Latin American Catholicism, the jury is still out

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.

Yeah, right.

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22 Responses to Latin American Catholicism, the jury is still out

  1. Thorfinn says:

    I don’t hear very much about Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, Catholic Charismatics, etc. on traditional blogs; they may not be the particular focus of this site but if you come across some relevant items I would find some perspective on them interesting. I have never met anyone who claimed membership in those or any similar group or movement – unless you count the Knights of Columbus!

  2. Polycarpio says:

    The Catholic faith in Latin America is fervent and vigorous. I put forward the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Marian devotions from Aparecida to Caridad del Cobre, the Cristero Movement, and the widespread public displays of the popular devotions, as the fruits and signs Catholicism is healthy and thriving in Latin America. This strikes me as akin to complaining when someone is adding hot water to tepid lukewarm water that the hot water isn’t as hot as it used to be, that it’s 70° and not 80° … completely ignoring that the receiving tank is 40° water. I think the smart reaction is in what Father has proposed many times before, which is that Traditional Catholics should look to team up with Latin American immigrants and Catholics in Latin America to “cross the streams” (Ghostbusters reference) to come up with a potent combination of the best of what both currents have to offer.

  3. aquinasadmirer says:

    Polycarpio,

    You state that “The Catholic faith in Latin America is fervent and vigorous.” with a list of public devotional displays as evidence.

    This is in stark contrast with:

    ” 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.”

    I know many people who still go to mass each week, work at parish festivals, but are diametrically opposed to church teaching with regards to: abortion, s-s *marriage*, sterilization, women clergy..etc…some of whom wear (some form of) a religious habit.

    The rubber meets the road, not on having the outer devotional trappings of religion, but, on whether a person will pick up his cross, and follow the narrow way with Christ.

  4. TWF says:

    I live in the Dominican Republic part-time as my wife is Dominican. The state of liturgy is really quite awful by and large. The sign of peace is often a happy, clappy (literally), 5 minute affair with back slapping and kissing and people walking from pew to pew while the choir plays a little ditty about peace. Latin is completely unknown and as far as I know there is not a single EF mass in the entire country…there might be an SSPX chapel somewhere but not in the capital Santo Domingo to my knowledge. At the minor seminary next door, extraordinary ministers are used so that the distribution of holy communion is completed in a few minutes, yet the announcements, birthday wishes, etc go on for sometimes 20 minutes between communion and the final blessing (no I am not exaggerating)…where is the priority there? The majority do not kneel during the consecration. The Gloria and Sanctus are often some adapted ditty that only vaguely reflects the proper Spanish texts (I both compared with my Spanish-English missal and confirmed with a trustworthy priest). I could go on.

    That being said, there are positive signs as well. Mass attendance is still quite good, despite the widespread presence of evangelicals / Pentecostals. Marian devotion is strong (the feasts of Our Lady of Altagracia and Our Lady of Mercedes are both national holidays and local holy days of obligation). And Cardinal Rodriguez, the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, is a strong culture warrior and moral authority. Abortion remains illegal in the DR, but this week the congress is once again debating legalizing it under certain circumstances. The bishops have organized prayer services against this evil in every parish and major park across the country.

    Finally, while the state of the liturgy is horrible, I’ve noticed some of the younger priests introducing some chant and the situation is generally better at the cathedral (which happens to be the oldest church in the Americas – early 16th century).

  5. TWF says:

    I should also mention that compared to much of Latin America, American Catholics have priests coming out of their ears… Americans and Canadians talk of a priest shortage… Latin Americans would be laughing if they were blessed with the abundance we have in our home dioceses. The Archdiocese of Santo Domingo, for example, has one priest for every 10 000 Catholics.

  6. marcelus says:

    well….come and see..

    Aquinasadmirer says:
    9 December 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Polycarpio,

    You state that “The Catholic faith in Latin America is fervent and vigorous.” with a list of public devotional displays as evidence.

    This is in stark contrast with:

    ” 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.”

    I would add Lujan, Argentina to Poly’s list: 2 MILLION marching last year in a country of 40M!! and elSeñor and Our Lady of Los Milagros in Salta, Argentina, 0.8 Million in 2014!! in provinces with populations of 0.1M AVG.

    Still, measuring percentages is of no use when comparing to lATAM. No other place in the world has the catholic heritage , traditions (even for those who are not catholic), and uses.

