How large is the “fallen away Catholic” denomination?

With a tip of the biretta to Patrick Madrid   o{]:¬)   

A huge reason why we need Pope Benedict’s "Marshall Plan" to revive our Catholic identity.

A huge reason why we need a renewal of proper liturgy and the use of the older forms.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dr. Eric says:

    I’ve heard that 1/3 of all Americans are former Catholics. :-(

  2. Pretty big maybe? Back in the 50s when my father went door-to-door on behalf of the parish priest checking out all the homes in the area, he came back amazed at all the non-practicing or faithless households of parents or grandparents who had fallen away. It must be an ongoing problem that always should be addressed somehow.

    [Wasn’t visiting homes the old custom of priests who understood that ALL homes in the area were under their Catholic jurisdiction and should be cared for, and souls for the Church sought? I believe this had something to do with a parish census of baptized Catholics.]

  3. Fenton says:

    Scott Hahn has a CD on the Eucharist in which he states that the 2nd larget denomination in America–after 25,000,000 Roman Catholics–is \”fallen away Catholics\” at around 16,000,000 if I recall correctly.

    I truly believe that pastors who are worried about Mass attendance get on board with returning Catholic identity to their parish…various rites (washing of feet, feast day celebrations, benediction, blessing of homes, church decorating, etc) all can help.

  4. TJM says:

    Tina, I’m not surprised by your father’s findings because ethnic/religious groups whether they practiced their faith or not tended to live near each other in those days. However, the 1950s were a golden age in American Catholicism compared to now. I would note that in many of those cases, divorce was the precipitating event that kept Catholics away. I had relatives in that situation. They didn’t stay away from Church from lack of belief but deep shame. Keep in mind around 80% of American Catholics attended Sunday Mass each week compared to around 23% now. If we were at those levels now, we’d all be doing cartwheels. Tom

  5. Ray from MN says:

    I’ve heard that one of the principal reasons that Catholics leave the Church is the Church’s rules on divorce and re-marriage.

    Apparently, even divorce prior to Vatican II had penalties applied to it, even if the partners did not remarry. Some still believe that to be the case and have stayed away from the Church for that reason.

    This is one of the reasons why dioceses are requiring much more rigorous pre-marriage Cana conference requirements.

    There is a group in Phoenix who have the Catholic Come Home website. Check it out, it’s wonderful, maybe perfect for your parish or diocese.

  6. little gal says:


    As someone who drifted away from the Church and then returned, I have looked at this issue. I also recently participated in a project to develop a program to bring back inactive Catholics. I can tell you that even Church folks can’t agree on how to define the term ‘inactive’ Catholics. One local priest refers to them as ‘wandering’ Catholics. So, while everyone is trying to sort things out, I would ask the question of why every parish in America doesn’t as least have one of the faithful sitting at a table in the entryway at every Sunday Mass, with handouts on reconnecting with the faith, a warm smile and the offer of assistance? They’re there to sell pastries or tacos to raise funds for one thing or another. but not to evangelize. Where are the disciples?

  7. Richard says:

    As they say: The second largest denomination in America is…ex-Catholics.

    I’ve spent some time in Baptist parishes thanks to my in-laws…and I can’t tell you how many ex-Catholics I run into there.

    Divorce is a big part of the problem (pointing to the need for renewed outreach in this area) but only a part.

  8. The ‘biggest catholic church’ here in our town is the Methodist church. I’ve heard this from the fallen-away Catholics I run into here.

  9. Woody Jones says:

    With all due respect, what is really needed is a “providential man” or Woman.

  10. The more I think about it, the more I read about Church history, the more evidence I see, the more convinced I am that priests are really the ones who convert hearts.

    Us laity can help certainly, but the most efficient and most powerful are the words and actions of priests.

    Bring back the priest preachers on the street corner!

  11. little gal says:

    “the more convinced I am that priests are really the ones who convert hearts.”

    “Certainly the apostolate of the laity must be expanded in every way possible since it “is a right and duty based on their baptismal dignity” ( 71), and because of the urgent need the church feels to permeate as thoroughly as possible a world waiting to be newly evangelized in every sector.”

    “Above all, it must never be forgotten that problems caused by the shortage of ordained ministers can be alleviated only secondarily or temporarily by having lay people in some way supply for them.”

    JP II 22 April 1994

  12. James II says:

    It’s rapidly growing in Ireland, especially in urban areas. Perhaps fallen away Catholics make up about a third of the population, and about 80%+ of the youth. I’m in a rural area and I don’t know of anyone other myself under twenty years of age who attends Mass with any regularity. 90 % of the population attended church weekly about two decades. Now in some urban areas weekly attendance is as low as 5%. The Church of Ireland which makes up about 10% of the Ireland’s population in 2007 had more than twice as many ordinations as Catholics, even though Catholics make up 70-80% of the population. Irish Catholics are voluntarily doing what Elizabeth I, Cromwell and the Established Church weren’t able to acheive.

  13. avecrux says:

    Little Gal –
    Would like to see full context of that quote.
    Yes, the part on lay people’s apostolate being expanded due to their baptismal dignity makes sense, but the second half in reference to the shortage of ordained ministers lost me. Regarding lay people “in some way” supplying for the ordained given problems caused by shortage, the words that stick out to me are “only secondarily or temporarily”. Can you give a broader context for your citations?

  14. Austin says:

    Episcopal churches I attended in the NE were packed with former Catholics–most
    there because of mixed marriages, divorces, or homosexuality. They outnumbered
    the natives, most of whom had stopped going to church when the Episcopalians
    had taken a leftward turn, updated the Prayer Book, and ordained women.

    The Catholic parishes have a long way to go in improving outreach and parish life.
    Protestant churches have coffee hours after service, Sunday schools and nurseries,
    groups for everyone from children to the elderly, Bible studies, prayer groups, and scoial occasions. None of the Catholic parishes I have been in begins to compare –there is a strong sensation of being part of an ecclesiastical factory that has little concern with the

    It’s odd that Catholics, who stress the centrality of the community of the redeemed,
    should be so bad at this.

  15. Hugo says:

    Patrick Madrid is a great guy who along with Mr Arroyo are secretly cheering for us.

    I can attest to the situation in Eire although I think there’s a lot of smugness on the part of American reporters. My family’s rural communities had masses that were well attended.

    But the attitude of the Faithful toward EWTN was a revelation that permitted me to see something more clearly about the USA. Though they had a favorable impression based on what they’ve read in all of the Independent ProLife Catholic tabloids -they were quick to dismiss it as “that convert channel.”

    The Catholic media needs to go after the people Fr Z has termed “the walking wounded.”. Many are in the pews still, as a result of habit. These people along with Ireland are primed for Tradition and a recovery of Catholic Identity. Using some Johnny-Come Lately convert (no matter how charismatic) won’t cut it. Even to the severely deracinated, they still smell like protestants.

  16. Annie says:

    I never really thought about it, but I believe Hugo is right.

  17. I am converting to Catholicism from an Anglo-Catholic (Episcopal) background. I have been disappointed in the liturgical expression of the faith in the Catholic parish which is closest in proximity to me, though there are many faithful Catholics who attend this parish. I found a good, traditional parish thirty minutes from where I live, and I am just beginning to attend there. As a recent convert I have a couple of questions for the readers of this thread.

    1). What is this “Marshall Plan” of Pope Benedict XVI that has been alluded too, or is it a wish?
    2). How can a laymen help the Church in her need for renewal toward proper liturgy?
    3). How did the Catholic Church get in this situation?
    4). Is their a good place where I can read about the Catholic way of Evangelization?

    I am a reader so if you know of any blog posts, articles, or books that can explain any of this, you can send me in that direction. Thank you.

  18. mysticalrose says:


    My very large suburban parish has every outreach group, bible, study, prayer group, adult formation, and coffee hour you can think of. But what they don’t have is a solid, orthodox, reverent liturgy. Only the Mass will bring back fallen away Catholics.

  19. tradone says:

    Re the comment made by Hugo.
    I’ve had these thought for years. I dismissed the thoughts thinking that I was being too defensive (because I am what they call a cradle Catholic).
    I never had the nerve to say what Hugo has stated, but I’m glad he did!
    Signed: one of the walking wounded, but on the mend.

  20. Sal says:

    What Hugo said.

  21. Edward Simmons says:

    It is interesting that for decades following Vatican II, the official party line from Rome and the bishops was that despite a few “shadows” here and there, the post-Vatican II Church had experienced a liturgical and spiritual “springtime.”

    Even more puzzling was that a great many liberals and conservatives attacked Traditional Catholics who insisted that the party line was pure fantasy.

    Traditional Catholics were attacked frequently for their having refused to accept the official claim that Vatican II had launched us into a “new springtime.” It is now undeniable that “liturgical reform” is a flop. The Traditionalists were correct.

    By the way, Traditionalists were also correct when they, in the face of opposition from liberals and conservatives, insisted that the Traditional Roman Mass had not been abrogated. It is now clear that among “fallen away” Catholics, only the Traditional Roman Mass can possibly renew their interest in Catholicism.

    It may be that “fallen away” Catholics are so far gone that relatively few can be returned to the Church. But the Novus Ordo most certainly cannot accomplish even that modest task. However, the Traditional Roman Mass is up to said task.

  22. little gal says:

    “Only the Mass will bring back fallen away Catholics.”

    I disagree…The first issue IMO is building a bridge to get lapsed Catholics INTO the church. Those of us who are already in the pews need to reach out to others; we need to evangelize to get folks into the churches. We need to offer assistance to our pastors to get wandering, lapsed, inactive, lukewarm, fallen away etc. Catholics back at Mass. I would suggest that everyone give themself the goal of bringing one person to Mass with them this year who fits in this category.

  23. Screwtape says:

    Dear Wormwood,

    Bad music, bad liturgy, rejection of all values, persecution of masculinity, homilies all about Father’s childhood, refusal to preach the truth, promotion of contraception, forcing people to hug strangers in uncomfortable ways, elimination of confession, total disrespect for the Eucharist and the priesthood: our plan has worked perfectly! The patients have left in droves, all because the patients’ leaders listened to you! Once full Churches are now as empty as our promises!

    And so many of those that stayed have rejected logic, reason, judgment, and morality in favor of “feelings.” Brilliant! They have convinced themselves that their “feelings” are true, and now actively fight both the Enemy and his Church! Best of all, they are convinced that by undermining the Enemy they are actually working for him!

    But Wormwood, you must, AT ALL COSTS, keep the patients away from traditional worship and devotions in any and all fashions. This Benedict fellow is very dangerous, we must convince the patient that he is responsible for all the “bad feelings”, and that they best serve the Enemy by fighting Benedict. Remember what happened in the past? Churches were full, and we lost souls to the Enemy. We can’t let that happen again. Traditional Worship is the greatest threat we face today.

    Your affectionate uncle,

  24. James II says:

    “It is now clear that among “fallen away” Catholics, only the Traditional Roman Mass can possibly renew their interest in Catholicism.”

    If the Holy Father were to announce tomorrow that the Novus Ordo were to be scrapped and that the TLM was to take its place, what do you think would happen?

    “It may be that “fallen away” Catholics are so far gone that relatively few can be returned to the Church.”

    Indeed, and as every generation passes, the lapsed become even more detached from their faith. Many of the ‘fallen away’ Catholics no longer have any connection with the Church. I have heard people call Confirmation the ‘sacrament of farewell’.

    “The first issue IMO is building a bridge to get lapsed Catholics INTO the church.”

    Sadly I think the only realistic means by which large numbers will be converted/reverted is through outright persecution, a war, terrorism, or a very bad economy. Our society has become far too materialistic but we should still try our hardest to convert others. I see Protestant churches around me doing their very upmost to attract people into their churches and unfortunately they are very successful with Catholics.

  25. LCB says:

    Little gal,

    What would you suggest doing? Watering down teaching? Playing bad contemporary music? Making the focus of the mass us and our feelings? A watered down vulgate mass tells the People of God that they can live watered down vulgar lives without consequence.

    Throughout history only one thing has packed the pews: solid teaching combined with solid liturgy. The Church in Ars was empty when St. Vianney arrived. If we did what he did, our Churches would be packed just as his was.

    Touchy-feely watered down liturgy, with touchy-feely false teaching got us into this mess. More of the same won’t get us out of the mess. We must return to what worked in the past and move forward from there, creating an organic continuity with the last 1900 years of Christianity.

  26. There are a few comments in this thread that deserve a response. Maybe later…too much to do today. darn.

    There are many causes of the apostasy we see: Poor liturgy, apathetic laity, priests that don’t understand their own ordained powers, poor formation, the constant battering of the liberal media, political correctness, even fear of being open about our beloved Faith, its an endless list. Overall, men’s hearts need conversion. Men fall away because they don’t see the importance of what they are doing. The sense of sin has evaporated, nothing matters, ‘everybody is right, you are a good person, I’m a good person’… blah blah blah.

    If men could see that their actions are sinful and leading to eternal death, there’d be more chance of change.

    Is James II probably the closest to the answer? Unfortunately, terror and privation may be the only thing that turns our angry hearts to seek God in our need.

  27. Wow! What lively discussions here!
    I have been working for years (even before I was a priest) to help Chinese people in Vancouver entering or re-entering the Catholic Church. I think all the good things mentioned above are important. The Catholic Church continues the 3-fold Functions of Jesus Christ as Priest, Prophet & King. So the following 3 areas are all important to bring people to the Church:

    1. Sound catechetical training (you cannot love what you don’t know)
    2. Strong spiritual & liturgical training (Growth in Faith is a grace from God, and grace is obtained through prayer)
    3. Reaching out to the people with love and concern (you cannot just leave the people alone after their Baptism, follow-up is extremely important; you need to win their heart, not just their mind for Christ)

    Please keep us, priests and catechists, in your prayers, for there are much need to be done to bring people to Church.

