“Lapsed” Catholics…

In 2007, a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life study reported that one-third of Americans were raised Catholic but slightly less than one-third of those (~11% of all Catholics) stopped practicing their faith in the sense of “stopped attending Mass.”

That raises the question, “Why are those people not attending Mass?”

A USA Today article discussed a recent study of 298 people—67% of whom were women—who stopped attending Mass in the Diocese of Trenton (NJ).  The study indicates they did so for three reasons:

  • personal reasons: “the pastor who crowned himself king and looks down on all,” “the Church’s handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal,” “divorced and remarried Catholics are unwelcome at Mass”;
  • political reasons: “eliminate the extreme conservative haranguing”; and,
  • doctrinal reasons: “don’t spend so much time on issues like homosexuality and birth control.”

Nearly 50% of the respondents offered negative comments about their parish priests, whom they described as “arrogant,” “distant” and “insensitive.”  Some also called for better homilies, better music, and greater accountability on the part of parish staff.  And, despite the fact they no longer attend Mass, nearly 25% of the respondents still consider themselves Catholic which, in fact, they are.  They’re just “lapsed” Catholics.

One of the study’s co-authors, Villanova University professor Charles Zech, believes the responses aren’t local but have broader implications that “affect the whole Church.”  Zech divided the responses into two categories: “the things that can’t change but that we can do a better job explaining” and the “things that aren’t difficult to fix.”

The Motley Monk would note that the phenomenon of lapsed Catholics isn’t anything new in Church history, especially during times of persecution.  Given that history, whether the fact that ~11% of Catholics in the Diocese of Trenton didn’t attend Mass in 2011 is high or low, The Motley Monk doesn’t know, and whether or not that statistic should raise “red flags” is open to debate.   It would seem there will always be a certain percentage of “lapsed” members for any religious tradition.

If lapsed Catholics can’t accept the Church teaching and it’s political or personal implications, what The Motley Monk doesn’t “get” is why they don’t find a religious denomination that will provide them exactly what they want?  After all, although the Church should never give up explaining those “things that can’t change but that we can do a better job explaining,” The Motley Monk doesn’t think many lapsed Catholics are really that much interested in having those things explained all over to them yet another time.  They’ve made up their minds and have decided they don’t agree with Church teaching.  That’s why they’ve lapsed.

However, with nearly 13% of respondents in the Trenton study indicating they would welcome a call from a Church official—they even provided their names and contact information for that purpose—and with many more respondents indicating they were pleased to be asked for their input, it would be important for them, their parish, and the diocese if the bishop, the pastor, or a priest did contact them in an effort to see if those “things that aren’t difficult to fix” can be fixed.

But that’s where Zech’s analysis sends up a red flag for The Motley Monk.  He notes:

The fact that they took the time to respond gives us a chance.  If some things change, or we do a better job of representing the church’s position, we might woo some of them back.

It’s the “If some things change…” clause.

When it comes to Church doctrine—for example, the sanctity of marriage, the male priesthood, the sanctity of life, artificial birth control—The Motley Monk would guess none of that’s going to change any time soon, if ever.  Reiterating that fact to lapsed Catholics, The Motley Monk thinks, there’d quite likely be very little chance to “woo” those respondents back.

What’s The Motley Monk to tell them, “Come on back. [wink] All of that stuff is the creation of man and doesn’t have anything to do with God”?

 

To read the USA Today article, click on the following link:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2012-03-26/lapsed-catholic-survey/53795712/1

To read The Motley Monk daily blog, click on the following link:
http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/

 

58 Responses to “Lapsed” Catholics…

  • “Why are those people not attending Mass?”
    Sleeping in is so inviting on a Sunday morning. Really, I think in many cases it does not get much deeper than that. To more than a few people religion has about as much importance to them as algebra does to a dog.

  • Donald, if it were just a matter of sleeping in, they could go to Saturday evening mass or masses later in the day (they might need to go to a different parish, but the options are likely there).

  • The reasons stated are convenient excuses that bare no truth.

    Sleeping in, especially from a hangover, are more likely the truth for these people.

  • It’s likley that many see the “here and now” as more important than the “hereafter.”

    Maybe that is due to decades of ignoring the True contents of Gospels; imperfect catechization; peace and justice; human dignity; pop psychology in simpering sermons; feel-good pabulum; “There is no such thing as a bad person.”; . . .

    Sad.

  • I was looking online for the original Villanova study, but I couldn’t find it. I have a problem with the USA Today article’s three categories. I mean, “personal” includes the rule against divorce, “political” includes conservative statements from the pulpit (and I’m guessing those aren’t anti-immigrant or anti-captial-gains-tax), and “doctrinal” includes homosexuality and birth control. So they’re potentially all about the same thing, Catholic teaching about sexuality. And realistically, “pastor…looks down on all” and “insensitive” are probably roundabout ways of complaining about Catholic sexual teachings, too.

    So, how many people really are opposed to Catholic sexual teachings, and how many are using them as an excuse to explain their absence from church? I hope the study asks that question.

    Personally, I’m not all that worried about the changable/unchangable formulation. After all, the doctrine can’t and won’t be changed. There’ve always been people who want it to change, and it never happens. If the easy changes are things like improved communication, better music, et cetera, we should all welcome them.

