Why they dropped out

I just read an article in which a former UCC (United Church of Christ) pastor talks about participating in a study of more than 300 UCC clergymen who had left the parish ministry in the late 1960’s. He says that while each had a slightly different story, there was one recurring pattern:

 “We came out of the seminary bright-eyed and idealistic, ready to mobilize the 
  church to make the world a better place. (A large portion of us graduated from   
  seminary at the height of the civil rights movement.)  We quickly learned that 
  our churches weren’t too crazy about being mobilized.  I noticed that most of 
  us who had left the pastorate in frustration had found jobs in community action, 
  social work, and related fields.”

I found this fascinating.

The UCC wasn’t the only ecclesial body to go through this kind of thing in the 60’s. The Church lost priests and religious, as well, for much the same reason. It was the civil rights movement and the sexual revolution that caused the decimation in vocations to ministerial and religious life, sad to say.

The late 1960s and 1970s were called a ‘golden age’ of dissent inside and outside the Church.


And the effects of this dissent caused problems in Catholic schools and seminaries.


That is changing. More committed men are entering seminaries.


I have heard this before and have known people from that era for whom this very thing occurred. Most of the “X-Nuns” I knew had left their particular orders for just these reasons. As you indicated this was a common theme despite other reasons being indicated along with this one.

I dare say that this issue still is a problem. In some ways this is exactly what our New Holy Father is starting to address in some of his more recent comments. My own experience as a convert to the faith, has been similar to those your mention. There seems to be a lot of discussion, but when it come down to actual activism, or actual hands on work within a Parish, it is hard to find.

Rocking the boat and demanding better usually doesn’t go over to well, even in the Church.

I posted this thread originally on the Traditional Catholicism forum because there is often discussion there about why so many Catholic priests left the ministry in those years. I thought this would provide further support to and some interesting debate on one the several, often contradictory, theories which usually are advanced on this topic. I guess I should have been more explicit in my original post. :shrug:Ah well, I tried.


I think you can add the feminist movement to that mix as well. I went to a Catholic college in the early 70s which was originally an all girls institution. I met some fairly radicalized sisters there (along with some very traditional ones!). There was a lot of talk about civil rights but women’s rights were a huge issue, and infused all the classes I took.

Difficult period of turmoil. Right we need to put an asterisk next to those two decades. They need further evaluation. In particular the 60’s, the 70’s further deviated in novel thinking which resulted from 60’s peer pressure.

I’m just so freakin’ glad the sixties and seventies are over, at least as far as church stuff goes.

I think a lot of those priests and nuns dropped out because they should have remained laity. Social work is a lay-vocation. Heading charities is a lay-vocation. I think we got a rid of a lot of clerical and “consecrated” dead wood in the sixties and seventies. Good wood for lay vocations, but no heart for the religious life.

Now, we all can look forward to the future. And, might I add, to the Salvation Army as an example of a church that helps the poor.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.