Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Churches attack gays, and the Roman Catholic exodus

The Public Religion Research Institute has a new study that says 2/3 of Americans see a connection between what's said in church and increased rates of suicide in LGBT youth.

Think about that. Two in three Americans can see a direct link between the bile spewed from some pulpits and the death of gay children. That's quite a burden for Christianity, don't you think?

It breaks down further, to show that Roman Catholics in particular blame their church.
A plurality (43%) of Americans say the messages coming from places of worship are negative...Catholics were most likely to give their churches negative marks, with nearly one-third giving their churches a “D” (15%) or an “F” (16%)......
You can't really be susprised. Remember that the Pew poll found that 49% Catholics support same sex marriage--they are one of the largest groups of supporters in the US, despite the fervid opposition of the Bishops. And they aren't happy with the relentless anti-gay politicking from the Bishops. I think you can draw a pretty explicit link between these polling data and the data that are generating a certain amount of handwringing by thinking Catholics. 1 in 3 "cradle Catholics" have left :
[A]bout half of that one-third leaving the church enter the ranks of the fastest-growing religious group in the nation, the “nones,” people who tell pollsters they have no particular religious affiliation, although many hew to surprisingly familiar religious beliefs and practices. ....Catholics becoming unaffiliated stressed disagreement with church teachings, both general teachings and church positions on specific issues like abortion, homosexuality, and treatment of women, and to a lesser extent clerical celibacy. In open-ended questioning, they also stressed hypocrisy and other moral and spiritual failures of church leaders and fellow Catholics.
Yup, speaking as an ex-Roman Catholic myself, that resonates.

The NCR looks at those it calls the "had it" Catholics with similar results. It notes the rates of Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation are also dropping, showing a continuing loss of engagement and identification with The Church at the level of the family.
Cathleen Kaveny writes
From the perspective of these Catholics, doctrine and practice are not developing but withering. But why not stay and fight? First, because they think remaining appears to involve complicity in evil; second, because fighting appears to be futile; and, third, because they don’t like what fighting is doing to them. The fight is diminishing their ability to hear the gospel and proclaim that good news. The fight is depriving them of the peace of Christ.
That certainly agrees with BP's experience. She felt cramped and oppressed by a structure that required her to lie about who she was in order to be included. It's been wonderful to see how she has opened out and spiritually spread her wings since crossing the Thames.

Of course, a big part of her transition is the familiarity of core doctrine and worship. It's not surprising that EPiscopal churches benefit from departing Catholics. Articles on departing Catholics in NCR and Commonweal interview Episcopal priests from different parts of the country who estimate that upwards of 50% or more of their new members are ex-RC. That certainly matches with our informal observation at St Paul's Cathedral, where lots of the congregants are ex-Roman. We've even met a couple of RC priests.

It's not a surprise that top-down RC hierarchy where you "pay, pray, and obey" is no longer able to retain people who are accustomed to using their own minds; who expect women's gifts to be valued equally in leadership; who understand that being gay is a normal human variation, not a pathology; who believe that GLBT couples should be called to the same expectations of faithful monogamy as straight couples; who recognize that even with the best of intentions, a marriage may not last but sentencing an unlucky partner to unwilling celibacy is brutal and inhumane. It's why I semi-jokingly refer to the Episcopal Church as the "thinking man's Catholicism".

The US Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church may well succeed in achieving the Pope's goal of a smaller, purer Roman Catholicism as they embrace the absolute worst of culture-war politics. But eventually, the numbers will catch up to them. [T]hree Catholics leave the church for each one who enters. And this will not be helped by a widely accepted viewpoint that their Church is contributing to an epidemic of suicide in at risk LGBT youth, on top of its coverup of sex abuse and financial scandals.. 47% of Catholics believe their Church is negative about gay people. Those gay people are parents, children, sisters and brothers. And when a Bishop suggests that a mother choose between rejecting her gay child, or her salvation, is it any wonder that she may reject the Bishop?


Jim Pratt said...

The RC church here in Quebec has been in free-fall for 30 years because of its conservatism and patriarchal attitudes. Whole dioceses are being merged; the Archdiocese of Montreal is rumored to have several warehouses full of furnishings from closed churches.

Unfortunately, because of the overwhelming dominance of the RCC (more than 90% of the population 30 years ago), the migration away from the church has led, not to seeking other expressions of Christianity, but to militant secularism. The formula that has worked for the Episcopal Church, in attracting so many ex-Catholics, has not worked for the Anglican Church here.

Counterlight said...

I can vouch for Jim's statement. There are lots of empty churches in Montreal, and the city feels very secular, even more than New York.

Our congregation in New York is overwhelmingly Irish and Italian ex-Catholics with a large portion of ex-fundamentalists. Cradle Episcopalians are very rare.