Monday, December 31, 2012

A Reprise From January 2012

Usually my end of the year post reprints one from the beginning of the year.  This will be no exception, but it's content contains information on some of the big stories in Catholicism that ended the year 2012.  A couple of reasons why I chose this post:  I still firmly believe the now Cardinal Tagle represents hope for the future for all Catholics.  The Tiber/Thames boat crossing percentages are still hugely skewed on the side of Catholics moving to the Episcopal Church and that is still thoroughly ignored by conservative Catholics.  The Philippine government finally did pass and sign into law the Reproductive Health Bill, sending quite the message to the Philippine hierarchy--of which Cardinal Tagle seems to be the only one who got the message.  The Southern Hemisphere is bleeding Catholics to Pentecostal Churches in numbers that dwarf the loss of Northern Catholics to the Episcopalian Church.  The Vatican still doesn't seem to understand any of these trends.

Some Thoughts On Catholics Crossing Rivers And Catholic Hemispheres

Archbishop Lois Antonio Tagle of Manilla may lead the both the Philippine Church and the global church through some interesting times.

In all the coverage of Benedict's creation of the Anglican Ordinariate I've never found any numbers about the influx of Catholics into the Episcopalian Church.  Instead I've found glowing reports about the influx of Anglicans into the Catholic Church through Ordinariate.  This is true whether the coverage is from mainstream media or Catholic media such as America, Commonweal, or the NCR.  It's always about those Anglicans/Episcopalians coming in, and dead silence about the route out.  The following excerpt is taken from Episcopal Cafe and lo and behold, it gives the statistics for the boats on both the Tiber and the Thames.

.......Thus far, 100 priests and fewer than 1,400 people in 22 church communities have expressed an interest in the ordinariate. Gather them all in Washington National Cathedral, and the place isn’t half full. Only six of these 22 communities have more than 70 members, which suggests that their longterm viability may be an issue. And there is no evidence to suggest that these small congregations are the thin edge of an as yet invisible wedge.  (If 16 of these communities have less than 70 people then the long term viability of the Ordinariate should be a concern.)

The prominence the ordinariate has achieved in the media has unsettled some Episcopalians. As a denomination, we are still recovering from several years worth of news stories in which the departure of some three percent of our membership for a more theologically conservative body was variously described as a “schism” or an “exodus.”

In part to bolster Episcopal spirits, and in part to provide reporters with some sense of perspective, I thought it might be helpful to take a look at some numbers. According to the 2004 U. S. Congregational Life Survey—which I believe is the most recent one available—11.7 percent of Episcopalians were formerly Roman Catholic.

The Episcopal Church had slightly fewer than 2,248,000 members in 2004, indicating that not quite 263,000 of its members were former Catholics.

The Episcopal Church has shrunk some in the last seven years, and now has about two million members. Assuming that the percentage of former Catholics in the Episcopal Church has remained constant (I think it is likely to have risen, but that’s an essay for another day), there are currently some 228,000 former Roman Catholics in the Episcopal Church.  (I would think the percentage has risen as well and that the influx of Roman Catholics has had somewhat the same effect Latin immigration has had for Catholicism.)

There may be a good reason that the departure of fewer than 1,500 Episcopalians to the Roman Catholic ordinariate deserves extensive media coverage while the departure in recent years of more than 225,000 Roman Catholics to join the Episcopal Church goes unmentioned even in stories about the creation of the ordinariate, but I don’t know what it is.

The stories on the ordinariate also report that as many as 100 priests—many of whom may be Episcopalians—have also applied to join the ordinariate. Is this evidence that the Catholic Church is winning priests from the Episcopal tradition? It reads that way, unless one knows, thanks to the Church Pension Group, that 432 living Episcopal priests have been received from the Roman Catholic Church.


For all the ballyhoo surrounding the Anglican Ordinariate the truth is the river flowing out of Catholicism and into the Episcopal Church has a whole lot more traffic in both clergy and laity.  There is plenty of reason to think this isn't going to change in the near future, especially in North America and other Anglo countries in which both Catholicism and Anglicanism are historic churches.  As for the developing South, well, that is going to be a very different story.

The Catholicism of the South is not the Catholicism of the North.  The same is true for Protestant Christianity.  In the North the talk is of reform and a return to a less hierarchical and more inclusive Christianity which includes acceptance of homosexual unions, an ordained ministry for women and the openly gay, a relational approach to sexual morality, and all of this with an emphasis on the individual spiritual journey rather than the collective identity approach of our ancestors.  None of this is on the radar of Catholicism in the South where traditional sexual and gender roles are sacrosanct, patriarchal authority holds cultural sway, collective spirituality is what gives life to the individual journey, and the miracles, exorcisms, and Divinity of Jesus are not just literal truth, but the main point of discipleship.  In some respects this is a Catholicism that is about a 'return on one's spiritual investment', especially in areas in which the modern western approaches to healing and mental illness are few and far between or economically beyond the reach of the poor and impoverished.

