Sometimes, I let things get to me until finally something snaps and I want to do something about it. Since my return to the Catholic Church and experience with the slippery slope that leads away, I have been trying to understand why so many people are leaving the Catholic Church and what can be done to reverse this trend.
Over the past 15 years, we have seen Protestant Churches triple in number in my hometown. Being that our community is traditionally Catholic (the first Catholic Churches were introduced about 500 years ago), you can bet that close to 100% of the parishioners in these churches are fallen-away Catholics. In fact, with these churches being so new, most of the parishioners are first generation Protestants who were led away from the Catholic Church.
I have had the opportunity to talk to some of the parishioners from local Protestant churches and have found that their reasons for attending these churches are right in line with what can be found across the country. They cite a fun, entertaining, feel-good, close-knit group atmosphere that they feel was missing in the Catholic Church.
So what is it that makes people leave feeling unfulfilled in the Catholic Church?
My completely unprofessional take on the problem is that it all stems from a lack of catechesis and the pressure that society has put on people to conform to a materialistic, liberal (anything goes) mindset.
Nowadays, you can get anything you want with the click of a button. Youth and adults alike are running in a frenzy to get the latest, greatest technological doodad. The instant that the new product gets outdated (in a matter of months usually), it’s out to buy the next thing; this, all in the pursuit of happiness and feel-good entertainment. (You probably see where I’m going with this.)
In a society like this what makes Church Shopping any different?
People often venture out to shop for a new church when the one they are attending either isn’t entertaining enough or doesn’t offer that feel-good appeal. In the Protestant world with so many churches teaching different Biblical interpretations and offering different styles of music and entertainment; there is no shortage of choices to shop around for. Even the Protestant pastors shop around or build a new church when they don’t agree with the one they are attending.
But why would people leave the Catholic Church for one of these Protestant Churches?
LACK OF CATECHESIS!!! If you don’t know why you’re a Catholic to begin with, then why stay??? People are so unaware of Catholic teachings that they don’t know how valuable our church is or why it stands apart from the others out there. I read recently that close to half of Catholics surveyed did not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist! Without the real presence we are one step closer to being just another church on the block. We can’t blame this lack of knowledge solely on our Religious Ed programs. The responsibility falls upon our own shoulders to educate ourselves and our children. If we don’t know why we are Catholic and have no knowledge of Catholic teachings, then it is all too easy to adopt the set of rules laid out by society.
We need to start educating ourselves and sharing what we learn with those around us. We need to encourage more fellowship within our church and welcome newcomers. We need to set an example for those around us by following church teachings and living the Love of Christ. And lastly, our youth are the future of our church: We need to develop a community within our church that encourages our youth to stand up and fight against the pressures from society.
I know this blog is new (and probably unread!), but I’d like to know what you all are doing to combat the trend of Fallen Away Catholics.