    I’ve seen those percentages before and honestly.. they do not seem to match reality.

    I live in a neighborhood where within 10 blocks we have 5 churches all saying some 2 or 3 masses per day. Some with more attendance ,some with less.

    50& of the catholic Church better or worse, ressides here.

    Kids attend catholic schools en masse (it’s either public system or catholic, period) Mine included.
    And the state subsidizes catholic schools up to 80% of their cost.

    aquinasadmirer says:
    9 December 2014 at 4:23 pmI know many people who still go to mass each week, work at parish festivals, but are diametrically opposed to church teaching with regards to: abortion, s-s *marriage*, sterilization, women clergy..etc…some of whom wear (some form of) a religious habit.

    That is not a Latam only issue unfortunately, It’s happening worldwide.

    From Archbsp Chaput’s conference 8/14 on Latinos:

    “Around the world, it seems to be real and
    enduring. In the Pope’s native Argentina, Mass attendance has nearly doubled, overwhelming
    church capacities. Other Latin American countries, from Chile to Mexico, have seen an increase
    in Mass attendance ranging from 15 percent to 20 percent.
    In Spain, the national bishops’ conference has tracked a growth in Mass attendance of close to
    20 percent and a spike in financial donations of 90 percent – a remarkable fact if we consider
    the high level of unemployment Spain currently suffers. In Italy, sociologist Massimo
    Introvigne noted recently that although Mass attendance has grown only 15 percent, the number
    of people looking for priestly advice or the Sacrament of Penance has jumped 75 %”

    “The key word in the Smith study is “practices.” Latinos tend to be profoundly devotional. It’s
    impossible to visit a Latin American country without constantly encountering Catholic symbols
    in the public square. We can see this again and again in the many public religious processions of
    Mexico, in the ubiquitous religious statues in Peruvian parks, and in the Argentine soccer
    narrator who prayed the Hail Mary out loud on national television during the latest World Cup
    games to make absolutely sure that the Swiss team would fail to score a goal in the final
    minutes of the match. Can you imagine any ESPN narrator saying any prayer on national
    television in favor of any American national team?
    Again, Latino faith is deeply devotional — and thus, it reflects a profound reverence for the
    mysteries of Catholic belief; a reverence that is moving, and in many ways, exemplary.
    Many North American bishops will admit that most of our practicing Catholics are catechized
    but not well evangelized. Catholics in Canada and the United States may know the “lyrics of the
    song,” but they don’t always know the tune.
    In contrast, most Latinos Catholics have a deep sense of God’s grandeur, and it makes them very
    aware that they may not be worthy to receive Communion. In fact, unlike our usual American
    Masses in which everybody, row after row, receives Communion almost robotically, at a
    Hispanic Mass many people remain in their seats, conscious that the prayer “Lord I am not
    worthy to receive you…,” applies directly and intimately to them. ”

    And he quoted Pew.

  7. Polycarpio says:

    aquinasadmirer says:

    “The rubber meets the road, not on having the outer devotional trappings of religion, but, on whether a person will pick u his cross, and follow the narrow way with Christ.”

    Did I not mention the Cristeros? Look, it is true that Catholic membership has declined in Latin America and that some Catholics are unfaithful to the doctrines, in Latin America. But, to a significantly lesser extent than in the U.S. To wit: from the Pew study: “46% of Hispanics support gay marriage, while 34% are opposed. In most Latin American countries, by contrast, solid majorities oppose allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry.”

    IMHO, we gravelly risk making the perfect the enemy of the good.

  8. ChrisRawlings says:

    Is there any question that Latino migration has dramatically revitalized the American Church? But it is more than just demographics. The lay movements continue to foster a deep faith and personal holiness among Catholics in the region. Of course, the same thing us happening in Europe and North America, too. But in Latin America it seems more widespread.

    Numerical losses in the region are lamentable, but the gains being made in terms of catechesis and overall quality aren’t as easily captured by Pew studies or Gallup polls, however useful those may otherwise be.

    The passion and fervor of Catholic life in Latin America is, as Archbishop Chaput has suggested, a real blessing to the U.S. Church and certainly a powerful tool in the New Evangelization. To suggest otherwise more or less badly misreads what the future of the Church looks like here and around the world.

