Monday, 13 October 2014

Is the Church behind the times or are the times behind the Church?

Everyone aims to progress in life. Businesses aim to progress through technological advancements, improved strategies and innovative collaboration. Our schools aim to be progressive with improved teaching facilities, improved student exchange opportunities and access to online study materials. Our media will have you believe western culture is progressive with increased acceptance of previously taboo issues like homosexuality, contraception, transgenderality, even paedophilia is slowly progressing to be normal.

Then there is the Catholic Church who has not progressed in terms of its fundamental teachings for centuries and remains steadfastly against the progressiveness of anything that violates natural law and its ageless teachings.

The seemingly common theme within the media and possibly the majority of an increasingly secular society is that the Church is out-dated, medieval, out of touch, stuck in the 1950s. Calls for the Church to progress with the times come thick and fast by social commentators who mistakenly believe the Church is behind the times, or as Susie O’Brien recently wrote, “completely irrelevant to its millions of followers”. It’s a far cry from times where Church and State stood united on the majority of fundamental social issues, but the separation of Church and State is a whole different kettle of fish.

It got me thinking, is the Church behind the times or is it actually western society that is dragging itself back to medieval times? Is the Church a dying breed and "irrelevant to millions of followers" or is Western culture on the verge of implosion before re-finding its Christian roots?

As J-Bomb of Taylors Lake pointed out in a comment on Susie Obrien’s blog on the irrelevance of the Catholic Church, it is the Western World that is actually heading back in time. He commented:

“Many say the Catholic Church is medieval, which is centuries back, but what they fail to realise is that the current culture is headed towards Pre-Christian Roman-Pagan days where murder, adultery, orgies, homosexuality (and other sexual orientations) were normal and accepted affairs.”
I find this hard to argue against. We certainly live in times where murder is accepted. Just under 300,000 “foetuses” were aborted in Australia in 2009 largely because mothers do not want their child. Of course if the child is wanted, the foetus miraculously turns into an unborn baby. Adultery is seemingly celebrated if TV is anything to go by. Every second “drama” show presents and broadcasts “a shocking affair”. The push to normalise homosexuality and other sexual orientations is well underway, with the acronym LGB quickly turning into LGBTIQ. Not sure what I and Q represent.

This is not uncommon to Roman-Pagan days where homosexuality was rife and grown men engaged in sexual relationships with young boys and girls. Sexual orgies and adultery were standard affairs and people didn’t so much worship an almighty God but so called Gods like the sun and the sea.

Today’s culture is becoming eerily similar. Any mention of God and the Church and you’re looked at like you have two best. Mention you're into Kabalah or Scientology and you're interesting. Exercise a basic right of freedom of speech and state that you don’t believe homosexuality is the norm and you literally risk losing your job. State that anyone who disagrees with the practise of homosexuality is a bigot and a homophobe and you're applauded. Even paedophilia is on the rise. I have previously written about the push to normalise paedophilia. You can read that piece here.

While all of this is happening, the Church remains constant in its teachings. The common denominator in most criticism of the Church is that it will not change its laws on certain social issues like homosexuality, abortion, pre-marital relations, contraception etc. The so called progressives point the finger and demand the Church relax its stance on these social issues or face irrelevance. What they don’t understand (and if they do, they conveniently skip over) is that any discussion in relation to "if" or "when" the Church will update its stance on social issues is completely redundant.

What many people fail to understand (and this is something the Church needs to work on in my opinion – i.e. actually communicating to more people what the Church actually teaches) is what Catholicism is actually based on. Catholicism centres entirely on the teachings of Christ. These teachings are what the Church and Catholics believe to be the truth, therefore it is futile to ask or demand the Church to change its teachings because the Church simply cannot change what it believes to be truth.

The irony of comments claiming that the Church will become irrelevant unless it changes certain teachings is that the Church would only become irrelevant if it did in fact change its stance on Christ’s teachings as it would be admitting that over 2000 years of teachings were not true.

