From Toronto Star: Former Catholics Say Rigid Church Forced Them To Leave

March 4, 2013

As the Catholic Church awaits the election of our next pope, the Church has once again become the subject of considerable media attention. As churches continue to close, as the priest shortage increases, and as we acknowledge the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, more and more people are saying that the Church needs to change. One of these is Joanna Manning, a former nun who, after years of struggling to change the Church from within, eventually gave up and converted to the Anglican Church. You can read her story here:

I can certain empathize with Manning and others who have left Catholicism for Anglicanism. I can also empathize with the Roman Catholic Womenpriests who have been ordained within the Church (the first women priests were ordained illegally by male bishops sympathetic to the women’s ordination movement) and have suffered excommunication for their conviction. However, many questions follow from this discussion. The first question I would offer the author of this article would be to what extent the Church’s treatment of women really is the cause of Catholicism’s declining numbers (especially among the young). One comment on the article suggests that the decline Church membership is not particularly due to the hierarchy’s stance on social issues such as gay marriage, women’s ordination and contraception; rather, it is due to a general secularization taking place in the culture. In terms of qualitative, anecdotal evidence, I would argue that young people are leaving the pew behind for both of these reasons. I am wondering…to what extent are  issues related?

My next question is…for those Catholics who want to reform the Church, what would the best strategy be? Joanna Manning and many others like her have their strategy – they vote with their feet. The Roman Catholic Womenpriests have their strategy, but unfortunately, their radical defiance of the Church’s rules threatens to alienate them not only from traditionalists, but also moderate Catholics who might be sympathetic to the cause but hesitate to defy the church authority so boldly. Some moderate Catholics have suggested, for example, that fighting for women’s access to participation in the deaconate might be a good first step (before fighting for full-blown ordination). This point also deserves further discussion and will be addressed in an upcoming post. Meanwhile, your comments are welcome!


One Response to “From Toronto Star: Former Catholics Say Rigid Church Forced Them To Leave”

  1. Syphax said

    This is actually quite an interesting topic from a psychology of religion point of view, because psychology has shown that people aren’t always aware of the real reasons why they do things. A lot of the “reasons” we give for why we did something are actually constructed after-the-fact.

    So in the Mormon church lots of people are leaving, and this same type of question is floating around out there – in the LDS case, there is a racist past in the church, opposition to abortion and homosexuality, a patriarchy that is sometimes seen as oppressive, “cult-like” rituals and secrecy, rigid rules and dietary restrictions, etc. But I think it’s possible that many people just simply lose interest in going to church. Maybe they’re simply not reinforced for doing so (in the operant conditioning sense of the word) – they don’t get enough out of it to keep going. But then when pressed to give an explanation of why they stopped going, people have to come up with something, and it’s possible they just supply the inquirer with a stock answer that most people give.

    Now it’s certainly the case that people leave for rational reasons, too, and I don’t want to insinuate that there aren’t legitimate reasons for leaving the Catholic or Mormon church (or any other church). But I think that the number of people that do things for purely rational reasons is small. In most people, behavior goes first, then rationalization comes later. Or, at least, the rational reasons aren’t the primary drivers of behavior.

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