The title of a CBS News article released on February 12, 2013 is “Catholic Church faces SHIFTING LANDSCAPE as it ponders new pope” (Web-site/URL: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57568797/catholic-church-faces-shifting-landscape-as-it-ponders-new-pope/?tag=socsh).
“The SURPRISE resignation of Pope Benedict XVI comes as the Catholic Church grapples with demographic changes and social forces that have profound implications for the church’s identity – changes that will weigh heavily on the church’s leadership as it selects its new leader”. THIS WAS INDEED a “surprise”.
“In 1910, two thirds of the world’s Catholics were in Europe. Today that figure is just 24 percent”. This is a HUGE difference, but let’s keep in mind that 97 years has passed between 1910 and the year we’re in now (2013).
“In a broad 2007 survey, Pew found that “one-third of the survey respondents who say they were raised Catholic NO LONGER describe themselves as Catholic”.
According to Alan Cooperman, “associate director for research at the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life”, “There’s been such dramatic growth in places like Asia and Latin America and Africa”.
“The diverging fortunes of the church can be seen in countless ways. THE SEXUAL ABUSE SCANDALS that cast a shadow over the church in the United States and Europe have not exploded in the same way in other regions. While the church struggles to recruit priests in America, people are entering the priesthood in large numbers in Africa;…”
Baylor University history professor Philip Jenkins, who studies global Christianity. went on: “the BIGGEST problem is knowing what to do with all these priests” who have committed unsavory sexual acts.
“Thomas Groome, chair of the department of religious education and pastoral ministry at Boston College, expressed hope that the church would not give up on the United States and Europe even as it “rejoices in the great growth of the church in the SOUTHERN hemisphere”. All popes to date, of course, have come from the NORTHERN Hemisphere, more specifically NORTHERN EUROPE. “The southern hemisphere is CULTURALLY a different place and it’s a more TRADITIONAL culture, but let’s hope [the church] can make its way in a POSTMODERN culture“. So society is MORE THAN “modern” today and IT’S UNCLEAR IF the Catholic Church can handle this. “I’m hoping for A NEW SPRINGTIME for the church. I think then you get people sitting up and saying THERE’S LIFE IN US, THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR US“. That DOESN’T sound good.
“Father C. John McCloskey III, a Research Fellow of the Faith and Reason Institute, strongly discounted that possibility, saying, “THERE IS NO SUCH THING as progressiveness in the church” again reinforcing this notion that the Catholic Church is CONSERVATIVE. “It comes down to the cardinals who are going to be in that conclave. That conclave is going to be made up 100 percent of cardinals who were named by either John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI. Every one of them on issues that are important are going to be with the teachings of the church“. “McCloskey said that the Vatican SHOULD NOT look to shift with public opinion, EVEN IF it means Catholicism continues to lose adherents in Europe and America”. This is another CONSERVATIVE concept. “No one wants to lose people, but you can’t keep people at the expense of BETRAYING YOUR BELIEFS OR PRINCIPLES. That’s NOT going to happen“. AS EXPECTED POLITICS is a factor here.
Finally, “Kean University professor Christopher Belitto, an expert on Catholicism, said that the cardinals will decide on the new pope “based on what leader can push the church into the 21st century”. “He said that it is only a matter of time before they look beyond the borders of Europe. “Certainly if not this pope, the next pope is going to be from Africa, Asia and (or) Latin America. That’s where the energy of the church is. IT’S AN INEVITABILITY“.
To conclude, let’s return once again to the title: ““Catholic Church faces SHIFTING LANDSCAPE as it ponders new pope“. What is this “shifting landscape?” People simply ARE NOT as religious as churches and other religious institutions would like. This is the new REALITY.