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Why Are So Many People Leaving The Catholic Church?

In this episode of The Catholic Talk Show, the guys discuss why so many people are leaving The Catholic Church, the statistics behind them, and what can be done about it.

Episode 92:
In this episode, we will discuss:
• The shocking statistics of people leaving the Church
• What are the main reasons people leave?
• Why role did Vatican II have in the decline?
• What impact does the Sex Abuse scandal have?
• What needs to happen to reverse the trend?
• and much more


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29 comments on Why Are So Many People Leaving The Catholic Church?

  1. Julie says:

    Hello, I’m a former Baptist who was drawn to the Catholic Church for its orthodoxy.
    My husband is a cradle catholic who fell away in the teens and college years. He says he was an atheist during that period. He then had a persona crisis and in desperation he stumbled into a Catholic Church, in the middle of the night. He was praying for help and a lady who was there, presumably for Adoration, gave him a rosary and said “it looks like you could use this.” Ever since then he cannot deny the Christian God.
    However, he didn’t understand the vast difference of the denominations and started going to a Baptist church with a friend, where he met me.
    Fast forward, we’re married, have 2 very you g kids and looking for church options. He asks “why not the Catholic Church.” I had no good answer other than it would make my grandmother spin in her grave.
    So, I started reading in an attempt to find the solid answer as to why Catholics are wrong. I didn’t realize how anti-Catholic I was until I started delving into this. I had attended Baptist schools from 3rd-sophomore year of college (completed my degree elsewhere for various reasons). Catholics being wrong is subtly woven into the fabric of the denomination.
    I read, listened and watched many sides. Ultimately, I was received into the church on April 26 (COVID called for atypical celebration).
    My husband had returned, somewhat secretly, a few years ago. His profession puts him in a place that tests faith and without God there just is no good excuse to continue.
    We are looking forward to the crisis to lift enough for our oldest son to receive his first communion soon.
    If I’m allowed a question after this huge comment: how can I ensure a decent catechesis? My 2 oldest went to CCD. The parish has provided the “Formed” Program as well as workbooks. But how do I know it’s enough? I am still learning the nuances of the faith, and my husband was clearly not thoroughly catechised (?).
    Thank you for the show, I’ve shared it with my sister who will be starting RCIA in the fall.

    1. Lawrence Kopsho says:

      We are seeing a ” Great Falling Away” not just within the Catholic Church but in all of Christianity, I believe these are signs of Christ eminent return.

    2. Evan Brankin says:

      Hi Julie,
      Thank you for sharing your story and journey! I’m sure the guys will respond to your question in time, but as a new Catholic dad I wanted to share my thoughts.

      1) Parents who care, like you, are the most important persons in terms of passing on faith to children – and the most critical aspect of this is not so much “teaching” as it is “witness.” Your relationship with your kids as a faithful Catholic trying to be a Saint, and inviting them into that life with you – praying together, worshiping together, serving and ministering together. As the guys mentioned – seeing the consistent witness of men in their lives was powerful for them.

      2) On that note, the Church has long understood the value of relational ministry – in the case of the newly initiated we’ve almost always had sponsors or Godparents who volunteer to take on the role of helping form people in faith. The Fuller Youth Institute has done research that shows one crucial factor to youth developing “sticky faith” that will stay with them into adulthood is the presence of adult mentors in faith – they suggest a 5 to 1 ratio. So find 5 role models in faith who are willing to also be mentors and witnesses to your children.

      3) To be fair to most parish catechesis programs, they’re limited. Most catechists are not professional educators, and most catechesis programs don’t focus on evangelization first. I, personally, do not put much trust in them, and I work for a parish. They will never take the place of the above two. Doing catechesis within your family instead of at the parish will offer a couple advantages for your situation: 1) it gives you and your husband a chance to learn and grow as well, and 2) it develops within your family a culture of doing faith together, learning, questioning, etc. But the most important aspect is that you can focus on helping your kids meet Jesus Himself just as you have, and building a relationship with Him founded on deep prayer, while parish catechesis programs mainly teach facts about Jesus, the Church, etc. Those are nice, but encountering Christ is essential, irreplaceable, and necessary.