  • In my experience lapsed Catholics fall into two sometimes over-lapping buckets. The first includes Catholics who simply prefer a religion that conforms to their own moral preferences. Most, but not all, of these folks consider themselves liberals. Second, are Catholics who seek a type of community aesthetic that is found in evangelical congregations. They wish to be entertained each Sunday, and find Catholic Masses unsatisfying from an emotional or aesthetic standpoint. These folks disproportionately consider themselves conservatives.

  • “The reasons stated are convenient excuses that bare no truth.”

    I agree with Tito.

    These are nothing more than the lies people tell themselves to justify their decisions to some pollster when pressed for a rational response to an emotional issue. You could do everything they say and they would find new excuses just as quickly.

    There is no need for polls. When the Church performs its mission with the fervor and holiness that it is called then people will tend to listen. And when it doesn’t people will tend to fall away. I can just see St.Peter taking polls now.

  • Paul – Actually, yeah, St. Peter gathered the followers together and took a poll in Acts 1. Then they created the deaconate after a focus group.

  • Pinky- Yeah, and look how that turned out!

  • In my experience, so focused on folks who are a bit over thirty down to early twenties, middle class or so, fairly well educated, not a lot of exposure to strongly religious folks or overt religion:

    Going to Mass is a big hassle if it’s not important. Kind of like making time to exercise– there’s a vague notion that it’s Something You Need To Do, but most folks are only going to do it a couple of times a year.
    The folks that do go to church regularly tend to be pretty quiet about it; for Catholics, it’s really rare to speak up about even the most gross misunderstandings of Church teaching. A lot of folks who consider themselves Catholic don’t even know much about what the Church teaches– and about a third of what they “know” isn’t true, and it’s really rare for the “why” of the rest to be known.
    No culture of faith, no real reasons to be doing something, so why go to the bother of showing up unless it’s Christmas or Easter or something?

    The folks who are religious geeks can be driven away by some of the folks in the Church organization– I’m still bitter about how I was treated trying to get married in the Church. (Short form: the only way to set it up was by calling a specific number and leaving a message. Never got so much as a call-back.)

    If the Church were a business, I’d have some rather scathing words for their advertising department.
    That would be…um… all of us, too. While I’m amused that I’ve got some understanding of the habit of each generation to be largely motivated by a reaction to what was wrong when they were growing up, I really wish the formation classes I had were higher quality and that I’d had godparents that actually spoke to me! (In all fairness, one of my godparents was dead before I even have memories, and the other died before I was a teen…but the concept is sound!)

  • The “It’s largely about sex” option is a big deal, too.

    I’m kinda startled that ONLY 11% of the Catholics in an area were lapsed– I’d have to guess that either they didn’t count the C&Es as lapsed, or there was a lot of fudging going on.

  • knowing many lapsed Catholics personally, I say it is what Mr. McClarey said at the top of this list– they are just not that into it…and they are perfectly comfortable with their new Sunday morning routines.

    a snark warnng for what I am going to say here:
    There are those who say they can go out and pray in the field or the woods next door– they don’t need to go to church to pray– COP OUT – maybe they would start to come back to the Church IF when it came time for their loved ones funeral we said, – oh so sad why don’t you go out in the field and talk to God about it.

  • Donald: Sleeping in is so inviting on a Sunday morning. Really, I think in many cases it does not get much deeper than that. To more than a few people religion has about as much importance to them as algebra does to a dog.”
    There is 12:00 P.M. Mass on Sunday afternoon and the 5 P.M. vigil Mass on Saturday, so sleeping in does not matter. Their immortal, rational soul is denied by our cultrue, their dignity is assaulted at every turn, their sensitivity and common sense is insulted and derided, their mind is dumbed down and their spirit is crushed by the militant evil in our midst. If the jackass in the Bible could talk, the dogs will start doing algebra and loving it.

  • “Donald, if it were just a matter of sleeping in, they could go to Saturday evening mass or masses later in the day (they might need to go to a different parish, but the options are likely there).”

    True Anil, but I was using that as shorthand for people too lazy to make any effort for their Faith. Additionally, they probably received in badly done catechism the vague idea that all “good” people are going to Heaven anyway so why bother. They are complete strangers to this passage from Revelations:

    “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

  • If, in a poll, a reasonable, intellectual sounding excuse is offered for lapsing, the lapsed will grab at it, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with the real reason they left. Because the truth is embarrassing. Laziness. Sex.
    I’m not saying everyone who lapses falls into these two categories, but I think they represent the majority.

  • For myself, I have a Mother in Holy Mother Church and a Father in our Holy Father and I am an orphan no more.

  • Of course there are lapse Catholics…when dragged to church as a kid, boring…terrible or no music, don’t understand the old testament, baptized without accepting Christ into my life…there will be people in this pile that will lapse, but see themselves as Catholics – probably go 3 – 4 times per year.
    Catholicism is DIFFICULT and when there is a priest that does not resonate, motivate, move, educate…well then I can see others drifting as well.
    And to the Sunday morning…I know too many Catholics that prefer Sunday football and a nice leisurely Sunday morning…in many churches I see mostly women.
    Fortunately, in my church we have; two GREAT Fathers, three AWESOME choirs (Spanish, English and Teen), with extremely talented music ministry from the heart and a community of congregants that truly support the church and each other.
    Take a look at the christian rock scene…that’s why you’re getting more kids/teens again.
    Music is VERY important…we love being entertained while receiving a great message.

