Future of Catholicism
From Hebrews to Hangzhou to Wholeness
Europe and the United States have long enjoyed a first-world conceit that their values, energies, and sensibilities would be forever-definitive. Their post-Christian progression has led to much hand-wringing by those who have bought into that mindset. They imagine that if the Church is no longer dominant in Paris or Dublin or Madrid, or even New York, that it is "dying out." In truth, cultures are dying and changing, but the church is not.
Demographically, it seems native-born Europeans are no longer reproducing in numbers sufficient to continue, and among many ardently secular communities in American this is also true. It is possible that within a few decades we will see minarets and mosques where now stand spires and shrines. But in the history of the church, this is not unusual. The church began with a star, followed from the East, and with writings to the Hebrews and the Ephesians and the Galatians and Thessalonians. There were churches, back then, where there are none now.
Like the Magi, the Church has been traveling resolutely West, and it has nearly come full-circle; it is bringing new treasure from the East and up from Africa. There is almost a sense of completion to this.
That may be unsettling to some; it may hold promise to others. Completion -- or wholeness -- is what we have been taught is the objective to this long journey of mission and masses and mistakes. We anticipate that moment when all things are restored in Christ.
Faith and experience tell us that all things work for the glory of God. The ebb and flow of vocations, the dominance and diminishment of churches, are His to control. What we need will be provided, even if we cannot at first recognize the provision. We know that beyond all else, the Church is a great mystery, and its future is known to God alone.
Elizabeth Scalia is the Catholic Portal Manager for Patheos.com. She is a Contributing Writer to First Things, where she also blogs as The Anchoress, and is a regular panelist on the Brooklyn Diocese-produced current events program, "In the Arena," seen at NETNY.net. Elizabeth is a former contributor to Inside Catholic, and has been published in a wide variety of Catholic print publications and online political venues. She can be contacted at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.