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Effects of a Rising Religious Tide PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Friday, 15 February 2008 21:58
John Allen has an interesting article on the effects of Evangelicalism on the Catholics of Texas, which you can read here. Since I'm in Texas this week doing a parish mission at the historic Sacred Heart Church in Palestine ("PAL - uh - steen", as the locals pronounce it) I found it particularly interesting.

I was told that Catholics make up about 4% of the population in east Texas, and the vast majority of folks here are Baptists. The parishioner who picked me up at the airport - 90 minutes away - told me the parish of 800 families was a mix of dwindling Anglos and a rapidly increasing number of Latinos, all led by a jovial Indian pastor, Msgr. Zacharias Kunnakkattuthara.

Allen looks at the wide variety of "Catholicisms" in Texas and makes one broad generalization that rings true in my ears:

The moral of the story is that competition (within the limits of civility and mutual respect) is as healthy in religion as it is in any other area of life.

Texas thus offers a classic American illustration of a basic principle of religious sociology -- where there is religious ferment of any sort, there is likely to be Catholic dynamism too. Far from being threatened by pluralism, for the most part Catholicism ought to welcome it. To invoke a classic Aggie formula, a vibrant religious marketplace is basically “Good Bull.”

I found this to be true in my two years in Salt Lake City, UT, the heart of Mormonism (the soul of Mormonism is further south, in Provo). The Catholic community was much more tight-knit (but not uptight), better catechized, and clearer about the essence of Catholicism than other places I have been, simply because the so-called "dominant culture" was, well, so dominant. Catholics in Utah, in general, had to know their faith because it was constantly being questioned. They were also less prone to attack one another over liturgical preferences and more likely to support Catholic education.

Often, being Catholic meant making sacrifices that normally aren't encountered in areas that are more heterogeneous. I was told by Catholics there that sometimes their children might be excluded from activities organized by their Mormon playmates' families, or that when seeking jobs they felt their chances weren't enhanced when they were casually asked outside the interview, "what ward to you attend?" But because so many Mormons took their faith seriously, Catholics responded, and took their faith more seriously, too.

Now, if we all could pursue our relationship with Jesus and His Church more intentionally in the face of a secular culture that is well, enthusiastically secular, we'd be in much better spiritual shape!

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