Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Viva Cristo Rey, Y'All! American Catholicism is a lot stronger than its critics believe--especially in the South

Stephan Beale wrote an excellent essay in Crisis Magazine, arguing that the Catholic Church is becoming the most important refuge for Christians in America's post-Christian age. Beale challenged assertions made by Carl Trueman, who argued in a First Things essay that Reformed Protestantism is the proper refuge for today's Christians.

Beale makes a sturdy argument that the Roman Catholic Church is stronger than many people think.  As he accurately pointed out, the Catholic Church is booming in the South. Many people interpret the growth as being almost solely attributable to a growing Hispanic population in the South, but that is incorrect.

In North Texas, for example, the Catholic Church has exploded. In the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, Catholics have grown from about 2 percent of the population in the 1970s to about 25 percent of the population today.  The large Hispanic community in the Dallas area accounts for some of this growth, but not all of it.  St. Ann's Church in the north Dallas suburb of Coppell, is one of the largest Catholic parishes in the United States, with 6 Sunday Masses; and most of its members are Anglos.

And Texas, for some mysterious reason, seems to be particularly receptive to the Anglican Rite movement. Texas is home to six Anglican Rite Churches, all of them large parishes, that left the Episcopal Church to enter the Catholic Church as a body.  That is truly remarkable.

It is true that the Catholic Church has declined in the Northeast--in Boston and New York, in particular.  Philip Lawler's book, The Faithful Departed, accurately describes the collapse of Catholic culture in Boston--a sorrowful tale indeed. I think Catholics need to come to terms with the magnitude of the collapse of Catholic culture in the industrial Northeast--it is truly shocking.

In my view, the Northeast needs a huge spiritual revival, much like the one that Germany experienced during the 1860s and 1870s, when Germans responded to fervent preaching from evangelists from the religious orders, notably the Jesuits.  The Northeast needs strong religious evangelists--or maybe even lay evangelists, to remind Northeasterners of the splendor of the faith.

Regardless of how the Northeast goes, however, we should be heartened by the spectacular growth of Catholicism in the South.  In Louisiana, I myself have sponsored three men and three women who have  left  Protestantism to come into the Catholic Church; and I am certain that many Southern Protestants and nonreligious Southerners could be evangelized if only they were apprised of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This one mysterious and powerful tenet of our faith would bring hundreds of thousands of Americans into the Church if only they were confronted with it.

It is true, as Beale acknowledged, that the Catholic Church is being attacked all over the country, particularly in the North. As he noted, the Church has had to get out of the adoption business because it refuses to place orphans in the homes of same-sex couples.

But suffering will make us stronger. If Catholicism survived the persecutions and terrors of 20th century totalitarian--the Nazis, the Stalinists, the Maoists, the Calles regime in Mexico--we can certainly survive American postmodernism.

And we need to remind ourselves that Catholicism is stronger than the media elite thinks it is. The New York Times and other Northeastern based media, like to report on the decline of religiosity because they see the Church's decline in the Northeast and because they want to believe that Catholicism is on the wane.  Times writer Frank Bruno has already prepared our obituary and made funeral arrangements.  I think he's picked out a tasteful coffin for us.

But to all this postmodern nonsense, I say this: Viva Cristo Rey!  We will cling to the Ancient Faith and we will take strength from our saints and martyrs:  Edith Stein, Maximilian Kolbe, Dorothy Day, the Uganda Martyrs, the heroes who died during the Cristero Rebellion, and the unnamed millions of Catholics who died in Eastern Europe at the hands of the Nazis.

If these Catholic saints and martyrs were strong enough to stand up for their faith under great trials and hardships, surely we can stand up to the postmodern media and the anti-religious Obamacrats. And let us take heart from this simple demographic fact: the Catholic Church is on the move in the South.  Viva Cristo Rey, Y'all!.

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