July 16, 2005

A Short Note on Pope Benedict and the Secular West

Chad Orzel of Uncertain Principles has an interesting take on a concern about the direction of the Catholic Church under Pope Benedict. His last few words sum it up.

Yeah, they could take some steps that would make the Church more appealing to secular Western societies. But they don't need to, and it shouldn't shock anybody when they opt not to.

In fact, he implies or perhaps I infer that they may not see it as in their interest to accommodate the secular west.

I think the proper conclusion to draw from recent events, starting with the selection of Ratzinger as Pope, is that they don't really feel compelled to try to appeal to secular and liberal Westerners. And, really, it's not hard to understand why they would make that decision, given that something on the high side of 80% of the world's population is not secular Western types.

Most of the Catholic Church's target audience is in that >80% group. I hope that he is wrong but I think he just may be correct. Good marketing requires identifying the target market and focusing on it. The problem the Church faces is that the target market for their message and the target market for fund raising are out of phase. Most marketers have the advantage of have a cash flow from those who buy their goods. In one way, this is true for religions also, but the problem is that the undeveloped part of the market does not pay its way for a long time. So cash must flow from the established areas to the mission areas. Catholics in South America are now paying their way but they are also becoming increasingly secularized, while Catholics in Africa are not paying their way and will not for sometime. If what I inferred from Orzel's post is correct, that moving away from the secular west is a strategic move, it is certainly a dangerous one for the Church.

Remember that the Catholic Church or any religious group for that matter, it is not secular almost by definition. The central beliefs of all religions are opposed to the central beliefs of secularists. There are often broad areas where one can accommodate the other. But the interests of any religious institutions are different and often opposed to secular interests. Insofar as we are now engaged in a cultural war, it is exactly over the conflicts of the interests between religion and secularism. There is no surprise in a church showing little interests in those of us in the secular west.

Posted by Duane Smith at July 16, 2005 4:43 PM | Read more on Religion |

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