While those Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion have seen the greatest growth in numbers as a result of changes in affiliation, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes. While nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic.
Bishop John McCarthy writes on his website:
Why do these people leave? One of the most common reasons articulated is that they do not see the Catholic Church as a loving community of faith striving mightily to bring truth, justice and love into the world. Rather, in their opinion, they see a very large organization in which most individuals become isolated and this organization is controlled by a group of leaders that are insensitive to the needs of the people, who are seen to be more concerned about exercising power and control than a generous concern for all.
Further down in the post he quotes Father William Byron, who states:
If they really believed in Jesus’ presence, a misstep of this or that ecclesiastical leader and a failure at good communication within the Church would not motivate departure. If they really believed in the presence of Jesus, they would hold on through thick and thin and pray that a restructuring in the Church may soon come to reflect with much greater clarity the continued presence of Jesus of Nazareth.
Yes, McCarthy is disagreeing with Byron here.
And he uses that sentiment to bring home the central reason that all former Catholics—regardless of the circumstances surrounding our departure—leave Catholicism. We do not see the church as being the sole path (or for some, a path at all) toward truth, love, and justice. Whether we believe in Jesus’ presence or not, we have been able to separate that presence from Catholicism, at least partially, and in some cases view the church and Jesus in direct opposition.
The perfect church cannot be found here on earth. This isn’t to say there are not good churches that may be a better fit for some of us. We can, however, weave the missed aspects of our former faith into our lives in other ways, while growing in our spirituality and embracing the one quality that Jesus taught over and over in the bible: compassion.
QUESTION FOR FORMER CATHOLICS:
What spiritual path, if any, have you taken since leaving the Catholic church?