“The new pope inherits a church wrestling with an array of challenges that intensified during [the term of] his predecessor, Benedict XVI — from a priest shortage and growing competition from evangelical churches in the Southern Hemisphere where most of the world’s Catholics live, to a sexual abuse crisis that has undermined the church’s moral authority in the West, to difficulties governing the Vatican itself.” — from Rachel Donadio‘s N.Y. Times report, filed about an hour ago.
In other words, these days fewer Catholics live in the Northern Hemisphere (i.e., northern Europe, the U.S.) where the education and income levels are somewhat (and in some instances dramatically) higher than in the Southern Hemisphere, excluding certain urban pockets in Africa, South America, Asia and the Middle East. In other words, the bulk of the Catholic Church’s current following is among the somewhat less well off and less educated and less hip in the less developed areas of the world — am I reading that right? In other words devout Catholicism has become a culturally downmarket thing.
It’s kind of analogous to the readers of Playboy, no? They were a fairly hip crowd in the ’50s and particularly in the ’60s and ’70s when the sexual revolution was underway, but the demographic has been trending more and more in a downmarket direction since the ’80s.