Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Study - 3% of Catholics Left Church Because of Scandals

Which congregations are getting the 3% of Catholics who have left?
Baptists, in large part.

Below is an interesting report from Notre Dame economist Daniel Hungerman (full report here - pdf) on signs that the Catholic Church has lost 3% of her members due to scandals, in addition to billions of dollars.

The abstract tells the story:
This paper considers substituting one charitable activity for another in the context of religious practice. I examine the impact of the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal on both Catholic and non-Catholic religiosity. I find that the scandal led to a 2-million-member fall in the Catholic population that was compensated by an increase in non-Catholic participation and by an increase in non-affiliation. Back-of the- envelope calculations suggest the scandal generated over 3 billion dollars in donations to non-Catholic faiths. Those substituting out of Catholicism frequently chose highly dissimilar alternatives; for example, Baptist churches gained significantly from the scandal while the Episcopal Church did not. These results challenge several theories of religious participation and suggest that regulatory policies or other shocks specific to one religious group could have important spillover effects on other religious groups.
As one of my coworkers put it, "we all have to make sure that the students never view the Catholic faith as “substitutable” for anything else. The Mass, Eucharist and sacraments have no substitute."

Of course in our context it is college students. In the broader context it is every Catholic that needs to be evangelized.

In many ways our Catholic parishes, dioceses, apostolates, ministries, and Catholics themselves have forgotten their mission is to "make disciples of all nations." If we are not doing that, we aren't being the Church Christ wants us to be.

What are you doing to make sure the Catholic Church is gaining in numbers, not losing them?

Links of Interest:


Brandon Vogt said...

I think the even greater damage is the number of non-Catholics kept from exploring the Church because of the scandal.

I can't tell you how many atheists, agnostics, and Protestants who bring up the sex abuse scandal whenever the discussion turns toward the Church.

Marcel said...

Brandon - of course that statistic is impossible to track.

We need a return the the basics of the faith. Without the Gospel being preached and lived, there is no power to change hearts. All the fluff and committees and programming don't mean a thing if the power they depend on is gone.

Nathan said...

I wonder how many people use the abuse scandal as an excuse for leaving the Church or (in the case of non-Catholics) for not looking into the Church more fully. If a Catholic understands that the Church was founded by Christ as His mystical body and where Christ is present on the altar in the flesh, so to speak, how could said Catholic leave b/c of the sins (terrible as they certainly are) of some small percentage of priests? The Church is Holy, but we who make her up are sinners... all of us... including the priests. That shouldn't cause any of us to leave, rather it should cause all of us to help the Church move forward and do all we can to make sure such things won't happen in the future.

Jeanne Grunert said...

I don't think the scandal is an excuse. If anything, I think the church has underestimated the scandals' impact on people with shaky faith. All they need is one push to topple them out the door and that was it - more like a shove than a push. Couple that with poor catechists, bad experience with priests/religious, and bad church experiences and it is tough to "evangelize" and talk about the wonders of the Eucharist when you have people hurting and bitter. The few I have talked to who genuinely tried to come back found nothing but people yakking at them about the rulebooks and not enough love. We must love first; that will attract people back. The Holy Spirit must work through us, the faithful, to touch the hearts of people hurting from the scandals and from the hurt that ensues.

Jack said...

At the last Baptist congregation with which I was associated, the pastor's wife divorced him for adultery and the married minister of music had a taste for teenaged boys.