The Future Church: Some Trends for Roman Catholicism and Christianity

It never dawned on me this discursively until now. But almost every night, when i’m not alone in silence, i play with Hans and Mommy the charismatic songs of Hillsong, a Bible-based Church in Australia known for their electric Christian songs. Hans loves it to dance with it until told it’s sleeping time for him. In my predominantly pensive days, i am shaking off a bit myself and tap the charismatic energy within and dance with the gang! If you have been to a charismatic service, you surely know what is so enticing about it – the spontaneity of praise, the less by-the-book lifting up of petitions. It’s less the rigor and predictability of kneeling and sitting and standing of Roman worship that the Catholic mass is patterned after. And the most encouraging for most worshippers – the active participation.

I am mentioning this in view of the data that i will be sharing with. These are trends culled from a long review by Professor Philip Jenkins of Penn State University of the book written by John Allen entitled  The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church (2009). If you are interested enough, you can go directly to this very enlightening albeit long article Professor Jenkins wrote for the National Interest online. Here are the 10 major trends or areas of radical challenge and change:

  • “A World Church,”
  • “Evangelical Catholicism,”
  • “Islam,”
  • “The New Demography,”
  • “Expanding Lay Roles,”
  • “The Biotech Revolution,”
  • “Globalization,”
  • “Ecology,”
  • “Multipolarism” and
  • “Pentecostalism.”

What will Roman Catholicism look like 20 or 25 years from now? On the spiritual level, while it remains presumptuous to exactly predict what the Church will be in a quarter of a decade after, nevertheless, the social data point strongly to some emerging directions.

“A World Church”

Roman Catholicism would be less Europe-centered but South-directed:

“A Church dominated in the twentieth century by the global North, meaning Europe and North America, today finds two thirds of its members living in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Catholic leadership will come from all over the world in this century to a degree never before experienced.”

“By 2025, almost three-quarters of Catholics will live in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and that figure does not even count people of the global South living in the North—for instance, the 60 or 70 million U.S. residents who will then claim Latino origin. By 2050, the nations with the largest Catholic populations will be (in descending order): Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, the United States, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, France, Italy, Nigeria and Argentina. All these projections have a sizable margin of error. The inclusion of France, for instance, is dubious when recent surveys show less than half of French people accept even a notional Catholic label. Surely, baptism alone does not make a Catholic for life? But the broad picture is beyond question. By 2050, the Catholic Church will be, overwhelmingly, a Southern institution. The Vatican, arguably, is located two thousand miles too far north.”

Between 2001-2006:

“The Catholic population in Africa increased 16.7 percent, with a 19.4 percent increase in priests and a 9.4 percent increase in graduate- or theologate-level seminarians. In Asia, the Catholic population increased 9.5 percent.”

“Evangelical Catholicism”

As Roman Catholicism grows in its African, Latin American, or Asian population, so will there be a change in its style of worship which will be more charismatic, lively, and participatory:

“That a Southern-rooted Catholic Church will be Charismatic or Pentecostal seems almost inevitable.”


“Europe can only keep operating by importing new people to do the work and pay the taxes. And because of geography and imperial tradition, those migrants have tended to come from Muslim lands…”

“A Church whose primary interreligious relationship for the last forty years has been with Judaism now finds itself struggling to come to terms with a newly assertive Islam, not just in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, but in its own European backyard.”

“The New Demography”

“The economically advanced regions that led this drop in progeny production have seen a dramatic fall in their share of world population. If we combine the figures for Europe, North America and the lands of the former Soviet Union, in 1950, these global North regions accounted for 29 percent of the global populace. By 1970 the share had fallen to 25 percent, and to around 18 percent by 2000. By 2050 the figure should be around 10 or 12 percent. Africa and Latin America combined made up only 13 percent of the world’s people in 1900, but that figure grew to 21 percent by 2000, and should reach 29 percent by 2050. In 1900 Northerners outnumbered Southerners by about 2.5 to 1; by 2050 the proportion will be almost exactly reversed.”

“It means that the Church will soon have to accommodate those legions of Southern believers within its power structure.”

