16 October 2014

Is her teaching on homosexuality really the main reason people leave the Church?

In a piece of incredibly lazy journalism, Springfield's (IL) WICS-TV reports - for an unclear reason - John Freml ceased the practice of the Catholic faith and chose to join what is called the Holy Family Inclusive Catholic Community (which isn't actually Catholic at all, but the report does not both to note this rather important detail). Normally this simply would not be news.

At any rate, the only possible reason for the report - aside from a very slow news day - is because Freml left the Church because of her teachings on homosexuality, that and because "Freml believes the church not accepting the LGBT community may be to blame" for a decrease as much as 30% in some parishes in Mass attendance between 1996 and 2011. Never mind that some parishes also saw an increase of as much as 82% in the same time period, but, again, this is not an important detail for the story.

WICS quotes Freml:
Probably I think that's the primary reason, but of course Catholics simply don't agree with the hierarchy of a lot of social teachings. Not only on LGBT issues but contraception or on women's ordination.
In his assumption, Freml is quite incorrect.

The report references "a survey sanctioned by the church." Had the reporter bothered to consult this report - Joy and Grievance in an American Diocese: Results from Online Surveysof Active and Inactive Catholics in Central Illinois - he or she would have clearly seen that Freml is only correct that LGBT issues (where's the Q?) are not the only reasons why Catholics have fallen away from the Church or lapsed in the practice of the faith.

In fact, on page 18 of this report, a chart clearly gives the theological disagreements behind people's decision to leave the Catholic Church:

As you can see, the Church's teachings on homosexuality ranked as the 6th reason why people chose to distance themselves from the Church. The main theological difficulty people have with the Church is her teachings on artificial contraception.

What this shows is that homosexuality is not as prevalent in people's thoughts as the leaders of the gay movement would like us to believe. Only among those younger than 35 years of age was homosexuality the principle reason why someone chose to leave the Church.

This might have been important to include in the report, but it wouldn't, of course, support the aim of the "story," which is really nothing more than yet another attack on the Catholic Church in general and on Bishop Paprocki in particular.

The reporter then makes the odd suggestion that "change could be coming" to the doctrine of the Church regarding homosexuality, which is, of course, impossible.

Lisbeth Melendez Rivera of the Human Rights Campaign is quoted as saying:
We hope that Bishop Paprocki pays attention to our prayers. That he listens to what he has to say so when he is discerning. He goes through the same journey the cardinal took when the become Pope Francis.
Maybe someone should tell her that Pope Francis did not actually the journey she thinks he did.


  1. Just to clarify, WICS got my quote slightly wrong. The context of the conversation right before the clip you saw on television was the sex abuse scandal in the church; I believe off hand (without looking at any formal study) that that is the the primary reason for the decline in church attendance. Social issues are secondary, but issues regarding sexuality are most certainly at the top of most Catholics' lists of doctrine with which they disagree.

    And, on another note, you do not own the church -- Holy Family is most certainly Catholic!

    1. Thank you for your response, Mr. Freml; I hope I did not misrepresent your words and appreciate your clarification.

      I should simply like to make two points.

      First, you are correct that I do not own the Church, but you are incorrect to claim that Holy Family Inclusive Catholic Community is truly Catholic. It is not in union with the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Saint Peter upon whom Our Lord established His Church. Consequently, Holy Family cannot be Catholic.

      Second, you share a common presumption that most Catholics who have left the Church did so in response to the horrific sexual abuse scandal, but that data simply does not support this view.

      Of the 575 self-identified lapsed or fallen-away Catholics, 85 mentioned "Church scandals" as a reason why they left; 272 cited "Church Doctrine" and 220 cited a "Lack of Connection."

      I encourage you to read the results of the survey in the report titled Joy and Grievance in an American Diocese. You can find a link to the document in the original post.


      Fr. Daren

    2. Thank you for your reply, Fr. Daren, and for correcting my misconception, at least as far as the Springfield diocese is concerned. I'm aware of the study, and plan to read it soon.

      However, it seems as if the original intent of your post was to downplay the LGBT issue as a reason why Catholics left the church. However, even if it's not the first issue, it's still extremely significant: Of the 575 fallen away Catholics, 272 mentioned church doctrine as a reason, and over half of those identified LGBT issues. That's over 125 people, which in Springfield is a significant chunk of people.

      Moving on, the primary reason for the report on WICS also wasn't just to learn about my personal religious views, but to report on the rosary vigil that was held outside of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. That event was part of a nationwide vigil that included six other cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, so it was in fact big news that it came to Springfield. It was not a slow news day, by any means.

      Finally, the church also does not belong exclusively to the pope or the cardinals, either. The magisterium, in fact, is not just the pope and the Roman Cuira -- there is the magisterium of the theologians, and the magisterium of the laity. Two of the three express profound disagreement with the first magisterium, which is what we commonly think of when we hear that word. They are, however, not to be discounted, and all share in the teaching authority of the church.

      Thus, Holy Family is Catholic, by virtue of our baptism, which no man can take away from us. We must not be in agreement with the pope or the bishops 100% of the time in order to call ourselves Catholic. I think this is clearer than ever, given the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, in which we have discovered that even the bishops cannot come to agreement on topics that were previously closed to discussion.

      Peace to you also!
      John Freml

    3. Even so, John, LGBT(Q?) issues only ranked sixth among the reasons people have left the Church.

      There actually isn't a magisterium of theologians or of the laity, but that's another matter altogether.