There's certainly no question that the Catholic tradition supports these notions of healing and exorcism, and the power of the Virgin Mary, the Communion of Saints and Angels, and Charismatic practices flourishing in the South.  It was in these beliefs that missionaries connected with the original indigenous populations. And it's equally true that the long Catholic tradition has very little support for any notions of gender equality, gay unions,  a relational sexual morality, or a less authoritarian clerical structure.  It would seem then that global Catholicism will not reflect the reforms hoped for by progressive Northern Catholics.  The river into the Episcopalian/Anglican Church will stay quite congested.

At first glance the future for Catholicism appears to be centered in the exploding Catholic South where traditional piety, traditional sexuality, and traditional forms of male hierarchy hold sway. This would be especially true in the poorer urban areas with a high population density from rural immigration.  Maslow's hierarchy of needs is at it's most base level in these situations.  Ideas which need  freedom from physical survival angst don't come up on any one's radar---like women's ordination. However, ideas which do impact one's physical survival do hit the radar screen---like women's access to birth control.  

This is one reason I closely follow the debate in the Philippines between the hierarchy and the government over women's access to birth control. This is one place where the Vatican plan to use the South to sustain it's current structure and theology is clashing head on with the actual needs of people in the pews. In a real sense, the Philippines is a Southern hemisphere clash of wills over Humanae Vitae and the celibate male authority that teaches it.  This battle played out in the North almost fifty years ago and much of the call for reform began with it's utter rejection by the laity.  The Bishops and their supporters have managed to keep the bill from being finalized for some ten years, but it finally appears the tide is turning because women and young Filipinos have had enough and together they represent a lot of votes.  There is a growing sense of moral betrayal by the hierarchy in the Philippines which may be one reason the Vatican appointed Louis Antonio Tagle, something of a pastoral moderate, as Archbishop of Manilla. 

If the Vatican is truly banking on the South to sustain it's power and prestige Benedict and JPII certainly had different ideas about how that should play out in the Vatican itself.  JPII had a College of Cardinals that was  40% from the South and Benedict has almost totally reversed that trend. I wonder if that's not because the flavor of the Church in the South appealed more to JPII the Mary worshipping Polish mystic than it does to Benedict XVI the German intellectual theologian.  In some respects, Pope Benedict is presiding over a global Catholicism for which neither the pentecostal South or the rebellious North have much appeal.  No wonder he's rumored to be considering retirement.  

If we've learned anything from the Arab Spring it's that today's youth are very well connected with access to all kinds of information, that the Internet/cell phone explosion is creating something new in collective humanity, and that it won't be easy for existing power structures to deal with the change this implies.  The Vatican is not immune to this.  Catholicism was the first truly global social entity, but if it wants to maintain relevance in today's global world, it can no longer afford to think in centuries.  We can make pretty accurate predictions about the demographic look of the Church fifty years from now, but how that demographic will practice Catholicism is another thing entirely.  One thing for sure, it won't be in any Anglican ordinariate.


  1. According to its own records, as of 2012, the Episcopal Church has 1,946,000 members and an average Sunday attendance of 650,000.
    There may be a very high percentage of ex-Catholics; they don't stay very long on average, unfortunately, and they're still losing many more members to death and old age and they don't hold on to nearly as many of their own children or the children of converts as they used to do or they need to do to even keep themselves at 1.946 million; the trajectory for both memberships and attendance is still downwards.

    1. That's interesting about the retention rate of Catholics. I kind of wondered about that.

  2. You are right; the Ordinariate is a Pre-Raphaellite affectation, of interest only to those who quibble over the minutiae of dressing up.

  3. One thing I wonder, and that is how many Catholics have joined Orthodox churches. I know that there are a number of former Evangelicals that have joined Orthodox churches, and some of them bring their culture war baggage with them. Many of them have joined the Antiochian Orthodox, although the Orthodox tend not to focus on numbers as much as Protestants and Roman Catholics do. One who did not was former culture warrior Frank Schaeffer, Jr., who has come to regret the role he played in building up the religious right. Schaeffer and his wife joined the Greek Orthodox.

    1. I'm sure the Orthodox have their fair share. What surprised me more than anything is the group which has accrued the largest percentage of ex Catholics is 'nones'. I'm not sure what that actually says.

      I have bookmarked Shaeffer's last posting from where ever I got it. I find his stuff fascinating.