  28. Monica says:

    In the Va. Beach Catholic parish of which I am a member, they announced that if we miss mass, just send in our collection envelope by mail. Just wondering, is that all we need to do now to meet our Sunday obligation? Send in our weekly offering?

  29. ckdexterhaven says:

    Father Anthony Ho, I love your first reason. “You cannot love what you don’t know” That is so true. That used to be me. When I started homeschooling my kids, I got out the Baltimore Catechism. Now I DO know. And I’m making sure my kids know. I think people knock the Baltimore Catechism out of ignorance, but it’s so good.

    It’s hard to “feel” Catholic when sitting in a church that looks like a protestant church of any faith, with the tabernacle off to the side. And the “confessional” is in the cry room that has windows.

    More priests wearing black cassocks in public and nuns with habits out in the world would bring back many.

  30. little gal says:

    Thanks for your comments Fr. Ho. To James and LCB, would it surprise you to know that many Catholics couldn’t even tell you why they don’t attend Mass?

    “What else do we know about inactive Catholics? We know that a percentage of these inactive Catholics would become active if they were invited. A study of Chicago Catholics by Andrew Greely revealed that nearly half of “fallen-away” Catholics admit to occasional thoughts about returning. Seventeen percent think about returning “sometimes” or “often” and may be open to an invitation to return. And he reports that about 4% could be “waiting for an invitation.” (Commonweal, August 15, 2008, p.19) Those of us who have worked with inactive Catholics know that while the exact percentage may vary, every community has inactive Catholics open to and even waiting for an invitation to become active. Unfortunately, many communities fail to offer the invitation consistently or convincingly.” Today’s Inactive Catholics by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND

    There are many groups withn inactive Catholics and the ones referred to by Sr. Wolf are just one of them. Another group would be those who are barred from the sacraments due to divorce, gay lifestyle etc. That’s another discussion.

    I think the question to ask ourselves as practicing Catholics is why are we doing on a daily basis outside of Mass and devotional practtices to reach out. I can give a personal example that happened yesterday. I was in the breakroom at work eating lunch and a new employee offered me something from his meal. It contained meat and I explained that it was Friday and I would stick to my tuna fish sandwich. This guy’s eyebrows went up–fyi, he is a twenty-something nonpractising Catholic,and I explained that it was my penance for Friday. Due to he look on his face, I continued to explain Church teaching on this issue. I hope I wasn’t too preachy! This was all it took to get him talking about his experience at a Jesuit high school and the home Masses that a particular Jesuit priest did for the students. I will not continue with the details because so much of what he relayed as his experience was completely out of line with Church teaching. Anyway, my point is that I got a discussion going. To me this is simple evangelization and hopefully there will be other opportunities. I think the issue of when and if this guy gets to Mass again and whether it is a TLM or NO is not the issue–

  31. little gal says:

    “I think the issue of when and if this guy gets to Mass again and whether it is a TLM or NO is not the issue—”

    I need to revise my statement to:

    I think the issue of when and if this guy gets to Mass again is a separate issue and whether it is a TLM or NO is not the issue.

  32. Jillian says:

    “Andrew Greeley” should be “FATHER Andrew Greeley”… after all, he is a priest, is he not, little gal? (Albeit, a priest in serious need of prayer and a Baltimore Catechism.)

    … How large is the ‘fallen away Catholic’ denomination? I don’t know, but homilies like Fr. Greeley’s probably add to that number. Good holy priests faithfully celebrating good liturgies will revive the waning faith of fallen away Catholics (and save the world!). Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.

  33. Of the twenty boys with whom I ran around in (Catholic) high school, the overwhelming majority are no longer practicing Catholics, i.e., assisting at weekly Mass. We graduated in 1986, the zenith of the new catechetics movement. To my knowledge, not a single one left over the subject of divorce and remarriage.

  34. Dear ckdexterhaven,

    What a name! Thanks for your compliment. My story is a bit similiar to yours. I grew up with little catechetical trainings. I only started to know the Faith well, because 13 years ago I invited my highschool classmates to become Catholics, and my parish priest let me instruct them in Chinese. I wanted to make sure they knew what are essentials so I read the Baltimore Catechism. This little Catechism helped me to really know my Faith, and in the past 13 years this little Catechism has helped me to help bringing many people to the knowledge of the Faith.

  35. LCB says:

    “I think the question to ask ourselves as practicing Catholics is what are we doing on a daily basis outside of Mass and devotional practices to reach out.”

    I disagree. What, exactly, would we invite them back to? Celebrating ourselves some more? The question to ask ourselves is this: are we actually doing daily devotions and going to Mass daily?

    As a whole, the answer is “no.” That is why we continue to lose members. Why bother staying if it’s just an hour a week to get together and get a cracker that’s, “like, a good symbol of Jesus, and stuff.” You will fix the fallen away Catholic problem when “practicing” Catholics actually start practicing and living out their life of faith.

    There was a time in this country when Catholic Churches were filled. Now they are empty. We used to have HUNDREDS of converts a year at some parishes, now we have a dozen if we’re lucky. What changed, what was so successful in the past, and why don’t we try it again?

    Little Gal, when a ship is sinking you start by plugging the leak. The leak is liberalism and all its Christianity-and-Water practices.

  36. Braadwijk says:

    A lot comments here thus far appear to blame the laity themselves as well as current situations in the Church for the reason so many Catholics have fallen away from the Church, myself included. Fewer still, including practicing Catholics who try incessantly to make me go to a liturgy which is an absolute train wreck, refuse to place the blame where it really starts. The ill that befalls the Church can almost always be traced back to the clergy and the religious, either in what they directly do or indirectly do. I echo the comment above about the man who stated that almost nobody from his high school was a practicing Catholic today. I went to an all boys Catholic high school, and the same holds true for me as well. It wasn’t apathy or the lure of the outside world that drove us away from the Church, it was the behavior and the attitude of the clergy and the religious themselves. One of my former friends, when asked why he didn’t go to Mass anymore, responded that after what he learned about historical criticism he had no idea what to believe anymore. Having traditional leanings (and turning out to have been right all along), I was blackballed by the progressive elite until the day they very begrudgingly allowed me to graduate.

    A lot of the laity in the pews, when they ask themselves why so many Catholics are lapsed, unwittingly do the same thing most clerics do. Do they really think the laity are so stupid and easily fooled? They need to ask themselves the deeper reasons why so many have left. The externals factors of a much deeper problem, things like bad liturgy, are not quite the issue. There is a lot of resentment among lapsed Catholics that is not addressed, and it is not merely bitterness or ranting that is to be dismissed. It goes right back to the clergy. For myself, there was already a lot of resentment left over from the way I was treated in high school combined with the growing dissatisfaction of listening to father read from an inspirational booklet about nothing every Sunday and then tell me the lack of vocations and Mass attendance was somehow my fault. My Franciscan encounter was only the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    For example, in my own diocese, a priest in the late 60’s decided to surprised his parish one Sunday with unannounced renovations to make the Church more “modern”. In 48 hours time he stripped the church barren, painted it an ugly shade of janitorial blue, put a wooden table in the sanctuary, and in back of it a circular round of multi-colored tiles. On Sunday, half the congregation angrily stormed out and didn’t come back. The parish never recovered, and the priest was never disciplined for what he did. I don’t think it’s simple aging today that the priest has lost his eyesight.

    If you want to bring the lapsed Catholics back, the clergy need to be held accountable for what they’ve really done. It’s not about covering up sexual abuse, bad liturgy, or the lackluster preaching. Those are just the externals. It’s about having your faith trampled on and your heritage mocked by the very people who were supposed to protect and nurture them. It’s a heinous crime and an insult to the laity, and one that most people don’t put up with so easily. It’s the reason more than one saint throughout history has questioned if most of the people in hell are clergy and religious. If you want to bring back lapsed Catholics, give them the justice they are entitled to! Go behind the priests and bishops who need the support to be holy men and string up the ones who need to be thrown out. People are not stupid, and it’s not an issue of pride they left.

  37. Kathy says:

    While I understand that everyone’s comments and insights reflect their experiences, as one who hopes to enter the Church this year at the Easter Vigil, I have to say, I am now wondering what I am getting into!

  38. Braadwijk says:

    Welcome to the family. lol

  39. Lee says:

    “Father Anthony Ho, I love your first reason. “You cannot love what you don’t know” That is so true. That used to be me. When I started homeschooling my kids, I got out the Baltimore Catechism. Now I DO know. And I’m making sure my kids know. I think people knock the Baltimore Catechism out of ignorance, but it’s so good.”

    After throwing out the TV, in the 80’s we had in the evenings a program of 30 minutes reading good secular literature such as the the Chronicles of Narnia, 30 minutes reading the lives of the saints and 15 minutes of the Baltimore Catechism. Believe me, with this formula we could revolutionize both the Church and the world. From this program came two wonderful young adults now 28 and 30 yrs old who never rebelled in their teens, never balked at going to Mass, (and never asked why we did so), both daily communicants and one a Carmelite nun.

    Beyond this, they are both strong, affable, normal personalities, and very accomplished into the bargain. In other words, “sheltering” them did not harm them in the least, but gave them the chance to form up normally-with the help of the sacraments, many prayers, the lives of the saints and the Baltimore Catechism.

    Children are so trusting, loving, malleable and docile, that we can EASILY form them up to be good Catholics- if only we would take the trouble.

  40. Sal says:

    I think many of the laity are to blame. They have to
    be able to see past transitory things, even transitory
    scandalous things, e.g., the clerical abuse scandal.
    It’s about objective truth, not about Father X. They also
    have to get past the “bread and circuses” appeal of
    the evangelical and pentecostal groups. They also have
    to do some serious reading and thinking and remember
    that the liturgy is the centerpoint. It’s not about
    programs or charisms or how busy we are, but about
    communion with God.

  41. Rose says:

    I agree with Braadwijk.

  42. Geri says:

    No one who knew what, or rather Who was to be had at Mass would fail to go to Mass.

    Let me repeat that — NO ONE WHO KNEW THAT CHRIST IS GIVEN TO US IN THE EUCHARIST would stop going.

    NO ONE.


    Catholics who have “fallen away” don’t know that.
    Oh, they may have been TOLD, but not in a way that made them BELIEVE it.
    And if they don’t believe it, they don’t KNOW it.

    Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity is there, whole and entire, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament – and he is ours for the asking.

    Our attitudes, our carelessness, our behaving as if anything or anyone there is deserving of more attention than His Presence, our songs that celebrate ourselves, our fetishization of they way the Liturgy makes us “feel,” our casual conversation about profane matters in the presence of the Lord — all of these help convince others that the Blessed Sacrament is not Who we say it is.

    But if weall conducted our lives, and conducted our liturgies, (from which we draw the nourishment to live our lives,) as if we knew this, we would convince other people of this truth.

    And we would not be able to build enough churches to hold all the Catholics.

    (Save the Liturgy, save teh World)

  43. Hugo says:

    Thank you all. I tried to be as charitable as I could, especially because my best friends are converts and they seem more orthodox than the local Ordinary.

    But many of the celebrity converts are separated from Tradition by the Modernism that took hold long before they entered the Church or thought they had a mission. Many couldn’t give up the pulpit.

    Conversion stories have a place but it’s all out of proportion now. I could go down to the local Courage chapter and listen to their struggles too. But can I relate to it? No, neither prversion of the Truth has ever tempted me.
    I know where my home is.
    Sometime, I’d like to see some attention paid to a cradle Catholic who may be a little ignorant of his Faith. I know some (elderly family members..) who never missed mass, followed the Church, gave alms for years, and know nothing of divorce etc.
    What sustained them?
    It wasnt the latest bible program with Scott Hahn but rather the devotions and CULTURE that Benedict is working to restore.

    This also explains why some bishops we had our doubts about are showing a spine under this pontificate.
    God Bless

  44. LCB says:


    I fail to see how Scott Hahn’s incredibly necessary ministry (including creating the first orthodox text books seen in a generation) is in opposition to what Pope Benedict is doing.

    I also fail to see how individuals like Hahn (I’m not sure what others you’re referring to, since you only name him) are Modernists in any way, or in discontinuity with Tradition. Hahn is laboring for a restoration of culture just like Benedict.

  45. Clyde Andersen says:

    Very good analyis Mr. Hugo. I’m confident this pope
    will be able to use the talents of a Hahn without turning
    him away.

    I don’t think he is a Modernist but coming into the Church at
    the time he did is a handicap. He can’t see why cradle Catholics
    aare so pessimistic because in his world things have been getting
    better. Until Benedict, it wasn’t alway so for us.


  46. Hugo says:


    I’d guess that Dr. Hahn is more orthodox that 98.6% of the faculty at “catholic” colleges (you could lose your soul there). That’s just not saying much. It doesn’t explain away his theories on the Trinity or many other things I won’t mention because I think he’s re evaluting his options since more clairty is coming out of Rome than when he crossed the Tiber.

  47. Jillian says:

    Give me St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “The Glories of Mary” over Scott Hahn’s “Hail, Holy Queen” anyday

  48. Mark says:

    It is interesting how these discussions end up at cross-purposes, unintentionally contradicting each other.

    It is noted how many non-Catholic churches are filled with Catholics.

    Are these churches, for the most part, liturgically rich and doctrinally orthodox, in the Catholic sense? No (except for the Anglo-Catholics on the former point) – they are doctrinally more lax, the mainlines have female clergy, birth control is a non-issue, homosexuality is becoming a non-issue. In those (some of the Prot megachurches) that might be more “conservative” theologically, they are, liturgically, nowhere.

