Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fewer Catholics Leave for Fundamentalism

by Steve Ray on March 12, 2008

Referring to the Pew Report, which states that many Catholics are leaving the Church (even though there is an increase in seminarians and priests), my friend Karl Keating has some interesting observations. Here is an excerpt from his most recent E-Letter:

Perhaps the greatest change is in the number of people leaving the Church. Many still leave, but the number seems to be shrinking. In part this may mean that the most disgruntled people already have opted out. But one thing is sure: Fewer people leave for Fundamentalism.

I like to think that the work performed by Catholic Answers has contributed to each of these categories, particularly with respect to the losses to Fundamentalism. (I should add that our mostly young staff has done its part to increase the number of infant baptisms!)

In 1988, when I entered this work full time, there were Fundamentalists who were coming into the Church, but their number was exceeded by far by those Catholics who were leaving the Church for Fundamentalism.

I have to work on the basis of anecdotal evidence here, but my sense is that today we have reached equilibrium, with the goings and comings now balanced. We may even have reached a favorable point in which there are more entries from Fundamentalism than exits to Fundamentalism. It’s a change very pleasant to see!

I agree with Karl's assessment. But there is another related issue observed by a Protestant writer in a book published by Moody Press. Even in 1994 Evangelical writer Kim Riddlebarger informed his fellow Evangelicals that:

 “While evangelicalism is growing numerically, apparently there are not as many notable Roman Catholics becoming evangelicals as vice-versa” (Roman Catholicism, ed. John Armstrong [Chicago: Moody Press, 1994], 240).

As time marches on, Riddlebarger's statement is proved to be a huge under-statement! Just check out the hundreds of conversion stories here. Even the president of the Evangelical Theological Society reverted to the Catholic Church last year (click here to see the Christianity Today article). Another recent conversion story of the minister of the 3rd largest Methodist Church can be seen here. And check out this ex-Fundie's story. We could go on and on!

I suspect that this is what has many anti-Catholics — who used to dance along unopposed — understandably angry and frustrated and animated.

To read Karl's whole letter, click here.


WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 11, 2008 ( Tens of thousands of Americans will join the Catholic Church this Holy Saturday through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. . . .The numbers vary across dioceses. The Diocese of Orange, California, for example, will baptize more than 650 people and welcome more than 500 others into full communion at the Easter Vigil.

The Archdiocese of Detroit registers some of the largest numbers with 589 catechumens receiving full initiation and 497 candidates from other Christian traditions being received into full communion. Although technically not part of the RCIA, 289 baptized Catholics will also receive confirmation and Eucharist.

In Ohio, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati will welcome during the Easter Vigil 437 catechumens and 541 candidates for a total of 978 people; another 65 candidates were brought into the Church at other times during the year.

Most of those coming into the Church through the RCIA program are adults, but in some instances children are part of both groups, usually as members of a family that enters the Church together.

According to early figures from the 2007 Official Catholic Directory, last year almost 64,500 adults were baptized in the Catholic Church and nearly 93,000 came into full communion. These numbers are supplemented by the baptisms of infants that occur in parishes throughout the year. It is estimated that more than a million infant baptisms will take place in the U.S. during 2008. …

Mark Ma, a second year student at the University of Virginia, who has a major in economics and a minor in philosophy, was born in Beijing, to agnostic parents. A self-defined hard-line atheist through high school, he started talking to Christians of different denominations, read a few Christian works and began to pray. After soul searching and historical research he found his home in the Catholic Church.

In another instance, when Kimberly Grub moved from Texas to Rhode Island, she decided to embark up on something she’d been wanting to do for a long time — get closer to God. Feeling the discomfort that comes in moving to a new place, she found comfort and community at St. Lucy’s Church in Middletown, and will become a member of the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is an ancient rite that was reinstituted in the Church following the Second Vatican Council. It is the usual means for adults to come into the Church.