Pope Francis on 10 Reasons Why People Reject the Church

Pope Francis

The Church's most prominent outreach today, the New Evangelization, aims at reviving the spiritual lives of those who have drifted from Christ. While these people may have been baptized and perhaps catechized, while they may attend Church semi-regularly, they have never been truly evangelized. They have never experienced a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ or real transformation through his Church.

A couple weeks ago, Pope Francis delivered a powerful message to the Brazilian bishops in the midst of his World Youth Day celebrations. Unfortunately, it didn't get nearly the attention it deserved.

Speaking on the New Evangelization, and using the Emmaus Journey as a framework, the Pope encouraged his listeners to reflect on why people reject the Church today—why, like the Emmaus disciples, they decide to walk the other way. To bring people back to Christ and his Church, we must understand why they leave in the first place.

To that end, Pope Francis offered ten specific reasons:

1. The Church no longer offers anything meaningful or important.
2. The Church appears too weak.
3. The Church appears too distant from their needs.
4. The Church appears too poor to respond to their concerns.
5. The Church appears too cold.
6. The Church appears too caught up with itself.
7. The Church appears to be a prisoner of its own rigid formulas.
8. The world seems to have made the Church a relic of the past.
9. The Church appears unfit to answer the world's new questions.
10. The Church speaks to people in their infancy but not when they come of age.
 
Read the excerpt below for more context:

"The two disciples have left Jerusalem. They are leaving behind the 'nakedness' of God. They are scandalized by the failure of the Messiah in whom they had hoped and who now appeared utterly vanquished, humiliated, even after the third day.
 
Here we have to face the difficult mystery of those people who leave the Church, who, under the illusion of alternative ideas, now think that the Church—their Jerusalem—can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important. So they set off on the road alone, with their disappointment. Perhaps the Church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold, perhaps too caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas, perhaps the world seems to have made the Church a relic of the past, unfit for new questions; perhaps the Church could speak to people in their infancy but not to those come of age.
 
It is a fact that nowadays there are many people like the two disciples of Emmaus; not only those looking for answers in the new religious groups that are sprouting up, but also those who already seem godless, both in theory and in practice.
 
Faced with this situation, what are we to do?
 
We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation. We need a Church able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning.”

Which of these reasons do you see as most significant?

 
(HT: Thomas Doran at Catholic World Report)

 
  • Bill McKenzie

    People of all times turn to God and His Church when man's solutions fail (as always happens). Right now we worship technology. It keeps us sterile and comfortable. We think we are gods.
    Technology however cannot protect us from man's inhumanity to man. War will come. It always does. And when it does it will knock us to our knees and knock some sense into our heads. This is the spiritual cycle of life. Those who doubt this are the most surprised when it happens.

  • disqus_TR2uV7KHOY

    Yeah, I got linked here from a sedevacantist site. It was like Vatican 2 set up a pub in the church where people were trying to recover from alcoholism. The pub representing worldliness, people went to the Catholic church to get away from the world and recover from it. Now, V2 brought the world into the "church" and so anytime "Catholics" try to do anything anti-worldly, the action is met with worldly opposition - within the "church". This has driven traditionalists away from any "church" purporting to be "Catholic" which accepts V2.

    All the excuses Francis gives have pretty quick Catholic answers.

    1, 2 - because of inherently contradictory V2/worldliness.

    3, 4 - lack of prayer because of lack of discipline from V2. "With God all things are possible"

    5 (coldness of the worldliness from V2)

    6, 7, 8, 9 - this is revolutionary-speak. It is exactly Catholic tradition which has the answers to the same problems. Ecclesiastes says, "nothing is new under the sun". "Modern" problems are the same as problems in Jesus' day. The Catholic Church is eternal.

    10 - Spiritually, we are to be children of God - "coming of age" means … becoming a child of the Devil?

    It is simply a failure to adhere to tradition which has sent a lot of people away in droves since V2, as well as the freely chosen evil of many others. If the Catholic Church was thought of through a business lens, people would say, "hey, how do we grow this business? How do we multiply the flock?" They would then take action and go door to door like the Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons do, etc. Instead, the policies of V2 are inherently anti-missionary and pro-indifferent ecumenism. Modern "Catholicism" is recovering alcoholics put into the pub of Vatican 2 - the structure's design itself guarantees failure.

