By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Even though Roman Catholics are the second-largest religious group in the United States, the tradition has seen an exodus of members in recent decades. One in ten Americans is an ex-Catholic.
If ex-Catholics were counted as their own religious group, they would be the third-largest denomination in the United States, after Catholics and Baptists, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
If it weren’t for the infusion of Catholic immigrants, especially from Latin American, the American Catholic Church would be shrinking pretty fast.
A recent study by two college professor tries to get at a simple question: Why are they leaving?
Conducted William J. Byron, a professor of business at St. Joseph’s University and Charles Zech, founder of the Center for the Study of Church Management of Villanova’s School of Business, the anecdotal study conducted in late fall of 2011 processes the opinions of 300 non-churchgoing Catholics in Trenton, New Jersey.
The scholars, working at the request of Trenton’s Catholic bishop, asked parishioners who have drifted away not just why the left, but what church teachings they disagree with and whether they ever truly considered themselves part of the Catholic community.
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Though the study paints a picture of a church with some characteristics that rub people the wrong way, the researchers – both at Catholic schools in Pennsylvania – argue that the study presents new ways in which church leadership can reconcile with ex-Catholics.
"We need a more pastoral approach to people," Zech says. "There are two types of issues that appear. One revolves around church beliefs and frankly those won’t change. But we have to do a better job explaining some of the issue that the church might not change and why that is."
The report is based on one particular diocese, but its authors say it gives a good picture of challenges facing the broader church. "I think the same seven items would show up for the most part," in other areas of the country, Zech says.
The 7 biggest reasons Catholics from Trenton are leaving the church, according to the study:
1. The sex abuse crisis
Byron and Zech asked ex-Catholics to cite their main reason for leaving: “If you could communicate directly with the bishop, what would you say?”
The most common answer: the church’s inadequate response to clergy sex abuse. “The bishop’s refusal to list pedophile priests on the diocesan Web site and his non-support of the effort to lift the statute of limitations for bringing sexual abuses cases forward in the courts” did it for me, one man said, according to the report.
Several respondents said they had been victims of sexual abuse by church leadership.
2. The church’s stance on homosexuality
The second most cited reason for leaving the church was that former worshipers felt homosexuals were unwelcome in the church.
As recently as March 9, Pope Benedict XVI denounced what he categorized as the “powerful” gay marriage lobby in the United States. In the same speech he noted these views would be seen as “countercultural” to young people, but told bishops to not back down to “powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage."
When those surveyed were asked if there were any religious beliefs in the Catholic Church that troubled them, a number cited views on same-sex marriage. “The church’s view on gays, same-sex marriage, women as priests and priests not marrying, to name a few,” said one respondent, explaining her departure from the church.
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“Hypocrisy,” said one person. “History of discrimination against women, anti-gay stance, unwelcoming attitude.”
William D’Antonio of the Catholic University of America recently published a study called “Catholics in America: Persistence and change in the Catholic landscape.” found that even though the church and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has come out against homosexual relationships, only 35% of Catholics surveyed said the church’s opinion on homosexuality is “very important.”
The same survey found that 86% of respondents believe a Catholic “can disagree with aspects of church teachings and still remain loyal to the church."
3. Dissatisfaction with the priest
About half of those surveyed in the Trenton report were not supportive of the pastor they had left behind.
According to Byron and Zech, words like “arrogant,” “distant,” “aloof” and “insensitive” were all used by respondents to describe their priest.
4. Uninspiring homilies on Sundays
A number of people responded that homilies, weekly Sunday messages from the priest, did not relate or “speak to” them.
“I stopped going regularly because the homilies were so empty,” one respondent said. “And whenever the church wanted to raise money, they dropped the homily and talked money.”
“I would advise the bishop to make training in public speaking mandatory for every priest,” said another. “They should also be trained in how to relate their homilies to the people and inspire them.”
“As much as I wanted to get involved and expand my faith, there were no clear avenues to do that,” replied one person. “So it was just a place to attend Mass. And because attending Mass was a guilt-ridden obligation, I was always alone in a crowd where I knew no one and no one knew me.”
