Archive for the ‘1. Clergy Abuse in the News’ Category

It looks like of the $82 million collected in 2009 for Peter’s Pence only $9 million went to papal charities and the rest went to fund the out-of-control Vatican budget

Friday, June 10, 2011


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Why give your hard-earned money to a church collection whose real purpose is camouflaged with pretty words that don’t reflect reality? Why give to bloated, useless Vatican bureaucrats who eat gourmet food and drink vintage wine in the best restaurants in Rome? Why not give to an organization that helps abuse victims or promotes keeping children safe from clerical sexual predators?

Frank Douglas  |  Tucson, AZ  |  June 10, 2011



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Rome, rendered

By Mark Silk on June 9, 2011 10:39 AM | 2 CommentsNo TrackBacks


Yesterday I went up to St. Eulalia’s in Winchester, Mass. to hear Jason Berry talk about his important new book, Render Unto Rome, to 50 or 60 members of Voice of the Faithful. No one has done more to investigate the underside of the contemporary Roman Catholicism than Berry, from his bringing to light the problem of sexual abuse of minors by priests back in the 1980s, to his work on Marcial Maciel and the Legion of Christ a decade ago, to his current exploration of, as the subtitle puts it, the secret life of money in the Catholic Church. Naturally, the ecclesiastical powers-that-be look at him as a turd in their punchbowl.

Render Unto Rome is rich in revelations, from the $2.3 billion in losses resulting from collection plate embezzlement in the U.S. over the past half-century to the financial wheeler-dealing of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals. But perhaps Berry’s most egregious discovery concerns Peter’s Pence, the annual sum collected in June from parishes around the world for relief of the poor.

According to the USCCB website:

The Peter’s Pence Collection unites us in solidarity to the Holy See and its works of charity to those in need. Your generosity allows the Pope to respond to our suffering brothers and sisters with promptness, love, and compassion, so God’s people will not feel alone in their time of misfortune.


However, of the $82 million received in 2009 (the last year for which figures are available) Berry was able to identify only $8.5 million that were actually spent on works of charity. His conclusion is that the remaining 79 percent went to plug the Vatican’s operating budget. One might recall that it was the abuse of the Peter’s Pence Collection that so annoyed Martin Luther that he started the Reformation.

It would be nice if the news media and Catholics themselves took up the cause and began peppering the Vatican with inquiries about where all that alleged poor relief went–not to mention why someone like Sodano continues to occupy so exalted a position. Meanwhile, the USCCB has never seen fit to issue guidelines for the handling of collection plate receipts–the Church’s principal source of income. When they meet later this month, why not put that on their plate?


MARCH MADNESS: Vatican Falls to Survivor/Advocate All Stars, 75-58

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vatican Falls to Survivor/Advocate All Stars, 75-58

Philadelphia, April 4, 2011

From the International Sports Information Network (ISPIN)

The Survivor/Advocate All Stars combined a surprisingly effective 1-3-1 zone defense, lights-out three-point shooting, and overall team speed to defeat the taller, heavier, and slower Vatican team in the first ever International Heroes Opposing the Oppressive System (IHOOPS) Championship game this evening at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

The first play of the game set the tone for the entire contest. All Star point guard Barbara Dorris intercepted an poorly thrown bounce pass from weak-side forward Justin Rigali intended for center Timothy Dolan. Dorris snapped a pass to Barbara Blaine who streaked down the floor and made an easy layup. After Rigali threw up a wild prayer from five feet behind the three-point circle, Peter Isely ripped the rebound away from the much smaller Francis George, threw a long outlet pass to Blaine who in turn found an open Bob Hoatson for a three-point shot that barely rippled the net. The All Stars were ahead 5-0 after 53 seconds into the game. The stage was set for another All Star blowout of hapless Vatican teams.

The closest the Vatican came to the speedier and better conditioned All Stars in the first half was at the 13:23 mark when Sean O’Malley scored on a three-point play, bringing the Vatican to within five points of the sharp-shooting All Stars. All Star coach Tom Doyle called a timeout and inserted Richard Sipe, Patrick Wall, and Marci Hamilton into the All Star lineup. In the next six minutes, this trio tightened the flagging 1-3-1 zone, pulled down seven rebounds, and registered four steals. During this six-minute window, Hamilton shot four straight three-point shots. At halftime, the All Stars led their clerical opponents, 37-23.

The second half started with Jeff Anderson and David Clohessy scoring long back-to-back three-point shots, effectively putting away the miserable team from the Eternal City.

