Tuesday, January 11, 2011

World Magazine reports mass exodus from Roman Catholicism

World Magazine has picked up on a theme that we've noted here many times: people are leaving the Roman Catholic church in droves.
Tim Pereira was an altar boy and his father played guitar in the church's folk music group. The family often gathered in the church basement after Mass to drink coffee and eat doughnuts with friends in their tight-knit parish. They ate spaghetti dinners with the rest of the church, browsed church bazaars, and went on family retreats. Their priest was a caring man who oversaw a close congregation.

Pereira remembers only community and warmth from his childhood in the Roman Catholic Church. He has no horror stories of cold churches or abusive priests. So why is Tim Pereira, 30, now an evangelical?

Pereira joins the 10 percent of Americans who have left the Catholic faith. While some high-profile Protestant intellectuals, such as Richard John Neuhaus in the 1990s, have converted to Roman Catholicism, the overall trend seems to be in the opposite direction. According to David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam in American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, the Roman Catholic Church is "hemorrhaging members." The Pew Forum's 2007 "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey" found that Catholics have experienced the greatest net loss of any American religious tradition....

Pereira, whose grandparents immigrated from Portugal, said his Catholic identity was "almost like a nationality." Chris Castaldo, author of Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic, echoes Pereira: "Catholicism is more than propositions that you believe. It's your culture. It's your identity. . . . It's hard to just walk away from that."
As Carl Trueman recently noted, most Roman Catholics are so for cultural reasons.

Norman Geisler put it into perspective:
So, while we are losing a few intellectual egg-heads out the top of evangelicalism to Rome, we are gaining tens of thousands of converts out the bottom from Catholicism. The trade-off highly favors evangelicalism. So, invite a Catholic to your Bible study or church. There is a good possibility that they will get saved! They have a least been pre-evangelized by Roman Catholicism to believe in God, miracles, Christ, His death and resurrection. Once they find that works are not a necessary condition for salvation (Rom. 4:5; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:3-6) but that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, they will make great evangelical Christians. They will realize that we can’t work for grace but that we do work from grace.
Of course, there are some of us, many of us, who are rejecting Rome because of its ungodly doctrines.

HT: Constantine

30 comments:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi John,

Here's the link to the World Magazine article you referenced:

http://www.worldmag.com/articles/17478

The one you posted links to a previous Beggars All post.

I guess the folks leaving behind Catholicism for Protestantism are called to a deeper Communion with Him elsewhere.

Viisaus said...

"As Carl Trueman recently noted, most Roman Catholics are so for cultural reasons."

Yes - peoples like the Irish and Poles have been so enthusiastic RCs largely because Romanism has co-incided with their national interests. Protestant English have been traditional enemies of the Irish and Protestant Germans and Eastern Orthodox Russians of the Poles. In Reformation-era Spain, Romanism had been a great standard that Spaniards had for many centuries rallied behind against the Islamic Moorish enemy, et cetera.

In such a context, giving up on Rome feels and seems like a national treason. A bit similar like even secular-minded Jews consider a conversion to Christianity tantamount to a betrayal of their ancestors.

louis said...

"It's your culture. It's your identity. . . . It's hard to just walk away from that."

The same can be said about the world generally. Coming out of unbelief is always difficult and involves a change of culture and identity. That's why it's called being born again.

John Bugay said...

Hi Truth -- thanks for letting me know about this. I had intended to put in that link; I was putting this together in a hurry this morning, and I ran off just knowing that I had forgotten something.

John Bugay said...

Viisaus -- that phenomenon is even (still) evident in my own life, although it's much reduced. Although, with much of my extended family still Roman Catholic, there are still weddings and funerals where the background, at least, is Roman Catholic, if not much of the discussion.

John Bugay said...

Louis, I had a very definite new birth experience. Although, at the time, I wasn't aware of all the things that entailed. So I progressed to the Charismatic Catholic movement at my home parish (this was about 1980), into Charismatic Protestant circles, and then into other areas of Protestantism.

I was kind of like Lincoln in that old commercial: "I'd done a lot of reading and studying, sort of on my own." But I would believe this is why an organization like Billy Graham's (for example) placed such an emphasis on building a relationship with local churches. Not saying he did that probably in the best possible way, but I understand it.

BillyHW said...

I'm curious, what proportion of these Catholics come Protestants are divorced and "remarried" in a Protestant ecclesial community?

John Bugay said...

Billy, I wonder what the percentage of these folks leaving is because they just don't find Christ there?

Viisaus said...

"I'm curious, what proportion of these Catholics come Protestants are divorced and "remarried" in a Protestant ecclesial community?"

