The current issue of America has a thought-provoking article on the idea of crafting "exit interviews" with people who are leaving the Church. Actually, this article is a follow-up to an earlier one on the same subject, which has been raised in other places as well. Interestingly, many fallen-away Catholics were eager to weigh in, even though it is hard to know how they found out that the conversation was being proposed.
Judging from the comments cited in the article, it would appear that the principal reason formerly established, "pillar of the Church" people leave the active practice of the faith has less to do with faith than with frustration over the most human aspects of the Church: the pastor is a control freak; the bishops don't know how to lead; the pedophiles got away with it for so long; and (that dogma that gets trotted out on so many occasions) "the Church treats women as second class citizens."
Apart from the pedophile crisis, which is a tragedy beyond measure (all the more because it could have been dealt with so differently), it is sad that many of the most-named "reasons" people would leave the Church are so fixable. (Some, to my mind, are just an issue of ignorance or attitude.) But it is also sad that in so many cases, these very circumstances are the kinds of things that could be a personally purifying "dark night of the senses" (the first of the "dark nights" in the spiritual life), if they were dealt with in a spirit of faith. Instead, the article seemed to demonstrate that people are addressing those problems in a kind of political or even consumerist spirit.
How can we name and address these human, institutional problem spots in a spirit of prayer? Not to "reduce" the solution to prayer, but to include actual prayer and actual faith in the approach to a solution? To what extent does an examination of each problem also imply an examination of conscience on both sides, with a willingness to change attitudes and criteria that do not conform to the mind of Christ? With a willingness to accept that not everything will be or can be "fixed"?
It seemed that the article only addressed the issue of people who made a declared decision to "leave the Church," not those who have fallen away through a kind of neglect.
Maybe instead of exit interviews, we should be doing more interviews of those who are returning to the Church, or staying engaged despite the human aggravations that are part and parcel of being the body of Christ made up of many members.