Sunday, 19 May 2013

Church Decline; A Reason to be Fearful? Pentecost Prayer.


In the Catholic Herald this week there has been referance made to the decline in Church affiliation in Catholicism.

What the Figures Show and how they may be interpreted 

Just sayin'
For any of you that missed it the Latin Mass Society has collated figures from 1912 until now and these indicate that Catholicism in the UK peaked in the 1960s in relation to baptisms, ordinations and marriages (1964, 1965 and 1968 respectively), before a dramatic fall-off in each case. We now have less than half of the number of baptisms than in 1964, one quarter of marriages than in 1968 and only one tenth of 1965s figures for the priesthood.

Those being received into the Church peaked in 1959. Recently we have just a third of that level.

The Herald article quotes Dr Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society, who has said the figures “show unambiguously that something went seriously wrong in the Church in England and Wales in the 1960s and 1970s. Catholics ceased quite suddenly to see the value of getting married, having large families, and having their children baptised. Non-Catholics no longer perceived the Church as the ark of salvation, and ceased to seek admission. Young men no longer offered themselves for the priesthood in the same numbers as before......[there is a connection to ] the wrenching changes in the Church at that time introduced by the Second Vatican Council......in this respect we are still living on our capital, and this capital is about to run out."

Put briefly he believes;
1 something has gone wrong in the Church between the 1960s and 70s.
2 Catholics are no longer seeing the value of marriage and baptism.
3 Catholics no longer have large families.
4 Catholics no longer see the Church as a vehicle of salvation.
5 This was as a result of Vatican 2
6 That this is a dire situation for the Church.

Is Dr Shaw right? 


Has something gone wrong with the Church since 1960s?

Clearly at first glance at the numbers it is easy to become despondent and it does seem to point to a cultural shift at that time.  However, underpinning these six points is an issue of faith; not just Dr Shaw's, but throughout the Church. 

The Context of Vatican 2

Vatican 2; Makes me want to ride a Vespa!
Let's return to that cultural shift. It is true that Vatican 2 was an important event for Catholics at that time. However, the Church is still in the World; the Kingdom of God being here, yet still something we wait for. As a result we have to view not only what went on within the Church but outside of it to identify what could have resulted in these recent figures.

The 60s were a time of challenging authority and the sexual revolution. Into this came the contraceptive pill. Prior to this time ALL church's taught that artificial contraception was wrong. Then in the 1930s, despite the warning signs that could be seen within the eugenics movement, the Church of England approved artificial contraceptives. This resulted in their acceptance by the majority of the main denominations and the Church stood alone in their condemnation.

In my next post I will give an overview of the importance of the Church's teachings on this matter, here I am just going to focus on this issue in relation to its effect on the membership of the Church.

Reactions from Liberals and Conservatives


Dr Shaw is of the Latin Mass Society and therefore I would assume he is of the more orthodox variety so I am assuming that his statements about the wrenching changes the council placed upon the Church were in relation to the liturgy and were negative. 

However the interesting thing about the council is that the more liberal members of our Church would also conclude that the lack of changes were negative; in particular the lack of changes in contraception. 

The responses to Vatican 2 from liberal and conservative have greatly affected the perception of the Church. Although we have all responded to them, the greatest impact upon the Church has been as a result of the responses to it from priests and bishops. 

Can We Ignore This Church teaching?


In terms of liberal priests and bishops many gave little credence to upholding the direction the Church had given. I have spoken to men and women from this period and they were informed that there decisions regarding this matter were between themselves and their consciences or God.

However, this is not true. The Catholic Church is infallible on teachings of Truth and morals. She is so not just when the Pope makes a solemn definition of an article of faith, or when the bishops are united with the Pope, but when She proclaims something to be Truthful as in the case of Vatican 2 and the Church's confirmation of the sinful use of artificial contraception. 

There are those who would say that not all the bishops were united with the Pope in this matter and therefore this is not infallible teaching. However, even if this were to be true, the Church has taught this about contraception since the first century (before even, if you count the teachings of Judaism) and this demonstrates the infallibility of the teaching due to Her ordinary universal magisterium

Therefore anyone not renouncing contraception who are Catholic can be said to be heretical and in schism with the Church. The result of this is that they have cut themselves off from the divine graces of the Church.

