Is the Rise of “Nones” Actually the Decline of Catholics?



The Public Religion Research Institute is out with another fascinating report on one of the most significant religious trends of our time: the dramatic rise in disaffiliation, or, as some call them, the “nones.”

PPRI found that a fully a quarter of all Americans, and a whopping 39% of young adults, now say they have no religious affiliation, making the unaffiliated the largest “religious” group in a country long known for its high levels of religiosity.

And while the rise of the “nones” will continue to make headlines and shape culture for a long time to come, there is another largely unnoticed trend lurking in the numbers: just how much the growth in the nones has been fueled by the disaffiliation of Roman Catholics. According to PPRI:

While non-white Protestants and non-Christian religious groups have remained fairly stable, white Protestants and Catholics have all experienced declines, with Catholics suffering the largest decline among major religious groups: a 10-percentage point loss overall. Nearly one-third (31%) of Americans report being raised in a Catholic household, but only about one in five (21%) Americans identify as Catholic currently.

The Catholic rate of disaffiliation dwarfs the rate for any other faith tradition; the next biggest “loser” in terms of disaffiliation are the mainline Protestant denominations, which saw a 4.5-point loss, while white evangelical denominations saw a net drop of only 2.2 points, largely because they have both a lower rate of disaffiliation and a fairly robust rate of new adherents.

Meanwhile, the faith of no faith saw a nearly 16 percentage point increase. According to PPRI’s Director of Research, Daniel Cox, 36% of all those who left their childhood religion were Catholic. This means that Catholics are punching above their weight in adding to the growth of the nones in terms of their overall representation in the population.

And while 21% of the total population currently identifies as Catholic, only 15% of young adults ages 18–29 say they are Catholic, which is not a particularly encouraging trend line for the Catholic Church.

Overall, the majority of people (60%) say the reason they left their church of origin was because they stopped believing in its teachings. However:

…those who were raised Catholic are more likely than those raised in any other religion to cite negative religious treatment of gay and lesbian people (39% vs. 29%, respectively) and the clergy sexual-abuse scandal (32% vs. 19%, respectively) as primary reasons they left the Church.

Cox also notes mixed-faith households seem to be an especially important factor behind the high rates of Catholic disaffiliation. “Catholics who are raised in mix-faith households tend to disaffiliate at really remarkable rates—only 39% of Catholics raised in religiously mixed households stay in the faith, versus two-thirds of those raised in solidly Catholic households.”

The other point that the PPRI study makes clear is that while the “nones” are often portrayed as “seekers” or “spiritual but not religious,” the data present a far murkier picture. The study found that nearly 60% of the unaffiliated are what PPRI calls “rejectionists”: they “say religion is not personally important in their lives and believe religion as a whole does more harm than good in society.”

Another 22% are “apatheists” who say “religion is not personally important to them, but believe it generally is more socially helpful than harmful.” Only 18% were found to be “unattached believer” who say religion is personally important to them. That means that religion is unimportant for fully 80% of the “nones.”

In addition, “Only four in ten unaffiliated Americans identify themselves as being very (14%) or moderately (26%) spiritual. Nearly six in ten say they are only slightly spiritual (26%) or not at all spiritual (32%).”

“The bulk of the unaffiliated are not carrying on faith traditions or seeking different types of spiritual activity. Most don’t give a lot of thought to religion and God in general,” said Cox.

One of the more remarkable things about the growth of the unaffiliated, said Cox, is the recent surge in the unaffiliated. “Between the mid-1990s and the 2000s, the rate was relatively modest. But in the mid-2000s it goes gangbusters and you get a 10- to 11-point increase that is being driven by one factor: millennials.”

He points to structural reasons for the high rate of disaffiliation among millennials, including the high rate of divorce in the early 1980s when the millennials where children. “It’s more complicated raising children in a religious context in joint custody arrangements,” Cox said.

But it’s also worth noting, given the high rate of Catholic disaffiliation and the fact that one-third of Catholics gave the clergy sex-abuse scandals as their primary reason for disaffiliation, that the trend line begins to tick up just as wave after wave of revelations about hidden abuse scandals became public.

