Not surprisingly, a high percentage of area Catholics have left the church over the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the organization in the past decade. But that's not all.
A Catholic parish in Philadelphia surveyed lapsed Catholics to find out why they left. The results show a dissatisfaction at both the local level and with the Vatican.
Of the 189 former Catholics who responded to the survey, the highest percentage — 17 percent — said they did so because of the priest abuse scandal. The director of the survey, Charles Zech of Villanova University's Center for the Study of Church Management, said a secondary reason follows close behind.
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"People who are going to leave the church over the scandal and the church's handling of it have already left. So people leaving the church today are leaving for other reasons," said Zech. "A growing reason we found out was the church's attitude toward homosexuals and gay marriage. A lot of younger people object to the church's teaching on that."
The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage and the social acceptance of homosexulaity and same-sex relationshiops.
In the fall of 2012, Zech was hired by a parish in the Philadelphia Archdiocese to survey people who turned away. The study will not be made public, and Zech spoke on the condition that the parish would not be named.
According to a recent national study on religious life in America by the Pew Foundation, a third of baptized Catholics leave the faith, often due to policies originating in the Vatican.
Nevertheless, Zech's study shows that local churches have some power to keep disgruntled Catholics from leaving, such as improving the quality of liturgies.
"Liturgies are really important. I'm not sure that parish staff and clergy understand how important liturgies are to people, that they have good music and the liturgy be meaningful," said Zech.
"People who feel they are not being fed by a meaningful liturgy — they'll go where they are being fed."
Most of those former parishoners became Protestants.