  • That reminds me:
    I don’t know how wide spread it is, but confession REALLY needs to be worked on! My first confession, nobody bothered to tell me what the heck was going on– I seem to remember I made up a sin to confess on the spot. (It was broadly true, but that’s not good enough!) Don’t get me started on the therapy approach to confession, either…. *oy*

  • Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been —- since my last confession and these are my sins.

    I always end it with: These are all the sins I can recall Father, but I am heartily sorry for any sins I can’t recall.

    When it comes to confessions, I remember the rule of the three B’s:

    Be blunt.
    Be brief.
    Be gone.

  • Donald- last time I could get in to confession, it was with a Naval priest. He spent half the time asking me if I’d ever considered suicide. I’m afraid I scared him when I finally growled that if things were that bad, I’d be more likely to commit murder than suicide, and he never did say something to the effect of “do this penance, your sins are forgiven, go out and sin no more.”
    Last time I waited in line for confession but couldn’t get in, I’m still not sure if the Priest was joking when he came out and told the lady ahead of me that “your sins are forgiven, because Father is late and needs to go get changed for Mass!”

    I know that growing up, I was in a sort of special case area– but Seattle is kind of a major area, so I’d hope that the priests are a bit higher quality, and I still have no clue. :^(

    I really do have a point, here: teaching the young is a major, major, MAJOR important thing. We can’t trust that the Church will be doing it correctly. (Heck, I didn’t know that the CCC even existed until I was nearly 20 and got hooked on Jimmy Akin’s blog. Since then, I haven’t met a single “Former Catholic” who DID know it existed– and my experience tends towards geeks, who would be all over that kind of thing.)

    John Paul the Second was an outstanding Pope for… oh, heck, I don’t know quite how to put it, the kind of folks who watch Reality TV and can rattle off the movies their favorite actor has been in. The folks who LIKE media. He knew it, and he used that strength– I didn’t realize it because he was old my entire life, but WOW did he use his God given strengths.
    B16 is, if we can just use his strengths, a perfect Pope to appeal to the geeks. He’s not just intellectually amazing– he’s got a love for his “fandom” that speaks to folks like me. I just wish I had the first clue how to show that to the sort of bright folks who have fallen away from the Church, especially those who are sold the bill of goods about Agnostic views being the smart thing. Goodness, I was able to pull some of my geek buddies into a sort of friendly view of Catholic theology by using Natural Law as a religion for a dungeons and dragons game. John Wright is an example of the kind of person that our current Pope would be very effective in bringing home.

    Incidentally, I will be stealing your three “Be”s format the next time I try to get into confession.

  • Fascinating. Confession is a topic we never talk about in the blogosphere. Everyone talks about the Mass, but no one talks about Confession, which is weird because it’s the second most common sacrament.

    I can think of a couple of reasons for this. What happens on the altar is more visible than what happens in the confessional. And it should be. The mass is a common (as in shared) experience, but confession is private. Confession is more interactive. And it’s harder to talk about – although internet anonymity should dilute the embarrassment somewhat.

    But here we are as a people calling out for our priests to present better liturgies. Why don’t we complain more about the lousy confession schedules? I mean, 4:35pm – 5:30pm Saturday evening!? Why do we put up with that? And, arguably a priest can have more impact on a person’s spiritual life as a good confessor than as a good celebrant. I’d love to see more discussion about this.

  • I’d love to see more discussion about this.

    Well, I’d like to give a Bravo-Zulu shout-out to our local Wacky Priest (retired, but substitutes a Sunday a month) for, the Sunday after Ash Wednesday, opening up his sermon with a loud’n'proud: “I’m glad to see how many holy people there are here, because I sat in the confessional alone for an hour before Mass– only one person needed to talk to me!”

    Nice balance of humor and shaming, plus reminding folks that confession is important. I disagree with him on pretty much EVERYTHING that isn’t obligatory, but Father Dude has style.

  • “He spent half the time asking me if I’d ever considered suicide.”

    Touchy, feely priests in confession are bad news, and don’t get me started on the abomination of face to face confession. The best confession I ever had was with a crusty old priest who told me after I enumerated my sins that I was going to Hell if I didn’t mend my ways and gave me enough Our Fathers and Hail Marys for a penance to keep me busy for awhile! ( He was a friendly, under circumstances not touching upon sin, old Irish-American priest, who did the marriage instruction for myself and my wife. My wife who was Methodist at the time found the priest absolutely charming and very informative about the Church and I think started her on the path to conversion.)

  • Donald: Stage fright, forgot everything, but everything, and said so. I think God was saving the priest. The priest gave me absolution and the blessing. People are not supposed to write any sin on paper. Consider that the priest spends his life waiting for us in the confessional box, no great place. To me it is an upright coffin, and I better get used to it. At one time, I confessed a sin and the priest laughed so hard I thought the box was going to tip over. God is good. The priest acts in persona Christi when the priest performs the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as only an ordained priest can.

