A new book, Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America’s Largest Church, focuses on the impact that Latinos are having on the Catholic Church in the United States. The book’s author is Timothy Matovina, professor of theology and executive director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
The books introduction frames the background: “Catholics comprise the largest religious group in the United States, encompassing nearly a fourth of all U.S. residents. Hispanics constitute more than a third of U.S. Catholics. They are the reason why Catholicism is holding its own relative to other religions in the United States.”
Latinos are shaping the American Catholic Church in their advocacy for Hispanic ministry and immigration rights; their participation in parishes, apostolic movements; their responses to the clergy sex abuse; their voting patterns, involvement in faith-based community organizing and proclivity for ritual and devotional traditions.
Is the Decline in Priestly Vocations Ending?
Depends how you look at the situation. A piece by Anne Hendershott and Christopher White in the Wall Street Journal (April 12) noted that despite predictions in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal about the end of the male celibate priesthood, “Yet today the number of priestly ordinations is steadily increasing. “ They describe the recent construction of new seminaries, the expansion of others, and a few, who have turned away candidates for lack of seminary space.
On the other hand, this stable inflow each year of new ordinands does not compensate for the number of diocesan priests dying or departing the priesthood annually via retirements. In 2010 there were 467 priestly ordinations, but there were 766 losses for a net loss of -301. Many dioceses deal with this shortfall, in part, by bringing in international priests who have been ordained outside the United States. The latter used to be a missionary country (cf. Maryknoll), but now we are dependent upon foreign priests to meet our parish needs.
Learning from “Former Catholics.”
Father William J. Bryon, S.J., university professor of business and society at St. Joseph’s University and Dr. Charles Zech, director of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University, employed an on-line survey to learn why some Catholics left the Church and what can be done about it. Their study found the following:
• Doctrinal concerns should be dealt with pastoral understanding. It’s not enough to repeat the rule. Rather, one should offer a reasoned argument and better explanation of points of doctrine and practice that are troubling people. Some of the issues frequently cited were the exclusion of women from ordination, the perception that people of a homosexual orientation are unwelcome, the complexity of the annulment process, and barring divorced and remarried persons from the sacraments.
• A fresh explanation of the nature of the Eucharist is needed. This calls for a creative liturgical, pastoral, doctrinal, and practical response. The “Sunday obligation” must be explained as an obligation to give thanks, through sacrament and sacrifice, not just to be present in the pews.
• Parishes need to make an effort to be caring, welcoming communities. No one should be made to feel like the woman who wrote,
“I was always alone in a crowd where I knew no one land no one knew me.”
• The quality of preaching needs to improve, as does the image of the clergy—fairly or unfairly—are to often seen as arrogant, distant, unavailable, and uncaring. Also, better music is needed.
• On a practical level, many complained about the quality of sound systems in the churches and the difficulty in understanding foreign-born clergy with heavy accents. Another pulpit-related matter is the perception of too-frequent appeals for money.
Half of Global Christian Population Is Catholic.
Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population, released in December 2011 by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, came up with the following observations:
• The Catholic Church has 1.1. billion adherents worldwide, representing half of the global Christian population.
• Brazil has more Catholics than in Italy, France, and Spain combined. The ten countries with the largest number of Catholics contain more than half (56%) of the world’s Catholics.
• More than 70% of Catholic live either in the Americas (48%) or in Europe (24%).
Workforce for the Apostolate.
The latest edition of the annual Statistical Yearbook for the Church, published by the Vatican, shows the following in terms of the workforce:
Category Worldwide United States
Bishops 5,104 448
Priests 412,236 42,572
Permanent deacons 39,564 16,521
Religious brothers 54,665 4,895
Religious sisters 721,935 56,878
Catechists 3,160,628 426,365
Total Catholics 1,195,671,000 69,795,000
Permanent Diaconate Continues to Grow
The number of permanent deacons in the U.S. has climbed steadily since this ministry was restored in the years following Vatican II to its present total of 17,289. Some aspects of the Permanent Diaconate include the following:
• The 131 deaconate formation programs during the 2011-12 year report 2,302 candidates.
• Deacon formation programs vary considerably according to local needs and situations. Thirty programs, including the Sacramento Diocese, offer formation in both Spanish and English.
• Diaconate formation programs differ in their requirements for admission, program duration, number of required courses, the frequency of training sessions meet, participation of spouses, and tuition and fees. Candidates typically meet one or two evenings or weekends a month over the course of four to six years, for an average of 152 years annually. N.B.: The Sacramento Diocese has made spouse participation voluntary, but encouraged to participate fully. Such a shift in policy may attract younger candidates who have children living at home.
• 75% of candidates are in their forties and fifties, with just 4% under 40 and 19% age 60+. 96% are married, 3% are single and never married, nd 1% are widowed or divorced. 29% have a graduate degree, 389% have a bachelor’s degree, 17% completed some college, and 16% have a high school education or less.
23 Countries with Catholic Populations Over 10 Million
Countries Catholics % Catholic Priests Parishes
Brazil 163.2 M 84.5% 20,349 11,407
Mexico 99.6 M 91.9% 16,234 6,744
Philippines 77.3 M 82.3% 8,966 3,153
United States 69.7 M 22.6% 42,572 17,382
Italy 57.5 M 95% 48,745 25,692
France 47.1 M 74.9% 19,349 15,765
Spain 42.9 M 92.7% 24,733 22,890
Colombia 42.9 M 94.4% 8,943 4,174
Argentina 37.7 M 93.2% 5,916 2,754
Congo, Dem. Rep. 37.7 M 52.6% 5,244 1,391
Poland 36.7 M 96.2% 29,737 10,302
Peru 26 M 88.6% 3,185 1,561
Germany 25 M 30.7% 17,234 11,483
Venezuela 25.3 M 87.9% 2,691 1,343
Nigeria 23.7 M 15.5% 5,921 2,891
India 19.2 M 1.6% 26,380 9,990
Canada 14.8 M 43.6% 7,892 4,312
Uganda 14.1 M 45.4% 1,942 427
Tanzania 13.1 M 30.6% 2,557 925
Ecuador 13 M 91.9% 2,221 1,301
Chile 12.6 M 74% 2,235 948
Guatemala 11.4 M 79.8% 1,085 480
Kenya 10.9 M 27% 2,236 845
FYI/Trends was gleaned from The CARA Report (Vol. 18, #1; Summer 2012).
–Deacon Jim McFadden