5. Perception that church hierarchy is too closely tied to conservative politics
Politics was a mixed bag, according to the survey.
Though some people wanted the church to become more conservative – “change the liberal-progressive political slant to a more conservative,” said one person – others responded differently.
“Eliminate the extreme conservative haranguing,” said one person. Another respondent said politics and the church shouldn’t mix: “I feel the church should stay out of politics; it should certainly not threaten politicians.”
6. Church’s stance toward divorced and remarried Catholics
Catholicism’s stance on divorce and remarriage were also highlighted, especially by divorced females.
The churches stance on divorce is closely tied to their stance on adultery. Without getting a marriage annulled, any marriage after a divorce is considered adulterous. Therefore, divorced people who have not had their marriage annulled or remarried are not able to receive Holy Communion.
“Please find a way not to exclude me from the Catholic community,” said one 56-year old divorced female. A 59-year old divorced female said she would tell her bishop to “petition the church to expand its view on divorce.”
In November of last year, Pope Benedict XVI responded to a German bishop who questioned the Church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage. “A pastoral approach which truly wants to help the people concerned must always be grounded in the truth… in the end, only the truth can be pastoral,” the Pope wrote, signaling a reluctance to change church teachings on divorce and remarriage policy.
“Instead of making every Mass a form of humiliation for Catholics who cannot receive communion,” one respondent to the Trenton survey said, “do something like a private blessing at communion time, to include everyone.”
7. The status of women
With the political debate over religious conscience and contraceptive coverage, women’s rights and the church have come to the forefront of debate in American politics. According to the Trenton study, a number of people who have left the church cite a “history of discrimination against women,” as one reason for leaving.
Respondents also took issue with the fact that while other churches allow women to become ordained priests, the Catholic Church does not.
“If the Catholic Church does not change its archaic views on women, it is going to become a religion that survives on the fringe of an open-minded, progressive society,” one person who was surveyed said.
It is pretty halarious, like reading a medieval novel. It is hard to believe there are so many people following the medieval way of life and a lot of people who actually think they are losing something by being excluded from Catholic club. Denied Holy Communion, really?
Just be the best person, you can be. You don't need a priest to tell you that.
Amen, ES. I was raised catholic and remember being taught about having a conscience and then immediately being taught that you have to follow the Church's hierarchy because you aren't able to figure out for yourself the difference between right and wrong or good an evil. I remember being in second grade and thinking, "these people are morons". I still think they same way. Good grief. What a waste of energy and effort.
What does it mean to be the best person you can be? This makes an implicit reference to the "good." How is the "good" determined?
Well ajk48, you' ve got to be kidding.
I am glad you are trying to be the best person you can be on your own without religion. Some people, however, find solace in attending Mass and worshipping in a community. When life has been hard, prayer can bring comfort and healing to those who really believe. At work a few weeks ago, a colleague with COPD was crying and said she wanted to die. Her health was failing. She was trying to sell her house in this awful market so that she could move into an apartment with central air and one floor so it would be easier for her. I told her God has a plan for her and I would pray that things would turn out OK. I said a rosary for her that night. The next day a couple looked at her house and made an offer. You can call it statistics or science, but I call it faith.
In reply to scimom... I'm happy to hear your co-worker sold her house and that you believe prayer did that. But, what if you prayed and prayed and prayed and nothing happened??? Who do you thank then? God? I can understand not getting your wish if you, let's say, prayed to win the lottery or to get a raise at work. But when a prayer for a sick or dying person goes unanswered, where is the "truth", where is the "Faith" then? A child with Leukemia dies in the world everyday, so tell me... what purpose does this serve A: the parents, B: God or C: the dead child??? I can pray as much as I want, til I turn blue in the face to get my dream job, but if I mess up or insult the interviewer, guess what... I ain't getting the job!!!
