Peter Steinfels on the crisis of attrition in the U.S. church
The October 22 issue just went live, so be sure to look at its table of contents, but before you do, you’re going to want to read “Further Adrift: The American Church’s Crisis of Attrition,” by Peter Steinfels. Here’s how it starts:
It is not often that someone at a New York dinner party calls for a count of religious affiliations, and I cannot recall exactly what led to it. But one guest suddenly said he had the impression that many of those present were Catholics. “Can we have a show of hands?” he asked.
Two of us raised our hands. A third person, who once wrote frequently in the Catholic press, said “no longer,” though as a conservative he continued to sympathize with the church. A fourth person, with whom my wife and I have sometimes worshiped on Easter, Christmas, and other occasions, chose not to make any declaration at all. Finally, the man who asked the question avowed that he had been raised Catholic, “and I hate everything about it.”
Bottom line? Two-and-a-half out of five, perhaps. Par, you might say, for a bunch of overeducated writer-types. Not at all. That’s roughly the proportion you would find at working-class family gatherings or suburban cookouts. In February 2008, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, based on interviews with a representative sample of thirty-five thousand adult Americans, reported that one out of every three adult Americans who were raised Catholic have left the church. If these ex-Catholics were to form a single church, they would constitute the second largest church in the nation.
One in three. Think about it. This record makes the percentage of bad loans and mortgages leading to the financial meltdown look absolutely stellar. It dwarfs the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler. Thomas Reese, SJ, the former editor of America, recently described this loss of one-third of those raised Catholic as “a disaster.” He added, “You wonder if the bishops have noticed.”
Read the rest right here.