Church dropouts are the most resistant persons to return to the fold. Somewhere along the way something happened, somebody was wounded, a cherished image of the church was pierced, thus making a once-active churchgoer now impervious to invitations to return.
In light of this difficulty, the Roman Catholic Church has launched an impressive outreach to lapsed Catholics, non-Christians and even Christians of other denominations. I saw a notice about this internet outreach in a Catholic church recently and found my way to their appealing website, www.catholicscomehome.org.
Immediately upon visiting the site, the viewer is greeted by businessman Tom Peterson, the originator of this outreach. Peterson is sincere and easy to listen to. On the heels of his greeting came two more videos in succession, each about two minutes, exquisitely produced, giving an overview of the worldwide impact of the Roman Catholic Church. I watched them both and then looked for more videos in the website, finding them inspirational and non-threatening.
The visitor to the site can click on one of three links: I'm Catholic; I Used to Be Catholic or I'm Not Catholic -- the latter category described as being for those who are Protestant/Evangelical or Not Religious. Each of these links takes the visitor to succinct Q&A about the Catholic faith and doctrine, including subjects like praying to Mary, Mary's perpetual virginity and why Catholics confess their sins to a priest rather than to God. The answers won't please everybody, but they provide a starting point for further conversation.
Some visitors to this site will be offended that the Catholic Church offers an appeal to Protestants, but I consider this a natural outgrowth of a decision to appeal to the world. This site makes the assumption that Protestants and the non-religious might visit the website, too, bringing a different set of questions than would Catholics or former Catholics.
One criticism I have of the site is the apparent decision to ignore the high visibility child molestation scandals that have rocked some quarters of the Roman Catholic Church, calling into question the trustworthiness of the church and its hierarchy. This tragedy has overshadowed (some would say unfairly) the incredible world-wide good done by the Roman Catholic Church.
Both active and lapsed Catholics as well as Protestants have expressed tome their grief and incredulity over this church situation. This tragedy would seem to be a barrier to many persons who might otherwise consider Catholicism. But a careful search of the site for a response to this very painful issue turned up nothing.
This criticism notwithstanding, the videos on this website speak movingly and compellingly about the good work of Catholicism. No single website can address every issue or paint a complete portrait of the billion member Roman Catholic Church and overall this invitation offers an appealing start for the church that wants to reach out to its own and the world.
Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.