On staying in the church

An online publication called Faith & Leadership, published by Duke Divinity School, recently approached me and asked me to consider a recent Pew study that found young Catholics to be leaving the church in large numbers and then reflect on why I remain. I gave it some thought, and I kept coming back to what happens each week at Mass. From the post:

During the eucharistic prayer, as the priest consecrated the bread and wine that becomes for Catholics the actual body and blood of Christ, I closed my eyes. I pictured Jesus hiding with his disciples in a dark room, offering his peace to his unsettled followers on the eve of his death. For those few moments, the concerns and disappointments I have with the church vanished. I was with God and my neighbor. I was living out who I am called to be.


I once thought that my peers who left the church were intellectually or spiritually lazy, but I’ve since come to understand their decision. In fact, sometimes I am jealous that they were able to walk away.

But I can’t. A life of faith is difficult, but it is the life I want. It is who I am, and it is why I remain.

Sure, my faith will ebb and flow over the years. But for now I focus on living out the gospel quietly, trying to navigate a life of faith amidst doubt and uncertainty, hurt and anger, grateful for the moments of joy that sustain me.

Read the full reflection here.

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Sandi Sinor
6 years 5 months ago
Bill, #41. I reacted because of your post ''bashing'' Amy. I responded because I felt she had made some valid observations, even if not the most tactfully. I would have said nothing, but then you responded to her post by ''bashing'' her and so I responded to yours!  And in my response, I said that I too had observed what she had observed.

 JR and I have discussed this already, and have put it to rest.

But now maybe you would now like to tell us why you chose to ''bash'' Amy?

Of course as Mel notes above, perhaps it's better if this particular discussion does not go on.

Bill Freeman
6 years 5 months ago
@Maria (#45) - that's not a hard one; take a hint?
Sandi Sinor
6 years 5 months ago
Bill, it's your characterization that I ''bashed'' JR!  Perceptions often differ.

These are the words you used to Amy to describe her -   ''so offensive, judgmental, rage, ridicule, place of judgment''.

You then wrote ''Maybe you should consider a vacation from America?''

Some might find those terms  and your rhetorical question closer to ''bashing'' than to charity or kindness or understanding.

I suggest that both of us stop posting on this now. It is a fruitless conversation, don't you agree? 
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 5 months ago
The management hasn't crushed out every good person and every good institution that makes me want to stay in. But they're working on it.  I'm 63 and if my body can withstand the Republicrat pollution of my environment,, I should make it to 93.  In my fantasy of my aged future, I see myself in some remote area near a remote Benedictine monastery, attending Mass there far away from nasty hierarchs, breaking the bread of life with the last ageing monks.  For anyone who wants to say something to screw up this fantasy, kindly shut up.
Jim McCrea
6 years 5 months ago
It will be interesting to have Michael reflect on this topic about 35 - 40 years from now. If he is still in this church, that is.
Jim Pomian
6 years 5 months ago
Michael... I once thought I could hang on and just focus on what I cherish in the Church: The local parish, the Eucharist, my OFM pastor, Holy Thursday, Easter Vigil, Easter Morning, Christmas Mass, ...the "smells and bells"... the love and family of my parish each Sunday morning Then they called me a Cafeteria Catholic because I disagree with the "teaching" that women cannot be ordained. I disagree with birth control. I disagree with what they say about homosexuality. I disagree with how bishops are chosen and how priests are assigned to parishes.  I disagree with the financial accountability from the parish up thru the Vatican. I watched in horror when bishops were called to Rome to protect them from arrest for hiding preditor priests. But they told me that I must accept all the teaching or I would not be a Catholic. I've spent the last 2 months in agony. All that I've been taught for 63 years is about to go out the windows that were supposed to be opened after Vatican 2...the windows that are being slammed shut by Rome. I can either stay inside or I can escape. My escape is at hand.
This Sunday I will not be going to mass at my parish. I will be going to Eucharist in my local Episcopal church where there is a sign out front: "there are no outcasts here."
J Cosgrove
6 years 5 months ago
Mr. O'Laughlin,

This is about the 5th or 6th time you have asked the same question and there are other OP's with answers on them. You can review one a few months ago, back in March, on the same topic that you posted.


I gave a few long answers there so I won't repeat them.  You can read them if you want but by repeatedly asking the same question it sounds like you are on the verge of leaving the Church.  I certainly hope not.  I have found there is no better place to be on this earth.

It all comes down to what you believe.  If you believe there is a God, Jesus was God, He came to save humans, He established a Church to help in that goal, gave power to the Church to accomplish that goal, then the rest is home free.  You just have to obey some rules that billions have been tryng to do for almost 2000 years that are not too onerous.  There are some amazing role models including a lot of living ones.

A problem today is that a lot of people place primary emphasis on what happens here on this earth and that is not what the Catholic Church is about.  The Catholic Church is about salvation, no matter how old fashion that sounds.  It doesn't ignore what is happening on earth but it is secondary to what happens after death. Except how one lives affects what will happen after death.  If you don't believe these things, then join your friends but that may be the wrong thing to do.

For a lecture (5 youtube videos) on the most virtuous pagan in history, listen and see if you envy those who have left the Church or maybe your reaction should be something else.  Maybe it is to pray for them, set an example for them.  The  fourth video of these five youtube videos (all five total about 40 minutes) is very appropriate to this issue even if it is about a pagan.






