Secularism as a Challenge for the Catholic Church in the United States of America in the 21st Century

Keywords: secularism, Catholic Church, 21st century, relativism, freedom of religion, separation of Church and State


Secularism is a founding principle of the United States of America. Historically, Americans have viewed secularism as a means to protect freedom of religion for its citizenry from a state imposed religion or, conversely, state imposed agnosticism. The American Catholic Church in the 21st century respects the separation of Church and State because it upholds the principle of religious freedom. Contemporary aggressive secularism becomes a challenge for the Church as it increasingly hinders the realization of her mission in the world. Secularism is also a challenge for pastoral theology, whose task is to create models of pastoral activity adapted to the conditions of a specific place and time. Thus, the problem of this study can be expressed in the following question: what is the perception of secularism in the United States, what challenges does it present for the Catholic Church in the 21st Century and how is the Church to fulfill her mission in American society? The answer will be established through analysis of universal Church documents, presentation of the teaching of the Church in the United States and review of the publications of American theologians and sociologists.

This article reviews the historical, cultural and ecclesiastical understanding of secularism in the United States as an ideology, and compares it to the modern understanding of secularism as it pertains to the organization of American society. Furthermore, it evaluates the impact of secularism as ideology and overarching societal organization on the modern American Catholic Church, the Church's role and impact in American society and the Church's vital and moral need to maintain its relevance through evangelization and ongoing participation in social justice issues in American society despite its minority status and the impact of recent scandals.


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