Friday, July 3, 2009

Why Some Leave the Church

Fr. John Cioppa a Maryknoller working in Hong Kong reflected on the reasons people enter, stay and leave the Church in Hong Kong. I found it interesting and not much different from the reasons that the Koreans might suggest for doing the same. We will consider Fr. John's understanding of why they leave.

The Catholic Church in Korea has had a spectacular growth. From a very small Church to 10% of the population at the present. We also see a large number of these baptized, not practicing, shortly after entering the Church. The former President Noh Moo-hyun would be a good example of this . How much does this have to do with catechizing and how much from the motivation of the individual is an interesting question?

Fr. John mentions a survey that was done a few years ago on newly baptized Catholics:

they found that 10.4% lose their faith and became alienated from God in the first year after Baptism, and 19.5% seldom or no longer attended Sunday Mass. That is a good reminder that those who develop the habit of going to Mass during their
catechumenate period are more likely to continue doing so after being baptized. Falling away can be a conscious decision. Some leave because they disagree with the Church's policy or the local Bishop or parish priest. Others do so because they feel hurt or neglected by the parish leader. Some leave because they don't feel welcomed by the local Catholics. Some are angry with God because of an unanswered prayer, or for some other reason. Those who violate Church laws or have done something which they think cannot be forgiven, feel it's hypocritical to remain in the Church. Falling away can also be an unconscious decision. Some people gradually become distracted by work, money or power. Those who are no longer around friends and family who have been their spiritual support often stop going to church. This can happen when a Catechumenate class is finished and there are no more meetings or when people move away from their parish church. In my experience the vast majority do not fall away . They were never fully in the Church. They may have been baptized as infants but have had no opportunity for Christan formation. Perhaps their parents were new Catholics and didn't have an adequate understanding or appreciation of the faith themselves. When these youngsters reach adulthood , they often don't admit they are Catholics. Of course, they don't get married in a church nor have their children baptized. When sickness or old age comes, however, they may return for the Sacrament and a Catholic funeral. For them the flame flickered but didn't go out.

It is my conviction that religion is not taught but caught. It is something that has to be experienced over a long period of time in order to have a lasting effect.
John A Cioppa M.M. "IN HIS OWN WORDS"

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