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Moving the Center

The Church needs a new outlook on gender

In 1975, when the Women’s Ordination Conference began, we knew what a woman was, why men got ordained, and who was involved in the conversation by who was registered for the conference. Fifty years later, these matters are infinitely more complicated. Gender fluidity expands the definition of women; clericalism shows the limits of ordination; and what was once a weekend meeting has become an important part of a global movement. However, there are still no validly and licitly ordained Roman Catholic women deacons or priests, even though many Catholic women are engaged in myriad ministries.

Since then, the Roman Catholic Church has rendered itself all but irrelevant. By permitting women to be ordained, it could have expanded its workforce, improved the quality of its ministry, and claimed some moral status in a hurting world. But the world has moved on. The loss is not so much for women as for the Church and, more importantly, for the people who need the resources a two-thousand-year-old institution can provide.

Growth and decline in the US Catholic Church

The parish consolidations in the oldest diocese in the country are evidence of a shrinking church in a shrinking city. The entry for Baltimore in the 1970 edition of Compton's Encyclopedia with which I grew up begins: "Baltimore, Md. The sixth largest city in the United States is Baltimore." Today, it is the 31st largest city in the country, its population having shrunk 1.17% just last year.

The recent Pew Research survey numbers show that the Catholic population has remained at around 20% since 2014, after dropping off from 24% at around the turn of the century. Catholicism is still the largest denomination in the country, but the ethnic and geographic distribution of the Catholic population has changed. Now 29% of all Catholics in the U.S. live in the South and 24% live in the West. Only 26% live in the Northeast and even fewer, 21%, live in the Midwest.

‘Feeling omnipotent’ is at root of clerical abuse, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — All forms of clerical abuse begin with a priest thinking he is better than others and somehow over them, Pope Francis said.

“We can live our priestly ministry well only immersed in the priestly people from whom we come,” the pope told about 1,000 priests and bishops from some 60 countries Feb. 8 during a conference on the continuing education and formation of priests.

“This belonging to the people — do not ever let us feel separate from the journey of the holy, faithful people of God — protects us, sustains us in our struggles, accompanies us in our pastoral concerns and saves us from the risk of becoming detached from reality and feeling omnipotent,” the pope said. “Watch out because this is also the root of every form of abuse.”

Abuse report from global Catholic group Focolare leaves many questions unanswered

The Focolare movement, one of the largest lay organizations in the Catholic Church with members in countries across the world, published its first report on cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults within its ranks on March 31.

The report, which was done internally and not by an independent firm, focuses on accounts of abuse received by the movement's Commission for the Welfare and Safeguarding of Members from 2014 to 2022. The findings indicate that from 1969-2012, 66 members of the global movement were accused of abusing 42 minors (29 between the ages of 14 and 18, and 13 under the age of 14) and 17 vulnerable adults.

New national organization to hold the Roman Catholic church of Canada accountable for sex crimes

LONDON, Ontario, Nov. 02, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Outrage Canada is a newly formed group of outraged Canadians committed to holding leaders of the Roman Catholic church publicly accountable for sexual abuse crimes past and present.

Sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic church of Canada is well documented with a growing number of civil and criminal cases surfacing each year. Given the response to date however, Outrage Canada believes that the Roman Catholic church is more concerned with avoiding scandal and protecting their reputation than ending sexual abuse and finding justice for victims.

Vatican synod ends with divide over women deacons and LGBTQ+

By Anthony Faiola


Stefano Pitrelli

VATICAN CITY — Days before the start of the most significant Catholic gathering since the 1960s, Pope Francis dropped a theological bomb. In a reply to conservative bishops concerned about his openness to the LGBTQ+ community, the 86-year-old pope effectively said he could envision priests, on a case-by-case basis, blessing same-sex couples if those benedictions fell short of the sacrament of marriage.

German Bishop Calls for Married Priests and Women’s Ordination

Amira Abuzeid 

CV NEWS FEED // German Bishop Franz Josef Overbeck said if the Catholic Church is going to continue to exist in Germany, the Church may have to allow priests to marry and to consider women’s ordination. 

At a press conference for the Synod on Synodality over the weekend, Overbeck said Germany has a clergy crisis. In 13 years serving as the bishop of the Diocese of Essen, he said he has buried 300 priests and ordained only 15 seminarians. There are currently no seminarians in the diocese.

America's Nonreligious are a Growing, Diverse Phenomenon


Mike Dulak grew up Catholic in Southern California, but by his teen years, he began skipping Mass and driving straight to the shore to play guitar, watch the waves and enjoy "the beauty of the morning on the beach," he recalled. "And it felt more spiritual than any time I set foot in a church."

Nothing has changed that view in the ensuing decades.