    So I fail to see how this Marshall Plan of the TLM and hardcore Catholic doctrine is going to attract these people back. Neither of those things seem to be what they are seeking.

    It would be nice, but not likely.

  49. avecrux says:

    I studied for my MA with Dr. Hahn as a professor.
    He dares to quote St. Thomas while other professors ridicule “scholastics”.
    He happily quotes the CCC when others say it is not scholarly.
    He teaches Biblical inerrancy- like actual, total INERRANCY – and shows how Dei Verbum has been horribly misinterpreted by those who want to limit inerrancy by their interpretations of those things contained in Scripture “for the sake of salvation”.
    He is absolutely committed to excellence in liturgy.
    He gives fascinating critiques of the nouvelle theologiae.
    He is a stalwart supporter of Pope Benedict – I still remember how shaken he was by the criticism of the Regensburg address.
    He made clarifications in his book on the Trinity based on discussions with the CDF.
    He is a loyal and obedient son of the Church.
    I read more pre-Vatican II encyclicals in his class (and more encyclicals, period) than in any other class during my studies.
    His class was a breath of fresh air for me as someone who has studied St. Thomas.
    Most of his books are published for evangelization purposes, and you get no grasp of the depth of his scholarly work.
    Read one of his scholarly articles and hang on… just try to keep up.
    And yes, I have been at EF Masses with him and his family at St. Peter’s.
    Dr. Hahn and his family are daily Mass going Catholics.
    May God bless them for their tremendous service to the Church.

  50. Maureen says:

    Why can’t we have both, and a good deal more besides?

    I will agree that it would be nice to have more shows that were done by cradle Catholics, especially if they were folks from my area instead of all these strange Southerners and New Yorkers! But that’s not EWTN’s job, really. If people want to get a certain kind of show on TV, they should make it or get their bishop or local radio station or local personable teacher to make it. There’s nothing much stopping anyone nowadays from making a podcast or vidcast, now is there?

    I’d do it myself, but I know I come over all scary. :)

  51. tradone says:

    Maureen, you’d be great!

  52. Paul J. B. says:

    Although many here have made valid points, I think we should all cultivate a strong faith in the Holy Spirit, that he is, and has been, rebuilding the Church, perhaps even in ways that we don’t realize. I don’t think the problems of the Church are all caused by one thing, or are really of recent origin. What did happen recently, though, since the 60s there has been a great new wave of subjectivism, hedonism, and secularism that has swept the Western World, right at the critical time that the interpretation and implementation of VCII was beginning. Fortunately, this time period is beginning to pass, though, at least within the critical “growing points” of the Church, one of which is the movement to revive the traditional liturgy.

    Remember: Spe Salvi!

    Kathy, welcome to the Church, and don’t be afraid! God will take care of you, if you trust him.

  53. avecrux says:

    Thanks, Little Gal.
    Here are the surrounding paragraphs:

    “Certainly the apostolate of the laity must be expanded in every way possible since it “is a right and duty based on their baptismal dignity” ( 71), and because of the urgent need the church feels to permeate as thoroughly as possible a world waiting to be newly evangelized in every sector.

    However, it is also necessary to guarantee that at every level—in language, in teaching, in pastoral practice, in administrative decisions—the sacred ministry is presented in its specific ontological nature which does not allow fragmentation or encroachment.

    Above all, it must never be forgotten that problems caused by the shortage of ordained ministers can be alleviated only secondarily or temporarily by having lay people in some way supply for them. The shortage of sacred ministers can be avoided only by “praying the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mt. 9:38), giving the primacy to God and caring for the identity and holiness of the priests there are. This is simply the logic of faith! Every Christian community that lives its total dedication to Christ and remains open to his grace will obtain from him precisely those vocations which serve to represent him as the shepherd of his people.

    Where there is a shortage of these vocations, the essential problem is not to search for alternatives—and God forbid that they should be sought by distorting his wise plan—but to focus all the efforts of the Christian people on making the voice of Christ, who never stops calling, heard again in families, parishes, Catholic schools and communities.

    We all know from personal experience that an important way for the lay faithful to participate in the pastoral ministry of priests occurs wherever a few young lay faithful hear the divine call through their contact with priests!”

    I think this actually supports Tina’s point.

  54. Kathleen says:

    Things are not always so complex. I left the Church in 1964 before VII was
    implemented. I simply stopped believing, despite 12 years of Catholic school, and
    devout parents. I think that once you stop believing in the Eucharist, it\’s over.
    I was not bitter, but sad, and on a few occasions defended Catholicism when I heard
    untrue comments about it. Many years later I would sometimes want to go to Mass, but
    knew it was different and that I would not know what to do. If someone, like one
    of my siblings, had invited me, I probably would have gone. I did not want to
    initiate it, though, for fear of getting their hopes up that I was thinking of
    returning. So my advice is to not hesitate to invite a fallen-away to Mass.

    My first Mass in decades, at my father\’s funeral in 1995, was not too comforting,
    with casual, guitar-strumming nuns singing, and my sister-in-law distributing
    Communion. When 9-11 happened I wanted to pray in a Cathoic church, but of course
    churches are locked now. In early 2004 I started saying the rosary daily, and came
    back to the Church about ten months later. I\’m not happy with the Novus Ordo, but
    it is the Mass. I thank God that my parish has two daily masses and perpetual
    adoration, and that there are two places in our metro area with TLM, which I often
    attend. I was gone for 40 years. I often ask myself \”What was I thinking?\” to
    ever have left. I also realize that deep down I did still believe, as I know that
    I would never have gone to Mass, e.g. to please a relative or friend, and received
    Communion without having gone to confession first.

    So…..invite a fallen-away to Mass if the opportunity arises. If the person
    declines, just indicate that any time they want to go, to call you and you will go
    with them. I would so have liked someone to be with me when I went to that
    first Mass upon my return home.

  55. RJM says:

    First of all, I’m completely on board with Fr. Z’s vision of Benedict’s marshal plan. I also sympathize with those who are suffering through deficient liturgy. Nevertheless, we must remember that there has never been a golden age in the life of the Church. From Arianism to the Avignon papacy to the reformation, the Church has always had to face dark forces of opposition. And, following Christ has never been easy, regardless of the surrounding context. Know your faith, draw close to the Blessed Mother through prayer and to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, go to confession, go to Mass, and (if possible) support traditionalist priests and parishes. If rebuilding Catholic culture is really a brick-by-brick endeavor–as Father Z says it is–then implementing the marshal plan starts with each one of us.

  56. Nan says:


    If you’re in RCIA at a parish with which you’re happy, you should be fine. A lot of venting goes on in comboxes and because the population here is in large part conservative, there is a lot of negativity about the modernisms in liturgy.

    Most of the things people complain about aren’t an issue at my parish though they’re issues in plenty of places.

    Any time you begin a new association, there will be surprises; whatever you think, what you find when you’re on the inside is likely to be different than you expect in some way. I’m sure your sponsor can help you sort things through if you have questions about the reality of being a member of your parish.

  57. little gal says:


    Tina thinks that only priests can save the Church. JP II’s speech clarifies the priest’s role and that laity can’t take the place of priests, but he also states that the laity have a role. JP II states ” What the Church needs is a deeper and more creative sense of complementarity between the vocation of the priest and that of the laity.” There is another document that expands upon the role of the ‘priesthood of the laity, but my mind is drawing a blank…after a long, hard week.

  58. Hugo says:


    Amen to that!

  59. henri says:

    Kathleen what a touching story.

    God bless you.

    If you could tell us both why you stopped believing in the Eucharist and paradoxically why you never stopped believing we may learning something very valuable.

    I would invite you to say more.


  60. Nathan says:

    God bless everyone for a good discussion–

    I would suggest that all the reasons we’re discussing all come under a broader category–in my opinion, God raising saints (which we’re all called to be)seems to be how the Church has recovered from large-scale abandonment in the past. The Sacred Liturgy, holy clergy, and laity filled with charity by the Holy Ghost all seem to me to be part and parcel of God raising saints.

    What kept the Church growing during the imperial Roman persecutions? When the Albigensians were dominant in southern France? In the aftermath of the Arian heresy? It was the example of the saints, fed by the Holy Mass and supported by the clergy and laity who, while sinners, loved the Church and others people.

    BTW, I’m also convinced that 1)Pope Benedict’s “Marshall Plan” to revive our Catholic identity, and 2)a renewal of proper liturgy and the use of the older forms are critical steps in raising saints and in increasing charity in all of us. The profession (with lovely pictures on this blog) of the Benedictine sisters in Kansas City, the growth of prayer powerhouses like the Carmelite Monks in Wyoming, and the beginnings of restoration in some of the religious orders–the Carthusians in one monastery in Germany, for example–is a step in the right direction.

    In Christ,

  61. Kathleen says:


    I wish I knew why I stopped believing. The only things I can think of is that I
    was young and stupid. It didn’t help that I went to a secular college and took
    a course that included “The Bible as Literature” with all that entailed. In any
    case I became convinced that what was important was how we lived, not whether we

    Perhaps what saved me in the long run was daily Mass attendance as a child.
    Perhaps my mother was praying for me in heaven.
    Oh..and Catholic radio, which I happened upon (just luck?) during that “reversion”
    year helped spur me on. Interesting side notes are that all those years, which
    included many household moves, I kept my rosary and my chapel veil from the 50’s.
    But I donated away a small Sacred Heart statue (made me feel guilty seeing it?).
    And now, every day at Mass I sit within 20 feet of exactly that same kind of
    statue, only life size.

  62. DeWards says:

    Mark wrote

    “It is interesting how these discussions end up at cross-purposes, unintentionally contradicting each other. It is noted how many non-Catholic churches are filled with Catholics. Are these churches, for the most part, liturgically rich and doctrinally orthodox, in the Catholic sense? No (except for the Anglo-Catholics on the former point) – they are doctrinally more lax, the mainlines have female clergy, birth control is a non-issue, homosexuality is becoming a non-issue. In those (some of the Prot megachurches) that might be more “conservative” theologically, they are, liturgically, nowhere. So I fail to see how this Marshall Plan of the TLM and hardcore Catholic doctrine is going to attract these people back. Neither of those things seem to be what they are seeking. It would be nice, but not likely.”

    Mark, you probably are correct. The tens of millions of Catholics who have left the Church for protestantism are in churches that you identified correctly as “liturgically nowhere.” If it’s about beautiful, awesome liturgy, then the Orthodox churches would comprise the world’s largest religion.

    Do we really believe that tens of millions of fallen away Catholics and the 70 or 80 percent who don’t attend Mass regularly are simply holding out for Latin Masses?

  63. Mel says:

    James II asked this question: “If the Holy Father were to announce tomorrow that the Novus Ordo were to be scrapped and that the TLM was to take its place, what do you think would happen?”

    One thing that that would do is to boost the spirits of tens of millions of Catholics who awaited the ultimate sign from Rome that the Vatican-induced 40-year-old liturgical nightmare is finally over: Namely, that the TLM has been restored to its traditional and rightful place in the Church.

    In other words, the authentic liturgical renewal would finally transpire. A strong Catholic identity would be restored among the faithful. Vocations would boom. The Church would be strengthened in a way that is impossible as long as the Novus Ordo is in place.

  64. Trevor says:

    +1 to Screwtape

    That made my day.

  65. Fabian Ortega says:

    Thank you Fr. Z for an excellent discussion here.
    I am a big fan of Madrid’s (even though he used to talk the party line on the E.F.) His vocal praise for it is genuine and not a “can’t beat ’em join ’em” sort of thing.

    He has described himself as “the token craddle Catholic” in the past and that’s sad. Why is it that we feel the need to demean ourselves? What makes being a convert, a job qualification? Why do even craddle Catholics try to gain credibility by saying they are— get ready for this—- REVERTS ?

    In an interview with Vittorio Messori, Cardinal Ratzinger said he was NEVER tempted to join the evangelical churches in Germany. Isn’t that something to be proud of?

    Hey, I’ve experienced dryness in the Faith, but I never left. Been through all of the upheaval and interesting times. My sister joined the convent and probably died a cynical perfidious communist. But, by the grace of God, I never considered throwing in the towel.

    I used to listen to a program out of Florida where they always said “Evangelicals make the best Catholics.”
    Oh, keep telling yourselves that!
    Years ago, when Joyce Kilmer poped, he said he had nothing to teach or show craddle Catholics. Where’s this kind of modesty today???

    When will WE (converts and craddle Catholics) learn that the Church is an institution founded by Christ for the salvation of souls? It is NOT some movement that we are called upon to put our own individual stamp on!

    Mr. Hahn, it doubtful you’ll make any NEW disovery about the Holy Spirit. You’re not going to have a heresy named after you! In a generation, you’ll be forgotten– But you will die, like all of us and Benedict is showing us how to live as Catholics first.

    Lastly, I will say that the converts are a lot more hip then us. When one of ours tries to act cool, you get this:

  66. Fabian Ortega says:

    On strategy, what Hugo said!

  67. Wow! I have just been away for a few hours, and the amount of comments had doubled!

    KATHY wrote: “While I understand that everyone’s comments and insights reflect their experiences, as one who hopes to enter the Church this year at the Easter Vigil, I have to say, I am now wondering what I am getting into!”

    I am teaching RCIA myself, and I am expecting to welcome a number of new Catholics into the Church this coming Easter. Hence, Catechumens like you are very dear to my heart. I hope that even though I am from a far distance in Canada, I can still give you a bit of encouragement.

