1. Purple ecclesiologyRead the whole thing!
"Purple ecclesiology" refers to the notion that the lead actors in the Catholic drama are the clergy, and in fact, the only activity that really counts as "Catholic" at all is that carried out by the church's clerical caste, especially its bishops. You can always spot purple ecclesiology at work when you hear someone say "the church" when what they really mean is "the hierarchy."
... Seeing the church through a purple filter is misleading, even if all we take into view is the visible, institutional dimension of Catholic life. Most Catholic schools, hospitals, social service centers, movements and associations, even chanceries and parish headquarters, are staffed overwhelmingly by laywomen and men. More deeply, however, the church doesn't exist for itself, but to change the world, which means that if its message is to penetrate the various realms of culture -- medicine, law, the academy, politics, the economy and so on -- it's either going to be carried there by laity, or not at all...
2. A church in decline
The popular take on Catholicism these days tends to be that it's a church in crisis. Rocked by sex scandals, bruising political fights and financial shortfalls, it seems to be hemorrhaging members -- a recent Pew Forum study found there are now 22 million ex-Catholics in America, which would be the country's second-largest religious body after what's left of the Catholic church itself -- as well as clustering parishes, closing institutions and struggling to hand on the faith to the next generation.
The overall perception is that this is an era of Catholic entropy -- decline, contraction, things getting smaller.
Seen from global perspective, however, that's just wildly wrong. The last half-century witnessed the greatest period of missionary expansion in the 2,000-year history of Catholicism, fueled by explosive growth in the southern hemisphere. Take sub-Saharan Africa as a case in point: The Catholic population at the dawn of the 20th century was 1.9 million, while by the end of the century it was more than 130 million, representing a staggering growth rate of 6,708 percent. Overall, the global Catholic footprint shot up from 266 million in 1900 to 1.1 billion in 2000, ahead of the overall rate of increase in world population, and is still rising today...
3. Christianity is the oppressor, not the oppressed
Of all the popular misconceptions about Catholicism, and about Christianity in general, this is arguably the most pernicious.
Stoked by historical images of the Crusades and the Inquisition, and even by current perceptions of the wealth and power of church leaders and institutions, it's tough for Western observers to wrap their minds around the fact that in a growing number of global hotspots, Christians today are the defenseless oppressed, not the arrogant oppressors.
Here's the stark reality of our times: In the early 21st century, we are witnessing the rise of a whole new generation of Christian martyrs...
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
John Allen: 3 myths about the church
Great article from fair-minded Catholic journalist John Allen of the liberal NCR. Three myths to give up for Lent:
Posted by Mr. Alan Phipps, O.P. at 3/07/2012