Out Of Europe

Philip Jenkins explores the impact of the Vatican sex scandals on the steady shift of Catholic influence into the southern hemisphere:

The secular media also don’t enjoy the same pervasive presence in Africa and Latin America that it does in Europe, and the Church has its own powerful media voices that will defend the faith. […] Indeed, as the crisis quickens the wane of Europe's Catholic influence, it will help solidify the Church's new roots in the south. Membership there will continue to burgeon, and Church's hierarchy will increasingly be paved with southern clerics. When the time comes to choose someone to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, the cardinals, acutely aware of the effects of the abuse crisis, will probably consider more innovative international candidates, untainted by European connections. A Latin American pope would be a likely choice.

This is Jenkins' usual line. But the abuse in these Southern hemisphere countries is likely to be much worse than in the West because the authoritarian culture is still resilient, if waning. At some point, without structural reform of the way the church is organized, the wave of revelations will hit the South as well. More to the point: it already has. Maciel was a Mexican, remember. Latin America is currently galvanized by tapes of a bishop abusing an altar boy. There was a pedophile scandal in Kenya. And marriage and polygamy are widespread among the priesthood in Africa. I suspect the South will be more affected in the future by priest scandals than the now-better-managed North.

In this, actually, I think Benedict was right. If the church loses the West, if it loses Europe entirely, it is doomed. A revival of the faith will have to occur outside existing structures rather than within them. The Southern escape hatch is a delusion. Modernity is the problem. Plunging into Africa and fundamentalism will not be real answers.