Wednesday, November 22, 2006

With Hummes, There Arrives at the Curia a World Champion Brazil

Sandro Magister, translated by Matthew Sherry, reported at Chiesa on the appointment by Pope Benedict XVI of Cardinal Claudio Hummes, archbishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil, as head of the Vatican congregation for the clergy, which oversees priests and catechesis.
In October of 2005, during the synod of bishops, pope Joseph Ratzinger was deeply moved by the diagnosis that Hummes made of the state of Catholicism in Brazil and in the rest of South America:

"The number of Brazilians who declare themselves Catholics has diminished rapidly, on an average of 1% a year. In 1991 Catholic Brazilians were nearly 83%, today and according to new studies, they are barely 67%. We wonder with anxiety: how long will Brazil remain a Catholic country?"

Declining at 1% per year, eighteen years, if that wasn't a rhetorical question.
"In conformity with this situation, it has been found that in Brazil there are two Protestant pastors for each Catholic priest, and the majority from the Pentecostal Churches. Many indications show that the same is true for almost all of Latin America and here too we wonder: how long will Latin America remain a Catholic continent?"

Magister comments.
The Brazilian Catholic Church has, therefore, experienced severe losses and significant internal changes over the past few decades. The "base ecclesial communities," which the hierarchy emphasized at first, have restricted the ranks of the faithful instead of expanding them. Liberation theology, which has its origins in Western Europe, has sparked an even more restricted and self-referential elite, the polar opposite of the Charismatic currents that are running wild among the po[p]ular classes as well. In recent years, there have been signs of reconsideration in the Catholic hierarchy, as exemplified by the personal evolution of Hummes himself, a member of the Franciscan order of friars minor who was initially of social-progressive leanings, but later drew closer to the Charismatic movement.

In a statement that could be applied here or in Guatemala as well as in Brazil,
In any case, the perception that the advance of the Pentecostals and Charismatics is the most significant overall new development in Christianity over the last century is far from being shared by the hierarchy as a whole and by the elites that influence public opinion the most.

He quotes the Waldensian Protestant pastor and author Giorgio Bouchard,
"The Pentecostals, and with them other evangelicals, are absolutely the religious movement spreading most rapidly throughout the world: more than the historical Protestant and Catholic Churches, more than the Muslims who also find themselves in a phase of vigorous expansion. [...] In an age infested by the worst kind of moral relativism and by a suffocating materialism, the Pentecostals represent a new and legitimate interpretation of Christian piety, founded on a great certainty: the presence of the Spirit, the greatly overlooked third person of the Trinity."

He continues: "Naturally, this movement is not very welcome among the secularized intellectuals of Harvard, the Sorbonne, and Frankfurt. They have begun to use the word 'fundamentalist' as a synonym for 'obscurantist': but this is a lexical abuse that must be firmly resisted. [...] Fundamentalism has one great merit: it brings the Bible back into focus as the touchstone for society, and also as a book of prayer. [...] Of course, we can criticize them from our point of view as somewhat disenchanted Europeans, and sometimes it is right to criticize them, but I don't think it is licit to dismiss them summarily. Why is it that lung cancer is almost completely nonexistent among them, and AIDS almost unknown? Why is it that their young people abstain from drugs and alcohol? It could be that these same much-despised fundamentalists constitute the last manifestation of the puritan spirit that has had such a great importance in the history of modern democracy."

My experience has been that our clergy and parish and archdiocesan staff continue to avoid dealing with the growth of evangelicalism. You might recall this 25 year old example. And as Father Martin Pable wrote,
Many Catholics today are confused by the differences of opinion and practice among theologians, bishops, pastors, religious, and so on. It is difficult at times to know who or what to believe.
Catholics and Fundamentalists (2nd Ed. 1997) pp. 15-16.

No comments:

Post a Comment