The great “falling away”?

Mariachi band Masses and watering-down Catholic doctrine are not the answer.

My emphases and comments.

From Real Clear Religion:

More Than 1,000 Mexicans Leave Catholic Church Daily
07/04/11 08:25 Filed in: great apostasy

The great apostasy is one of the preconditions for the return of Christ. Is there any question that it has indeed already occurred?

From Latin American Herald: “MEXICO CITY – More than 1,000 Mexicans left the Catholic Church every day over the last decade, adding up to some 4 million fallen-away Catholics between 2000 and 2010, sociologist and historian Roberto Blancarte told Efe.

Blancarte, one of the nation’s outstanding specialists on religious subjects, said that one of the main conclusions to be drawn from the 2010 census is that Mexico is no longer a predominantly Catholic country and has become a nation of religious pluralism.

According to figures from the census taken last year, out of a total 112 million Mexicans, 92.9 million are Catholics, 14.1 million belong to Protestant Christian denominations, and a lower number are devotees of Islam, Judaism and various oriental doctrines.

One of the principal novelties is that 5.2 million say they profess no religion – to the question about their religious beliefs, they answered “no religion.”

“It would be a mistake to think that these 5 million are atheists – all it means is that they profess no particular belief but they might well believe in some form of divinity,” Blancarte told Efe.

The specialist from Colegio de Mexico and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, said that the decline has been uninterrupted over the past 60 years.

In 1950, 98.21 percent of Mexicans said they were Catholic, in 1960 the percentage dropped to 96.47 percent, in 1970 to 96.17 percent, in 1980 to 92.62 percent, in 1990 the percentage dropped to 89.69 percent, in 2000 the country was only 88 percent Catholic, and now that percentage is lower still at 83.9 percent.

This signifies that the last decade has seen a drop of more than 4 percentage points, equivalent to almost 4 million people or an average of 1,300 people a day leaving the Catholic Church.

In contrast, the number of Protestants and Evangelicals went from 1.28 percent in 1950 to almost 8 percent of the total population in 2010, without counting Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons.

Blancarte said that this change is not exclusive to Mexico but extends across the region. In Brazil, for example, surveys have found that Catholics make up less than 70 percent of the population.  [Card. Hummes once told me that the Church in Brazil is losing 1% per year.]

In Central America, according to figures provided by the expert, Catholics represent between 55 percent and 73 percent of inhabitants, in both Chile and Venezuela they constitute about 70 percent, while in Cuba and Uruguay the percentage plummets to around 50 percent.

In the coming years, according to Blancarte’s projections, Mexico’s Catholics will tumble to below 80 percent.”

And when we are talking about “Catholic”, what are we really talking about?   People who remember the fact that someone had them baptized in a Catholic church a long time ago?  People who have pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe on their wall, or their votive candle, or tattooed on their arms?

How does the “New Evangelization” effort address this?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. eulogos says:

    One of the distressing things about attending a protestant Anglican church with my husband is that every once in a while people talk about how they did missionary work-in South American or Mexico. My comments that the people there are already Christians do not go over very well. I was told I didn’t understand the real situation. The same young girl who told me this, often goes with her Catholic friends to a campus mass; she doesn’t think Catholicism is not Christian. (In fact she told the Anglican priest that she thought nuns adoring the Eucharist , was “really sweet and wonderful”-he shook his head and told her “no adoration.” Of course this was in a 39 articles class so he could hardly have said otherwise. ) But she does think the people down there need to be evangelized. Is there a chance that they do? Just because they were baptized Catholic doesn’t mean they were taught the faith. It doesn’t even mean that there is a priest for them so they can receive the sacraments regularly. I think if the Church did what it should do, the Protestants could not make so much progress there. That doesn’t mean I know how to fix the situation though.
    Susan Peterson

  2. Soonerscotty says:

    I disagree eulogos…while there my be people in the pews there has been very little actual evangelization done in several centuries in the Americas or in Europe.

    There are many, many folks who both attend, and those that lead us in, our Masses who have not been evangelized.

    We shouldn’t confuse catechesis with evangelization.