      4) Final point – kids are meant to be their own agents. This means ultimately they must make their own choices. You cannot take total responsibility for their faith life or journey, just as you cannot take full responsibility for their professional lives or marriages when they are 45 years old. Like St. Monica and St. Augustine, you cannot control what they ultimately choose – but you can love and pray and persevere in your own faith, hope, and trust in God.

      1. Julie says:

        Thank you Evan for your encouraging response!

    3. Sarah White says:

      Did you marry in the Catholic Church? I have found my way back into Catholicism but married in an Anglican Church and I understand my marriage is not recognised by the Catholic Church and I can’t receive the Eucharist?? This deeply saddens me and I wondered what your experience was. Thank you. God bless

  2. Andrea says:

    Hi guys,
    “Fear not because God is with you.” St. Padre Pio

    I read the studies and stats contained in your links. I read about the “nones” and I had become one at 18. This despite the fact that I was a kid who would seek quiet spots to talk with God. I was a great swimmer and would swim out and float on my back communing with God. I would walk down wooded pathways to quiet natural settings and talk with God. What I wasn’t going to do was go to weekly Mass. My personal schism lasted for years. RS, you are correct, I left community and did not look for it elsewhere. There were many reasons including the selfish totally lazy reason of not wanting the inconvenience of practicing my faith weekly and I also gave little thought to the Holy Eucharist as a sacrament or Christ. It was Jesus who brought me back many years later. Being Catholic is a tradition in my family lines, both sides, for generations. I was in Catholic school for twelve years.

    There were many reasons why I left and anger was one of them. One of my sisters had recently divorced back then and I didn’t believe her good loving soul was now in mortal jeopardy. Her excommunication bothered me greatly. I was not impressed with the rituals. I didn’t like the pomp and circumstance. I didn’t think Jesus was present in the sacrament of the Eucharist. I didn’t study my Bible. I listened to enough during my previous catechism classes to raise questions that were never really answered. I was told to move on. Although heterosexual I didn’t believe that LBQT people would be condemned for their desires which would have to be natural since they were happening within their human nature. Many that I met through my journey through life led good lives and some adopted children who no-one else wanted. They gave them love and support and a home. These children should have been welcomed by my Church. At times they weren’t from what I heard.

    If Jesus died for my sins why is the Catholic Church calling me a sinner and asking me to repent? This is a question that I am sure is being asked. Self-examination is not something people are comfortable with. We make moral decisions all day long and sometimes we fail greatly. God may not have been able to figure out his people and their human experience and sent His Son down to live among them and be one of them. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2Corinthians 9:15

    Oddly enough the sexual abuse scandals in the Church made me want to defend her and did not turn me away from her. It has done a great deal of damage to Catholicism. There are those disgusted because the priests of God were involved. The same ones God called for a vocation, or did He? This horror of not being able to trust your priests who are working for God is something many can’t get past. There are those who just want to attack the Church and use this weapon. Sexual abuse happens everywhere in households and affiliations. These predators are very real and active in our world. The sexual predator priests are apostates who were not called to a vocation with Christ. They are liars. They are monsters.

    Organized religion is under fire in today’s world of the Internet. Communication is almost instantaneous when it works. Why shouldn’t my connection to God work the same way. Why does He need rituals? Why can’t I hear His voice clearly through all this white noise I surround myself with? Many think Catholicism is a cult built around a myth and you just know they never received Catechesis or read their Bible. Many believe that the intellect denies God. I believe that there is a God gene in all of us as Dr. Dale Hamer contends. We all seek God. When you buy your 150th pair of designer shoes and are still not happy it is because it is an empty gesture. When you move from one man to another or one woman to another without commitment except for sexuality you feel empty and dissatisfied as you should. You are searching and coming up empty because your search criteria is flawed. “Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds Him.” St. Padre Pio

    “God will not allow you to be lost if you persist in your determination not to lose him.” St. Padre Pio
    I don’t know if my conversion from absolute despair was the result of my personal crises in faith or if Jesus ran out of patience waiting for me and I had my road to Damascus moment. As all stories are of this nature, it is an interesting one. God is a personal God to each of us which is part of the major mystery of God.

    “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” St Francis of Assisi – God bless us everyone. Life is tough and Jesus understands that.

  3. Oscar says:

    The leadership does not follow church teaching. Actions, money, words all matter. As a cradle catholic I kept going to church if only to receive communion. But, with the closing of Mass and refusal to give communion on tongue I can’t go back.

    1. Clare says:

      I’m trying to be practicing Catholic but I have many questions. First of all looking at the panel; three white men doesn’t represent our world. No women, no people of color and probably no LGBTQ. Other topics like church sexual abuse, political pressure to vote republican when the current president does not represent Catholic beliefs. Here in lies my topics, my questions … and in my opinion, why people are leaving the church

      1. Winston says:

        You are thinking the ways of the world. Not the ways of the Catholic Church. Get a hold of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,, read it and you may not agree with it. Our Church is universal and we have people of color all over the world, including here of course. We have black Cardinals, Bishops, Priest and Deacons. I don’t see why we have to have a black person in the panel, and an LGBTQ representative so to speak. . In case you may acuse me of being Racist. Let me tell you about Robert Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He is a black man and in my opinion a Holy contemplative prelate, besides being, in my opinion, the best Cardinal they have at the Vatican. I recommend his books “God or Nothing”, “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise” and his latest book I have not read yet, he wrote it with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

    2. Winston says:

      Please don’t give up. You are in the Church of Christ which he found 2,000 + years ago. Don’t let anyone: priest, bishop or laymen keep you from the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is true, as you put it, that the leadership does not follow church teaching. Their job is temporary,, we are all mortals so the leadership will not be there forever. Besides, he true Head of the Church is Jesus himself, the others are just stewards, temporarily guarding the deposit of the faith, which at this time they don’t seem to be doing a good job. Keep your eyes on our Lord Jesus Christ, don’t deprive yourself for receiving his body, blood and divinity. If you look at our 2,000 year old history, we have had troubles before and have survived as Jesus promised us that His Church will be with us until the end of time and we are His Church. Keep the faith and pray the rosary daily. Mary will help you put up with the situation we are facing today and bring you back to her Devine Son. God bless.

      1. Susan McClelland says:

        very well said! I loved this talk I agree totally that bishops & priests should be accoutable for their actions. I never left just trying to be a better Catholic doing daily Mass I have the time because I’m retired.
        Susie, from Indy

        1. Susan McClelland says:

          Good point sports comes before church I see that in my own family. It sad.

    3. winston says:

      Oscar, let me add something to my long message below. You have the right to receive communion on the tongue. They is a document from the office of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, it was issued in 2004 I think. You can find and print that document. It is still active. Liberal bishop are trying to use this pandemic to get everyone to receive communion on the hand. What I do is not receive communion until this storm passes and we’ll be allowed to receive on the tongue again. In the mean time we do a spiritual communion and our Lord will know you are a faithful follower. Receiving communion on the hand is the reason, in my opinion, why 70% of Catholic no longer believe in the real presence and the Bishops are wandering why – they have not clue. The way people receive communion in the had is sacrilegous to me. Keep the faith brother.

