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Hidden exodus: RC becoming protestant

Hidden exodus: RC becoming protestant

The National Catholic Reporter reports that the Roman Catholic Church has lost one-third of its members and one in ten Americans (USA) is an ex-Catholic:

The number of people who have left the Catholic church is huge.

We all have heard stories about why people leave. Parents share stories about their children. Academics talk about their students. Everyone has a friend who has left.

While personal experience can be helpful, social science research forces us to look beyond our circle of acquaintances to see what is going on in the whole church.

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life has put hard numbers on the anecdotal evidence: One out of every 10 Americans is an ex-Catholic. If they were a separate denomination, they would be the third-largest denomination in the United States, after Catholics and Baptists. One of three people who were raised Catholic no longer identifies as Catholic.

Any other institution that lost one-third of its members would want to know why. But the U.S. bishops have never devoted any time at their national meetings to discussing the exodus. Nor have they spent a dime trying to find out why it is happening.


The principal reasons given by people who leave the church to become Protestant are that their “spiritual needs were not being met” in the Catholic church (71 percent) and they “found a religion they like more” (70 percent). Eighty-one percent of respondents say they joined their new church because they enjoy the religious service and style of worship of their new faith.

Dissatisfaction with how the church deals with spiritual needs and worship services dwarfs any disagreements over specific doctrines. While half of those who became Protestants say they left because they stopped believing in Catholic teaching, specific questions get much lower responses. Only 23 percent said they left because of the church’s teaching on abortion and homosexuality; only 23 percent because of the church’s teaching on divorce; only 21 percent because of the rule that priests cannot marry; only 16 percent because of the church’s teaching on birth control; only 16 percent because of the way the church treats women; only 11 percent because they were unhappy with the teachings on poverty, war and the death penalty.


Nor are the people becoming Protestants lazy or lax Christians. In fact, they attend worship services at a higher rate than those who remain Catholic. While 42 percent of Catholics who stay attend services weekly, 63 percent of Catholics who become Protestants go to church every week. That is a 21 percentage-point difference.


…almost two-thirds of former Catholics who join a Protestant church join an evangelical church. Catholics who become evangelicals and Catholics who join mainline churches are two very distinct groups.

Read more here.


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Around 1979, I played around with the idea of becoming Catholic. I already knew a little something about it, so going through the catechism really wasn’t a learning process for me. But I didn’t follow through on it. I spent the next 20 years bouncing back and forth between the Lutherans and Episcopalians, but never really a member of either group. In 2000-2001, I “made the leap” and became Catholic. Now after 12 years in the Church, I am revisiting the very same reasons I didn’t become Catholic 33 years ago. In reading Garry Wills’ “Papal Sin”, I’ve become painfully aware of the intellectual dishonesty Catholicism is so guilty of. There isn’t room on this blog to discuss every problem I have with Roman Catholicism, but let it be said in passing that what the Roman Church was many centuries ago and what it is today makes me (or anyone else who questions the RC church) see it as something foriegn from its original roots. The Roman Catholic Church being the true church of Jesus Christ and the Apostles? Only if you believe THEIR version of church history and development. The absolute truth is an objective thing, and Catholic truth is subjective. There are dozens upon dozens of inconsistencies in Catholicism. And for each inconsistency that comes up, they have an army of apologists to “explain away” the inconsistencies.

Weiwen Ng

“only 11 percent because they were unhappy with the teachings on poverty, war and the death penalty”

makes me worry.

Ann Fontaine

Actually Nurya, Kirk Hadaway has done extensive research. Top reasons: low birth rate among Episcopalians, fighting (of any sort) in churches, secularization of the US (lack of interest in organized religion).

Nurya Parish

Sorry, forgot to sign!

Nurya Love Parish

Nurya Parish

“Any other institution that lost one-third of its members would want to know why.”

Really? Has the Episcopal Church done any studies on the reasons behind the loss of over one-half of those raised in the church? The Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Survey reported in 2007 that only 45% of those raised in the Episcopal/Anglican faith remained in it as adults. See page 31 of this report:

I am not aware of any follow-up study that the Episcopal Church has done to understand why this is the case.

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