Melody Evans
6 years 5 months ago
Beautifully said, Father William Taylor.  Your post has definitely given me something to think about.  Thank you.  :)
Amy Ho-Ohn
6 years 5 months ago
Why do people always talk in such apocalyptic terms about "leaving" the Church? Why not just "take a vacation" from the Church? Take a few weeks' vacation in an Episcopalian church or a Lutheran church or a Buddhist whatever-Buddhists-have or just stay in bed, and see if you like it. If you like it, extend your vacation.

JR is being (as often) a total jerk. (Deliberately mispelling somebody's name is very rude and kind of puerile, although, I must admit, I always thought it was funny when GWH Bush used to call Quaddafi "ka-Daffy.") But he has a tiny particle of a germ of a point: one does get bored with all the Catholics who continuously proclaim that they are seriously thinking of "leaving" the Church over the outrage of the week, only to show up at mass Sunday after Sunday, just as outraged and still loudly announcing that they are barely managing to hang on.

An instructive example is the rather ridiculous Andrew Sullivan, who hysterically stomps (in print) out of the Church so often, you could practically make a drinking game of it. But after a week or two, he always discovers that an ex-Catholic columnist is a lot less marketable than a dissenting Catholic columnist, and writes another tearful, overwrought column about how he could never abandon his faith, no matter how much it tortures it causes him. Do try not to be like that, Michael.

J Cosgrove
6 years 5 months ago
Mr. O'Loughlin,

I apologize for misspelling your name. Spelling is not my strong suit, if I even have a strong suit.  I plead guilty to having known some O'Laughlin's and some Laughlin's and not thinking clearly on the spelling.  I copy and pasted your name above so as not to get it wrong this time and upset some people. From a google search

''There are 25 professionals named Mike O'laughlin, who use LinkedIn to exchange''  


Thank you for the kind words.  It is always nice to be singled out in such a way.  I don't know what it exactly means but maybe it means one is not saying something clearly enough which I plead guilty to a lot.  Verbal skills was not a strong suit either.  I am impulsive and tend to write quickly to get it over.

Now, here is what I call a ''total jerk.'' 

If you believe that God set up the Catholic Church as the way for humans to reach salvation, then one would be a total jerk to ever leave it or not participate in it.  Essentially you are giving God the middle finger (a total jerk of a metaphor) by saying I don't want what You, God, have provided.

If you do not believe that God set up the Catholic Church as the way to reach salvation, then one would be a total jerk to even consider it unless you treat a religion like a social club and like the feel of it and all that counts is what makes you feel good in this world.  It is like a box of chocolates, this one tastes good.

So which way one chooses to become a total jerk, depends on what one believes.  As I said, it all comes down to belief.

I would also call a total jerk the taking of someone's words, misinterpreting what they are saying and then after this misinterpretation proceed to belittle them based on their inner motives which one has no idea.  Now that is what I would call a ''total jerk.''  We have lots of them on this site. 

By the way my spelling checker did not recognize the word O'Loughlin or O'Laughlin as being legitimate words.
Amy Ho-Ohn
6 years 5 months ago
@JR, I refuse on principle to play stupid Internet games and of all Internet games the stupidest is the upper-middle-class white Christian guy who takes a break from hurling his poisonous little darts from the lofty pinnacle of upper-middle-class-white Christian guy privilege to begin mewling and bleating like a newly weaned kitten as soon as somebody heaves a pebble his way.

Leaving aside the fact that you often call Michael "Mr. O'Laughlin,"  although his name is at both the top and the bottom of his posts, the essence of your comment was how objectionable it is for him to raise this question again, to which your Authoritative Erudition has already explained the answer on multiple occasions, and now he should go watch four hours of powerpoint slides which your Awe-Inspiring Profoundity has selected for his instruction. What bull. As far as I know, one of you two has a theology degree and it's not you.

If you want to be a jerk, fine, be a jerk; not only this site but the entire Internet is full of jerks. But for God's sake, quit falling into transports of faux-offense when somebody calls you a jerk.

On the main point, anybody over the age of five would have to be not just a total jerk, but a simpleton as well, to be satisfied with the formulaic "God set up the Catholic Church as the way for humans to reach salvation."

What exactly does this mean, that God set up the Church? Which parts did he set up, which parts are incidental and which parts are malign historical accretia? Doesn't it seem suspiciously convenient that so many doctrines happen to be exactly what upper-middle-class conservative white guys would want them to be?

What does it mean to believe that God set up the Church? Isn't a Catholic obliged to remain a Catholic forever, in spite of doubts? Ought not one to stay and hope that what now seems doubtful will someday become clear? In Purgatory, if not sooner? Could a vacation in an Episcopalian church help one learn to understand the divine mystery we call the Church? (Maybe the way syphilis helps one understand the virtue of chastity?)

If your belief can be encapsulated in slogans, then your faith is just ideology.
6 years 5 months ago
For the more erudite this might be too simplistic, but I'll give it a try, I don't know the reason, call it “mystery’ if you wish, for it surely is, but from its embryonic state the entity that came to be called the “Church” specifically, the “Catholic Church” experienced people willing to walk away from it. He was a “just man” in Biblical lingo that means a truly righteous person, yet when Joseph heard that the young girl he was soon to marry was pregnant, an outcome totally baffling to him, he thought of walking away quietly from the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity “Churched” in Mary’s womb, but a messenger called “angel” convinced him to stay. We know the rest of the story.

 I think God still sends messengers or angels when we are tempted to walk away from the Church because we find its teachings “ hard.” In John’s Gospel we see many actually walking away, finding the Church’s teaching “a hard saying” but Eucharist which is the “source and summit of the Church” nonetheless happened and is still with us. For me the best reason to stay put, is the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ, sometimes in a pretty beat up “ciborium” called Church. Where needed we have to repair that “ciborium” not abandon it.

