When Americans discuss the great crisis facing the Roman Catholic Church, they usually are thinking of the notorious sex abuse scandals. Vatican authorities, though, worry more about another crisis, one with potentially far graver implications for the church—the explosive growth of Protestant and Pentecostal numbers in what has always been the solidly Catholic stronghold of Latin America.
Since the 1970s evangélicos have made enormous gains in populous Latin countries. They probably make up 15 percent of Brazil’s people today, 30 percent of Chile’s, at least a third of Guatemala’s. Worse, from the Catholic point of view, these numbers are continuing to grow, to the point that Brazil by mid-century could conceivably have a Protestant majority.
Philip Jenkins is professor of history at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion and author of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade and The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand-Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels.