Church and World
Constant Decline in Religious Practice by Catholics Worldwide
The number of practicing Catholics in the world is still decreasing, says the American Catholic weekly National Catholic Reporter, based on the latest statistical data gathered by the Vatican.
In 2010 the total number of Catholics worldwide reached 1.2 billion. There was a 29% increase over the past 20 years. Europe is the only continent to register a decrease of 1%. The data concerning sacramental practice show a much weaker increase than it ought to have been, taking into account the growth in the number of Catholics. The figures concerning First Communions and Confirmations, in particular, clearly show a decline in the practice of Catholicism throughout the world, especially in Europe with an 18% decrease in confirmations over the last 20 years.
The Vatican’s numerical data come from different sources, but mainly from the statistical yearbook of the Church. Enrico Nenna, director of the Central Office of Church Statistics at the Vatican, emphasizes that it is “very difficult to quantify the practice of the Catholic faith. The only way to get a precise idea of the matter would be to take a sampling of a population, to carry out a census, and to survey that group of persons regularly over the long term.” In his opinion, “the statistics that have been gathered illustrate long-range trends, but many different factors influence the variations.” He notes for example that the decline in the number of marriages may also be due to economic uncertainty. A decrease in the number of baptisms may be the result of a reduction in the birthrate in a specific region. Despite these uncertainties, Enrico Nenna thinks that the latest recorded data reveal a distinct weakening in Catholic practice worldwide.
This trend is confirmed by the report drawn up in preparation for the upcoming World Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, which will take place in Rome in October. The answers to the questionnaire submitted to 114 bishops throughout the world contain many remarks about a “decline in practice” and a “withering of the faith.”
By way of example one can cite the worldwide Gallup poll cited by the Irish media on August 8, according to which the proportion of those who call themselves a “religious person” in the Republic of Ireland had dropped from 69% to 47% in seven years. That makes Éire the country with the second-steepest rate of secularization, just after Vietnam.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin explained in the daily Irish Independent that these findings “highlighted the challenges facing the Catholic faith in a changing Ireland,” underscoring the fact that the Church cannot presume that the faith will automatically be passed from generation to generation. Even for elderly persons, religious education is necessary in order to prevent their falling away from the Church.
Comment: It is odd that the Central Office of Church Statistics and the bishops of the whole world note the data supporting the fact of this generalized de-Christianization without for one moment considering that it could be the effect of a disastrous pastoral approach promoted by a council that claimed to be only pastoral and certainly not doctrinal.
Scotland and Poland: Different Directions
On July 25, 2012, the Scottish authorities announced their plan to introduce this year a law authorizing homosexual “marriage.” Following a public opinion poll in which 65% of the opinions expressed (out of a total of 80,000 persons asked) were in favor of homosexual “marriage,” the Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asserted that “in a society that aspires to be egalitarian and tolerant, this legalization is the right choice [sic].” The Scottish authorities, however, gave assurances that no Church would be forced to organize ceremonies for these “marriages.”
“The [Scottish] Government is embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale. The Church looks much further than the short-term electoral time-scales of politicians,” was the reaction of a spokesman of the Catholic Church in Scotland.
If the law is actually promulgated, Scotland will become the first province of the United Kingdom to allow homosexual “marriages.” Scotland, led by the Scottish National Party that seeks independence, enjoys a wider autonomy that allows it to make its own laws in many areas, except for Defense, Foreign Affairs, and fiscal and economic policies. The government of the United Kingdom, led by the “conservative” David Cameron, for his part has committed himself to legalizing homosexual “marriage” by 2015.
On August 25, more than 500 Catholic priests in Scotland read to their parishioners a letter in protest against the proposed law, the British news website Mail.online reports. They declared: “The teaching of the Church about marriage is unambiguous: it is exclusively the union between one man and one woman. It is deplorable that governments, politicians, and parliaments are seeking to alter or to destroy this reality.”
The Scottish government responded by restating its intention to legalize “marriage” for persons of the same sex and to allow these civil unions to be celebrated also with religious ceremonies; it reaffirmed, however, that no cleric would be forced to celebrate such ceremonies.
