Review: The Future Church

Ruth Curcuru

4 Stars

August 18, 2012

This book is over 450 pages of densely written small type. While it makes generous use of section headers and numbering schemes, the fact remains that reading this book takes work.

The ten trends which Allen explores are the titles of the chapters: A World Church, Evangelical Catholicism, Islam, The New Demography, Expanding Lay Roles, The Biotech Revolution, Globalization, Ecology, Multipolarism and Pentecostalism. Allen claims the trends about which he chose to write were 1) global, 2) of significant impact at the level of the Catholic grassroots 3) potentially able to influence Catholicism in terms of its institutional resources and structures, 4) able to provide a context by which to understand a variety of issues in the Church, 5) predictive in nature, and 6) not ideologically driven. He gives this list to explain why many of what we consider "hot button" issues were not included. In short, Allen was looking at the future of the Church in the 21st Century, and he sees little evidence that the Church will ordain women, abandon the hierarchy or significantly change its teachings on sexual ethics in that time frame--so, while Catholics may continue to discuss those topics, they aren't "trends" because they don't meet his criteria.

After describing each of his ten trends, Allen talks about what each trend means and the probable, possible, and long-shot consequences of that trend. For example, regarding the trend of expanding lay roles, Allen opines that the near certain consequences are: 1)conflicts over the control of ministries not directly controlled by bishops (like the conflicts over EWTN), 2) a fear of feminization, 3) protecting the priesthood, and 4) a more sacramental model of the priesthood. Probable consequences are battles over bureaucracy and a democratization of Catholic conversation. Possible consequences are an evangelical edge (basically described as a situation in which Catholic lay ministry is not just seen as a second-best alternative to ministry by a priest), parish strikes (or more precisely strikes by parish employees),and "a less purple ecclesiology "(meaning less clergy-centered). Long shot consequences include lay cardinals, a female head of a decision-making office at the Vatican and a holier world.

In short, this long book is an interesting look at where the Church may be headed in the future. Grade: B.