"Most religions are there to control people and get money from them," said Dulak, now 76, of Rocheport, Missouri. He also cited sex abuse scandals, harming "innocent human beings," in Catholic and Southern Baptist churches. "I can't buy into that," he said.

Seattle archdiocese asks pastors to resign ahead of parish consolidation

...not all priests in the Archdiocese of Seattle are convinced that the resignation of all pastors is the right step in the process.

While a request that all parish pastors in a diocese resign is unusual, it is not unprecedented. Other U.S. dioceses have made similar requests amid consolidation projects.

In Seattle, one pastor told The Pillar that while he believes parish consolidation is necessary, the request for resignations from all pastors seems to undercut the stability of office extended to parish pastors in canon law — and a pastor’s right to due process before being removed or transferred. 

But the priest also acknowledged a broader trend — that across the U.S., diocesan priests report low levels of trust in their diocesan bishops.

The lavish homes of American archbishops

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Editor

Records reveal that 10 of the country's top church leaders defy the Pope's example and live in residences worth more than $1 million.

"How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!"— Pope Francis

Clearly, "lifestyles of the rich and religious" doesn't cut it for Pope Francis.

The pontiff has said it "breaks my heart" to see priests and nuns driving the latest-model cars.

He's blasted "airport bishops" who spend more time jet-setting than tending to their flocks.

And he's warned against church leaders who bear the "psychology of princes."

The Vatican fired one such "prince" last year: German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst -- aka "The Bishop of Bling" -- who spent $43 million to remodel his opulent pad.

Sinead O’Connor’s ‘SNL’ Protest Was ‘Monumental’ for Church Sex Abuse Survivors


IN 1992, AFTER Sinéad O’Connor ripped apart a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live in protest of the Catholic church ignoring child abuse, Frank Sinatra called her “one stupid broad” and said he would “kick her ass if she were a guy.” The following week’s SNL host, Joe Pesci, who was in full GoodFellas mode, pasted the photo back together and said if he’d been on her episode, “I woulda gave her such a smack.” He held up the back of his hand to the audience’s audible delight. Even Madonna, who was trying to shock the world at the time with her Sex book and Erotica album, criticized O’Connor for “ripping up an image that means a lot to other people.”

But for abuse survivors within the church, seeing O’Connor, who died Wednesday at age 56, was a revelation that night.

“A lot of us had to grow up with that photo of John Paul,” says Peter Isely, who is a survivor of a priest’s sexual assault and is a cofounding member of the organization Ending Clergy Abuse. “Kids were raped and sexually assaulted in rectories and churches with that photo in the room, looking down upon us in complete silence.”

“It was monumental for survivors to hear a person they love — an artist, a musician — publicly [decry abuse] so loudly and on such a public stage with such rebellion,” says Michael McDonnell, another survivor who is Interim Executive Director of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). “It was powerful. Truly, I believe it gave individuals the courage and strength to start digesting the abuse that they had suffered.”

In the years prior to appearing on SNL, as O’Connor became a global star with hits like “Mandinka” and “Nothing Compares 2 U,” she described her own childhood as brutal. She was the third of four children born to John and Marie O’Connor, a working-class Catholic couple from Dublin. Marie physically abused Sinéad and sent her daughter to Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries — Catholic-run reform schools for “fallen women” — after Sinéad was expelled from Catholic school and arrested for shoplifting. “Between the family situation and the Catholicism, I developed a real capacity for guilt,” O’Connor told Rolling Stone in 1990.



Marie died in a car wreck in 1985, two years before the release of O’Connor’s first album, but her abuse stayed with her daughter. It was Marie’s personal picture of the pope that O’Connor shredded onstage.

At SNL, O’Connor covered Bob Marley’s song “War” a cappella, looking directly into the camera. But where Marley decried “the ignoble and unhappy regime that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique, South Africa,” O’Connor sang “the ignoble and unhappy regime which holds all of us through child abuse, yeah, child abuse.” Toward the end, she called out, “Children, children, fight!” before pulling out the pope’s picture during a lyric about feeling confident “in the victory of good over evil.” After throwing the pieces on the floor, she spoke the words, “Fight the real enemy.” Nobody clapped.


“Imagine you’ve been sexually assaulted or abused by a priest, and you see this happening in front of you — how do you think you’d feel?” Isely says. “It had a bigger impact than we know, in people’s personal and private lives, because most survivors don’t come forward. It challenged survivors’ silence, too. It challenged them not to be afraid.”

“I remember it vividly,” McDonnell says. “As someone who had not disclosed to anyone about the abuse that I had suffered, it was shocking because I still very much thought that any bad word against the Catholic church or display of anger against them was a sin. It took years for me to really digest and understand the full impact of what she did that night.”

