WHY DO (SOME) CATHOLICS LEAVE THE CHURCH? PART I
A couple of weeks ago I put on my Facebook page a snippet from a research study by CARA (Canter for Applied Research in the Apostolate) about why Catholics (especially the young) leave the Catholic Church. Overall reasons they listed actually apply to pretty well all Christian denominations, but I listed the 6 predominant ones they uncovered, and I asked for comments. I got them!
This week I want to present some of the issues (with my own spin, of course), including one referred to as the “elephant in the room.” Next week, I’ll discuss what I think is the real “elephant in the room”…
Some people (young and old) actually coherently disagree with Church teachings. One former student of mine was highly complimentary of me and completely at odds with the Church’s stand on gay marriage. Others, perhaps less coherently, were angered by the Church’s refusal to permit ordination of women. I might or might not see eye-to-eye with their perspective, but it is at least rational.
Others were distanced from the Church because of divorce and re-marriage. This is frankly a huge difficulty for far too many in our world these days. Divorce today is less like what it probably was for wealthy people in the times of Christ—a matter of “preference” for another rather than genuine incompatibility. I am convinced that this was the basis for the condemnation of Herod by John the Baptist (explicitly) and Jesus (more implicitly). Such choices these days are probably more limited to tabloid “celebrities” than to real people, who for their best intentions have found themselves unable to live with each other. Pope Francis is trying in this area, but it’s up to the Church’s leadership to re-examine this burning question.
There is also a huge psychological impact on folks when they see loved ones (parents, siblings, children) terribly torn from them in ways that convince them there is no God who really cares. Might it have been cancer, or an auto accident, or being the victim of a crime. The fundamental question of “Why?” is met with (to them) the answer of “Oh, well, sorry about that—better luck next time”… Unless someone reaches out to let them know they are not abandoned, this is a serious problem.
Close on this is the question of over-protective parents who try to “shield” their children from all that is bad in the world, only to find that the children want to embrace the world precisely because they’ve been so sheltered. This form of rebellion is typically directed at parents, and the best way of striking at them is striking at what the parents fundamentally believe: their Faith…
Finally, what some folks called the “elephant in the room”—the scandal of child sexual abuse and its cover-up. It is absolutely evil, of course. Those scarred by this evil understandably have their trust in the Church badly damaged, if not completely destroyed.
These are some of the insights from people’s comments that I found to be valid. But in the course of reading all the comments, I found another “elephant in the room”—that will be the topic for next Sunday’s bulletin essay.