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The Future Church by John Allen > Discussion #1, Introduction, Trend One, Trend Two

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message 1: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3536 comments Mod
Short Summary of each Chapter:

Introduction:
This is a book about globalization. Its subject is the oldest globalized institution on earth, the Roman Catholic Church. Its bottom line can also be expressed in a few words: the church is upside down...The aim of this book is to survey the most important currents shaping the Catholic Church today, and to look down the line at how they might play out during the rest of the twenty-first century.

Trend One: A World Church
To consider the Catholic Church, at the beginning of the twentieth century, just 25 percent of the world’s Catholic population lived outside Europe and North America. By century’s end, however, 65.5 percent of the Catholic population was found in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In a geographical sense, the twentieth century literally turned Catholicism “upside down.”...What all this means is that the global story of Catholicism today is growth, not decline. That’s generally not the impression one picks up from casual conversation or TV sound bites in Europe or the United States, where talk of a “crisis” is the more usual fare.

Trend Two: Evangelical Catholicism
Evangelical Catholicism is, in one sense, a stepchild of secularization, but it is also a conscious and carefully crafted strategy to resist the perceived evils of secularization. It’s an attempt to ensure that the weakening of religious faith and practice in the secular world is not reproduced inside the Church. The evangelical Catholic impulse is designed to ensure that Catholicism does not end up, in a memorable phrase from the French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, “kneeling before the world.”...Oceans of ink have been spilled trying to define “secularization,” but common sense understands it as a general weakening of traditional religious faith, affiliation, and practice, along with a strong distinction between church and state, which arose in modernity in response to forces such as the Enlightenment and empirical science. As a grassroots phenomenon, secularization is largely confined to Europe, where it has become a de facto marker of cultural identity.

A defining feature of evangelical Catholicism is its deliberately counter-cultural ethos, with “culture” in the North meaning post-modern secularism. Depending on the context, this instinct can either seem conservative or liberal. When what’s being rejected is the sexual revolution, or the majoritarian mode of establishing truth implied by democracy, it seems conservative; when it’s the profit motive of capitalism, the values of consumer society, and the realpolitik of military might, it seems liberal. But in both cases, it’s a deliberate choice to be different.


message 2: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments I read the first trend yesterday and will read the second today.

I thought there was quite a bit to think about in the first trend. I often remark that the shrinking people in the pews may leave us a much smaller Church, but hopefully a more committed and faithful Church. But, this trend makes me change my thoughts and comments. We are not shrinking; we are growing. It is just that the growth is taking place on other contenents. I did not realize that the African and Asian was growing geometrically. Allan was spot on when he spoke of a Pope from the Southern Hemisphere. Pope Francis reflects most of the attitudes he described as typical of Catholics in the Southern Hemosphere. And, he is appointing more Church leaders from that half of the globe. This means that the concerns and attitudes of that area will receive more attention in Church councils and encyclicals.

I also never thought of the impact on the Church in the developing world of bringing their priests to serve in North America and Europe. I knew that they had many more vocations than we did, but I did not know that they still did not have nearly enough priests to serve their growing flock. Suddenly this practice smacks of great injustice. Rather than taking their priests, we should be sending money to help support their seminaries and to build new parish churches and schools.

I also wonder why Catholic numbers are declining in the North while increasing in the South. If economic development and political stability comes to these regions, will secularization also come, bringing declining religious connections in its shadow? What can be done now to prevent that from happening as it has for the European and American Church?

These are just a few initial thoughts.


message 3: by Susan Margaret (new)

Susan Margaret (susanmargaretg) | 547 comments In the Trend Two chapter, Eamon Duffy believes that we should return to fasting and abstinence. I agree with him, reminders of our faith throughout the week helps to strengthen our faith. Although Catholics used to abstain from meat on all Fridays rather than just during Lent, I believe that many Catholics are under the impression that no sacrifice is to be made on Fridays. I think it is really unfortunate that traditions are forgotten and not practiced.

Irene, you asked some good questions about what will happen to the South if economics and politics improve. I think that maintaining strong family ties can help, but there are so many things that pull youth away from family and faith.


message 4: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments It is not just young people that are pulled away. I see so many middle aged and older people who were active in the parish when their kids were young and now, as empty nesters, never come around. So much can pull us away from our faith and our faith community.


message 5: by Manny (last edited Jan 30, 2017 05:01PM) (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3536 comments Mod
I was aware of how the south was rising. I guess I didn't realize to what extent. Many of the trends they will bring are a good thing. One danger that it might bring is that it will alienate those in the north and perhaps accelerate the loss of faith in the north. But frankly one can't worry about that.