Surely you know that marrying a Roman Catholic person has been for nominal Protestants a usual way of converting to Rome as well?

Ikonophile said...

It should also be noted, especially in Latin America, that many Catholics are converting to either Eastern Orthodoxy or Pentecostal churches.

RC seems to have run its course in Latin America and people are leaving by the thousands. I need to go and find an article that I read almost a year ago on a mass exodus from RC to EO in, I believe, Guatemala.

John

Tim Enloe said...

Geisler's comments are particularly interesting in his article, especially his notation that "I have a Ph.D. in philosophy from a Jesuit institution and have never once been tempted to become a Roman Catholic." Why? Because unlike the majority of militantly vocal converts to Catholicism, Geisler actually weighed the issues and reflected upon them rather than being wowed by simplistic non-arguments such as age of the tradition, alleged greater unity, and so forth.

You know there's something wrong with the convert industry when it has to resort to sophistry like signing convert-making posts "Taylor Marshall, Westminster Seminary, 2006," or "John Gerstner, Presbyterian par excellence, couldn't answer my brilliant criticism of sola Scriptura, so there!" or saying, "Oh, Tim Enloe, you went to the University of Dallas, a Catholic college? I have a friend there who used to be Protestant but is now being received into the Church."

Brigitte said...

Most of the ex-Roman Catholics I have met don't go to church at all, anywhere. They often feel they are not good enough to go to church, or they claim some kind of abuse or rebuff. It is not too often that they mention doctrine, except that if they are supposed to be good, they can easily be just as good (or bad) without the church.

This is very sad. And you barely even speak to them about coming to the Lutheran church because Luther is evil. They have imbibed this much. If they are going to be anything (which they don't want to be) they will always be Roman Catholic, since it is the only "true church" which, however, they do not attend.

We should all come together on the truth, which is that we are all people who are not good enough to go to church, receive his gifts or call upon God, yet God's mercy in Christ is the undeserved love he lavishes upon the world, received by all who would believe in his goodness.

John Bugay said...

Because unlike the majority of militantly vocal converts to Catholicism, Geisler actually weighed the issues and reflected upon them rather than being wowed by simplistic non-arguments such as age of the tradition, alleged greater unity, and so forth.

Turretin made this very same comment 400 years ago, about the method of Roman argumentation. Funny how some things don't change.

John Bugay said...

Hi Bridgette -- I think the article notes that 60% of former Roman Catholics drift off into nowhere, and 40% of them join evangelical churches.

if they are supposed to be good, they can easily be just as good (or bad) without the church.

This sense that "I hope I'm good enough to get into heaven" is probably one of the most hoped-for things among the Roman Catholics I know.

Lvka said...

There's no point in being deceptive, John:

Protestantism is just as much tied to nationality as Catholicism is: and it all started from the very beginning, with Luther's Not-bischofe ("bishops in need"), when the German Lutheran nobility assumed ad-hoc the role of a newly-created temporary bishoprick, rivaling that of the Roman Catholic Church.

Does "cuius regio, eius religio" mean anything to you, John?

Not to mention the Anglican Church... etc.

John Bugay said...

Lvka, I will not say that the Reformation magically transformed Christianity; there were many obstacles; it was a corrupt and entrenched system the Reformers were first of all trying to Reform, and encountering tremendous resistance in that regard, they needed to navigate the existing global system.

I think they accomplished tremendous things, against the odds.

Constantine said...

Hi Brigitte,

I think you are exactly right. Catholics face some great confusion when they confront the errors of the "one true church".

Which is why I think Geisler's admonition to invite a Catholic to Bible Study is brilliant. It's not a church; it's not threatening and faith will come from hearing the Word.

We have a couple of former Catholics in our Bible Study and the work of the Holy Spirit is evident in them.

Peace to you.

pilgrim said...

This part certainly fits me, as I always believed there was a God, and that Jesus is God, etc, but I didn't know the gospel-
"They have a least been pre-evangelized by Roman Catholicism to believe in God, miracles, Christ, His death and resurrection. Once they find that works are not a necessary condition for salvation (Rom. 4:5; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:3-6) but that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, they will make great evangelical Christians. They will realize that we can’t work for grace but that we do work from grace."

Then the last part also fits me, as I made it a point to check out the Bible, and Protestantism-
"Of course, there are some of us, many of us, who are rejecting Rome because of its ungodly doctrines."

I had rejected many over the years and finally came to a point where I realized I was no longer RC.

John Bugay said...

Hi Pilgrim: I had rejected many over the years and finally came to a point where I realized I was no longer RC.

That's interesting. Sort of like "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away..."

Brigitte said...