Publicist Elaine Schock, who repped O’Connor during her SNL performance, remembers the singer confiding in her the reason for the protest. “Her mother had horribly abused her, and she never could get over that,” Schock says. “And she blamed the church for that, and rightly so. In Ireland [when she was growing up], the church would tell her to be a better child, and her mother would just do horrible things to her. And there were instances that would happen where she would see a child being abused by the parents when she was taking her oldest child, Jake, to school, and it would just floor her. Things would trigger her. Her childhood would trigger her.”


O’Connor later recalled her SNL turning point in her 2021 memoir, Rememberings. “[I’d] been pissed off for a few weeks because [I’d] been reading The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (a contrarian, blasphemous history of the early church) but also finding brief articles buried in the back pages of Irish newspapers about children who have been ravaged by priests but whose stories are not believed by the police or bishops their parents report it to,” she wrote. “So [I’d] been thinking even more of destroying my mother’s photo of JP2.”

Despite subsequent hits, the fallout after the performance had a chilling effect on O’Connor’s career. (She never attained another pop hit or gold record in the U.S..) When she made an appearance at Bob Dylan’s star-studded 30th anniversary concert a couple of weeks after SNL, the Madison Square Garden audience booed her. Only Kris Kristofferson, who’d introduced her, supported her. “Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, George Harrison … not one of them said anything about Sinéad or her protest,” Schock recalls. “Nobody stood up for her. Not one person except for Kris Kristofferson. That went on for years. And then decades later, only recently, people have been saying, ‘Sinéad was right.’ Well, it’s a little too late.”


Survivors of abuse, however, saw the SNL appearance as the act of a prophet. In the late Eighties and early Nineties, some had attempted to shine a light on the way the Catholic church handled abuse. Months after O’Connor’s SNL appearance, Pope John Paul II addressed the issue of child molestation within the Catholic church for the first time — though a 2002 Boston Globe exposé revealed that church officials protected abusers during John Paul II’s papacy, which ended with his death in 2005.


“To me, she was a pioneer, and she has kept me in the fight,” Debra Bashwinger, a victim of abuse who is also SNAP exec McDonnell’s life partner, says. “I was one of those abused and we heard her call to expose the systematic oppression and abuse of children.”

“[O’Connor] spoke out at a time when public opinion wasn’t squarely in the camp of survivors,” Sarah Pearson, an Ending Clergy Abuse member, says. “Today, it’s much easier to acknowledge [the abuse] and say something … but for her to do that at a time when there would be real consequences for what she had done, it was really brave.”

Even after O’Connor became a media pariah, she continued her efforts to expose malfeasance in the church. Attorney Jeff Anderson, who has represented hundreds of plaintiffs in lawsuits against the Catholic church alleging sexual abuse from the Eighties to the present, says O’Connor reached out to him in the early Nineties, after her SNL appearance. “She called me, and said, ‘Jeff, I have been following you, and I’m calling you because I want you to sue the Vatican,'” Anderson says. “And I said, ‘Sinéad, ‘I have been trying.’ She said, ‘Jeff, you need to. Do you know what [the church] has done to my country and to my people?’ She was giving so much voice to people from a place of such deep vulnerability.”

O’Connor continued to speak out against the church in interviews, though she later apologized for how she conducted her protest on SNL. “I’m sorry I [ripped up the photo], it was a disrespectful thing to do,” she told the BBC in 1999. “I have never even met the pope. I am sure he is a lovely man. It was more an expression of frustration.” But regardless of how she felt about it in hindsight, especially after the backlash, survivors also felt her exasperation.

“To look to her and what ripping the photo meant to survivors,” Pearson says, “we appreciate her and the solidarity she demonstrated with the community of people around the world who have been harmed by the Catholic church.”

“The reaction [after SNL] pretty much was, ‘Let’s attack the messenger,'” Isely says. “Where was all the rage about these priests that were raping Catholic children? Where was the rage about the bishop that covered it up? Where were the demands of John Paul? Where was the anger and rage ? It’s directed at her.”


Isely and Pearson say abuse within the Catholic church continues to be a problem, even though the 2015 movie Spotlight, a dramatization of the Boston Globe investigation that won the Oscar for Best Picture, reignited the issue within the media.

“This type of [abuse] is still going on,” Pearson says. “As a group, we’re wondering today, ‘Who is going to take a stand for survivors? Who would be brave in the same way as Sinéad?’ We need that right now, more than ever.”

North America synod document calls the church to welcome women, LGBT people and youth

By Michael J. O’Loughlin

The 39-page report, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” says the more than 900 participants in the “continental phase” of the Synod on Synodality expressed appreciation for candid conversation about the joys and tensions that come with being Catholic today. Many of those tensions, the report states, flow from the church not welcoming the voices of women, L.G.B.T. people, youth, the poor and those still reeling from abuse scandals.

The evolution of Pope Francis on women: Some movement, but more needed


There are so many hot takes about Francis and women, and you've probably read most of them. My not-so-hot take is that he is human, he listens and is seemingly open to change. When it comes to the broad topic of women, many "Francis Catholics" are able to accept his so-called "blind spot," because in other ways he models the Vatican II values they long to see. For others, it is not merely a weakness but a misogynistic betrayal of the Gospel that deprives the church, causes great spiritual harm and furthers the oppression of women globally.

Md. judge okays release of redacted report on Catholic clergy sex abuse

By Michelle Boorstein


A judge on Friday approved the release of a redacted version of the Maryland attorney general’s grand jury report on child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Jesuits: New restrictions against Rupnik possible in light of credible abuse accusations

By Hannah Brockhaus

The Society of Jesus said Tuesday it will open a new internal procedure on Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik after receiving abuse accusations with a “very high” degree of credibility against the artist.

Why is the church failing in the West?


May 13, 2022

There are numerous signs that the Catholic Church is failing in Western countries. There are few vocations, church attendance is down and young people are leaving the church in droves. There are as many theories explaining this decline as there are commentators, but the theories can be collected in two major baskets: those that blame culture and those that blame the church itself.

Women: are we protagonists yet?

December 27, 2022

Susan Bigelow Reynolds

Whenever I read a Vatican statement on the role of women, I conduct a thought experiment. I imagine that I know nothing whatsoever about the Roman Catholic Church or its faithful. If this document were my only source of information, I ask from behind my ecclesial veil of ignorance, what basic conclusions might I draw about women in the Church? I've done this mental exercise with dozens of texts over the years, and one conclusion surfaces over and over: women are all exactly the same.

Guest Editorial: Pastoral resolution


December 22, 2022

This week The Catholic Register publishes a rare guest editorial written by Lea Karen Kivi, author of Abuse in the Church: Healing the Body of Christ, who articulates concerns that we agree must be engaged regarding the effect of the adversarial legal system on clerical abuse cases. 

Are lawyers and insurance companies an impediment to the healing of the Church when it comes to clergy sexual abuse cases?

The Archbishop Gets a new Home (And Critics Question his Intentions)

Joel Connelly

Post Alley| Seattle

“Bishops face a challenge of reclaiming our credibility,” he said. “We’re in a different age today, and I want people to know that I’m willing to examine everything – including the home that I live in that the people of God provide me – in order to renew the church.”

Seattle Archdiocese criticized for buying $2.4 million home for archbishop


Staff Reporter


Seattle Archbishop Paul Etienne will be moving from a parish rectory into a newly purchased $2.4 million home in an upscale waterfront neighborhood. Archdiocesan officials say the relocation is necessary to better accommodate guests but the decision has also garnered criticism.


Changes the Catholic Church could make for the better

Washington Post November 20, 2022 

The Nov. 14 editorial “Sins of the fathers” raised serious concerns about the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis and the difficulty in reforming church practices to address this scourge quickly and justly.

The abuse crisis should be the center of the pope's ongoing synodal process

It has become evident that it is no longer an option to ignore, dismiss, belittle, or remain bystanders with regard to cases of abuse, especially in the church. Abuse of any type — sexual, spiritual, abuse of power and/or authority — blatantly contradicts the fundamental dignity of every human being.

French Catholic cardinal admits he abused a 14-year-old girl

by Heather Hamilton, Social Media Reporter

 November 09, 2022 11:17 AM

A member of the Vatican’s department that sanctions abuse cases in the Catholic Church has admitted to abusing a 14-year-old girl sexually more than three decades ago.

Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard stated in a letter that it was time for him to come forward about the situation that took place while he was a parish priest in France.

Why aren't clergy members obligated to report abuse in WA?Why aren't clergy members obligated to report abuse in WA?

By Wilson Criscione


Nearly 20 years ago, in the aftermath of the Catholic sexual abuse scandal, former Washington state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson wanted to make sure child sexual abuse could not be hidden so easily by church leaders.

Cardinal Grech: The synod ‘needs time’ on the question of married priests

Gerard O’Connell

September 22, 2022

Cardinal Mario Grech, general secretary of the Vatican’s synod office, says he sees “a different church” emerging from the worldwide synodal process. In the second part of this exclusive interview with America’s Vatican correspondent Gerard O’Connell for the “Inside the Vatican” podcast, Cardinal Grech reveals in new depth the plans for the continental and Roman phases of the global synodal process.

The sex abuse crisis and the future of the Catholic Church

Bruno Bouvet and Céline Hoyeau | France

The Catholic Church throughout the world continues to deal, country by county and at various paces, with the sexual abuse crisis.

Why I declined to join my diocesan sex abuse review board

A woman holds this sign as members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) hold a news conference in front of the Diocese of Pittsburgh Aug. 20, 2018, several days after a Pennsylvania grand jury released a stinging report that said more than 300 priests sexually abused more than 1,000 children during the course of several decades.

Women deacons movement hopes for concrete proposals in next synod stage

Oct 13, 2022

by Christopher White

ROME — When Casey Stanton, who has spent the last year leading synod listening sessions throughout the United States, traveled to Mexico last month, she repeatedly heard the phrase "poco a poco" — or "little by little" — used to describe how change takes place in the Catholic Church.

Corpus Reports 

We believe in the powerful potential of a grassroots movement. Our history and our tradition have taught us that whenever two or more are gathered in Christ's name, Christ's own Spirit is in our midst. 

Autumn 2022 is the latest selection of articles that share HOC visions.

Farewell letter from a whistleblower to former fellow priests
Church closures: Celibacy, women
Opinion: Vatican's reprimand falls disappointingly short
‘Spiritual refugees’ feel the loss of closed Catholic churches in Seattle. Some are appealing to the Vatican
​Exclusive: Pope Francis calls steps against clerical abuse irreversible, despite resistance

Priest who is survivor says church still needs ‘lamentation’ for abuse

Survivors praised for 20 years of exposing Catholic abuse scandals

Archdiocese of St. John’s faces a staggering bill

Why the Catholic Church should listen more to victims and survivors of abuse

The four-year study listened to the voices of victims and survivors of abuse and others affected across the Catholic community.


The study suggests that aspects of the church’s culture partly explain how the response has often failed, causing further pain and harm, described by victims and survivors as ‘secondary abuse’.

The report invites groups across the Catholic community to listen more deeply to the voices of those directly and indirectly affected and consider what may need to change in Catholic culture and theological understanding.

Although the report recognises that progress has been made in safeguarding practice and compassionate support for survivors, it concludes that more work is needed.

Catholic Bankruptcies Benefit Catholic Officials

In 2006, thanks to the tenacity and courage of 24 clergy sex abuse victims, a California-based Catholic religious order called the Franciscans was forced to release 8,500 pages of long-hidden records about horrific clergy sex crimes and cover ups.

It was, and still is, one of the most significant single document disclosures that reveals how these devastating crimes were committed and concealed in a single, large Catholic entity. (The records are available at

But sadly, that moment is unlikely to be repeated.

and conceal more abuse.

Pope Francis accused of opposing reforms to tackle clerical sexual abuse

Pope Francis has been accused of opposing reforms that would seriously address the problem of clerical sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults, while “turning a blind eye” to priests who assault nuns and force them to have abortions.

Francis promised to “spare no effort” to bring to justice paedophile priests and the bishops who covered up their crimes at an unprecedented summit in February 2019, an event that was supposed to mark a turning point in the handling of a scandal that has embroiled the Catholic church for decades.

Clergy abuse victims ask Baltimore bankruptcy judge to reconsider ban on lawsuits against Catholic parishes, schools

Lee O. Sanderlin Baltimore Sun


A committee representing clergy abuse survivors is asking a federal bankruptcy judge to reconsider her order barring lawsuits against Catholic schools and parishes as part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Parishes and schools are technically not assets of the archdiocese, despite Archbishop William E. Lori having control over whether they can be bought or sold, but were granted protection from lawsuits because the archdiocese insures them.

Exclusive: Cardinals Cupich, McElroy say 'impossible to go back' to synods without lay voters

Two U.S. cardinals said one of the immediate results of Pope Francis' major summit on the future of the Catholic Church is that it should now be "impossible" to return to an era where lay men and women are not given both a voice and vote in major Vatican meetings. 

"It would seem to me impossible to go back now," said San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy on Oct. 29. "It would be wrenching to go back if you just had bishops there or just bishops voting." 

Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich concurred. He said that Catholics' common experience of baptism means: "We all have authority, and that means that we all have something to say."

Pope Francis intervenes at the synod, calling clericalism a ‘scourge’ that ‘enslaves’ God’s people

Cindy Wooden

Pope Francis told members of the synod on synodality that they should respect and honor the faith of all baptized Catholics, including the women, trusting “the holy, faithful people of God” who continue to believe even when their pastors act like dictators.

“I like to think of the church as the simple and humble people who walk in the presence of the Lord -- the faithful people of God,” he told participants at the assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 25.

Seattle plays unexpected role in historic Catholic assembly in Rome

Nina Shapiro

Until recently, Jennifer Kelly hasn’t spent much time considering whether she’d like to become a member of the Catholic clergy. As a woman, that option isn’t open to her.


But lately, the 60-year-old Seattle resident realized she’s spent much of her life in a role similar to that of a deacon, who provides spiritual support and guidance in an ordained position one step below a priest. She founded and now runs a Jesuit ministry in Washington prisons that has her leading communion services, holding retreats and praying with and for those who are incarcerated.

Louisiana grand jury charges 91-year-old disgraced priest with sexual assault of teenage boy in 1975


Astate grand jury has charged a now-91-year-old disgraced priest with sexually assaulting a teenage boy in 1975, an extraordinary prosecution that could shed new light on what Roman Catholic Church leaders knew about a child sex abuse crisis that persisted for decades and claimed hundreds of victims.

The priest, Lawrence Hecker, has been at the center of state and federal investigations of clergy sex abuse and a deepening scandal over why church leaders failed to report his admissions to law enforcement even as they permitted him to work around children until he quietly left the ministry in 2002. It wasn't until 2018 that the Archdiocese of New Orleans publicly identified Hecker as a suspected predator when it released its list of "credibly accused" priests.

The misunderstood reason millions of Americans stopped going to church

Jake Meador

Nearly everyone I grew up with in my childhood church in Lincoln, Nebraska, is no longer Christian. That’s not unusual. Forty million Americans have stopped attending church in the past 25 years.


That’s something like 12 percent of the population, and it represents the largest concentrated change in church attendance in American history.

As a Christian, I feel this shift acutely. My wife and I wonder whether the institutions and communities that have helped preserve us in our own faith will still exist for our four children, let alone whatever grandkids we might one day have.

This change is also bad news for America as a whole: Participation in a religious community generally correlates with better health outcomes and longer life, higher financial generosity, and more stable families—all of which are desperately needed in a nation with rising rates of loneliness, mental illness, and alcohol and drug dependency.

The defining problem driving people out is … just how American life works in the 21st century.

Timothy Keller: American Christianity is due for a revival

A new book, written by Jim Davis, a pastor at an evangelical church in Orlando, and Michael Graham, a writer with the Gospel Coalition, draws on surveys of more than 7,000 Americans by the political scientists Ryan Burge and Paul Djupe, attempting to explain why people have left churches—or “dechurched,” in the book’s lingo—and what, if anything, can be done to get some people to come back.

The book raises an intriguing possibility: What if the problem isn’t that churches are asking too much of their members, but that they aren’t asking nearly enough?

The Great Dechurching finds that religious abuse and more general moral corruption in churches have driven people away. This is, of course, an indictment of the failures of many leaders who did not address abuse in their church. But Davis and Graham also find that a much larger share of those who have left church have done so for more banal reasons.

The book suggests that the defining problem driving out most people who leave is … just how American life works in the 21st century. Contemporary America simply isn’t set up to promote mutuality, care, or common life. Rather, it is designed to maximize individual accomplishment as defined by professional and financial success.

Such a system leaves precious little time or energy for forms of community that don’t contribute to one’s own professional life or, as one ages, the professional prospects of one’s children.

Workism reigns in America, and because of it, community in America, religious community included, is a math problem that doesn’t add up.

Numerous victims of abuse in church environments can identify a moment when they lost the ability to believe, when they almost felt their faith draining out of them.

The book shows, though, that for most Americans who were once a part of churches but have since left, the process of leaving was gradual, and in many cases they didn’t realize it was even happening until it already had.

It’s less like jumping off a cliff and more like driving down a slope, eventually realizing that you can no longer see the place you started from.

Consider one of the composite characters that Graham and Davis use in the book to describe a typical evangelical dechurcher: a 30-something woman who grew up in a suburban megachurch, was heavily invested in a campus ministry while in college, then after graduating moved into a full-time job and began attending a young-adults group in a local church. In her 20s, she meets a guy who is less religiously engaged, they get married, and, at some point early in their marriage, after their first or second child is born, they stop going to church.

Maybe the baby isn’t sleeping well and when Sunday morning comes around, it is simply easier to stay home and catch whatever sleep is available as the baby (finally) falls asleep.

In other cases, a person might be entering mid-career, working a high-stress job requiring a 60- or 70-hour workweek. Add to that 15 hours of commute time, and suddenly something like two-thirds of their waking hours in the week are already accounted for.

And so when a friend invites them to a Sunday-morning brunch, they probably want to go to church, but they also want to see that friend, because they haven’t been able to see them for months. The friend wins out.

After a few weeks of either scenario, the thought of going to church on Sunday carries a certain mental burden with it—you might want to go, but you also dread the inevitable questions about where you have been. “I skipped church to go to brunch with a friend” or “I was just too tired to come” don’t sound like convincing excuses as you rehearse the conversation in your mind.

Soon it actually sounds like it’d be harder to attend than to skip, even if some part of you still wants to go. The underlying challenge for many is that their lives are stretched like a rubber band about to snap—and church attendance ends up feeling like an item on a checklist that’s already too long.

What can churches do in such a context? In theory, the Christian Church could be an antidote to all that. What is more needed in our time than a community marked by sincere love, sharing what they have from each according to their ability and to each according to their need, eating together regularly, generously serving neighbors, and living lives of quiet virtue and prayer?

A healthy church can be a safety net in the harsh American economy by offering its members material assistance in times of need: meals after a baby is born, money for rent after a layoff.

Perhaps more important, it reminds people that their identity is not in their job or how much money they make; they are children of God, loved and protected and infinitely valuable.

But a vibrant, life-giving church requires more, not less, time and energy from its members. It asks people to prioritize one another over our career, to prioritize prayer and time reading scripture over accomplishment.

This may seem like a tough sell in an era of dechurching. If people are already leaving—especially if they are leaving because they feel too busy and burned out to attend church regularly—why would they want to be part of a church that asks so much of them?

Although understandable, that isn’t quite the right question. The problem in front of us is not that we have a healthy, sustainable society that doesn’t have room for church.

The problem is that many Americans have adopted a way of life that has left us lonely, anxious, and uncertain of how to live in community with other people.

The tragedy of American churches is that they have been so caught up in this same world that we now find they have nothing to offer these suffering people that can’t be more easily found somewhere else.

American churches have too often been content to function as a kind of vaguely spiritual NGO, an organization of detached individuals who meet together for religious services that inspire them, provide practical life advice, or offer positive emotional experiences. Too often it has not been a community that through its preaching and living bears witness to another way to live.

The theologian Stanley Hauerwas captured the problem well when he said that “pastoral care has become obsessed with the personal wounds of people in advanced industrial societies who have discovered that their lives lack meaning.”

The difficulty is that many of the wounds and aches provoked by our current order aren’t of a sort that can be managed or life-hacked away. They are resolved only by changing one’s life, by becoming a radically different sort of person belonging to a radically different sort of community.

Last fall, I spent several days in New York City, during which time I visited a home owned by a group of pacifist Christians that lives from a common purse—meaning the members do not have privately held property but share their property and money.

Their simple life and shared finances allow their schedules to be more flexible, making for a thicker immediate community and greater generosity to neighbors, as well as a richer life of prayer and private devotion to God, all supported by a deep commitment to their church.

This is, admittedly, an extreme example. But this community was thriving not because it found ways to scale down what it asked of its members but because it found a way to scale up what they provided to one another. Their way of living frees them from the treadmill of workism.

Work, in this community, is judged not by the money it generates but by the people it serves. In a workist culture that believes dignity is grounded in accomplishment, simply reclaiming this alternative form of dignity becomes a radical act.

Pope Gives Women a Vote in Influential Meeting of Bishops

By Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo

Francis remains adamant in his opposition to ordaining women as priests and cautious about making women deacons. But on Wednesday he took what may be his most important step to give women a greater voice in the church. He approved changes that will for the first time allow women and lay people to vote at a major meeting of bishops that the pope has repeatedly made clear will be a central deliberative body to help him determine the future of the church.

Catholic group spent millions on app data that tracked gay priests

By Michelle Boorstein and Heather Kelly

A group of conservative Colorado Catholics has spent millions of dollars to buy mobile app tracking data that identified priests who used gay dating and hookup apps and then shared it with bishops around the country.

How German Catholics seek to transform Church governance

Héloïse de Neuville

It is one of the most burning issues between the Holy See and the Catholic Church in Germany. After three years of work, which will conclude on March 12, the members of the German Synodal Path (der Synodaler Weg) have decided to create a "synodal council".This "consultation and decision-making" body, which is to come into being – at the latest – in March 2026, amounts to a small democratic revolution in the Church. Composed of bishops, priests, deacons and lay people, this future synodal council will have the task of making decisions on future issues for the Church and its financial management.

New suit alleges San Diego Catholic diocese transferred assets to avoid paying sex abuse claims

By Alejandra Molina


LOS ANGELES (RNS) — A law firm representing alleged sexual abuse victims in California is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, claiming the diocese fraudulently moved around real estate assets in an attempt to hide its wealth and avoid paying child sex abuse claims.

The Catholic Church and Sexual Abuse, Then and Now

Wietse de Boer

The institution of the Catholic Church finds itself in a period of extraordinary crisis.

An August 2018 grand jury report on clerical sex abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses gave a detailed, often graphic account of decades of criminal offenses against minors by Catholic priests. Other states have since launched their own investigations. Evidence that church superiors—bishops, archbishops, and even popes—failed to address abuses effectively has only amplified the outrage.

About Three-in-Ten U.S. Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated


DECEMBER 14, 2021

The secularizing shifts evident in American society so far in the 21st century show no signs of slowing. The latest Pew Research Center survey of the religious composition of the United States finds the religiously unaffiliated share of the public is 6 percentage points higher than it was five years ago and 10 points higher than a decade ago.

