Latin American Collapse Of Catholicism: Pope Francis Diagnoses Clericalism and Bad Homilies As Culprits?

Pope Francis was interviewed by a Mexican news company and a summary of the interview was given on the Vatican Radio website.  Francis discussed several issues, but I wanted to take a look at his comments about the move of former Catholics to protestant sects.  His answer reveals that he has no clue why tens of millions have left the Church, the Church of their ancestors which was once strong, vibrant and essential to life.  He gave answers that are basically unresponsive to the real issue: why have people abandoned the Church in droves to self-appointed preachers or to nothing at all?

First, he wonders if these are sects or not.  Implicit in his remarks is the belief that a protestant sect is only a sect if they offer a message of prosperity or ask for money; otherwise, they are equivalent to the Church.  I guess that’s what he meant, but that’s gobblety-gook.  Well, if they are not the Church and profess to bring a Christian message, then they are a sect.  They have split from the Church, Her ministers, Her Sacraments and him as their leader.

Now, why would this happen?  Francis says because the sects offer personal contact, and that “clericalism” is to blame, for this clericalism creates a distance between the clergy and the people.  What is “clericalism” anyway?  Various definitions are the power of the clergy, or a policy upholding the power of the clergy, or the power and influence of the Church in political and secular matters, or an undue influence of the hierarchy and clergy in public affairs and government, or the system, spirit, or methods of the priesthood.  Negative connotations are always associated and implied with the use of the term.

Has clericalism really been such a problem in Mexico for the last hundred years?  If my recollection of history is correct, the Church in Mexico was attacked with many priests killed during the revolution a hundred years ago and the state had passed laws depriving the Church of Her property and curtailing Her ability to operate publicly, laws which have been eased somewhat only within the past few decades.  So how much of a problem has clericalism been?  I’m not Mexican and don’t live there, but I’d bet that clericalism is the last complaint about the Church any Mexican, except for an aged Jesuit, would even mention, let alone knew what it meant.  I suspect the same is true in the rest of Latin America.  If the clergy do get involved in politics, it is nearly always with the communists or socialists and in ways that attack the interests of the Church.  The truth is that the term was came out of the French Revolution, became fashionable in the nineteenth century and was used to justify attacks on the Church then and into the early years of the last century.  It is no longer fashionable but is still used to attack the Church today, nearly always by those within the Church, and usually with a sneer.

Yet, this is one of the big reasons why Catholics have left the Church, according to the pope, because clericalism is one of the biggest obstacles, he says, to the growth of the laity.  This belies the history of the Church in Latin America, where the Faith was brought by Spanish priests and religious, and then grew among the people through their participation.  I seem to recall that Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico and through his effort to to be obedient to her desire, converted the Aztecs by the millions and is credited with the spread of the Faith throughout Latin America.  In Venezuela, Maria Esperanza founded Betania on her land, where the Blessed Mother appeared and where pilgrimages draw thousands every year, and her Betanias have spread around the world.  These are two examples and many others exist, where the Faith was spread by the laity unobstructed by “clericalism”.

The other big reason for abandoning the Church according to our pope is  . . . boring homilies.  Of course, I said when I heard that.  In a flash, it came to me that this is the biggest reason of all why people in Latin America, and all over the world for that matter, have abandoned the Church for a protestant sect, or for nothing at all.  I’ve been trying to understand this phenomena but overlooked the glaring problem driving them away, those boring homilies.

So there you have the studied reasons for the problem of Catholics leaving the Church in droves, and which really has become a rapidly growing phenomena over the past three decades.  The problem stems, at its root, from the distance of the clergy from the laity, clericalism (sneer), and boring homilies.

I guess the Pinocchio Masses weren’t enough to stem the tide?  Or the dancers in the sanctuary?  Or the puppets?

If I set out to satire the pope, I never would have come up with this, but that is what this sounds like.  Yet, after the laughter dies down, what we have is a very sad situation where the head of the Church is in complete denial of the reasons.  He has to be, because his whole life has been dedicated to implementing and furthering the causes.  As the communists were in 1989, the pope and hierarchy are today.  So invested in their revolutionary programs, they could not admit that what they had built was no more than a house of cards set on sand, even when they felt the sand shifting and the cards begin to crumble, and when the collapse comes they grasp at the most ridiculous “reasons” for it, none of which are true, that the house of cards was built on a big lie.

The collapse of the Faith and the defection from the Church reflects the abandonment of True Liturgy and the imposition of a nearly inauthentic Mass.  That Mass has failed to communicate the richness of the Faith and the fundamental point of the Mass, which has led to the loss of the understanding of the Eucharist, which has led to the loss of reverence, and which has welcomed in the fads and downright stupidity of secular culture, and which has led to an even greater loss of the sense of the sacred and the point of worship in the Mass.  The proof is there for all to see.  These are the facts which anyone can know, not only by what they experience at their own Mass, but everywhere the New Mass is celebrated.  This is also in direct, stark contrast with the Tridentine Mass.  The Faith has been so demeaned that most no longer care, because people, often instinctively, know that what they are getting is contrived and inauthentic and are no longer convinced that the Truth is found in what is apparently becoming more and more a shadow of what the Church once was.

