One out of every 10 Americans is an ex-Catholic. If they were a separate denomination, they would be the third-largest denomination in the United States, after Catholics and Baptists. One of three people who were raised Catholic no longer identifies as Catholic.
The National Catholic Reporter had a nice article breaking down the reasons why Catholics leave the church. About half because Protestants, and about half became unaffiliated. The article focused on the Protestant half, and in that, a portion became evangelical, and another portion joined some other mainline denomination. It's interesting seeing the statistics. (Hat tip to Episcopal Cafe for linking to it.)
It made me contemplate why I left.
So, Why did I leave?
That's a simple question, but it's difficult to articulate all the reasons. Faith is a strange thing, and changes in it are multifaceted. Some things I simply could not tolerate any longer. Some things my subconscious did not like, but it wasn't fully articulated or realized until after I was received into the Episcopal Church.
If you want the short answer, I left because the Church was becoming more intolerant at the cost of its loving messages.
If you want the long answer:
Spiritual needs was one major issue for ex-Catholics, according to the article. My spiritual needs were mostly being met in the Catholic Church. I like the liturgy. It is beautiful, and the Episcopal Church has the same sort of liturgy, the routine of standing, sitting, and kneeling. They had the "smells and bells" too.
The homilies...well. I'm deaf. It's hard to hear the homilies one way or another. Sometimes I can make sense of them, but after a couple of minutes into a homily I couldn't hear, I will slip into a nap-like state. So that's definitely not an aspect of spiritual needs, heh.
Theology was another issue for some people. Me? I agreed with the church on many theological things. Some things I sort of disagreed on, but could tolerate. For example, I thought perhaps clergy marriage wouldn't be a bad idea, but I could understand the celibacy requirement. I just don't really like the hard-line approach to celibacy that the Vatican has taken, lately. It's unfair to accept married clergy into the RC fold, but exclude people who are struggling with the call to both vocations of married life AND the priesthood.
Female ordination--I thought the theology against it was absurd. I could get into that here, but many others online have made good arguments that I'll leave it to you to find them.
I thought that the church could do better by gay people. This aspect of my faith is still in flux. I still generally agree with the Catholic theology that marriage is for one man and one woman. Yet I was so incredibly happy when one of my pastors got married to his long-time partner. Well, they married in Vermont, but finally got it blessed by the Episcopal Church, but you know what I mean. I am so glad that they were able to get married in the Church--there's something about church recognition that helps to provide a sanctity of the whole marriage thing. So, I acknowledge that my theological understanding of gay marriage could be incorrect. For now, I'll hang onto the general concept I grew up with, until I learn more.
I couldn't stand the judgmental individuals who seem to confuse religion and politics and say that gay people can't get legally married. Yes, I know, religion and politics often influence one another, but seriously, letting gay people have full legal rights in the United States is NOT going to infringe on your religious beliefs. You know what? Some people believe that their religion allows gay marriage! Legislating against gay marriage is legislating against their own religious liberties. It is possible to support legal protections for certain classes of people without supporting religious recognition of the same classes of people.
I agreed with the Church that artificial birth control isn't the best thing to do if there are other options. However, I disagreed with the stipulation that it must be a "cure" for it to be morally acceptable. I think that "management" is perfectly fine, too. The only "cure" for my wayward lady organs is a full-on hysterectomy, which would cause more problems than it would fix. It would cause more damage to my body than simply getting hormonal treatment. Requiring a "cure" for PCOS is like requiring people to amputate their lungs in order to cure their asthma. Maybe that's an extreme analogy, but you get the idea. Natural family planning is good if the female is relatively healthy. Even with irregular cycles, it can work. However, if the cycles are more than just irregular...if the cycles' irregularity are a result of hormonal imbalance due to a disease or disorder, then just go ahead and treat the dang thing.
I couldn't stand the judgey people who adamantly believe that birth control is ZOMG ABORTION, and then go on about NFP being the only option, and go on about natural cures like a Christian Scientist, and all the while implicitly telling you that you're going to hell every time you have sex with your husband. Thank you, judgey ladies. You've provided the momentum to help me leave the Catholic Church. It's one of the main reasons why I left.
I think it's cruel to prevent transgender or cross-dressing children from attending Catholic schools, or kicking them out because they weren't dressing like the sex they were born into. That's incredibly distressing to the children who are already distressed. If you know me at all, you know that I absolutely hate it when kids are subjected to adverse psychological maltreatment. Yet, Catholic schools completely don't get this. Maybe there's a few who don't give a damn. But there are still plenty of Catholic schools who do provide a hostile environment to the poor child who happened to be "born into the wrong body." This is another reason why I left. This is one of those things that wasn't fully articulated until after I made the decision to leave the Catholic Church.
I could go on, and I could probably go back and revise my post some more to make it more concise, but I'm tired, I don't give a shit, and I need to go to bed.
I am curious, though. If you are part of that "one in three" statistic, an ex-Catholic, what are your reasons for leaving?
Filed under: Becoming Episcopalian