  9. nola catholic says:

    There is this tendency to look at regions of Catholicism as sources of renewal, as if entire regions are monolithic, or even as if they directly influence each other. For a while many said the Church in Latin America was vibrant and growing and it would help to revitalize Europe. Now that Latin America is following down Europe’s path, African Catholicism is said to be the new source of renewal.

    I’d propose that it is not a continent or region that will provide renewal to another region. It is the renewed focus on traditional Catholicism, specifically traditional liturgical practices, which will in turn revive failing Catholic communities. As Father Z has long said – Save the Liturgy, Save the World.

    Among a variety of other things (cultural revolutions, philosophical/political movements, etc.) many of us agree that the largest contributor to the downfall of Catholicism in Europe and elsewhere, from within the Church herself, is the watering down of tradition. It’s not just the changing of the mass, but all the “Spirit of Vatican II” changes that were never encouraged by the council but are now ubiquitous and the whittling away of Catholic culture by means of disciplinary “mercy”: N.O. mass in the vernacular and the loss of Latin, Eucharistic reception standing and in the hand, versus populi celebration of the N.O., the reduction of the Eucharistic fast to an hour, eliminating or transferring Holy Days of Obligation, the proliferation of EMHCs, loss of meatless Fridays, bad liturgical translations, worse homilies, and even worse education in seminaries and lay Catholic schools (elementary, secondary, and university) among many others.

    It will be the communities that create and cherish the authentic tradition of Catholicism which will in turn renew the failing communities beset by the decay of modernism and secularism. As Father Z said at the beginning of this post, “If we Catholics don’t know our Faith, we can’t live it. If we don’t know it, we can’t share it.” Traditional Catholics know our Faith and we attempt to live it and share it. The modern Catholics leaving in droves don’t know the faith. The New Evangelization must primarily be concerned with re-educating them.

  10. marcelus says:

    Not intended to offend my american friends, but this line from the Archbsp Chaput sums it up:

    “And in the Argentine soccer
    narrator who prayed the Hail Mary out loud on national television during the latest World Cup
    games to make absolutely sure that the Swiss team would fail to score a goal in the final
    minutes of the match. Can you imagine any ESPN narrator saying any prayer on national
    television in favor of any American national team?”

  11. Supertradmum says:

    Devotion does not equate with knowledge or practice of the Faith. There are many countries where there are processions and holy days celebrated, while those in the pew practice contraception and are in irregular marriages.

    We need a renewal from the family on up. I wish this Pope, who does have a love for Mary, would call a worldwide rosary crusade (oopsie, dirty word to some, but not me) for vocations and holy families.

    Can you imagine the power if all Catholic families said the rosary for a specific set time for the renewal of the Church?

    And, I may be speaking heresy to some Latin American Catholics, but I honestly do not think that God cares about soccer World Cup games.

    When I see statistics going up for TLMs across the globe, then I shall believe in renewal. And, again, no offense, but the vast majority of those involved in charismatic renewal whom I have met in five countries, are very far from bring orthodox. The presence of charismatic renewal is not a sign of renewal anymore for the Church at large. As Scott Hahn said, “There is one road into the Church through charismatic renewal, and seven out.”

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Of course both Catholic Latin America and Catholic North America have deficiencies. They’re not all the same deficiencies, though, so we probably can help each other.

    I do have to say that there’s a lot of US people who seem to deprecate any kind of enthusiastic Latin American Catholicism as pagan, or magical thinking, or embarrassing, or unworthy, or blah blah blah. I’ve done it myself and only realized later on, after doing research, that I was being an ignorant idiot. It’s not right for us to act anti-Catholic toward other Catholics.

    The problem with Catholicism all throughout the hemisphere is that even though individual Catholics and even families of Catholics may be very devout and well-informed and practicing, there are tons of people around us who either aren’t Catholic or aren’t very good Catholics, and we’re just not reaching everybody. If we all did more, good things would happen.

  13. FoxLaniado says:

    We are a devout continent, but in terms of knowing our faith we’re distant; and it’s a fact that,
    since the 70’s, we have been loosing people. Look for example my own country (Panama), the number of catholics drop from 94% in 1970 to 70% in 2014, that’s because with the changes in the liturgy we also have a change in our stance on proselytize our faith and in many ways respecting the life of the church down here.

