The “Evangelical Advantage” by Rod Dreher in The American Conservative.
Citing an article by Leah Libresco discussing population growth and conversion trends:
In either model, Catholics wind up as one of the biggest losers even though their odds of retaining the children born into their faith are in the middle of the pack. They’re not a strong enough attractor of people leaving other faiths to replenish the people they lose, and so their share (of the US population) diminishes to the single digits.
These numbers startled me. I had no idea that the Catholic collapse was so dramatic, probably because the headspace I live in daily, online, is so strongly Catholic. Catholicism is on track to become such a minority religion in America that absent some dramatic shake-up, its numbers will in the future look like those of historically black Protestants today. Now, one in five Americans is Catholic; on current projections, only about one in ten will be in the future. (I can’t tell what the timeline is here; how far into the future does the analysis run?). Of course anything might happen to change this trajectory, which is why Leah says that you should look at the data not as a sign of what’s going to happen, but rather of what’s happening now.
And why is this?
Citing Philip Blosser:
For more than two generations now, we [Catholics] have been robbed of the fullness of Catholicism, which is our birthright. With a few thankful exceptions, our collective acquaintance with Scripture is piecemeal, our knowledge of tradition is pathetic, our hymns are embarrassing, our religious art is ugly, our churches look like UN meditation chapels, our ethics are slipshod, and our aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities are so far from being sublime that they almost look ridiculous. … For over two generations our faith formation has been shaped by a media culture that has portrayed our Church as a dinosaur that is either an impediment to social progress or simply irrelevant.
My sense is that Rowland’s take on Benedict’s worldview tells us a lot of why Catholicism is failing in America (and highlights the tragedy of the brevity of the great man’s papacy). The leadership class of the Catholic Church — bishops, theologians, and so forth — “gave themselves up to modernity just as the real avant-garde was beginning to critique it. They came out of their bunkers with their hands in the air as the enemy was departing for a new battlefield. The Catholic elite of this generation was left to look effete and irrelevant.” In an effort to be relevant to modernity, they surrendered the Catholic distinctives that stood in contradiction to the currents of modernity. Thus while Catholic theology remains intact, the transmission of that theology in the lived experience of the parish — both in worship and in catechetics — has badly broken down. Paradoxically, in many parishes, a worshiper in this most sacramentally-oriented of the major American Christian churches may find himself having to hold on to the truths of his faith by exercising his will and his imagination to an extraordinary degree, because what he sees happening around him does not convey what the Church proclaims to be true.
And much more. It is an article everyone should read.