  3. Fr. W says:

    First comes Protestantism, then Deism, then Atheism.
    Notice that as these countries become more protestant, we are seeing divorce, contraception, and abortion, right on schedule.

  4. tapatio says:

    Just as a forewarning, I have read Mr. Blancarte’s colum over many years in Publico/Milenio newspaper and he is VERY VERY anti-catholic in most of his comments and opinions. He claims to be an “expert” on catholicism and in religion in general but from his comments I wouldn´t be surprise that he was an atheist or at least agnostic so let us take this information with a grain of salt.

    Also, for this census and for the first time the religion question was an open question which created some uncertainty and questioning by many bishops around the country. Also of interest is that the results show that the areas with the least number of catholics are the southern states (Chiapas, Campeche and Quintana Roo) that border with Guatemala and that have similar numbers with catholicism around 60% total

  5. teevor says:

    While it’s doubtless the case that many Catholics have been lost to Evangelical prosthelytizing (and indeed, the failures of our own Church, including the spread of liberation theology), I find the 98.21% figure corresponding to 1950 pretty hard to understand given Mexico’s history of fierce anti-clericalism.

  6. PeterK says:

    very interesting especially when one sees that Andy Garcia is in a movie about the Cristiadas in Mexico during the 1920s

  7. Dr. Eric says:

    Some good news: Chile is about 90% Catholic, Catholicism is the state religion, all Holy Days of Obligation are state holidays, and abortion is illegal.

  8. jlmorrell says:

    Yet again more evidence of the Vatican II “New Springtime”.

  9. Fr. Basil says:

    Among my acquaintances is Monseñor Alejo Antonio Pacheco, Orthodox Bishop of Mexico, who once told me many years ago when he was still a priest, “The Mexican people might have been sacramentalized, but they’ve never been evangelized or catechized. Nor does it appear they will ever be.”

    Echoing Fr. Z’s original comments, a friend of mine, a devout Catholic, teaches in a local high school filled with students of Mexican descent, some of them here legally. All they know about Our Lady of Guadalupe is that she’s an emblem of Mexicaness, with no knowledge of her real spiritual significance.

    Last Easter, one of his Mexican girls was baptized, confirmed, and made her first Communion. But he congratulated her, expressing his hopes for her continual spiritual growth, she told him, “I have my sacraments. I don’t have to go to church any more.”

    See what the Church in Mexico is up against?

  10. benedictgal says:

    First of all, we need to get our geography straight: Mexico is not in South America; it’s in North America. I live in the South Texas hinterland, just across the Rio Grande from Mexico.

    It is interesting that, as secular as Mexico is, the people are fiercely devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Just look at the throngs of millions that descend upon Mexico City every December 12th. However, as many have pointed out, this is not enough. The drug trafficking wars that have plagued the northern Mexican region have made it difficult for many of the people. Tourism is one northern Mexican border town has pretty much died. I know because I have seen it first-hand.

    One huge part of the problem lies in the lack of solid catechesis. If folks do not move past Our Lady of Guadalupe and towards Her Son, then, the message that she came to personally deliver some 500 years ago has been lost on this generation and succeeding ones. I am not being anti-Marian when I say this; clearly, there has to come a point when we need to move beyond Our Lady of Guadalupe. Sadly, this is where we come to a stand-still.

    Something else to consider, Fr. Z, is the fact that there is a lot of laxity in many of the liturgies in Mexico. There are times when we have priests from Mexico visiting our diocese preaching missions and the Masses they celebrate are rather abusive. Sadly, I have witnessed these. In one instance, the priest made up his own Collect and invited the faithful to repeat it after him. I have read through the Roman Missal approved for use in Mexico. There is no provision for this to happen, even though the celebrant told me that he had the option when I challenged him on the matter after Mass. Another one had the faithful purchase handkerchiefs so that they could touch the Luna with them during Adoration.

    So, it’s a two-prong problem that needs to be addressed by the Mexican bishops: Liturgy and Catechesis.

  11. benedictgal says:

    Were Blessed Miguel Pro to make an appiration in Mexico, I suspect that the whole situation would cause him great sorrow. Was this what he suffered martyrdom for? When he offered his life as a sacrifice for the Church in Mexico, was it to have been for naught? Was all of this in vain?