At the post-game press conference, All Star coach Tom Doyle praised the teamwork, toughness, and tenacity of his team. On the other hand, Vatican coach Bill Levada, whom Pope Benedict appointed just two weeks ago in an attempt to bring American basketball expertise to a Vatican team weighted down by the seemingly endless clergy sex abuse crisis, was less than gracious in defeat. He complained about the crowd’s game-long booing of his Vatican players, “home town” officiating, and new international rules allowing women to compete on an equal footing with men.

High Noon in Philly

Monday, March 14, 2011

Revised March 16, 2011.

High Noon is my favorite movie of all time.

Marshal Will Kane played by Gary Cooper leaves his new wife (Grace Kelly) on their wedding day to meet the train at high noon when some really bad guys come to town.

Marshal Kane wins the shoot out (Surprise!) at high noon.

There is now a High Noon moment in Philly.

In Philly Will Kane is not just one person. Marshall Will Kane is the name on the banner behind which marches people named Doyle and Anderson and Springer  and Blaine and Clohessy and Sipe and Isely and Hamilton and Dorris and Berry and Wall as well as hundreds of thousands of survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of sociopathic RCC priests in Philly and worldwide.

You know who the bad guys are.

I hope Marshal Kane’s six-shooter is fully loaded and that he slept well the night before the noon train pulls into Philly, whether that’s today or tomorrow or next week or whenever.

Frank Douglas  | On vacation  | March 16, 2011, 0801, local time

Vatican Lineup for Clergy Sex Abuse Super Bowl I, 2.7.2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


FEBRUARY 7, 2011

The Voice from the Desert International Sports Information Network (ISPIN) is pleased to announce the starting lineup for the Vatican for the Clergy Sex Abuse Super Bowl I which will be played in Rio de Janeiro at the Maracanã Soccer Stadium tonight at 7:00 PM, EST, February 7.

The starting lineup for the Survivor-Advocate All Stars was published on this blog previously.

Revised on 2.12.2011 at 9:40, Tucson time.

