Why are Catholics leaving the Church?


I’ve noticed each consecutive weekend that the number in attendance at my parish is shrinking, it seems. The amount of the collections is shrinking, too, thereby causing the budgeted amount to not be met.

Why are Catholics leaving the Church?

Should we practicing Catholics be to blame for not communicating the liveliness of our faith more openly? Are we to blame for anything at all, such as not educating our children at younger ages to appreciate what they have? Are we, who say we love Christ and Church, also taking what we have for granted?

Is there something in the history of the Church which merits people leaving by the droves? Should a Christian conscientiously not be Catholic due to the inherited heritage of such events like the extinction of the Cathars, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and other events, which as atheist author Sam Harris complains, illustrate the murderous extent Catholics will go to save the Eucharistic host from sacrelige?

Or is there something in Church policy which merits these people leaving? Do documents like Humanae Vitae suppress the individual’s God-given free will in such a manner that such papal statements are nothing but un-Christ-like? And what about other methods available in contemporary medicine which allow the human person to exist without excessive suffering? Shouldn’t utilitarianism be viewed as the greatest possible hope for a universal ethic?

It’s sad to see that so many people no longer care.


since you observe this only in your own parish, and have provided no evidence about the broader world, why not focus on what you know best, your own parish, and investigate why you are losing members? you know best about your own local conditions.

If I were to judge only by our own parish, which is growing yearly, where collections have doubled since we came here less than 10 yrs ago, and where we are planning to build a new larger church, my conclusion would be the opposite of yours.


I agree with puzzle. My parish is gaining members and we are at seating capacity for every Mass except the 7:30 am Sunday Mass.

At your parish, could it be the summer when people are more likely to be on vacation? Or is this a long-term trend you are noticing?


I concur with Annie, my parish is expanding, and we lost a lot 3 years ago with hurricane Katrina. We are also building a new Church. World wide the Church is expanding, over the last 20 years ( years which saw several major scandals ) the Church expanded over 25% to over 1.1 Billion,


And yet, the Pew Report which came out this year on religious affiliation, suggests that although the numbers of people in the Catholic Church are remaining steady, this is primarily due to immigration. Fully TEN PERCENT of Americans are FORMER Catholics! This does seem to be an issue that needs to be addressed.


The same is true in our parish, growth is crazy. We are adding on an 8th grade to the school and building a gym and more class rooms and office space. After that is done we will build a free standing church, right now it is in the school. Our collections are above budget.


I believe the answer to this question is in scripture

Apoc. 12:1-4 “dragon”, whose “tail swept down a third of the stars of Heaven and dragged them to the earth.”

“The Message of Fatima is a call to conversion, alerting humanity to have nothing to do with the “dragon”, whose “tail swept down a third of the stars of Heaven and dragged them to the earth.” (Apoc. 12:1-4)

Pope John Paul II, May 13, 2000

Scripture scholars know, the stars of Heaven referred to in Apoc. 12:3-4 above, are Catholic priests, bishops and Cardinals.


I think your neighbors are moving to Texas. :slight_smile:


I agree.

Not only that, but the number of protestants today who have Catholic recent ancestors (like grandparents or great-grandparents) is quite large. To me that indicates the problem is not a recent one although it may be aggravated these days.

I have a few ideas about this and I think they need to be seriously considered, although if someone was to accuse me of generalizing I’d have to admit that could be so. I only know from my own observations.

The nature of parish life in the ‘typical’ Latin Catholic parish is pretty anonymous. People don’t necessarily even know the parishioners in the pews around them, and when they don’t show up they are not missed.

The pastor would be hard pressed to be able to call most of his congregation by name.

This is more true of the suburban parishes than the compact ethnic enclaves in some city neighborhoods.

A deacon friend of mine called his own parish here in Illinois a “sacrament factory” and he is starting to appear very discouraged himself. Even with being one of six deacons he is severely overworked. When he goes on hospital calls he gets a long list of parishioners and most of them do not recognize him, and he does not recognize them. To me that indicates a large population which is barely involved for years, although duly registered.

The clergy are so busy as it is, the people who do not choose to show up are not pursued. No one rings the bell and the only mail is the envelope packet which comes right on schedule.

I think the problem lies in part due to the very large size of the parish. But there is little to be done about that now, that pattern was set a long time ago, and the situation is accelerating. Bishops are closing smaller less ‘efficient’ parishes and consolidating them into larger communities. It almost cannot be helped, but a by-product of this process is more leakage from the pews.



I believe that there are a fair amount of Catholics leaving the church. Since entering into the church back in '97, I’ve read alot about apologetics. One reason for the exit is that Catholics don’t know their bible well enough. How many could defend the Catholic church’s stance on anything? Some evengelist will come along and “prove” the Catholic church wrong, and the Catholic will be lured away from the church.