  12. benedictgal says:

    I apologize if I sounded upset as I typed my comments. It’s just that it’s not so much that Mexico is being anti-clerical; the government is that way. There are a lot of devout people in Mexico; unfortunately, they are not properly catechized.

  13. tioedong says:

    One reporter repeated the quip that the church preached liberation theology, and the people promptly started joining protestant churches. So yes, it is mainly a failure of evangelization.

    But it is also a failure of the church to adjust to social changes that are similar to the changes that spawned the Protestant revolution (more educated laymen, rejection of obedience to a hierarchy that is often inbred and from different ethnic or cultural background:

    For example, Many of our Pinoy priests for example come from the good families, not the poor background. (When some of our bishops said Feng Shui was cultural, not religion, and allowed, one local Pinoy quipped “of course, because they are Chinese”, i.e. from the rich families who intermarried with Chinese merchants a couple generations ago, not from the local peasantry). The high educational standards can prevent vocations: more of a problem to getting more priests than celibacy. Deacons could help a lot (our local village has a deacon to hold funerals and prayer services).

    Then comes a local Protestant pastor preaching Jesus. He is from a poor family. He stresses a bible (traditionally religion was “taught” by fiestas and stories to the illiterate, so using bible verses to confuse is a favorite tactic). In addition, the protestant churches network: if my stepson needs a worker, he asks his pastor to recommend a worker, whereas in the past we hired those who traditionally worked for our family in the past. So become a protestant, get a job easier …

    Another reason is that when folks leave the village, they leave the religious atmosphere/customs for the city. Small evangelical churches supply this fellowship. I used to get mad at this, but you know, without the evangelical option, a lot of these people would have no faith at all, or be seduced by vodoo churches (as is happening in Brazil).

    Don’t underestimate the US money behind the conversions either. They’d rather convert a Catholic than a Muslim or atheist because it’s easier.

    Finally, much of the change is due to the Pentecostal movement, which is behind a religious revival, both Catholic and Protestant; the Pentecostal movement is lay run.

    Couples for Christ and various lay movements in the Filipino church are what keeps the faith alive in foreign lands, especially in the Middle East where churches are few.

  14. The Cobbler says:

    Hang on a second. How much of that percentage change shows Catholics falling away and how much of it shows Protestants coming into the country?

    I’m sure the situation is dire, but to say an average of 1000 Catholics left the Faith every day requires us to actually tabulate how many Catholics left the Faith, no? Did I miss that part in the statistical calculations?

  15. The Cobbler says:

    BenedictGal: If people aren’t moving to Jesus, they aren’t truly moving to Our Lady, of Guadalupe or of anywhere or anything else, however much they may think she’s great.

  16. This will be the 4th year a couple of my children and I go down to Mexico over Easter week with a group from the local parishes to build houses for some needy families. What I’ve observed:

    – the priests in the area just outside of Tijuana where we work seem to all be American missionaries. Where are the local priests?
    – the people do seem to go to church in large numbers. Since I don’t speak Spanish, I’ve no way to know what they otherwise believe;
    – of the people who do this good work – try to help Mexicans who have moved to the boarder areas to work get a descent place to live – the vast, vast majority seem to be Protestants and Evangelicals, not Catholics. Our group is a tiny minority.

    As far as pointing out that Mexicans have not been properly catechized, maybe true, but neither have the Catholics who go down to do this good work – they are largely the products of the ‘elite’ Catholic high schools in the area, and generally know NOTHING, as far as I can tell, about the teachings of the Church. They have absorbed that we need to take care of the poor, but, as far as I can tell, with a few notable exceptions, they have no idea that the Church teaches definite things that they have a duty as Catholics to believe and uphold.

    So, I love meeting the Mexican families we help out, and it is important to get off one’s duff and DO things for the less fortunate. It speaks well of the people involved that we do this. But if my kids are going to know anything about what the Church teaches, they will evidently learn it from my wife and me. I suspect the same is true of the Mexicans – if mom and dad don’t know anything, neither will the kids.

