Religion in a Changing World: Comparative Studies in Sociology

By Madeleine Cousineau | Go to book overview

writing campaigns, news conferences, and trips to Sacramento, the state capital. After successfully stopping the prison, MELA continues to organize around community issues. For example, it blocked proposals to build a hazardous-waste incinerator and an above-ground pipeline to carry oil from Santa Barbara to Long Beach through East Los Angeles.


CONCLUSION

The Catholic Church of the twenty-first century will reflect the changing multiethnic and multilingual makeup of its membership and civil society. The 500- year influence of Catholicism will continue to provide cohesion for many Latinos, although the resistance of the Catholic leadership to change and the challenge of Protestant congregations will undermine Latino loyalty to the church. Throughout their history, Catholic Latinos have persevered with deep religious commitment, despite continual ethnic conflict within Catholicism. This commitment and this conflict, existing simultaneously, provide some insights into the tensions Latinos experience within the Catholic Church.

This situation raises numerous questions. Will the church wait until changes in civil society force it to respond to Latinos, or will it take the initiative to contribute to a new model of inclusion? Will the church develop ways to share power with Latinos, women, and lay people in general, or will the shrinking hierarchy attempt to centralize its power even more? Will Latinos position themselves at all levels of the church's infrastructure, or will they leave the church? How will the church respond to the increasing impoverishment of Chicano working-class and immigrant labor in contrast to the economic mobility of the Euro-American professional/ managerial class? As the multiethnic and immigrant backlash increases, will church leaders and laity defend multiethnic society or will they passively allow the attacks to continue? Will the church be strong enough to defend the newer immigrants as it did those from Europe at the turn of the century?

In many ways, the Catholic Church is one generation ahead of civil society in relation to the Latino resurgence. The church is attempting to make some small changes of inclusion, but will it make the more sweeping changes of power-sharing needed to make Latinos truly part of the church? The archdiocese views Latino ministry as a minority ministry, just like Asian American and African American ministry. Rather than accepting Latino ministry as the normative ministry, with Euro-American ministry as a minority in the archdiocese, it continues to marginalize the largest group in the area. Individual Latinos may serve in leadership positions, but as a critical mass, Latinos do not have any significant power.

The conflict Latinos experience both internally and externally to the church may further distance them from Catholicism if church leaders are not supportive of Latino concerns and Latinos are not empowered to become part of the religious decision-making process. Since Latinos include both immigrants and those born in the United States, the church must develop a pastoral plan to work with both of these sectors. As Latinos become the majority population in the Catholic Church and in Southern California, the church must not ignore the second, third, and

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