  • Jadissock

    So, all 10 reasons can be summed up in one - "Spirit of Vatican 2"

    • disqus_TR2uV7KHOY

      Exactly.

  • Clare

    Every single one of these 'problems' and more are all blown away when one visits Medugorje and learns how to truly Pray, Fast, Read Scripture, go to Confession, and respect and receive Holy Eucharist. Medj IS the solution for the church and wider society today.

  • Florin S.

    Aug. 18th: I don't like to say the "Church" does not do this or that because the Church is the Bride of Christ...members of the Church do not meet the needs of the people...the Church is out there in the midst of persecution, danger, out there in the midst of poverty, illness...etc. I know...I've worked in Haiti and in India with Mother Teresa and I have seen self sacrificial love of men and women, lay and religious, giving of themselves almost to the point of death and, in some case, to the point of dying. I have seen men and women, lay and Religious, press on while suffering from malaria, pneumonia, as malnourishes as the people they serve...and they do this for the love of Christ and His Church and His people. Then there are those, lay and religious, who sit on their comfortable, at times luxurious, seats while hunger and pain are all around them. Many feed and house their animals better than the poor. Where are the homilies that will feed the people, give them strength and courage to keep going; where is the fire in the soul? Some Priests even go on line to get their Sunday homilies and then read them at the lectern, word for word instead of reflecting on the Gospel themselves and then offering the fruit of that reflection to the people. Pope Francis is giving a beautiful, powerful example of what we should all be doing...we should get out of our comfort zones and mingle with the people of God, especially those who live on the periphery, the marginalized, the lonely - go and volunteer even once a month at a homeless shelter or help to distribute food to the poor and elderly...bring your children along so they can see Christ in you in action...work together to create a culture of life and of love, of true brotherhood. If we don't we all lose...our Catholic Church is a shining beacon in the dark, a center of hope and of healing...all members may not be but remember, we have the living God, Jesus Christ, in our Churches, our tabernacles...He is there, He calls, He waits, He gives...let us not forget that. and May God bless us all and lead us out of ourselves to serve others in His Name...

  • Petrichor

    I've seen lists like these before and they seem to miss the most crucial reason for why anyone would reject Catholicism: its teachings are false, be they on metaphysics, ethics, history or theology.

    I wish I could find more Catholics who'd interact on those issues rather than the ones Pope Francis mentioned.

    • Proteios

      You should probably ask your priest about specific examples you may have. Most of us Catholics are so weary of the ignorance that accompanies most blanket statements like what you made or da Vinci code logic that it just isn't worth addressing people who could care less about our worldview, their only goal is to ridicule it by dressing up their viewpoint with revisionist history or the Steven Hawkins approach by redefining what nothing is. Its just just annoying and adds nothing to the intellectual capacity of a discussion.

      • Petrichor

        My experience has been fairly different Proteios. I attended Catholic seminary for several years, and my brother will be a priest next year. I've been Catholic most of my life and even taught catechesis at college. So, I've spoken with lay and clergy alike (even with my Bishop!). Just disappointed I guess. Do you know of a forum where Catholics substantively engage these issues? I tried catholic.com for a while but didn't find what I was looking for.

  • Terry

    The RC Church has always existed as one of the supporting institutions of the broader community, which was based on the extended family. The aunts, uncles and cousins were the community. The Church didn't have to fill the emotional needs because they were filled by the large extended families. The Church was only there for extended support of their worship or greater needs that the family couldn't provide. On the other hand, protestant churches have always been based on individuals building a new community. They have 500+ years of welcoming new-comers who have left the Catholic Church, or otherwise join the church from their former communities. Therefore it is a part of their essence to be good at building community support systems. That was their focus from the beginning. The focus of the Mass is mainly vertical, many of the other religions have a more horizontal focus. Their Sunday school, bible studies, even the potluck dinners are viewed as important and seen as an extension of their church service. WE have to pull teeth to get anyone to stay around after mass for anything!

    All well and good in the old days. But now we no longer have large close knit extended families. The supporting institutions no longer support our values or morals. We need to band together and learn to fill these needs outside of the weekly obligations of Mass attendance.

  • "There is only one tragedy in the end, not to have been a saint." - Léon Bloy