Varieties of Deconversion in Roman Catholicism

Team Members/Contributors

Thomas M. Beaudoin Fordham University, Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education Contact Me
J. Patrick Hornbeck Fordham University Contact Me

About this project grant for researchers

While conversion is a word that has carried positive overtones in the history of Christianity, the tradition has cultivated no similar vocabulary nor a cognate regard for those who were once members but no longer affiliate with their churches. A person’s movement away from normative affiliation more often evokes language of pastoral condemnation than it produces a response that understands deconversion as a theological act.

This project joins fresh research in practical theology to the lived experiences of Roman Catholic laity who were once affiliated with the church and proposes to explore the process and the practice of “deconversion” in Roman Catholicism by undertaking a series of interviews with Catholic laity who have deconverted or are in the process of deconversion, as well as with pastoral workers whose perspectives on deconversion will serve as a basis for critical comparison; by observing in those interviews patterns that might help generate models that illustrate deconversion as a form of theological practice; and by correlating our findings with the limited scholarly literature on deconversion, which has relied largely on Protestant and evangelical churches. This research contributes to the understanding of lived Christianity in the United States by providing the beginning of a way to theologically appreciate deconversion in Catholicism, both in its own right and for the purpose of comparison with other Christian traditions.