Not since Pope Gregory XII, who resigned the papacy in 1415 in a controversial arrangement to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants, has a pope resigned. Pope Benedict XVI announced today he will be relinquishing his papal duties due to health concerns, effective the end of February. As the shock continues to be felt throughout the global Catholic community, attention is quickly turning to who will become the next pope. A number of well-qualified candidates have already emerged from Africa, Asia and Latin America. While the well-established papal conclave process is sure to provide a timely replacement to Benedict XVI, there is likely to be little discussion of the major problems facing the Catholic Church in the modern era and the challenges of turning around a largely apathetic worldwide membership that is operating far under its spiritual potential.
In the forthcoming book Where are the Christians: The Unrealized Potential of a Divided Religion (Cedar Fort), author Eric Shuster synthesizes data from multiple research studies, including the Barna Group, the National Survey of Youth and Religion (NSYR), and the Pew Research Center to reveal American Catholics being substantially outperformed by conservative Protestants (Baptists, Evangelicals, etc.), mainline Protestants (Methodists, Presbyterians, etc.), and Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) across 12 attributes of religiosity encompassing faith and Christian practices. Shuster, a former Catholic lay minister whose wife holds a degree in Catholic theology and is a former Franciscan nun, commented, “the Catholic Church, with over 68 million adherents in the United States has enormous spiritual potential that is waiting to be unleashed to the betterment of America and the Christian community; however, the Church’s traditional lack of emphasis on religious education, weak member involvement, and a paltry one Catholic priest to every 1,700 Catholics is creating new generations of spiritually lethargic and fragmented Catholics who will do little to reverse the trend. The Catholic Church needs a transformational leader who will respect the doctrines of the Catechism while radically changing the way the Church ministers to its people, and that will mean serious structural changes that are likely to ruffle a few feathers. Let’s see if the Catholic Church is willing to make that kind of change or if it will stay with status quo.”
Shuster’s new book, set for release on May 14, 2013, probes deep into the state of Christianity in America by looking at the history of Christianity, the clarity and confusion that defines the religion, the behaviors that characterize Christians, and how value-based unification among Christians can be increased into order to consolidate influence in communities around the nation. Shuster adds, “With a reenergized Catholic Church led by a transformational pope the impact and influence of Christianity in America can dramatically increase””this could lead to a third Great Awakening in the United States.”
About the Author:
Eric Shuster is the executive director of the Foundation for Christian Studies (www.studychristianity.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study, teaching, and practice of Christianity in support of essential Christian values and compassionate service across the globe. He is a veteran of the information technology industry, and has held several executive positions in a variety of business disciplines, including CEO of IntelliClear, a global market research and business strategy firm. Mr. Shuster holds an industrial engineering management degree from San Jose State University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. Mr. Shuster’s first book, Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2009), was hailed by critics as a uniquely touching conversion story coupled with the best side-by-side comparison of Catholic and Mormon doctrine then available. His second book, The Biblical Roots of Mormonism (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2010, coauthored with Charles Sale), provides a comprehensive review of Mormon doctrine using exclusively the Bible and has been heralded as delivering a unique theological perspective using a common scriptural platform for Mormons and non-Mormons alike. Mr. Shuster and his wife, Marilyn, have been married for 25 years and have several biological and adopted children. Learn more about Eric Shuster at www.ericshuster.com.