  • When I came back into the Church about twenty years ago, I struggled with many of the same objections many lapsed Catholics and others make. So, I do sympathize with them to a great extent. And actually the Church herself does as well:

    “For although the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all means of grace, yet its members fail to live by them with all the fervor that they should, so that the radiance of the Church’s image is less clear in the eyes of our separated brethren and of the world at large, and the growth of God’s kingdom is delayed. ( Second Vatican Council Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio #4) ”

    And given what has taken place within prominent “orthodox” Catholic apologetics and writers circles wiithin the last six years in addition to other scandals, the problem is much worse than most people think.

    But my sympathies notwithstanding, as my own personal experience attests to, this does not relieve them or any of us of the responsibiity to do our due diligence to look past the grave failings of certain members (especially members of influence) of the Church to honestly consider whether or not “… the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all means of grace”. Therein lies the hard rub.

  • “and don’t get me started on the abomination of face to face confession”

    How exactly is this an abomination, Donald? Whatever problems there are with priests misusing their roles as confessors, it has nothing to do with whether or not you go face to face or behind the screen. Neither way is intrinsically better. As for me, I find it better to go face to face because it takes more guts to look the priest in the eye and confess my sins. I have used both methods. I have to admit when I have gone behind the screen, it was because I was too afraid to go face to face.

    After all, when we sin, we sin not only against God, but the Church and man as well. And likewise we are reconciled with all the above when we are absolved. I believe Christ instituted the sacrament the way He did to drive that point home to us. Otherwise, the Protestant form of confessing to God alone would be the only sensible means.

    Like I said, either way, face to face or behind the screen is just as good as the other. Let’s make sure we discern an apple from an orange shall we?

  • Confession. Nowadays I don’t mind face-to-face, but don’t use it in a regular confessional, but it seems to be falling out of favour – not being utilised much – but there is an increase in the use of Rite 2.
    But I would not dare go F t F in my younger day – didn’t want my parish priest to know it was me spilling out my litany of abominations – even spoke in a whisper so he wouldn’r recognise my voice :-)

  • “How exactly is this an abomination, Donald?”

    Because Confession isn’t a therapy session Greg.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/03/confession-vatican-catholics-therapy-sin

    The priest is there purely as an alter Christus. I am not there to pour out my heart to a friend but to have my sins absolved. It reflects a fundamental confusion about the sacrament. Like most truly bad ideas that became popular in the wake of Vatican II, I hope it dies out with the generation that helped foster it. The traditional confessionals worked, as indicated by the long lines waiting to use them. Since Vatican II few Catholics regularly confess. Face to face confession is not the sole cause of this, but it reflects the mentality that helped bring this disaster about. Cure of Ars, saint of the confessional, pray for us.

  • True Confession story: I go one Saturday afternoon. You know. I have real sins to confess. In front of me is a saintly, elderly woman. Sez I to meself, “This ought to be quick. What sin could great-grandmother have to confess?”

    A half hour later . . .

  • Don,

    I never said confession is a therapy session. The face to face mode doesn’t, in and of itself make it that way Don.

  • In RE: Pinky’s comments concerning the Sacrament of Penance.

    I have a hypothesis that, by no means is “provable,” but my anecdotal evidence suggests is accurate.

    Simply stated, my hypothesis is: “There is an inverse relationship between the perceived value of a homily by members of the congregation and the number of parishioners who participate in the Sacrament of Penance.”

    I have noticed that my “toughest” and “most aggressive” homilies are those that treat generally of matters that have been confessed. These homilies also happen to be the ones the largest number of parishioners “praise.” Internet pornography, how marriages breakdown and don’t have to breakdown, failed romances, the culture of death and artificial birth control, office place immorality, impatience with spouses/kids, lack of charity in the household, etc., get real “in your face” and “up front” when I speak of facts that have been related to me in the confessional rather than throwing out some pious platitudes.

    My observation is that people in the congregation become more attentive to a homily when it’s based upon real, lived sin because they have themselves or know someone who has committed the very sins I am discussing. It’s easy to see this phenomenon in the congregation because many—not just a few—”less-than-otherwise-interested” members of the congregation (especially teenagers and 25-40 year old males) suddenly perk up and look like they’ve got “deer in the headlights” syndrome.

    This also appears to have been something St. Augustine recognized as a bishop. His homilies are replete with real, lived experiences of sin on the part of his congregations…as well as of his own sin. Augustine confessed not only in his Confessions but subsequently in his homilies. Congregations would be scandalized today to hear from their bishops what St. Augustine related about himself in many of his homilies. They are fascinating reading.

    I’ve mentioned my hypothesis to congregations on several occasions, noting “If my homily is boring today, perhaps it’s because I’m not speaking to your experience of why you need the Church. Have you gone to confession lately?”

    While more people may be listening attentively, I can’t say as a result the folks are streaming to confession, however.

  • “The face to face mode doesn’t, in and of itself make it that way Don.”

    It’s all part of the package Greg. One of the problems with the implementation of Vatican II has been taking things that worked and replacing them with things that manifestly have not worked over the past four decades. The old confessionals worked in attracting huge numbers of penitents who confessed their sins on a regular basis and received absolution. It was all familiar and effective. Then the tampering began. Rename the sacrament Reconciliation which takes the focus off the confessing of sins. Let’s make it face to face to allow the person of the priest to get in between the idea that the penitent is confessing to God with the priest granting absolution. Let’s transform a sacramental rite into a conversation between friends. Religious rites can not be changed without consequence, and I think the move away from confessionals has been a graphic illustration of this truth.

  • As for me, I find it better to go face to face because it takes more guts to look the priest in the eye and confess my sins.

    Took a while to figure out what bugged me about this….
    Why on earth should one want to make it harder for someone to reconcile to God?

    Yes, bravery is good and should be cultivated. Not going to Hell is better and should be the first priority.

    Confession isn’t supposed to be about the man-that-is-a-priest, he’s there in Christ’s stead.

    Want bravery? Do the other Protestant form of confession– public confession at the Sunday gatherings.

    Sure, it would drive folks to hide their sins, instead of confessing them to God and being granted forgiveness– but it takes more guts!

  • As a Catholic, what is confounding to me is why do people even WANT to be part of an organization – be it religious, fraternal, social, etc. when they don’t agree with the basic tenets or mission of the organization.

    You wouldn’t join the join the scuba club if what you really wanted to do was ski so why be a Catholic if you don’t agree or choose to ignore the Church’s teachings.

    There are so many options out there for individuals who want to follow Christian teaching, but not Catholic teaching. Isn’t it more authentic to become a practicing Episcopal or a enthusiastic Lutheran than remain a “lapsed” Catholic?

  • “… to allow the person of the priest to get in between the idea that the penitent is confessing to God with the priest granting absolution. Let’s transform a sacramental rite into a conversation between friends.”

    I disagree…just based on my own experience. when I enter the reconciliation room I can stop and kneel before the partition, or I can walk around it an kneel in front of the priest. I don’t engage him in a conversation, My head is bowed, my eyes lowered and I confess my sins at his feet. I do try to be brief–an improvement over the days when my husband used to tease me about needing to pack a lunch.
    The idea that having the person of the priest be visible takes away from his Alter Christus presence doesn’t seem true to me… he is not behind a screen at anointing of the sick, at mass…
    ..also confession is theraputic; and box confessionals were not part of the early church — invented in Ireland I think in the 6th or 7th century.

  • The peninent’s identity must remain anonymous, and no name must be mentioned in the confession. I believe these are the rules. Be Blunt. Be Brief. Be Gone. No fraternizing with the priest. When in Ireland, recently, a law was passed to force a priest to report an abuser to public authorities, no consideration was being given to the fact that uncorroberated testimony is hearsay in a court of law. Who besides God heard the sin? The Seal of Confession, privileged information, professional privilege cannot be undone. Only a fool says it can. The testimony of two witnesses is required to establish a judicial fact in a court of law. Were the court to accept the testimony of one witness as truth, as evidence, only when he is dying, oherwise, he said, she said…ad infinitum. The Sovereign Catholic Church is not subject to the state in any instance.

  • The Motley Monk: When my grandson heard his sin mentioned in the homily he became very much afraid, and asked how that can happen when his sins are to be private.

  • Divine Mercy Sunday is April 15. So much better to speak of Divine Mercy than reminding one’s parishioners of their sins.

  • Mary:

    A couple of responses…

    1. Yes, what a penitent says in the Sacrament of Penance is bound by the strictest of confidentiality. No doubt about that. The penalty to a priest for breaking the “seal of confession” is severe. At the same time, sins happen to be generic—lots of people commit many of the same sins—and these can be discussed, as I mentioned in my previous response. Some even argue that sins should be discussed and aren’t being discussed for a variety of reasons. The psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Menninger’s Whatever Became of Sin? is a classic read in this regard.

    2. It’s entirely possible that someone, like your grandson, will hear a sin that he has confessed mentioned if/when a priest discusses sin in a homily. Perhaps your grandson wasn’t as much afraid as he was embarrassed, especially if the priest mentioning the sin was the priest your grandson went to confession to. I’m not a mind reader, but I suspect the priest said something like “The temptation to lie to one’s parents…” not “I know a boy Johnny who lied to his parents.” In turn, that made your grandson fearful…and I am assuming, of returning to the Sacrament of Penance. If that’s true, your grandson personalised something that wasn’t personal.

    3. “So much better to speak of Divine Mercy than reminding one’s parishioners of their sins.” Undoubtedly true, but let’s not forget that the content of Divine Mercy is for sins committed…God’s “gracious” mercy. That’s Dr. Menninger’s point…discussing and knowing about sin stimulates sentiments of repentance and conversion to experience God’s mercy. Perhaps this isn’t a good analogy but speaking only of Divine Mercy is like talking to your grandson about dessert but not offering him a piece of pie. Where I think you are correct is “balance.” People don’t need to be continuously reminded that they are sinners and told exactly how they are sinning. But the opposite situation is equally out of balance.

    Just some thoughts.