Complete Article HERE!


Supporters rally in Hoboken for gay priest suspended by archbishop

By Steve Strunsky

Clergy, parishioners, public officials and LGBTU rights advocates rallied in Hoboken Wednesday night in support of a gay Catholic priest, the Rev. Warren Hall, suspended by Archbishop John J. Myers on a charge of disobedience after speaking out in support of a Paramus Catholic High School faculty member fired for being in a same-sex marriage.

Clergy, parishioners, public officials and LGBTU rights advocates rallied in Hoboken Wednesday night in support of a gay Catholic priest, the Rev. Warren Hall, suspended by Archbishop John J. Myers on a charge of disobedience after speaking out in support of a Paramus Catholic High School faculty member fired for being in a same-sex marriage.

Clergy, parishioners, public officials and other LGBT rights advocates held a rally in Hoboken Wednesday night in support of a gay priest stripped of his religious authority and his job at two Hudson churches after speaking out in favor of a Catholic school faculty member fired for being in a same-sex marriage.

The early evening rally at Stevens Park on Hudson Street was attended by about 3 dozen supporters of the Rev. Warren Hall, who was removed last month from his dual position as parochial vicar at both Saints Peter and Paul Church in Hoboken and St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church in Weehawken.

Hall was removed by 75-year-old Archbishop John J. Myers, who is past retirement age and awaiting a replacement to be named by the Vatican.

“We the people have a god-given right to stand up for what we know is right,” said Michael Billy of Jersey City Pride, which organized the event in conjunction with its Hoboken affiliate. “This archbishop is vastly out of touch with what is going on in the world.”

Hall had been parochial vicar, a kind of assistant pastor, at the two churches since July 2015. He was assigned to the churches soon after being removed by Myers from a campus ministry job at Seton Hall University for what Hall said was his support of the LGBT community.

Last month, Myers suspended hall following his outspoken support for Paramus Catholic High School’s dean of guidance and basketball coach, Kate Drumgoole, who had been fired by school officials after they learned she was married to a woman, a union officially sanctioned by the state, but not the church.

Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the archdioceses, said Hall had been stripped of his position, “because he was disobedient,” though Goodness declined to say just what it was that Hall had disobeyed. Goodness said Hall is free to appeal his suspension to the Vatican.

But Hall said he had no immediate plans to do that, and supporters at the rally did not dwell on his old job. Rather they stressed the importance of spiritual leadership from outside of the church, which has often been the catalyst for change within it.


“Change is here, it can happen, it has happened, it will happen,” Laura Knittel of Hoboken Pride, told Hall’s supporters in impassioned remarks. “Let’s pray for the archbishop. Father Warren, you’re work has just begun in a whole new chapter of your life.”

Hall, a 53-year-old Jersey City native, was stripped not only of his post at the two churches, but also of his right to give mass, take confessions, perform pastoral services of any kind, or even identify himself as a Catholic priest. Myers had directed Hall to move out of the rectory at Saints Peter and Paul into a retirement home for clergy in New Jersey. Instead, Hall said he is living with family, contemplating his next move.

Hall said he was grateful to supporters who turned out for the rally. And in an interview as others sang, Hall also said that although he understood the hierarchical rationale for the disobedience charge, he insisted he had never spoken out against the church. In fact, he aded, he had always urged Catholics to remain within the church regardless of their sexuality.

“In a letter, a notice, that the archbishop sent out last year, he made clear that groups that have positions that are opposite of the Catholic church we should not be involved with,” Hall said.

“However,” he added, “my belief in that is that my involvement with those groups were for positive reasons. For instance, PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gay Children, I went to those groups to talk about how God loves their children and that we should welcome their children. And so, I think I can see why I’m accused of being disobedient, but I don’t think it’s being disobedience because the message that I brought to those groups, in every case, was not anti-Catholic.”


Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco, a parishioner of Saints Peter and Paul who is gay, read a poem by Mary Oliver, “Sunrise,” that he thought was a fitting tribute to Hall, whose outspokenness may have cost him his livelihood, but could contribute to a brighter future for others. The opening line of the poem reads:

“You can die for it —
an idea,
or the world. People
have done so,
their small bodies be bound to the stake,
an unforgettable fury
of light.”

Then, in his own works, DeFusco added, “Thank you, Father Hall.”

Complete Article HERE!


Chicago priest charged with possession of child porn

Bond was set at $50,000 for a Chicago priest charged with one felony count of possession of child pornography.

Father Octavio Munoz, 40, was extradited from Maryland, where he had been relocated by the archdiocese, said prosecutors.

Munoz previously served as the director of Casa Jesus, a recruiting program for the Archdiocese of Chicago that was suspended in April. Munoz was moving to Saint Pancratius Church in Brighton Park when prosecutors say archdiocese employees saw his laptop displaying a webcam of child pornography on July 7, 2016. Munoz was not in the apartment at the time.

Octavio Munoz

Octavio Munoz

A week later, prosecutors say an employee reported the incident and the archdiocese contacted private investigators before notifying Chicago Police around July 30th 2015.

The laptop was not found, but authorities say they recovered “two movies that contained images of child pornography as well as hundreds of DVD’s and VHS tapes depicting minors, magazines containing images of minors, emails containing stories of sex with children, and children’s underwear.”

“What I heard was speculation and innuendo. Not proof,” said Raymond Wigell, an attorney representing Munoz.

The Archdiocese of Chicago released this statement:

We learned today that Father Octavio Muñoz Capetillo has been charged with one felony count of possession of child pornography. The charge comes in connection with a police investigation that began after the archdiocese reported that inappropriate material had been found on a computer in his possession. On July 28, 2015, Archbishop Blase J. Cupich removed Father Muñoz from ministry and withdrew his faculties, his authority to minister, after the archdiocese learned that the inappropriate material might involve minors. Given the nature of that material, the archdiocese reported it promptly to the civil authorities and have cooperated fully with their investigation.

Wigell says the archdiocese suggested that Munoz go into a program at Saint Luke’s in Maryland. A warrant for his arrest was issued on August 29. He was extradited on Tuesday.

Munoz is due back in court on October 12th.

Complete Article HERE!


Theologian shares thoughts on sexual morality

By WBTV Web Staff

From Catawba College:  “As churches we’ve worked ourselves into a position where we just don’t have much to say about sex,” Dr. Mark Achtemeier shared as he addressed a group of community members, faculty, staff and students at Catawba College on September 20.

In remarks titled, “When ‘Thou Shalt Not’ Is Not Working,” this Presbyterian minister, theologian, and writer explained how he sought to find a way to address sexuality positively from a Christian perspective.   “The church becomes a nagging maiden aunt, shaking her finger,” he quipped, suggesting “a more biblical way for how we find guidance for sexual morality.”dr-mark-achtemeier

“We are the kingdom of thou shalt not,” he said. “Oftentimes, we get introduced to a single proposition – that you should not have sex before marriage…which is good and godly, but there are a lot of situations where it’s just not possible.

“In my book [“The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart”], I have a name for this – it’s ‘minefield ethics’ – teaching that the one true path is being a virgin on your wedding night.  This approach to sexual morality, I submit to you, is not terribly biblical.”

Noting that the Bible says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Achtemeier explained that if in fact there was only one right path for sexual morality, “Jesus would have come as a life coach instead of a savior.”

The notion that if one steps off that one right path that “God hates you and you will go to hell,” he said “that’s not biblical either.”

One could look at the commandments in the Bible, he said, noting that the Bronze Age biblical text “is littered with commandments” such as “Don’t eat shellfish,” which require “an awful lot of sorting and sifting.”   Or in the Bible, one could look for moral examples, which is only a bit more promising, because there are also immoral examples to be found.

Or, he shared, there is even a third way of finding guidance from the Bible – to look at the purposes of God and his stand behind love, marriage and sexuality.  “What are the reasons that are behind these?” He relies on Calvin’s idea that “we can’t understand biblical law unless we understand the purpose of the lawgivers behind them.”