 True, it seems there has always been something less than noble about some Church clergy and laity, as everyone knows the Church has since its beginning reeked of ambition, sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle, indeed reeking of every sin in the book. But also managed to produce outstanding models of holiness. See for example how pushy James and John were for the “top spot.” At one point in the Church’s formation period, Jesus got so annoyed at his dull-witted “seminarians” that he said in exasperation, “How long must I put up with you!”

Many feel the same way down through the ages, producing heresies, reformations, rebellions, schisms and just plain disgust! And also lest we forget, from the beginning great holiness! Interestingly Jesus kept working with the dull witts he had personally chosen and things mostly worked out well. In an eerie or better, a mysterious way Jesus continues to choose from his Church similar types he himself had chosen, betrayers, deniers, pompous followers along with living examples of great holiness! Jesus seems to be an equal opportunity provider!

 A last reason among many others why I stay Catholic is MARY! Why should I abandon my Mother! God did great things for her. The Holy Spirit named her “Mother of the Church” and she herself has said, “Do whatever he tells you!” I don’t think that Jesus would ever tell anyone to leave the Church so obviously that’s not something that Blessed Mother Mary would ever tell anyone to do. We need the Church, the Church needs us. I’ll never run from the warm, loving embrace of my Mother. Why should you, no matter how screwed-up things get, an admission that reminds me of the tranquil chaos called reality or life! “For those who love (God) ALL THINGS work TOGETHER unto good!” Our Mother needs us – don’t Quit!
J Cosgrove
6 years 5 months ago

A couple things.

You said ''I refuse on principle to play stupid Internet games ''  But the essence of your reply gives all the appearances of doing just that.  I'm flattered by the tone.  Something must have hit home to cause such a response.

O'Laughlin, Laughlin, O'Loughlin, Loughlin and some other variations are common variants of an old Irish name.  I have no idea which is most prominent.  It is very easy to make the mistake to confuse one with the other and doubt anyone ever got offended by the mistake nor would one say O'Laughlin for O'Loughlin as a way of denigrating anyone or disrespecting them.  So I don't see the persistence in this.  My wife's maiden name is Whalen but I have a good friend whose last name is Whelan.  Maybe some might get offended if they were confused but because both are common few would see the misspelling as an insult.  Though it is hard to predict how some would react.  Apparently some react strongly.

I rarely used Mr. O'Loughlin's name and have indeed a couple times used O'Laughlin by mistake.  Also others on this site have made the same mistake.  So what is it to cause such a reaction as yours.  I find your reaction as the most interesting thing and the personal attacks as odd.  Especially when they do not describe what I believe or feel or was trying to communicate.  You should ask questions in the future rather than attacking.
Amy Ho-Ohn
6 years 5 months ago
@Bruce Snowden, I think you are being (unintentionally) unjust to Michael, Anne and many others who have walked away or seriously considered doing so. The pretense that everybody who walks away does so because Catholicism is "too hard" is a self-serving and utterly unconvincing lie.

It has been a very long time since John and James asked to be made Chief Executive Apostles. In the ensuing centuries, the Church ascended to a position in which She exercised almost unlimited temporal power in the past and continues to enjoy not a little. And nobody can contend that the worst effect has been a few "less than noble clergy."

The influence of the Church historically has often been so malign as to make it extremely difficult for people of good conscience to associate with her. Long after the doctrines of the ontological superiority of the aristocracy and the Divine Right of monarchs had been definitively rejected, the Church continued to exert every ounce of power She had to uphold them. The atrocious inhumanity and cruelty of the feudal system deterred her not one single moment. Even today, the vestige of a Royalist movement in Europe is strongly allied with the SSPX, the Knights of Malta and other "less than noble" Church entities.

More recently, the Church chose to ally Herself with the Fascist movements of the twentieth century. Franco, Mussolini, Salazar, Tiso, and Pavelic all found enthusiastic patronage in the upper echelons of the Church. The brutality and criminality of those systems deterred Her not one bit. All discomfort was alleviated by the self-serving lie that those regimes were the only viable alternatives to Godless Communism.

Today the Church is weaker. But on every continent, She continues to promote political parties renowned for corruption, authoritarianism and disregard for human rights. In fact, it sometimes seems that She consciously prefers those parties, as if She believes they correspond more closely to Her doctrines on the proper government of Fallen Humanity.

In America, the Church is very weak, having reduced Herself to a figure of fun among the elite and a matter of indifference among the masses. But prominent among those who adhere to Her (and among those who "teach," "sanctify," and govern Her) we find, as ever, many of the least noble, the most unscrupulously power-hungry and the most willing to compromise the dignity of their fellow humans.

If some Catholics walk away in disgust from such a Church, convinced that God must long ago have done so Himself, it's not just because they don't like feeling guilty about masturbating.
Bill Taylor
6 years 5 months ago
As I hear these descriptions of Church, I try to match them with my own experience. In my small mostly rural state, I served mostly small rural parishes with farmers, ranchers, and loggers. Tough simple people. My job, it seemed to me, was to teach them to reach out for Christ, to find him in their lives, to let Him challenge them to moral goodness. Along the way, I tried to reflect the principles of the Vatican Council.

Now where was the "Church, ie the hiearchy" in all this? The bishop doesn't bother to visit. Rome is a rumor. The Church was each little family of God with its factions and squabbles and its struggle to find room for religion in life pulling them in so many other directions.

