July 31, 2013- A recent poll conducted by Villanova University’s Center for Church Management and Business Ethics revealed that there were several reasons why Catholics had left the Church. 189 former Catholics participated in the poll. Charles Zech, the director of the poll, revealed the top seven reasons were:
- Inadequate response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
- The perception that homosexuals are unwelcome in the church.
- Dissatisfaction with the pastor.
- The poor quality of homilies at Sunday liturgies.
- The impression that clergy and hierarchy identify uncritically with conservative politics.*
- Barring divorced and remarried Catholics from reception of the sacraments.*
- The status of women in the church.
*Numbers 5 and 6 were a tie. Mr. Zech was hired in 2012 by a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Parish to survey people who have turned away from the Catholic Church.
According to Mr. Zech,
“People who are going to leave the church over the scandal and the Church’s handling of it have already left. So people leaving the Church today are leaving for other reasons. A growing reason we found out was the Church’s attitude toward homosexuals and gay marriage. A lot of younger people object to the Church’s teaching on that.”
Pope Francis I may be able to bring those people back especially with his recent overhauling of Vatican law earlier this month. In early July, Pope Francis I overhauled Vatican law to specify sexual violence against children as a crime to end unchecked abuse by priests. Sexual violence and sexual acts with children, child prostitution and child pornography are cited in a broader definition of crimes against minors and punishable by up to 12 years in prison.
It’s a step in the right direction but so far the decree, Motu Proprio, only applies to Vatican City but hopefully, the decree will apply to the Catholic Church in her entirety.
Earlier this week, Pope Francis I held an inflight press conference on his way back to the Vatican from Brazil. At the press conference, a reporter asked,
“I would like to ask permission to pose a rather delicate question. Another image that went around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca* and the news about his personal life. I would like to know, your Holiness, what will be done about this question. How should one deal with this question and how does your Holiness wish to deal with the whole question of the gay lobby?”
*The Italian weekly L’Espressio (written by Sandro Magister) reported this past weekend that the recently appointed prelate, Msgr. Battista Ricca engaged in a relationship with a Swiss Guard, Captain Patrick Haari back in 1999 until about 2001. Apparently, because Msgr. Ricca has held high ranking positions over the years, Msgr. Ricca has “weaved an intricate network of relationships with the highest levels of the Catholic hierarchy all over the world” (the gay lobby).
Pope Francis I responded to the reporter stating,
“Regarding the matter of Monsignor Ricca, I did what Canon Law required and did the required investigation. And from the investigation, we did not find anything corresponding to the accusations against him. We found none of that. That is the answer. But I would like to add one more thing to this: I see that so many times in the Church, apart from this case and also in this case, one looks for the “sins of youth,” for example, is it not thus? And then these things are published. These things are not crimes. The crimes are something else: child abuse is a crime. But sins, if a person, or secular priest or a nun, has committed a sin and then that person experienced conversion, the Lord forgives and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we go to Confession, and we truly say, “I have sinned in this matter,” the Lord forgets and we do not have the right to not forget because we run the risk that the Lord will not forget our sins, eh? This is a danger. This is what is important: a theology of sin. So many times I think of St. Peter: he committed one of the worst sins denying Christ. And with this sin they made him Pope. We must think about fact often. But returning to your question more concretely: in this case [Ricca] I did the required investigation and we found nothing. That is the first question. Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Agh… so much is written about the gay lobby. I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word gay. They say there are some gay people here. I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good. They are bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully but says, wait a moment, how does it say, it says, these persons must never be marginalized and “they must be integrated into society.” The problem is not that one has this tendency; no, we must be brothers, this is the first matter. There is another problem, another problem: the problem is to form a lobby of those who have this tendency, a lobby of greedy people, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This is the most serious problem for me. And thank you so much for doing this question. Thank you very much!”
Though Pope Francis’ thoughts and interpretations of the Catechism are nothing new, perhaps if more people realize that and with Vatican law being overhauled maybe Pope Francis I has the ability to truly unite practicing Catholics and fallen away Catholics. Pope Francis I is trying to weed out corruption with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and if he’s successful, the Catholic Church may become the beacon of hope that she once was.