On the Decline of Catholicism….

The Vatican.
A thoughtful article by an young Ex-Catholic who still cant completely let go is linked here, entitled “Catholic Church: It’s Not Me, It’s You”.

Typical of the young and those just entering middle age folks of today the author Kathleen Ferraro is pro-choice, pro birth control, doesn’t like the homophobia and the general damnation inherent in the Church and realizes much of the dogma and behavioral restrictions she was taught as a child are neither necessary nor true. What young liberal, even evangelical Xians say on Rachel Held Evans website for example, or the writings and talks of the liberal Pastor Rob Bell sound much like the thoughts of this ex Catholic.

The Catholic Church is hemorrhaging every bit as much as the Evangelical ones, losing the educated, Internet globally aware generations of the 21st century. The author of the HuffPo article on the Church is a student at Northwestern, the prestigious Big Ten university just north of the Windy City, so it is only fitting I complement her viewpoints by examining the decline of Catholicism including some data and perspectives from our mutual backyard; the huge but rapidly shrinking Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, drawn from a comprehensive article published this January in the Chicago magazine entitled “Why is Chicago losing its Catholics” which reports “that the downward trend will not reverse anytime soon.”

Some tidits:
In 1980, 43% of the Chicago metropolitan population was Catholic (close to 4 million), now down to 35% or around 2 million people. The US overall is 24% Catholic.
Susan Ross, Chair of Loyola’s Theology Dept. explains that “if not for Latino immigration”… the numbers would be down a lot more, and “I think we’ve lost this generation.” It is also noted that ex-Catholics are younger and better educated than those remaining with the Church.
I could not agree more and its not just Catholicism.

Later in the article, it’s reported that the Catholic Church is even losing young Hispanics, who like many whites don’t leave Xianity altogether and tend to gravitate to Protestant megachurches like the groundbreaking Willow Creek church in the affluent suburbs west of the city. I visited it once long ago and nicknamed it “Yuppie Church” as it was all about entertainment and comfort with Broadway class productions, tag-team sermons, celebrity pastors, comfy theatre seats, Starbucks, childcare, you name it. The stodgy old Catholic (and mainstream Protestant) churches just cant compete. And they havent caught on in 20 years…

Chicago magazine goes on to say that the issue of priest sex abuse is still the #1 concern of ex- Catholics and that the Chicago Diocese has coughed up $130 million since 1980 in payouts to sex abuse victims. $130 million. That’s some pretty costly buttsex with children you bastards, let ’em pay.
Not to worry tho, in 2013 the diocese reported $2.79 Billion in real estate assets alone, much of it grossly undervalued often at acquisition price and not current market value (some assets were acquired a century ago). Annual losses for the Diocese have averaged above $50 million for the last 5 years…
With just $5 billion in actual assets they could lose $50 million annually for another 100 years.
Such is the obscene and unreported, unregulated, untaxed wealth of the Catholic Church. Worldwide assets of Holy Mother Church are estimated in the trillions. And they are responsible to no-one.

Other hot buttons:
Birth control should be allowed according to 70% of Chicago Catholics (79% of all US Catholics agree), Women should be priests (52%, 68%), doctors should be allowed to terminate the terminally ill at their request (52%, 68%) abortion should be legal (42%, 52%), same-sex marriage should be legal (45%, 54%).

The new Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich acknowledges the impact of the sex scandal but sounds as clueless as other Xian leaders as to why the young are leaving in droves…“teenage stage”, “I don’t know, I’d have to know the reason why they left” “simply too busy”
Serious. And when asked about same sex marriage or divorce and remarriage…”But we’re not talking about changing doctrine.”
Despite Pope Francis’s little intimations toward the Church loosening up about gays or atheist or the role of women, his bishops and cardinals echo Archbishop Cupich that doctrine wont be changing anytime soon on these issues either and definitely not on birth control.
Given the poll numbers showing that half to 3/4 of Catholics would like the whole list of these issues to change, it shows what level of denial the Catholic hierarchy maintains.
Christian Smith, Notre Dame sociology professor and author of 2014 “Young Catholic America” reports that 1/2 of 20 year olds have now left the Church, even young Latinos.
Josh Packard, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Northern Colorado observes that with Catholics and Xians in general “Doctrine tends to drive them away. They get frustrated that the church doesnt seem to make much time for issues of social justice, but it has plenty of time to police morality”

Kathleen Ferraro nails it for Catholics, liberal Xians and Evangelicals alike. Despite being brought up in the Catholic cocoon, she thinks differently than her religion, her Church:
“And yet against all odds, I don’t fit into Catholicism. My Catholic upbringing and education seemed the perfect formula for a perfect Catholic. Nonetheless, I’ve developed values and beliefs that significantly diverge from this foundation.”

Kathleen again: “I am pro-choice, don’t go to church on Sundays, don’t put stock in the Bible or doctrine, challenge traditional ideas of religion and spirituality and care infinitely more about trying to be a kind, humble person than actively worshipping.”
Spoken like a true secularist. And I mean that directly, not the least bit sarcastically. She cares about and lives her life by secular humanist values and behaviors, having jettisoned religious proclamations and practice. Her and so many other Ex Catholic and questioning Protestant Xians demonstrate that religion is immaterial to a good moral life based in reason and tolerance and in fact religion just gets in the way.

Kathleen Ferraro once more: “But what separates this from other phases I’ve gone through is that I’m not alone–29% of millennials identify as religiously unaffiliated, a higher percentage than ever before. Is the religious voicelessness I feel a common thread in the spiritual lives of our generation?”
I will answer a resounding “yes” to that. The data certainly support that hypothesis while the good Archbishop of Chicago thinks it may just be a “teenage thing.”
It is pretty hard in today’s internet connected world and all manner of media displaying and discussing social issues 24/7 to keep the faithful in any sort of religious cocoon anymore.
Rachel Held Evans described it as her generation’s “bullshit detector” at work. I think the data supports that hypothesis as well.
Information Kills Religion.





Leave a Reply