April 23, 2005

Drawing Catholic Maps

I'm a great fan of Thomas PM Barnett and I think that his idea of drawing Gap and Core maps are very useful in analyzing the political and economic world. In the case of politics and economics, the maps are very congruent. Generally political connectivity and economic connectivity go hand in hand.

Not everything follows the same map lines. Religion can draw the same sort of map, where thriving areas and challenged areas are marked out all over the globe. The maps can be very different even inside a faith. As far as roman catholics are concerned, Chicago is chock full of churches, so many that some must be weeded out. They are too dense on the ground in some spots. For Romanian Byzantine Catholics, the metropolitan map looks very different with two parishes in Aurora, a parish in E. Chicago, and only a lone mission up on Fullerton inside the city proper.

Taking this insight into the Church in general, the election of a German cardinal takes on a different cast. Where is Germany today in the map of the Catholic Church? Is it inside the Core? Is it inside the Gap? is it in a seam state between the two?

Certainly, the infrastructure is there. There are hierarchs galore but not too many actual people sitting in the pews on Sunday. There aren't all that many vocations either, as far as I can tell. A vibrant, powerful church in Germany is simply not a reality today. It would be interesting to know how much of the FRG is considered "mission territory" today.

It would be entirely proper if some of the European cardinals are simply not replaced when they pass away or retire, leaving their seats vacant. The red hats can go to areas where there are more faithful, where the Church has been more successful. This is not likely to be monitored much in the international press but it would signal a realignment of power inside the Church to better reflect reality and would also increase the chance that the next conclave picks a pope that is entirely out of Europe.

The press will notice when they tote up the red hats and find that there aren't as many europeans any more and will trumpet the news around the world. If we're a bit more observant, we can do better than that.

Posted by TMLutas at April 23, 2005 10:42 PM