To add to my last statement. I was raised catholic and all it did was cause more confusion and questions than it answered. When I grew up and started learning about nature and science I came to realize that if energy cannot be created or destroyed but can only change from one form to another (ex: the apple grows on the tree, it falls to the ground and rots away re-fertilizing the soil and transferring it's energy back to the tree), then this means that when I, as a physical energy being, die, my energy should be put back into the world, not locked in a box that will never decompose. and that my conscious energy will transform into something else. This is the mystery... I don't know what my energy will become, but I know, due to science, that my energy will always exist. I can understand people in the middle ages and before believing in the stories of the bible. But when science can prove the real "truth", then it's time to MOVE ON. I believed in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny as a child, but guess what... it did not destroy my world to learn they were simply made up.
That last quote could be changed into a fill-in-the-blank kind of thing: “If the Catholic Church does not change its archaic views on ____, it is going to become a religion that survives on the fringe of an open-minded, progressive society.”
Tired of always reading about Catholic reports. About time to tell the truth on the other religions.
Like what? Are the jews actively trying to force their viewpoints onto other unwilling people? Are muslims actively trying to force their viewpoints onto other unwilling people in america? I don't think so. But you keep defending your church.
Lisa, why don't you enumerate the "truth" about other religions? Or are you so insecure with your religion that you need to put down some other religion to feel better? Sounds like "when other commit first degree murders, I shouldn't be criticized for manslaughter".
Do you mean like ....... telling Catholics that the "Ex Cathedra" Doctrine (Outside of the Church there is NO Salvation) is totally and utterly false? Why? Because the Blood of Christ can save anyone, regardless of denomination! Do you mean like telling Catholics that physicists tell us that Purgatory is not possible, because in eternity, "TIME IS!" Time is not measurable in days, hours, months, years, etc...... Therefore, the Church's teachings on Purgatory, as well as indulgences, defy science as well as common sense! It only took the Church about 500 years to finally admit that Galileo was right! Think about it: We landed on the moon, before a pope actually admitted that the Church was wrong about Galileo! The list goes on and on ........
We all reap what we sow. Get used to it.
One thing I strongly agree is the homiliy(sermons).As it is suggested all priest should take good public speaking course.If you hear certain priest sermons we will actually sleep off.We all are coming to church to revive our heart and spirit.If that is not happening then better dont go to church.
I'm apart of the Plymouth Brethren tradition..Grew up in Exclusive and Open Assemblies!- we believe in Jesus Christ is the son of God and through his blood we are saved from sins and brought to God! I feel that the catholic church has some wonderful leadership that needs to be infiltrated into baptist/ and other christian traditions..I believe that the Catholic church's problem is that there priests are held to too high a standard which they can't keep! They are not God nor should they try to act like it..bible says call no man Father!
Because of Internet revolution people of every faith are knowing that religion is destruction and not construction I see people are choosing different ways of meditations to get out of stress and be in peace
It's true that the main reason Catholics leave the church is ignorance of the Church and Jesus Christ. We should all know why we believe what we do. Sorry you haters the church is not going down. She has been here 2000 years and has a promise from Christ Himself to remain till the end. As for the sins of its members...terrible, yes but don't kid yourselves, the other religions have it just as bad if not worse tho underreported by the media.
Luckily, atheism has been around longer! We were all atheists until we heard about religious stories.
Take your ten best indoctrinated idiots, and I will take two from this board.
Do you REALLY believe you know your religion better than we do?
Don't make me laugh
The Christian church and other religions WILL see a downfall. You say it's been around for 2,000 years....those were years that didn't have a lot of scientific research crammed into them. Since The Enlightenment, the number of religious people has declined. Science is here to stay and people aren't going to be willing to put up with fairy tales to explain why things happen.
Hmmm, 2000 years of tradition unmarred by progress. That is something to brag about?
you are right I guess about other religions, but, religion is the root cause of all wars. it seems that the only real God is my God, sort of thing. want to fight?
just saying wrote, " evolution = unproven theory"
Here's what I don't get. You have posted this numerous times. I have personally explained this to you several times – that in science we don't prove things, we explain things. And that evolution is the single most confirmed theory in all science.
The only explanation I can come up with is that you suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect, and this results in you lacking the cognitive ability to comprehend facts.
