Saturday, October 19, 2019

How “Pope Francis” is Dealing with the “Leaving Home” Network

The “Leaving Home” network (leaving Roman Catholicism) is much larger than the “Coming Home” network. And this seems to be one of the key things that’s driving the Bergoglio papacy.

There is a very good reason why we see lots of “Coming Home” stories of conversion to Roman Catholicism, but not many the other way. When one person “comes home”, that really is all they can point to. Just one conversion is a big thing. They can’t point to huge numbers traveling in their direction.

A Roman Catholic may make the claim about the Good Shepherd going to find one lost sheep. But that presupposes that there are another 99 already “home”. In this case, the 99 are flooding away in droves.

The other side of that “home to Rome” coin is that there are simply too many conversion stories that are going the other way. Too many to report. Too many people are leaving.

When someone becomes Roman Catholic, it is just a big event for them. When a Roman Catholic leaves and becomes Protestant, well, that sort of thing happens all the time. Pew Research has recently reported that among US Roman Catholics:

* The number of Americans who are Catholic declined from 24% in 2007 to 21% in 2014. That rate of decrease is accelerating.
* Roman Catholicism has experienced a greater net loss due to religious movement than has any other religious tradition in the US.
* There are 6.5 former Catholics in the U.S. for every convert to Rome.
* Many U.S. Catholics say they want to see the church make significant changes. For example, six-in-ten say they think the church should allow priests to marry and allow women to become priests. And nearly half of U.S. Catholics say the church should recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples. While these numbers are lower among those who don’t attend Mass regularly, they are still significant.

Until recently, the Vatican could point to the solidity of Roman Catholicism in Latin America. In fact, some 95% of Latin America was all Roman Catholic. But now, there is a “synod of bishops” going on regarding the Amazon. It is apparently a big, global effort in Rome to “fix” what’s going on in one of the most obscure regions in the world. But it is not obscure to Pope Bergoglio.

Sandro Magister is reporting that the number of Roman Catholics has fallen from 95% to just 20% in some regions of Latin America:

In order to intuit, in fact, to what extent the erosion of the Catholic presence in the [Amazon] region touches the heart of the synod on the Amazon and is a question not of statistics but of faith, it should suffice to cite what was maintained by one of the guests of Pope Francis, Fr. Martín Lasarte, head of missionary outreach in Africa and Latin America … with direct experience of the Amazon, who spoke before the assembly on the morning of Saturday, October 12:

“I visited a diocese, where 95% of the population were Catholics in the early 1980s; today they are 20%. I remember the comment of one of the European missionaries who systematically ‘dis-evangelized’ the region: ‘We do not favour superstition, but human dignity’. That says it all. The Church in some places has turned into a great services manager (health, education, promotional, advocacy...), but little in the mother of faith.”

The big question for this synod is whether or not to allow married men to become priests, so as to provide more of those life-giving, grace-giving sacraments to the local population.

It seems to me that Pope Bergoglio has wrapped his papacy around the issues that are causing the greatest flow of Roman Catholics out of “The Church”. His first big initiative, leading to the publication of Amoris Laetitia, essentially reversed some 1700 years of teaching on marriage by the Roman church, and permitted (as local bishops may or may not wish to do) the “married-in-the-church-but-civilly-divorced-and-remarried” to receive communion.

Notice how he is overturning long-held Roman Catholic standards. He is going through proper channels. Prior to Amoris Laetita, he had two “synods of bishops”, ostensibly on “the family”. When the bishops did not acquiesce to his thinking, he scolded the, and then he exercised “papal primacy” anyway. Now, he is having another “synod of bishops” in Rome. The key item on the agenda now will turn into “married priests”.

It should be clear that Bergoglio isn’t mandating things (“we declare, define, etc.”); he is merely permitting things that have not recently been permitted. So the German bishops can have communion for the divorced-and-remarried, and the Amazon can have married men become priests. Other regions will be able to adopt such initiatives as they choose to do so, on a localized basis.

So this is good karma: soon we’ll be able to point to 33,000 Roman Catholic flavors. What kind of sex do you have, and what are your preferred personal pronouns? If there are even that many Roman Catholics left in the world.


  1. To add to the flavors that you listed, wasn't it pope Benedict that allowed Africans to use contraceptives? It was said that the purpose was to prevent the spread of disease, as if other parts of the world weren't having that issue too.

    1. Not quite, apparently:

      He suggested that they were available but that they did not solve the problem.