Now, retired, I sometimes sit with the folks in much larger parishes. I watch the pastor from a distance. Mostly, he is a good guy. One is a great preacher. The other is lazy and you get what he came up with on the way to church. Their attitudes are reflected in the parish. One huge parish has a terrific staff, great programs, and standing room only at most Masses on the weekend. Another has a much smaller staff and mediocre or non-existent programs led by a friendly but authoritarian pastor. 

Each of these parishes has a right wing segment anxious to push its agenda on everybody else. Here, for the first time, is a keen awareness of the hieararchy with its agenda. In one parish, the pastor ignores them and does some good stuff. In the other parish the pastor tries his best to keep them calm if not happy. 

But when I pray with each parish, I am surrounded by the old and the young, the focused and the distracted. I sit behind families and in front of a young couple. The church is never quiet. Always there is the sound of a crying child, missalettes, the simple rustle of people. My own focus on the Mass comes and goes. Communion is a highlight. The music is usually good and plays a vital role.

So, this is Church for me. It needs to be more. Even in my old age, I want to get to know some of these people better and be part of their lives. The Knights of Columbus? A bunch of amiable old guys but maybe I will give it a try.

But I am not going to let the hiearchy run me out of here.
david power
6 years 5 months ago
Fulton Sheen was an excellent writer and I have read most of his classics but sometimes he wrote simplistically.The above being a case in point.I know many people who are not catholics/christians/believers (so they may not qualify )but they do not have a clue what guilt is.
Then I also know non-believers  who are extremely moralistic about the environment and other issues and they are wracked with guilt about the smallest things.Then we see all of those in the Church who have never repented of their abominable sins and look like they sleep like saints.
Sheen was of the Irish variety which is particularly guilt-ridden and so his writings sometimes reflect the jansenist heresy rife in Irish catholicism.
Think of how much sin had to go unrepented over decades and decades for the pedophiles to flourish in the Church.Priests,Bishops,cardinals and Popes turning a blind eye and then smiling for the camera......
They did not perhaps recognise it as a sin as their God was not Jesus Christ but the Catholic Church.
I agree with you that Prayer and the Sacraments are vital but their can also be a pathological approach to this.Confidence in the Mercy and Love of God is vital too.
Jeanne Linconnue
6 years 5 months ago
#30. Registered parishoners and active parishoners are not the same thing. I think the average for most registered Catholics is mass once or twice/month.  From what I have read, 1/4 - 1/3 go every Sunday and the rest  now and then is a pretty typical average.

Even most weekly mass goers don't believe that it is necessary to go to a priest to confess and receive God's forgiveness. God doesn't need human beings to ''dispense'' grace for him. If going to a priest for confession doesn't help people, they don't go.  Parishes only schedule confession for an hour or so a week because there is not a lot of demand for confession and there are big demands on the average parish priest's time with fewer and fewer priests around. More people go when there is a penance service during Lent or Advent, and once/year works fine for them.  Sometimes I am in the church for personal prayer during the regular confession hour. Maybe 10 (at most) show up during the hour, so it doesn't seem like people are being ''deprived''. No lines.

But, I suspect that your question isn't really about people being ''deprived'' of the chance to go to a priest for confession.

#20. Stanley, thanks for the smile. It's a bit sad that this is so very true!

#27. David - ''On the finer points of homosexuality....I cannot resolve it in my mind.I am not convinced by the gay lobbyists and neither am I convinced by the Church's argument.....In practise we are asking them to live a contradiction.'' 

This is a good way to put what many of us wrestle with. I don't know if my mind will ever resolve the tension on this subject. But I have come to think it is important to differentiate between civil marriage and religious marriage. Religious groups should not be ''forced'' to perform marriages in their churches if it is against their beliefs, but in the civil realm, religious groups should also not be allowed to impose their beliefs on others. Religious freedom must apply to all and not just Catholics and fundamentalist Christians on this issue and others.

Michael Barberi
6 years 5 months ago
Great article Michael O'Loughlin,

I have always been a faithful Catholic (weekly Mass, daily prayer, etc) from elementary, through high school, college and graduate schools. I was a faithful Catholic from my first day of marrige through the next 20 years. Then, I fell away from the Church for many reasons. Then after almost 15 years, I retuned to the Church and started a 7 year education in moral theology. When I retuned, I made a visit to my parish priest and told him about my disagreements with certain Church teachings and asked him if that would prevent me from being in union with the Church, to be forgiven for sins that I do not believe are sins, to receive the Eucharist, etc. 

This is when I heard a most enlightening piece of wisdom. He told me that I should never allow a disagreement with certain Church teachings (mostly sexual ethics) to prevent me from my relationship with Christ. In his opinion, that was the most important thing.  My disagreements involved disputed questions. He told me that there are groups in the Church representing both sides of the argument, and each believe they speak the truth and are right. He was not going to insist that I must obey these specific Church teachings that I disagree with...or else. He opened the door to the Church for me and welcomed me back with joy, like the prodigal son.

So, I stay in the Catholic Church, critical of the hierarchy for mismanaging the Church, and profoundly disappointed in their intrasigence on specific teachings. I stay in the Church because I have a relationship with Christ; I respect the Church and its fundamental principles of faith; I enjoy the pastoral kindness, goodness and guidance of my parish priest; I believe in the Eucharist, in the Mass and the Gospel. I trust in Christ and in his mercy. However, I work for respectful reform based on my abilities and the guidance and energy given to me by the Holy Spirit. 

