From an article, “More Latinos expanding their religious horizons”, in the January 12th edition of The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA):
While the Catholic church is still the principal religion for Latinos, a growing number are bucking tradition and moving toward evangelism — particularly among the younger generation.
“My mother is so Catholic,” said Jose Rosales, 55. “She tripped out when she found out. She and my aunt said, ‘Oh, great; now you’re a Hallelujah.'”
About 23 percent, or 9.5 million of 41 million Latinos in the U.S. in 2004, identified themselves as Protestants or other Christians, according to statistics compiled by Gastón Espinosa, an assistant professor of religious studies at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif.
Each year, as many as 600,000 U.S. Latinos leave the Catholic Church for other Christian denominations, Espinosa said.
In the most recent numbers — a 2007 Pew Research Center report — 43 percent of the 4,600 Hispanics interviewed identified themselves as evangelicals who had converted from Catholicism.
Destiny Church in Indio, Calif., opened its doors in 2004. Five years later, it added a Spanish service and bought another building in anticipation of the growing Spanish ministry.
In 2009, when the Spanish service was first offered, 15 to 20 people would attend the service, said Anthony Martinez, the church’s membership director. Now, an average of 150 are there.
Most of the Hispanic former Catholics at the church are second and third-generation, he said.
A second-generation Latino, Mancilla began attending a Protestant church as a teen after his parents converted from Catholicism.
“I was able to finally see Christ in a personal way, and I was really drawn to the idea of having a relationship with him,” Mancilla said.
Anell Carno, 35, is no longer Catholic, but she says there’s a lot of good in the Catholic faith. She just found what she was looking for in the Protestant church.
“It comes down to knowing Christ,” she said. “I was drawn to the simplicity of the Gospel message and the unconditional love that comes with Christianity.”
According to the 2007 Pew report, an overwhelming 90 percent of former Catholics indicated they had converted because they were searching for a more direct and personal relationship with Christ.
That’s interesting, in part because one reason I left Fundamentalism/Evangelicalism was because I wanted the most personal and intimate act of communion with Jesus Christ possible on this earth: receiving him in the most holy and blessed Eucharist. A (former) Catholic saying he left the Church so he could have a more “personal relationship” with Jesus is akin to giving away your season tickets to Los Angeles Lakers’ games and saying, “I’m going to watch the games on television so I can better experience the atmosphere and fully enjoy the game.” It only makes sense if you have a faulty understanding of what the Mass is and what being a Catholic is about.
For a different take on the numbers, see Jeff Zeigler’s December 2011 article, “The Coming Latino Catholic Majority”.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!
Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.