Thursday, December 1, 2011

Timothy Matovina's "Latino Catholicism"

Timothy Matovina is professor of theology and the William and Anna Jean Cushwa Director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame. His books include Guadalupe and Her Faithful: Latino Catholics in San Antonio, from Colonial Origins to the Present and Horizons of the Sacred: Mexican Traditions in U.S. Catholicism.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America's Largest Church, and reported the following:
The primary interpretive lens of Latino Catholicism is how the U.S. context, the U.S. Catholic Church, and Latinos mutually transform one another. Thus the book assesses how Latinos’ attempts to celebrate their faith and bring it to bear on the everyday realities of their lives have shaped parishes, apostolic movements, leadership, ministries, worship, voting patterns, social activism, and much more. At the same time, the lives and faith of Latino Catholics are being dramatically refashioned through the multiple pressures of assimilation, the upsurge of Pentecostal and evangelical religion, other types of religious pluralism, growing secularization, civil rights struggles, conservative political forces, and ongoing controversies over immigration and clergy sexual abuse. This book examines these mutual influences in detail, showing how U.S. Catholicism is being shaped by the rise of a largely working-class Latino population in a church whose leadership at all levels is still predominantly Euro-American and middle class.

Page 99 illustrates well the volume’s overall focus on mutual transformations. It discusses the attraction of charismatic evangelical-type religious movements among Latinos, in some cases leading them away from the Catholic Church, in other cases motivating them to transform Catholic religious practice. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal introduced on this page is the largest and most understudied apostolic movement among Latinos; some recent surveys even conclude that more Latinos in the United States self-identify as Catholic Charismatics than their counterparts who self-identify as Pentecostals. The narration of former Pentecostal Elisabeth Román’s experience of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal opens the chapter focused on this topic. That chapter reveals how the rise of Pentecostal and evangelical religion has influenced the Catholic Church and its Latino adherents, who in turn have shaped the church and its worship and devotion with charismatic expressions of their Latino Catholic spirituality.

From page 99:
in common prayer, faith formation, and evangelization activities, often in smaller-sized communities that foster a stronger sense of commitment and belonging than many large parish congregations. Though far more Catholics are attracted to evangelical and Pentecostal groups than vice versa, the dynamism of apostolic movements is illuminated in the non-Catholics who are drawn to participate in them. Puerto Rican Chicagoan Elisabeth Román “was raised in a strict Pentecostal household and indoctrinated from an early age about the evils of the Catholic Church.” Faced with a personal crisis and lacking a spiritual home after a twenty-year hiatus from church attendance, she accepted a friend’s invitation to a parish Mass imbued with the spirit of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, an apostolic group centered on the gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit that seeks to renew Christian faith through community life, prayer, preaching, healing ministries, and evangelization. Román continued to worship at the Charismatic Mass each Sunday for three months. Impressed with the community’s faith, her own sense of inner peace, and the fact that no one pressured her to become Catholic, she went through the process of being received into the Catholic Church, over the strong objections of her family members. To this day, at family gatherings Román is “lectured on how I have abandoned God for Catholicism, and should I die without repenting, my soul will be eternally condemned to hell.” Yet she insists that “the spirited [Catholic Charismatic] church I encountered, and the one I have learned to love and serve, seems to be what many Latinos are seeking.” Román concludes that “for Hispanics, who must live between two cultures, charismatic Catholicism can offer the best of both worlds: participation in the sacraments and a personal, livelier form of worship, which is at the heart of our religious experience.”
Learn more about Latino Catholicism at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue