Pope Benedict XVI has begun to sing praise of the generosity of American Catholics in their welcoming of new immigrants, as well as backing the commitment by bishops toward immigration reform in the country.
This announcement comes at a time when immigration is all the rage in America (or object of rage), with the DREAM Act fighting to stay alive, deportations being handed out like condoms at a college campus and Election Day fast approaching. Strange that the Holy See has been relatively quiet on the issue up until now, isn’t it?
The convenience of this announcement probably shouldn’t be overlooked. A huge number of immigrants coming to the United States are from Latin America, a global bastion of Catholicism and one of the strongest legacies of the Spanish Empire. A flood of Catholicism here could, in theory, give other papal positions stronger legitimacy in the United States – a largely Protestant nation. Not only that, but more Catholics here could draw some flak away from the Church.
However, this does not mean Latinos will vote and support the Church lock-step. It has already been pointed out that Latinos do not all see eye to eye when it comes to God. While we certainly might not seem like we pray as one, what difference does it make? The Vatican’s focus on the Americas is probably as narrow-minded as its focus on women’s rights.
Let’s keep the bigger picture in mind, though. At 57,199,000 followers, Catholics make up a pretty impressive section of Christians in America all on their own. Census 2010 data shows a large Catholic population; however, this is a drop in the bucket. The total Christian population in America, when counting Catholics and 31 other denominations is a whopping 173,402,000. Given the total number of Christians in America, the impact of the Catholic vote is relatively low. There is a reason why there are so many Christian denominations: they didn’t agree with the Papacy in the past.
Also, America has elected only one Catholic president in its history, President Kennedy, and the United States is a country built on the idea of independence from outside thinking and input on how it does things.
This isn’t 1492, the Catholic Church is far from the main religious entity in the world, and its word is losing the power it once wielded.
By Dustin Mendus, guest contributor.