We all need to know the scriptural foundation of the church. And, of course, battle against apathy and indifference.


I guess it goes back to scripture You are either with me or against me. They will either come back and the Church will rejoice, like the son comming back to his father, or they never were of Christ. But remember alot who leave usually come back, and are better Catholics then when they left. I myself dont concern myself with who comes or goes, as long as im there, I leave the rest up to God, and pray the Holy Spirit works to bring them back. But it will never change my mind one way or another. If everyone in the Church would leave and it would end up me and the Pope alone, thats okay too. I just know I will never desert my God or my Church.


Maybe they were pushed out by people who didn’t think they were “Catholic” enough…:shrug:


In Rochester, NY, we just went through a substantial round of Catholic church/school closings (don’t know the exact numbers, but they were a pretty good percentage). Our diocese-wide attendance has been steadily declining over the past several years, so it seems that my particular region is sharing the experience of the orignial poster.

The Diocese of Rochester, not coincidentally, happens to be a very liberal and liturgically abusive diocese. I have the utmost respect for the offices of the priests and bishop in my diocese, all ordained for that matter. That being said, some of our clergy seem not to understand what we really have in our faith, as they continue to look for ways to turn the mass into the next big “show” or “event” that they feel people will want to return to. We seem to want our masses to mirror protestant and non-demoninational services and, as a result, area Catholics are just as well cathechised as those non-Catholic Christians. We have the “custom” of standing during the consecration at my parish, we get talks (not homilies) from sisters and guest speakers, and we persist in doing other things like using EMHCs as normal Eucharistic Ministers.

And that isn’t even the worst of it. Generally speaking, we as Catholics in the pews aren’t told anything less fluffy than the “God loves everyone” message I could hear at the non-denominational church down the street. I have to go to a neighboring parish if I even want to hear a priest tie the readings together during a homily. I’ve heard much more about priests’ personal opinions on the war in Iraq than I’ve heard about hell, abortion, homosexuality… and all the other topics that matter combined. We also occasionally get nuggets against our articles of faith, such as the priest who gave a homily on how Adam & Eve and Noah were myths.

This, I believe, is the root cause for the decline of our particular diocese. We have a bunch of lukewarm Catholics that are easily pulled from the one true church because they don’t understand how different it is from the others.


What is your definition of Catholic enough?


How does your single parish statistic yield the conclusion?

At our parish, we have more people join the parish and baptized.


I don’t know what “Catholic enough” is, which is why I’ve been struggling lately. For the first time in 40 years, I’m considering the idea that I many not be “Catholic enough” myself. It’s a scary thing, but I’m sure if I feel that way others do too.

I’ve been feeling a subtle change in Catholicism in the past few years where the emphasis on social justice issues has become stronger than theological issues like belief in the virgin birth or transubstantiation. My belief in the theological truths of Catholicism has not wavered, but I do struggle with social justice issues.


My definition of “Catholic enough” would be someone who is trying to learn and understand the faith better and to continue to grow spiritually.

That includes everyone no matter where they are spiritually, just as long as they are doing their best to continue to seek and grow.

My definition of “Not Catholic enough” would be those that know the truth, yet disregard it for their own gain.


Grace and Peace,

I’ve just spent the last several weeks attending an Orthodox Parish and the Parish Priest there and I are very good friends. He too has spoken about the trouble in attendance. I think it is the continuing paranoia of American Catholics that ‘something’ is wrong with ‘my’ faith. Yes, the scandals haven’t helped, neither has the Radical Reforms of the Liturgy Post-Vatican II. If anything they’ve served only to confuse the Laity. I believe the Catholic Church is going through an identity crisis due to the extreme ecumenism of the last 40 years. As much as anyone might argue that this ‘reaching out’ towards our separated brothers and sisters was a sincere gesture of good-will on the part of the whole Catholic Church it has been a launching stage for our separated brothers and sisters to evangelize the Laity.

Ultimately I don’t know the future of the Roman Catholic Church but I continue to struggle with her and the Roman Pontiff. God Willing.


Is there a hierarchy of truth? For example-to be Catholic is it more important to believe in transubstantiation than to be against stem cell research or are they equal?

I think back to the ancient church, which believed many different things about their culture and society than what we do today-yet their belief in transubstantiation was the same. What happened to the believers who were committed to the Church view when Galileo was proven right, or when slavery was abolished?


Here’s another way of looking at it. Like Christmas, Easter, you can’t get a seat. Maybe its just people are too lazy to get up on Sunday and go. Because on holiday’s it SRO. Also isnt it funny how its impossible to get married, except pretty much a year in advance. How many people get married in the church, then you never see them until they have a baby to get baptized. Unreal isnt it. Look how many people and (im sure we all know someone like this) who make such a big deal of sunday school (their kids receiving the sacraments) drop the kids off, and dont even go to Church themself.

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