Evolution is a proven theory to a certain point. We know that many species evolved over time. however there are still significant unexplainable gaps, which by the way most scientist believe may actually never be explained.
"just sayin" aka "Atheists.." aka "Herbie" aka "Alfred" aka "chad" and alll the other handles it uses is simply a mindless troll who can't handle the truth.
""just sayin" aka "Atheists.." aka "Herbie" aka "Alfred" aka "chad" and alll the other handles it uses is simply a mindless troll who can't handle the truth."
That is what is so great it's the perfect advocate to turn people to atheism because if it represents Christianity then this type of troll is making them run the other way!
To me, evolution is a miracle created by God. My biology text and the Bible are both "true." The one does not disprove the other.
I am not replying specifically to Eric, but to the whole world. I believe in God. I do not belong to any religious group. My belief comes from reading the bible.. The bible tells us many things about the Jews. and, there they are. There is too much information in the bible to be overlooked. To much effort has been put in creating the bible, by diffenerent people for it not to be true. And, why would so many people write it for no csh value, if it wasn't true. The Roman Catholic church was founded the the purpose of controling people in the early days. They had so much power and became rich by taking from the public. And, today the majority of the Catholics do not even read or understand the bible. They fear the church because hey are brainwashed by they're ancestors, who knew even less than they do about the church. And, its the blind leading the blind. The pope is not special. How can humans even believe that they should make him a saint, so we can pray to him. You should not pray to no one but God. And, these mega churches collecting all this money. Never before in history have I seen that the riches guy in the congregation is the preacher. I can see a reason to congregate but, be carefull where you do it. The Jehovah Witness was started by a haberdasher the mormons by a poligomist and people don't get it. No woman preachers, preachers should be married it says in the bible ( some popes were married , who changed this rule?) I could go on and on. The bottom line is that that are more and more athiest coming to be. The devil is winning and very littleis being done to stop him. Look around. Its now normal to be gay and to disfigure your body with piercings and tattoes.
Please people wake up. The times they are a changing. Who are you going to serve God or the Devil. The enemy is sutle.
And, you are being decieved. God bless you all, Amen.
Trey wrote, " Evolution is a proven theory to a certain point. We know that many species evolved over time. however there are still significant unexplainable gaps, which by the way most scientist believe may actually never be explained."
No. Again, in science we don't prove things, we explain things. A theory can be proposed, confirmed, modified, or falsified. The theory of evolution is the single most confirmed theory in all science. In 150+ years it has never been falsified.
And the only folks who claim there are scientists who see unexplainable gaps are creationists who get this drivel from websites that are lying to you.
Why is Evolution brought up as an issue in relation to the church? Didn't Vatican II mean that the church now approves of evolution?
Prayer changes things.
Prayer are words asking your brain to think positive
just ask all those muslims...
You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.
An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.! .. ..
If you pray, sometimes you get what you want and sometimes you don't. If you don't pray, sometimes you get what you want and sometimes you don't. So, in a general sense, how can you say that prayer does anything? On a personal level, prayer can work, but for psychological reasons, not supernatural ones. Belief in the efficacy of prayer can change a person's state of mind, making him or her more confident, assertive, sociable, pro-active, etc.
Atheism. The belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason into self replicating bits which then turned into dinasours. That makes about as much sense as the idea that GOD created everything. So why not allow people to believe what they want and each of us will find out who was right when we die. okay pumpkin
Religion is bad for children and other living things. It's a bunch of morons fighting over imaginary friends. Atheists aren't the ones that started countless wars in the last 2000 years. Get a grip, man, it's 2012.
so why hasn't centuries of prayer ended wars and incurable illnesses, i.e. AIDS? Is anybody listening up there?...or maybe there's too much cloud cover?
Time to leave the Axis of Medieval and live in the real world.
Does the catholic church have anything to do with illegal immigrants so they can make more money off of us then?
Reason # 8
Catholic women have ruined the church . They have fallen from grace . They do not do anything catholic anymore other than taking communion . Hypocrites !!
ya dude.. i mean, they use contraception to protect themselves from cancer.. those b***s they need to burn at stake, eh?
and those pedophile priests and the amoral bishops who protected them? Let's hear it for the REAL Catholics!
