September 15, 2018

Some Lifelong Catholics Thinking of Leaving the Church

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Amidst all the Catholic-related news, most of which has been pretty damn depressing, I thought I'd share a bit of good news from an unexpected source. Some will dismiss it as trivial or say that I am being overly optimistic, but I can't help thinking that what I am about to share is a good sign. It might even indicate that we could be on the verge of something big when it comes to the necessary demise of the Catholic Church.

My parents recently returned from a brief trip to a resort with 7 other couples, all of whom have known each other for more than 20 years. Most were neighbors or knew each other because they had kids in the same schools. Most have moved away but not too far away, or at least not too far away year-round. All retired long ago and are getting up there in years. I think it is cool that they are still able to get together no matter how much their paths have diverged in the last decade or so. Here's the interesting part: of the 8 couples, my parents were the only ones who are not Catholics.

When I was told about this, I said something snarky along the lines of, "Did they convert you?" I then remembered that one of the wonderful things about the part of the country where I grew up (and where this trip took place) was that religion was generally off-limits as a topic of discussion. Bringing it up was often considered rude. Then again, these people all knew each other quite well. That could be enough to over-ride such a social taboo. "No, but we did have some very interesting conversations about the Catholic Church" was the answer I received.

I can summarize the highlights easily. Every one of these aging Catholics spoke about how disgusted they were with the Catholic Church. All indicated that they had been struggling with questions like, "Can I be Catholic without the Catholic Church?" All agreed that their faith was important to them, but they were questioning whether they could remain part of the Church. None of this would have surprised me if we were talking about a group of young people, but to hear of this sort of thing coming from so many older, lifelong Catholics was unexpected.

Do I expect that any of them will leave the Church? Not really. It wouldn't surprise me if a few did, but it also wouldn't surprise me if none did. What surprised me most of all was that every one of them said that they personally knew people who had left the Catholic Church over this. That was remarkable, given the age cohort we are talking about here.

I don't want to read too much into this, but I would like to suggest that there is something simple all of us can do to help accelerate this process. Every time another Catholic abuse scandal surfaces (and they will continue to surface), we can help to amplify it. We can write about it, speak about it, make videos about it, or just use social media to spread the word about it. I don't know that we need to provide witty commentaries; we just need to spread the word. I also don't know that we need to fire accusations at ordinary Catholics; many already seem to be struggling with this stuff. Such efforts, along with information about how to leave the Catholic Church, may help.