Disconnected Catholics

Friday December 1 2006

New research exploring why some Catholics have stopped going to Mass would be a valuable tool in forming pastoral strategies to help people return to the practice of their faith, Australia’s Catholic Bishops said today.

The Bishops, meeting in Sydney, said the “Disconnected Catholics” research project was a help in understanding the very complex personal, spiritual and cultural factors which have seen a decline in church-going over recent decades.

“The research project is part of our deep and ongoing desire to connect with people who have left the Church and to listen to their experiences, so that we might identify ways to reach out to them and welcome them back,” they said.

The Bishops commissioned the research, which was carried out by the Pastoral Projects Office of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. A summary report by the Director of the Pastoral Projects Office, Bob Dixon, was tabled and discussed at their Plenary Meeting.

“We welcome this study, which provides us with valuable insights into the reasons why some Catholics no longer attend Mass and take part in the sacramental life of the Church,” the Bishops said.

“Together with our own pastoral experience and in the context of the broader cultural situation, we will use this study to help chart a path forward.”

Forty-one people, aged from 29 to 74 were interviewed for the qualitative research project. Reasons given for people ceasing to attend Mass included a perceived irrelevance of the Church to modern life, the quality of homilies, inter-personal problems with a parish priest, problems with Church teachings or personal faith, and disillusionment in the wake of sexual scandals. There were also cultural and societal factors which meant that Mass was no longer a priority.

However, half the respondents said they still attend Mass occasionally and almost one third of participants said they might return to weekly Mass attendance in the future.

“These experiences are varied and complex and provide lessons from which to learn as well as great challenges and opportunities for us,” they said.

“It is our hope that those who have stopped attending Mass and perhaps many who have never been to a Catholic Church will accept our sincere invitation to make contact with their local parish and experience the love of Jesus Christ through the life of His Church.”

Media Contact: Debra Vermeer at the ACBC on 0414 880 475.