“There is a certain fidelity to remaining Catholic while looking,” he said, but the overall numbers of people considering a change in religion “ties into the wider phenomenon of the spiritual quest that we see across the board” that “people are much more open to changing denominationally, which I think from a Catholic standpoint is very disturbing.”
Among Catholics who were looking at changing to a new parish, the important factors listed were “location” (76 percent), “feeling welcomed by leaders” (71 percent), “quality of sermons” (67 percent), and “style of worship” (63 percent).
Among those who listed “quality of sermons” as an important factor in their decision, Catholics were actually much lower than Evangelical Protestants (94 percent), Mainline Protestants (87 percent) and Historically Black Protestants (92 percent), Bunson said.
This may be because “Catholics seem to have either lower expectations regarding sermons, or because as Catholics we are much more sacramentally-oriented, that they are willing to put up with a sermon that’s less than stellar,” Bunson said, especially since the Protestant communities traditionally “place a greater priority on that.”
However, Pope Francis has specifically exhorted priests to make sure their homilies “are not boring.”
“Homiletics,” Bunson said, “is something that has been stressed for a while now.”
“Pope Francis is absolutely right, and I think Pope Francis has his finger on this very neatly, that when we’re creating an environment that brings Catholics together, where they feel welcome but they feel also that they’re receiving a nourishing form of preaching,” he added.
More than seven-in-ten Catholics listed location as an “important” factor in looking for a new parish. The numbers showed “the relative ease that Catholics have in finding a new location to worship,” Bunson continued, that “even in the face of parish closings and clusterings, Catholics still feel a ready access to a faith community, to worship, and obviously, then, to the sacraments.”