The primate of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, described homosexual “marriage” as “the grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.” He then broke off his discussions with Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister.
On July 25, 2012, the Catholic Church in Poland saluted Parliament’s rejection of a proposed law in favor of a “registered partnership” (“civil union” in the United States) for homosexual couples. The majority of the deputies thus defended “the dignity of marriage and the family,” a pleased president of the Commission on the Family of the Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Kazimierz Górny, said in a letter to the Polish president and the lower house of Parliament.
The previous day, July 24, the Polish Parliament had refused, by a three-quarters majority, a proposed law in favor of homosexual partnership that had been submitted by the leftist opposition. The parties of the conservative-liberal governing coalition as well as the conservative opposition argued for this rejection based on Polish constitutional law. The Palikot movement and the social democrats wanted a registered partnership with extended rights for heterosexual and homosexual couples.
This could only be a postponement, however. Indeed, the party of Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced that he was preparing for September another bill authorizing a registered partnership. According to the Polish media, this bill aroused no opposition within his parliamentary group and thus could receive the approval of a majority of the deputies. The bill is a little more restrictive than the one drawn up by the left: it provides for a right of inheritance, but no tax advantages. It also foresees a duty of support in case of separation. This partnership would be open to heterosexual couples as well as homosexuals.
However, according to a statistical study, two-thirds of Polish citizens are opposed to a registered partnership for homosexual couples. It is said that only 23% support that proposal.
Italy: The Posthumous Interview of Cardinal Martini
The Italian cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a Jesuit, former Archbishop of Milan and a representative figure of 20th-century Catholic progressivism, died on August 31, 2012, at the age of 85. He had been afflicted for several years with Parkinson’s disease. Retired as of 2002, he spent six years in Jerusalem before being forced to return to Italy because of the deterioration of his health.
On the day after his death, the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera published a posthumous interview with the former Archbishop of Milan conducted by a Jesuit confrere on August 8 of this year. In it the prelate described a “tired” Church that was out of step with the times and called to “conversion.” “The Church,” he explained, “must acknowledge its errors and take the radical path of change, starting with the pope and the bishops.” In this final interview with Fr. Georg Sporschill, Cardinal Martini called the Catholic Church to reconsider in particular its approach with regard to divorced and remarried people; he likewise invited the Church to ask itself whether people were still listening to its advice in matters of sexuality. And thus he concluded this final intervention in the form of a testament: “The Church is 200 years behind the times. Why does it not wake up? Are we afraid? Do we have fears instead of having courage?”
A theologian who was audacious to the point of temerity, Cardinal Martini liked to talk about the possibilities for the “development” of Catholic doctrine. Thus, in Autumn 1999, during the Synod for Europe at the Vatican, he had asserted that it was necessary to rethink the primacy of the pope, and he had called for the creation of an organization allowing the bishops to resolve together, that is to say collegially, the problems of the day. In April 2006, in an Italian magazine, the cardinal had described the condom as “the lesser evil” in some cases. He had also taken a favorable view of assisted fertilization and the adoption of frozen embryos by single women. In January 2007 he had intervened once again when the Italian Church declared its opposition to euthanasia and had just refused a religious funeral to a man whose death a physician had hastened at his request. Cardinal Martini had not hesitated then to call the Church to show “more pastoral attention” to this question.
Hence one can only be shocked to see the life of a prelate whose doctrine was so suspect, praised now in exalted language by the Roman authorities, without the least misgiving about his many errors and incessant provocations. Thus Fr. Federico Lombardi, the spokesman of the Vatican, did not hesitate to mention “the precious legacy” of Cardinal Martini, on which one must “reflect seriously when one looks for the paths of the ‘new evangelization’.…In his words, his many writings and his innovative pastoral initiatives, he was able to witness to the faith and to announce it effectively to the men and women of our era.”
The French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran declared irenically that his Italian confrere “was too intelligent to be either progressive or conservative” because “those are reductive categories.” And in a message read during the funeral in the Cathedral of Milan on September 3, Benedict XVI saluted Cardinal Martini’s “great open-mindedness.” Two days prior to that, in a telegram expressing condolences, the pope had paid homage to the generous service rendered to the Gospel and to the Church by that bishop, whom he described as “wise.” (Source: DICI)
Disappearance of Churches and Official Inauguration of a Mosque
In Germany, de-Christianization is coming about through architecture, according to the Catholic news website Kreuz.net quoted by the Italian newsletter European Correspondence dated August 31, 2012. We are told that there is no longer room for churches in the new districts of German cities. They are no longer planned for or designed, as if they had been excluded from the cities. An article by journalist Dankwart Guratzsch, in Die Welt, gives concrete examples: In Stuttgart, a district with 12,000 inhabitants was built without a church; in Hamburg, a new locale of 12,000 people is also without a church; moreover 19 churches were closed, probably because they were an obstacle to the realization of the new plan for urban development. Suddenly, churches have disappeared under the pretext that there was no demand for them.
However, because certain inhabitants complained nonetheless, a solution was found to appease them: set up a rough little chapel with some thirty chairs on the ground floor of a gray building where there is nothing but offices. In fact, you can’t tell yourself that this was a simple case of carelessness; it is obvious that everything was carefully arranged with the purpose of removing all visible signs of the Faith. And this is done methodically, harshly, and mercilessly, comments the news agency Correspondance Européenne.
“To build a church means to build a community,” writes Dankwart Guratzsch, “whenever the faithful are deprived of a visible testimony, public recognition of their values weakens and loses its efficacy, even in their own view.” This journalist recalls the era of the GDR [German Democratic Republic], communist Germany, when the same thing happened: churches were demolished in order to demean, oppose, and isolate religion and inculcate atheism. With one significant difference: then it was ideology that governed, the power was entirely in the hands of the persecutors of Christians. But today, why are there no dissenting voices? Where are the voices of the faithful? where are the voices of our pastors, so often sensitive to many other questions but not, apparently, when dealing with the House of God—Correspondance Européenne wonders about this silence, and in the same issue supplies some information which offers some answers.
In France, on August 14, 2010, the Algerian minister of worship, Bouabdallah Ghlamallah, had come to inaugurate the new mosque in Torcy, Bourgogne. This was an official appearance that shows the growing importance of the Algerian community in this commune of France.
Bouabdallah Ghlamallah, accompanied by Abdelkader Kacimi El Hassani, the consul general from Lyons, and by Abdallah Zekri, the president of the Southwest regional Federation of the Great Mosque of Paris, was welcomed by the socialist mayor of Torcy, Roland Fuchet.
The presence of this Algerian minister in France was particularly shocking since this is the same Bouabdallah Ghlamallah who, the year before, had had ten churches in Algeria closed and justified himself in the newspaper L’Expression, saying: “I equate evangelization with terrorism.” And Correspondance Européenne concludes: “ ‘Reciprocity’ and ‘tolerance’ do not yet seem to be of current interest.”
42 first-year seminary entries for the Society of St. Pius X!
LaPorteLatine (the French District) has reported that for the academic year of 2012-2013 at the SSPX’s seminaries of Winona, Zaitzkofen, Flavigny, and Albano, there are 42 entries for the first year (of Spirituality), 16 pre-seminarians (Humanities) and 8 postulants to study for the religious brothers. Here break down by seminary the origin of the new entries.
St. Thomas Aquinas Winona Seminary, Winona, Minnesota
15 in Spirituality:
14 American 1 Canadian
14 pre-seminarians in Humanities:
12 American 1 Irish 1 Canadian
3 postulants in Brothers’ Novitiate:
2 American 1 Canadian
Sacred Heart Seminary, Zaitzkofen, Germany
4 German 2 Swiss 2 Polish 1 Russian 1 Argentinean
1 German 1 Swiss
Holy Cure d’Ars Seminary, Flavigny, France
10 French 2 English 2 Canadian 2 Swiss 1 Italian
1 French 1 Swiss 1 Canadian
Fraternita San Pio X (pre-seminary at District Office), Albano, Italy
Please keep these seminarians and postulants in your prayers throughout the academic year, that they may persevere in their vocation.