  17. La Sandia says:

    My husband is from Peru. A lot of what has been described concerning Mexico I have observed in Lima. Every time I see an “Iglesia Biblica” or “Iglesia Evangelica,” a part of me dies. I think a large factor in this is the state of the liturgy, which in most places is strongly charismatic and generally lacking any real reverence. Despite some popular piety, catechesis tends to be very weak. It’s not unusual for parents to delay baptism until the child is a year old or even older (the party seems to hold more importance than the sacrament itself), or for couples to live in civil marriages and delay the religious wedding indefinitely. Is it any surprise then, that when some Pentecostal minister sets up shop next door offering even more religious “entertainment value,” that many poorly-formed Catholics will not see the reason for staying with the Church?

    Lima does, however, have an excellent Archbishop, Card. Cipriani.

  18. I echo a ton of similar comments.

    On occasion I go to a parish in El Monte, where there aren’t any weekday homiles (which I know is allowed)…The problem is both liturgical and catechetical. imo. The seeds are there, they just need to be planted.

  19. sea the stars says:

    Just in case anyone needs encouragement in the face of these figures: worldwide, the Holy Catholic Church grew by an average of 52,000 souls every day in 2010.

  20. The poor catechesis in Mexico is a big issue, as others have pointed out. US Bishops also seek Mexican priests to serve the Spanish-speaking population in the States, leaving even less priests in Mexico (like most Latin American countries, Mexico has a significant priest shortage, with many fewer priests per person than in the United States).

    It has also been my impression that Catholicism is seen as more of a “woman’s religion” than some of the Protestant Evangelicals. The stereotype of the women at Mass praying for their sinful, and absent, husbands has some basis in truth. Yet the Evangelicals are seen to have a “muscular” Christianity, and a healthy masculine spirituality.

    This is sad, especially given the “muscular” spirituality in Mexican Catholic history, especially in the persecutions of the early 20th century. The priest-martyrs who died shouting “Christo Rey”, the men who took up arms to fight the oppression during the Cristero war, etc. And now, we can’t get men to Mass in Mexico.

    As an aside, it is a shame the US Church does not teach more about this period of Mexican history, where a persecution as strong as that which happened in 18th century France and 1930’s Spain happened just across our border. Many of the priests who were martyred studied in the US, including Miguel Pro. Perhaps we are ashamed we let it happen.

  21. chironomo says:

    And when we are talking about “Catholic”, what are we really talking about? People who remember the fact that someone had them baptized in a Catholic church a long time ago? People who have pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe on their wall, or their votive candle, or tattooed on their arms?

    This is a point which journalists (and pollsters) often use to their advantage. When somebody says “I’m a Baptist” you can be fairly assured that they actually attend a Baptist church at least sometimes since ATTENDANCE at a particular church is a pre-condition for that label. Same goes with saying “I’m A Methodist” or even “I’m a Unitarian”. Certainly nobody would say “I’m a Mormon” unless they faithfully participated in and believed the tenets of that faith.

    But when people say “I’m a Catholic”…. it seems that can mean anything from “I go to daily Mass every day and confession everyFriday and faithfully attend Mass on Sunday” to “I was baptized as a Catholic 45 years ago but support abortion rights, same-sex marriage and haven’t gone to church since then” . As a result, articles and polls about the beliefs and positions of “Catholics” are purposefully skewed by interviewing and counting as “Catholics” a lot of individuals with very little connection to the church other than familial or through a distant baptism.

    And just try to suggest that such individuals aren’t “really Catholic”….

  22. gr8fullihome says:

    “This is sad, especially given the “muscular” spirituality in Mexican Catholic history, especially in the persecutions of the early 20th century. The priest-martyrs who died shouting “Christo Rey”, the men who took up arms to fight the oppression during the Cristero war, etc. And now, we can’t get men to Mass in Mexico.”

    This effeminate ethos is one of the reasons I find the Novus Ordo so uncomfortable. Of course a lot of that depends on the priest, but I also think it’s inherent in the rubrics – at least as they’re practiced in most parishes. I’ve often wondered why the Traditional Mass doesn’t give me the same vibe. No doubt it’s a number of things, but the “performance” aspect of the priest facing the people seems to me the number one ingredient that can give a flavour of flakiness.

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