Aug 23, 2006

Evangelism in Latin America

The Australian news site MercatorNet is the best Catholic news site I've seen with its excellent commentaries that have previously been recommended by other Catholic bloggers, including Fumare, Amy Welborn, and Curt Jester. One recent news item you don't want to miss is entitled Latin Rapture.

In the MercatorNet article, two Catholic priests in Latin America comment on the huge growth of Protestant Pentecostals in the last 30 years. Some of their very interesting observations:
  • “I believe that if Latin America is still following a Christian path, it is thanks to the evangelicals”
  • n 1900 there were only 25,000 evangelicals in all of Latin America. Now, in Argentina, there are said to be four million Pentecostals and in Brazil 25 million. In Brazil it is claimed that they represent 18 per cent of the population; in Chile 25 per cent; in Colombia 35 per cent; and in Guatemala 45 per cent. (Exact figures are hard to come by.)
  • “Those 16th century Protestants have turned liberal; they accept, for example, abortion and gay marriage,” says Father Julio Elizaga, a Catholic priest who has been working in ecumenism in Uruguay and Latin America for 56 years. “That’s why their churches are empty. The Methodists used to have around 3,500 to 4,000 members in Uruguay. Now there are just 500”
  • “official figures show that in Latin America 11 per cent of the population is evangelical, most of them practising. Pentecostals don’t have two groups of mere believers and practising believers... Some people say that they are Catholic but never go to Mass. This doesn’t happen among the Pentecostals.”
  • How did the Pentecostals seize the initiative? Pastorino argues that Catholics took their eyes off the ball. “In the 1960s part of the Catholic Church followed the ‘progressive’ ideas of the day. Even its language become more sociological; it sidelined mysticism and eschatology,” Pastorino said. It was also a time when, says Father Elizaga, more than 100 priests walked off the job in Uruguay. The door was open for the Pentecostals.
  • However, like most Protestant denominations, Pentecostals are a fractious lot and this hampers their growth in Latin America. “Pentecostal churches are divided; they have neither an authority nor an episcopate. This is their worst problem,” says Father Elizaga. “If they maintained a united front, they would be a devastating force”


Radical Catholic Mom said...

I served missions in Latin America and I would like to offer some of my own thoughts on this topic. It is something I have mulled over because I too realized that Catholics en masse were leaving the Church.
I think the #1 problem in Latin America is the Church. Let me explain. The Church is in SERIOUS crisis. The corruption is absolutely terrible and the catechesis is very poor. The priests and many nuns are SCANDALOUS!
I went there as a missionary, worked for the Church, and almost lost my Faith. I was so scandalized by gay priests living their "lifestyles" or priests who were living very wealthy lives despite the crushing poverty that surrounded them! I had the privilege to work with wonderful, wonderful lay men at Caritas. These men were from all over Latin America, highly educated. Most of them were ex-seminarians. When I asked them why they had left, they told me that were so discouraged at what happened at their seminaries that they lost their vocations! This story is repeated regardless of where these men were from.
I TRULY believe that if we want a Church on Fire for God and His Sacraments, we DESPERATELY NEED good priests and nuns!
I am not entirely sure it is a bad thing that so many are practicing Protestants now. For so many of them, it is the first time that they are receiving any education about God.
Also, the Church is often times IN BED with the Government. The poor are not dumb. They know who their friends are and most of the time the Church screws them as much as their Government does.

Dust I Am said...

I find your comments most informative, but depressing. It's almost as if Jesus has cursed Catholic churches that no longer follow Him. Do you believe that is possible? What do you believe will be the result? Is this apostasy? I tend to believe that apostasy is the only word that really describes the past 40 years.

Radical Catholic Mom said...

Here is what I tell myself so that I can continue to be Catholic. #1 These are God's priests and God's Bishops. They are ultimately HIS problem, not mine. My job is to grow in Faith to the best of my ability which leads me to #2 Priests are a means to my end. I need them for my sacraments and that is it. #3 It is my job to evangelize as many people as I can in an authentic manner, without compromising Church teaching.
When I get too depressed I remember that Jesus is from King David and King David was one big loser, I have to say. It gives me hope because Jesus seems to align Himself with Losers and if there is hope for them, there is hope for me.