If we Catholics don’t know our Faith, we can’t live it. If we don’t know it, we can’t share it. As the old phrase says, “Nemo dat, quod non ‘got’!” If we are not knowledgeable, articulate and forthright in expressing our views on issues in the public square, in the light of our Faith, we will have little or no impact on society. That’s what a lot of people want, both inside and outside the Church: a Church silenced, Catholics cowed, Faith reduce to the realm of the private merely. If we don’t know what we believe, as Catholics, and won’t or can’t express it, nobody will listen to us. Not even other Catholics. And why should they?
My friend Samuel Gregg has a thought provoking piece at Catholic World Report.
Catholicism’s Latin American Problem
It’s hardly surprising that the election of Latin America’s Pope Francis has focused more attention on Latin American Catholicism since the debates about liberation theology which shook global Christianity in the 1970s and 1980s. The sad irony, however, is that this renewed attention is highlighting something long known to many Catholics but which non-Catholics are now becoming more cognizant: that Latin America’s identity as a “Catholic continent” is fading and has been doing so for some time.
By that I don’t mean that most Latin Americans no longer identify as Catholic. That’s still the case. Indeed, in many countries south of the Rio Grande, it remains overwhelming true. But what’s clear is that Catholicism’s ability to shape Latin America’s religious context is in decline, or, from another perspective, faces some significant competitors: and not just from Evangelicals but also agnosticism and atheism.
Two recent surveys of religion in Latin America have underscored this point. The more noticed survey, conducted by Pew, illustrated that the percentage of people identifying as Catholic in almost every Latin American country has fallen significantly. And even among those who identify as Catholic, significant numbers describe themselves as being at odds with Church teaching on some key faith and morals questions. Indeed, 60 percent of converts to Evangelicalism say that one reason they left the Catholic Church was that they were looking for more assertive teaching on moral questions. This matters in societies in which, as the Pew survey indicates, most people say they adhere to what would be conventionally called conservative positions on all the usual hot-button issues.
It is true, the survey notes, that regular Mass-goers in Latin America cleave much more closely to Church teaching than those Catholics who don’t. That pattern is more-or-less universal in global Catholicism. It’s also the case that the practicing rate of Latin American Catholics puts your average Western European country to shame. That said, the survey also states that Evangelicals are generally more committed to a life of prayer, regular worship, and other church-based activities than even church-going Catholics.
Read the rest there.
Well… there’s also this bit.
With regard to Latin American Catholicism, the jury is still out on whether the on-going disintegration of its once near-monopoly will result in a more energized and committed church. As the sociologist Rodney Stark illustrated in his book The Victory of Reason (2006) many of the Catholic movements that focus on solid formation and foster greater commitment—Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, Catholic Charismatics, etc.—are flourishing in many Latin American nations. They are the ones who open new churches, have vocations, build universities, and actively evangelize people. They understand the error in simply assuming “the culture” will naturally incline people to Catholic faith.
A second fact worth further contemplation is that Evangelicals (a phrase which covers many theological positions) are, well, more evangelical than Catholics. That’s often the case of religious minorities, especially converts, and most Latin American Evangelicals are converts from (usually a very nominal) Catholicism. But Latin America’s Evangelicals, the survey indicates, are far more willing to speak about Christ than Catholics. The latter by contrast tend to prioritize various forms of social outreach to those in need.
I reiterate here the need for tradition-minded Catholics to be the first in their parishes to help with projects involving spiritual and, especially, corporal works of mercy.
Do read the whole thing.
I am reminded of the claim that it will be, must be, the Latin American Church to breathe life into the tired old Church in the old Northern Hemisphere.