    TMM

  • why do people even WANT to be part of an organization… when they don’t agree with the basic tenets or mission of the organization

    An age old question. Probably no single answer, and to some extent can’t really be answered. But that has never stopped me from taking a stab at answering.

    The Church is not just any organization. In fact, it’s not really an organization at all – it is more a family. Most people don’t leave their family because they disagree with mom or dad’s view on such and such. You see a similar phenomena with political parties – regardless of the disagreement with the party platform or the subpar candidate, the person always votes Dem or Rep. It becomes sort of a tribal thing.

    Also, at a visceral level, these folks may understand and believe that the Church is what it claims to be, notwithstanding their disagreement. They may rationalize their disagreement in many ways (this teaching is not truly binding, maybe it will change, following my conscience trumps this teaching, this teaching is not that important as long as you are basically a good person, etc.). But at a fundamental level they sense what (or more properly Who) is there and don’t want to leave.

  • When in Ireland, recently, a law was passed to force a priest to report an abuser to public authorities, no consideration was being given to the fact that uncorroberated testimony is hearsay in a court of law.

    I remember that kerfuffle. What has become of that law? Is it still in place?

    That brings up a whole lot of issues. Evidence, in a legal sense is a creature of the state, and the state can decide that what privileges will be recognized or what testimony is admissible. Whether the state’s determination is fair or just or good is a separate question. As is the priest’s duty to maintain the seal. Depending on the hearsay rule of the particular jurisdiction, the confession may be an exception to the hearsay rule (admission against interest is probably most common). But even if it is admissible, that does not mean the priest can violate the seal, regardless of what the state may require.

    Also, reporting to the state agency is different from whether or not that report is ultimately admissible as evidence in a court. There are a lot of things that people may be required to do as part of an investigation that never see the light of day in court. But again, regardless, the priest is under a different duty to maintain the seal, and such a legal requirement puts him in a difficult predicament.

  • “at a fundamental level they sense what (or more properly Who) is there and don’t want to leave” yes– that gives us hope doesn’t it..

  • Unfortunately lapsed Catholics can easily turn into fallen-away Catholics. The Church correctly defines this spiritual disease as of one of the Seven Capital Sins–Sloth. Spiritual sloth, if unchecked, turns into heresy and even apostasy. The faith is a treasure and needs to be treated as such.

  • The reasons given by people don’t make sense at all!

    - “don’t spend so much time on issues like homosexuality and birth control”?? …
    I have almost NEVER heard any of this discussed from the pulpit!

    - “eliminate the extreme conservative haranguing”?? …
    Again. Where on earth is this actually happening? Because maybe I would like to attend there!

    - “divorced and remarried Catholics are unwelcome at Mass”?? …
    Just about every parish I have ever attended has had the opposite message: EVERYONE is welcome!

    I think the bottom line is that most Catholics are simply ignorant of their faith, and they just don’t know what they have.

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  • What DPierre wrote.

    Also, I agree with Tito and PaulD who both said the reasons given are “convenient excuses.” C’mon, if “the Church’s handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal” were genuine reasons for as many people as claimed, then what about the U.S. government’s handling of its many scandals – wouldn’t at least a third of Americans be expats by now?

    When I saw Foxfier’s remark, “If the Church were a business, I’d have some rather scathing words for their advertising department,” I smiled. (The Church’s customer relations department is weak too. Probably explains why so many customers have left and gone to other ‘vendors.’) And I agree with Foxfier’s wish that, “the formation classes I had were higher quality and that I’d had godparents that actually spoke to me!”

  • I am always a little defensive about blaming the CCD teachers! ( having taught from 1979 when my oldest entered school until 2006 when my youngest was 18) besides– look at what I just read on the “Quiz time” post from Adrian
    “15 out of 15. And that is with public education!!!!!”
    Remember that when Jean Marie Vianney went to Ars, the condition of catechesis in the Church was deplorable– I don’t think there has been a time in history when catechesis did not depend upon willing interested students. Vianney’s answer was not to beat up on the Church Ladies Who Had Tried– but to pray, to enter the battle himself, and teach what he knew– although other more educated priests in that general time and place didn’t think much of his level of understanding or education
    I am still teaching and still have wonderful students– now I am teaching adults but the premises are the same– the student teacher relationship is a reciprocal one.

    while I’m here, I’ll also share my little thought that we might consider ourselves the Church’s customer relations department–

  • Anzlyne-
    showing up is the #1 thing that must be done, but they really need to be able to teach eager students. As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t even know the CCC existed. I won’t get started on the things we were taught that weren’t so. The volunteers meant well, but that doesn’t really help fix things when they drive people away from the Church with false teachings, does it?

    I’m always very defensive on this point, because I talk to former Catholics of my age and interests a lot; almost invariably, when I get talking to them, the “shape” of when they stopped believing was an unacceptable binding teaching…that existed only in a teacher’s mind. Teacher in the generic, not specific. Since I’m around geeks, it’s usually either something incredibly stupid [generally from misunderstanding] or they feel they were wronged; usually lied to, sometimes attacked. The reasons they’ll give are different, and the sex and sleeping in part keeps them away, but there’s genuine hurt with added defensiveness.

