What is the Future of Catholicism?

Combining my interest in history and the Catholic Church, I’ve decided to center my capstone project upon the following question: What is the future of Catholicism? With 1.2 billion members in every corner of the world, the Catholic Church transcends culture, race, social status, and–some would even say–time. Throughout its 2,000-year history, it has played an important role in building Western civilization and shaping the world at large.

But what does the future hold for the world’s largest and arguably most influential religion? The goal of my project is to find out, with a specific focus on how¬†the Church’s future demographics, ideology, and liturgy will look in a generation or two. Demographically, for example, Catholicism is booming in Africa and Asia as much as it is declining in the West. In fact, this video I found makes some pretty dire predictions regarding the latter. According to the commentator, the Church in America “will not be recognizable in the next 10-15 years” owing to the widespread failure of the previous generation to pass on the Faith to their children.

If this is true, and it looks like it is, then I may have just found the audience for my paper: The Catholic bishops in America, who should be motivated to do something before their part of the global Church falls off the demographic cliff. In the meantime, I’ll keep researching and hoping for some better news…

4 thoughts to “What is the Future of Catholicism?”

  1. Joe, it seems that there are a lot of generalizations about Catholicism in its totality. It also seems that through your questions, the area of focus is trying to get to a smaller tunnel vision to the many questions you have. I also think that readers or a broader audience could argue Catholicism as the most influential religion. These are things that would definitely take away from your main question of interest.

    I also think that your project could be opened up to a broader audience as well. I mentioned ways to incorporate a mainstream historical perspective in religions changing over time ans relating it to your religion more specifically. Other than this, I think your project could be more specific based in order to drive your main point home and to keep the readers interested.

  2. I find it very interesting that your audience is the Catholic bishops of the United States as opposed to what I would have assumed–young American Catholics. Regardless, I think it’s a very good pick. Bishops have the power, training, and experience to be able to take action in the name of continuing the religion in the United States.

    What I am curious about is this: will you be putting forth some proposed solutions to your audience? Or is your project going to focus on putting the facts out and concluding with what you have come to determine as the future of the Catholic church?

  3. Hi Joe,

    I’m in the gateway course and I’m interested in your project.

    If the Church in America is fading due to parents’ negligence of the faith and failure to impress its importance upon their children, maybe Catholic families would be a good audience for your paper. Children learn by example and are more likely to be loyal to beliefs and habits they acquired at home than anywhere else. I think the family is an incredibly powerful thing yet its importance is often diminished in society. If they are dropping the ball, that might be a good thing to focus your research on. That being said, I think there is certainly hope for the Catholic Church and that should be addressed as well.

  4. Thanks for your comment and interest, Bethany. I completely agree that the Catholic family is the primary way by which the Faith is passed on to the next generation. Before I even started this project, I remember stumbling upon a study that found that the religiosity of the Catholic father is the number one predictor of whether or not his children will keep their faith into adulthood. I will have to see if I can dig out the official report for use in my research, but I don’t think this finding is very surprising, especially given the reasons you already mentioned.

    So, I appreciate the suggestion to direct my paper to Catholic families in addition to Catholic bishops. Regardless of which I end up choosing for my audience, I know family issues will be a major theme of my paper. Finally, I absolutely agree with you that there is hope for the Catholic Church, even in the West. From what I’ve gathered so far, perhaps the greatest hope is precisely in the area you mention–strong Catholic families producing strong Catholic children who grow up to raise strong Catholic families, and on and on…

    Thanks again for your feedback, and please let me know if you have any more suggestions.

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