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Pope, drugs & Brazil

Pope in Brazil (May 2007)I read an article in the Miami Herald today on Pope Benedict XVI in Brazil saying “Drug dealers face God’s wrath”on the front page.  Americans (especially non-believers) must see that (like I did) and say “Duh! — the Pope just discovered drugs are bad?”  I think it’s because most Americans forget how many Latin American countries have government officials so influenced by drug dealers (like special interests in our country), that they’ve been numbed to any promises of changes.  A fresh outside voice may jump-start the hard work that needs to be done to bring healing.  With nearly half of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics in Latin America, the churches are experiencing an “exodus” of the faithful, like in Europe:

”People only go to church to ask for a favor, and when they get it, they go away.” …”People don’t know what church they belong to anymore, and they’re trying out everything.”

Surveys show that although Brazil remains the world’s largest Roman Catholic country, Catholics are now only 64% of the population, down from 89% in 1980. Those calling themselves evangelical Protestants rose to 15% from 7%.

What’s going on?  I can’t say I’m surprised about the numbers.  What’s always surprised me is how most Latin Americans can be Catholic in the first place.  They have such an extremely patriarchal culture, where woman are expected to ignore “modesty” and ignore their men’s extra-extramarital affairs as a by-product of being over-sexualized.  I understand that our response to our Catholic faith differs dependent on our culture, but this kind of culture make Catholicism so superficial that it justify the exodus.  I hope and pray that the Latin American and Caribbean bishops’ conference finds some practical ways to awaken a “purified” fruitful response, and not just a paper mission statement.  If they don’t, ministry to Latin Americans, especially in south Florida, will continue to be an uphill battle that the church can’t ignore.

Kermit?  Anyone?  

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