Pope Francis considers the reasons why Catholics leave the Church ‘under the illusion of alternative ideas’

In his address to the bishops of Brazil Pope Francis offered a frank and honest assessment of the reasons why Catholics leave the Church, as he put it, ‘under the illusion of alternative ideas’ who mistakenly think that the Church ‘can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important.’

The Holy Father uses the account of the misplaced discouragement of the disciples on the road to Emmaus as the motif to examine the problem of lapsation:

‘We must not yield to disillusionment, discouragement and complaint. We have laboured greatly and, at times, we see what appear to be failures. We feel like those who must tally up a losing season as we consider those who have left us or no longer consider us credible or relevant.  Let us read once again, in this light, the story of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-15). The two disciples have left Jerusalem. They are leaving behind the “nakedness” of God. They are scandalized by the failure of the Messiah in whom they had hoped and who now appeared utterly vanquished, humiliated, even after the third day (vv. 17-21).’

Pope Francis sees fault on both sides for Catholics leaving the Church ‘under the illusion of alternative ideas, on the part of members of the Church predominantly, but also on the part of those Catholics who leave.

The Fault of members of the Church

‘Perhaps the Church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold, perhaps too caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas, perhaps the world seems to have made the Church a relic of the past, unfit for new questions; perhaps the Church could speak to people in their infancy but not to those come of age.

The Fault of those Catholics who leave ‘under the illusion of alternative ideas’

‘It is a fact that nowadays there are many people like the two disciples of Emmaus; not only those looking for answers in the new religious groups that are sprouting up, but also those who already seem godless, both in theory and in practice.’

A relentless process of globalization, an often uncontrolled process of urbanization, have promised great things. Many people have been captivated by the potential of globalization, which of course does contain positive elements. But many also completely overlook its darker side: the loss of a sense of life’s meaning, personal dissolution, a loss of the experience of belonging to any “nest” whatsoever, subtle but relentless violence, the inner fragmentation and breakup of families, loneliness and abandonment, divisions, and the inability to love, to forgive, to understand, the inner poison which makes life a hell, the need for affection because of feelings of inadequacy and unhappiness, the failed attempt to find an answer in drugs, alcohol, and sex, which only become further prisons.

Many, too, have sought shortcuts, for the standards set by Mother Church seem to be asking too much. Many people think: “the Church’s idea of man is too lofty for me, the ideal of life which she proposes is beyond my abilities, the goal she sets is unattainable, beyond my reach. Nonetheless – they continue – I cannot live without having at least something, even a poor imitation, of what is too lofty for me, what I cannot afford. With disappointed hearts, they then go off in search of someone who will lead them even further astray.’

Protect the Pope comment: After analyzing the reasons why Catholics leave the Church ‘under the illusion of alternative ideas’ Pope Francis proposes the Church’s perennial  cure of souls that leads the lost back to Jerusalem, ‘Jerusalem is where our roots are: Scripture, catechesis, sacraments, community, friendship with the Lord, Mary and the apostles.’

However, the Holy Father asks each of us, are we capable to leading the lost and discouraged back to Jerusalem? ’ Are we still able to speak of these roots in a way that will revive a sense of wonder at their beauty? Many people have left because they were promised something more lofty, more powerful, and faster. But what is more lofty than the love revealed in Jerusalem?     Nothing is more lofty than the abasement of the Cross, since there we truly approach the height of love! Are we still capable of demonstrating this truth to those who think that the apex of life is to be found elsewhere? beauty?’


9 comments to Pope Francis considers the reasons why Catholics leave the Church ‘under the illusion of alternative ideas’

  • Lola

    Formation as a priority: Bishops, priests, religious, laity

    “Dear brothers, unless we train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey? It isn’t true that God’s presence has been dimmed in them. Let us learn to look at things more deeply. What is missing is someone to warm their heart, as was the case with the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:32).

    That is why it is important to devise and ensure a suitable formation, one which will provide persons able to step into the night without being overcome by the darkness and losing their bearings; able to listen to people’s dreams without being seduced and to share their disappointments without losing hope and becoming bitter; able to sympathize with the brokenness of others without losing their own strength and identity.

    What is needed is a solid human, cultural, effective, spiritual and doctrinal formation.

    Dear brother Bishops, courage is needed to undertake a profound review of the structures in place for the formation and preparation of the clergy and the laity of the Church in Brazil. It is not enough that formation be considered a vague priority, either in documents or at meetings. What is needed is the practical wisdom to set up lasting educational structures on the local, regional and national levels and to take them to heart as Bishops, without sparing energy, concern and personal interest. The present situation calls for quality formation at every level. Bishops may not delegate this task. You cannot delegate this task, but must embrace it as something fundamental for the journey of your Churches.”


  • Martin

    What about Liturgy? Abuse of the Mass and turning it into joking entertainment has to be a big problem. I know that recently, in my own life, I had the opportunity to go to daily Mass but I didn’t, because the abuses where too much to bear. Benedict XVI realised that Liturgical abuse and disintegration was a core cause of the problems and crisis we experience today. I think until this is addressed at the highest level, we can ask all the questions we like and scratch our heads. TO be sure, the human element of the Church has failed on so many points.

  • peter

    Francis speech to the bishops is very radical.
    Just a few points: the role of the bishops conference, collegiality, importance of diversity, the role of women.

    #At times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people.

    #The Church in Brazil needs more than a national leader; it needs a network of regional “testimonies” which speak the same language and in every place ensure not unanimity, but true unity in the richness of diversity.

    #It is important to remember Aparecida, the method of gathering diversity together. Not so much a diversity of ideas in order to produce a document, but a variety of experiences of God, in order to set a vital process in motion.

    #The Episcopal Conference is precisely a vital space for enabling such an exchange of testimonies about encounters with the Risen One, in the north, in the south, in the west… There is need, then, for a greater appreciation of local and regional elements. Central bureaucracy is not sufficient; there is also a need for increased collegiality and solidarity. This will be a source of true enrichment for all.

    #Let us not reduce the involvement of women in the Church, but instead promote their active role in the ecclesial community. By losing women, the Church risks becoming sterile.

    #The Church is never uniformity, but diversities harmonized in unity, and this is true for every ecclesial reality

    Francis instructs young people to go back to their diocese and cause a noisy mess, then apologising, saying “May the bishops and priests forgive me if some of you create a bit of confusion afterwards. That’s my advice”

    Then telling them they only need the beatitudes and Mathew 25 and nothing else (no mention of doctrine) we really have a pope who is shaking things up.


  • Rifleman819

    Very pertinent to the ADW I believe.

  • Bob Hayes

    The Holy Father has made many wise and succinct comments in this address. It is a delight to see Pope Francis make clear that the narrow path is full of challenges, but that the broad path is emphatically not an alternative.

  • Rifleman819

    Bob ,

    You are correct.Justin Welby , Rowan Williams and George Carey all have ulcers I’m sure as tour guides along the “broad path approach.” It turns left via Relativism Crescent then veers right across Feminist Avenue …several reverse turns in and out of Gay Lane cul-de-sac……..and ends outside Old Nick’s steamy mansion………….666 Perdition Close. Can’t miss it.

    Being nice and accomodating to everyone…………nope …it don’t work

  • Gonap Kyrian

    thank you papa for the encouragement.May God bless the Holy Mother Church

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