Will Pope Francis check the Latino exodus out of the Catholic Church?
Fox News Latino recently published a story Catholic journalists have long covered--the continuing departure of Latino Catholics throughout the world from the Roman Catholic Church to evangelical and Pentecostal churches. One Chicago evangelical pastor suggests the more emotive style of worship and spirituality in those traditions attracts Latino members: "In the Evangelical church, we find freedom to worship, and with Hispanics, it's in us to be able to love people. Naturally, we just love people. We are hugging people," says Alfredo DeJesus, a Chicago-area pastor of New Life Church, which has around 20,000 members.
When asked if having a Latino pope from South America will stem the slide, DeJesus' response was telling: "People still want a relationship with God. And if the Catholic Church does not offer that, they will continue to see an exodus from their organizations to Protestants."
I am reminded of one my high school students some years ago whose family had been Catholic but became evangelical. The student, a senior, had talked about how his dad had stopped drinking, how their family life had improved, and how much happier they were after they had joined an evangelical church. That church responded to their needs in ways their Catholic church hadn't. If the U.S. Catholic church wants to hang on to Hispanics, we ought to take note.