The rapidly growing world population presupposes the increase in the number of religious and social communities that inevitably have a tremendous influence on global development. However, there exists a relatively small number of world religions that now have been shaping the overall behavioral patterns of the community for centuries. The most notorious belief in the context of geographical distribution is Christianism and Catholicism, in particular. According to the latest statistics, Catholics constitute 1.3 billion of the world population (Wooden). When it comes to the geographical distribution, 49% of Catholics live in North and South America, 22% of the population is located in Europe, Africa hosts 17% of people, leaving 11% to Asian states. Even though Catholicism shares similar beliefs regardless of the location, it still has some differentiation in terms of sociocultural influence on the population. This paper aims to analyze the impact of the Catholic faith on American, European, and African citizens, being the most significant representatives of the faith.
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Global Social Impact
The notion of the Catholic Church has now become one of the most controversial topics in terms of modern society. While people fight for the freedom to do whatever they consider beneficial for their lives, they tend to move further from religion to avoid a series of limitations on gender and sexual preferences, views on marriage, and overall relationships between people. However, whereas Catholic teachings can be irrelevant in the 21st century, some of the universal dogmas make people stick to their religion despite all the misunderstandings. According to the Theology scholar Dr. Thomas Finegan, this universal paradigm is constructed by the notions of charity, women’s rights, and human dignity. First and foremost, Catholic charity initiatives served as a foundation for the development of hospitals, higher education institutions, and equality. These concepts have now become so integrated into social patterns that people do not even need to ponder the genesis of such mandatory processes.
Furthermore, Catholicism was the first institution to explicitly acknowledge the equity of social and legal opportunities and right regardless of gender. Although the feminism movement is now mostly associated with suffragette protests and emancipation, it was the Church upon which this idea was commenced. Finally, human dignity, being one of the core values of today’s world even without theological intervention, was also initially promoted by Catholicism. The position in favor of invaluableness of human life was especially evident during the darkest pages of history like the Second World War.
North and South America
One of the major challenges the Catholic Church may face in South America in the 21st century is the dissonance between the rapid social development of its residents and the conservatism of Catholicism. In fact, when the latest data was recorded in 2015, it was estimated that Catholicism was the second most widespread religion in the US (Arnett). Still, people did not think it was appropriate to comply with the faith’s core dogmas. For example, US residents did not consider using contraceptives or having a relationship without getting married a sin even though they claimed themselves to be religious people. When speaking of both North and South America, Catholicism serves as a social catalyst for the accepted behavioral patterns. American Catholic Social Teaching, for example, constitutes major topics people should pay attention to in order for the world to thrive, including some of the latest informational precedents in the US, such as racism or the death penalty. In such a way, the Catholic Church is doing its best to draw attention to some relevant issues instead of focusing on the statements that are considered already outdated.
When speaking of Latin America, in particular, this Catholicism segment has brought to the world a whole new cultural perspective on the teachings. With Latin America’s Catholic Social Teaching, the global community had the chance to get acquainted with the notion of Medellin. This concept presupposes one’s ability to treat situations and people critically, according to what they observe with their own (Ospino and Luciani). Hence, today’s cognitive culture impossible without a critical thinking approach has been shaped by the Latin American interpretation of Catholicism.
Regarding the fact that Italy is considered to be the center of the Catholic Church, it is quite difficult to understand why Europe constitutes only 22% of the world’s Catholic population. One of the possible answers to this dilemma may lie in the fact that some of the major European countries, e.g., France, became exhausted by the political and cultural aspects of the state being explicitly intervened by the Church. As a result, they decided to put an end to such a tendency. Such a process is known as “laïcité,” implying the separation between the interests of the Church and the state (Evolvi). Hence, while the minority of European states continue to be extremely influenced by the Church in terms of cultural impact, the majority has now become separated from it, leaving religion to be a highly individual matter.
Over the last decades, the African continent has been considered one of the most rapid-growing communities in terms of the number of people converting to Catholicism. According to the statistics, in the period between 2010 and 2015, the number of Catholics in African countries has grown by 19, 4% (Wooden). The reason behind such a rapid increase lies behind the fact that over the past years, the Catholic Church has become one of the major contributors in the context of charity and aid for African residents. As a result, many local citizens perceive Catholicism as a way of salvation and freedom (Hellweg). Bearing this in mind, it becomes clear that while other continents step further from the sociocultural Church’s impact, Africa is running towards this impact to be able to create a better future for themselves. Hence, all the universal areas of cultural intervention mentioned earlier in the paper are now steadily integrated into the lifestyle of African Catholics.
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Catholicism is now one of the most significant constituents of the global religious aspect. Hence, it is important to discuss its relevance in both cultural and social relevance in the context of today’s world. In the course of this discussion, it was estimated that although Catholicism as a religion is present across the globe, it has a major influence in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. While the Americas, especially South America, and Europe now begin to question the relevance of Catholic dogmas in terms of a modern, tolerant society, African culture is, to a great extent, engaged in Catholic teachings. The future implications of this study may concern the critical analysis of external factors that make up a general attitude to Catholicism according to the geographical peculiarities.
Arnett, George. “How Big Is the Impact of Catholicism on Public Life in the US?” The Guardian, 2015, Web.
Evolvi, Giulia. Blogging My Religion: Secular, Muslim, and Catholic Media Spaces in Europe. Routledge, 2019.
Finegan, Thomas. “What Has the Catholic Church Ever Done for the World? Quite a Lot, Actually.” The Journal, 2018, Web.
Hellweg, Joseph. “Africa’s Catholic Churches Face Competition and a Troubled Legacy as They Grow.” The Conversation, 2019, Web.
Ospino, Hosffman, and Rafael Luciani. “How Latin America Influenced the Entire Catholic Church.” America, 2018, Web.
Wooden, Cindy. “Global Catholic Population Tops 1.28 Billion; Half Are in 10 Countries.” The Catholic Virginian, 2017, Web.