Future U.S. Religious Trends - From Catholic To Orthodox, (Nominal) Christian To Islam
By Sean Scallon
Jan 8, 2007
Demographics is destiny and that's true not just in politics but business, education, sports, entertainment, culture and religion.
That's because numbers and numbers of adherents determine whether or not your faith is taken seriously or is just another kooky cult.
There are two demographic trends that may occur in the 21st Century inside the U.S. that could alter several faiths in the process. Those trends are from Catholic to Orthodox and from (nominal) Christian to Islam.
We start with the Catholic Church. It's no secret the U.S. Catholic Church is in a deep crisis. The numerous sexual molestation scandals and the class action lawsuits that have followed are draining diocesan treasuries dry. Many such dioceses are selling off buildings like closed churches and schools and other real estate properties they own. On top of that, the shortage of priests and nuns in the U.S. mean more such closures are on the way. And because of that shortage, the Church's institutions, its colleges, hospitals and other charitable foundations, will become completely secularized within the next 20 years. The whole infrastructure of the Church within the U.S. could be almost gone by within that time period.
The U.S. Catholic Church will survive however. It has faced worse challenges in its history and has always survived. But to survive means to adapt and adapting means change and the U.S. Catholic Church will be transformed by this process. The transformation will come demographically as what once was a European-ethnic church will become a predominantly Hispanic and Third World immigrant church.
This is also a process that's going on world wide as well. Philip Jenkins, the Penn State University theology professor and writer for Chronicles, has documented this coming transformation of the Christian world thanks to demographics in numerous articles and books. Numbers mean power and such power within the Church will come from its Third World adherents. There's no doubt next pope will be probably be from the Third World, perhaps Latin or South America first (with a bishop of European immigrant descent) followed by an African pope after that. We've already seen the Third World's power within the Anglican community already. Several Episcopal churches in the U.S. have left their local dioceses in schisms to align themselves with Anglican dioceses in Third World locations because their bishops are more traditional than their Western counterparts, who are ordaining women and homosexual bishops.
What is fueling the change in the U.S. Catholic Church is immigration. More Hispanic immigrants and other Catholic immigrants from the Third World are filling the pews and in many cases what were once empty pews, especially in big cities. Now as immigration spreads from big cities and the coasts to small towns in the Midwest and South, such change will take place in churches in these locations as well. It's the Catholic Church that will absorb most of the new immigrants. Although a good chunk of Hispanic immigrants are Pentecostals, they tend to form their own churches separately. Hispanic Catholics are moving into existing communities and existing churches.
All this leaves the European ethnic in a quandary. The term "Catholic" means universal and as such it should not matter what race or ethnic group anyone who calls themselves Catholic is. All are welcomed. Yet such churches were the anchors of previous ethnic communities. Such change can be quite jarring, especially when you add it onto change within the neighborhood, change in the business community and change within the schools thanks to unlimited immigration. It doesn't take long for one Hispanic mass to become all masses at some point.
Because of this change, some European ethnic Catholics wish that the bishops would either take a stand against immigration or least not be noisy promoters of it like Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahoney. Unfortunately they are whistling past the graveyard. Not even the most conservative of bishops, like Omaha's Roman Bruskewitz, are going to oppose unlimited immigration nor will any be recalled by Rome for such support like Mahoney. The Catholic Church in the U.S. is an immigrant church. Always has been. Always will be. To its bishops and administrators, seeing one immigrant group coming into the church and overtaking another is simply the natural wave of history. It would be unthinkable of them to turn oppose immigration, especially when such immigrants and their money are going to be ones to keep the Church afloat during its time of transformation.
Opponents of unlimited immigration must understand that is how the church thinks and operates and it perfectly fits with its history. It not a "Popish" plot to undermine the United States. This writer (and Catholic) nearly deleted VDARE.com from his list of favorite websites last year because some of its writers began waving the bloody shirt of "rum, Romanism and rebellion" until Peter Brimelow thankfully set them straight and also pointed out Protestantism's many contributions to our nation's immigration problems.
But again the quandary for European ethnic Catholic remains. His numbers have been reduced by intermarriage, by the destruction of ethnic neighborhoods by urban renewal and the interstate highway system, by suburban sprawl, by the church's own problems and divisions within it and by his or her own laziness and sloth. If you don't show up for mass or to volunteer or be a part of the community, you will lose power and influence to those who do. Whoever said that life is all about showing up was dead on in this regard. So what to do? Join the Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox Church has a number of appeals to the European ethnic Catholic. It is a church that is ethnically conscious and fuses the idea of the church to that of the nation and the culture. That's why there are Greek Orthodox churches, Russian Orthodox Churches, Romanian Orthodox churches and so forth. (Only the Polish Catholic Church and Uniate churches loyal to Rome are that way amongst Catholics). It is a decentralized church, which means its doctrines and practices of worship are not subject to the whims of a whole Vatican Council. It's a church that has avoided a lot of the doctrinal disputes that has divided the Catholic churches because it stays true to its traditions and doctrines which it traces back to the original Christian church. Its mass has gone unchanged for many centuries and one doesn't have to worry about whether the new priest is going to allows guitars and drums during the worship service, disallows bells or kneeling or whatever fashion of mass is in vogue from the seminary. It's a church who's priests are married which means the problems the Catholic Church has had with homosexual priests (the one's that don't take their vows of celibacy seriously anyway) aren't a problem with the Orthodox. It is the Orthodox that is going to be more suspicious of mass immigration (especially immigration from Islamic nations) than other religions.
Of course, if you are an Irish, Italian, French or German Catholic, you just can't pop into Serbian Orthodox Church and say "I'm a new convert!" unless you marry a Serb. It just doesn't work that way. To solve that problem, the Orthodox Church of America (OCA) exists. Formed in the early 1970s by the Russian Patriarchy and separate from it, the OCA is an Americanized version of the of the Russian Church with its services in English and with pews and so forth (the Orthodox church who's fall festival I annually attend in Clayton, Wisconsin, Holy Trinity, is part of the OCA.) Many of the churches are old Russian ones like Holy Trinity, but the OCA also incorporates other ethnic groups like Albanian and Romanian Orthodox that never had separate ethnic bishoprics like the Greeks or Serbs do. The OCA could very easily incorporate ethnic European Catholic refugees in their own churches. Right now the OCA has over 100 churches and a million members, slow but steady growth that I think could easily accelerate in the 21st Century. Conservative writer Rod Dreher of Crunchy Cons fame has already made the switch from Catholicism to Eastern Orthodoxy and I think others will to. http://www.postchronicle.com/religion/article_21257885.shtml