Which Covers Up More ‘Credibly Accused’ Sex Abusers – CT Family Court or Catholic Church?

Frank Parlato

December 25, 2022

In 2018, the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport retained Attorney Robert L. Holzberg of Pullman & Comley to investigate clergy sexual abuse of minors.

Md. judge seals proceedings around Catholic clergy sexual abuse report

By Michelle Boorstein


A Baltimore Circuit Court judge has sealed all records — including, retroactively, some that are already public — related to Attorney General Brian E. Frosh’s 456-page report into historical clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Experts develop restorative justice proposals to address Catholic sexual abuse crisis

November 28, 2022 Dennis Brown ND Experts Daniel Philpott

A group composed of scholars, psychologists, clergy, restorative justice experts and victim-survivors of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis has developed a set of proposals that encourage the use of restorative justice as a means to help heal victim-survivors and the broader Church.

A Battle for the Soul of the American Catholic Church

ByJoel Connelly

November 23, 2022

A major, largely overlooked triumph of the right took place days after abortion rights and pro-choice Senators prevailed in America’s 2022 mid-term election. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) elected a new leadership, spurning allies of Pope Francis and picking bishops who echo positions of MAGA Republicans in America’s culture wars.

US bishops' decline into irrelevance will continue

I suppose it was fitting, in a depressing kind of way, that the U.S. bishops' conference plenary coincided with former President Donald Trump's announcement he is seeking the presidency in 2024. In both church and state, the future will be dominated by divisiveness and a culture war ethic for the next few years, a result that contradicts the founding mission of both. The future is grim.

Bishops and sex abuse: who knew what and when did they know it?

By Arnaud Bevilacqua | France

The revelations concerning Bishop Michel Santier and Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard highlight a number of dysfunctions.

Women are now the Catholic church’s last hope



November 06 2022 02:30 AM

A church must reflect the world in which it lives in order to thrive.

The Silent Witnesses: Jehovah’s Witnesses covered up child sexual abuse in Washington state for decades, lawsuit alleges

By Wilson Criscione


They were in the Bible study room when Deryk Terril, a shy 11-year-old with shaggy hair in 1976, found the courage to finally say something: An elder at a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Spokane had been molesting him for years, Terril, now 57, recounts in a lawsuit filed in August.

I’m a Catholic teenager who wanted to know what my friends thought about the church. Here’s what they said.

Matthew Buscarino

October 31, 2022

Growing secularism among younger Americans is no secret. A 2019 Pew Research Center Survey of Americans aged 13 to 17 found that only 50 percent believed religion was an important part of their lives, as opposed to 73 percent of their parents. This trend has caught the attention of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which published on its website an article titled “Confronting Secularism Today” by Robert Spitzer, S.J., who posits four causes for this trend:...


Continuing to hide the truth

Robert Mickens Oct 22,.2022

October 22, 2022Continuing to hide the truthThe Catholic hierarchy's ongoing struggle to understand the true meaning of transparency.
"Disgust."That was the title of a recent editorial written by La Croix's editor-in-chief Jérôme Chapuis concerning revelations that a French bishop who had been allowed to take early retirement in 2021 because of "health reasons" and "other difficulties, had actually stepped down after admitting that he sexually abused two young men in the 1970s.

Vatican’s mishandling of high-profile abuse cases extends its foremost crisis

By Chico Harlan


Amanda Coletta


October 17, 2022 at 11:17 a.m. EDT

VATICAN CITY — Three years ago, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church was committed to eradicating the “evil” of abuse. The pope and other church leaders drew up new guidelines to handle accusations. They pledged transparency. They said victims’ needs would come first.

2022The Vatican's investigation of sex abuse cases still not transparent

By Robert Mickens | Vatican City

It's very disappointing to have to say this, but a word of advice to anyone who has been sexually abused by a Catholic priest or bishop: if the offense is still within the statute of limitations, do not — under any circumstances — report it to Church authorities, especially those at the Vatican.


No, go directly to the police. Otherwise, there is no guarantee that your denunciation will be taken seriously or investigated in any sort of transparent way.

New Jersey lawsuit alleges former D.C. archbishop Theodore McCarrick sexually abused 14-year-old at Hackensack parish in the 1990s
What Happened to the Roman Catholic Church? What Now?: An Institutional and Personal Memoir
Why Pope Francis' Canada school apology isn't enough
True reconciliation will require forgiveness, says former AFN national chief ahead of Pope's visit
Vatican defrocks Bay Area priest who scolded diocese over sex abuse

The Twilight of Pope Francis

The Dallas Charter, 20 years later — Part 2: Procedures have been implemented, but the Church is not finished

The Dallas Charter, 20 years later — Part 1: Widespread abuse comes to light, and the bishops respond

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