I am not naive or idealogical-minded to believe that anything I say will be heard, much less refected on, by the hierarchy. However, I strive to move the conversation foward through publication and blogging. I strive to be an good example for my family, but always humble since I am a sinner. I will not see change in the Catholic Church in my lifetime, but that is not important to me. I pray for God's guidance and grace to accept the truth that may be hidden from me, to respect the opinion of others including the Church, and to keep my mind and heart open to the love of God. Yes, I stay in the Church because the love of Christ is much larger and more significant than any single moral teaching of the Church, some of which I disagree with. Nevertheless, I do not believe I stand on the moral higher ground compared to others, for good reasons, that have left the Catholic Church. They are likely closer to Christ than I.

Thanks once again, Michael, for a great article. 
Bill Freeman
6 years 5 months ago
@Amy Ho-Ohn - I often read your comments in America.  Why is it so imprtaont to you to be so offensive, and judgmental?  What fuels such rage?  How did you come to believe that you are able to sit in such a place of judgment, even ridicule?  It's apparent that you find much objectional in the articles and comments. Maybe you should consider a vacation from America?
J Cosgrove
6 years 5 months ago
''So, come on let's get real. For JR Cosgrove to be scolding Michael O'Loughlin (I hope I spelled it right) about how often he posts on a subject is more than a bit out of line for someone who is just a reader of America''

I did not scold Mr. O'Loughlin. In fact I was doing just the opposite as I was trying to help him.  Some may not like the help I provided.  I was just giving the rationale that nuns, brothers and priests have given to me in my Catholic education.  I remarked that because of the number of times he brought it up it seemed to be an important personal issue with him and I said I hoped he didn't leave the Church and then tried to provide some rationale for why he should not leave the Church based on what those nuns, brothers and priests taught me.  So am I being objected to for offering up traditional Catholic doctrine.

Nothing Amy said about me had any semblance of truth.  And your post is continuing on that line.  I was not objecting to the continual posting on the same topic, but remarked it must be one of importance to him and not an unserious one.  As I said I tried to provide a brief rationale for why one should remain a Catholic.  And for that I am criticized.

Question, why bring up the spelling again?  It wasn't a problem with me.  It was a problem with someone else and I doubt it was a problem with Mr. O'Loughlin.  
Sandi Sinor
6 years 5 months ago
Thank you for your reply. It may be about belief, but there are nuances in discussing ''belief'' - belief in an institution's claims about itself v. belief in God and what Jesus taught.  Lots of Catholics ''believe in'' the truth of the latter two without necessarily believing all of the claims made by the Catholic church about itself. Many stay in the Catholic church in spite of not ''believing in'' all the church claims about itself (infallibility, or being the ''one true church'' for example). Most don't actually think very deeply about these ''few basic things'' because they aren't really that important to them.  So, many who believe that the church of Jesus is not limited to one denomination or that the Catholic church is the ''one true church'' remain Catholic anyway for a whole range of reasons that have little or nothing to do with the claims the Catholic church makes for itself. The Orthodox make the same claims, but without the infallibility part - they are the ''one true church'' founded by Jesus and the only legitimate heirs to the apostolic church etc, etc.  My Russian-American friend stays Orthodox and my Irish-American friend stays Catholic. But neither one of them believe all that their respective churches claim abut themselves - especially that their church is the ''one true church'' - and belief in these ''few things'' is not why they stay in their respective churches. 

So, the choice to remain or not remain in the Catholic church for most people is not often primarily  because of belief in what the church claims about itself. But you and your priest friend are right - for those who DO believe all of that, there is no decision to be made. Since Michael is struggling a bit to sort it all out, it may be that unlike you and your priest friend, he does not accept 100% these ''few basic things''.

BTW, I too was taught at times by people with SJ after their names.  My point about Michael's education is that  the arguments presented for staying Catholic are most likely already familiar to him. Perhaps he accepts them as valid, perhaps not. His questioning is not likely coming from an unfamiliarity with the church's claims about itself though.

Bill Freeman
6 years 5 months ago
@Sandi Sinor (#25), it seems to me that you used my comments about Amy Ho-Ohn as an opportunity to bash JR Cosgrove.  If you were interested in "rooting for Amy," why was it necesary to attack JR?
Melody Evans
6 years 5 months ago
"It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire.  A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that.  By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it...  The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer.  With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women He made in His image... My friends, this can't go on." -James
Thomas Rooney OFS
6 years 5 months ago
Tim O'Leary writes...

"..throw out all the negativity of political disagreement and left-right squabble, forget the worldly dreams of “progress”... Most importantly, don’t dwell on the sins of others in our Church, in the past or the present. It can just make you vain or bitter. The Catholic Church moves in centuries in any case and we will all likely be dead before any of this really changes. On judgment day, I doubt there will be many questions on our political hopes, or on what we thought of people far away from our daily lives, like presidents & politicians, popes and bishops, or the rich and famous. It will just not be that important."

AMEN.  We often don't agree on much, but this is plain ol' excellent.  God bless you!

Bill Freeman
6 years 5 months ago
@Sandi - It is your characterization that I "bsshed" Amy.  Read my comment again, I hadly "based" her.  I owe neither you nor her any explanation more than I have given.
J Cosgrove
6 years 5 months ago
Is there some reason that all of Maria's comments were deleted?
Tim O'Leary
6 years 5 months ago
I agree with JR that we should get some explanation for the removal of Maria's comments. What part of open-minded tolerance to dialogue is this? In addition to the skewing of the comments, It really messes up the historical review of the discussion, and the number referencing.