“God is concerned about making us more like Jesus – the law of the gift,” he said. “Human beings are created by God for self-giving love.  You must learn to give yourself away to make yourself more like Jesus.”

“God sets up marriage as one very important tool to give ourselves completely to another person. This includes the gift of his body. With that insight in hand, a lot of biblical and moral teaching starts to make more sense.”

Polygamy is viewed as bad, because it is a divided gift since the body is given to more than one person. Sex outside of marriage becomes a concern, because it involves a complete giving of the body without a complete giving of the soul/self/life/future.

“Bodies and spirits are connected to one another; and if you treat your body as a cheap commodity, over time, you start to feel cheap as a person.  As Christians, we have access to this teaching to grow as a self-giving person.  We, as Christians, know that your sexuality could be a major part of this self-giving project.”

There are three things one could do to find guidance that Achtemeier translated to three questions one should ask themselves regardless of their sexuality or sexual morality:

“Because we are saved by grace, we can be honest with ourselves.  How is it with me and God?  Where am I in relation to God’s will?” “What’s below me on the slope?  What do I need to look out for down there?” “What’s the next right thing I can do to bring myself closer to the image of Jesus?”

He concluded that when we can view sexuality positively in light of God’s purpose for us, we can face our sexuality and its place in our life– and we can take the next steps to becoming more fully a being focused on self-giving love.

Complete Article HERE!


First openly gay bishop elected by Anglican Church in Toronto

By James Macintyre


Bishop-elect Kevin Robertson

The Anglican Church in Canada has elected an openly gay bishop, the first in the diocese of Toronto.

The diocese said the Rev. Canon Kevin Robertson was “the first openly gay, partnered bishop-elect in the diocese and perhaps in the Canadian church”.

Suffragan bishop-elect Robertson, 45, and his partner Mohan have two children. He is the incumbent of Christ Church, Deer Park, in Toronto, and was ordained deacon and priest in 1997 after earning his Master of Divinity from Trinity College in Toronto.

“I’m very overwhelmed,” he said on the chancel steps after his election. “I didn’t really expect to be standing here on the steps, but I’m deeply, deeply honoured. I realise this is an historic day in the life of our church. It’s no secret that I’m the first openly gay, partnered bishop-elect in the diocese and perhaps in the Canadian church as well, and I know that for some people that’s a real challenge and for others it’s the fulfilment of what they’ve been hoping and praying for a very long time. The peace and unity of the church is really important to me and I will work to continue that peace and unity as a bishop.”

Robertson’s election is not without criticism. Before the election, the Rev. Dr. Catherine Sider Hamilton of St. Matthew’s Riverdale in Toronto issued an official protest against the inclusion of “one candidate whose lifestyle is, to the best of my knowledge, irregular according to the teaching of the church regarding chastity and marriage”. She went on: “It is a teaching that still stands formally, and I believe that the inclusion of this candidate by the nominations committee is premature.” The Archbishop of Toronto, Colin Johnson replied that all the nominees were clergy under license in the diocese and in good standing.

Robertson said his election was “a turning point for our diocese, and I’m honoured to be a part of that.”

He added that though his election reflected inclusivity in the Church, he also wanted to represent the whole Church. “I think LGBTQ clergy and lay people might naturally gravitate towards me looking for some leadership around the issue of full inclusion, but I absolutely see myself as a bishop for the whole church, including people who have a very different view of things than I do. I’m their bishop, too.”

Archbishop Johnson said: “Kevin is certainly not the first gay man to become a bishop in the Communion but his election will probably bring a negative reaction in some places and a positive reaction in others. We’re at an early stage in this experience. I think many parts of the world do not understand it, so it will be a challenge for them, but it will be an opportunity for us to explain how and why we have made this choice”.

The Anglican Church in Canada first began accepting same-sex unions in 2002. Canada nationally legalised same-sex marriage in 2005.

Complete Article HERE!