First of all, like the rest of Christianity, Catholicism is no longer European.
In fact, Catholicism is, surprisingly, a bit less European than Christianity as a whole. 25.6% of all Christians live in Europe today while only 23.9% of Catholics are European. This is because the Catholic portion of Europe dropped from 44.4% to 37.8%.
In 1910, over 70% of Catholics lived in the west. Only 32% of Catholics live in Europe, North America, and Oceania today.
As as we seen in my earlier post, Decline in the West, the projections right now are that European Catholicism will constitute an even smaller percentage of the Body Catholic in the near future.
P. S. The popular idea floating around St. Blog's that all the current problems in Europe was caused by the Second Vatican Council is simply not true. As the Atlas of Global Christianity points out, European Christianity was already declining in 1950. Little things like the rise of Communism and Fascism, revolution (Russia) and vicious civil war (Spain), not to mention two World Wars in 31 years in which 43 million Europeans died (and many wonderful Christian leaders cut down), hundreds of millions were displaced, and all sorts of national boundaries redrawn, created a major crisis of faith for many people. There's a reason that Maisie Ward, of the famous Catholic publishers Sheed & Ward, wrote an alarming book called "Is France Pagan?" in 1943!
We need to realize that European Protestantism has also taken a big dive: from 15.1% of Europeans in 1910 to 9.3% today. Protestant Christians in western Europe dropped from 31.7% to 17.6%. Pretty obviously, the Second Vatican Council can not be held responsible for that development!
The de facto center of Catholicism is now Latin America. Since Catholics make up roughly 50% of the world's Christians in 2010, it makes sense that the Atlas of Global Christianity observes that the new global language of Christianity as a whole is Spanish. However, we need to remember that the Catholic population of Latin America dropped from 90.3% to 80.5% in the last hundred years while South America's Catholics declined from 92.4 to 79.9%.
You may be asking, is there any good news out there? Indeed there is.
Between 1910 and 2010, Catholicism grew faster than the human race in Africa, Asia, North America, and Oceania. Catholic numbers soared in Africa, from 0.6% of the population in 1910 to 16.4% in 2010. Middle Africa is now over 44% Catholic. Catholics also more than doubled in Asia (from 1.3 to 3.3%) and rose to 25.1% in Oceania. 61% of the people of Micronesia are now Catholic while North American Catholics grew from 16% to 24.2% of the population.
But Catholicism's share of the human race (16.7%) has hardly budged because the losses in Europe and Latin America offset the growth elsewhere. Still growing only 0.1% is a bit better than Christianity did as a whole - dropping 1.6% since 1910.
Here's a graph showing the 6 major Christian traditions over the past century. Note that Catholicism's upward climb stalled in 1950 and then began to decline after 1970. Which is right about the time that the Catholic missionary movement, as a whole, dropped the proclamation of the gospel as the center of mission ad extra. Note the steady, dramatic climb of Independent Christianity.
In 40 years, the AGC projects that Christianity as a whole will slowly grow to include 35% of the human race. But in 2050, the editors believe that Catholics will have dropped to 45.5% of all Christians while the heirs of the Reformation (classic Protestants, Independents, and Marginal Christians) will continue to grow faster than the human race. Based upon current projections (caused primarily by the population implosion in Russia) the Orthodox will drop to 8.4% of the Christian world.
History could be repeating itself in strange ways. In 500 AD, Orthodox Christians made up 75% of the baptized. Then Orthodoxy declined slowly for centuries while the number of Catholics grew until, in the 11th century, the previously unthinkable happened, and western Catholics became the majority of the world's Christians for the first time.
In the 21st century, we seem to be poised on the edge of yet another seachange. The heirs of the Reformation (Protestants, Independents, Marginals) could become the new majority in the course of this century as historic, liturgical Christianity (Catholicism & Orthodoxy) becomes the new global minority. Here are numbers:
1910 Catholics (47.6%) & Orthodox (20.4%) together made up 68% of all Christians. Reformation Christians were 32%.
2010 Catholics (49.9%) & Orthodox (11.7%) together make up 61.6% of all Christians. Reformation Christians are now 38.4%.
2050 Catholics (45.5%) & Orthodox (8.4%) together are projected to comprise 53.9% of all Christians.
And Reformation Christians would be at 46.1%. For the first time in history, the heirs of the Reformation could outnumber Catholics.
Of course, all of this could change. Who, in 1910, expected the changes that would come to Christianity in the 20th century? Wars, disaster, revival, religious collapse, the rise of new global powers with religious agendas, etc. There are so many different forces that could change the course of Christianity's future. There are so many things that could change the course of Catholicism's future. Like you and me.
We have done it before. You can read about it here and here and here and here.
It is our generation that has to decide if we are willing to be used by God in the 21st century as the Generation of Saints was used in France to meet the needs of the Church and the world four centuries ago.
Next up for your reading pleasure: Anglicanism Circa 2010