March 6, 2015

Editorial

Why do Catholics leave the Church?

Some things baffle us.

For example: A recent survey of Catholics who left the Church to join evangelical Protestant churches listed the number one reason as a desire for a more personal relationship with Jesus.

How, we wonder, could you possibly have a more personal relationship with Jesus than through the Eucharist? You’re receiving Jesus’ body and blood into your own body when you receive holy Communion. How could anything be more personal than that?

Obviously, there’s been a failure somewhere along the line to make these people understand exactly what the Eucharist is. That might also account for the casualness that some Catholics show when they receive Communion.

Do those converts to evangelical churches want to deepen their friendship with Jesus by talking to him or listening to him? How could that be done better than in a Catholic chapel, either in front of a tabernacle or a monstrance with Jesus exposed?

In a talk Pope Francis gave to a group of catechists that’s a chapter in his book The Church of Mercy, he said: “How do you abide in the presence of the Lord? When you visit the Lord, when you look at the tabernacle, what do you do? Do you let yourself be looked at by the Lord? He looks at us, and this is itself a way of praying. This warms the heart, igniting the fire of friendship with the Lord.”

That’s how to develop a better personal relationship with Jesus.

The large number of former Catholics also baffles us. Some people seem proud of the fact that they used to be Catholics but no longer are, or simply say, “I was raised Catholic.” What happened to change them?

We suspect that many, especially those who didn’t join another church, were victims of our secular society. It’s hardly a secret that the materialistic and hedonistic values of our culture are at odds with what the Catholic Church teaches. However, the Church has no choice but to continue to teach the word of God.

But we’re convinced that most people want to be religious or spiritual people, and the Catholic Church has more to offer than other faiths. Many people through the centuries have been drawn to the Church because of its teachings, but many others have been attracted because of its many devotions.

We Catholics always seem to be doing something special, whether it’s getting ashes put on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, receiving a blessing of our throats on St. Blaise’s feast day, or making pilgrimages to Marian shrines. Since all of us are different in the things we like to do, there are Catholic devotions or forms of piety to match any preferences.

The Catholic Church welcomes everyone, and not only the pious. It is also a Church of sinners and has been since Jesus founded it. Pope Francis says that it is heresy to think that the Church is only for the pure because we all sin.

In one of his general audiences, he said: “The Church, which is holy, does not reject sinners; she does not reject us all; she does not reject us because she calls everyone, welcomes them, is open even to those furthest from her; she calls everyone to allow themselves to be enfolded by the mercy, the tenderness, and the forgiveness of the Father, who offers everyone the possibility of meeting him, of journeying toward sanctity.”

Some people left the Church because of the clergy sex-abuse scandal. Of course, that was a great evil. But aren’t these people only hurting themselves by denying themselves of all the Church has to offer for their sanctification? How does leaving the Church help them?

One more quotation from Pope Francis, from that same general audience: “The Church offers all the possibility of following a path of holiness, which is the path of the Christian; she brings us to encounter Jesus Christ in the sacraments, especially in confession and in the Eucharist; she communicates the word of God to us, she lets us live in charity, in the love of God for all.”

We are not baffled by so many wanting to be part of the Catholic Church.

—John F. Fink

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