    About Charismatic Renewal and Opus Dei, they’re working on different socio-economical levels of our society; the Charismatics are more appealing to the working class in our countries and movements like Opus Dei are more successfull in academic circles and professionals.

    Finally they’re two mayor problems in parish life, first one is the banalization of the liturgy in an effort to counteract the huge advance of protestant churches; but instead of helping people to improve in their faith, they still change to another church looking for “a more personal relation with god”. And the other one is a lack of clergy to attend the people everyday, according to the Annuario Pontificio we have 1 priest for every 3,000 faithful.

  14. The Masked Chicken says:

    “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. ”

    The Charismatic Renewal does not focus on solid formation and foster greater commitment. I know the literature very well in this area and I have no idea what research Stark was looking at. The Renewal is, if anything, anti-rational in many of its activities. It used to be thought that the Renewal was largely made up of the poorer classes, but sociological studies, at least in the United States, indicates that it is made up of, primarily, middle and upper class people. In Latin America, Southeast Asia, and parts of Africa, Pentecostalism, in general, is removing, last data I have read, 4000 people, per day, from the Church. It is true that some Catholic Charismatics appear to be more committed than the norm, but scratch the surface and most are as ignorant about the teachings of Catholicism as the general pew-sitter. One ought not make the claim that commitment is equivalent to knowledge. I have not seen recent data on the specifically Catholic Charismatic population in Latin America, but it is unlikely to be much better formed in spiritual matters than those in other parts of the world.

    Jettisoning the Thomistic formation of Catholics was a very bad thing. The principle difference between Evangelicals and Catholics regarding formation is that Evangelicals are people of only one book. They do not have the subtlety of theology that Catholics do. What would be so wrong with having mandatory adult education in parishes? Prior to the rise of the Internet, unless one lived near a good library, it was hard to really get to know the Faith except by the contact one had in a Church. Many adults still could not even pass a Baltimore Catechism-level test on the basics of the Faith. There is so much good free material on-line that it approaches gross negligence not to delve into the Faith for the modern adult Catholic.

    The Chicken

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    I just had a look at some reviews of Stark’s book, The Victory of Reason, and it seems as if the glosses – “Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, Catholic Charismatics, etc.” – are unlikely to be in Stark’s book, but are, rather, examples supplied by Samuel Gregg. If so, then I apologize to Stark and re-direct my commentary to Gregg.

    The Chicken

  16. Indulgentiam says:

    +JMJ+
    I will preface this by saying that I am hispanic. Born in Cuba and raised there. That is until communists, in the late 60’s, loaded us on planes, at gunpoint, and threw us out. Of course Castro kept just enough slaves, or as the communists like to call us “common people” to keep the “state” in the style to which they quickly intended to become accustomed…Ptoooey! But I digress.

    I agree with you Father that if we do Not know our faith we can not live it let alone preach it. I further agree with some of the above who say that the Latin American Church is as far from well catechized as any other country. The vast majority of the hispanics who I know personally, from various countries, who All adhere to the “spirit of VII” with the tenacity of a pitbull on a pork chop, believe that they can disagree with the Church on the usual… contraception, sterilization, divorce, etc…why? “porque DIOS me entiende”
    And when you try to explain, to these Catholic brothers and sisters, what the sin of presumption is…well…I’d rather return to Cuba and preach the Gospel on a street corner.
    Here in the States hispanics are a coddled group. Churches print stuff off in Spanish, put up signs in Spanish, have classes in Spanish, etc…etc…ad nauseam. No other ethnic group is afforded these considerations to the extent that hispanics are. As though we hispanics are to ignorant to learn English like every other immigrant that’s come here before us. And don’t think our fellow Catholics aren’t noticing the favoritism. Moreover don’t think they don’t resent it. It is polarizing the faithful rather than uniting us.

