November 13, 2014 | 12:45 pm|
Latin American Catholics, just rewarded with a pope from Argentina, are fleeing the church for Protestant, Evangelical or other religions because they want a “closer connection with God,” according to a stunning new survey from the Pew Research Center.
Once the most reliably Catholic region after Italy, Central and South Americans are starting to turn their nose up at the church.
While Latin America is home to 40 percent of the Catholic Church, or some 425 million, many told Pew that they no longer identify with church.
Consider: For most of the 20th century, 90 percent of Latin America’s population was Catholic. Pew found that just 69 percent now identify as Catholics.
“In nearly every country surveyed, the Catholic Church has experienced net losses from religious switching, as many Latin Americans have joined evangelical Protestant churches or rejected organized religion altogether. For example, roughly one-in-four Nicaraguans, one-in-five Brazilians and one-in-seven Venezuelans are former Catholics,” said Pew.
Pew asked why they left the church and found that Latin Americans believe they don’t get the personal connection to God that other religions provide.
“The survey asked former Catholics who have converted to Protestantism about the reasons they did so. Of the eight possible explanations offered on the survey, the most frequently cited was that they were seeking a more personal connection with God. Many former Catholics also said they became Protestants because they wanted a different style of worship or a church that helps its members more.
“Smaller percentages of converts to Protestantism also cite other factors — such as health or family problems (a regional median of 20%) or marriage to a non-Catholic (median of 9%) — as important reasons why they are no longer Catholic,” said Pew.
And Pope Francis doesn’t seem to help. While many support him, former Catholics do not have a favorable view of the “people’s pope.”
Only in his home of Argentina and neighboring Uruguay do majorities of ex-Catholics view him favorably, said Pew.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner’s “Washington Secrets” columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.