It may be, then, that the collapse of "social" and "utilitarian" Catholicism will lead to a great revival of "pure" Catholicism. Merely utilitarian Catholics will continue to drift away from the Church, just as they have been drifting away for a few decades now. Those Catholics who remain, by contrast, will rediscover the essentials of the Catholic religion. The Catholic sub-society in the countries of North America and Europe will be smaller in quantity but higher in quality. There will be fewer Catholics, but the average Catholic will be "more Catholic" than in the old days. Today’s numerical decline in Catholicism may be the prelude to a great rebirth of the religion.
It may be. That’s all we can say at the moment. In any case, while the present scene is discouraging, it is too early to despair. And if you’re tempted to despair (as I myself often am), remind yourself of the camera and the paintbrush.
David Carlinwas a Rhode Island state senator from 1981 to 1992 and is a professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island at Newport.