David Carlin observes here that as Cultural Catholicism dies out other advantages are won.
The problem with cultural Catholicism is that the particular culture or ethnicity was too linked with the Catholic religion. To be an Italian American was to love all things Italian and part of that along with the spaghetti and meatballs, opera and gelato was the Catholic religion. The problem is, for too many the Catholic was not much more meaningful or necessary than the spaghetti and meatballs. When Italian Americans stopped being Italian they also stopped being Catholic.
When photography was invented in the middle of the 19th century some people feared that this new practice, especially when color would eventually be added to it, would doom the art of painting. Since the camera could represent visual reality much more accurately than could the paintbrush, painting would be less in demand, and the quality and quantity of painters would decline. Sooner or later the old art would fade away.
As everybody knows, the pessimists were wrong. So far from dooming the art of painting, photography liberated it from one of its non-essential functions, namely photography — like representations of visible reality. What followed in the next few decades, beginning with the Impressionists, was an explosion of creativity in the art of painting. Freed from the need to provide accurate representations of reality, painting became more “pure.” The artist was more free than ever to indulge his creative impulses and inspirations.
I think we should bear this in mind when thinking about the decline of Catholicism in America and elsewhere in the more affluent parts of the world. (I once wrote a book about this, The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America). At first glance it looks like Catholicism is doomed to fade away in the more prosperous countries, surviving only in the poorer countries of the world.
Western Cultural Catholicism is dying and what is being released is actually something more than Carline brings out in his article: what is being released as the world shrinks and globalism takes over is the greatest opportunity ever for the Catholic faith. At last we can discover what being a truly universal church really means, and I think it means more than simply have one of those multi cultural Masses–you know where you have a smidgen of Spanish, a touch of Vietnamese, a reading in Korean and all held together with pained smiles…
Instead we maybe able to grow into a Catholicism that is truly universal with worship that transcends different cultures and rises above them all. This is where traditional forms of worship can be very useful. They transcend culture and take us all beyond the particular cultures which bind us.
You can read Carlin’s full article here.