“Americans had eleven cardinals in the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, for example, the same number as all of Africa, even though Africa has twice the Catholic population. Brazil, the largest Catholic country on earth, only had three votes, which works out to one cardinal-elector for every 6 million American Catholics and for every 43 million Catholics in Brazil.”

“Expanding Lay Roles”

That traditional clerical authority declines or collapses is also happening and new “leaders draw their authority not from institution grounded in a particular tradition but from charisma” (some religious leaders run for public office; others get wealthy with their megachurches). Indeed, there is a strong clamor from the part of the laity to be truly involved as essential members of the Church, or better, less “infantilized” because more and more of them are getting interested in practical theology and the spiritual life.

“The Biotech Revolution”

Just last week, the Vatican newspaper L’Obsservatore Romano published a report labelling a current research on a new source of stem cells the “future of medicine”. But a lot of wrestling (or hopefully dialogue) with science is still going on and will take place.


It’s the challenge of the ideology of the free market or freefalling capitalism that most conservatives often preach about, and on on how the Church is going to deal with intergovernmental organizations and multinational corporations that drive its own own polar forces as well as shape our cultural mindsets.


A lot on this topic is going on except that environmental destruction for example is less viewed and accepted by both the secular and the religious circles as a spiritual crisis and a failure in theological thinking (a lot of this has been cradled by German rationalism) as Anglican solitary Maggie Ross has pointed out.


Almost everybody is aware that the Roman Catholic voice is not the only voice in the socio-political arena. It is only one voice among the many voices of opinions and insights on worldly matters.

“Liberal attitudes to abortion, contraception, divorce and homosexuality all spread rapidly in Ireland, Italy and Spain, and to such an extent that in sexual matters,Spain now has one of the world’s most radical and progressive regimes. Since the early 1990s, divorce rates have grown sharply. Between 1995 and 2004, the divorce rate grew by 89 percent in Portugal, 62 percent in Italy, and 59 percent in Spain. While Irish rates are much lower, the country finally legislated the possibility of divorce in 1997, following a contentious referendum in which the yea-sayers gained a paper-thin margin of 50.28 percent.”


Perhaps, the most interesting trend that is going to challenge Roman Catholicism in its liturgical life. Locally, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches listed at least 65 evangelical churches as its members. Commonly nowadays, young Catholics especially swing between Catholic worship (especially during big liturgical events like Christmas) and charismatic ones like the celebrities-packed Victory Christian Fellowship and many other churches. In the United States, more and more Hispanic Americans are turning Pentecostals. So is the same trend in most Latin American and Catholic countries. I guess more and more people are getting thirsty for participatory, livelier, and spontaneous styles of worship.

 The author John Allen according to Professor Jenkins argues that Roman Catholicism continues as a cultural force as it multiplies its members. It is growing. But a caveat has to be taken into account here – quantity is not equal to conformity with the “mind of Christ,” one that seems possible only in the very foundation of faith which is the big S…the self-emptying Silence of God…It makes me wonder where the “contemplative gaze” is within these trends and in a world that will certainly get more wordy even in its worship, and power struggle in the Church, not simply circumstantial. Just wondering with Mr. Bean:

2 thoughts on “The Future Church: Some Trends for Roman Catholicism and Christianity

  1. i do share most of your obeservations…as i am dealing directly with trendings (in the future)…this will be a new phase in the Church and a paradigm shift of being in the Catholic Church… fact the current project – work Im delving into has to deal precisely with the future ( i kow you know exactly what I mean).

    kudos for this masterpice

  2. Thanks kuya blu for sharing a bit about yourself and your work. I sense from your blog (especially the earlier posts) that you have a repository of research materials at hand. Parang mahilig ka talaga mangalaykay hehe…I’m glad also that you are not taking this personally. Marami akong ka-FB kagaya mo, hehe but this is nothing personal. System lang talaga ang nasisilip ko madalas. But on the individual level, even the Pope, i so admire him for his spiritual depth. I just read his message for the World Day of the Sick. The message is so deeply human and warm. You know what i mean kuya blu hehe…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s