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WIDE RECEIVER Federico Lombardi Vatican press spokesman; Jesuit; frequently left holding the bag with ludicrous arguments crafted by Pope Pinocchio’s incompetent staff as the Vatican kicks the can down the clergy-sex-abuse road; fumbles so often that he’s known affectionately in Vatican press corps as Fumbling Freddie; caught 12 touchdown passes in 2009; fumbled 14 times in 2010 after catching passes
LEFT TACKLE Timothy Dolan Archbishop of New York; known for unmatched beer-drinking and back-slapping skills; world-class Vatican suck up; close friend of Peter Isely, quarterback for the Survivor/Advocate All Stars; known for fierce blocking and dirty play; selected to clerical all star teams every year since ordination
LEFT GUARD Robert Vasa Coadjutor Bishop of Santa Rosa, CA; well known for his strict adherence to Church doctrine; explained in January 2010 that use of excommunication and denial of communion were acts of charity; fierce blocker, showing little mercy and less charity to opponents; named as one of the Ten Most Conservative Bishops in America by the National Catholic Register in December 2010
CENTER Roger Mahony Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles; top-notch prevaricator; his nose is getting so large that it’s beginning to embarrass even his most ardent supporters; known for liberally spending the Faithful’s donations ($600+ million to clergy abuse survivors and a juicy annuity for world-class child rapist Fr. Oliver O’Grady); skills as a center are suspect because of his record as a fumbler
RIGHT GUARD David O’Connell Bishop of Trenton; known for his love of sprawling suburban houses in fine neighborhoods far, far away from the rabble of the inner city; great pass protector; named as a finalist in 2010 Pius IX Clericalism Trophy race
RIGHT TACKLE Sean O’Malley Cardinal Archbishop of Boston; small and light for an offensive tackle; hides clerical sex abusers of children under his brown Franciscan robes; makes up for lack of size with smart Church politics and subtly dirty playing; named to all-time Clerical Humility Team; co-author of How to Get Ahead in the Vatican Sweepstakes, a best-seller in 2008; fierce blocker; pound for pound, one of the finest cardinals to ever play offensive tackle
TIGHT END Thomas Olmsted Bishop of Phoenix; authority freak; excommunicated hospital administrator Sister Margaret McBride for not stopping the abortion of a fetus that was endangering the mother’s life; Roman Catholic Smart Money predicts in its November 2010 issue that he’ll be a cardinal someday for his unswerving loyalty to papal teaching; excellent pass catcher and fierce blocker; caught four touchdown passes in 2010
QUARTERBACK Tarcisio Bertone Vatican Secretary of State and Number 2 behind Pope Benedict XVI; made headlines in April 2010 when he said homosexuality and not celibacy was the cause of clergy sex abuse; threw 12 passes for touchdowns in 2010
RUNNING BACK Gerald Kicanas Bishop of Tucson; former vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; was key decision maker in the ordination of convicted Chicago child molester Fr. Daniel McCormack; ran for 906 yards and caught six touchdown passes in 2010
SPLIT END Carlos Slim One of the richest people in the world; best known for founding Latin American mobile phone behemoth American Movil and donating large sums to his good friend Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado; caught 13 touchdown passes in 2010
FULLBACK Raymond Burke Cardinal; head of Apostolica Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court; native of Richland Center, Wisconsin; known for his elaborate clerical vestments and faithful adherence to church doctrine; subject of many sexual jokes; runs with authority; excellent pass protector; gained 1473 yards on the ground in 2010
DEFENSIVE END Robert Lynch Bishop of St. Petersburg, FL; recently made headlines when he rejected a request by parochial school parents for a meeting to discuss questions they say their children were asked during confession; loves to blitz the quarterback; lead the clerical league with 12 sacks in 2010-2011 season
DEFENSIVE TACKLE Joseph Kurtz Archbishop of Louisville, KY; a lawsuit recently filed against the archdiocese contends it fired a 63-year-old woman employee for complaining about a priest who was removed from ministry and who had allegedly been sexually abusive and was moving about in the parish unsupervised and circulating among children; excellent against the run; pass rushing skills suspect
DEFENSIVE TACKLE Allan Vigneron Archbishop of Detroit; like Phoenix Bishop Olmsted, an authority freak; overseeing a major parish downsizing process; an up-and-comer; excellent blitzer; has a nose for the football
DEFENSIVE END Tod Brown Bishop of Orange County (CA); cited in 2007 for criminal contempt-of-court for sending Monsignor John Urell out of the country to receive medical treatment, before he had finished completing his testimony in a sexual abuse lawsuit; Brown himself was accused of abuse, an allegation he rigorously denied; excellent against the run. but a weak pass rusher
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER Charles Chaput Archbishop of Denver; named as one of the Ten Most Conservative Bishops in America by the National Catholic Register in December 2010; hard hitter; known for his toughness
MIDDLE LINEBACKER Francis George Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago; former head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church because of the wealth of the Chicago Archdiocese; calls defensive signals; named to all clerical all star team for the past 15 years; led the clericalism league with 26 unassisted tackles in 2010
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER Angelo Sodano Dean, College of Cardinals; made headlines at 2010 Vatican Easter service when he lauded the pope’s handling of the clergy sex abuse crisis; his attempts at blitzing the quarterback often fall short
CORNERBACKB Donald Wuerl Cardinal archbishop of Washington, DC; said on 12.26. 2010, “when we look back and we talk about sexual abuse, we’re talking about something that happened 10, 20, even 30 years ago. We have succeeded in terms of the church and her response. We have succeeded in guaranteeing that if a priest is accused, and there is a credible allegation, he is simply removed from the ministry;” consummate hardball player; one of the fiercest tacklers in the clergy
CORNERBACKB Richard Lennon Archbishop of Cleveland; one of the meanest, toughest players in the game today; loves to talk tough and close down parishes; an elbow to the throat is one of his favorite tackling techniques; named by Real Catholic magazine as their preferred candidate to succeed Benedict XVI as pope
WEAK SAFETY Diarmuid Martin Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin; in January 2011 said that, in the past “most of the Irish bishops felt that dealing with the Congregation for Clergy was disastrous;” known for sorta standing up to the Vatican establishment; excellent against the run but somewhat shaky against the Hail Mary
STRONG SAFETY William Murphy; Bishop of Rockville Centre (NY); known for his large cash cache and taste for fine wine; a protégé of Bernard Law when Law ruled Boston; hard hitter; known as “Billy the Hammer;” two recipients of his hard hits are still in the hospital
PLACE KICKER Angelo Scola Patriarch of Venice; known as “Cardinal Automatic;” shy and retiring prelate, who lets his toe do his talking; made 37 consecutive extra points and 13 of 14 field goals in 2010
HOLDER Carlos Slim Billionaire founder of America Movil, Latin America’s largest mobile phone operator; best known in Church circles for his friendship with Fr. Macial Maciel Degollado; sure handed, thus well-suited to his position
RETURN SPECIALIST Tom Monahan Billionaire founder of Domino’s Pizza; the money and energy behind the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida; excellent speed for an older man; returned two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2010
PUNTER Justin Rigali Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia; publishes names of perpetrator priests on his archdiocesan website; recently three of his priests were indicted for forcible child rape and a fourth was charged with child endangerment for allowing the abuse; averages 44 yards per punt
HEAD COACH Pope Benedict XVI Servant of the Servants of God; a.k.a. Joseph Ratzinger and Pope Pinocchio; supreme authority in the Roman Catholic Church; very little coaching experience; knowledge of American football minimal
OFFENSIVE Coordinator Bernard Law Archpriest of St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome; former Cardinal Archbishop of Boston; internationally known for covering up sex crimes against children for decades; excellent player of the Church political games; left Boston under a dark cloud; knowledge of offensive strategy suspect
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Angelo Sodano Dean, College of Cardinals; made headlines at 2010 Vatican Easter service when he lauded the pope’s handling of the clergy sex abuse crisis; his attempts at blitzing the quarterback often fall short
SPECIAL TEAMS COACH William Baum Former archbishop of Washington, DC; now the second longest serving cardinal in American history, behind only Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore; accomplished Vatican insider; recipient of the North American College’s Founder’s Award, citing his “long and tireless priestly service”; eschews the spotlight

