When Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the Catholic Church suffered an exodus of members seeking new spiritual homes, according to a report by the National Catholic Reporter. The fact that Trump was embraced by some Catholic leaders dismayed some of the faithful, who began looking elsewhere, Raw Story reports.
So NCR reporter Rebecca Bratten Weiss interviewed former members of the church to gain a better understanding of the situation.
One such former member, Mike Boyle, said he’d been planning to leave the church but changed his mind when Pope Francis came along. Then Trump was elected and Boyle knew it was time to leave.
“A practicing Catholic all his life, Boyle was serious enough about his faith that he had spent three years as a member of a Dominican community,” Weiss writes, noting he admitted he “began to feel uncomfortable with the church leaders’ obvious promotion of right-wing political ideologies.”
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Boyle was definitely not on board with Trump being so widely promoted by some of the church’s leaders.
“With Trump, it was basically like watching a car crash in slow motion, Deep down, I knew that the hierarchy and all the usual suspects were going to jump on board the Trump train, but I still hoped that I was wrong, that I was being too cynical. But of course, I wasn’t being too cynical,” he said, adding, “it was not so much that MAGA Catholics (whether lay or clergy) pushed me out the door, so much as the embrace of MAGA cut the last strings that I was holding onto.”
While I’m no believer, I can’t help but think that for the truly devout it would next to impossible to associate with people who disdain the poor, people of color, the disabled, but worship the almighty dollar.
Weiss notes Boyle’s departure is one of many the church has dealt with over the past decade.
“Many who have left, like Boyle, cite their coreligionists’ alliance with the MAGA “Make America Great Again” movement as a key fact in their decision,” she adds.
Former church member H.L. Vogel became a Catholic as an adult but soon realized he’d made a mistake.
“But in 2016, Vogl was dismayed to see their pastor becoming far more political — and it got worse after Donald Trump was elected president. According to Vogl, their pastor was ‘explicitly citing Fox News in homilies, preaching on the obligation to respect those in authority in the government, and stoking fear of ‘political correctness,’” Weiss writes.
“In short, the political abuses destroyed my trust in the clergy and prompted me to rip my pious blinders off,” Vogl told Weiss. “Having taken in this broader perspective, I can never see the Catholic Church the same way again.”
Weiss points out church attendance even before the age of Trump has been in decline for years as younger members, disappointed that their leaders embraced Trump, fell away from the church, especially after the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” where Trump admitted groping women against their will.
“Having been young during Clinton and seen the way evangelical leaders responded to him, and then to see these seem leaders make excuses for Trump,” Michael Wear, a former faith adviser to President Barack Obama said. “It just led them to think, some of these voices aren’t trustworthy.”
As I reported Thursday, the percentage of Americans who consider themselves to be Christians is dropping steadily as well, according to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center. Telephone surveys conducted between 2018 and 2019 found that 65 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian, which is down by 12 percent over the previous decade.
America, it seems, is having a crisis of faith. It’s a welcome crisis perhaps leading more people to think critically. One can hope anyway.