I think its high time we stop using the 1.2 Billion number when it comes to talking about how many Catholics there are in the world.
Now, before you start commenting and quit reading, yes, I know, once baptized a Catholic, always technically a Catholic. But, here’s the problem.
It all comes down to the numbers. I understand the above logic/theology, it makes sense. When we are baptized, we are permanently marked by the sacrament and this can not be undone. You can’t be “unbaptized”. Even if you leave the Church and say…convert to Islam. You will still be a “baptized Catholic”. And here-in lies the problem.
When we continually pretend that all of these members are practicing Catholics, we do an insult to those that actually practice. Being a Catholic, actually means, practicing the Catholic faith.
We know that in the United States, only 30% of Catholics go to Mass on a regular basis. In Europe, the numbers are much lower (something like 10-15% in the European countries). On top of that, a number of Catholics use contraception, engage in pre-marital sex, and a slew of other sins. I’ll be very clear here. These are Catholics that have not repented. The Church teaches that if you die with unrepentant Mortal Sin, you will go to Hell. Jesus teaches this when He mentions the only unforgivable sin is blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. Blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is unrepentant mortal sin. Jesus can’t forgive you if you aren’t sorry. Go to confession.
So, if we actually look at the number of Catholics that actually practice their faith and are repentant for their mistakes, the actual number of Catholics is much, much, much lower.
Let’s just assume that 10% is our worst case scenario (though, if you’ve read Matthew Kelly’s Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, it is probably a best case scenario). The Church really only has about a 120 Million.
If we ran a business with the logic that we can claim all of our money that we’ve ever had, even after we’ve spent it and given it to our employees, we would be in trouble, big time.
We need to address this problem. The 1.2 Billion number makes it seem like the Church is doing really well, when we know its not. The 120 Million number works better, as it points out how we need to improve. We need to reach out and evangelize those other 1.08 Billion Catholics.
120 million practicing Catholics in the world would be a good starting point of saying how “strong” we are. After all, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi say they are Catholic, yet we know they aren’t really. If we each spent time with a fellow Catholic friend, or even a non-Catholic friend (why can’t we Evangelize non-Catholics? (I wouldn’t be here if my Catholic friend didn’t evangelize to me)), taught them what the Church actually believed and got them to practice, we would multiple and be a 1.2 billion members strong. One by one and we will bring everyone to Christ, only one by one.