STUNNING: Vatican sends back Fr. Murphy lawsuit; Murphy abused 200+ deaf Wisconsin kids

Monday, January 31, 2011

Received by e-mail from SNAP Midwest Director Peter Isely, 1.31.2011.

Peter, thank you for sharing this stunning news.

Peter, I wish you and your associates the very best at today’s SNAP press conference.

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COMMENT: The Vatican’s inability to face reality is indeed stunning.

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Deaf victims of St. John’s appealing to Listecki to intervene with Pope in Federal lawsuit

Vatican refusing to cooperate with Federal court in Milwaukee in Murphy case

Judge’s summons to Pope and two top Vatican officials sent back as “unwanted and undesirable”


In a stunning move, Vatican officials are refusing to be served with a child sex abuse lawsuit, returning it with the words “unwanted and undesired.”

In response, at a news conference clergy child sex abuse victims, including victims of Fr. Lawrence Murphy while at St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wis., will blast the Catholic hierarchy for:

  • rebuffing the US justice system,
  • continuing to ignore the appeal for healing from 200+ deaf victims sexually molested at a Milwaukee school, and
  • delaying the “long overdue disclosure” of secret church records about the cover up of clergy sex crimes by a long-time Wisconsin predator priest

In addition, they will attempt to hand deliver a letter to Milwaukee’s archbishop Jerome Listecki  urging him to “show courage, challenge the Vatican, and advocate for these still-suffering Wisconsin crime victims.”


Monday, January 31, 1:30 p.m.


Outside the Cousins Center, which is the headquarters of the Milwaukee archdiocese, 3501 South Lake Drive


Several victims of clergy child sex crimes, including deaf victims of Fr. Lawrence Murphy, who belong to the international support group called SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, SNAPnetwork.org.


After initially accepting a summons from the US federal court in Milwaukee concerning a civil suit involving top Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI, the Holy See returned it late Friday by FEDEX to the United States, with the marking:  “Undesirable and Unwanted”.  The lawsuit concerns the decades long cover up of serial child molester Fr. Lawrence Murphy from the archdiocese of Milwaukee.

The federal lawsuit, which was filed last March, and was the first of its kind, directly names Cardinal Ratzinger and two Vatican secretaries of state, in covering up the child sex crimes against hundreds of deaf children by Murphy as director of St. John’s School for the Deaf in Franklin, Wisconsin.  Murphy died in 1998.

Previously secret church records from Milwaukee show that every Milwaukee archbishop since at least 1958 knew Murphy was sexually assaulting children at the boarding school.

By 1976, according to the records, Vatican officials became involved in the Murphy case.  At that time, Murphy was transferred from Milwaukee to a parish in northern Wisconsin, where he remained for several decades, unreported and unsupervised, working with children and families, as well as with the deaf community.  At least one lawsuit has been filed by a victim of Murphy in his assignments after Milwaukee.

In the mid 1990’s the Vatican again became involved with Murphy, this time through the office of the powerful Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), at that time headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.  In 1997, Ratzinger’s office ruled that Murphy would not have to face a church trial in Milwaukee and could remain a priest in good standing until his death.  He was never turned over to civil authorities.

