According to a report from the National Catholic Reporter, the exodus of Catholic church members seeking a new spiritual home accelerated during Donald Trump's four years as some Catholic leaders embraced the controversial president to the dismay of parishioners.
In an interview with one former member of the church, he admitted he was planning on leaving, changed his mind with the elevation of Pope Francis, and then Trump came along and that sealed his departure.
"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, " NCR's Rebecca Patten Weiss wrote before noting that he admitted he "began to be uncomfortable with the church leaders' obvious promotion of right-wing political ideologies."
Boyle explained, "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," 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."
According to journalist Weiss, Boyle's departure is one of many the church has suffered over the past ten years, before reporting, "Many who have left, like Boyle, cite their coreligionists' alliance with the MAGA 'Make America Great Again' movement as a key factor in their decision."
Another church member, H.L. Vogl admitted he became a Catholic as an adult and soon realized it was 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'." reported Weiss, with Vogl telling her, "In short, the political abuses destroyed my trust in the clergy and prompted me to rip my pious blinders off. Having taken in this broader perspective, I can never see the Catholic Church the same way again."
J.M. Jensen, who joined the church in 2008, said he saw a sea change among some Catholic leaders begin in 2015.
"Over the course of the next four years, I saw almost every single Catholic leader who had been a voice for me in my formative years turn to Trump," he explained in an interview. "People who once had decried 'cafeteria Catholics' and said that you must give your consent to the church's sexual teachings now said you had to ignore the pope when he talks about the environment or social justice. People who decried the moral relativism of the left now used the same tools when it suited them. All of the principle and character that they demanded of [Bill] Clinton were left at the wayside when a truly foul person came along. All for political power."
The NCR article goes on to point out that church attendance, above and beyond the ascendancy of Trump, has been declining for years and that younger members of the Catholic church started jumping ship after leaders embraced him following the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape where he admitted to groping woman against their will.
"Having been young during Clinton and seen the way evangelical leaders responded to him, and then to see these same leaders make excuses for Trump," Michael Wear, once a faith adviser to President Barack Obama explained. "It just led them to think, some of these voices aren't trustworthy."
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