  4. Hello. I am a Traditional Catholic and have spent a very great number of hours reading all of your blog posts and most of the replies. Obviously I couldn't disagree with you and the majority of your blog fans more, but disagreement doesn't have to be mean. It can be stern, yet non-confrontational. Besides our differences concerning Catholic moral theology, I found your descriptions and understanding of Traditional Catholics to be somewhat... Misguided. I find your references to Aquinas intriguing primarily because Aquinas has already sided against you on most of your core dissensions, yet you use him, IMHO, as you use Scripture; cherry-picking to support certain views while ignoring the meat and potatoes that countermand your primary dissenting viewpoints.
    Also intriguing is our shared dissatisfaction with the current pope, Curia, bishops, and the hierarchy's extreme negligence and criminal behavior concerning the pederast crisis of the last 50 years, not to mention the banking scandal and rampant fraud. What is intriguing to me is how we differently we would attempt to solve these problems.
    It's very easy for Progressives to ascribe fear or nostalgia to a Traditionalist's viewpoint, but this, in my opinion, is a cop out of sorts; an incorrect opinion brought a out by a failure to truly understand, or more correctly, an unwillingness to.
    But, having said all that, I wonder if the hospitality and welcoming attitudes for which Progressives pride themselves will be extended to a Traditional Roman Catholic eager to present perspectives probably new to both liberal and conservative Catholics?

    1. Welcome Traditional Catholic. I think in the almost five year history of this blog, I've blocked one commenter. I have to admit he was traditional in a different way. His mistake was personally attacking myself and other commenters, and he had a warning or three before he was blocked.

      The group here almost always has had one or two Traditinal Catholics commenting on blog posts. They stay for awhile and then I suppose get frustrated and leave.

      Now what you do have to understand is that almost everybody who comments here has had an extensive background in pre Vatican II religious training and most certainly have read all the documents of Vatican II. There are a couple of regular commenters whose academic degrees qualify them to teach Aquinan theology. Although I've studied Aquinas, I make no such claims.

      My field is bio/psychology, but I have also spent decades doing independent research in mysticism and spiritual traditions, combing all of my academic and outside research in a hope to explain just exactly is going on with my psychic and mystical experiences.

      You are certainly welcome, but please don't make the mistake of thinking anyone who comments is a lazy CINO or self indulgent. It isn't about that at all.

    2. Thank you for your "welcome," and Happy New Year! I will admit, right from the start, that I am skeptical of the highly vaunted erudition of most progressives. I often find myself asking, "if you are so well learned, then why do you hold onto such an obviously erroneous viewpoint: you mustn't be as credentialed as you claim." I find that all of us, myself included, provide answers based upon our personal biases rather than on sound proofs. I just happen to believe that my biases are based in the solid foundation of truth more so than any progressive. That may well sound egotistical, but I don't mean it to. I am simply trying to be as honest as I can be about myself to be fair to everyone here. With me, what you see is what you get.

      If a slight is inferred, rest assured none is intended. We are all passionate about what we believe, and our passion causes each of us, from time to time, to be indelicate or to find insult where none was truly intended. We are human after all. One of my many faults is to take umbrage with those who make indelicate comments. I will try to remain meek in that regard.

      As I stated, I am a Traditional Catholic. That means I love the Church, the Sacraments, the incredible and laudable history of the Church, and dogma. It also means that I am every bit the sinner. I am no better than anyone. Obviously I believe that the viewpoints I hold are superior to those of the progressive-minded - just as you believe yours are superior to mine. But viewpoints do not make us personally superior to anyone.
      My number one focus is Charity, because it is the greatest of virtues. My hope is that by exploring this virtue, together, we may indeed find common ground, and that in so doing I can convince you to come into the light. The carrot I dangle before you is the opportunity for you to convince me that the light shines on your side.

      I may not comment on every post you write. I do not aim to out talk or out shout anyone. However, I do plan to provide whatever proofs are available from credible sources, primarily the bible and historical texts. Our faith must necessarily be grounded in something other than modern personal opinion.

      Anyway, again, thank you for welcoming me and I look toward to the discussions,

      Experto Crede

    3. Hi, EC. I'm more of a lurker than an expert commenter. I want to point out something you just wrote...

      "My hope is that by exploring this virtue, together, we may indeed find common ground, and that in so doing I can convince you to come into the light. The carrot I dangle before you is the opportunity for you to convince me that the light shines on your side."

      What I have found, here and on other sites and in my faith and life as well, is that you have just fallen into the trap. We all feel the light (the Light) is on our side, as each of us is a child of God trying to be aware, fulfill, live out that love. The trap comes in ascribing darkness to the "other side". To continue the theme of Aquinas, when he was sainted by the church he was still banned in Paris and parts of England, remaining that way for some years afterward. I suppose I'd like to call the Archbishop of Paris et al in the thrall of darkness. Alas, I think they were just afraid, especially of change.