    My mom was a volunteer teacher for ages, so I know what you mean. Probably part of the problem is solving itself, but it’s something that really needs to stay in folks’ minds.
    Just like parents need to know that they should be willing to make waves to make sure their children get the education they need, and not automatically trust that their children are being taught what they’ve been assured they will. Sadly, they need to remember that sometimes the priest is wrong, and how to figure out when that is, and what to do about it.

    B16 strikes me as the perfect Pope for this problem; JPII made the Church “cool” again, and B16 can draw the laity to get smart.

  • Hello,
    I consider myself a former cathloic as I have not attended mass on a regular basis since 1979. Since then I have attended a Baptist Church, a non Denominational church and since 2004 a Christin Church. The last sacrament I received was confirmation in the 1970′s. I have been to the Vatican in 1985, I cried when Pope John Paul died, I pray for Pope Benidict, much of my family still attends mass at their local parish and yet I have an issue with some of the key beliefs and tenats of the Cathloic Church. As the begining I present Matthew 23:9 that we should call no man on earth Father but Jesus. I will most likely never have the chance to meet Pope Benedict in this life, but i am sure he does not consider himself to be any more than a man. I have never, even as a child believed that one man could absolve another, “No man comes to the Father but by me (ie, the lord Jesus Christ) Romans 3:23. I have a friend that is a Roman Cathloic priest and although i do not question his belief in my Lord Jesus Christ, I will say that through grace are we saved through faith, not of works lest sany man shall boast” Ephisians 2: 8 and 9. I love my cathloic heritage and I would charge the gates of hell to defend it, I believe that no man weather he wears a Roman collar, a tie, a sweatshirt or anyone that has not shown respect to Gods chosen few is better than anyone elce; we are all equal. I pray God will free our minds.

    Sincerely,
    M. Conklikn

  • Michael Conklin
    Thirty three years ago you left the Roman Catholic Church and have been receiving teaching and preaching in various denominations. Unfortunately some of the discussion you may have heard about the Church may not have been a true picture of what the Church actually teaches.
    A timeline of our church history shows the One True Church beginning with Jesus– it also shows how the other denominations branched off. That is the key part… all these other good sincere people branched off. and when they branched off, they left the “wholeness” behind…. along with the priesthood, and the Eucharist. These branches still hold allegiance to Jesus Christ and to many truths, but they are missing some aspects. Some of this is caused by misunderstanding or not clearly thinking about the issues.
    You believe in the Truth of Holy Scripture > remember that St. Paul called himself Father of his flock in Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:15) “Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
    Paul calls the Galatians his children (4:19) and he tells the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 6:13,) that he spoke to them as he would to his children. Paul saw himself as a spiritual father to his congregations.
    The title of “father” referred to the elders in the Church. Paul tells Timothy to exhort the elders as fathers (1 Timothy 5:1). So a Catholic priest, as a successor of the apostles is called “Father” according to this tradition found in the Bible. St. John, was one of the 12 apostles and had heard Matthew 23:9, yet he calls the elders of the Church “fathers” (1 John 2:13-14)  
    Re-read Matthew 23. He is talking about how the Pharisees have seated themselves on the chair of Moses- apparently appropriating some authority to themselves— assuming a title and a role that wasn’t really theirs
    If we are to understand the Bible we have to understand it all in context—that all verses work together to get the message to us…we can’t just focus on one verse, without understanding it in the bigger picture.
    Pope John Paul was full of the the Love of God and the Holy Spirit and touched our hearts! It is wonderful that you are open to recognizing the holiness of these Catholic popes, beloved of God, even though you have some misunderstanding of what the Church teaches and why.
    “No man comes to the Father but by me (Jesus Christ)  Romans 3:23. We Catholics believe that right along with you. Jesus is Lord! I will tell you also that Catholics do not believe that we save ourselves by our good works. Thank you for your open and loving heart and willingness to defend the Church. I too pray God will free our minds and protect us from deception.

  • Donald, you surely must be joking about half the things you say. Dismissing the reasons given in the article (I’ll openly admit, some of which are stupid) in favor of such a broad generalization as “sleeping in” — whether used in a vague context or not — is nothing less than laughable, as well as demeaning. I think the worst part of it is that such an excuse tends to avoid the core of the issue, which I’m surprised nobody has brought up yet.

    Is faith a gift or a decision?

    Operating under the former assumption, it’s quite easy to explain the emotional struggle involved with “leaving the Church” as one would a bloody soccer team! And, a lot of what keeps Catholics lapsed is the constant onslaught of judgemental behavior from the Church itself, much of which is blatant here. Keep in mind the difference between “judgemental” and “critical of sin.” I don’t believe at all that everyone makes it to Heaven, and it’s crucial to make known the realities of Hell — but it’s also important to back that up with sound logic instead of an empty, paternal “because-I-said-so” attitude. Unfortunately, that’s overwhelmingly present in the Catholic community today, from behind the pulpit or in the pews. It’s impossible, of course, to generalize based on the numerous comments here that speak to the other side of things, but it does no good for any of us to ignore the problem at hand.

    Also, I’d like to hear what the Motely Monk thinks about the question above, if it’s not too much trouble.

