What are the top Issues the Catholic Church Faces Today?
- Pope Francis and his church face a world where secularism and competing faiths, especially Islam and Pentecostal Christianity, are depleting the numbers of Catholics worldwide. For example, a secular, naturalistic worldview pervades much of Europe and for many on that continent, Catholicism is irrelevant. In some parts of Europe, the great cathedrals that dot the gorgeous landscape are more museums than functioning churches.
- The Church is also facing several very real challenges that can only be characterized as a crisis of authority. The widespread sexual abuse crisis, most of it involving pedophilia, has seriously undermined the church’s moral authority, especially in the West (the United States and Europe). There has been an extensive cover-up of these abuses and a rather alarming number of important church leaders have been involved. Lawsuits and out-of-court settlements have cost the church financially but these scandals have also cost the Church in terms of in prestige and credibility. This crisis of authority is perhaps the greatest crisis that Pope Francis faces.
- Recent reports and studies have uncovered a serious management crisis within the Vatican Bank. The Vatican Bank is under significant pressure from international regulators and watchdogs to step up its compliance with anti-money laundering rules. Some of the charges even include money laundering of mafia money by the Vatican bank. This is something Pope Francis will need to deal with immediately.
- Almost everyone agrees that Pope Francis will need to reform the Roman Curia, the Catholic Church’s bureaucracy that runs the Vatican. In recent years, the Curia has become a court of intrigues. It is one of the most nontransparent governing bodies in the world. All of the administrative offices of the Holy See comprise the Curia. Through the various document leaks, including those leaked by the pope’s butler (all now known as the “Vatileaks scandal”), we now know that the Curia is characterized by bitter infighting and wasteful spending. We will know the direction Pope Francis wants to go with all this when he announces his choice for secretary of state—the second most powerful Vatican official and the one who will oversee the Curia.
- Pope Francis will likewise face the ongoing challenges that result from a growing and, in some places, an acute shortage of priests. Connected with this is the growing strength of women in the church and the demand that they be ordained into the priesthood. There is absolutely no evidence that Pope Francis will agree to this, but the pressure is growing and it is relentless.
Racism. Billy Graham has been quoted as saying this is America's No. 1 problem. I believe it's the No. 1 problem in the world--accounting for the conflicts in places such as Northern Ireland, Chechnya, Israel and southern Africa.
Racism is on the agenda of the church much more now than 20 years ago when Ministries Today began. Apostolic voices such as Fred Price and Bill McCartney have called on the church to look at its own racism. We have focused on the issue again and again.
Cultural influence. It seems the media and academic communities have marginalized the church so as to consider it irrelevant. Meanwhile, the government has the church "on a short leash" so it doesn't get out of line and influence the political system. How you ask? Due to the church's beloved nonprofit status.
Most ministers I know are more concerned about not losing their nonprofit status than speaking out on the burning issues of the day lest they be considered political. But there are freedoms we must fight for--including freedom of speech. It's been reported that Canada now has laws that make it illegal to speak out against homosexuality even in the pulpit. How do we stop the radical gay rights agenda from keeping pastors from preaching against things the Bible calls sin?
Female leaders. What role must women play in the church? J. Lee Grady's groundbreaking book 10 Lies the Church Tells Women discusses the need for women to step into leadership positions.
Some, such as Cindy Jacobs, are speaking with a prophetic voice. Others, such as Shirley Arnold, are pastoring successful churches. We need more male leaders to recognize and mentor emerging leaders. And we need more "Mothers in Israel" such as Fuchsia Pickett to provide role models for younger women to follow.
- Discipling men. Many of the ills in our society can be traced to the fact too many men have abandoned their roles as leaders and providers in the home, leaving a generation of fatherless children. Thankfully, men such as Patrick Morley and the late Ed Cole have come to the forefront in the last two decades. Ministries such as Promise Keepers have stirred men, yet a great need exists to disciple men that most local churches have yet to embrace.
- World missions. Historically, Pentecostals and charismatics have sent missionaries around the world and mobilized people at home to pray. Yet we receive word that while the number of those born again was rising faster than the birth rate, that has changed--partly, some believe, because the prayer movement leading up to the year 2000 ended. Now a new threat by Islam to spread around the world gives more impetus to send missionaries.
Multiethnicity. How do we make the church more multiethnic? This is tied in some ways to the racism discussed earlier. Yet it goes beyond that. What about the many new immigrant groups now flooding to America? What about the growing population of Spanish-speaking people who want to retain their culture as their children and grandchildren want to avoid it to fit into the mainstream?
How can these new groups invigorate the larger church without starting to look and sound like the larger church? And, of course, how do we evangelize nonwhite groups in our own country?
- Praise and worship. Thank God for the rise in praise and worship music that has sprung up in the last two decades. But how do we avoid making "worship" an idol, like some evangelicals seem to exalt "the Word" above all else? Some people would like to experience worship alone at services and demean the need for sound teaching. Or, some seem to feel that God accepting their praise on Sunday means He accepts their sinful lifestyles all week. What a perversion of true worship, which is in spirit and truth.
- Decrease in giving. Enough said, right?
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