How would this affect the membership of the Church?

You sayin' Jon XXIII and Paul VI are wrong?!!!
We can see how the behavior of these priests and bishops can have such a devastating affect on the souls of those at the time and since.  But this has led to an unintended consequence as well. If you can ignore the Church's teachings on contraception surely you can ignore the other parts of the Church's teachings you don't like?

Don't believe a good God would send someone to hell if they're not baptised? Then surely the Church can be wrong about its need as well. How about the need to remain chaste both before and during marriage? Those ideas are as old fashioned as the teachings on contraception surely?  What about the need for a sacramental marriage? They're so expensive. Let's not even question why we're spending so much money on it when the glory of God is present and remove that one as well. Besides which divorces are more expensive and, as we think the Church is wrong about that too, we may need one. 

Liberals Alone?


It is not just the liberal element of the Church who are causing this mass, unconscious acceptance of the questioning of the Church. Notice how Dr Shaw declares the councils changes were 'wrenching'. This negative connotation questions the council's outcomes and their validity and is therefore committing the same act against the Church; if Vatican 2 was wrong how can you believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Church from erring? Therefore, if the Church can err, we can pick and choose what we believe surely?

Once this doubt in the Holy Spirit's presence is ingrained then doubt about the Church being THE rock upon which Jesus built HIS Church will follow. It is no longer the ark of salvation as Shaw says. It is one road among many. 

"We are still living on our capital, and this capital is about to run out."


 We are so present and fleeting. We are aware of our imminent death, even if we don't recognize this in each  moment. Therefore we believe that only our time is the important one and decisions should be made for us now. In contrast, the Church looks at morality through eternity, hence She is slow to make moral pronouncements and wise to retain the moral truths handed down to her throughout the ages that have been shown to be of the for the good of humanity. 

In fact the Church isn't only eternal, it is universal. So it doesn't just view things from the perspective of the West or the East, the developed world or undeveloped. 

For us, when we hear news like this, it is all too easy to believe that this is he end of Christianity. However from the perspective of the Church we can see that persecution, both spiritual and physical, is a reality in each place and time. At the moment the West is suffering spiritual persecution, it too will pass. 

Remember these figures are in comparison to only 60 years ago when Catholicism was bouyant here. During that time our bouyant faith sent missionaries to Africa to save their souls. I know of an old lady who told me how she donated her pennies to just that cause. In my last parish my my priest was from Africa, come to save us and she often wondered about the pennies and how theys eemed to be paying dividers in her country now.

At that time also the Russian Church was being physically persecuted. It's destruction was believed, particularly by its persecutors, to be inevitable.

One of the interesting things about my blog is seeing just how many hits I have had from Russia. At one time their we more than from the UK and the USA put together. They are not overcome.

We ARE Jesus's Church and, as I've said elsewhere on this blog, He never promised us that it would be easy. He did promise though that hell would not prevail against Her, our Church. God prunes and then he grows. If you doubt this and you are afraid pray and ask God to show you the truth of it. God constantly reduces his people to a remnant and from them he rebuilds.

If you are concerned then you are part of that remnant and you have work to do. Today is Pentecost. Pray for God's Holy Spirt, pray to determine what God wants you to do and for the courage to do it.

Spirit of Christ, stir me;
Spirit of Christ, move me;
Spirit of Christ, fill me;
Spirit of Christ, seal me.
Consecrate in me Your Heart and Will, O Heavenly Father.
Create in me a fountain of virtues.
Seal my soul as Your own, that Your reflection in me may be a light for all to see. Amen.

Please share any revelation from God in the comments section to give others comfort and courage. Godbless.

3 comments:

  1. Hi, Are you the same person as '"Andrea" who posted comments on my last blog for the Catholic Herald on the subject of abortion? If so, I should be happy to send you the book I referred to if you would like it? My email address is: famphillips@onetel.com if you would like to contact me about this. Best wishes

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I welcome your posts whether you agree with me or not. Can I ask that people are respectful to each other; no-one has the right not to be offended, but I think that we can talk to each other without swearing or using personal insults.
If you want to use the whole "sky fairy" thing when you're talking to people with faith that too is your perogitive. Just know that for me and many others when you do you've lost the argument.