Saturday, May 03, 2014

The end of the status quo generation: where have all the Catholics gone?

Going, going, gone! The elephant in the room that nobody wants to face is the implosion of the Catholic Church in the west. Europe and Great Britain are far ahead of us here in the United States, being as progressive as they are; but, by golly, we're doing our best to catch up and follow the Anglicans and Germans into oblivion. AmChurch as we've known it will be gone in the next thirty years, given the rapidly changing demographics; and short of a miraculous new Pentecost and outpouring of the Holy Spirit within the Church, the result will be, as Pope Benedict XVI predicted, a radically diminished Church, with only a small remnant of Catholics holding fast to the Faith.

You can shoot the messenger with accusations of "negativism," but this won't change the facts. The good news is that when you face these facts, you are no longer being distracted by the up-beat happy talk of "the-cup-is-half-full" status quo maintainers -- the attitude that all we have to do is continue being friendly and nice, or implement yet another pre-packaged parish program, and then all the problems will take care of themselves. This may not be altogether good news, but the news that is good is that you're at least getting the truth and no longer living in the bubble of a passing illusion.

A recent book that takes a dispassionate look at the relevant statistics and trends is by Christian Smith, Kyle Longest, Jonathan Hill and Kari Christoffersen, Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church(Oxford University Press, 2014).

The video below highlights and analyzes the more salient conclusions of the book.


Joe G.

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Pertinacious Papist


Joe G.,

You may be right about S. America. Having said that, my hunch is that S. America is to the U.S. as the U.S. is to Europe -- headed in the same direction but a bit behind.

The collapse in Europe and the British Isles antedates that of the U.S. by a couple of decades. The collapse in the U.S. is occurring precipitously beneath our eyes, and the only thing that puts a significant drag on the process is the massive immigration of Latin American Catholics into the U.S. over the last few decades.

If I read the signs right, I that although there is a lot more enculturation of Latin American Catholicism that prevents the rapid collapse there one sees elsewhere, there has still been a softening over the last few decades. Evidence might start with the hemorrhaging of Catholics into charismatic Pentecostal evangelical groups and the draining away of practicing male Catholics.