiny is at stake if they don't put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation. That certainly trumps what happens in the here and now.
So? You know one reason from one person and all of a sudden ALL former Catholics fit that profile?
Teddy Kennedy was a Catholic, even got a Catholic funeral. Shall we paint all Catholics as a Kennedy, as adulterous, murdering, liars??
Using your standards.......
Well, hmmm.... I have never met a "former Roman catholic" who attributed their loss of faith to anything BUT theology or unfulfillment (though some Roman catholics complain about both); every former Roamn catholic I know (who actually attends services anywhere else, as opposed to just becoming a non-Mass attending Roman catholic) did NOT make the move it over personal involvement with the divorce/remarriage question.
So...what we now have is an indication that we run in different circles. I probably know close to 100 of such former Roman catholics. But it doesn't matter if my number is greater than yours, or your number is greater than mine. It does not prove anything except that we run in different circles, so don't fool yourself into thinking that you just provee that Romanism is better than anything else just by the people that you know. How silly when you think about it. If it wasn't, we could easily solve this whole issue and never have to have another thread on it if we just tallied all the FRs here!!!
Even if we were to poll EVERY single former Roman catholic and they gave us a true, complete reason why they left, it would not matter. What matters is that the Lord knows who are His; and that those who are His, by His grace and His grace alone, act in a manner according to which they were called so that others may see that He lives. To this end, He alone will be glorified!
Your post supports my point.