  4. FHL says:

    Tremendous episode, boyos! I have 3 sons and get a kick out of your relaxed interaction, with fun jabs mixed into intense topics and discussion/opinion. Lots I could write, but 6 highlights for consideration;
    * I remember the name of the grade school janitor and taught my sons to pay attention to and help out their own. His thick foreign accent made him shy but his work ethic and Faith life still staggers me.
    * My dad, after working in business and then as a chef (good Italian training!), wanted an uncomplicated serene workspace, so became the caretaker of our small-town RC Church for the years I was next door at the Catholic grade school. I helped both men collect garbage everyday after school and was mortified at the time, but those years might be the most joyful memorable moments of my life. Our gothic church seating about 500, became my 2nd home. Every nature hike my kids ever accompanied me on, they did the same. Humbled before God Almighty, for the stance against pollution, taught them critical lessons in their youth.
    * My 55yrs puts me in the 40% ‘above 45’ viewership, Mr. Scheel, if you’re keeping track of numbers! I have linked many episodes in emails to my sons, and my youngest knows who you all are too. She just turned 20, has Down syndrome, and is my raison d’être.
    * I have raised my children in the RC Faith, and became estranged from my husband when his behaviour became dangerous. My twins served on the altar until leaving town for college, knowing it was important to me. I wanted to be a nun as a child (talked too much, declined, used my Italian jabbering tongue for a 12yr. career in Hospitality industry instead), but was unable to serve on the altar during the 60s/70s. We have always lived below the poverty level and they have never once complained. Affluence brings its own bag of excess which can allow room for the evil one. He’ll use whatever’s at hand.
    * Mum was Anglican, became Catholic to marry Dad, sang in the choir for 40yrs, married 55yrs, 4 daughters, 12 grandkids, etc. Her humility means more to me after the death of both parents (2008/2012) than it ever did when they were alive.
    * God’s grace has been ever present in my life, from 4mos of age for Baptism, and would not trade my Cross for all the world. I will die with a Miraculous Medal around my neck, and I only pray to be worthy to wear it and a Crucifix. Blessed be the Name of Jesus. Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother. Blessed be Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse. Amen.

  5. Alfred Aquilina says:

    “Gentlemen”! What a grace you are to your podcast participants! It is so important to discuss these very important topics of the mass exodus from the Church and the great questions around what the Church (we) has to do to correct and reverse this movement.
    Thank you for your work!

  6. Winston says:

    You guys are right on target, however you are missing what the Church has done since Vatican II which, in my opinion, is a good part of the problem.. Most uber liberal Cardinals, Bishops, and even few priests priest (LGBTQ) who with the blessings of the Vatican are teaching something that is contrary to the Magisterium of the Church. The Church is no longer the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are just another church, and not only one of the Christian ecclesial communities post-reformation, but one of any Religions such as: Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist, etc. After all “all religions have been willed by God”
    This confussion is not helping. And even our leaders at the Vatican are contributing to this confussion by not clarifying statements they make. And most Cardinal, Bishops who are faithful to the Magisterium are too weak or Coward to speck up. There are only a few Cardinals and Bishops who speak the Truth without any fear of repercussions. The Catechesis today teaches very little that is essential to our faith. My pre-Vatican II Catechesis was so strong that I could never leave the Church as I ask myself: Where would I go? to a man made ecclesial community that was started by a human being when I belong to the Church with a 2,000 + history and was started by Christ. Ecclesial communities that got rid of all our sacraments, Mary and our Saints. Most Catholics today don’t know this, for that reason, in my opinion, they leave the Church. They don’t have any idea of the mass, that is why they are bored, and the guitar/piano nous ordo mass does not help (They created this to attract the youth). The youth are attracted tot he Latin mass, that want reverence. But our “Leaders” don’t seem to realize this and deal with it by forbidding the Latin masses or move they to the 7 am slat. in some places, where we have liberal bishops, they don’t even advertise them, you know about it by word of mouth. What is most shocking is the fact that 70% of Catholics don’t believe in the real presence (the .Body, Blood and Divinity of Chris) no one has ever taught them in the way we were toght before Vatican II.. We have to go back to the old Catechesis and stop watering down the Deposit of our Faith. When Catholics start believing again that we Catholics have no where to go, no matter how bad our Church appears to be. We, the layman, have to be here to correct all the errors created by some of the hierarchy. Thank God for the lay organizations that are fighting by exposing all the corruptions happening in the Church. They are the ones that will let the bad element in the Church realize that they can no longer get away with the things they have been doing. At that point, our Church will be once again the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. In the mean time, this is no time lo leave the Church, The Church needs all of us to stay and fight for it. Amen.

  7. Peter says:

    This is such an important topic. I understand the many reasons you have explored as to why people leave the Catholic Church. It is definitely NOT because of Vatican II. Unless there was a Vatican II the Catholic Church would be ‘totally’ irrelevant today (I believe). The Church must live in the world as it is today, not as it was in the past. There are people who fixate on how the Church was at a particular point in time and believe that that is how the Church should have remained. To do this suggests that the Church was not truly ‘church’ prior to that time. Take, for example, the reception of the Eucharist. There was a time when people received the Eucharist once a year, as prescribed by the Church. Should we continue this today? Of course not. The Church continues to evolve in so many ways and we need to remain open to this change that we believe is the result of the actions of the Holy Spirit in the Church through time and under the leadership of the Holy Father.