Two recently released letters show Vatican officials instructing local bishops against providing records about pedophile priests to judicial authorities in Ireland in the 1990’s and the United States in the 1980’s.  Last year, a letter surfaced from the Vatican secretary of state to a French bishop congratulating him on behalf of Pope John Paul II for not turning a pedophile priest over to police.  John Paul, who died in 2005, is being presented for official sainthood by Pope Benedict in May.

Although Vatican officials say they now cooperate with criminal and civil laws around the globe, Friday’s rejection of the summons by the Federal Court in Milwaukee demonstrates that they still consider themselves “above the law” and is reminiscent of its response to formal inquiries in 2006 from Irish government authorities that were investigating widespread child abuse by clerics in Ireland.

NB:  Attorneys for the victim in the Milwaukee federal suit, along with the nation’s leading constitutional expert on these cases, Professor Marcie Hamilton, will hold an 11:00 a.m. CST press conference in St. Paul, MN and streamed live at www.AndersonAdvocates.com. Questions can be submitted one hour in advance.  Contact Atty. Jeff Anderson at 612.817.866 (mobile) 651.297.6543 (office).

John Doe 16 v. Holy See, Joseph Ratzinger, Tarcisio Bertone and Angelo Sodano is available at:  http://andersonadvocates.com/Files/54/Complaint-against-the-Holy-See-Ratzinger-Bertone-and-Sodano


Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director, 414.429.7259

John Pilmaier, SNAP Wisconsin Director, 414.336.8575

Mike Sneesby, SNAP Milwaukee Co-Director, 414.915.4374

SNAP, The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the oldest and largest global organization of clergy sexual abuse survivors, with over 10,000 members and 82 chapters in the United States (SNAPnetwork.org).

SNAP to New York Archbishop Dolan: Do no more Irish trips, release names of NY predators first; message to be delivered at St. Patrick’s cathedral on Sunday, 1.23.2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Received by e-mail from David Clohessy, 1.22.2011.

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Clergy sex victims protest at Cathedral

They’re upset at 2 newly-released Vatican documents

Both tell bishops to hide clergy sex crimes from law enforcement

NYC archbishop “continues this reckless secrecy today,” group says

SNAP to Dolan: “Do no more Irish trips, release names of NY predators first


As Catholics leave mass, clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters will hand out fliers to passersby. The leaflets urge church-goers and parishioners to call New York City’s archbishop and tell him to

–strongly denounce top Vatican officials and bishops who tell their underlings to conceal clergy sex crimes,

— post on the NY archdiocese website the names of all proven, admitted and credibly accused predator priests, &

–postpone any more trips to advise Irish bishops on abuse until he takes “tangible steps” to better protect New York area kids by disclosing the identities and whereabouts of potentially dangerous local clerics and ex-clerics.


Sunday, Jan. 23 at 11:00 a.m.


Outside St. Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, 5th Ave. (between 50th and 51st St.) in Manhattan


8-12 members of support group called SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, (SNAPnetwork.org) and some concerned lay Catholics


Twice this week, long-secret Vatican letters have surfaced telling bishops to hide information about priests’ misdeeds from criminal and civil authorities. The documents contradict long-standing Vatican claims that top church officials don’t order bishops to be secretive about child molesting clerics.

A 1997 letter tells Irish bishops that the Vatican has “serious reservations” about making it mandatory for bishops to report known and suspected child sex crimes to law enforcement. And 1984 letter tells a US bishop that “the files of a bishop concerning his priests are altogether private (and) that no priest’s files will be sent to any lawyer or judge whatever.”  Both are signed by high-ranking Vatican officials and were never disclosed publicly until this week. Both are posted at BishopAccountability.org (and copies will be available at today’s event).

The 1997 letter is signed by the pope’s official representative to Ireland, Apostolic Nuncio Luciano Storero. The 1984 letter is signed by Cardinal Silvio Angelo Pio Oddi of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy and one-time head of the Roman Curia.

Even now, despite Pope Benedict’s apologies and promises, “current Vatican policy, updated last year, offers merely a nonbinding advisory — not a firm mandate — that diocesan officials should report crimes to police” (according to the New York Times). SNAP wants Dolan, as head of America’s bishops, to insist that the Vatican do this.

Dolan is on a panel traveling to Ireland to advise bishops there about clergy sex crimes. SNAP wants Dolan to postpone future travel and do what 24 other bishops have done, and post on his website, for the sake of public safety, the names, whereabouts and priestly status of child molesting clerics who are or have been in NYC.