    What you are getting into is a community with both DIVINE and HUMAN elements. The Church always have her struggles because we, the members, are limited human beings. But the Church is also divine, because the Church is established by Christ to bring us to Heaven.

    Christ came to earth mainly to SAVE us from sin and death. And the Church continues His works. We need the Church because we are all sinners who need to be saved. The Church helps us to be holy. The Church is there to save us and to make us HOLY. And the Church will continue the mission of saving souls and making souls holy until the end of the world, because Jesus promised that depsite difficulties from without and within, the power of hell shall not overcome the Church.

    Think about that: Family is the normal place for life and love despite there bound to be some difficult family issues. The Church is also the normal place for grace and holiness despite there also bound to be some difficult Church issues. We should not abandon our family, and we should not abandon our Church.

    Will pray for your journey to the Catholic Church! God bless!

  68. Credo says:

    I think there are a number of reasons why Catholics left/leave the Church. The #1 reason may be the overwhelming sense that God is missing in the life of most parishes/Catholic schools. It sounds radical, I know, afterall aren’t we all about God, but I’ve witnessed this over and over again after helping at many diocesan parishes and Catholic schools. One comes away asking “do these people really believe in God?”

    There’s a sense at most parishes that there is nothing supernatural, nothing transcendent, about being Catholic; just be a good person (whatever that means) and you’re in. Another way to describe it is that the attitude is very horizontal. The whole “we’re God to each other” thing which implies no Commandments (especially the first 3 which are all about adoring and worshipping God alone), no supernatural intervention, no purpose except to be nice to each other — in the end this leads to “we have no need for a saviour because we’re our own saviours”.

    It would make sense then that Catholics who leave the Church go to a protestant one because that place probably focuses on the transcendent God, an Almighty God, in Heaven Who is involved in our lives every day; albeit without the fullness of knowing Him that only comes throught the Church, but it’s still better than nothing which is what people are getting at most parishes and schools.

    Pope Benedict XVI is trying to show and teach Catholics that we need to get more focused on God, therefore, proper liturgy must be God-centred since this is where Catholics come every week in contact with their Faith, to experience and learn their Faith, and they should have an encounter with God and be transformed by this encounter. Sadly, most Catholics live as though God does not exist, or they have a wrong sense of who God is, because this is what they experience in the bad liturgies and awful schools. It’s interesting, and surely not a coincidence, to note that among most Traditional Mass communities the faithful have a much better sense of God in their lives every day.

    If we want to get fallen-away Catholics back at the parishes they need to be God-centred first in the sacred liturgy and then sustained with God-centred parish catechetical programs and other liturgies. This would surely then lead to parishioners who are living lives that are God-centred and attractive to those seeking God and His Church.

  69. Steve K. says:

    Consider also that many, many people left the Church not necessarily because of anything the Church did, but because they simply preferred worshipping the Zeitgeist to the Lord. We live in extraordinarily dangerous times for the soul, and the temptations of the world have never been stronger than they are now. As a result of several generations now living their whole lives in the acid bath of modern culture, people have been mal-formed and have lost the desire for the Lord. Better salesmanship won’t solve this, many people now in the modern era simply prefer to forget God, and prefer to worship themselves and/or idols. This is a terrible thought, but I think it is true. The Church is smaller and will get smaller yet.

  70. Maureen says:

    So let’s summarize reasons people fall away.

    1. Mainstream culture is blah or hostile toward faith in general, and Catholicism in particular. If you don’t love your faith and you aren’t growing and learning in it, I think it’s very likely that faith will dribble away.

    2. Peer pressure/example of loved ones. If you don’t have strong reasons of your own to stay with Catholicism, it’s very easy to resolve tension by doing what other people you care about want you to do. This can lead to conversion to another faith or to nothing in particular.

    3. Bad example or hostile actions by priest or parish. There are some real horror stories that one hears from some fallen away Catholics, even without progressing to actual physical or mental abuse (which one also hears). God isn’t going to look kindly on us for any fallen away people lost in this way.

    4. Message not liked. Sometimes this could have been solved with more tact or persuasiveness; sometimes it really is the fallen away person refusing to hear God’s word.

    5. Lonesomeness or physical need not met by parish community. There are some Catholics whose parishes have allowed them to go hungry, who have been fed by their new evangelical churches. We’ve mostly let the sodalities and other Catholic social/religious groups go to pot. Again, I don’t think God will think kindly of us for driving these people away.

    6. Enthusiastic conversion to something else. This is one where I’m not sure that it’s anyone’s fault. One might be able to prevent this by more spiritual nourishment and prayers in the parish, or by teaching discernment. But if the Devil is sending somebody visions to convert them to worshipping some neopagan goddess, there’s not much that the parish can do unless the poor sucker tells a priest or someone. (And yes, I know a poor sap who did have this happen, and no, he didn’t tell anybody. He’s an atheist now, of all things.)

  71. Maureen says:

    Btw, said poor sap was raised in a fairly traditional Latin Rite, Eastern European parish by fairly traditional people in a fairly traditional American town, and had a full twelve years of good Catholic schooling. He did have some other issues and bad sufferings; but I just wanted to point out that people are often more vulnerable than you’d guess.

  72. Brian Day says:

    I saw this entry yesterday but didn’t have time to respond. It is amazing how many entries are already here. I’ll try not to make this a “me too” post.

    Complex problems usually have complex solutions. There may be a “simple” solution, but once you start looking at the details of the solution, you find that it is more complex than you first imagined. If the “fallen away Catholic” problem was easy to solve, it would have been solved years ago.

    All of the elements of Catholic renewal have been listed above: Priests (and Bishops), Laity, Liturgy, Catechisis, Outreach. I think that all of the elements are necessary. Some have to come before the others while some can be done concurrently.

    1) Since Holy Mass is the source and summit of the Catholic Faith, it is first on the list. If it is not “orthodox” then all is for naught.

    2) Right after this are Priests and Bishops. Since priests are In Persona Christi during Holy Mass, their proper formation is crucial to implementing #1.

    3) The Laity and Catechisis are intertwined. As Fr. Anthony Ho so eloquently stated, “you cannot love what you do not know.” It is the laity that will bring people into the Church, but they have to know what they believe. And once people come to Church they have to see that not only we talk the talk, but walk the walk.

    4) Once our house is in order, then the Outreach to fallen away Catholics and others outside of the Church will make sense. This is not to belittle or minimalize the efforts of thousands of people who DO bring in people to the Church every year. I’m just saying that the job would be so much easier if the other steps were in place first.

    My $.02

  73. Elastico says:

    Lots of factors presented: polluted culture and problems with the clergy and the laity. My solution: focus on the Eucharist. If one truly believed it was the Body and Blood of Christ, one would be less likely to leave. Even in the face of scandals.

    Regarding Hahn. I think he is invaluable. His writings present Church teachings in an orthodox, positive manner so any Joe or Jane six pack can follow. He is an excellent example of one avenue on the new evangelization road. Just as Fr. Z’s blog is.

  74. Maureen says:

    Forgot to include the ones we’d mostly been talking about!

    7. Lack of preaching and teaching of God’s word in its fullness and the teachings of the Church. If you’re ignorant of why you should care, it’s not surprising if you don’t.

    8. Lack of attention to whether or not people actually are learning what is taught. “I was an altarboy but I never heard that” and “I never heard the Gospel or anything from the Bible at Mass” are surprisingly common statements by ex-Catholics. You can see how kids could tune all this out; they do it in regular school, too. But if the parish and parents and godparents and sponsors were paying individualized attention to parishioners’ spiritual lives and learning, we could catch this happening and do something. Of course, it would also help if we didn’t try to make one spiritual style fit all. (Some kids would benefit a lot more from walking the Way of the Cross than from sitting still in the pews for it, for example.)

    9. Lack of attention to transcendence and to the importance of individual prayer life and love of God of parishioners. Nobody Catholic should feel that God does not know and care about them individually; nobody Catholic should feel that God is small and nothing to worry about. If we indicate in our parishes that God is no big deal or not big on each of His people, we will get people going places that preach a personal Savior or just ignoring God altogether.

  75. LCB says:

    Brian writes an excellent post (though I disagree with “If the “fallen away Catholic” problem was easy to solve, it would have been solved years ago.”, because for some the problem is their goal).

    May I recommend the historical treasure, “Winning Converts”

    I’ll quote Karl Keating’s words on the book, “”…Winning Converts is a period piece, but it is also a reminder that what once was can be again. More than that, it is a manual of techniques that are as practicable today as they were at mid-century. After all, if a parish in Harlem-an area not known for a high concentration of Catholics-could grow from 318 members to 6,500 in just 14 years, and if other parishes could report yearly conversions in triple digits, then there is room for hope today.”

    Does the book contain some unfortunatly worded sentences, that are not entirely appropriate in modern language? Yes, but the book still contains great truth. Is some of it out of date? Some, but we must build on past successes instead of the train wreck of the last 40 years.

    Books like this + reverent liturgy (preferably in Latin)= a culture transformed by Catholic Churches filled to the rafter.

    Of course, it all means proclaiming hard truths like “Christ is Lord” and “Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church” and “Abortion and contraception are wrong, and contrary to the Gospel.”

    It’s a simple problem, and the solutions are also simple. But they are also hard. And that is why they have been left largely untried for 4 decades.

  76. little gal, please do NOT put words into my mouth. I hope you don’t intend to be mean or insulting.

    “Tina thinks that only priests can save the Church.” Where did I say THAT?
    You did not read what I said, you did not understand what I said, and you made up stuff that I never said at all. Please refrain from re-interpreting according to your own misinformed beliefs on what the Church teaches.

    The clergy is ordained. The laity is not.

  77. Brian Day says:


    I think that we agree, but I’m not sure why you say that you disagree with my statement of,
    If the “fallen away Catholic” problem was easy to solve, it would have been solved years ago
    when you write,
    It’s a simple problem, and the solutions are also simple. But they are also hard.

    I imply that it is NOT easy and you say that it is hard. Aren’t we essentially saying the same thing? I do not disagree that the solution is simple. Or is there some nuance that I am not picking up?

  78. Lynn says:

    As you’ve noted,in what has been a wonderful, intelligent, discussion so far, there are a myriad of reasons for falling away. After 12 years of Catholic schools 1962-1974 and even having considered the convent, I fell away during college, and attended mass occasionally, when required for family events, funerals, weddings, baptisms. I married (after a Pre-Cana retreat) in the Church and divorced within 3 years. I then remarried a fallen away Lutheran, and have been married for 21 years. When I first was involved in the Church. mass was in Latin, and I participated in a choir which sang in Latin. I loved these masses, but I really appreciated the conversion to English. I also greatly appreciate being able to see what the priest is doing. This draws me in to the celebration and I feel more a part of the mass and the community of saints and angels that surround us.
    I was lazy in college, and it wasn’t cool, and a lot of other excuses, and then after my remarriage I didn’t go to mass because I was not allowed to receive the sacraments, which p*##&d me off. Then I moved to Georgia, and the local Catholic Church had a banner hanging out front, inviting fallen away Catholics to attend a special series of meetings for returning Catholics (2003).
    I attended a few of the classes and have been working on my return ever since. One thing I did was purchase the new Catechism, which is truly beautifully written, and incorporates the biblical basis for our beliefs. I continue to read and educate myself, so that I understand fully what it means to be a Catholic. I love my faith and religion and church again.
    Here’s an interesting overview of what the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been working on to reactivate the inactives.

  79. Hugo says:

    Excellent , wide ranging discussion here.

    I once met a freshly ordained FSSP priest who I had heard was a convert.

    Me: “So they tell me you’re a convert Father”

    Him: “No, but I did graduate from Steubenville—does that count?”

  80. little gal says:

    To Kathleen & Lynn:

    Thank you both for sharing your stories of returning home to the Church. As someone who made this same journey 5 years ago, I can identify with both the difficulties and joys that you have experienced. I hope this discussion here will foster an openness to reach out and assist any Catholic who is not currently practicing their faith. I also hope folks will include inactive Catholics in their prayers.

  81. Brian says:

    Would it be safe to say the Vatican II did not, in fact, bring a New Springtime to the Church?

  82. avecrux says:

    Hi Hugo.
    I don’t know how extensive your knowledge of Steubenville actually is – it certainly isn’t the best Catholic school for an undergraduate education in my opinion, but I did find its Catechetics program at the Masters level to be very thoughtful in its approach to reaching exactly the audience we are discussing here. There are a lot of students gaining practical knowledge there in order to implement just the kind of strategies so many are mentioning – and yes, you can graduate from Steubenville without having even the remotest desire to join the charismatic movement. A growing number of students there have very traditional views on liturgy and the campus is making adaptations which reflect this shift in demographics.
    Also, I maintain that Dr. Hahn has a very important part to play in Pope Benedict’s Marshall Plan. As a university/seminary professor, through the “Understanding the Scriptures” text mentioned before in this thread and being used in high schools right now, and though the conferences he holds to teach Scriptural literacy from a genuinely Catholic perspective, he is having a profound impact. Why did Pope Benedict just have a Synod on Sacred Scripture? Because so much of the problems in the Church today stem from the infiltration of the historical/critical methodology – beginning in seminaries and then spreading like a cancer to all those who would have their faith destroyed by the Priests who came out of those seminaries. (Someone mentioned this above.) Why the iconoclastic destruction of beautiful Churches and liturgy? Why non-belief in the Real Presence? Why the explosion of touchy feely catechesis with little basis in objective truth? Ask how much of this had to do with the destruction of Faith caused by the “scientific” study of Scripture which had, as its mode of operation, the employment of methodology which necessarily excluded the miraculous as a possibility. It was grounded in rationalism and skepticism and was inherently flawed as a methodology. Dr. Hahn has been one of the few to willingly sacrificed his “scholarly” opportunities to critique this methodology – and is certainly the most well known, popular writer who teaches Biblical inerrancy. The Church is in recovery from the assault of a misapplication of historical criticism, and Dr. Hahn is at the forefront of this restoration of trust in Sacred Scripture as the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

  83. Fabian Ortega says:

    “No, but I did graduate from Steubenville.”

