The position of Catholics in Europe and the Americas is increasingly “more like that of the Christians under the Roman Empire, when the Church had on the one hand to convert the pagan masses in the great Mediterranean cities, Antioch and Ephesus and Rome, and at the same time to defend its bare right to exist against the crushing weight of an all-powerful world state which recognized no limit to its authority.” (Christopher Dawson, Movement of World Revolution)
However, in Asia, the significant numbers of converts to the Faith opens new horizons:
“Is it not possible that the same thing will happen in modern Asia: that the key points of oriental Christianity will be found in the great urban centres like Calcutta and Bombay, Tokyo, Shanghai, Canton, Singapore—that the new Churches will find their future leaders in the same urban cosmopolitan classes from which the leaders of the primitive Church were drawn? The soil must be broken—the plough and the harrow must do their work before the seed can produce a good harvest. But this is the age of the plough and the harrow, not the time of the harvest.” (Christopher Dawson, Movement of World Revolution)
As regards North America – and one may to some extent say the same of Europe – the convert to Catholicism, Richard John Neuhaus, stated:
“If, in anticipating the springtime of the Third Millennium, we are to sow more confidently and effectively, if our sowing is to transform the world (and we are called to nothing less than that!), we ourselves must be transformed.
“Permit me to suggest five transformations of pressing urgency. First, we need to cultivate the courage to be counter-cultural. […]
“First, then, whether ‘in season or out of season’, those who propose Christian truth must always cultivate the courage to be counter-cultural.
“Until Our Lord returns in glory, we will be wrestling with what it means to be in the world but not of the world.
“The truth that the Church proposes is for the world, but the Church will inevitably appear to be against the world when the world resists the truth about itself.
“The necessary posture of prophetic humanism, therefore, is one of being against the world for the world.
“Moreover, cultural resistance to the truth has more formidable sources. With Saint Paul, we never forget that ‘We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places’ (Ephesians 6:12).
“Especially in North America, some fear that the call to counter-cultural courage is an invitation to return to the ‘ghetto Catholicism’ of an earlier era, but that is not the case. Sociologically speaking, immigrant Catholicism was not so much counter-cultural as subcultural. The true progression is from subcultural striving to cultural success to counter-cultural challenge and transformation.
“The remarkable cultural success of American Catholics in the last half century is a tragic failure if it means that now Catholics are just like everybody else. Real success is marked by the confidence and courage to challenge the culture of which we are securely part.
“Or we might put it this way: there is a crucial difference between being American Catholics and being Catholic Americans. We are constantly told that there is a distinctively American way of being Catholic. The course of counter-cultural courage is to demonstrate that there is a distinctively Catholic way of being American.
“The Catholic Moment happens when American Catholics dare to be Catholic Americans. An earlier generation prided itself on being accepted by American culture, and we should honor what was honorable in that achievement. But surely our task if to prepare a generation that will dare to transform American culture.
“Catholicism is no longer a suppliant, standing hat in hand before our cultural betters. We are full participants who unhesitatingly accept our responsibility to remedy a culture that is descending into decadence and disarray. The remedy begins with each person who hears and responds to the radical call to holiness in accord with moral truth. […]
This is the drama, this is the adventure, this is the audacious hope of Christian discipleship.
“We must settle for nothing less, and persuade the Catholic people to settle for nothing less.
“We are told that young people today, immersed as they are in hedonistic self- gratification and consumerism, are deaf to the call to moral greatness. Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of young people who gathered in Denver last August. Tell that to millions of television viewers who witnessed in Denver a spiritual explosion in response to the culture-transforming call to live in the splendor of truth.” (Richard John Neuhaus, address of January 31, 1994)