(According to a Boston-based independent research group called BishopAccoutnabilty.org, there are 58 publicly accused NY archdiocesan child molesting clerics. The actual number of NYC area pedophile priests is likely much  higher because researchers list only those clerics against whom allegations have been lodged in the public domain – in news accounts, criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits – which are extremely rare in NY  because of the state’s restrictive, archaic, predator-friendly statute of limitations.)


In 2002, Baltimore became the first US diocese to disclose names. A good current example is the Philadelphia archdiocese: http://archphila.org/protection/Updates/update_main.htm. Here is a list of all the dioceses that have disclosed names:http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/lists.htm

CONTACT – Mary Caplan 917 439 4187, Mcaplan682@aol.com, David Clohessy 315 566 9790 SNAPclohessy@aol.com

WORTHWHILE READING…6 Paths to God: The Path of Independence

Saturday, January 22, 2011


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January 20, 2011

6 Paths to God: The Path of Independence

By  Rev. James Martin, S.J.

Catholic priest and author, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything

There are as many paths to God as there are individuals. This series looks at six of the most well-traveled paths for contemporary believers. Part 1, ‘The Path of Belief’, can be found here.

Those on the path of independence have made a conscious decision to separate themselves from organized religion, but still believe in God. Maybe they find church services meaningless, offensive, dull, or all three. Maybe they’ve been hurt by a church. Maybe they’ve been insulted (or abused) by a priest, pastor, rabbi, minister or imam. Or they feel offended by certain dogmas of organized religion. Or they find religious leaders hypocritical.

Or maybe they’re just bored. Believe me, I’ve heard plenty of homilies that have put me to sleep, sometimes literally. As the Catholic priest and sociologist Andrew Greeley wrote, sometimes the question is not why so many Catholics leave the church—it’s why they stay.

Catholics may be turned off by the church’s teachings on a particular moral question, or its stance on a political question, or by the history of clergy sex abuse. Consequently, while they still believe in God, they no longer consider themselves part of the church. They are sometimes called “lapsed,” “fallen away” or “recovering” Catholics. But, as one friend said after the sex abuse crisis, “I didn’t fall away from the church. It fell away from me.” Many feel this way.

Though they keep their distance from churches, synagogues or mosques, many people in this group are still firm believers. Often they find solace in the religious practices they learned as children. And often they long for a more formal way to worship God in their lives.

One strength of this group is a healthy independence that enables them to see things in a fresh way, something that their own religious community often desperately needs. Those on the “outside,” not bound by the usual restrictions on what is “appropriate” and “not appropriate” to say within the community can often speak more honestly.

The main danger for this group is a perfectionism that sets up any organized religion for failure.

Not long ago, a friend stopped attending his family’s church. My friend is an intelligent and compassionate man who believes in God, and whose family had deep roots in the Episcopal Church.

But he believed his local church was too aligned with the affluent. So he decided to search for a community that recognized the place of the poor in the world.

After he left his church, he toyed with the idea of joining the local Catholic church, which he noticed that many of the poor attended on Sundays. But my friend disagreed with their prohibition on ordaining women. So he rejected Catholicism.

Next he experimented with Buddhism, but he found it impossible to reconcile his belief in a personal God, and his devotion to Jesus Christ, with the Buddhist worldview.

Finally, he ended up at the local Unitarian church, which initially seemed to suit him. He appreciated their broadminded Christian-based spirituality and commitment to social justice, as well as their welcome of people who often feel unwelcome in other churches. But he eventually ran into a problem: the Unitarians didn’t espouse a clear enough belief system for my friend. In the end, he decided to belong to no church. Now he stays at home on Sundays.

My friend’s experience reminded me that the search for a perfect religious community is a futile one. As the Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote in The Seven Storey Mountain, “The first and most elementary test of one’s call to the religious life—whether as a Jesuit, Franciscan, Cistercian or Carthusian—is the willingness to accept life in a community in which everybody is more or less imperfect.” That holds for any religious organization. Frankly, for any human organization.

This is not an excuse for the problems, imperfections and even sinfulness of religious organizations, but rather a realistic admission that as long as we’re human we will be imperfect. It’s also a reminder that for those on the path of independence—believers who have left organized religion—the search for a perfect religious community will be one that has no end.

(Next: The Path of Disbelief.)

James Martin, SJ is a Jesuit priest, culture editor of America magazine, and author of ‘The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life’, from which this series is adapted.