    Now, THAT’S rich!

    But I do agree with much of what Avecrux is saying. However, I think Mr. Hahn would be a lot harder to reign in if the New Springtime crowd was operating under a pontificate of John Paul 3rd instead of what the Holy Spirit gave us.

    Long Live Pope Benedict!

  84. avecrux says:

    Actually, Fabian, Hahn was reading Ratzinger before his conversion and was overjoyed with Benedict’s election – he thinks Benedict is the greatest contemporary Scripture scholar. This is from Hahn’s essay entitled “The Authority of Mystery: The Biblical Theology of Benedict XVI”: “In Benedict’s biblical theology, liturgy is the goal of creation and of the human person. In the liturgy, the purposes of salvation history are realized – heaven and earth are filled with God’s glory, each participant is swept up into the embrace of salvation, into the communion of God’s eternal love… In the liturgy, the eschatological orientation of Scriptures is actualized… Benedict observes that in the modern period there has arisen a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of liturgy and the Church, due in large part to faulty exegetical conclusions… The chief deficiency is the methodological decision to consider texts apart from the liturgy and the tradition of the Church.” You can read further in volume II of the Letter and Spirit journal – but you can see the link between Scripture and liturgy.

  85. TKS says:

    After a ‘normal’ Catholic upbringing (read Catholic schools and not much in the way of sermons) in the 60’s and 70’s, I got up the nerve to talk to priests every so often but was told such contradictory things that I started saying, “I don’t let any orgainized religion get in the way of my relationship with God.” My mind didn’t know how to cope with this so I just withdrew to going to Mass and doing the bare necessities so I didn’t commit any mortal sins. Through all of this I did say my night prayers. And these were big things like the priest who was a canon lawyer telling me that I could go back to the sacraments even though I was married outside the Church so I did. You see, to me, priests could do no wrong – that’s how much I believed in their holiness. No one ever talked about a ‘well-formed’ conscience, or what marriage really was. So a few years ago I was hit over the head by the Holy Spirit (thanks be to God), and I could see clearly. (Like seeing in color for the first time, and not realizing before that I was seeing in black and white.) Spent years reading many spiritual books, mostly old ones, learned all I could with great discernment (after what had happened to me early in my life.) I never did feel comfortable with women up on the altar, Communion in the hand, the ‘new’ music, no Tabernacles to be seen, etc. and I still don’t.

    If I keep my eyes on Jesus, I’m not sidetracked by worldly things. Many times a day I thank God that I was born a Catholic and it’s an amazingly wonderful way to live!

  86. Hugo says:

    Hey my problem isn’t so much with Hahn, just the people who think he’s the Magisterium.

  87. avecrux says:

    Yeah, Hugo – I agree with you there.

  88. Margaret says:

    I think there are as many reasons for people to leave the Church as there are people who are fallen away Catholics.

    This is an interesting comment thread to read. Particularly because I am a Catholic who is (more or less) in the process of ‘falling away’. Six months ago I started to drift away…

    The reasons that I have not been attending Mass (and been attending a Protestant service instead) aren’t all that complex. I was attending a famously liturgically solid parish and that was great in terms of liturgy – but when Mass was over… there was nothing. The complete impenetrability of the community was the end of my attendance there. Particularly as a single woman the total isolation that I experienced in my years there was destructive for me and my faith. It’s hard to be an observant Catholic among non-Catholic friends… the sense of isolation in both my Church and my non-church life was too much. I have to say this – the Protestants sure do build warm welcoming communities with opportunities for members to participate.

    So yes, the Catholic Church is TRUE. The reasons I am not presently regularly attending Mass and going to confession are COMPLETELY my own fault. I am a failure as a Catholic.

    I truly pray that in the future with the Benedict XVI ‘Marshall Plan’ there will exist parishes where there is both great liturgy and solid teaching and a great welcoming community. When that happens I will be first in line. Until then, I will be an occasional recipient of the Sacraments… and a full time participant in a different Christian community.

  89. Susan Peterson says:

    I encounter three kinds of people who have “fallen away.”

    One kind has converted to evangelical Protestantism because they heard Jesus Christ preached in a way they had never heard in the Catholic parishes they came from. Now we all know that if one listens to the words of the mass, even the new mass, one hears the gospel, and we all know that Jesus is there in the Eucharist, but that doesn’t mean that people really hear. And in some parishes one could attend for a long time and never hear scripture explained, never hear anything much but that God wants us to love each other. Of course that is a profound truth on one level, but on another level it is a shallow truism, and when one hears nothing of the cost of love, that is all it is. So one answer is for priests to preach Christianity, in the full fleshed out Catholic version. How I would love to hear preaching which explicates the readings at mass from the Catholic point of view, the way my husband’s evangelical Anglican priest does from his point of view! I believe that if priests did this consistently, it would prevent not only this kind of falling away, but a lot of the other kinds.

    The other kinds I encounter are first, people who are vague and confused and fuzzy about the faith and have ideas all mixed in with the ideas of the Zeitgeist; blind faith is dangerous, I make up my own mind, they think, but really it is what they see on TV and so on which makes it up for them. Some of these keep on going to mass off and on and call themselves Catholics. Some with a bit more consistency , who still feel some attachment to religion and God and worship find a liberal Protestant church which tells them they are right to think on their own and that their Zeitgeist approved opinions are correct; this can be a liberal Episcopal parish or a Methodist one; both suit this type of fallen away Catholic very well. Good preaching in the first place would go a long way towards preventing this.

    Then there are those who have had a moral issue with Church teaching and found a liberal Protestant church to tell them they are OK the way they are. It is possible that preaching the gospel would convert some folks before they embarked on the course which led them out of the Church, by making them love Jesus Christ more than their own will, and perhaps it would call some others to repent, but there is always sin and so some people will always be ready to listen to those who tell them it is not sin.

    Divorce issues are a special case of the above. People don’t understand what annulment is, and you would be surprised by the number of people who think that all you have to do is to give the church money and you get an annulment. One woman I know says, “I am still the same. My husband walked out on me, it wasn’t my choice. Now I am married again, if I would pay the church, I could still be Catholic. But I resent that. So now I go to the Lutheran church. It is much more friendly and the music is better. I still believe in God and Jesus, I still pray. I really can’t tell any difference except they don’t want money to acknowledge I am really married now. ” It is hard to deal with people who think on this level. I suppose better teaching from the beginning would help.

    Such are my thoughts. Preach the gospel. And of course, celebrate the eucharist in such a way that people have to take it seriously.
    Susan Peterson

  90. JoyfulMom7 says:


    As someone who is leaving the Protestant world to enter the Catholic Church in April, let me tell you that I loved the fellowship of my Protestant friends at my Protestant churches. Only problem was because of frequent church splits I was always losing the frequent fellowship of those friends. The Catholic Church has Jesus in the Eucharist, and He will never leave. That is so reassuring to me. Fellowship with friends cannot compare to the treasure you have in the Eucharist.

    I hear your loneliness. And I really do empathize. But I must ask, in what ways did you reach reach out to the community at your church? Please understand, I don\’t know you and I don\’t mean to be critical. But did you reach out to the lonely and elderly among your congregation? How about offering to help that young mother of many who feels overwhelmed with her new baby? What about that middle-aged couple with the wheelchair bound daughter who could use a break and a night out?

    God calls us to a life of service and self-sacrifice. Please consider my words, offered in love. Don\’t walk away from such a gift that God has given you in the Catholic Church.

    Many people in my new church welcomed me kindly. I am so thankful that they did. Maybe you were the one God placed in your church to begin to welcome others?

  91. Susan Peterson says:

    Margaret does point to another very important element to keeping people.

    Frankly, while I attend mass every single Sunday and holy day, my real church community is my husband’s Protestant church. I go to mass usually at a small Eastern Rite parish, and no one is UN friendly, and if I had time off during the day and could go learn to make piroghi I could eventually become part of the parish to some extent. This is a close ethnic community which is difficult to penetrate, and which doesn’t need the church to make a community. The other place I attend mass at the Latin mass, which people come from all over to attend, and they are friendly enough also, and sometimes have a coffee hour, but they are only a small group at this particular parish because the priest who says the Latin mass was transferred there. My territorial parish wasn’t very much of a community either. Before that, I did go to a really small town parish which was much more of a community, and still has some sense of that although it has diminished by being clustered. And that is part of the key. Huge parishes can only have “sub-communities” and it is harder to find and enter those. If one doesn’t make the effort to seek them out, one will be left quite alone. In my husband’s church, any newcomers will have the attention of the priest during coffee hour for fifteen or twenty minutes, and he will find out why they are there, and get a good idea of what their level of knowledge of Christianity is, without seeming to quiz them, what issues are on their minds, what needs they might have that the community can fill. He will have their address, phone number, and email address, so they can start receiving email updates from the church. They will be invited to Bible studies. If they seem troubled they may find themselves with an appointment to meet with him. This is all adjusted to the level of interest people show, of course. People in the congregation will also have introduced themselves and drawn the newcomers into conversation. If they come a few times they will find themselves serving at the soup kitchen or volunteering to clean the church once a month. There is instant involvement. I know that some people with very full lives don’t like this idea at all and are glad just to go to mass and worship and not have to interact. But I believe that there are many more people like Margaret who need this sort of community very much.

    I don’t think it is anything doctrinal that prevents Catholic churches from being like that. I know Orthodox churches which have exactly this type of community, and they could hardly be farther from being Protestant. I suspect it is chiefly a function of size. I suppose we are stuck with huge churches. But I think we really need to work at community the best we can under those circumstances. And while my other prescription-preaching-was one for priests, this one is very largely for the laity. Although certainly the priest, after he says his post mass prayers, shows that he cares for his parishioners when he spends some time in coffee hour seemingly just chatting, but also listening. But first of all, someone has to run that coffee hour. It can’t be that Protestants just naturally have more time available to do these things than Catholics do, can it?
    Susan Peterson

  92. Susan Peterson,

    Base on my own experiences as a catechist and a parish priest, I totally agree with your observations and comment. God bless.

  93. Credo says:

    I do agree that there needs to be planned Catholic social and other liturgical activities in addition to Sunday Mass. I find though at the average parish the groups are mostly people who just want to hang out and aren’t interested in learning and living the teachings of the Church. I agree with a previous commenter, we have to get our own house in order, even if that means only our parish, before we invite guests over. We wouldn’t invite someone over when our house is a mess, we first clean as best we can and then invite guests to visit. So it should be with our parish.

  94. Leslie Quill says:

    Didn’t your mother tell you that if someone irks you to ignore them and they’ll go away?
    Try that with the mutual adoration society of Lay Convert Celebs.
    They interview each other and review each others books, and we watch — then ooh and ahhh.
    It’s a manufactured reality that has only recently been surpassed in the last presidential election.

    Just be careful what you ask for. The void they leave won’t necessarily be filled by Fr. Z clones.

  95. Leslie Quill says:

    Ditto to what Hugo said

  96. Simon Platt says:

    This is an interesting thread and I’m sorry I don’t have time to read all the comments and I’m sorry if somone has already made this point (athough I think it bears repetition):

    I am sure there have been many reasons for lapsation, and that there are many ways to bring people back, and I don’t know what it’s like where you are – but round here it would help a lot if priests would visit.

  97. avecrux says:

    Simon – I agree 100% with your visiting comment. Part of my frustration is when Priests are moved every three or four years. How can they visit and get to know people – and how maintain the morale to keep trying – if they have to begin all over again when they are just starting to know people? Lots of hurts take time to heal – conversions take time – and if Father gets moved just as a potential parishioner is learning to trust again, it isn’t helpful.
    Credo, Susan and Father Ho – couldn’t agree more.

  98. Recidite Plebes says:

    Having read through these responses I’m almost enthused by the fact there seems to be a real debate here rather than the usual “creepery”. The real test will be whether the blog’s author will allow it to continue when there are responses here that differ from his own world purview.

    I’ll state now, I’m no longer a practicing Catholic. In fact I no longer think of myself as a “Catholic”, or a member of the Catholic Church. I’m divorced and re-married, and no I will not be seeking an annulment. Those of you who having read thus far have not denounced me as Satan, told me I’m condemned to Hell for all eternity and told me it’s my own fault, or otherwise judged me lacking or defective can now pick yourselves up off the floor.

    It’s important at this stage you don’t colour your judgement of what I am about to say by my position viz the Catholic Church or how you consider the state of my soul. It is more important to understand some of the points that I’m making if you want to understand why people like me take the decision to walk away from the church rather than normalise our positions within it (BTW, to put that in context, if I wanted to apply for an annulment it would most likely be an open and shut case in favour of dissolution).

    Let me start by blasting a few Shibboleths:

    1. TLM and its liberation will NOT bring people back into the pews. Equally, bad liturgy isn’t the main cause for why people leave.