 Sandi - I was trying to leave the last post (or multiple posts) to you but I had to rejoin to make this modest protest.
Melody Evans
6 years 5 months ago
It could be that Maria herself, after witnessing the nose dive this conversation has taken, requested to have her own posts pulled.  Thus distracting herself from what has turned into a nasty discussion.  I have requested that America delete a few of my posts in the past and they very gratiously did that for me.
Anne Chapman
6 years 5 months ago
'' The ritual, the silence and the familiarity of the sacrament gave comfort.''

But, Michael, do you actually believe the church teachings that so trouble so many that they leave - especially the teachings on homosexuality, on why women must always be subordinate to men and forever second-class in the church, on the requirement for ''obedience'' to men, no questions permitted, and the other hot button issues? Are you still a Catholic because you actually believe ALL that it teaches as it ''demands'' of you, or is it because of the eucharist - without belief in all other teachings - or is it simply the cultural comfort - the ritual, the silence and the familiarity.

What does ''faith'' mean to you? Is it faith in a particular church - which seems to be what you are referring to when saying ''life in faith is difficult'' in conjunction with staying in the Catholic church - or is it a deeper faith - faith in God and in Jesus, a faith that is not limited to a particular church? Honestly, that is the only faith that really counts. Sometimes that difficult life of faith may not mean staying, but leaving the comfortable church of childhood and family and neighborhood - maybe leaving the comfort of ritual, the silence, the familiarity - and following where God leads. You seem to believe that only staying is ''difficult'' - but staying may be the easiest choice for some. For others, the ''difficult life of faith'' may mean following wherever God leads them, which may be outside the church of Rome.

It is good that you understand that your friends who have chosen to leave the Catholic church are not necessarily doing so because they are intellectually or spiritually lazy - it is the exact the opposite in many cases. But don't fall into the trap of believing that only your choice is difficult - following God's will and leaving the familiar comfort of the church can be just as difficult.
Bill Taylor
6 years 5 months ago
For this old priest there is no thought of leaving. There are the other things mentioned by Jim, the things that mean life and faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

But I think so many of my generation will have to decide what it means to live in the spirit of mourning and loss. I think there is something deeply spiritual about that.  Give up and leave in sorrow? We could do that. Or we could learn from the Church of the Martyrs filled with men and women who knew about darkness and realized they would die without seeing the light.

Recently, I have come to understand that the Vatican Council  was a step into possibilities where people became their own inner resources and the institution lived as a servant. Pope John Paul and the hierarchy did not have the vision or the imagination to lead us in that direction. It was a failure of nerve. They could not see any further than the institution and now they make every effort to keep us there.

This means that many in my generation who learned from the Council and have tried to follow its vision have gone past the Church.  So here is an interesting question for so many of us. How do we remain faithful when the Church resembles my quaint home town; a place I love, a place too small to meet my hope and dreams?  

Melody Evans
6 years 5 months ago
Hear! Hear! Mr. Stanley Kopacz.  Your thoughts brought a smile and a nod out of me.

A very good blog, once again, from Mr. O'Loughlin.  I find myself on the edge of leaving.  It would be easier for me since I was raised in a Protestant home and know that God can be found in many Christian churches.  The last time I attended Mass was during the "Fortnight For Freedom" and that experience, combined with the other politics of the Church, has left me struggling with whether it is time to move on.  I don't want to go though.  I keep returning to the thought that I will give it just one more try.  My motivation today to give it just one more try came from a beautiful book I am reading.  It is called, "Saved By Beauty, A Spiritual Journey with Dorothy Day."  I came across a quote that encouraged me.

"As a convert, I never expected much of the bishops.  In all history popes and bishops and father abbots seem to have been blind and power hungry and greedy.  I never expected leadership from them.  It is the saints who keep appearing all through history, who keep things going.  What I do expect is the bread of life and down through the ages that there is that continuity." -Dorothy Day
Sandi Sinor
6 years 5 months ago
Well, Michael, no shortage of things for you to think about. But, if you do decide to stay put, do let it be for better reasons than just buying fire insurance (#5)!
Dan Hannula
6 years 5 months ago
Mel #7, thanks for the Dorothy Day quote. It is helpful to know there are others struggling as with me.  You all ( with certain exceptions) are my church. 
Thomas Poovathinkal
6 years 5 months ago

"TAKING A VACATION" IS A GOOD IDEA, for those seriously thinking of leaving the church.

But why do people identify THE CHURCH with  the officials of the institution?

I feel it is because of superficial understanding.

Unless one sees THE CHURCH in the light of God's Word, one's understanding is bound to be superficial. Such people will be wanderers in the light that issues from their own heads.

INSTITUTIONALISATION OF THE CHURCH has done away with CHRIST THE LORD. It is unimaginably much more than what the Priests did to HIM with the help of the Pharisees, Scribes, the Elders, the Herodians and the rest of the combine.

We need to be cool to keep away from the crowd. Like Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, sitting at the feet of the Lord and paying attention to HIM will help us get all the answers.

GOD'S WORD is the fertile ground for growing in FAITH and LOVE for THE LORD. The sacraments and the rituals are secondary but very helpful; So much so even the EUCHARIST is EUCHARIST because of the WORD OF GOD. THE WORD is foundational ROCK. If we are built on this foundation, we shall never waver.

