The Second Largest Religious Denomination
A few years back, I learned that the second largest religious denomination in the United States (reported by PEW Research, second only to the Roman Catholic Church), is made up of non-practicing Catholics. I sat down and did the math and the number of people who still call themselves Catholic, but who no longer attend mass on a regular basis is 42.7 million! That is a HUGE number of people. If you are reading this blog, you are likely one of those 42.7 million, or perhaps you were raised Catholic and no longer call yourself Catholic, so we can simply add you to this number and we might find that there are in fact 85.4 million Recovering Catholics in the United States. If that were the case, we would outnumber the active Roman Catholic population!!!
You might ask yourself, “Who cares?” Why is this significant information? What does this prove to anybody, if anything? Well, it means something to me. And here’s why:
1) There are a significant number of men and women in the United States that had a particular religious experience growing up which formed them (for better or worse) and which contributed to who they are today.
2) This unique religious experience of being raised Catholic probably continues to inform them (again, for better or worse).
3) This unique religious experience of being raised Catholic becomes part of the marrow, blood and bones of one raised in this tradition and cannot be exorcised no matter how your current religious experience has changed (if, indeed it has).
4) For those who are no longer practicing Catholics, there is a unique form of grief that comes with the separation from Catholicism (whatever the reason for that separation), and there is a unique form of longing that cannot be quenched.
5) There is a unique set of needs residing within the hearts of Recovering Catholics, that for the most part, are not being met. We cannot get these needs met in another religious institution. We cannot go to the Catholic Church to get these needs met. We cannot meet these needs on our own.
6) I am here to help the 42.7 million (or more) Recovering Catholics get those needs met.
What are those needs?
I see the needs of Recovering Catholics as the following (and if you see more, please let me know what they are…..and I will see how I can help!):
1) Grief Support: Catholics leave for a multitude of reasons, most boiling down to the fact that the truth God revealed to them is in conflict with the doctrine of the Church – teachings on contraception, homosexuality, vocations, divorce, remarriage, etc. etc. Some leave because they have been directly harmed by a representative of the Church – sexually abused by a priest, physically or verbally abused by a teacher, counselor or lay minister, given incorrect information about Church teachings that made them feel unwelcome (like a certain family member who was told they were no longer welcome to come to communion simply because of a divorce). No matter the reason, when we leave a community in which we were one time a member, even if the parting is our own decision (kind of), there is grief. Recovering Catholics need support for the grief they experience in leaving the Institution behind, or in being asked to leave.
2) Resolution: Many Catholics (especially in the past), who left or were asked to leave, were asked to leave based on faulty information. A representative of the Church misinterpreted the doctrine, or interpreted it to fit their own personal agenda. For these people, the healing is helped when they learn the faulty nature of the information. Yes, this will certainly stir anger, but for some, it opens the door to their return….something many are ultimately longing for. Recovering Catholics might not seek this resolution from a priest, so I can be that bridge….if this is what they need.
3) Longing: In my generation and the generations that follow, the number one reason I have heard for people leaving is because in the Catholic Church, their needs were not being met. Specifically, the desire to:
Find Inner Peace.
Know their Gifts and how they are called to use them.
Find meaning and purpose in their lives.
The Catholic Church, most often, attempts to meet these needs through religious formation – the dissemination of doctrine, or doesn’t even go so far as that and simply stands in the belief that providing you with an opportunity to attend mass and receive the sacraments is enough. Unfortunately, this is an intelligent and wise population of men and women who are looking for something more than to have their heads filled with rules and regulations, history and traditions. And for many, the mass is not relevant (or the homily given at mass isn’t relevant). They want DEPTH! They want something that has meaning and relevance in their own lives and which allows them to know God personally, not just through someone else’s interpretation. In short, what they are looking for, but don’t have the words for, is Spiritual Formation – something the Church has not done a good job of making available to the men and women in the pews. Spiritual Formation just happens to be one of my areas of expertise!
4) Validation: Recovering Catholics also desire validation….and they deserve it! They have been formed to use the brain God gave them to reason, discern and exercise truth. And, many, if not most, grew up in a culture that lost its trust in authority. They/we have come to question authority and to not blindly follow simply because we were told. Instead, authority has to be earned and our own reasoning minds need to be validated. We need to be given credit for having a brain and an intelligent thought and the freedom to challenge and question what we are being told. In the Institutional Church, questioning is often discouraged or outwardly condemned. What the Institution has forgotten is that the most important stage in faith development is the questioning and searching stage. If the Church really wants mature disciples, this stage needs to be honored. If the Institution will not welcome these questions, I am happy to do so! I’m excited to see how your questions will help you grow….and me as well! 🙂
If you are a recovering Catholic and looking for support, I am here for you. Call (920) 230-1313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.