That's a good question Irene and one that has crossed my mind. If the south becomes more economically well off - and we all hope for that - will they too lapse with faith? It's hard to say, but things don't usually work out so neatly that what happens here happens there. They have the advantage of the failures of our culture to learn from. Still the sexual revolution and the power of money changes people, and not for the good. I worry for them too.

Irene, many of those priests that come from the south or outer reaches of the world to be priests here decide to come here. It's a free choice. We have a lot here in NYC. One of the priests at my parish came from the Philippines. We have a priest who comes here from India every summer to relieve the parish priests when they go on vacation. Some I've heard have a personal mission to convert the the lapsed, almost like a reverse missionary. That might have been in the book. Also I suspect that some come here to earn some money to send back home, not that priests earn all that much, but I would suspect they earn more than in their countries. As I look around the various churches in my neighborhood, they all seem to have at least one priest from a poor country.

Susan, I've been trying to abstain from meat on all Fridays. The only problem is I forget a lot. Just this past Friday while going to the March for Life in DC I told myself in the morning that this was a Friday, remember Christ died on this day and don't eat meat. I did good in the morning, buying a bagel with cream cheese but while on the march I got hungry and went over to a food truck along the side and absent mindedly bought a hot dog. I realized what I had done minutes after I had taken the last bite.


message 6: by P (new)

P (patrickdugan) | 12 comments Irene wrote: "But, this trend makes me change my thoughts and comments. We are not shrinking; we are growing.... Allan was spot on when he spoke of a Pope from the Southern Hemisphere. Pope Francis reflects most of the attitudes he described as typical of Catholics in the Southern Hemosphere."

I think one of the interesting things as we read will be to see how Allen's predictions stand now, 7-8 years after publication.

Through my small diocesan window, as well as through the internet, I see the more reactionary side of Trend Two really ramping up with Pope Benedict's resignation and Pope Francis's pontificate. There seem to be so many more North American and European blogs/social media accounts dedicated to the Extraordinary Form and many are explicitly sedevacantist. In many ways I see the internet as just another polarizing force in our globalized world, one that has the potential to harm the unity of the Church. I'm not advocating one way or the other, at least right now, I'm just pointing out what I've noticed.

For me, it's wonderful that the Church is growing and think She will be made richer for it. I often point this out to colleagues and acquaintances and they are shocked and disbelieving; all they've heard is the secular elitist media saying for decades that the Church is in decline, without ever citing figures outside Europe and America.

100% about returning to fasting! I completely abstain from meat except in situations in which it would be rude to do so (e.g. when I eat at someone's house).

Apologies for the quick thoughts, I'm at work and don't have the time to develop coherent arguments ;). Also, I left the book on my nightstand so I'm not able to quote facts and figures!


message 7: by P (new)

P (patrickdugan) | 12 comments Manny wrote: "One danger that it might bring is that it will alienate those in the north and perhaps accelerate the loss of faith in the north. But frankly one can't worry about that. "

I don't disagree, but I wonder why you think so? Why is it that Catholics in the global North might feel threatened by Catholics in the global South?


message 8: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments I was wondering the same thing. Why would Northern Hemosphere Catholics be alienated as they recognized the growth of the Church in the Southern Hemosphere.

I read the second trend last night. I had never put things together as this book does, but as I read I could recognize exactly what he was describing. I see more and more twitter and blog posts by leading Catholic voices declaring that this or that is "Catholic" behavior or values. And it is on both sides of the traditional American political divide. I never would have identified myself with this evangelical trend because my issues are less devotional, less a plea to revive traditional forms of worship or penance. But, I recognized that my concerns in the peace and justice movement are often couched in the language of what it means to be truly, uniquely, faithfully Catholic. With various voices urging an authentic Catholic articulation with competing claims, how will we/do we come together in unity? Although actual schism is unlikely, will our tribalism pull us so much apart that we fracture the Body of Christ? And, what type of witness do we give? Does this witness to an inclusivity and unconditional love that holds us together despite differences or does it depict a house divided against itself, ready to implode, lacking real truth?

In the North, I think there is a real sense of rootlessness, people craving belonging to something greater than themselves. A strong Catholic identity can meet a deep need. At the same time, I see people wanting to belong, to know that they are invested in while still claiming the freedom to pick and choose what they like. I don't see this as a problem on one end of the spectrum alone. My libral friends recite Catholic social teaching on care of immigrants or environment while rejecting teachings on birth control. My conservative friends hold up teachings on traditional family values and opposition to abortion while rejecting teachings on the death penalty or economic justice. (Forgive me if these characterizations seem simplistic. I do not cite these examples to vilify or praise any particular segment of the Catholic population but rather to indicate that we all have blind spots.)


message 9: by Galicius (last edited Jan 31, 2017 08:23AM) (new)

Galicius | 432 comments What comes across for me early in the reading is the vast amount of information about what goes on in the global Church in our present time. This alone is more interesting to me than even what the title promises to envisage about the future of the Church. We may be home bound and have a limited knowledge of churches in more distant lands. Some of us may have had such opportunities. Attending mass alone South America, or in Eastern Europe is a whole different experience than anywhere in the US. Observation alone of the other Catholics during mass and at other occasions told me a great deal. The scene at Communion time here when more than 90% of the congregation leaves the pews and receives--a good number also leave the church--and a dozen or fewer faithful who come to confession still puzzles me. (This is not a judgment.) Going to the Sacrament of Penance to an African or Indian priest told me more about how the Catholic faith is practiced away from home than here in the USA. I wasn’t prepared for the surprises.
(I only got my copy of the book yesterday but hopefully will catch up soon.)


message 10: by P (new)

P (patrickdugan) | 12 comments Irene wrote: "I don't see this as a problem on one end of the spectrum alone."

Irene, I agree.

I see the problem ultimately as a catechetical one that is being exacerbated by various cultural influences, rather than passing judgment on (lay) individuals or groups that may subscribe to this or that political ideology, as long as those ideas do not directly contribute to the culture of death (as they often do on both sides of the aisle).

The Church is often thought to be this a monolithic, static entity, but individuals and groups within Her have had a myriad of rich, sometimes seemingly contradictory, values; a cursory survey of history will prove that.


message 11: by P (last edited Jan 31, 2017 08:46AM) (new)

P (patrickdugan) | 12 comments Galicius wrote: "What comes across for me early in the reading is the vast amount of information about what goes on in the global Church in our present time. This alone is more interesting to me than even what the ..."

Yes, I think this is very interesting as well. My first perception of this sort of thing was in third grade when we had a visiting priest from Nigeria who made the parishioners rather uncomfortable by recounting how much longer Mass was celebrated in his country, people were much more devotional, etc.

I have never heard Mass in another country, unfortunately.... Hopefully one day!


message 12: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments This book is helping me to remember that we are a global community. Income does not allow me to travel much. It is easy to begin to believe that what I see and experience is the total reality. I begin to believe that the issues debated around me are the concerns of all Catholics. I hate to admit it, but it is making me realize how parochial I am in my thinking.


message 13: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3536 comments Mod
You guys commented quite a bit. I'm in a busy cycle at work this week and not sure how much I can reply to. I'll take a cpouple of quickies.

P wrote: "
I think one of the interesting things as we read will be to see how Allen's predictions stand now, 7-8 years after publication..."


Actually that's the part of the book that interests me the least. Prognostications like these have the half life of an ice cube on a summer day. Life and the world are too complicated to envision the future.


message 14: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3536 comments Mod
P wrote: "Manny wrote: "One danger that it might bring is that it will alienate those in the north and perhaps accelerate the loss of faith in the north. But frankly one can't worry about that. "

I don't di..."

Because the south is rather conservative in their orthodoxy while a large enough faction in the north want gay marriage, support for abortion, and women priests. I think that was brought up in the book.


message 15: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3536 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "This book is helping me to remember that we are a global community. Income does not allow me to travel much. It is easy to begin to believe that what I see and experience is the total reality. I be..."
Yes, that is one thing this book has helped me with too.


message 16: by Manny (last edited Feb 01, 2017 04:25AM) (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3536 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "In the North, I think there is a real sense of rootlessness, people craving belonging to something greater than themselves. A strong Catholic identity can meet a deep need. ."
I agree. The question is how do we evangelize them to feel connected? This is why I disagree somewhat with P above where he says it's a catachesis problem. I'm probably in the minority on that. Yes, we need better catachesis for people to understand, But it's connection first so that people can identify with something greater than themselves, and then the logic of the catachesis works on their rationale. That's just my opinion though.


message 17: by P (new)

P (patrickdugan) | 12 comments Manny wrote: "Irene wrote: "In the North, I think there is a real sense of rootlessness, people craving belonging to something greater than themselves. A strong Catholic identity can meet a deep need. ."
I agree..."