6 years 5 months ago
While in Dublin recently, my young guide around Trinity College quipped: "Well, I'm an atheist, but I'm a Catholic atheist." Irish wit and Irish faith- hopefully both will be with the Church into the future. But we old white heterosexual males do seem hellbent on imploding this thing.
6 years 5 months ago
While in Dublin recently, my young guide around Trinity College quipped: "Well, I'm an atheist, but I'm a Catholic atheist." Irish wit and Irish faith- hopefully both will be with the Church into the future. But we old white heterosexual males do seem hellbent on imploding this thing.
Crystal Watson
6 years 5 months ago

You say you stay despite all the bad stuff in the church because of your religious faith.  Why do you assume there's no other way to live out a life of faith as a Christian except in the Catholic Church?
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 5 months ago
I disappoint the Holy Trinity at least three times a day.  I disappoint the Church at least six times a day.
Vince Killoran
6 years 5 months ago
Maria advised Michael to "run, don’t walk to the Sacraments, and often." From his posting it is clear that he does that.

The one thing that seems to unite Catholics is the love of the sacraments.
6 years 5 months ago
   #24 Amy,  - I hvae no intention of being ubjust to anyone, My post was conciliatory dealing with why I stay Catholic. It's just too meaningful to leave, the image of Christ visible for all to see, obviously framed in  battered gold, battered by WE the people, from Laity to Pope, who have overtime damaged it. But it is the image of Christ not the battered gold  frame that attracts me.

I read your posts often and know that you see the Catholic Church as a stumbling block a hinderance in your life, something you neither  respect nor want to respect. That's O.K. for you, but not for me. I respect the Catholic Church despite the warts on its face, which to me is the Face of Christ, made ugly by sin, my sin, your sin, everybody's sin, the blight in which the Church has shared because it is made up of people like you and me and the rest of humanity, all good people but damaged!. But nonetheless the Church STILL remains the Face of Christ for anyone with eyes to see, ears to hear and with a heartbeat in sync with the heartbeat of Christ!

I wish you peace and all that's good!
david power
6 years 5 months ago
Very nice article.Succint and with a reflective mood which I appreciate a lot more than the usual tone.
Jim at comment 2 asks a very good question.Time has a big effect on how we think.
Amy as always makes very insightful points and her words about Andrew Sullivan are excellent and could also apply to Hans Kung and myriad other hacks.
Maria's invitation to a catholic Guiltfest will no doubt be ignored. Fifty years out of date I think.
I have in my life the witness of many great Christians.For some reason they are mainly Spanish.Humble and kind and with a genuine love of Jesus.What makes them better than mere "catholics" is their "soft eyes".
The one point in the article I disagree with is the Michael associating faith exclusively with catholicism.
Michael would be far more welcome in an Episcopalian church.On the finer points of homosexuality I no longer have an opinion.I cannot resolve it in my mind.I am not convinced by the gay lobbyists and neither am I convinced by the Church's argument.The cathechism rightly says that we should treat homosexuals with  great respect etc but that is not enough.In practise we are asking them to live a contradiction.
I hope Michael continues to feel the presence of God and that providential thinking will remain with him.To find God in all things is what we have to return to.
Tim O'Leary
6 years 5 months ago
Michael O’Loughlin

JR Cosgrove was right way back (#5). You do ask the “should-I-stay-or-should-I- go” question a lot. You seem to be on a precipice and several bloggers are hoping you jump, especially those with a severe case of HDS (Hierarchy Derangement Syndrome – consisting of angry paranoia, upper management envy and selective historical memory). Well, I really hope you stay, and not just for the fire insurance (which is still a good thing, Sandi #10).

Before Amy went on the attack (#9), flailing around the place, she suggested that you take a vacation (Episcopal, Lutheran, Buddhist, etc). Well, since I am a doctor, may I suggest a partisan-free prescription: a holiday, to recollect the spiritual joy and love I’m sure you feel for the Savior, why you were drawn to Him in the first place. Only in His Church can you really, physically, touch Him in the Eucharist. Despite all its sinners, high and low, remember that Jesus specifically called you here. So, please stay.

For this prescription, throw out all the negativity of political disagreement and left-right squabble, forget the worldly dreams of “progress” - Don't immanentize the eschaton (Eric Voegelin). Most importantly, don’t dwell on the sins of others in our Church, in the past or the present. It can just make you vain or bitter. The Catholic Church moves in centuries in any case and we will all likely be dead before any of this really changes. On judgment day, I doubt there will be many questions on our political hopes, or on what we thought of people far away from our daily lives, like presidents & politicians, popes and bishops, or the rich and famous. It will just not be that important.

For music, I suggest two artists from very different faiths, and have two quotes from their songs that touch on grace.

From the American syncretist Trevor Hall’s “Unity”
I don't want to reason anymore about the One I love, the One I love
I don't want to reason anymore about God above, God above
I just want to melt away, in all His grace
Drift away, into that sacred place

And from a fantastic new evangelical group, CoastalRise:
I’ve come to think that You’re always on my side
The rain can fall but the love of You can’t hide
Now that I’m here at the crossroads of my life
You lead me onto the path that will make things right

I’m lost, so please show me my way.
My beaten broken path is never straight.
I’m lost, so don’t turn away.
A great collision and I am the one to blame

How long will You patiently wait
Before Your face has turned away
How long does it really take
Before my pride is consumed by Your Grace.

Peace to you, And please stay. 

