BY DAVID JACKSONS
What united a high percent of white Catholics and Evangelicals to vote for President Donald Trump was basic opposition to abortion. The Evangelical view of a connection between recognition of Jerusalem and the apocalypse has not been main stream thought in Catholicism.
There has been strong fallout for Evangelicals after the chaotic election between Roy Moore, whom many of them supported, and his opponent and the ultimate winner, Democrat Doug Jones. A similar reaction has not been part of U.S. Catholicism.
Underscoring the Evangelical fallout, Editor Mark Galli wrote in Christianity Today: “No one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.”
“Christianity has died in the hands of Evangelicals,” echoed theologian Miguel De La Torre in the Baptist News. “Evangelicalism ceased being a religious faith tradition following Jesus’ teachings concerning justice for the betterment of humanity when it made a Faustian bargain for the sake of political influence. The beauty of the gospel message — of love, of peace and of fraternity — has been murdered by the ambitions of Trumpish flimflammers who have sold their souls for expediency. No greater proof is needed of the death of Christianity than the rush to defend a child molester in order to maintain a majority in the U.S. Senate. Evangelicals have constructed an exclusive interpretation which fuses and confuses white supremacy with salvation.”
Finally New York Times columnist Russ Douthat wrote: “The story of American religion lately has been one of institutional decline, of Mainline Protestantism’s aging and Catholicism’s weakening and the rise of the so-called “nones.”
He posed the question whether Evangelicals will survive the age of Trump. “Some evangelical voices think not. … Whether the subject is the debauched pagan in the White House, the mall-haunted candidacy of Roy Moore or the larger question of how to engage with secular culture, there is talk of an intergenerational crisis within evangelical churches, a widening disillusionment with a Trump-endorsing old guard, a feeling that a crackup must loom ahead.”
The time is ripe for the Catholics in the United States, especially the U.S. bishops, to take a hard look at “Catholicism’s weakening and the rise of so-called “nones.”
What Mark Galli and Miguel de la Torre wrote about Evangelicals, I believe applies also to U.S. Catholicism: “No one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.”
In U.S. Catholicism statistics about the Sacraments, particularly baptism, Eucharistic attendance, marriage and anointing of the sick, reveal a continuing decline. (The decline would be even more obvious if not mitigated by the growth of Hispanic and Asian families.)
Some of the decline must be attributed to the fallout from the sexual abuse crisis. Some of it also is connected to Millennials rejecting the church’s stance on pelvic issues.
But this rejection is not limited to the millennial age group. The sense of the faithful has almost totally rejected the Catholic Church’s position on birth control.
Abortion and religious liberty are where the U.S. bishops have put their money and energy. Recently there have been some meaningful positions taken on immigration and tax reform. But these positions seldom make it into Sunday preaching or even parish bulletins.
We do hear quite often of the U.S. bishops’ reluctance to embrace Pope Francis. There is ever growing concern about the number of priests who are characterized as “Restorationists.”
The most common definition of this term means not accepting the decrees and direction of the Second Vatican Council and restoring liturgical emphasis that existed prior to the Second Vatican Council.
I have been frustrated with the emphases of the Catholic Church under the two previous popes. I write as a full supporter of Pope Francis and the direction he is taking the Catholic Church.