While these statistics are expected from a Church that has moved from being in complacency, and maintenance mode, to a state of being in utter decline, it is still nonetheless shocking to revisit these numbers again. A survey that Pew Research Center conducted in 2009, and updated in 2011, showed that those who left the Catholic Church outnumber those who have joined the Catholic Church by a wide margin of a ratio of four-to-one. This means that 1 in 10 adults have left the Catholic Church, even despite being raised Catholic. Current now-un-affiliated respondents, who number 71% of the respondents simply, like flotsam floating on the waves, just drifted away from the faith. While 54% found new homes in the Protestant communities. The implications of this are tremendous – there is a gradual erosion of the centres that once held them to believe in the tenets of the Catholic faith. Of interest may be the answers to the question, “Uncomfortable with feelings of community at congregation” – numbering 19% from the now-un-affiliated, 67% who embraced Protestantism; and the question, “Moved to a New Community” – 10% from the now-un-affiliated, and 45% who found other communities in Protestantism. In a more recent Diocese of Springfield Exit Surveys in 2014, 68% of respondents reflected that spiritual needs were not being met, 67% lost interest over time, and 56% cited “Too many money requests” (Vogt, n.d.; Cooper, Cox, Lienesch, & Jones, 2016).

I am reminded of the persecution that the early Church and back in the Old Testament, the people of God faced. While this analogy might be a bit of a stretch, perhaps, the Church today faces a new type of persecution –  the persecution that comes from within its own members – a persecution of complacency, a persecution of apathy and indifference, a persecution of alienation from a community that is too self-righteous, unconcerned about the needs of its people and the poor, a persecution of selfishness and self-centred-ness, that results in the spiritual needs of the people not being met and worse, results in its people not being taken care of, a persecution of politicking, and power struggles in the ministries. Thus having perceived that their voice was not important enough to be heard, or that nobody in their Church community cared, these people went into exile and ran away from the Church. On the ground, there are troubling undercurrents coming from shared anecdotal evidence from fellow pastoral workers in the fields and the vineyards of the Lord with the feedback of constant fatigue and burn-out, feedback of being understaffed, underpaid, and overworked – some working 14 to 16 hour shifts a day, that they are treated shoddily and taken advantage of, that there are no proper and sustainable Human Resource mechanisms in place to care for their welfare, that they do not feel supported by upper management, or that their ideas have been cursorily brushed aside because, “that’s not how things are done here”, or “____________ (insert name of parish) is not going to be associated with this ___________ (insert name of idea for evangelisation and outreach)”.  The irony being that for an institution whose lifework is the championing of the dignity of the human person (Caritas Singapore, n.d.), it actually is not finding sustainable solutions to address these underpinnings, nor is it taking the dignity of its workers and labourers into account. This accounts for the large turnover and brain-drain rate – people were leaving the Catholic institutions and organisations that they were working for, to join the same sectors offered by our Protestant Brethren, for a higher and more stable pay – they did not have to worry about living pay cheque to pay cheque, or to worry about paying their bills on time, they had better work-life balance, HR policies were in place to actually protect the staff and volunteers.

However, all is not lost. The Acts of the Apostles offers us a glimpse into Catholic Community that should serve as the exemplar. Above all, it proposes that the solution to this devastating alienation across the Church, be that the Church actually comes together to pray together. Catholic families need to start praying together. Ministries need to form praying communities together. Catechists need to start praying and forming communities with the children they teach.

Herod had begun a wave of persecutions to the members of the church. He had James martyred, and was about to do the same to Peter. Yet, as we read in Acts 12: 5 “Peter was kept in prison,” however, this is the caveat which allowed for a miracle to happen: “but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church.” (5) With the community banding together in intercessory prayer, the Lord God sent his angel before him to rescue Peter – we see that the impossible happened: “the chains fell off his hands”, “they passed the first and the second guard,”, and the gate “opened to them of its own accord.” (Acts 12: 6-12) Then, the emphasis about how that came to be: “he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.” (Acts 12:12) There is a significance why the author of this chapter of Acts repeats the fact that the community had gathered together and were praying together. Any words which are repeated are important – and these are an exhortation for our faith communities to do the same.

As we are working with other people in our communities, relationship-building is often complex and faced with many differences which need constant bringing to the light, dialogue, mediation, and reconciliation in order for a community to heal and to work. If the community is not praying together, than often times, we may find people in the community taking things into their own hands, to the extent of picking fights with the other members of the community. Only Grace can empower us to see beyond the human limitations to see the fingerprints of God at work.

In the Old Testament, we see in the Book of Esther, that Artaxerxes had issued a decree under the advice of the petty, and conniving Haman, which called for the genocide of the Jewish people. Mordecai was prompted to “put on sackcloth and ashes” to make penance and to call upon the Lord God. Esther who was made Queen, came to know about this through a messenger, and was called to provide help and intervention, and to not forsake or forget her people in this time of crisis. This was the strategy: “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 13: 16) The effect of the community coming together in prayer was tremendous and defied human logic, “God changed the spirit of the King to gentleness.” (Esther 15:8), Mordecai is honoured through the suggestion that Haman, Esther manages to save the Jews from destruction, and the instead the enemies of the Jews are removed completely (Esther 15- Esther 17)

The solution to all these underlying and currents of anguish and fragmentation in the Catholic Church, is to pray. More than ever, only God can help us.

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



Caritas Singapore. Catholic Social Teaching. Retrieved October 2, 2020, from https://www.caritas-singapore.org/catholic-social-teaching/#.X3ZpemgzbIU

Cooper, B., Cox, D., Lienesch, R., & Jones, R. P. (2016). Exodus: Why Americans are Leaving Religion—and Why      They’re Unlikely to Come Back. PRRI. Retrieved October 2, 2020, from https://www.prri.org/research/prri-rns- poll-nones-atheist-leaving-religion/

Pew Research Center. (2011). Leaving Catholicism. (Updated ed.) Pew Research Center Religion & Public Life.            Retrieved October 2, 2020 from https://www.pewforum.org/2009/04/27/faith-in-flux3/

Vogt, B. (n.d.). New Stats on Why Young People Leave the Church. Brandon Vogt. Retrieved October 2, 2020, from  https://brandonvogt.com/new-stats-young-people-leave-church/