The Global Catholic Review
MAY 1, 2018
Co-authored by Dr. Kate Kingsbury* and Dr. Andrew Chesnut
Recent figures reveal that the Catholic Church is losing followers in Latin America at an accelerated rate. Contrary to pundits’ predictions, Pope Francis rather than proving popular and precipitating a proliferation in numbers of the faithful is losing support. What explains the shrinking Latin American flock? And what can the Catholic Church do to conciliate and captivate their congregants in Latin America anew?
Many assumed that a Latin American pope would entail more support within his home region and ensure the future of the Catholic Church there, but this presumption has proved erroneous. Phineas T. Barnum, a 19th century showman, enounced there is no such thing as bad publicity’. Unfortunately this adage has not proved a truism when it comes to the Catholic Church. In an era of mass media, technology has been both a friend and a foe for the Church. What in the past were once rumours or could be controverted as calumnies, have with the advent of the internet and hypercommunications come to comprise front page news stories. The inept and often corrupt handling of sex abuse scandals have tarnished the Church’s reputation, especially among Latin American Millennials who are becoming Religious Nones at unprecedented rates.
Many Latin Americans, especially Millennials, have lost faith in the Church, even if their parents and grandparents have not. As Carla, a 29 year old Ecuadorian described, ‘everybody knows that the Catholic Church cannot be trusted and that some of the clergy are guilty of paedophilia. You see it in the news all the time. I still believe in God but I do not go to church anymore as I just cannot respect the priests and pope after everything I have heard and seen. I pray in my house as does my sister and our children.’ Juan, a 23 year old from Venezuela agreed: ‘I will always believe in God as does my family, but the Catholic Church is just an institution to me now, nothing more and nothing less. Even if I don’t dislike the Pope I think he has done too little to address the many problems that plague the Church. Take Bishop Barros in Chile, for example. But my grandmother still goes to Church.’
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