Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Washington Times article on Catholic Tradition

On February 28th of this year, the Washington Times had this interesting article on something we have all known about for years: that Catholic tradition is fading the America and that the demographics for the Church are not good. This article is interesting because it contains some commentary about what happens to Catholics after they leave the Church. As it turns out, it looks like the exodus from the Church is what is keeping evangelical Protestantism alive. Many Protestant churches are made up of almost 80% ex-Catholics (or we ought to call them backslidden Catholics). Here is the article with my comments and emphases:

Catholic Tradition Fading in US
by Julia Dunn (28 Feb 2008)

Evangelical Christianity has become the largest religious tradition in this country, supplanting Roman Catholicism, which is slowly bleeding members, according to a survey released yesterday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Evangelical Protestants outnumber Catholics by 26.3 percent (59 million) to 24 percent (54 million) of the population, according to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, a massive 45-question poll conducted last summer of more than 35,000 American adults.

"There is no question that the demographic balance has shifted in past few decades toward evangelical churches," said Greg Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum. "They are now the mainline of American Protestantism."

The traditional mainline Protestant churches, which in 1957 constituted about 66 percent of the populace, now count just 18 percent as adherents [by traditional mainline, I think she means the denominational Protestant Churches like Presbyterian, Congregational, etc. Those that are "Reformation era." These are losing adherents even quicker than the Catholic Church because of their compromise with modernism and biblical criticism which goes back to the German theological school of Protestantism that flourished from around 1880-1930 adn changed the shape of Protestantism].

Although one in three Americans are raised Roman Catholic, only one in four adults describe themselves as such, despite the huge numbers of immigrants swelling American churches [this is because religious immigrants, who are often devout but ignorant, quickly lose their piety once they get accustomed to our secular consumerist culture] researchers said.

"Immigration is what is keeping them afloat," said John Green, a Pew senior fellow. "If everyone who was raised Catholic stayed Catholic, it'd be a third of the country" [What a sad statement! We could run this country if we (a) were faithful to our Tradition and (b) actively tried to evangelize others. I'd also point out that the immigrants who are "keeping us afloat" are hardly the caliber of Catholics we need. I'm planning a future article on the state of Catholicism in Latin America when I get more time, but the point is that oftentimes Catholicism in South America and Mexico is little more than paganism with a veneer of Catholicism, as we shall soon see. Of course, there are faithful and educated Catholics among them as well, but as is the case with America, I think they are the exception, not the norm].

Those who leave Catholicism mostly either drop out of church entirely or join Pentecostal or evangelical Protestant churches, Pew Forum director Luis Lugo said. One out of every 10 evangelicals is a former Catholic, he said, with Hispanic Catholics leaving at higher rates; 20 percent of them end up in evangelical or Pentecostal churches.

"It's a desire for a closer experience of God," he said. "It's not so much disenchantment with the teachings of the Catholic Church but the pull of what they see in Pentecostalism" [It is not disenchantment with the teachings of Catholicism because most of them have no idea what the teaching of Catholicism is, otherwise they wouldn't have left. It is not that Pentecostalism has somethign we do not, but that we are not giving them what we do have. Unfortunately, many who see this trend this errantly that the solution is therefore to adopt more "Pentecostal" practices into Catholicsm].

Switching denominations is not unique to Catholics. More than one-quarter of American adults have left their childhood faith for another religion or none [I would like to see if these statistics were the same for pre-Vatican II Catholics. I somehow doubt it]. Factor in changes of affiliation from one form of Protestantism to another, and the number of switchers rises to 44 percent.

The survey, which reveals the rapidly shifting religious leanings of some 225 million American adults, has a margin of error of less than one percentage point. It also revealed there are twice as many Jewish adults (3.8 million) as there are Muslim adults (1.3 million).

Black and Hispanic Americans were the two most religious ethnic groups, although not all of the historically black churches are monochromatic. More than 10 percent of the Church of God in Christ are white and 13 percent are Hispanic.

And the group with the highest losses? [Here's some good news, at least] Jehovah's Witnesses: Two-thirds of those raised in the faith depart it as an adult. At the other end, three out of every four U.S. Buddhists is a convert [Mostly yuppies I'm guessing].

The survey, the first of several parts to be released this year, comes with an array of graphs and maps posted on by which one can determine America's "religious geography": what percentage of each state's population is affiliated with various religious groups.

The country's religious mix changes so quickly that "if you rest on your laurels, you'll soon be out of business," Mr. Lugo said.

One of the fastest-growing groups is Americans unaffiliated with any religion, now at 16 percent, although just 4 percent of the population identified itself as agnostic or atheist. The West Coast shows the highest percentage of nonchurched people [Did we need a survey to tell us this?]. Even this group experiences huge shifts; more than half of those polled who were raised outside a religion ended up affiliating with one as an adult, and the unaffiliated also showing the highest rates of marriage to someone outside their group.

Hindus and Mormons showed the lowest rates of intermarriage. Hindus stood out for their unusually high education levels, with 48 percent having post-graduate degrees, the survey said.

The Episcopal Church may have the most gray hairs: more than six in 10 are older than age 50 compared to a national average of four in 10 Americans that age [This is because the Episcopal Church has absolutely nothing to offer people. It most clearly exemplifies a Church shorn of all its substance, conformed to the changing winds of the politically correct landscape and populated by devotees who are there because it is a half-way house between various other religious groups].

Well, we ought not to get too upset by surveys like this, despite the bleak news. Surveys only give us brief glimpses into cross-sections of society and are fond of using language like "If current trends continue," which really don't mean anything because nobody can predict if current trends continue. If Pew Research was around in the old days, they might have reported these statistics:

Future Grim for Catholic Church in Europe

In Ireland in 380 AD, 95% of the population identified itself as pagan with only 5% claiming to be Catholic.

In The Roman Empire c. 313 AD, only 10% of the population identified themselves as Catholics. Of that 10%, about 2% belonged to various heretical sects and schismatic groups.

Around 320 AD, 80% of bishops polled identified themselves as Arians.

If current trends continue, Catholicism in Europe is doomed.

Now, we see of course that things changes, and that demographics give way to shifts in culture and thinking. Of course, the Irish statistic did not take into account the arrival of St. Patrick soon after, nor did the second one take into account what would happen because of Constantine, nor the third one the zeal and piety of men like St. Athanasius and others. In the end, Catholicism triumphed in Europe, regardless of what demographics might have said. It happened once, it can happen again, but it depends on us. Will we make it happen?


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Anonymous said...

Some great points, especially the last paragraph. Thanks, Boniface.