REGINA: Some Mexican immigrants to the United States are abandoning the Church in favor of evangelical sects; is this happening in Mexico too?
Maria Albers: That’s correct, and it has been happening in Mexico for a long time, except that (Catholic) Mexicans converting to Evangelical sects has accelerated in recent times with social media reaching the masses like never before. Now, even though Mexicans are known to be ‘really Catholic’ the truth is that a great part are ‘lukewarm’ Catholics. If you ask me, some times Mexicans feel as if having Our Lady of Guadalupe ‘with us’ is enough to be protected and saved no matter how much God is being let down. Personally, I wish the passion that is felt towards soccer and soap operas was shown towards God and building a better Mexico. I grew up seeing my parents and relatives praying the Rosary at least once a week, whether as a family or on their own. Everyone was expected to observe religious holidays, no questions asked. That has faded away in new generations…the perfect opportunity for passionate Evangelicals to convert lukewarm Catholics. Jaime Septien, a well-known Catholic journalist, describes it very well in this clip
Matthew Cullinan Hoffman: Sadly, this is a trend throughout Latin America. However, it varies from country to country. In Brazil the number of Evangelicals has risen to about 30%, and many Catholics do not practice the faith. Similarly high rates of conversion to Evangelicalism are found in Central American countries such as Guatemala and Honduras.
Mexico has seen its roughly 98% Catholic population fall to 89%, although most of the conversions are not to Evangelicalism but rather to predatory sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, who are very active in the country now that the government has relaxed its enforcement of laws prohibiting proselytism by foreign sects – the “missionaries” are virtually all from the U.S. The rest of the 11% that doesn’t self-identify as Catholic is atheistic, agnostic, or otherwise non-religious.
The exodus from the Church that has occurred in the last 50 years seems tied to the predominance of liberation theology among the clergy, which has displaced the traditional doctrines that attracted the faithful in years past. This is especially true in Brazil.
Ricardo Lara and Nathaly Robles: Sadly yes, all those sects take advantage of the material needs of people. Here in Mexico, many sects offer money to the people if they invite more people. This sects work mainly in the areas with great poverty and ignorance.
Frank and Irene Denke: The same is happening here. The Church has admitted its failure to teach the faith in past years, and so many Mexicans who now live in the States really have never known their faith well and are “fair game” for those who are trained to present strongly other beliefs against what the Church teaches. Unable to answer them, these Mexicans have no way to keep their faith. They have moved away from a Mexican atmosphere of Catholic “custom”, to where one’s faith has many “options”, and without the depth of understanding and love of the Catholic Faith they need to keep it.
Fr. Jonathan Romanoski: Again it would depend on the state, as Mexico varies much in its culture and identity throughout the very different 32 states that it has, some of them being more vulnerable or attacked by the protestant sects, but in general one could say that they are growing in all places. We have a saying here, “católico ignorante, seguro protestante” (an ignorant Catholic will surely become a protestant).
As we found out in a continental survey some years ago, even in our city of Guadalajara there were so many Catholics who replied that they were fine with God but that they did not need the Church, a mentality which multiplies when there are so many living in fornication or adultery of “second” marriages who would like to ease their conscience pretending that they could be in friendship with Christ without observing his law, which Protestantism makes completely relative.
So again I think it is a question of formation and catechesis to start so that they recognize the differences and know the reasons for their faith, and avoid falling into habits of sin which make them want to rid themselves of the Church’s infallible voice which communicates Christ’s teachings. — Fr Jonathan Romanoski