Dave Hartline has an interesting piece that outlines how the tide has turned toward Catholicism after the low days of the sexual abuse scandal. I recommend reading the entire essay. His is an optimistic view that I share, and I think he also puts rightly the trend in context:
While the Catholic Church like many mainline Protestant churches had its fair share of less than inspiring priests, ministers and deacons, the Catholic Mass to believers is part of something that Jesus himself started 2,000 years ago on Holy Thursday night. Although the Church has been hit with a withering barrage of angry naysayers, like lapsed Catholic Andrew Sullivan, perhaps one can say the Church has taken their best punch and withstood it well. While there have been many ebbs and flows in the history of Catholicism, perhaps we are now beginning a new and promising flow of faith.My only point of disagreement with Mr. Hartline is that he asserts the tide turned in April 2005 with the reaction to John Paul the Great's death and the focus on the events that followed. I think that it began in February 2004 with the release of Mel Gibson's Catholic Stations of the Cross writ large, The Passion of the Christ, an event he also mentions.
The international attention drawn to that movie, and the largely ignored lack of predicted anti-Semitic violence, made so plain the power of Christ's redemptive suffering that the secular culture could not deny, and in many subtle ways affirmed, the presence of the Holy Spirit at the end of one pope's reign and the beginning of another's. I have often advanced John Paul the Great's notion that culture is the engine of history. In this case, it set the stage by giving context for the historical events of this past April, not as a turning of the tide, but a wave we continue to ride.