    If the Church does not engage with the people of God, here and now, of course it will decline. And, much of the responsibility here lies with the clergy and the community. Masses need to be engaging. Charitable works and fellowship need to be at the centre of the parish community. As well as ‘believing’ people, we are ‘feeling’ people. We need to experience Jesus in our communities. This is especially true for younger people. Their faith is an experiential faith. The Church needs to adjust to this.

    I wish you all the best with your ministry. I hope our Parish Priests are listening.

    1. Andrea says:

      Good comment.

  8. Damir Kovacic says:

    Anyway, to reply on your question I have a question for you; how am I expected to survive on this world if I do not work for money. All is well while all goes well.
    What happens when we get sick,how do you pay for doctor?
    How do we acquire technology which enables us to communicate now?
    It is even possible for me as a single person to live without all this.
    What should I do with my family,my children? Is it enough to pray when my child is sick?Or maybe I should get my ass of the ground and work to get money to pay for doctor to save a life of a child? Or we are supposed to walk like zombies and when someone falls ill just kneel and pray,when we are hungry pray till we die? And yes,as soon as we start working for money we immediately become part of the corrupt world. So,the nihilism of the religions(not just Christianity) is keeping people from praying and dividing them from true following of Christ’s path.
    Till we find a way to put together life on Earth and life in faith we can not live the way Christ has shown us.

    Best regards,
    Damir

    1. FHL says:

      Pray for the intercession of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux for greater understanding of the virtue of detachment. Not just from good health or wealth, from all worldly goods and concepts. The thing itself is not the problem, it’s the sense of idolotry. God’s will is all that matters, and our submission to it. Love without judgement, ask without expectation, seek peace for yourself and your neighbour. Many live like zombies because their hearts are like an empty Tabernacle already. There, but for the grace of God, go I. In Canada, we have no medical fears, and for this I am truly thankful.

  9. Lepat says:

    Thank you so much for the beautiful message on this episode. This message is by far one of the best and most reassuring I have hear from your show. Although there are times I may not agree with you, I sure wish everyone could hear this message. Your account of of Holy Friday was very profound and insightful. As disciples of the Jesus, we have responsibility to share the good news. May The Lord continue to give the strength, courage, wisdom, and grace to spread his light and love.

  10. Kelly Meador says:

    First off, this is my number one podcast! I, being a cradle Catholic, learn so much. I am passionate about this topic as many of my family members are baptized and received first Communion and some Confirmation, but are living their adult lives without the Church. My parents, brother, two of my three daughters and all three of my Godchildren. It breaks my heart and I have encouraged them all through their marriages and having children to come to the Sacraments. None of the kids got married in the Church, although two wanted to and was put off by the rules of not being able to have an outdoor wedding and an out of state debacle. None of their children are baptized because of all the new rules of the Church with the Godparents having to be married in the Church (even though the parents themselves aren’t) and also the parents themselves having to have been confirmed now. One Godson asked for his kids to be baptized and was never called back. They all come back to me with the reasons and complaints and I encourage them to go forward, but they want easy street. None of them attend church but are all believers (NONES). Here’s the bottom line the way I see it: If it is so important to have these children baptized the Church should gladly welcome them with open arms and baptize these babies! What better way to get their parents coming back to Church! They want to raise their children with religion playing an important role. So, in the end, if baptism is the first step, they could go to another church which will welcome them with open arms, baptize their children and where will the family start attending church? Will they come back to the Catholic Church? Most likely they’ll stay with the church that welcomed them. I stand up and take a big share of the blame for not instilling the catechism of the Catholic Church and the love for it in them. Only because of a Priest who gave me the grace of a pass on some rules are my children Catholic. I was living in sin by marrying a man outside of the Church because of selfishly not wanting to wait for annulments, but desperately wanted baptism for my kids and he agreed if I promised to raise them Catholic, which I did. I can now count 11 people in my family who have become Catholic due to that one act of love and grace. I continue to try to influence the rest, by daily prayer and trying to just live my life as a child of God in wishes they will want that for themselves and their family. I have 4 wins – two grandchildren, their father and my husband so far! God bless you all

  11. Andrea says:

    Kelly,
    What a beautiful overall commentary. Thank you. Welcome to your first, of hopefully many, podcasts. There are some older ones still available for viewing at the website.

