Pope Francis is in Brazil for World Youth Day. According to USA Today part of the Pope’s mission is to help stop Catholics from abandoning the Church in favor of evangelical and often Pentecostal Protestant churches.
What is fueling the shift from Catholicism to Protestantism? According to the paper many Catholics prefer the ecstatic worship style of charismatic and Pentecostal churches, and find the message delivered there to be more relevant to their lives.
I asked an Hispanic pastor I know why this might be so. He said that people want to tap into something greater than themselves, and the ecstasy generated in some charismatic churches may do just that, while the more introspective nature of the Catholic Mass doesn’t.
As for the message Protestant churches offer and the Catholic Church lacks, he suggests it the Protestant focus on the individual: Jesus wants you to succeed and be wealthy, and will support you if you join the capitalist entrepreneurial cause. The Catholic message, he says, is more focused on helping the poor through social justice than it is on helping you out of poverty by faithfully embracing capitalism.
I have no way of testing these ideas, but I would love to hear from you on this. If you are Catholic, help us understand the challenges your church is facing, and why you think Catholics in Latin America are trending Protestant. If you made the change yourself, tell us why. If you are a life-long Protestant, tell us what you think is lacking in the Catholic Church and why Protestantism, especially in its charismatic and Pentecostal forms is so enticing to people.
Let’s see if we can learn from one another.