This is what we get from the pope to mark his second anniversary of his papacy: delusions.  At this point, with the evidence of a few decades in hand, we must attribute the collapse of Catholicism on such a wide scale and nearly everywhere to the “spirit of Vatican II” and the contrived new Liturgy.  So, by all means, let’s reinvigorate that “spirit”!

Lex ordandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

Evolucion del catolicismo

The journalist asks they Pope for a reflection on the proliferation of sects in Mexico and more generally in Latin America and the Churches’ responsibility in the loss of faithful. …

– The Pope begins to speak of evangelical movements and whether these are these sects or not. What they typically offer is personal contact, the ability to be close to the people, to greet and meet people in person.  He says that in Latin America  a strong clericalism creates a certain distance from people. Clericalism in Latin America has been one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of the laity. The laity in Latin America grew only thanks to popular piety, which the Pope says, has given the opportunity to lay people to be creative and free, through worship, processions etc… But organizationally, the laity has not grown enough and has not grown because of a clericalism that creates distance.
Returning to the question the Pope makes a distinction between honest and good evangelical movements and those that are considered sects. For example, there are proposals that are not religious and Christian evangelicals also reject them. There are sects – some originate from the theology of prosperity – that promise a better life and, although they appear animated by great religious spirit, eventually they ask for money.

You cannot generalize – says the Pope – but you have to evaluate each case.

The Pope also speaks of “disasterous” homilies as another reason for the flight of Catholics. “I do not know if they are the majority – but they do not reach the heart. They are lessons in theology and are abstract or long and this is why I devoted so much space to them in Evangeli Gaudium. Typically evangelicals are close to the people, they aim for the heart and prepare their homilies really well. I think we have to have a conversion in this. The Protestant concept of the homily is much stronger than the Catholic. It’s almost a sacrament”. In conclusion, the Pope says that the flight of Catholics is caused by distance, clericalism, boring homilies as opposed to closeness, work, integration, the burning word of God. And it is a phenomenon that affects not only the Church but also the evangelical communities series.

The Pope concludes his discussion by citing the importance of the work undertaken between the Church and evangelical pastors in Buenos Aires.

Posted in Faith, Family, Jesuits, Life, Parish Life, Pope Francis the Muddle-Headed?, Profaning the Eucharist or Trying To, The Mass, The Point of The Blog, The Priesthood
3 comments on “Latin American Collapse Of Catholicism: Pope Francis Diagnoses Clericalism and Bad Homilies As Culprits?
  1. Maggie says:

    I would have thought lack of catechesis and holiness and the embracing of political agendas that did not seek the salvation of souls to be culprits.


  2. alexios1987 says:

    The Pope makes sense with what he is saying. Evangelicals are better in contact with the people and in teaching through their homilies. I’m Latin American, in my experience those parishes with a charismatic priest that can preach well and applies the readings to daily life are the best at getting the laity involved. Clericalism in Latin America is real. We can’t use a purely American and Western European lense. Latin America has a whole other set of issues that have little to do with liturgical liberalism.


    • steveesq says:

      A Catholic Mass though is Jesus and His Sacrifice on the Cross, and the Eucharist is Jesus, deserving of our utmost reverence and respect. That we know and understand this and how we express this understanding in our worship is not culturally specific, and is first and foremost the point of the Mass, not depending on whether the preacher is warm and fuzzy and gives them big hugs to keep people coming. But if people don’t have a real understanding of this, then the Church is nothing more than any other social organization, and the charismatic preacher necessary. In fact, Saint Paul said scripture needs to be heard. Not read or expounded upon, but heard. The problem in Latin America is the bad catechesis en masse which cannot be ameliorated by attending Mass because of what it lacks and which the traditional Latin Mass offers in contrast. I don’t know why this is what it is but it does clearly show a connection between the adoption of the new Mass and the state of the Church today, where Catholics don’t know the Faith, profane the Eucharist because they receive unworthily and are practical heretics in beliefs and practices. They learn some of this and are affirmed in the rest by priests, bishops and cardinals. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi is a maxim for a reason. For whatever the explanation is, the change in the form of the rite led to all the tawdry, jingoistic, trite, worldly, goofy, abominable, irreverent, cacophonic, ad libbed Masses we’ve all encountered and still do nearly all over the world. That led to communion while standing and on the hand and to the fact that more than half of all catholics don’t know or believe in the Real presence, among other novelities since the new Mass was adopted. That undeniable connection is the culprit, and maybe things need to be righted by the Mass of the ages, and not the Mass of the age of Aquarius, and not the symptoms of a perceived lack of priestly charisma and being priests (clericalism). The pope makes sense, but he’s totally wrong by calling a symptom the disease. Pope Benedict correctly identified this and was seeking a way to fix it, but Francis seeks to undermine that, and instead gives us bad homilies as a cause.


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