Maybe you would still disagree, but I meant a catechetical problem within the Church, say, for cradle Catholics not being taught ethical fundamentals and supporting, say, abortion on the one hand or the death penalty on the other.

For evangelizing to non-Catholics it's different: yes, people need to be met where they are and connect with the joy of the faith first.


message 18: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments I am not sure that most cradle Catholics have ever been evangelized. They may have been catechized, sent to CCD and/or heard the major teachings of the Church, especially on sexual morality from one sorce or another. But, they have not been evangelized so they do not care what the Church teaches. I don't think that the rejection of certain moral teachings iss a result of not knowing Church stances but not believing that they need to adhere to some institution.


message 19: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments Manny wrote: "You guys commented quite a bit. I'm in a busy cycle at work this week and not sure how much I can reply to. I'll take a cpouple of quickies.

P wrote: "
I think one of the interesting things as we ..."


Allen was very explicit that he is a journalist; his book is descriptive not predictive. I do not see him making predictions. He does identify implications and does note possible ramifications of current trends on the future shape of the Church, but these often describe very different outcomes depending on numerous factors. Manny, I think Allen would agree with you that predictions are not worthwhile.


message 20: by P (new)

P (patrickdugan) | 12 comments Because half the page count is dedicated to varying degrees of possible outcomes, it's difficult to see why one shouldn't comment on which directions he was more or less "accurate," almost a decade after publication. A possible outcome that hasn't (yet?) come to fruition is no criticism of his journalistic abilities, and discussing the outcomes as they've come to pass might give one better insight into where the trends are now.

I don't mean to be a tough customer! Really enjoying all the comments, lots of food for thought. I'll stick to everyone else's cues from here on. It's harder for me than others to admit that my thinking may be a bit too parochial ;).


message 21: by Irene (new)

Irene | 909 comments Don't limit your comments to cues you get from other posts. I think we all value and learn from varying reactions to the books we read. If we all agreed, it would be a very boring conversation. If we all waited for cues, it would be a very quiet conversation. I know that I appreciate the perspective that you and every other member of this group is bringing to this and to the other book discussions we have here.


message 22: by Galicius (new)

Galicius | 432 comments Irene wrote: "Don't limit your comments to cues you get from other posts. I think we all value and learn from varying reactions to the books we read. If we all agreed, it would be a very boring conversation. If ..."

• Quite right Irene: “Paradoxically, the best way for a group to be smart is for each person in it to think and act as independently as possible.” James Surowiecki, "The New Yorker"


message 23: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3536 comments Mod
P wrote: "Maybe you would still disagree, but I meant a catechetical problem within the Church, say, for cradle Catholics not being taught ethical fundamentals and supporting, say, abortion on the one hand or the death penalty on the other.."
No, I did mean within the church. Yes catachesis is a problem but there are plenty who don't feel connected to their faith. If you think about it, Evangelicals, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and the like are all catachised incorrectly, but they have an attachment to their faiths. It's not the catachesis that binds one. It's the connection.


message 24: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3536 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "I am not sure that most cradle Catholics have ever been evangelized. They may have been catechized, sent to CCD and/or heard the major teachings of the Church, especially on sexual morality from on..."

Right. I think we're saying very similar things.


message 25: by Manny (new)

Manny (virmarl) | 3536 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "Allen was very explicit that he is a journalist; his book is descriptive not predictive. I do not see him making predictions. He does identify implications and does note possible ramifications of current trends on the future shape of the Church, but these often describe very different outcomes depending on numerous factors. Manny, I think Allen would agree with you that predictions are not worthwhile"
Yes, I think he would agree. He makes them to emphasize the trend. It allows the reader to visualize it if he can project ahead to where it might go.

P - feel free to put down whatever comes to mind.


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