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Bible Belt Catholicism: changing face of Church is young, tech savvy and faithful

.- A recent report in the London Times showed that many states in the strongly Protestant Bible Belt are seeing a recent surge of Catholic growth, a trend which they say, is throwing a whole new face on southern stereotypes. Times correspondent Dwight Longenecker reported that “A ‘New Catholicism’ is emerging that is likely to influence the whole US Church. These young Catholics tend to be faithful to the Church’s teachings while being educated and media-savvy.”

The report noted several Catholic strongholds and institutions whose influences stretch around the globe.

Catholic media giant EWTN, for example, located in Irondale, Alabama, reaches 105 million homes in 110 countries and 16 territories around the world making it the largest religious media network in the world.

Founded 24 years ago by Poor Clare nun, Mother Angelica, Eternal Word Television Network calls themselves completely faithful to the Gospel and the Church.

Likewise, Ave Maria University, founded by Domino’s Pizza tycoon Tom Monaghan, is building an ambitious new campus and town in Naples, Florida, which will likely make the area a new bastion of faithful Catholicism. The University’s reputation reaches all the way to the Vatican and has been visited by Austrian Cardinal Christof Schönborn and Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze.  

The Times report stated that the “New Catholicism is young and optimistic, but it is unlikely to tolerate the open dissent that went with the 1970s and the ‘cultural Catholicism’ of generations past.”

“That form of Catholicism”, it said, “is dying, and its death is symbolized by the northern US parishes with plummeting congregations, a shortage of priests and huge debts as they pay off child-abuse scandals. It seems that in the parishes where ‘anything goes‘, everybody went.”

Indeed, Father Jay Scott Newman, who is pastor of St Mary’s parish in Greenville, South Carolina told the Times that, “Here you are not Catholic because your parents came from Italy or Slovakia. It’s because you believe what the Church teaches you is absolutely true.”

In general, Catholics account for about 12 percent of the population in the south, but in certain areas like Atlanta, Greenville, and Charlotte, North Carolina, that number has jumped to some 20 percent--up by a third from the 1990‘s.

There is no sign of a slowdown in growth either, as CNA reported last month, The Diocese of Nashville, which now runs 22 Catholic schools within its 38-county borders, has seen an influx of just under 1,000 new students in the past seven years.

Reports say that the combination of northerners coming down to be part of the southern tech boom combined with many Latin American families migrating north, account for much of the growth.

In fact, in Charlotte, nearly half of the Catholic population is Hispanic, perhaps making that area a good example of the overall changing face of Catholicism in the U.S.


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