    The TLM has a lot of sympathy on this blog and there are a vast majority of readers who seem to think it is the only form of authentic liturgical expression. That’s fine, but I and many, many Catholics would disagree. I tried for years to like TLM in the EF. I sang at them in scholas, learned to serve them, attended them, and to be honest they did nothing for me. I found them as alien, unfulfilling, and lacking as “rock masses”, “folk masses”, “dance masses” or any other barking mad nonsense you can describe. The ones I attended and got the most from were quiet NO masses. I used to attend the Oratory (London) and loved the 11am high mass with choir. Albeit it was sung in Latin (which I do like, but more than once a week it gets too much), but it was the fact that it was a NO done with dignity and solemnity that I liked. Most people tire of the nonsense they see done in the name of liturgy, but equally they won’t be flocking to EF masses in their droves, even if they “understood” it or were used to it. A hermeneutic of continuity by all means, offer it to those that want it, certainly, but attendance at mass will stay static overall. The only variation will be people in neighbouring parishes that are sick of stupidity will migrate to a more sensible neighbouring parish.

    2. The average parishioner doesn’t like “trendies” but the exponents of traditional liturgy often have some pretty unpalatable views of the world that the rest of us just can’t tolerate.

    “I’m alright Jack, God’s a tyrant judge and I tick all the right boxes. I’m perfect, me”. That’s how a lot of traditionalists come across whether they mean to or not, that’s when they don’t come across as being almost clinically insane. Some of the more “traditionally minded” behave as seperatists so far removed from reality they can actually be quite scary. I attended an AGM of the LMS in Westminster Cathedral Hall in the mid-90’s. The in-fighting was unsightly, but the people governing that organisation themselves were so intensely deranged (I’m sorry but I can’t find another word for it) I felt uncomfortable. Most of the arguments were just over liturgical “tat”, but some were more fundamental than that. No-one in their right mind will want to join an outfit as radical as the Black Panthers or The Nation of Islam, but that’s in effect how they behaved.

    The trendies tend to fight amongst themselves more quietly, but on the whole are less intimidating. For the most part, 99.9% of Catholics don’t want to get embroiled in liturgical politics, they just want continuity, decency, and something else.

    It’s the something else I’ll post about later when I have time.

  99. Recidite Plebes says:

    Little Gal, Braadwijk and ckdexterhaven have made some excellent points that I fear some readers have not digested because they conflict with the world as they see it (Jillian – you may not like him but Andrew Greeley has been right about a number of sociological issues that affect the church and church attendance – most notably the abuse of power which will never sit easily with traditionalists. You can’t bully people back into the pews no matter how much you might wish to). Braadwijk has made some incredibly lucid remarks about the quality of priests that deserves some thought.

    Vatican 2 did not irreparably damage the Church.

    Vatican 2 was to the church what 9/11 was to the airline industry: an even that hastened the inevitable decline already taking place. What Vatican 2 took account of was the fact that people enjoy a higher standard of education than before and the church needed to open itself to scrutiny. To that end it can be nothing but a good thing. I’ve experienced it myself with a parish priest being needlessly obstructive in baptising my daughter for his own convenience and citing canon law out of context to justify his actions. When I threatened to go to the Bishop I got “you do what you want, I’ll do what God wants”. Rubbish! 50 years ago that priest would have got his way, now priests can’t behave that way, not only because I was able to look up the canon law he quoted and demonstrated he was making it up as he went along, but also because people won’t be pushed around.

    When people start talking about “Tradition” in the context of it being a proper noun claimed as the umbrella under which a quasi-sepratist movement within the church I get worried. Some of the things people have posted on this blog have really raised my hackles to the point of questioning their grip on perspective and reality. I’ve had claims that priests have been dragged out of churches and arrested for saying TLM masses after Vatican 2 that are, to me at least, so ludicrous as to not be worth considering. History is history, you can’t go back, and pre-vatican 2 were not the halcyon days of yore meaning that even if you could go back, it wouldn’t solve a thing.

    So what might?

    First of all attitudes. I was deliberately off-hand in my opening remarks in the previous post, because that is what people are battling with. A couple of themes have come out of previous posts that need considering, namely:

    1. Divorce and re-marriage is a major challenge, as is married life and contraception itself;
    2. Other churches are more inclusive and welcoming;
    3. The clergy and how they behave.

    Let’s deal with the second issue as a pre-cursor towards the first.

    It isn’t about having trestle tables of literature at the front of the church or coffee mornings. Many people who come to church hurt in some way or another and seek healing, forgiveness, or want to understand or be understood. Anyone who has been through the breakdown of a relationship, let alone a marriage, will know how utterly painful that is. In some ways the church is good at bereavement, because it’s seen as “allowable”. Nobody’s failed when a relative dies. Fail at a marriage, and the church becomes a different beast altogether. You are treated as if you have a communicable disease and that if your martial circumstances change it will suddenly become catching and you are treated as if you need to be quarantined for the sake of the rest of the parish. The clergy, for the most part, simply don’t know how to cope. This is where it becomes interesting because the clergy will adopt one of 2 stances: one is to quote rules, regulations, do’s and don’ts and the next thing you know you are being told to seek an annulment or else. The second type of response is borne of a fear of not knowing what to do or say, because priests by and large are not married (except the odd ex-Anglican) and can’t comprehend what you are going through so they suddenly become aloof.

    At times of vulnerability what people need is somewhere they feel “safe”. This isn’t a woolley, liberal, “this sounds like one of those if you feel it in your central nervous system then it must be reality and therefore validated” arguments so easily dismissed by some on the traditional wing, it is a reality. Feeling safe in a community takes time and it’s like a dance, but where one wrong move can undo painstaking effort. I know, I’ve been there.

    This is where other churches outclass the Catholic Church. It isn’t about watering down moral theology, or the beliefs of the church. Contrary to the opinions of many, it’s entirely possible to be in a position that varies with the church, understand how it varies and why, accept that your variation is not ideal, but still be between a rock and a hard place about the position you are in. what makes the difference is the extent to which you are made to feel “safe” while still being conflicted. The church that says “I don’t care if your position is at odds – that isn’t the point I’ll love and protect you nonetheless” will win out every time. And here it isn’t about what you say, but what you do. That’s where the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church is exposed to many people – it preaches what it doesn’t practice. This isn’t just about clergy, but the people who make up the church. They can be horrible, nasty even. I’ve seen some horribly judgemental comments posted in the replies to some blog posts. Last week there was one entry about blessings during mass given by extraordinary ministers. The reply box drifted towards a quite hardline view against communion line blessings for people separated from the church. Have any of you who currently “tick all of the right boxes” any idea how hurtful that attitude is?

    Put another way: when my 4 year old daughter runs around the house after I tell her not to, and she trips and falls, I don’t beat her for being disobedient. Instead I hold her, kiss her, wait until she stops crying and the hurt goes away and I gently tell remind her why I asked her not to run about the house in the first place.

    When the Catholic Church practices what it preaches, and its clergy understand this and lead from the front and bring about a change in culture to this way of thinking, then people may start coming back. What worries me is that the attitudes of more “traditional” priests to re-discover their authoritarian tones will undo any good a freeing up of the older form of liturgy might otherwise do.

  100. CPT Tom says:

    Recidite Plebes,

    I am a divorced, annulled and remarried Catholic, . I can understand most of your points, and do agree with some of them. I just don’t understand what it is that made you leave, or were you just posting this to “test” or shock the blog, and see what reaction you’d get?

  101. CPT Tom says:

    scratch that…missed your follow on comment..

  102. Grovetucky Ann says:

    I am just a convert so I don’t know anything. Feel free to ignore me. But what Recidite Plebes says has resonance for me in one important way:

    “The average parishioner doesn’t like “trendies” but the exponents of traditional liturgy often have some pretty unpalatable views of the world that the rest of us just can’t tolerate.”

    I wonder if we need to separate our desire for better liturgy from our desire to turn back the clock to a different culture, one which was much less friendly to those of us who are marginalized for no fault of our own?

    I love good liturgy but given a choice between good liturgy and mean people and less good liturgy and nice people I will opt for nice every time. Some of us need to go to Mass for healing and not everyone wants to get involved in a “food fight” over what constitutes proper liturgy or culture.

    I converted for the same reason Fr. Neuhaus did, I could no longer see any reason to stay Protestant, the reasons for their division no longer exist and I needed the fullness of the Christian faith.

  103. Ed says:

    A great discussion, all the usual POV’s present; this line from an early post,

    “barred from the sacraments”

    frames the question for me, as another question:

    How many “cradle Catholics,” finding they have some trouble with a brother, or sister, or someone, leave their gift at the altar and go to reconcile with that person first?

    That is a direct order from Jesus; no one seems to care to obey that one, though. Romano Guardini nails it hard in “Meditations before Mass.”

    Those who feel comfortable because they’re not “lapsed,” would do well to check their responses to Christ clear mandate, before throwing words like “apostate” around.

  104. Recidite Plebes says:

    Finally, point 3: The Clergy.

    I’m sorry to say that the Catholic clergy are intellectually lacking and pastorally lacking in comparison to their counterparts. [?] I talked earlier on about “safety” and comfort and the ability to do something other than freeze in the face of a life gone adrift from the way the Catholic church mandates it should be. When my first marriage broke down it was to a Church of England vicar who I went for help, not my parish priest. My PP was hopeless. When my (now) wife and I had our first daughter we went to the PP in the parish where we live (different from the previous parish) to have her baptised. It took a lot of persuading of my sceptical and non-religious wife to let me bring her up a Catholic. Within 5 minutes of being berated, humiliated, and obstructed by the priest all that effort was undone and my wife is now quite hostile to the Catholic church. Well done that priest!

    He was of the “Old School”. Rules were rules and he was the arbiter of them. Sadly he is not the exception to the rule. The fact is, priests don’t command the same respect borne of fear through ignorance [?] that they once did. My mother, when she was alive, recounted her school days when the priest would visit the school on a Monday morning and would beat any child who hadn’t been to mass the previous day before instilling in them the fear of God (sic). How many of those children, do you think, carried on going to mass in adulthood? How many raised their children Catholic? How many of their grand children are being raised catholic today? I said before that Vatican 2 did not cause the decline, it was attitudes and behaviours such as this that caused the decline, Vatican 2 was merely a catalytic event in that process.

    The whole premise of the catholic church is authority, [HUH?] and it is authority that is often abused. Priests need to understand that respect is earned, often over long periods of time, often through showing compassion, restrain, caring, and understanding. Sometimes that respect can only come from being in similar positions to the person in need. I’m afraid to say that while there are many benefits to a celibate priesthood, many people will find a celibate priest lecturing them about marriage quite absurd. Many, in my experience, are not aware of their own limitations in regards to how they are perceived and people are often too polite, or have been brought up to be too scared to speak up, to be frank with priests and tell them when their words are falling on deaf ears because they have not earned the respect of the parishioner to be saying what they are saying.

    To be a priest is a remarkable thing. I would caution priests that ordination does not compel parishoners to automatically respect and revere them or to hang on their every word. I would caution them yet further if they are under the impression that this should be so. The nearest analogy I can think of is the armed forces. Being a former army officer I can tell you that rank confers nothing. It doesn’t matter what rank you are, it is only when you earn the respect of your men that they follow you. If they don’t respect you, they’ll be polite to your face and set you up to fail. Priests are no different: if you haven’t earned the respect of your parishoners, if you rely on a perceived sense of authority, your words will fall on deaf ears. At Sandhurst I was told I was a leader, when I took my first command I found I was there to learn! If priests are taught from the outset that their clerical state automatically confers authority then they are being set up to fail.

    Priests need to learn and inspire. I sing in a number of CofE cathedrals and churches and in spite of what catholics are taught about the CofE, their clergy are no intellectual slouches nor are they bereft of spirituality. How can any priest inspire people back to church when every Sunday they have nothing of worth to say and take 20 minutes saying it? Too few priests now live by example.

    Bishops are even worse. I knew +Patrick O’Donnahue when he was an Auxilliary at Westminster. More like him please! I feel a distinct loss of “church” when I see or read about him. When I see the others I’m glad I left. For too many people it feels like the church exists for the benefit of the clergy, not the other way around. It is beaurocratic, needlessly so, and all about rules, laws, and tribunals.

    Taking this point back to marriage and divorce. How many priests have experienced, first hand, a divorce? Or the pain of going to court? Or the suffering it causes? Annulments are nothing more than allowing divorce in all but name. What puts so many divorcees off going through the process is having been through a court once before, the lies, the recriminations, the use of the mechanism as another weapon of war. Will they want to put themselves through all of that again just to normalise their relationship with a church that put them through so much in the first place? You have a head of the Roman Rota who sees his role as not scandalising women (great incentive for any man wronged by a former spouse to seek annulment), and another website that states the church’s view that anyone not wishing to be dragged through a tribunal is evindencing their psychological flaws! See here:

    The fact is priests could be more caring without watering down the tenets of the catholic church. It is possible to treat those of us outside the norms with decency and compassion. Christ sat with tax collectors and prostitutes. The “tick box” good jews derided him and claimed it would water down their moral authority, but he did it anyway. Catholics deride the protestant “what would Jesus do?”, but it is pertinent, especially when in the name of Jesus, the Catholic clergy often do the exact opposite of what Jesus might. Jesus didn’t style himself a prince with earthly dominion, yet Cardinals do. He didn’t wear Cappa Magnas, and fascias of watered silk. He didn’t live in Episcopal palaces with a Throne Room. He didn’t say to Peter “upon this rock… and by the way set up a civil service that’s, per capita, the biggest in the world while you are at it”. All of this gives rise to a feeling of disconnection between the people and those who use the church as a means to govern them.

  105. Ed says:

    Grovetucky Ann –

    “I am just a convert so I don’t know anything. Feel free to ignore me.”

    In light of Christ’s love for you, this doesn’t make any sense, though I think I understand/appreciate your intent.

