Why American Catholics Are Leaving the Church

American bishopsDan Merica posted a fascinating article over at CNN's Belief Blog about the large number of Americans leaving the Catholic Church in recent years. Evidently, one in ten Americans is now an ex-Catholic! I realize that most ex-Catholics are not becoming atheists, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

The most interesting part of Merica's article was his summary of a recent study by Byron and Zech conducted to assess the opinions of 300 ex-Catholics in Trenton, NJ. The researchers were brought in at the request of Trenton's bishop to figure out why so many were leaving the church.

The top seven reasons ex-Catholics gave for leaving the church included:
  1. Clergy sex abuse and efforts to protect the offenders
  2. Anti-gay bigotry
  3. Dissatisfaction with their priest
  4. Uninspiring sermons
  5. The conservative political orientation of their church
  6. The church's hostility to divorced and remarried Catholics
  7. The low status of women in Catholicism
I must admit being surprised by some of these, especially #3 as nearly every Catholic I know idealizes their priest so thoroughly as to make me nauseous. I had also hoped #7 would be listed a bit higher than it was. But still, I think this should be encouraging to those of us who cannot understand how anyone could continue to support this institution.

It is important to recognize that these data came from only one diocese in Trenton, NJ, and may not be representative of U.S. Catholics. Studies like this are a start, and I hope to see more of them.

Here is some information on how to leave the Catholic Church.