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Posted August 20, 2007

Why Hispanic Catholics Really Leave the Church

Karen Sue Smith, editorial director for America magazine, the Jesuit weekly, discussed a study titled “Changing Faiths: Latinos and the Transformation of American Religion” (Pew Hispanic Center and Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life) in an article for the June 18-25, 2007, edition of America. She focused on why many U.S. Hispanic Catholics leave the church.

Some do “because they are inspired by an evangelical pastor (35 percent), others because of a deep personal crisis (26 percent) or marriage to an evangelical (14 percent),” Smith wrote. But, she added immediately, “the former Catholics themselves gave the most plausible explanation: More than eight in 10 desired a direct, personal experience of God,” which “would be good news, were it not for the heartbreaking inference that they did not experience such an encounter at their local parish.”

“These people” said Smith, “are not angry or negative about Catholicism. Rather, they yearn for something deeply spiritual: more of God.”

For most Hispanic Catholics, the Mass is “lively and exciting,” Smith wrote. But “another group finds worship lacking and, seeking a direct personal experience of God in community worship, quietly goes elsewhere.” She noted that more than half of the Hispanic Catholics consider themselves charismatics.

To reduce “the departure of nearly one in five Hispanics,” parishes “will have to meet this spiritual need,” said Smith.