As Rome gears up for another expensive canonization spectacle, in which symbols of power, authority, splendor, and wealth loom large, one study after another shows young people leaving the churches in record numbers. Recent studies in the U.S. show some two-thirds of Americans aged 23-30 now leaving the churches behind--with an overriding percentage of those walking away reporting that it's the homophobia of the churches that is responsible for their decision to leave.
I'm not surprised, though I'm saddened, to read Joseph Amodeo's announcement yesterday that he's leaving the Catholic church, and his statement of his eleven reasons for taking this step. Joseph was one of the members of the group who tried, a few months ago, to go to Mass at St. Patrick's cathedral in New York with dirty hands, and who found that church officials had barred the doors and called the police--though the pastoral leader of the New York archdiocese, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, had made a splashy press statement (and see here) only a few weeks before that about how welcome gay folks are in his Catholic church.
Joseph Amodeo had begun to achieve a significant voice as a younger, well-educated openly gay Catholic who was somehow managing to hang on despite the unrelenting abuse dished out by Catholic officials to those who are gay, and his loss should be felt keenly by the Catholic community--though I doubt seriously it will be lamented in most tribalistic Catholic circles, which actively celebrate the walking away of outspoken truth-tellers like Joseph. Here's his bottom-line statement about why he now chooses to leave the Catholic church:
I am not leaving the Catholic Church because of any one particular issue or person, rather because I believe that the Church itself has lost sight of its meaning. A Church founded on hope and charity has become a tradition steeped in an approach that can best be described as "command and control."
As I say, it escapes me how the choice to canonize John Paul II represents any kind of authentic pastoral response to the deep crisis in which any institution with actual pastoral intent and rational concern for its own future finds itself as its future--young adherents--flee the church in record numbers. As they walk away because of the "command and control" approach to the religious life and the homophobia, both of which are earmarks of the papacy of the very man now being rushed to the altars for canonization.
I wish Joseph Amodeo well. If I were in his shoes, a younger Catholic considering my place in the church and world, with the future ahead of me, I'd almost certainly be making the same decision. The Catholic church as it's now configured has worked very hard to place itself in a cultic niche that has little appeal to astute, well-educated, morally insightful younger folks who have come of age in a world with many more options than their elders had, and who have no sound reason at all to put up with the command and control that eclipse hope and charity, and the toxic prejudice that goes along with the dismal command and control approach to religious life.