Catholic Tide Is Turning: Interview With Author David Hartline

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COLUMBUS, Ohio, OCT. 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Young people want something built on a solid foundation after seeing how the culture of death is destroying society, said author David Hartline.



Hartline is the author of the recent book "The Tide Is Turning Toward Catholicism," published by Catholic Report.

In this interview with ZENIT, Hartline considers some of the changing trends in the Church that have come about through courageous Catholic leaders, seen especially in Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Q: What motivated you to write "The Tide Is Turning Toward Catholicism"?

Hartline: While working for the Church, I began to notice a series of hopeful trends in the Church that few were discussing.

I wrote an article for my Catholic Report Web site that was picked up by a number of Internet sites and publications. Because of its popularity, I decided to write a book filled with data and stories concerning my observations.

Q: In what ways do you see the tide turning?

Hartline: It is turning in many ways. In a nutshell, wherever Church orthodoxy is taught the Church is flourishing. This extends to the young and old. In the book, I note that in dioceses where Church orthodoxy is emphasized, we see increases in seminarians and youth involvement in the Church.

For example in the United States, the Archdioceses of Denver, St. Louis, and Omaha, along with the Diocese of Lincoln, known for their clear observance of Church orthodoxy, have the same number of men studying for the priesthood than less-orthodox led dioceses that have five to 10 times as many Catholics.

We also see vibrant parishes involved in Scripture study, catechism courses, apologetics, Eucharist adoration, rosary devotions, as well as programs to assist those in need. This is the springtime of evangelization that John Paul II spoke of some years ago. Because of these efforts, we are seeing many converts embrace the Church.

There have been some well-known converts in the last 20 years, starting with Scott Hahn, Deacon Alex Jones, Francis Beckwith and even bishops from other churches. However, these are just a few illustrative examples; there are millions of converts who came into the Church in the last few years who were well versed in the teachings of their previous churches, some who were even proudly anti-Catholic. However in their quest to prove Catholicism wrong, many found the Catholic Church to be the one Jesus founded.

Often, converts approach me at the various talks I give and say three things kept them from Catholicism; the Eucharist, Mary and the papacy. When I asked what brought them into the Church they basically give the same answer, the Eucharist, the Blessed Mother and the Holy Father, or the magisterium.

These were all subjects they knew little about until the read the early Church Fathers and saw the continuum of 2,000 years of the Church's history and teachings.

While there are hopeful signs in the United States and Latin America, and even glimmers of hope in Europe, the most vibrant areas of the Church can be found in Africa and Asia. In 2006 alone, some 8 million converts came into the Church and 3,000 priests were ordained in Asia and Africa.

On these continents, the faithful often have many struggles, political and religious oppression along with poverty. However, "the least of these" sure seem to be showing the wealthier parts of the Catholic world how to live and practice their faith.

Recently, a priest originally from Uganda was visiting the United States to raise money for his parish in Sudan. This visiting priest told me he was taken aback by some in the Western world who verbally attack the Church, some of whom were even members of the Church. He said such a thing would be unthinkable in much of Africa, since the Church, its teachings and graces, such as the sacraments, are embraced with awe, wonder and gratitude.

Finally, one can't talk about the turning tide without mentioning the worldwide influence of Mother Teresa and Mother Angelica. One was called to help the forgotten and the poorest of the poor, while the other was called to launch a worldwide television and radio ministry to evangelize and defend the Church throughout the four corners of the earth.

Q: In the United States you trace this turning tide to World Youth Day in Denver that occurred in 1993. Why do you see this event as a catalyst?

Hartline: There are three events I believe helped turn the tide.

The first took place with the election of John Paul II in 1978, the second was World Youth Day in Denver in 1993, and the third was the huge outpouring of love from millions of people both in Rome and throughout the four corners of the world after the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI.

World Youth Day in 1993 was a stunning success. It almost had the quality of a biblical parable. There were some in the Church in the United States who warned John Paul II that the crowds would be small, since American youth and the Western world weren't very faithful.

However, the Holy Father knew that young people always desire the truth, which brought them in great numbers to Denver. After the stunning success of World Youth Day 1993, many vocations were realized along with a resurgence in youth ministry programs.

Additionally, the importance of the election of John Paul II cannot be understated. His strong leadership with emphasis on Church orthodoxy and Eucharistic and Marian devotions laid the groundwork for many, especially the young, to embrace these important gifts.

The travels of John Paul II gave him a platform to help spread the "good news" and to remind the faithful of the forgotten gifts of the Church. The death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI gave the world an unscripted and powerful image of the 2,000-year-old Church.

The outpouring of love shown to John Paul II through the 5 to 7 million who came to Rome, about one quarter of whom were under 25, gave the world a view of the Church that had been scarcely seen in the world press. The beautiful liturgy, the ancient customs such as the transfer of the body of the pontiff to St. Peter's, accompanied by the chanting of the litany of the saints, provided the world with a powerful image of the ancient Church.

The election of Benedict XVI, a close confidant of John Paul II, is keeping the continuum in place. Many skeptics were surprised at the joy, admiration and love directed to Benedict XVI by the youth at the 2005 World Youth Day in Germany.

The same emotion from the young was seen again in Brazil earlier this year. Many young people have embraced Benedict XVI's warning against the "dictatorship of relativism." With their own eyes, the young have seen how relativism and the culture of death are destroying societies, especially those in the West.

These young people want something built on a solid foundation. The connection Jesus made with Peter being the rock and giving him the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16:16-19) is a powerful example of apostolic succession to the youth so shaken by cultural and religious trends that come and go with the wind.

Q: One chapter of your book focuses on the Catholic vote. What are your thoughts about the Catholic vote and the upcoming U.S. presidential election?

Hartline: This question is a microcosm of the whole turning-tide phenomena. Many faithful Catholics were angered by politicians who spoke about the importance of their Catholic faith, only to denounce or ignore the teachings of the faith.

However, as more Catholic prelates have taken a courageous stance in defending the Church, it has inspired not only more clergy to the same, but lay people as well. There is still a long way to go in this effort, but at least the battle has been joined.