The Battle for Rust Belt Catholicism

Amid metastasizing sex scandals and growing secularism, believers try to revive parishes in struggling communities.

Catholicism has entered a dark period in America. The Church’s disgraceful handling of sexual-abuse scandals—with shocking new reports routinely emerging—plays a direct role in shrinking congregations and closed churches, especially in the Rust Belt. These revelations have shown an institution that protected its power while victimizing or dismissing the powerless. Already confronting dwindling vocations, aging priests, and fewer active members, the Church in America is challenged as never before, on a path to irrelevancy and disrepute. If counted as a denomination, ex-Catholics would make up the country’s second-largest religious affiliation.