While the USCCB tries to tell you that 68 percent is a great retention rate, I will tell you the truth and not the spin.
That's a horrible rate.
First of all 1 in ten AMERICANS (that's total population) are former Catholics. That means for every thousand people in America, one hundred of them were Catholic and found what they thought was a better deal. That's an embarrassing number.
6 out of 10 of the people surveyed who left Catholicism and became unaffiliated with another faith were asked why they left Catholicism. They cited teachings on abortion and homosexuality. 50 percent cite teachings on birth control and about 40% say we treat women badly. I state very clearly here--these people could have and should have been retained. I'd like to see more information here--but my thought is that these people probably simply did not dismiss the church's notions on these issues but perhaps felt judged by someone in the church, or witnessed judgmental behavior. There's also bound to be wide-ranging misconceptions about what the church really does teach on these issues as well. Now that being said...
What about the people who really looked at the church's teaching and came to the conclusion that it wasn't for them? Do we just let them go? I think so at least consciously.
But this is my point about the power of action over words--and granted, we need to do both--but I think the more powerful of the two is action. People may think that Catholics are a bunch of finger-waggers because of their beliefs, but many think that because see see a lot of Catholics living their beliefs inconsistently. I think that needs to change. I know I'm not the best person, by any stretch when it comes to caring for the poor or depriving myself of something in order to better use my resources to help someone less fortunate.
When people see us living our beliefs by the fact that we stand up for the needs of the poor, we help pregnant women and help care for their children long term--despite its effects on us--then will people start to ask deep questions about why we live the way we live.
But the fact remains that most people are self-interested and don't REALLY care about the poor--but only do so to the extent that it doesn't bother them. We have all we can do some days to get people to notice their next door neighbors--never mind, the unborn, the poor, the homeless, or the elderly who many have insulated themselves from even seeing.
Live and in person!
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