Thursday, September 11, 2008


In an article that is about ten years old now, the Atlantic Quarterly stated that in the future the Catholic Church was going outstrip the Christian denominations in influence and growth in the coming decades. This was due largely to the growing influence of the global south where the majority of Catholics now live. As governments become more and more unstable in much of this region and being that the other denominations simply do not have the cohesiveness, the voice, and therefore do not have the power to unite and speak on behalf of the people, it will be the Catholic Church that will rise to the forefront on the world Christian (and possibly political) scene.

If this prediction is true, Northern Americans and Europeans will have quite a bit of adjusting to do. As influence in the Church moves to the global south we may see a Church that is far bolder in her orthodoxy and traditions with a political swing to a more liberal bent, a hallmark in the practice of the faith there. This is of course a very broad brush stroke as we are talking about many countries and many people.

This notion will be reiterated in a new book , “Megatrends in Catholicism; Ten Forces Turning the Church Upside Down” published by Doubleday, by John Allen, senior Vatican correspondent for CNN, due out soon. Mr. Allen spoke at the Akron First Friday Club this past Friday. His book identifies ten mega trends that will effect the future of the Catholic Church. These are not trends that he hopes or predicts will have an effect, rather, he is saying that these major movements are in place today and they will have a major impact on Catholic life. What exactly that effect will look like ten or twenty years from now is somewhat open to debate but that they will have an effect is not.

Nothing would make me happier than to be able to let you know what the ten trends are but because of where we were seated in the hall it was impossible to see the video screen which listed them and he only spoke of three of them so both you and I will have to eagerly wait for the book to come out. But this shift to the global was at the top. Some of the consequences of this shift may surprise us. Though in Europe and the Northern America it may seem that the Church is becoming leaner, world wide the growth in the Church is exploding, outstripping percentage wise the growth in the world population. Seminaries in the African cotenant are filled past capacity and the biggest problem bishops have is finding ways to train all of their candidates. But do not expect that we will become mission territory for them as the priest shortage there is far worse than it is here. The number of people joining the Church is growing so rapidly that they cannot keep up with the demand for trained priests.

You can understand then why influence in the Church is slipping southerly. As much as we might like to think of our Church as perhaps European (Poland only claims 36% of people reporting that religion is important to them, Italy 27%, and France, eldest daughter of the Church 11%) or strongly influenced by the United States (59%), south of the equator there are percentage marks of 80% (Guatemala), 92% (Nigeria) and 95% (Indonesia). Important trends among this part of the Church include a stronger emphasis on those practices that make Catholicism stand out and be noticed giving a strong public witness and that faith will be a personal choice, not a cultural accident. Somehow this will eventually influence how we practice Catholicism on Main Street U.S.A.

What is Mr. Allen advice for us? It is to develop the idea of a global Catholicism. The Universal Church is now to have a global flavor and we need to develop a taste for it.


Odysseus said...

-But do not expect that we will become mission territory for them-

Actually, each summer the three parishes in my area are each taken over briefly by African priests from Cameroon or Nigeria, even though we have a priest in each parish (and two in mine). And this is rural Arizona. Is this just a peculiar circumstance, or indication of a trend?

PS- these are all good, Orthodox priests who SING the mass. It's awesome to have them and they give our own priests a chance to study and relax.

Anonymous said...

Boo, hiss on not seeing the video screen with the 10 megatrends! Global universality??? Is that an oxymoron or what??? Hmm. And I understand evangelicals are making remarkable inroads.

As a People of God we are far from embracing frateral charity with ALL people of ALL lands and ALL colors. And most of us won't admit to it yet it is within us in the form of fear and fear of change.

Prejudice and bigotry are not politically correct but they are like an underground railroad among us.

Anonymous said...

If you cannot wait for the book to come out, Allen listed the 10 mega-trends in a December, 2006 article in the Natinal Catholic Reporter

Anonymous said...

Looking to NCR for anything is like looking to the Wanderer for anything, only it's the other extreme. NCR has a liberal, VOTF-ish, homosexual-friendly, AmChurchy, hunt down priests agenda.

UnCatholic at heart.

Mr. Allen seems incredibly clear-thinking. We must wonder, then, why he so often addressed/attended Dignity USA as do/did most everyone at NCR. He is not appointed by the Vatican, tho' that's how NCR would have him billed.

Better to buy the book.


Fr. V said...

I understand what you are saying Carol and for the most part agree - but as long as a person recognizes the bent of a publication and works to weed out obvious slants and focuses, there will still be from time to time worthy news to gleen from both of them as stories they bother to print are difficult to find elsewhere.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

here's a good time for Latin to come in and bring us all together ;)