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Kathryn Lopez on why people leave the Church May 11, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, North Deanery.

Kathryn Jean Lopez has a long post at Inside Catholic exploring the reasons why people leave the Church.  I’m sure there are as many reasons as there are people, but she identifies a few key reasons.  These include the usual – the Church isn’t with the times on any of a number of subjects, they find Mass boring, the priests don’t inspire with their homilies,  the scandals, and the one that drives me nuts, the Church isn’t ‘Bible based enough.’  So, leaving aside the scandals, which are probably just a proximate excuse for someone long having problems with the Church, these issues come down primarily to formation.  In a nutshell, there isn’t nearly enough formation in the Church, and of what there is, most of it isn’t much good.

As a protestant coming into the Church in the post Vatican II era, I have been shocked at the lack of formation for Catholics, both youth and adults.  In a protestant Church, in my experience, a great deal of formation occurs simply by attending church every week.  Sermons are much longer, generally 3-4 times the length of a five minute Catholic homily, and protestant ministers are far more willing to go more deeply into theology and Scripture, and to bring up moral subjects that may be controversial.  Having said that, protestants have their deficiencies, too – the mainline churches are becoming increasingly weak on both faith and morals, and virtually no protestant church will discuss contraception or divorce as a serious moral problem.  But all in all, the average sermon given by a protestant minister will be memorable, more detailed, and more enlivening than the average Catholic homily.  In the Church, there are exceptions – where I celebrate Mass on Sunday, the sermons average about 30 minutes, and moral issues are frequently engaged in a thoroughly (and orthodox) Catholic manner.

The idea that the Church is not ‘Scripture-based’ drives me nuts. I’m sure there are parishes where this is the case, and there may be a few priests running around telling people not to read the Bible, although that sounds more like bad anti-Catholic propaganda than a serial issue.  But all one must do is crack open a resource like The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith, by John Salza, and the spurious nature of such charges becomes instantly apparent.  The problem is, few Catholics do so, because few parishes have serious programs of faith formation like the Wednesday night Bible studies prevalent in protestant churches.  Children’s formation in Catholic schools or CCD is also sadly lacking – so many parents think they have done all they need to do by sending their kids to Catholic school, trusting that the school will handle the formation.  This abrogation of a fundamental parental responsbility leads to a great deal of angst when Junior becomes a protestant or pagan while at university. 

Another factor that does leap to mind when reading the Lopez piece, which is well worth your time, is that the post-conciliar excesses and the watering down of the Liturgy in an attempt to appeal to protestants in an ecumenical sense has backfired terribly.  People, young people in particular, are drawn to authenticity.  Paper mache puppets and clowns celebrating Mass don’t ring true for them, and even if such egregious abuses are relatively rare, a Church that allows such things to occur without consequence raises questions in their minds.  Alot of people approximately my age and younger have a very strong desire for timeless, true, beautiful, God-focused Liturgy.  It’s shocking that people find Mass boring – they completely misunderstand the point of Mass.  It’s not a rock concert for us, it’s a Sacrifice honoring and worshiping God – it’s the only Sacrifice acceptable to God.  That is why there is a steady rise in the interest in traditional forms of worship, and I’m not just talking about Latin Mass.  There have bene great increases in demand for Adoration, for Processions, for Novenas and devotionals – all the panoply of worship that is clearly and distinctively Roman Catholic.  That is what Pope Benedict has been working so hard to achieve in his pontificate – a reinvigoration of the Catholic identity.

Pray God he may be successful.  The people leaving the Church are walking away from so very, very much – it’s a tragedy they don’t even know what they have.  Pray for their reconversion, and for a great evangelization of true Catholicism in the Church. 

Dominus Vobiscum!


1. Steve B - May 11, 2010


One additional reason why many Catholics leave is that they have been deeply and personally offended by a Catholic, either in word or by deed.

A good friend of mine related a conversation that had many years ago with the Priest with whom he was receiving instruction to convert into Catholicism. My friend asked him what he would recommend saying to an ex-Catholic to try to bring them back to the Church. The Priest answered him – “Just ask them with whom they are angry. That’s often why so many leave the Church.”

In a sense, this too would likely fall under the realm of “scandal” – but albeit of a nature far less horrific than the recent Priest sex scandals which have rocked the Church….

Pax et benedictiones tibi, per Christum Dominum nostrum.

2. A great homily « A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics - May 12, 2010

[…] a couple of blogs, one of which contains text of his Sunday homilies.  I posted the other day that one of the reasons people say they leave the Church is a lack of inspiration from priests, especially from homilies.  […]

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