    But try, just try, to put out a spanish pamphlet on purity and modesty, written by a Pope no less, and see what happens. Even though said pamphlet mentions no specific group. Never mind that woman are approaching the Author of Purity wearing spandex miniskirts, platform stilettos and tops that leave nothing to the imagination…as though their trolling for johns. Why are we not allowed even allude to modesty? “In an era when emotion trumps reason, facts are just plain mean.” Fr. J. Zuhlsdorf [Politcal Manifesto]

    I worked for the health dept. in my state for a number of years. I no longer do for obvious reasons. I was a translator of gov. documents and I coordinated services for the hispanic population. I spoke to the hispanic ladies who came seeking sterilization and contraception, for free, cuz the government does that with your tax dollars Ya know. I explained that it is against the laws of GOD. To which some responded that they weren’t married so it didn’t matter. That place was a catechists dream. There where many times I wished I knew my faith better.
    In the US, at least in the various states that I am familiar with, majority of Catholic Latinos view contraception, cohabitation, divorce, etc…the same as protestors aka protestants. And when asked what Catholic Church teaching is, on these subjects, they ad lib heresy or simply say they don’t know. It is a very sad state of affairs.

    As for the “charismatic” movement, I agree with the chicken. I don’t know what all the charismatics do in Latin America but I can tell you from experience what they do in my neck of the woods. It is Not Catholic by any stretch. In a Church that I used to attend I once saw one of their “masses” while I was across the way praying. At communion they all got up and Priest and all walked into the Sacristy where they proceeded to close the door. I was later invited to one of “our masses” Thankfully my Guardian Angel had me asking what all was different about “our masses” The guy inviting me gave me just enough details to scare me but good. The standing in a circle, laying on of hands and speaking in tongues was all I needed to hear. All I could think was, “the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place.

    The Church Militant has been systematically and with malice of forethought disarmed and weakened to such a degree that it’ll take a miracle to unite us as an effective force. But I am sure that Our Lady is immanently suited for the task.
    With all due respect to the one who claimed that “the Latin American Church will breath life into the tired old Church”I disagree. IMHO it does not look to me that, that miracle will come from the Latino Church but from the Latin Church. The vast majority of EF attendees are countercultural. I believe that is simply a byproduct of this Great EF Mass and its unambiguous conveyance of the Truths of The Faith. Lex orandi lex credendi

  17. anachy says:

    Thank you, Chicken, for your correction re: Rodney Stark. I wasn’t going to comment on this thread, but since you mentioned it…You are quite correct: Rodney Stark’s “The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success” doesn’t say what Gregg attributes to it. In numerous of his works, Stark talks about “religious economies,” supply and demand (related to religion), competition in the religious marketplace, etc. That’s not the principle focus of this particular book, though such themes are interwoven into the book. About the Church in Latin America, he says (in The Victory of Reason) that complacent Catholic clergy have been losing out to vigorous Protestant groups, but that the competition from the Protestants has now resulted in greater efforts on the part of Catholics. Indeed, he notes that Mass attendance is positively associated with the proportion of Protestants in an area. The competition thing, don’t you know. Of the Catholic charismatic movement, he says only that it “is growing very rapidly – more evidence that religion thrives in a pluralistic religious economy ” (2005, pg.206). He certainly says nothing at all about “solid religious formation” or “greater commitment” with reference to charismatic Catholics, Opus Dei, or that other group Gregg mentions (Communion and Liberation? I’ve never heard of it). Stark is a prolific writer in the sociology of religion, and I am an unapologetic fan of his. Just used one of his books in a class and plan to use others in the future. Anyone with any interest in religion would find his work fascinating. Plus, he writes as a sociologist but for a general audience. Very witty, very good writer, very snarky (when snark is called for, as when lambasting the “secularization hypothesis” and how academics have so misunderstood religion). He takes religion very seriously and understands its tremendous social significance. One of my favorite works of his is “God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades.” You can’t go wrong, though, with reading any of his works.

  18. Urs says:

    @Indulgentiam ,
    Thank you for your insight.

  19. Indulgentiam says:

    @Urs
    Your most welcome. Happy to be of service :)

  20. mburn16 says:

    Evangelical Protestantism (mostly of the non-denominational variety) has a powerful pull in Latin America for largely the same reason that it has a powerful pull in North America: A nondenominational, charismatic, evangelical minister will promise his flock health, wealth, and happiness for “believing in Jesus” (and dropping some money in the collection plate in the process).