    I also learned something either new or maybe just forgotten. Godparents must be not only baptized members of the Catholic Church but confirmed members as well. This is not a problem in my family or even my social network of fellow Catholics, but I think baptism of new souls to get them safely to Heaven shouldn’t have such godparent requirements. I understand the rationale but think it is wrong to stop a baby from being baptized!! You are denying an infant a necessary Church first sacrament and I think that is just plain wrong almost diabolical. Are infants baptized without godparents? You got my Irish up as the saying goes.

    1. Kelly Meador says:

      Andrea, actually only ONE Godparent must be baptized and a confirmed Catholic! But now (new since my Grandson’s got baptized 4 years ago), they must also be married in the Church. Which I get it, the chances of the kids staying in the Church are greater if the parents and Godparents are Sacramentally united, but it’s not even the parents – it’s just the Godparents that must be married Sacramentally. I agree wholeheartedly that the Churches number one goal should be to get babies baptized!

      1. Andrea says:

        Kelly,
        Thanks for the info clarification, and Jesus would most definitely be on our side about getting these infants baptized as soon as possible.

  12. margaret says:

    To me the problem seems to be that the majority of Catholics don’t know their faith. Their knowledge and experience of the faith rests on an Elemenary level of when they were baptised. It’s like when you are growing up you go to nursery school, junior school, and you continue until you graduate from high school and onto university education for some. But with our faith, many don’t progress beyond either the nursery or the junior level equivalent. It doesn’t grow with the person. People are generally not fully aware that they are mind, body and soul, and that their soul exists, and it is part of their whole being. It needs developing, feeding, looking after, just like the physical body. The soul animates the body, and what one does affects the soul. when you feel anguish, depression, unhappy, your soul is suffering.

    The catholic faith is very rich and there is a lot of spirituality in the faith. We do not emphasise enough about the treasure that we have, nor do we encourage the faithful to explore it. There is so much spiritual reading out there. the priest tells us that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ and it is important that we receive it, but they provide no more explanation of the mystery to convince us. it’s down to the individual to believe it or not, even though as catholics we are expected to believe it. If catholics believe that the occult practices of widgie boards, divination, witchcraft exists and that these powers are alive. then it is equally true that the good power of God exists because his power is alive too, which is even greater. Therefore Jesus’s presence in the Eucharist is possible and it is real.

    Further catechisis for the faithful can be sought from teachers like Scott Hahn, listening to your show, listening to Call to Communion, reading bible commenteries like the Agape Catholic bible study for more advanced bible study, general spiritual reading and having a prayer life. the faithful should be given more encouragement to do these things. Parishes can put on some more of these activities to guide the faithful. i don’t think the Sunday homily alone is enough, Leaving the faithful to their own devices is like letting the child decide whether they should progress in their education. i am very thankful for your show. it is very informative and it helps my faith grow.

  13. Linda says:

    Gal. 5:15 warns of one common reason. The rumor mongers, since the garden have torn us apart but now they have been reinvigorated by the mark of man’s way with his tech.

  14. Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    No one is leaving the church. Some say, it is the church that has left people. It is time to re-evangelize the church. The late Padre Adolfo Nicolás used to say, “each one is carrying an inner chapel in his heart”.

  15. Rose says:

    Thank you for this eye opening episode. I have lost count on the number of times I’ve heard people my age leaving the Church because of the reasons you’ve mentioned (I am in my early 20s) and that doesn’t just happen in the US, it has happened all across the globe. We have lost sight of what’s important and the world has made us feel confused on the reality of our souls and the reality of Christ’s Cross.

    Thank you for all the Catholic Talk Show crew for that fire and passion towards our Mother Church. God bless you all!

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