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How to reach lapsed Catholics

Here is an article that examines the issue of how to reach out to and bring home lapsed Catholics. This is a challenge that every priest (and minister for that matter) faces almost on a daily basis. The conclusions might surprise you. Give it a look by clicking here


  1. I don't know what generation of lapsed Catholic they mean. I know the problems in mine. I was an adolescent during Vatican II. My generation was expecting change. There was change but it was superficial in nature and not the kind of change they wanted. When they left, it was over the same kind of personal autonomy issues that caused them to be alienated from their parents. It never had anything to do with God, as they perceived him and most continue to be religious. Most of them have since made peace with parents but only after the parents themselves changed and became more tolerant on a whole range of issues that center on personal autonomy. I'm sure you know which ones I'm referring to. The popular press of the Sixties and Seventies were fixated on them. Just because they have become stereotypes of the self indulgent baby boomers doesn't mean they don't have validity or are not now mainstream societal norms. The Church would have to do considerably more than ask them to come back.

    My generation had some trouble with their kids but it wasn't about issues of autonomy. Our children are secure in their autonomy, if nothing else. Their children too. Perhaps the younger folks will be willing to give that up for whatever the Church has to offer. You'll have to ask them. Good luck.

    The Catholic Church has never become comfortable with the concept of personal autonomy. It seems to be a core trait of the church, along with extreme institutional hypocrisy, of the type that allowed the sex abuse scandal to go so long unaddressed but also applies to every aspect of its existence.

    A much more interesting and for the Church acute problem of lapsed Catholics is in the Hispanic culture. There are really two types of Hispanic Catholics. The first is the educated and economically secure segment of the population, who may have the same kinds of problems with Catholicism seen in Western culture. Among the poor and uneducated there is a strong feeling across all generations that the Church has colluded to keep them in poverty and often virtual serfdom for hundreds of years. They don't lose their religion and may venerate the "good" priests they have known but there is a deep well of fear and loathing of the institutional Catholic Church itself. These are the people who leave the church in droves for a more populist evangelical protestantism or even sects like Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses, all of whom have a strong culture of egalitarianism and direct practical aid to poorer congregants, that allow them upward social and economic mobility. It is only my opinion but I think this new century will be a disaster for the Catholic Church in Latin America and among Hispanic people everywhere. My Hispanic friends and associates have no feelings of forgiveness or sympathy for the Catholic Church. One of the most revealing behaviors that I see among my Latino friends who have left Catholicism for other denominations is how many of them deny strongly that Catholicism is a Christian religion at all. I'm not sure what that's even about but it's very common.

  2. Good article, and very interesting perspective and commentary by RedDog.

    Father, how to bring health to our Church is a very serious issue, and one that you are well qualified to address and to open dialogue on. This is a Catholic issue, not a Catholic priest issue, nor a Catholic Bishop issue, but an issue that for me as a parent of lapsed Catholics is very important to me, at least.

    Have at it Father.

  3. Reddog: As usual, you raise some interesting points.

    On the issue of autonomy, the actual teaching of the church has not been matched by its practice. Catholics, like all Christians are expected to autonomously take up the practice of their faith. It is as true within the RC church as without, that the first and most pivotal step in faith is to develop a personal relationship of love and prayer with Christ. Alas, the way the the church has operated, at least in this corner of the world, has led to an attitude amongst the laity that all they need do to attain salvation is to attend to the sacraments. Since this has resulted in an easy and predictable ministry for many priests (all they to do is become celebrants of the sacraments to "fulfill" their obligations as pastors), they have done little to change this attitude amongst the faithful.

    You are absolutely correct is saying that the evangelical branches of the Christian faith has taken another approach and respects (in fact demands) that the believer practice their personal autonomy before God in developing their own personal relationship with God. I also agree that if the RC church does not do more to address this imbalanced understanding of its faithful, the century that we have launched into will indeed be a difficult time for the church.

    As to the question you raised about latino Catholics, I am not really knowledgeable enough about their culture, faith and practice to be able to offer a valid response. I guess it's way too cold for many of them to migrate this far north. (smart people!!!)

    Fr. Tim

  4. Reddog: One more point relating to the autonomy issue. If all priests would at least practice #4 on the list of keys to successful ministry, they might find that this issue would not be such a pastoral issue.

    Fr. Tim

  5. Reddog: One more (I promise this is the last one) point. Check out this article published on the first anniversary of my dear friend, Rev. Richard John Neuhaus in the pages of "First Things".

    It addresses some of your questions, as well as potentially pointing the way to address the issues of reaching out to people beyond those who still attend regularly to mass.

    Fr. Tim


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