Timothy P. O’Malley in his review of Stephen Bullivant’s Mass Exodus, which examines the phenomenon of the mass exodus of Catholics out of the Catholic Church in the United States of America and the United Kingdoms, states that “Disaffiliation is rarely a single moment in the life of a Catholic. Instead, it is a process in which one no longer identifies as a Catholic.”

At a heart of the matter is the issue of a Church that for a very long time has been in maintenance mode, that sought to speedily sacramentalise the congregation, maintain attendance of the regular church-goers, without evangelising its people and introducing them to Jesus. St John Henry Newman suggests that belief is complicated and is embodied and has to be experienced.

While theory works to help us make sense of things, reality is embodied, and in actuality gives the mind the complexity it needs in order to believe. It is not one singular thing which convinces us of our faith, but a series of experiences and arguments in an accumulative effect which eventually influences belief. (Grammar of Assent) What this means is that there is a search for Truth and that Truth has to be presented in a way that excites and stimulates the intellect. It cannot be an abridged version or a watered-down version, because that does little to convince the mind. For example, young persons as little as 13, were seen to be leaving the Church across the globe from statistics by Pew Research, because they had found little relevance of their faith to their everyday. These been told what they had to do or believe, without  the why of their actions.

Second, as we are created in the image of God, humanity is intrinsically wired to beauty. “Even before revealing himself to man in words of truth, God reveals himself to him through the universal language of creation, the work of his Word, of his wisdom: the order and harmony of the cosmos-which both the child and the scientist discover-’from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator’, ‘for the author of beauty created them.’” (CCC. 2500) Through Beauty, humanity is led to the True Beauty who is God, himself.

Last, is rooted in Man’s search for Goodness. People have always been drawn to the Catholic Church because of its works of mercy, its hospitals, its missions, its schools, and its advocacy of Justice.

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan

Sources: Catechism of the Catholic Church; Grammar of Assent; Mass Exodus; Pew research