The other common misconception is that the Church is a dying breed; numbers are low and the Church is slowly dying because it cannot keep up with the times. You only have to visit Wikipedia to see this is not true.

Over 3.7 million people attended World Youth Day in Brazil last year, an increase of 85% on the 2 million people that attended the 2011 World Youth Day and a 825% increase on the 400,000 that attended Sydney in 2008. This would suggest that millions of young people find their Church extremely relevant and this is increasing substantially.

Millions cram Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day 2013.

Circa 2 million people turned out to see Pope Francis in his first ever trip to the fastest growing Catholic continent, Asia, when he visited South Korea earlier this year.

Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans greet Pope Francis on his inaugural
overseas trip as Pontiff in 2014. Source:
In terms of the fastest growing religions in the world in terms of absolute numbers (new adherents per year, in millions), you’d find the following:

1.            Christianity (25,210,195)

2.            Islam (22,588,676)

3.            Hinduism (12,533,734)

4.            Chinese folk-religions (3,715,548)

5.            Buddhism (3,687,527)

So while a media with an agenda will have us all believe the Church is dying, irrelevant and behind the times, I wonder whether it is western culture that is heading backward. At the very least the Church can claim to have never changed its teachings and continued to base its faith on what it believes is the truth in the face of fierce opposition over the span of 2000 years. Unlike our society that changes its beliefs to whatever feels good at the time, the Church sticks to what it believes to be right, even if it doesn't feel good at the time.

We really need to look at where we are heading as a western culture. Are we progressing to the future or regressing to medieval times? Maybe in fifty years' time, being stuck in the 1950s will look quite attractive. Food for thought.

All the best,


  1. What is your evidence that paedophilia or murder is becoming acceptable in our society? You make this outlandish statement with no evidence to support your assertion. Furthermore, the church used to believe in the geocentric view that the world was the centre of the universe. Yet when scientific evidence suggested that the universe was actually heliocentric, the Church still dragged their heels in the face of this knowledge for a couple of centuries and accused those who advocated this view of blasphemy. Was this a case of progress or regression?

    Furthermore, your use of statistics is misleading. For example, you fail to point out that of Australia’s entire population of roughly 24 million, only 25.3% identified Catholicism as their religious affiliation (2011 census). Brazil on the other hand has a population of more than 200 hundred million with more than 60% identify as being catholic. So naturally, a World Youth Day held in Brazil will have a substantially higher turnout than one held in Australia. So your claim that the “Church (is) extremely relevant and … is increasing substantially” is not supported by these stats but arguably disproven. Also, whilst you note the fastest growing religions, who fail to mention the numbers of people who are increasingly identifying with being atheist/agnostic. For the purpose of your argument, would not such information be relevant?
    But I digress and do not wish to get into argument about the use and/or reliability of stats, as Homer Simpson stated “Aw, you can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent”.

  2. Thanks for your comment. The push to normalise paedophilia is not an outlandish statement in my opinion. It is public knowledge that there are groups and conferences in America, backed by esteemed institutions such as Harvard and John Hopkins Universities, aiming to have the American Psychiatric Association remove pedophilia from the list of abnormal behaviours in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (a standard international psychiatric manual used by the police and courts). The fact these conferences are being backed by academics is worrying and in my opinion is the beginning of the normalisation of paedophilia. It is not uncommon to the normalisation of homosexuality, of which you would have claimed to be an outlandish statement back in the '50s.

    With regard to the numbers, Brazil's population is roughly 700% larger than Australia's. The attendance at World Youth Day in Rio attracted a crowd 825% larger than that in Sydney. Based on these stats, it would appear that Catholicism is extremely relevant and increasing, even if not in Australia. It is certainly not "irrelevant to its millions of followers" as Suse O'Brien claimed. It is also relevant to note that people travel from all over the world to attend world youth day, so calculating based purely on the demographic of the host country is misleading.

    I agree with you that the number of atheists and agnostics are increasing, mainly in the West, but worldwide, the numbers of Catholics is increasing, especially in Latin America and Asia.