Many U.S. Catholics Feel Church Is Out Of Touch

8:30 PM, Mar 12, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Catholics see the Catholic Church as out of touch with their lives and feel the church must do a much better job of dealing with the issue pedophile priests.

And that is causing a number of the faithful across the country to question their faith.

That is certainly true in Western New York, which has one of the highest percentages of Catholic residents in the country.

Just how Catholic is Western New York?

Well let's say there are ten people in a room, four of them are likely to be Catholic.

According to the Diocese, there are some 630,000 Catholics in the eight counties, but that number is actually down fairly significantly since 2000.

Over the last 12 years, more than 75,000 people, or more than 10% of Catholics in our area have left the church.

There is probably no single answer why, but a poll of U.S. Catholics released just last week may offer some clues.

According to the New York Times/CBS News poll, the sexual abuse of children is the largest problem facing the church.

Scott Brown: "Your feelings about how big an issue that is for the church?"

Chris Pawenski, Orhcard Park resident: "I think it's large, I think it (the Vatican) really needs to get to the root of it, bring it out into the open and bring closure to it as soon as possible and not let things linger year after year."

Ruth Kelly is a former history professor at D'Youville College who has a masters in theology.

Scott Brown: "Is it too strong to say the church has been hypocritical when it talks constantly about protecting life, yet it has all of these sexual abuse scandals?"

Ruth Kelly: No, and I think that's one of the things that drives people away is their hypocrisy. The weakest of our community (children) and you did nothing to stop it? I think that's what outrages Catholics more than anything. And then you protected the priests because you did not want to have scandal in your institution? You the church- that's what's driving people away."

Buffalo's Bishop, Richard Malone says dealing with the continuing sex abuse scandal must be a priority for the new pope.

Bishop Richard Malone: "Certainly on the short list is a pope who is very, very alert to the need to continue to work vigorously to correct the problems that caused the sexual abuse crisis that we thought at first sadly was just an American problem, and we see now is worldwide wound."

Perhaps another reason Western New Yorkers are leaving the church is its position on social issues.

Scott Brown: "Do you think the church is out of touch when it comes to some social issues?"

Trish Meholick, Sloan resident: "I do believe it does need some changes, just to maybe modernize a little bit to (better) relate to people nowadays."

According to the New York Times/CBS News poll:

* 70% of U.S. Catholics believe priests should be able to marry.

* 70% believe women should be able to become priests.

* 70% believe the church should change its position on birth control.

Scott Brown: "Do those figures surprise you?"

Bishop Richard Malone: "Not at all. Not at all, they don't surprise me, they trouble me. We don't determine our doctrinal positions, church teachings on morals or whatever, on the basis of polls. If someone said 99.9% of Catholics believe women should be ordained into the priesthood that doesn't affect in any way how the church continues teaching on that topic, we would say we need to correct where those people are coming from."

Scott Brown: "Is there a concern that you will lose a portion of the faithful if these things don't change?"

Bishop Malone: "Oh that's already happening. We know for sure that's happening and it's very, very tragic and we try to reach out to Catholics who have allowed themselves to become disenfranchised because they will not or cannot accept the teaching of the church and ask them to come and sit around the table and talk about why they struggle or reject those teachings."

Scott Brown: "But I would assume a lot of people don't even want to have that conversation if they've already made that decision in their mind."

Bishop Richard Malone: "Oh yeah, you're right."

Scott Brown: "Then you've lost them?"

Bishop Malone: "And they've made that decision. It's a challenge."

Scott Brown: "A big challenge."

Bishop Malone: "Oh yeah, there's no question about that. I never soft pedal what a serous challenge it is."

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