As part of a survey to understand why they have stopped attending Mass, a few hundred Catholics were asked what issues they would raise if they could speak to the bishop for five minutes.
The bishop would have gotten an earful.
Their reasons ranged from the personal (”the pastor who crowned himself king and looks down on all”) to the political (”eliminate the extreme conservative haranguing”) to the doctrinal (”don’t spend so much time on issues like homosexuality and birth control”).
In addition, they said, they didn’t like the church’s handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal and were upset that divorced and remarried Catholics are unwelcome at Mass.
The findings, based on responses to a survey in the Diocese of Trenton, N.J., are included in a report presented March 22 at the “Lapsed Catholics” conference at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Conducted by Villanova University’s Center for the Study of Church Management, the survey, called “Empty Pews,” asked Catholics in the Trenton Diocese a series of questions about church doctrine and parish life to better understand why they are staying home.
While the study was restricted to one diocese, chances are the responses could come from just about anywhere in the U.S., where a 2007 report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found one-third of Americans were raised Catholic but one-third of those had left the church.
Or, as Villanova’s Charles Zech put it, “These are issues that affect the whole church.”
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