What the Charlotte Observer points out in the story linked above is that the Catholic Church in the U.S. is not doing a very good job at keeping Latino Catholics Catholic. It's interesting that the California Catholic Conference is boasting that in the next few years, California will have a Catholic population that makes up 37 percent of the population. I add to that claim a definite "maybe." That's if they can hold on to the Latinos who are going there.
However, we're not alone in this difficulty. According to a TIME magazine article back in 1999, between 1960 and 1985, the number of Evangelical and Pentecostal Protestants doubled in Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela, Haiti and the Bahamas; tripled in Argentina, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic; quadrupled in Brazil and Puerto Rico; quintupled in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Bolivia and Peru; and went up by a factor of six in Guatemala, Ecuador and Colombia. Brazil is the largest Roman Catholic country in the world with more than 100 million Catholics, but only 10 percent of them show up in church on Sunday.
The difficulty is that most Latinos are cultural Catholics. They grew up poor and illiterate, went to church because that was what their parents had done and taught them to do, and so on. It's simply a part of their life and a basically unquestioned one. Now there are leaders who are versed in the Catholic faith, or at least in a version of the Catholic faith, but not one that corresponds to reality. (That would be liberation theology, of which I have written here and here.) Other than these folks, though, most poor Latinos know nothing about the "why" of the Catholic faith.
So when they come here to the States, they're confronted with a whole bunch of other religions and proselityzers who confound them with all kinds of "truth" about whatever -- the supposed idolatry of "worshipping" Mary and the saints, all the conspiracy theories involving the Vatican, the "errors" of the Eucharist, and so on. Because of their ignorance of their Catholic faith, they're easily hoodwinked into thinking that what the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostals or Evangelicals say is completely true, and they are lured away from the fullness of truth.
So we have a two-pronged problem here, and it brings to mind the fact that we U.S. Catholics cannot ignore what is going on in other parts of the world, because those problems can easily come to roost in our backyards.
What our bishops are going to do about it, I don't know. They should lead the charge, but I also want to live beyond the next few minutes, so I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them. It will be up to us laity (who have the responsibility to be the salt of the earth and the light to the world, as the Second Vatican Council taught) working with and through our various apostolates and maybe even establishing new ones specifically for this purpose of educating Latinos in the truth of the faith. Then they will at least have something to stand on when they're confronted with the various religious salesmen who come peddling their hole-ridden wares.