Mary Byrd, thank you for your honesty and humility in post #21. You are an inspiration for me. My mother was a daily communicant all her life, despite some real tragedies. I too was influenced by the great Bishop Sheen. Bruce Snowden #26 – thanks for your piece. The Face of Christ is always beautiful, no matter the dross.
Sandi Sinor
6 years 5 months ago
Bill, (#34). I have done a lot more reading than posting here over the last few years. I am trying to stop - to go back to lurking, but it's easy to get sucked in to these discussions once you start, isn't it? Anyway,  Amy is very sharp, very smart, very intellectual - and sometimes she can indeed be sharp-tongued. Sometimes I agree with her views and sometimes I don't - but it's always worth reading her posts. Very often her thoughts and insights are right on, at least from my POV. She calls a spade a spade and some people can't handle that. They dish it out, but can't take it - isn't that the saying?

Singling her out on this seems a bit judgmental on your part actually, given that you seem to be giving a pass to some of the most judgmental (and often self-righteously arrogant) ''pontificators'' on the board, including the one about whom she complained and one who chimed in at the end. (given his SOP, there will be no end to this discussion unless his is the last word, but that's a different problem.)  

So, come on let's get real. For JR Cosgrove to be scolding Michael O'Loughlin (I hope I spelled it right) about how often he posts on a subject is more than a bit out of line for someone who is just a reader of America. The editor will speak up if he thinks a subject is overdone I'm quite sure. It's not overdone in this case. There should be more discussion of this subject, not less.

The reality of the escalating numbers of young adults leaving the church (of the middle aged and old leaving church too for that matter) is of great concern to the leaders of all christian churches these days. The Catholic church in the US has seen more than 30 million of its members who were born into the church in this country leave. In Europe it's even worse. It's getting pretty bad in Latin America too. The number of young adults who are walking away without looking back are even higher than other generations.

Mr. O'Loughlin is only 5 years out of college apparently,so most likely still in his 20s. He is a great resource for America, because he can not only offer insights about his own struggles with the church, he knows from his own friends and his instinctive understanding of his own generation  a lot more than all the middle aged Catholic social scientists measuring and studying this ''problem'' can ever know, not to mention those clueless elderly men in chanceries and Rome who never bother to listen to anybody at all, much less those who have left. It seems they really don't care very much, and would rather just talk to themselves in between photo ops where they swagger in front of cameras proclaiming that they alone will save religious freedom for all Americans or some other such nonsense. (Honestly, if they ever saw themselves as others see them, they might come down to earth real fast. Which would be a very, very good thing) 

Sorry - just had to say something. There are other posters here whom I (as mostly a reader and lurker) would rather see take a ''vacation'' from commenting than Amy.

BTW, Tim (#33). It's pretty sad when people say to stay ''in the church'' because of fear instead of love.  There's no need for fire insurance. It's all gift. 

Sandi Sinor
6 years 5 months ago
Mr. Cosgrove, I am sorry if I mis-read your post. Even after reading it again following your most recent post, it comes across [to me] as a complaint, especially your comment about already posting lengthy responses earlier which sounds to someone who can't see you or hear a tone of voice as a bit condescending.

However, I will take your word for your intentions and assume that in spite of questionable wording, you were not really complaining that this is the 5th or 6th time Mr. O'Loughlin posted on this subject, nor were you actually mentally sighing impatiently about the fact that even though you have already posted several lengthy responses to his thinking-out-loud blog entries on this subject, he has yet to see things the way you think he should. Given that he holds an advanced degree from the Yale (?) Divinity School, I suspect he doesn't need tutoring in what nuns and priests and brothers teach to high school and elementary school kids. I suspect he is already quite familiar with all of it.   I don't think I was the only reader to interpret your first post, especially the first paragraph, as impatience with the repeated raising of questions on the part of this young blogger.

Perhaps you should read it again - for example, you say in #36 '' I remarked that because of the number of times he brought it up it seemed to be an important personal issue with him....''

 You repeat this claim in the next paragraph - ''  but remarked it must be one of importance to him and not an unserious one.''
But, if you read your first post again, you will see that you never actually made those remarks. If you had, it would have changed the tone. But you didn't write those words and the tone came across as impatient and a bit condescending  rather than one of concern or understanding. Sorry, but that is the way it came across - at least to me. And obviously that's how it came across to Amy also. Perhaps others read it otherwise.  But at least read your own words and imagine how the words that you actually wrote could come across, not the words that you are attempting to say now are what you wrote - because you didn't. You may have thought them, but they are not what you actually wrote.

One reason I tried to stay away from responding to these threads is because misunderstandings are common.  My comment about spelling was an attempt at humor. I realize that is was Amy who brought that up originally.  Obviously, my attempt to lighten up my own post faileld. So, just another example of something not coming across as intended.

J Cosgrove
6 years 5 months ago
Sandi Sinor,

Thanks for your reply.  It is probably best we bury any further discussion of this since it is getting in the way of the OP, which was sort of a call for why one should remain in the Church.  I tried to provide a reply and it may not be a good one but is based on some conversations I had with a priest several years ago.  He said and I agreed that the problem is belief.  If one believes in a few basic things, there is only one place one belongs and that is the Catholic Church.  One does not always get there by a rational argument but if there is not a rational argument underpinning the Catholic Church, it would have faded away a long time ago.  That is why he placed so much emphasis on belief.  It certainly not the only reason.

To try to end any further discussion of what I said, I have now said three times and this will be the fourth, I was misinterpretted and not irritated or scolding because the continued OP's on the same topic.  I took the repeated OP's as indication of the interest of the author.  Why would I proffer a point of view that was trying to help even though some think it was inappropriate.  And some of those who taught me had SJ after their name and others had advanced degrees in theology.


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