The theory of evolution is on more solid ground than Newton's Law of Gravity.
Do you know the difference between a law and a theory?
Do you know the difference between the scientific definition of theory and the definition of theory as it is used commonly?
Ironic, isn't it? But true. For all the reasons mentioned by Doc Vestibule.
haha cnn hates religion so much.
Except Islam; what Goebbles was to the Nazis, CNN is to the Muslims.
Is CNN a "hater" for telling a truthful story? Any practicing Catholic who can't acknowledge that Catholics are abandoning the Church in droves just has his or her head buried in the sand. A careful study of the history of the Roman Catholic Church shows just how often it has been corrupt to its core, perhaps now more than ever.
oh gee.. I mean, look at the main page and see how many articles are about islam.. right bcat?
CNN does not "hate" religion, what an ignorant thing to say. Whenever someone writes something to that effect I find it completely rediculous. CNN is a news outlet, therefore reporting on the news, a study of this magnitude is news worthy. Do you chime in when there is a more positive news story relating to religion? most likely not. I have read plenty of stories on CNN about miracles and blessings and other positive aspects of religion. I think you were truly referring to a specific religion which is also not true. The main reason they mostly write about Christianity is that while Chrisitans will complain until they are blue in the face that people are making fun of them or are trying to single them out, they are far less likely to be violent in return. For example, South Park and many other television shows make fun of Jesus all the time, cool noone cares they laugh and get over it. However, they simply want to depict Allah, not even satirize him, and there are death threats even though he was already depicted several years before that on the same show throwing fire balls and noone said a word. My main point amidst the ramble is its just religion, if you want it have it, if you dont simply dont and let other people pursue what makes them happy without screaming at them or threatening to kill them. Be kind to your fellow man and not because someones God told you to, just do it because its the right thing to do plain and simple.
Ex catholics wising up huh.
For the allocation of resources to solve genuine problems and a heaven on Earth! To realize we have much control over our destinies! For the liberation of the human mind from tyranny! !!
Haha. That's funny about how people think the Church demotes women. Because, we are also criticized for being overzealous Mary worshipers, who is in fact a WOMAN. Or how about the fact that the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the woman is the pinnacle of God's creation? Some people really don't think this through at all. If you think women are demoted in the Church, ask a female practicing Catholic. They'll join me in the laughter.
Thoughts are different from deeds.. and it is those deeds that count at the end..
Yes, the Church puts women on a pedestal ... a pedestal with bars around it.
I left on 7, but that was before I knew about 1, 2, or 5. I joined because my grandma was catholic and i liked my grandma. Then got married and you HAVE To be catholic. But, i won't be buried there. with my family. because i don't appreciate the trauma of having patriarchy shoved down my throat. I told them that i left. The priest said that "lots of militant women leave the church". hilarious. whatever...
The main reason is left out.
People don't believe. They never did, but were pressured into silence.
Now the damn is broken and the truth is plain to see.
Why just report on the Catholic church? Why single them out? My guess is that you would get very similar responses as regards to any church. Why is CNN singling out the Catholic church?
Items 1, 2, 6, and 7 apply much more to Catholics than other Christians.
Because if Muslims or Jews admit they don't believe they end up dead.
Telling the truth REALLY angers the other cult members. You can lose a job, freinds or even family.
You can get assaulted, mocked, abused and harrased.
I even had a freind tell me it can get you point in the military.
Tell the truth can be hard, but the tide is changing.
because that's the church that the study was done on...retard.
Because bringing down Catholicism is the cool thing to do these days.
CC is singled out because it is the true church.
CNN is NOT picking on the church, they are reporting the results of a study "Conducted William J. Byron, a professor of business at St. Joseph’s University and Charles Zech, founder of the Center for the Study of Church Management of Villanova’s School of Business The scholars, working at the request of Trenton’s Catholic bishop"...you can read the rest of the article that you missed for yourself. St. Johns and Villanova? Hardly bastions of liberalism. Read SOMETHING!!
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.