    Now, nondenominational evangelicals are our greatest ally in the ongoing culture war, so I don’t like to bash their theology…but having a large number of nondenominational evangelicals for friends, I do have something of a grasp on the challenge. Sure, their beliefs hold that you SHOULD go to Church, that you SHOULD be obedient to scripture, and that you SHOULD carry out any number of good works. But as long as you believe in Jesus, and accept him as your Lord and Savior, you’re granted a one-way, irrevocable, first-class ticket on the Heavenly Express directly to the pearly gates. Contrast that with the Catholic theology that you see how its much…..easier……to follow the nondenominational route.

  21. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Of the Catholic charismatic movement, he says only that it “is growing very rapidly – more evidence that religion thrives in a pluralistic religious economy ” (2005, pg.206). ”

    Oh, things are much deeper than that. The Charismatic Renewal in every country I am aware of, with, perhaps, the exception of the Phillipines, is almost undifferentiated from Pentecostalism which provides a type of ecumenical link between the Protestant and Catholic groups, but it also encourages swift and easy passage out of Catholicism because many (most) Charismatics have no idea how the Catholic Church provides something that the Protestant Pentecostals do not. Charismaticism does not thrive because of pluralism. It thrives because it is experiential. People crave stimulation. They crave responses. In the Renewal, one has access to an immediacy, a supposed intimacy with God without any giving up of self. It is not a true marriage of spirits, however, which demands nothing of the Other except the right to love it. It is a sort of, “friends with benefits,” where one can have the thrill of contact at any moment. True, authentic, intimacy with God is a type of love that loves in boring monotony, in suffering, in the Dark Night, in pain, without delights. It loves God even if a word is never heard from Him, simply because of Who He is. It loves God even if He refuses to heal, refuses to comfort, refuses a miracle. This is mature love. The experience of love one receives in the so-called, “Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is superficial, a type of sugar-coated candy. It is a type of love that is never tested, never disciplined.

    The Renewal is growing very rapidly because it is a type of cheat of the long, hard work that must be done to arrive at that Transforming Union between a man and His God wherein spirit speaks to spirit and heart speaks to heart. It takes the Dark Night of the Soul and shrinks it to the size of a mere flickering of the light switch. I can’t go into the details, but there is an inverse relationship between true contemplation and the experiences promised by the Renewal. It is growing because, not to put it lightly, true Catholicism is shrinking.

    Protestants don’t deal well with suffering. Their theology does not, for the most part, include redemptive suffering, the participation of suffering within the Sacrifice of the Cross, much less the Mass. They don’t offer their suffering to God as a participation in the activities of Calvary. To them, suffering is a enemy, only, to be vanquished or withstood. Likewise, that mature self-giving is missing at the heart of the Renewal. It, too, sees suffering merely as an enemy and not a gift, a grace that one may offer in self-giving. It runs away from the Cross. Indeed, it is easy to sell a phenomenon that promises the felt presence of God, a God who will speak to you, who never really tests your faith, who give you the power to heal (never mind that there could be other reasons for the suffering than the puny human mind can comprehend), who promises you are saved (who needs to examine one’s life – there is that felt sense of God, so everything must be good).

    In the end, I have rarely seen a situation where the Charismatic phenomenon has increased the Catholicism of any large-scale group, except in the most superficial ways. Don’t tell about this or that person who became a nun or priest because of it. They didn’t. They found their vocation despite it. In the end, contra Gregg, the Renewal is an American phenomenon exported to other countries, a sharing in what one might call, Wild West Catholicism. Here’s a valuable test: what percentage of Charismatics go to weekly or monthly confession verses the people who attend Mass, everyday? See? The effects of the Renewal do not even elevate their population to the level of daily Mass attenders. How much less is it Catholicism on Steroids, as some would have you believe. It is undisciplined, raw experience. Gregg is simply wrong about his contention that it is one of the movements that, “focus on solid formation and foster greater commitment.” The formation (the, Life in the Spirit Seminar) is trivial and the increase in commitment isn’t to the Church, much less a community (Charismatic communities have very little stability compared to monastic communities, in part, because it is composed of laity without any sort of vows, merely a shared experience). In the end, it is junk-food mysticism, suitable for the many, many people, today, who have a spiritual sweet-tooth or crave spicy experiences.

    Actually, that would be an interesting study to see if there is a correlation between the rise of Pentecostalism in a country and its preference for sweet and spicy cuisine, but I digress.

    The Chicken

  22. The Masked Chicken says:

    There are, indeed, two preview buttons. The left one works.

    The Chicken