Ad campaign: Catholics, come home

Ad campaign: Catholics, come home
SEATTLE -- Lent traditionally begins with Ash Wednesday, and the church wants to get Catholics back in the pews.

The church has launched a $300,000 ad campaign to get former catholics to come home. The commercials sell the Catholic brand, but not everyone is buying.

Known for stained glass windows, perpetual candles and historic art, the Catholic church is trying a new medium to reach the faithful.

"If you've been away from the Catholic church, we invite you to take another look," one ad says.

Tom Peterson launched the "Catholics, Come Home" campaign with commercials aimed to remind Catholics of the faith.

"Folks really just drift away from church because the world gets in their way. They sleep in on Sunday. Go on vacation and miss mass. We find that when you put an ad on television, people respond to it. They are so glad we invited them back home," he said.

In 1957, 74 percent of Catholics said they went to church once a week. By 2003, the number dropped to 33 percent.

A closer look shows a big hit after 2002 when the priest sex abuse cases made national headlines. Attendance sank 8 percent in just two years.

That's a trend the commercials try to reverse.

The ads have already opened doors at churches across the country. Attendance is up 15 percent in those markets, but getting numbers like those in Seattle could prove to be a lot more difficult.

The ads don't mention abuse, or the church's views on abortion and divorce -- what may be the biggest obstacles for former Catholics in the Northwest, according to University of Washington Sociology Professor James Wellman.

"Some people are not welcome or at least because they are gay or divorced or for other reasons, they don't feel they are being welcomed back into this family," he said.

Wellman says the ads rightfully point out the church's history of education and charity. The commercials may not put people in the pews, but at least they have people talking about the catholic church in a positive light.

Local parishes will be tracking attendance to see if they get a good response.