Perhaps the American Catholic bishops need to read my book “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media.” The Catholic church is at a real turning point. Within 5 years, more than one third of U.S. bishops will have reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. More than half the bishops are within 10 years of that mark. From a positive standpoint, this shift will open the door to a wave of younger leaders, less encumbered by the sexual abuse crisis, which has cost the church $2 billion so far. But the question is – Where are those young leaders?
A serious shortage of priests and seminary students is dramatically altering the demographic landscape of the American Catholic church. Latinos now make up more than 1/3 of the Catholic population in this country and that won’t change anytime soon. However, only 7% of the current potential bishops are Latino, so the leadership won’t be responding to that demographic shift.
The question for the Catholic church in America is one of responding to the people it serves. The perception of the church as being a highly secretive organization concerned with power and influence more than transparency and authenticity is real. Perception matters in a media-driven world. While church leaders cloak their decisions in a rationale about doctrinal orthodoxy, the truth is, nothing could be more aligned with the teachings of the Bible than a leadership who is connected, concerned, and reflective of the people it serves.