  • “Donald, you surely must be joking about half the things you say. Dismissing the reasons given in the article (I’ll openly admit, some of which are stupid) in favor of such a broad generalization as “sleeping in” — whether used in a vague context or not — is nothing less than laughable, as well as demeaning.”

    You left out the most important attribute of what I said John: it being true. For all the elaborate excuses given for Catholics falling away from the Church, I think simple laziness is going away the top one. We live in a slovenly and lack-a-dasical age, and many people simply cannot be bothered to exert even minimal effort about many aspects of their life, including eternal salvation.

  • In response to John’s question “Is faith a gift or decision?”

    Most of the comments in this discussion have emphasized the “decision” side of the formulation and, it seems to me, that has “everything backwards.”

    The Church is clear: Faith is “gift,” as all is gift, from God. Faith is not something a human being creates and then develops by making decisions.

    What the discussion should focus upon, TMM thinks, is the virtue of religion which is not, as many people believe, a “fixed” quantity. No, the virtue of religion falls along a continuum, ranging from “too little religion” (a vice) to “too much religion” (a vice). Examples of the extremes are easy to conjure up in one’s mind. But, for the sake of this discussion, it is a vice for an elderly person to risk injury to life and/or limb to attend Sunday Mass when a winter ice storm has descened upon the locale, just as it is a vice for that same elderly person to watch the Mass for Shut Ins at home early on Sunday morning because that individual doesn’t want to get dressed and drive to Mass at the local parish.

    As a virtue, religion and its practice requires that a decision be made—what does the virtue require of me at this time, in this place, in these circumstances—so that the virtue becomes rooted in one’s character. Then, one’s character not only exudes the virtue of religion to the degree that individual has decided, but that individual also bears personal responsibility for the decisions one has made about the place of religion in one’s life.

    And, if one believes in an afterlife, those decisions have consequences beyond this life.

    But, faith is a “gift” as all is a gift…not a decision.

    TMM

  • “For all the elaborate excuses given for Catholics falling away from the Church, I think simple laziness is going away the top one. We live in a slovenly and lack-a-dasical age, and many people simply cannot be bothered to exert even minimal effort about many aspects of their life, including eternal salvation.”

    Of course, the vice of sloth is easy to cultivate when we fail to see the importance of the thing that demands effort.

    Yes, faith is certainly a gift. It is something we cannot make or merit. However, we must a decision as to whether or to accept that gift and use it.

  • Excellent commentary, TMM.

    I’m not sure. What about cases wherein people refuse the gift of Faith?

    The Gospel parable of the seeds falling on various soils may provide spiritual guidance.

    I think in the Gospels, Jesus speaks about those disciples that God had given Him. And, how He only lost one, Judas. And, that (maybe I don’t understand it correctly) was pre-ordained.

    While I agree with your example on too much virtue being not good, I think we should strive for moderation in all things, except virtue. Of course, it’s difficult to be minimally virtuous, so extreme virtue is highly unlikely.

    In my life, the continuum has been constant change, good and bad, ups and downs, hopefully moving to a good end. I am in this world and I do the best I can in my vocation as parent and provider. But, I constantly remind myself that I am not of this world and must act accordingly: so far with limited success. I am trying to “turn the corner” on this.

    This is why we need Holy Mass, and the Gospels and Epistles, and Holy Scripture, and Holy Mother Church, and the Sacraments, and prayer, and Holy Preachers such as yourself.

  • Donald, I do see your point, but just because the survey didn’t offer “laziness” as an excuse doesn’t do away with the rest of them. For many people, I would imagine the ones most likely to even participate in a survey like this, these are legitimate reasons. If it really does all broil down to a lazy attitude, I doubt they would have agreed to take the survey in the first place. I’m not trying to start an argument, though, I just want to make sure we’re handling this with an attitude of compassion. Speaking from experience, nothing is more detrimental to a lapsed Catholic than when he or she is still treated like an outsider, especially by those who preach about the Prodigal Son. Unfortunately, it’s often that very same hypocracy that drove them away in the first place. It is our duty as practicing Catholics to educate ourselves, and to change that.

    Much thanks to TMM and Tshaw for the great answers. God bless.

  • Donald, I do see your point, but just because the survey didn’t offer “laziness” as an excuse doesn’t do away with the rest of them.

    That isn’t what he said. Why are you arguing against it?

    If it really does all broil down to a lazy attitude, I doubt they would have agreed to take the survey in the first place.

    There is a world of difference between a short survey and getting up, each and every week, and spending two hours at something that is not fun or important to you.

    Speaking from experience, nothing is more detrimental to a lapsed Catholic than when he or she is still treated like an outsider, especially by those who preach about the Prodigal Son.

    BS. Being told that what you’re doing is no big deal is far, far more detrimental. Also from experience– not just mine, but that of those I have become friends with, and those who were wounded by revealing what they knew to be a grievous fault, only to have it brushed off as nothing.

    Unfortunately, it’s often that very same hypocracy that drove them away in the first place.

    Hypocrite: those who claim something is right without actually believing it.
    Say, maybe those who say that going to Mass on Sunday is required, but then say that not doing so doesn’t mean much?

    Nah, that’s just mutually contradictory claims, not hypocritical motives. It can at least be defended as meaning well and acting from love.

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