In his address to the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) Saturday, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said the U.S. Church was having a “Latino moment”; that because the population in the United States is increasingly comprised of Latinos, Catholic bishops should recognize the importance of Latino issues and try to attract more Latino Catholics into churches because they are the future of the Church in America.
As National Catholic Register reported, prior to beginning his address, Chaput paused to pray for the unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors flooding across the border from Mexico into the United States, whom he described as being “stuck in an ugly kind of limbo.”
“There’s simply no excuse for the suffering of children and families,” the archbishop stated. “I hope each of us will find time today to pray for the young people caught in our immigration mess, and also for the officials who need to deal with this reality quickly and humanely.”
“I believe we are at a very powerful ‘Latino moment’ in our Church – a moment that takes nothing away from the dignity or importance of any other ethnic community, but that simply acknowledges, again, that demography is destiny,” Chaput told members of CALL, a national organization devoted to the growth and spiritual formation of Latino leaders of the United States.
The archbishop said the election of the Latino Pope Francis was yet another example of this “Latino moment,” because “the election of a Latin American Pope dramatically highlights the importance of the Latino community in our country, and it practically shouts out an invitation for Catholic Latino leadership.”
The archbishop warned the Latino Catholics about the increasingly secular culture of the United States. He observed that living the gospel message is a challenge that is not new to the Church, and pointed to a situation that developed in the 12th century with the Cathars, followers of a dualistic heresy who believed that all matter or anything with a human influence was evil and corrupt.
Chaput explained that Cathars rejected marriage, family, government, and the Church, and ultimately held the conviction that the human race should stop reproducing in order to be free of the corruption of created matter.
Despite what may appear to be strange beliefs, Chaput noted that Cathars attracted many followers due to the simplicity of their lifestyle, a factor that threatened the Church.
Though the Albigensian Crusade attempted to eliminate the Cathars, only the conversion of one of their members, Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone – later known as Francis of Assisi – and his religious brothers was able to eventually supersede the influence of the Cathars, leading to a revival of the Church.
Chaput likened the situation of St. Francis leading a Church renewal to Latinos, who he said, “have a deep sense of Catholicism and devotional practice rooted in their culture.”
Latino Catholics, the archbishop said, are also more likely to refrain from receiving Communion when not in a state of grace because they truly understand the meaning of not being worthy to receive the Eucharist when they are in a state of sin.
Despite the predominant leaning toward Catholicism of Latinos, Chaput said, some end up falling away from the Church to Protestant communities or non-denominational groups.
Nevertheless, the archbishop called upon bishops to recognize Latino issues and recommended that they provide more Masses in Spanish and ensure that Latino leaders receive appropriate catechetical formation.
Chaput said that, having been inspired by Pope Francis and the Holy Spirit, the joy and energy of the American Latino Catholics “will mark the dawn of a new Catholic witness in this, the nation we share and love.”