    According to Catholic teaching (reiterated by, for one, Pope Benedict XVI,) you are unique in all of Creation; there will never be another one of you; you are not there to be ignored.

    We are meant to be that “gift” to each other, from God, that uniqueness, that once-in-all-eternity-ness, standing right there.

    It really isn’t a side issue that Christ said that those who do the Father’s Will are His, OF / EF notwithstanding; i.e. Do we love much, or not?

    The “lapsed/inactive” Catholic issue has real potential for judgmentalism that we are explicitly admonished to not do.

  106. Grovetucky Ann says:

    Ed, you are nice.

    I’ve refused to allow myself to be drawn into the EF vs OF controversy and feel it isn’t my place to second-guess the Church.

    Yes, it is up to us to follow Him. Our crosses sometimes seem too heavy to bear but we can help each other carry them.

    I have reservations about some of the “superstar convert” things that go on, especially the arrogance and mudslinging in what passes for “apologetics” these days, but they are beyond me anyway. I am to just go to Mass and help Father however I can.

    Sometimes I question my conversion but I know I did the right thing.

  107. Hugo says:


    So true what you say about the superstars. There are some real bullies out there.

    It hurts most to be hurt by your own Church and these fellas just laugh it off.

    Where is Grovetucky?

  108. little gal says:

    Recidite Plebes:

    I am sorry for the hurt that we, the Church, have caused you. You have reminded me too well of the very strong feelings that I had to work thru in returning to the Church. I did, but it took years, the nagging of a very imperfect Catholic and Divine Intervention. I remind myself very often of the imperfections of the apostles, the many scandals in the Church and how the saints persevered and didn’t abandon the Church.

    As a single woman, I can agree with other posters at the isolation that exists for my group–per Fr. Loya, the Church hasn’t figured out what to do with us yet. I attend a more traditional parish run by a religious order and listen to homilies tailored to marrieds, intentions for marrieds, activities for marrieds and the interminable requests for $ for the parish which are usually connected with something for families. I mention this because I suspect we all have hurts that are in one way or another connected with the Church and this is mine.

    I think what keeps me going is that I love Mass–I attend a very reverent NO–During Mass, I inevitably think about how much our Lord loved me to bring himself down to my level, to suffer great pain to bring the gift of forgiveness and salvation to unworthy me. I feel our Lord’s love when I receive the Eucharist; it brings tears to my eyes. You will notice that I have used the words ‘I’ and ‘me’ Why? Because, just as I have experienced the supernatural Church on a personal basis, it also reminds me to stay focused on how I can show my love for our Lord via his natural Church. I suspect the human Church will always disappoint me and many others, but as I feel this personal relationship with God, it’s Him whom I don’t want to disappoint. It’s He whom I serve, when I absorb all of the hurts my brothers and sisters in Christ give me (and I them). And, it’s He whom I will face when my time on earth is over. It has taken me a long time to learn this, but this is why I stay. I abandoned this Church that Christ established once and I will not do so again… I hope God can use me to help others find their way back. I have started praying for those who have left the Church and I hope others will join me. RP, I thank you for sharing your experience here. Please know that you especially will be in my prayers.

  109. Recidite Plebes says:

    I have to wonder why Fr Z has nothing to say on the matter other than “The EF will fix everything wrong with the church”? [That’s just plain silly.] Does he not see anything else wrong? Has he no opnions on the matter? Has he listened to one word that’s been said?


  110. Chris M says:

    What’s saddening is that you think Fr Z hasn’t written anything beyond “The EF will fix everything wrong with the Church”. Just because he hasn’t given you all the attention you’d like in this thread, you feel you have to make snide comments and taunts?

    Your discussion points have substance, but the unfortunate prior post demeans your position.

  111. Recidite Plebes says:


    It isn’t specifically my points, others have made well argued points as well.

    Having read this blog on and off for a year now I actually *don’t* know his thoughts or positions on the overall pastoral state of the church or the challenges of the real/modern world against the idealism of faith. I’d like to know his views on corruption of power within the catholic church, how he would progress the agenda of child safety, how he would reconcile divorcees with the church, his experience of marriage and raising a family when your house is in negative equity and your mortgage represents 70% of your income in real terms and how you reconcile that with humane vitae to catholics who want to be faithful to the church’s teaching but equally couldn’t live in celibacy or afford more children.

    All of these issues are real to catholics both practicing and lapsed. He posed the question and people responded. Now I’d like to know what he thinks. This isn’t snide: it’s called prompting a dialogue and discussion. [Yes… fine. But you have missed the an essential point: this is my blog, not yours. I get to prompt dialogue and discussion.] I’m not taunting at all, but equally read point 3 of the above. Being a priest doesn’t grant automatic superiority and respect is earned. I’m quiet entited to ask, in a direct manner, what he thinks without a bolt of lightning hitting me.

  112. Recidite Plebes says:

    I appreciate that, but, if we were in the pub right now having a pint (my round) of Old Peculiar, I’d be asking the same thing of you.

    I’d actually like to know what you think, that’s all. You promoted the discussion with the OP.

  113. Recidite: When we are in a pub, with the aforementioned pint, you can ask.

    Right now, however, I am pretty busy.

    Meanwhile, if you have been reading this blog for a year’s time, then you ought to have a better understanding of my position than what you asserted about me.

  114. Grovetucky Ann says:

    Hugo, Grovetucky is the pet name for Grove City, OH. There are a lot of Appalachian folk here so the city people call us Grovetucky. We wear it as a badge of inverse honor.

    Yeah, the superstar problem is just getting worse and it sometimes seems as if media outlets like EWTN are encouraging it by inflating the superstars’s egos even further.

    If I get like that please push me under a bus.

  115. Grovetucky Ann says:

    little gal, I have never married and am a professional. I too struggle with the family oriented parishes. They even have a “Family Life Center” sometimes. But I realized when I was converting that the Church is more celibate-friendly than the Protestant denominations I was involved with which were forever trying to match me up with somebody. I know for a fact that God has intended for me to be celibate and the Church allows me to and leaves me alone.

    But it is very hard to get connected as most family people won’t ask a single person to go anywhere with them. Most of my friends are elderly. Elderly couples seem not to know this taboo or they drop it somehow.

    God bless you all who blog/post/rant/whine/sigh here. I am learning so much.

  116. little gal says:


    The USCCB did a survey of Catholic attitudes and practices regarding marriage. Per their survey:

    “The report said marriage patterns among U.S. Catholics were similar to those for all Americans, with 53 percent of Catholics married, 25 percent never married, 12 percent divorced, 5 percent widowed, 4 percent living with a partner and 1 percent separated. Including those who have remarried, 23 percent of American Catholics have been divorced at some time.”

    If you consider that 25% of Catholics are not married, it stands to reason that pastoral work/church activities should be offered to support their (spiritual) needs just as for married folk.

  117. Grovetucky Ann says:

    My parishes both have very few singles. That is okay. The priests are priestly, the people are nice. I can’t see myself going to a parish just because they cater to middle-aged singles. And what would they do differently, really? I could do without the babbling/screaming babies during Mass though.

  118. Credo says:

    Just curious: how many here who have left the Church or are leaving the Church agree with the Church’s teachings on contraception, same-sex unions, abortion, only men clergy?

    My experience has been also that many who leave the Church and give the reasons that the people aren’t friendly enough, there aren’t enough social programs, and so forth, only use these reasons as a cover for what the real reason is, that they disagree strongly with the moral teachings of the Church. Many only want to attend social groups because they can’t bear to listen to the Church’s teachings that they don’t believe in.

    This truth tends to come out eventually once they’re given the opportunity to voice why they left the Church. Many times when they’re given centre stage the litany of demands start to flow: “if I come back to the Church I demand that women be allowed to be priests, that women must be allowed to use the pill, that gay “marriage” be allowed, I don’t want to get an annulment before I re-marry, abortion should be allowed in some cases” and on and on. Not all of those who left the Church do this, but there are many, many who do. I’ve run many groups in the Church over the past 18 years both social and catechetical and see this time and time again.

    Returning to the Church once having left truly is a process, a necessary process like the prodigal son. I left the Church for about a year 14 years ago and it was only after I reconciled my mind and my heart to the Church’s moral teachings that I could go back in true humility without making it all about me. It’s funny to look back now and think of how obvious my lack of humility was; I refused to say “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…” because I thought it was degrading. Upon returning to the Church, completely broken, I could finally say aloud, “Lord, I am not worthy…”

    It is amazing to me that one of the commentators on here demands their questioned to be answered by Fr. Zuhlsdorf. Proves what I typically have observed.

  119. little gal says:

    This rather long article by INSIDE CATHOLIC asks the question of why Catholics are leaving the Church.

    ‘We asked 34 prominent Catholics from various backgrounds to answer the question, “Why Are So Many Leaving the Catholic Church?”‘

    Their responses follow.

    Most Rev. Thomas Wenski
    Most Rev. Robert Vasa, D.D.
    Most Rev. Jose H. Gomez, S.T.D
    Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone
    Robert Novak
    Sam Brownback
    Ray Flynn
    Mother M. Assumpta Long, O.P.
    Rev. James V. Schall, S.J.
    Rev. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
    Russell Shaw
    Mary Jo Anderson
    Rev. Frank Pavone
    Robert Lockwood
    Eve Tushnet
    Tom Hoopes
    David Carlin
    Arthur Brooks
    Todd M. Aglialoro
    Ronald J. Rychlak
    Mark P. Shea
    Jeffrey Tucker
    Rev. Dwight Longenecker
    Elizabeth Scalia
    Monsignor Steven D. Otellini
    Rev. Phillip W. De Vous
    Rich Leonardi
    Thomas Peters
    Steve Skojec
    Marjorie Campbell
    John Jakubczyk
    Laurance Alvarado
    Zoe Romanowsky
    Margaret Cabaniss

    Here is the link for the article:

    [Ah yes… a site which studiously ignores WDTPRS. But this link, above, seems not to work. Too bad… that sounded interesting.]

  120. Credo says:

    I would like to pass along what was said to me by a wonderful Priest when I was leaving the Church (and it was always in the back of my mind while I was gone).

    This is for all who have left their Catholic faith:

    “Leave if you feel you must, but always know that the Church will always be waiting for your return with open arms. You will always be welcome back home.”


  121. wsxyz says:

    I have been married since my early thirties and maybe I am just unusual but I don’t see what the big problem is with living celibate. If a Catholic person’s spouse bails out and files for divorce, why would that Catholic person seek annulment and remarriage (or just remarriage without annulment)?

    If know your marriage is valid, how can it suddenly become invalid just because your spouse ran off? If your marriage is valid, then you are still married until death, no matter what the civil government says – so why not just stay celibate? Why condemn yourself to eternal torment in Hell for the sake of illicit sexual relations?

    Am I missing something here?

  122. little gal says:

    The link in my post worked fine for me, but here it is again:

  123. wsxyz says:

    See what I say above though. By extension of your reasoning I’m saved by virtue of an army of civil servants and quasi judiciaries with nothing better to do than pour over the minutiae of relationships to determine what is indeterminable

    On the contrary, as you said, the Church does not cause a marriage to become invalid, the Church declares that the marriage never existed, but that declaration is not infallible.

    But I think most people already know whether their marriage is valid or not. Catholics who were properly instructed before marriage and who married as adults are validly married, with certainty approaching 100%. Even a decree of annulment does not change that fact.

    As for your eternal fate, only God knows what it is, but Holy Church tells us infallibly that civil remarriage after civil divorce of a valid marriage is adultery, that adultery is mortal sin, that unrepented mortal sin is punished with eternal damnation.

    Unless one has some specific reason to believe that their original marriage is invalid, it would be foolish to risk Hell by entering a civil marriage. If one does have a specific reason to believe that their original marriage is invalid, then it would be foolish to risk Hell by remarrying without seeking an annulment.

    However bad the annulment process is, Hell is a lot worse.

  124. I removed some comments of someone seeking to dominate the combox.

  125. RBrown says:

    Recidite Plebes,

    So you went to Sandhurst?

    I once heard a ret BG say: Command is something granted to you by your superiors. Leadership is something you earn from those you have to command.

    Incidentally, a friend I see almost every day is a ret LTG who was once Dep Commander of all US Forces in Europe. He told me that years ago in the Baby Generals course some of them were sitting around talking with a 4 star admiral. One of the Babies asked him what he thought was the most important thing they should keep in mind as generals. His reply: Protect your mavericks because they’re the only ones who will give you bad news.

  126. Recidite Plebes says:

    RB, yes I had the joys of a year at “The Factory” being moulded into a baby horrificer.

    Both of the things you say are largely true, though the latter in the context of the army only, I fear. The British Army has a tradition of moral courage where soldiers are instilled with the culture of speaking out where they see abuses of power, poor leadership, or illegal orders. The RCC could do well to listen and learn from that.

    I fear, alas, that one of the great problems people have with the church is the culture of covering up and closing ranks to avoid “scandal”. In this day and age any priest or bishop who acts in a partisan way to cover up the misbehaviour of a colleague isn’t going to stay hidden in the shadows for long. The more the church tries the “go away, nothing to see here” approach of covering up the more it will suffer and the more people will walk away in disgust.

    And I’m not just talking about child abuse either. In the UK one bishop has attemp;ted to close parishes without following Canon Law. His VG attempted to smear the Parish Priest who faught the closure. Parishoners have been threatened with being dragged through the civil courts by diocesan lawyers on trumpted up allegations of libel for speaking out in the press and others have been treated in a heavy handed manner. This was all last year, you need onnly look up the stories about the Ponterfract deanery in the diocese of Leeds to read it for yourself.

