Theologian addresses 'empty pews'

The Center for Mercy and Catholic Studies at Mercyhurst University and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie have collaborated to bring theologian Thomas M. Beaudoin, Ph.D., to Erie for a pair of presentations at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16. 

Beaudoin, an associate professor of theology in the Graduate School of Religion at Fordham University, will present “Empty Pews: Deconversion in the Catholic Church” at 2 p.m. in the university’s Mercy Heritage Room. He will examine why many U.S.  Catholics – particularly young adults – no longer consider themselves part of the church in which they were raised.

Recent studies by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life have found that a third of U.S. adults under the age of 30 claim no religious affiliation, and that nearly a quarter of adults raised Catholic no longer identify themselves as such.

In 2011, Beaudoin and his Fordham colleague Patrick Hornbeck, Ph.D., were awarded a grant from the Louisville Institute (funded by the Lilly Endowment) to conduct a pilot study on the topic of “deconversion,” and are publishing their findings as they go along.

Beaudoin – also an electric bassist – will present another lecture at 7 that evening titled “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Doors: Rock, Culture & Spiritual Identity,” a program aimed at high school and college students. It will be held in the university’s Taylor Little Theatre.

Beaudoin is one of the founders the Rock and Theology project, a blog sponsored by Catholic publisher Liturgical Press. The blog, which got its start in the spring of 2007, gives “theologians who rock” an avenue to write about how their shared passions of secular music and theology intersect. The relationship between secular culture and theology, specifically through music, is a research interest of his – Beaudoin is currently serving as an editor on a multi-author volume work on rock and theology, and is beginning to work on his own book on the topic.

Beaudoin is the author of three books, most recently, Witness to Dispossession: The Vocation of a Postmodern Theologian (Orbis, 2008), and many chapters, essays and articles on theology and culture. He plays bass with The Raina, based in New York City, and in a band-yet-to-be-named, based in Westchester County.

For more information, contact Dr. Mary Hembrow Snyder, or 814-824-3105.

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