      One of my favorite stories is of St Francis of Assisi, who heard the call of God to rebuild the church and spent the next 18 months rebuilding a church, stone by stone. Of course, he realized that human stones were the task he was called to. Was he in darkness? Only if you don't trust the Holy Spirit to keep calling to us.

      I assume you've tried to live a life of charity - most if not all here as well. I assume you have been changed irrevocably by the Gospel - most if not all here as well. I tend to look at whether contributors try to limit those around them, or whether they open avenues to belief. I find that the fearful keep telling me what God doesn't like, and usually I find that those types of people don't know their church history and describe faith as controlling the input from their own senses. Eventually, I get ascribed to the devil, or at least to the ignorant.

      Respectfully, stop trying to win and come share how God has touched you. God bless.

      Matt Connolly

    4. St Francis of Assisi is inspirational, but he was also very loyal to the hierarchy and the papacy. That he is so often held up by 'liberal' dissenters is a strange thing indeed.

    5. Hi, Invictus. Not strange at all. Loyalty includes dissent, whether conservative or liberal. A lack of loyalty includes not sharing how God leads you, making things look right, hiding your light under a bushel.

  5. Happy New Year to you, and welcome to the (frequently energetic) discussions here. As you rightly say, all of us are locked into our own personal world view and its biases, and all of us will continue to be until the day when all is made clear and we no longer "see through a glass darkly" - and I suspect then that our minor differences of doctrine will mean then no more than the shadows in the light of the one Truth.

    The debates amongst Catholics are passionate, and rightly so, because they in general stem from deep love on both sides - and both sides would worry dreadfully about the other. Perhaps the fault that we all share is not a lack of love but a lack of trust - the need to prove oneself right, the need to cling to the rules as if to the bars of a swimming pool, never daring to let go into the deep water and trust that God will hold us up (I'm paraphrasing Karen Armstrong here, as some readers may recognise)

    A very wise old priest once said to me when I was going through a very turbulent time with my faith "Christ only ever gave us two commands - that we shall love one another, and we shall love God. He only ever named one mortal sin which was that of despair, the loss of belief that God can find a way out of anything. Two commandments. One mortal sin. I sometimes think the Good Lord is sitting somewhere with his head in his hands wondering just how complicated we all managed to make that..."

    God bless you and Happy New Year.

    1. I wonder if Jesus ever put his head in his hands lamenting the need of the Pharisees to complicate the rules of Judaism.

      The mortal sin of despair is precisely what I saw on one of my magical mystical trips. I found myself escorted to this very cold very empty very...well, very shocking place. In it were countless people wrapped up in tight fetal position, oblivious to everything around them, including relatives and light beings-or angels if you prefer-trying to get their attention. I knew on that weird level I enter when in these states, that this was hell, and these people had been overcome by despair. I asked how long people would stay shut down like they were, and was told until someone or something could get their attention, and that could be a very long time. Then I was told the last time this place was empty is when Jesus descended into it between His Crucifixion and Resurrection. The Light was so bright everyone woke up--so to speak. Anyway it was a shockingly empty place. I have been hypersensitive to people in despair ever since, whether that be from CD issues, depression, or what have you.

      Compassion and love are the cure, but it's tough to get people to attune to that in this dimension of reality as well.

  6. "Catholicism was the first truly global social entity, but if it wants to maintain relevance in today's global world, it can no longer afford to think in centuries."

    Could it not be said that the relevance of the Church actually lies in its divine mandate?

    1. Yes, is it's Divine mandate that makes it relevant, but it's men who have to promote that relevance, and the men in charge are rapidly losing their own relevance as true spokesmen for the divine mandate.

  7. Christians have a divine mandate to spread the Good News of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth concerning the equality of persons, the value of the poor, the importance of loving God AND neighbor. There is no mandate for an institutional church. Any organized church is only relevant if it spreads the Good News and way of life that was Jesus. Insofar as it builds up its institution and burdens for others, it is in opposition to the teachings of Jesus. I fear that the present papal, curial, hierarchical, Roman church is more in opposition than spreading the Good News.

    1. Amen brother. That's the exact point I was trying to make. Roman Catholicism can no longer count on the ignorance of laity to hold up their authority and the institution their authority rest in. Operative words are the institution exists to shore up their authority. That approach is no longer valid. People aren't buying it. Leadership must be based in living the Way and demonstrating it's practical relevance for modern man. The theatrics emanating from the Vatican lack authenticity. They are losing it big time and rapidly running out of time to turn things around.