Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The new Catholicism?

From the New Republic:
These are obviously dark days for the Roman Catholic Church. For over a decade, the U.S. church has been assailed by abuse charges and devastated by the resulting litigation. The Vatican used to console itself with the belief that this was a peculiarly American crisis, but, this year, similar abuse cases have arisen all over Europe ...

It appears it was easier to take, when it was viewed as "those Americans"--and then we find coverups at all levels, in all countries. This just exacerbates an ongoing tension.
For years, [the Catholic] core has been migrating away from Europe, heading southward into Africa and Latin America. Some Church observers have remarked that the Vatican is now in the wrong location: It’s 2,000 miles too far north of its emerging homelands....
And the converts are always more fanatical than those who converted them. We see some of this in the US. Catholicism is on the decline in the northeast, for example, where the names are Irish, and the only thing that keeps its numbers robust is a steady stream of third world migrants.
In part, European Catholicism has been declining because of a general trend toward secularization and religious indifference. ...Media coverage of the abuse and the Vatican's mangled response will also provide ample ammunition for those who want to keep religion out of the political realm. European opponents of the Church will find it much easier to silence the Vatican's voice in future legislation concerning issues like abortion, gay marriage and adoption, or reproductive technologies.... Indeed, as the crisis quickens the wane of Europe's Catholic influence, it will help solidify the Church's new roots in the south. Membership there will continue to burgeon, and Church's hierarchy will increasingly be paved with southern clerics.

That smaller, purer church Pope Benedict wanted is unlikely to be European. The next Pope will probably be Latin American, maybe even African. Just as seen in the Anglican Communion, this will lead to a distinct religious fervor that is culturally at odds with the historical home of the faith. But this will affect Roman Catholicism differently, given its hierarchical structure. The awkward splits in the Anglican Communion will look positively graceful compared to the likely feeling of liberal American Catholics when they find themselves holding a Global South lion by the tail. How will the Roman Catholic faith and its practice change when the Roman history and western culture become irrelevant to those in charge?


EYouthWNY said...

Just a thought - when American Catholics are faced with the unpleasant situation of having a tiger by the tail do they then repeat Anglican history?

JCF said...

EYouthWNY, I don't quite follow: could you clarify?

[Could we get some "Anonymous" Troll clean-up around here? Whether it's Brad or not, this latest "Anon" really isn't adding anything helpful to the discussion.]

IT said...

Yah, sorry I'm internet disabled for much of the day.... hello fellow bloggers you can delete sad-brad too!

Erika Baker said...

It's a general trend in all religions, this increasing fervour and fundamentalism in some parts of the world vs a more liberal faith in Western countries.
The RC church is only experiencing the same phenomenon here.

I wonder whether the church recognises this and that was one reason for selecting Ratzinger. If so, the next pope is likely to be more of the same - top hierarchies are like old boys networks and desperate to cling on to established structures and "our kind of people".

And, yes, the church could as easily fray as the Protestant churches.

The interesting question will be what will happen to fundamentalism in general. It's a fairly modern phenomenon and I rather hope it's an aberration not a new lasting trend.

David said...

I dare say that many "Liberal" American Catholics would feel much more at home in the Old Catholic Church or with us 'Piskies.

Counterlight said...

I'm so afraid that "liberal" Christianity (which really isn't all that "liberal") will go down the tubes with fundamentalism.
I think religious fundamentalism is a reaction against an increasingly cosmopolitan and connected world. As I've always said, fundamentalism is more about identity than about religion. I think that as humankind begins to find its way through this new inter-connected world, fundamentalism will begin to fade and end up in a tiny cultural ghetto.

What is more, the other half of the Developing World, the female half, frequently has very different points of view than the male half. I remember years ago a man I knew who had extensive experience in Africa (mostly in northern Nigeria, and he spoke Hausa) said to me that the Anglican bishops will tell us one thing about the gays and women issues, but their wives will frequently tell us something completely different.
I think a big reason for the misogyny in so many fundamentalist movements is the terror of rising expectations in female population.

Fundamentalism is stirring up a big backlash in the West, and I would not be surprised if it does so in the future in the Developing World, especially if that world continues to develop and expectations begin to rise. A lot of the rural peasants want their children to go to the cities to university, and into the professional class. I doubt fundamentalism could survive the transition. Let's hope religion does survive.

Erika Baker said...

why do you think that liberal Christianity will go down the tubes with fundamentalism - are the two linked?

Counterlight said...

They're linked in many people's perceptions. Fundamentalists define Christianity for most people, mostly because they dominate the attention of the press. Christians all believe the world was made in literally 7 days and that we are all homophobic right-wingers in the minds of a lot of people. If we're not biblical literalists and political right-wingers, then we can't possibly be Christians according to many people, and not just the fundamentalists themselves.
We are linked to the fundamentalists like prisoners on a chain-gang. They drown and we drown with them.

JCF said...

They drown and we drown with them.

Um, if I may say so: I have more faith that that won't happen (not faith in humans---faith in God).

From the LAST "Liberal Christian" (if it should come to that) "the remnant will return".

Counterlight said...

"I have faith, only help me when faith falls short."

JCF said...


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

RE fundamentalism being more about identity than religion, I think of Antoine de Saint Éxupery who said:

"I am among those who inherited God - and I have squandered my inheritance."

Meaning that his millieu, the ultras of France, clang to God as a political substitute for l'Ancien Régime, not as a love for their Creator.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

And Mr de Saint É didn't believe that any longer, realising that one doesn't own God, but recieves God as a gift.