Emptying pews

In an unusal move Catholics in the diocese of Trenton, NJ, have participated in market research on lapsed Catholics.

A report in the National Catholic Reporter notes how “Villanova University in Philadelphia asked former Catholics in the Trenton, N.J., diocese why they left the church”. The piece goes on to say that “the study suggests new ways the church can approach Catholics who are dissatisfied with what the church teaches or how it acts — including those so dissatisfied that they have decided to leave”. It goes on to mention how “One of their key recommendations was for pastors, bishops and other church officials to respond consistently to questioning or angry Catholics with constructive dialogue rather than a simple reiteration of church rules or policies”.

It mentions how “Fr. William J. Byron, a professor of business at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia — who collaborated in the study with Charles Zech, founder and director of the Center for the Study of Church Management of Villanova’s School of Business — several times cited a response of one disaffiliated Catholic who complained, ‘Ask a question of any priest and you get a rule; you don’t get a ‘Let’s sit down and talk about it’ response.'”

Unsurprisingly the news report goes on to say how “Byron and Zech told conference participants at The Catholic University of America that many of the responses from lapsed or disaffiliated Catholics in the Trenton diocese matched what researchers have known from other surveys: They object to what they see as the church’s unwelcoming attitude toward gays and lesbians or toward the divorced and remarried, they find homilies uninspiring, the parish unwelcoming, the pastor arrogant or parish staff uncaring, or they have suffered terrible personal experiences with a priest or other church official, such as rejection for being divorced”. It goes on to say that “Some of the former Catholics complained of priests being too liberal, while others cited ‘the extreme conservative haranguing’ they heard in homilies – reflecting the intra-Catholic political divisions that reflect similar divisions in the broader U.S. society”.

It says that “Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell said he invited Byron and Zech to conduct the survey of ex-Catholics in his diocese after reading an article Byron wrote last year in America, a national Jesuit magazine, suggesting that ‘exit interviews’ of former Catholics might help the church to understand better why Catholics leave the church and to respond more effectively to their concerns”.

The article in America that kicked off the desire of Bishop O’Connell is prevalent throughout Europe, most recently in Ireland, and is a direct result of  the Church authorities themselves as much as laity unwilling to accept naked hypocrisy.

A further move that will only infuriate many in Europe and North America is the news from Rocco that, “Citing ‘serious doctrinal problems’ found over the course of a four-year study of the umbrella-group representing the majority of the US’ communities of nuns, the Holy See has announced a thoroughgoing shake-up of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), naming Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle as its delegate to conduct an overhaul of the group”. Rocco goes onto note “Despite the lack of official comment, a former LCWR president — and quite possibly the body’s most celebrated member — Benedictine Sister of Erie Joan Chittister told the National Catholic Reporter that ‘When you set out to reform a people, a group, who have done nothing wrong, you have to have an intention, a motivation that is not only not morally based, but actually immoral'”.

Maybe this is exactly want Benedict wants?


2 Responses to “Emptying pews”

  1. Fork in the road « Order and Tradition Says:

    […] has been mentioned here recently the US national conference of women religious, the Leadership Conference of Woman […]

  2. Worldwide Catholic poll | Order and Tradition Says:

    […] on from the poll conducted in the Diocese of Trenton, NJ, a poll has been conducted which has been published in the Washington Post. The results, […]

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