From their point of view, the US isn’t the problem

From their point of view, the US isn’t the problem

In his “Word from Rome” column a couple of weeks ago, John Allen interviewed Francis Rooney, US ambassador to the Vatican, and among his questions he noted that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Holy See seemed to promote a unified Europe as a counterweight to the US’s dominance in world affairs, but with the runaway secularism of Europe now appears to see the US as the best institutional ally of Christianity.

That raises an interesting point. Many people, most notably American Catholics blog commenters, often lament that the Vatican seems to do very little about the state of the Church in the US. But if you look at it from Rome’s point of view, the sad fact may be that the Church in the US looks relatively healthy compared to the Church in Europe. Take a look at the Catholic Conservation blog by Gillibrand sometime, or Closed Cafeteria by Gerald Augustinus, and see the documentation of what is happening in the Church in Europe. It makes the worst excesses of the LA Religious Education Congress look like a Tridentine Mass.

Here in the US, at least we have 30 percent attendance. In Europe it’s worse. Sure, we have Voice of the Faithful and Call to Action, but they’re small potatoes compared to We Are Church. They look at the US and see a generally Christian country, in which religious values play out in national politics, where the abortion issue is still very much a big deal, where the leading politicians of both major political parties must still at least give the appearance of religious practice, and so on. Not so in Europe.

That’s not to minimize the very real problems we do have in the US. I’m just saying that maybe it explains how and why the Vatican reacts to the situation here as it does. From where they sit, the US isn’t the biggest fire they have to put out.

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  • Oremus:

    I understand very well that this can be a case of, “Is the cup half empty or half full?” And certainly in comparison to Europe, the US might look good. But Church officials here and there are kidding themselves to think that there is vitality here. We are simply riding on the crest of the stability and strength of the pervious years.

    Think about where the Vatican gets its report on the state of the Church in the US from: the bishops! Think they’re going to report accurately on how things are in their diocese?

  • I know things are bad in this country, but I have to say, where I live, we see large numbers of people coming into the Church every year. Young people, families or single. One of the parishes in my local diocese added 83 people this year, many of them being baptised as well as confirmed. I’m not saying that things are great, we have serious problems, and the increase of numbers doesn’t fix that. But it is not just older people going to Mass. In some parts of the country, it is much more polarized. But in other places, we are gaining a lot of younger people who are very excited about their faith. We have religious orders having to expand to a new area, because they have too many people coming in.

    We have so many problems, and we need so much more than we are getting. But I am amazed at how many young people I meet who were raised in liberal families and are actively seeking out the Catholic Church and her orthodox teachings.