    The church needs to learn it can’t be have this way or attempt to bully people. It relies too heavily on the lifelong conditioning of “you must obey the bishop/Fr” and gives little trust or respect to the parishoners. No conglomorate could behave this way and hope to stay in business, so why shoulf the RCC? It Bp Arthur Roache behaves like this, he can hardly be bemused if his mass attendance figures start going down. He can hardly blame young people for not going to mass when they see their parent’s generation being treated like this.

    I read a book called “Lead us not into temptation” about the US child abuse scandal in Lafayette in the late 80’s. One recurring theme was the reluctance of parents to accuse the guilty priests and report them to the authorities because they were conflicted about their catholic identities and their upbringing of blind obedience, meanwhile their children continued to suffer. When they did report the abuses of one priest to the bishop the bishop threatened them to stay silent while moving the priest to other parishes to continue abusing. When some parents were appalled at learning this thy threatened to tell parents in the parish where the abuser priest had gone and the bishop again threatened them. It was their lawyer who eventually broke cover, and the bishop then threatened the livlihood of the local press who reported the scandal by pressuring business from the catholic community to withdraw their advertising.

    This doesn’t go unoticed. The UK hasn’t been rocked with the child abuse scandal to the same extent, but in Ireland, the behaviour of the bishops was not much different and there has been a sudden and dramatic falling away from mass attendance. The issue here is not about child abuse, but about abuse of power and covering up. It is the covering up that causes people to question their allegiance to the church, very rarely the scandal itself. I think bishops miss this point. Much as they hate the notion, much as they don’t want it, much as they refuse to accepot it as a reality, they are becoming more and more accountable to the parishoners in the pews and not the other way around. The wise bishops will respond to that, the ignorant or power hungry will not.

    The real battle for the soul of the church will not be over liturgy, that was just a distraction that the left/right wings through to stop people fighting over the real issues. The irony is that liturgy is just one of the issues that has brought people to the realisation that they are being excluded from their own church that has, for years, been run by the clergy for the benefit of the clergy. The church can stay true to its message while recognising it exists for the benefit of all, when it finds a way to deal with that problem and divest itself of both its attempts to hold power and its abuses, people will want to come back. When they do they should find a liturgical home that suits them, whether it be smells and bells latin, or plain old NO in English.

  127. Margaret says:

    “Just curious: how many here who have left the Church or are leaving the Church agree with the Church’s teachings on contraception, same-sex unions, abortion, only men clergy?”

    I agree completely with the Church’s teachings on all of those issues. The reason I am falling away is not because the Church won’t capitulate to my wants in terms of faith and morals. Rather, it’s that (for me) it is profoundly isolating as a community of faith.

    For me, the isolation of being a single Catholic woman in a conservative parish is profound. I could have gone to a ‘hippy parish’ – but I really wouldn’t belong there (they are more likely than I to want all the things you list) and I would be isolated there as the ‘crazy conservative’. Instead I found a conservative Protestant denomination that has many committed Christians who are warm and welcoming to new members (even a ‘kind of Catholics’ like me).

    I think lots of practicing Catholic look at those who have fallen away and dismiss them as sinners. I can take that – I am a sinner. What I don’t like is how many people assume that the reasons I have left are because of disagreements with basic teachings of the Catholic Church. It makes it easy to dismiss those who have left and never really consider what might be done to improve the Catholic community to make it easier to stay.

  128. But, Margaret, no matter how much warmth and welcome you receive from your Protestant friends (and I do not discount the importance of that) you are depriving yourself of the one thing necessary– Jesus Himself, waiting for you in the Eucharist.

  129. Credo says:


    Here’s a few suggestions/thoughts since you don’t reject the Church’s teachings:

    1. Why not continue to go to a good Mass and then for your social time hang out with your protestant friends? You can still do Scripture studies with them (while privately studying the proper interpretation of Sacred Scripture by the Church), go out socially with them, and so forth.

    2. Also, consider looking at the Catholic Church through a wider lens. What I mean is you don’t have to be confined to activities at only one parish. Look around to try and find faithful Catholics anywhere in your area by going to good faithful Catholic groups/activities(there usually aren’t many, but often there are at least a few). Usually there are advertisements and I would suggest calling the organizer of the group to find out how faithful it is to the Church’s teachings.

    3. Consider going to weekday Mass at a main parish/Cathedral in your area. This is how I met and made friends with many faithful Catholics from all over my area.

    First, and most importantly, pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you to good faithful Catholic friends. He will do it, it just may take a little help on your part, too.

  130. Credo says:

    One other thing I forgot to mention:

    To help you stay connected with your Catholic faith and your Catholic brothers and sisters, keep reading good Catholic blogs, websites, etc. Also, I suggest watching a Catholic TV station like EWTN (you can watch it online as well). These things will help you to still feel connected to other Catholics and with the life of the Church.

  131. Margaret says:

    Margaret – Your are totally correct. It’s a sign of just how important these issues are to me that I have chosen to attend services and be part of a Christian community without the Eucharist. I know that to others that is clearly the wrong choice. However, right now for me it is the right one. Just to be clear – I say I am ‘falling away’ because I am very rarely attending Mass or going to confession. However, it hasn’t been a year since I have done both so I haven’t quite apostatized.

    Credo – Thanks for the suggestions. I really do appreciate them. Actually, it was doing the first thing on your list there that led me to where I am now. At some point being involved in a community and not attending it’s services doesn’t work. Also for me, it just made it ever more clear how out of place I am as in the Catholic Church. I really do believe that the Holy Spirit has guided me to my friends who are faithful, committed Christians – even if they aren’t Catholics.

    I don’t want to intrude on Fr. Z’s combox. I just wanted to point out that those who leave the Church aren’t always divorcee’s or those who refuse to accept teachings of the Church on the issues of the day. I really do believe that there are as many reasons for people leaving as there are people who have left. Trying to understand these reasons can be very good for the Church. It will help some people never leave, and bring some ‘fallen away Catholics’ back.

  132. Credo says:


    Maybe one day perhaps consider joining us, your Catholic brothers and sisters, in helping to build up our Catholic parishes. I know now isn’t the time for you, but please keep it in the back of your mind.

    God bless you and keep you.

  133. little gal says:

    One of the things that I learned in my journey back to the Church is that the reason that I identified for leaving was not the true reason. I do not mean to say this is the case for every inactive, but I do think the idea is worth mulling over. At some point, I read an article by Fr. Greeley called,” Why I Remain A Catholic.” He has written on this theme several times and this was one of the earlier versions; it was written after 1970–good luck finding it! In it, he describes four reasons for leaving the Church. It was a tough thing for me to read because it confronted me and I had to admit that my ‘reasons’ were not good enough. Although there are those who make blanket dismissals of anything Fr. Greeley does, I think this article and one other thing-a book-are very good. I recommend that folks take a look at this article.

  134. wsxyz says:


    While I sympathize with your situation and, on a human level, I can understand why you have made some of the choices you have, I feel like I have to point out that you are committing mortal sin by not attending Sunday Mass, which brings somewhat into question your stated acceptance of the teachings of the Church. It is also without a doubt false to claim that the Holy Spirit has led you to abandon the Church to the point that you miss Mass on Sundays.

    I know that many protestant communities are far warmer and more welcoming than the typical Catholic parish. I am a former baptist myself and I often complain to my wife about how it seems so hard to get to know people at Church. But those protestant communities are lacking the Truth and every single person in them is at grave risk of eternal damnation.

  135. Margaret says:

    wsxyz –

    Just to be clear – I NEVER said that the Holy Spirit led me to abandon the Church or to miss Mass. Instead I said that the Holy Spirit led me to find my committed Christian friends.

    I accept the teachings of the Church are true. I am just having a hard time living by them right now. In other words – I am a sinner (as I have already stated above).

    I am fully aware that when I choose to miss Mass on Sunday or a holy day of obligation I am committing a mortal sin. If I am eternally damned because of that… so be it. However, I tend to be a bit more hopeful about God’s mercy on the subject.

  136. Jillian says:

    Margaret, you wrote:

    “I am fully aware that when I choose to miss Mass on Sunday or a holy day of obligation I am committing a mortal sin. If I am eternally damned because of that… so be it. However, I tend to be a bit more hopeful about God’s mercy on the subject.”

    Now that’s truly scary. Yes, God is merciful, but don’t slap Him in the face with it. I will pray for you.

  137. little gal says:

    “One catches more flies with honey(AND COMPASSION), than vinegar.”

  138. Mikki says:

    I am a trying to return Catholic for about a year and a half now, having been away from the Church for about 35 yrs. I am finding the process very difficult because of the lack of support programs for returning Catholics. Churches always welcome those who want to convert, but never give the time of day to those struggling to come back. I just want/need someone to talk to about my feelings, my struggles, and my guilt. I want a support group of my peers that I can identify with, who know what I’m going through, who have walked in my shoes, even if we took different paths when we left the Church. Support groups are pretty much non-existent for fallen away Catholics.

    Every Church should have an outreach to welcome back Catholics, even if it is only to refer them to a Church in the area that has a structured program. There are so many different reasons why Catholics left the Church, I think the focus should be on bringing them back and then dealing with why they left. I think many Catholics never return because they can’t take that first step. An outstretched hand from the Church should be the first step in helping wondering Catholics return.

  139. Mikki: Every Church should have an outreach to welcome back Catholics

    I agree.

  140. Ed says:

    Mikki, Margaret,

    Christ is Lord of the Sabbath. Trust in Him; leave the judgments to Him.

    Trust yourself and your desire to return to Catholic practice.

    As this blog notes so often, particular Catholic congregations can come up with the most astounding nonsense, and claim to speak for Christ through it all.

    It’s not about them. It’s about Christ and His Love for you. Never let go of Him, no matter what. One of the Church Fathers said that; best advice, regardless of circumstance.

    It may help to read Pope Benedict’s encyclical on Love; he’s right there with Christ on our behalf.

  141. Mikki says:


    “Trust yourself and your desire to return to Catholic practice.”

    I am slowly working my way back to the Church, and hopefully Margaret is too. So that makes two out of the 16,000,000 fallen away who are working our way back. Does that put things more in perspective as to the scope of this problem? The Church does not address this issue. They barely recognize the problem. The little attention given to it is undermined by not having support programs in parishes. New York or California may have great programs for inactive Catholics, but because I don’t live there, they don’t do me any good. If help and support aren’t at a local level, what’s the use?

    Thank you for letting me rant.

  142. Ed says:

    Mikki –

    I think I understand your point, and I surely, from experience, know the damaging effects of isolation.

    I got some help from Pope Benedict XVI, who says this about that:

    “Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern. This I can offer them not only through the organizations intended for such purposes, accepting it perhaps as a political necessity. Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.”

    “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.”

    “The unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbour is emphasized. One is so closely connected to the other that to say that we love God becomes a lie if we are closed to our neighbour or hate him altogether.”

    These quotes are all from the first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, which can be accessed at the Vatican website, here:

    Problematically, this direct word from the Vicar of Christ on Earth challenges the idea that “The Church does not address this issue.”

    We all crave the “look of love” that Pope Benedict pronounces as the duty of the Church. It’s not wrong that we would want this; it’s not wrong that we have a deep expectation to met with such Love.

    The hard thing is that we have to give that for others, whether we receive such love from them or not. It can be very hard, yes.

    The Sacraments are yours, from Christ. No one can take that from you. If the past seems an obstacle, take that burden to the Sacrament of Penance, rid yourself of that drag.

    Same with Mass. Go. It’s yours.

    Statistics are meaningless in the face of Christ’s Love for you. Go.

    Rant for rant, then; fair trade.

  143. Aurelia says:


    Just an idea for your consideration: if there are no programs in your area for Catholics who want to return to the Church, you may want to call, or write to, the bishop to let him know how much this would help you and many others in a similar situation.

    That might spark something in your diocese, or perhaps help you to find such support nearby.

    In any event, please know that I am praying for you, and for all who are trying to find their way home to the Church.

  144. Credo says:

    For Catholics who want help to come back home to the Church, be sure to go to this website. There are resources of all kinds, including testimonials and places to go/people to contact in your area. Be sure to watch the amazing short videos. Catholics Come Home:

  145. Mikki says:


    Thanks for taking the time to offer advice. I will read the Pope’s encyclical on love. I’ve been away from the Church for so long, I’m not up to date yet on all the “Catholic stuff”.

    “The Sacraments are yours, from Christ. No one can take that from you. If the past seems an obstacle, take that burden to the Sacrament of Penance, rid yourself of that drag.”

    That is one of the problems facing some returning Catholics; not everyone can just pop back in as easily as they popped out. Because of bad choices we made while we were away, we are not in good standing with the Church, so we are not allowed to give a confession or receive the Eucharist. I am one of those who can attend Mass, which I do, but that is all I can do. I’m not complaining; I did what I did, so it is what it is. I’m just stating my situation. It’s not stopping me from being where I now know I should be.

    The Church may address the issue, but they are not proactive in resolving it. The words of Pope Benedict XVI are comforting, as are yours, but neither are a solution. You are only addressing me and offering advice for me, but I am trying to point out that there are MILLIONS of “me’s” out there who will never see the benefit of your advice. Statistics are not meaningless when you are talking about how many people could be brought back to the Church and know Christ’s love again. Think about it….millions. The numbers are daunting.

    I probably sound angry, but I’m not. I’m just very frustrated that virtually nothing is being done to help fallen away Catholics return to the Church. It’s like the elephant in the living room; it’s there, but no one wants to do anything about it so they pretend it’s not there. Meanwhile, the numbers are growing.


    Thank you for your suggestion. I think I will write to the bishop. And thanks for praying for me. You know I really need it.

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