Constantine, I take your point about the Bible study. When we lived in the country we used the Concordia LifeLight series for years with our neighbors and it was a bright light to our Quebecois friends.

pilgrim said...

The last RC doctrine to fall for me was Transubstantiation.
Not because I was convinced of it, but I needed to be unconvinced of it.
If Transubstantiation were true, no matter what other disagreements I had with RCism, I would have to stay in the RCC, as they alone have the secret to Transubstantiation.

But when I became convinced Transubstantiation was not biblical, the final piece fell for me.

Well, that and the gospel opening up things.

Viisaus said...

"Lvka, I will not say that the Reformation magically transformed Christianity"

Just like the partially successful reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah (or Ezra and Nehemiah) did not magically transform the Old Covenant...

steelikat said...

brigitte said: "We should all come together on the truth, which is that we are all people who are not good enough to go to church, receive his gifts or call upon God, yet God's mercy in Christ is the undeserved love he lavishes upon the world, received by all who would believe in his goodness."

Amen!

pilgrim,

I'm not saying transubstantiation is true but if it were true that would not mean that only The RCC has the "secret" to it.

PeaceByJesus said...

Thanks. i collect stats on this and other issues: Revealing Statistics

Related: Statistical_Correlations

Catholicism has experienced “the greatest net loss” of any major religious group. Those who have left Catholicism outnumber those who have joined the church by an almost four-to-one margin. Ex-Catholics, if one considered them a denomination, would be the second-largest in the country behind Catholics, who list 68.1 million members.

Source: “The 'had it' Catholics,” National Catholic Reporter ,Oct. 11, 2001, based on reports from the 2008 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey and the National Council of Churches’ 2010 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. See http://themotleymonk.blogspot.com/2010/11/had-it-catholics.html

But the fastest growing "faith" is atheism as well as witchcraft, as Christianity overall decreases, and the number of young persons in evag. church is quite low, although they "out perform" other denoms overall. Thanks be to God.

PeaceByJesus said...

Billy, I wonder what the percentage of these folks leaving is because they just don't find Christ there?

54% of Hispanic Catholics describe themselves as charismatic Christians. 51%of Hispanic Evangelicals are converts, and 43% are former Catholics.

90% say it was a spiritual search for a more direct, personal experience with God was the main reason that drove their conversion. - http://pewforum.org/surveys/hispanic /

It is not simply what Rome officially teaches that is the issue, but what she effectually promotes, even if it may sometimes by contrary to the letter of her doctrine. And what is overall fostered is faith in the power of Rome and there own goodness to see them into Heaven.

Ikonophile said...

Only three years ago, there was a conference at an Evangelical University that I attended. The professor, an avid Evangelical himself, stated that evangelical churches were not growing at least as much as is claimed here. What growth that was visible was very small. Of course, it has been a few years and it seems natural that these sorts of statistics can sway in one direction or another over time. The professor did cite his sources on his statistics as well though to be honest I don't remember the source(s).

I noticed that PbJ's statistics are for the states alone and not worldwide. I wonder if the states are seeing growth and worldwide the statistics are much different.

Perhaps worldwide Evangelicalism isn't gaining as many numbers as is reported here? Anyone know of any statistics that cover denominational growth the world over?

John

Tim Enloe said...

It probably should be noted that the only reason notes like this (both from World Mag. and Geisler) even seem necessary is because RC convert-makers make such a big stinking deal out of every person who converts, and the more "high profile" the better.

Of course, numbers of people who embrace anything actually proves nothing about whether that thing is true. It matters not one whit to whether Catholicism is true that James White's sister, Francis Beckwith, and "Taylor Marhsall, Westminster Seminary, 2006" converted. This whole phenomenon only exists because of what Nathan Hatch called "The democratization of American Christianity." It's basically an argumentum ad populum argument in the form of "bandwagon," which, last time I checked, is a logical fallacy.

John Bugay said...

Tim -- sometimes I'm just as guilty of polemical posturing as the rest of them.

But the hope is to put all the posturing into perspective.

Tim Enloe said...

Absolutely, John. All the posturing, on whatever side, needs to be put into perspective. Hence my remark about the "democratization" effect - which surely applies equally well to much of American Protestantism.

I didn't say that first because usually when I have done so over the last few years, I've been greeted with choruses alleging that I'm undermining the cause by airing things that should be talked about privately - "My Protestantism, Right or Wrong," that kind of thing.

I'd be much happier if apologetics on both sides just dispensed with the autobiographies and stuck to the real, substantial issues.

John Bugay said...

James has a policy here about personal stories: if you're going to tell a story, tell Christ's story.

So for the most part, we try to stick with Scriptures, history and doctrine. But I've written about this sort of thing in the past, and just wanted to follow up with it.